Sample Saturday – a Sarah Waters trio

Sample Saturday is when I wade through the eleventy billion samples I have downloaded on my Kindle. I’m slowly chipping away and deciding whether it’s buy or bye.

This week, all three books are by Sarah Waters. I read The Paying Guests this year and although I didn’t rave about it, it was certainly a light, entertaining read. Waters fans urged me to try some of her other novels, so I’m letting you decide – which one should I read next? Continue reading

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Pigeon Pie by Nancy Mitford

Sophia Garfield had a clear mental picture of what the outbreak of war was going to be like. There would be a loud bang, succeeded by inky darkness and a cold wind. Stumbling over heaps of rubble and dead bodies, Sophia would search with industry, but without hope, for her husband, her lover and her dog.

And so begins Nancy Mitford’s satire, Pigeon Pie. Continue reading

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

So, this is weird – I finished The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters last week and today, as I sat down to write a review, I realised that I have no recollection of how the story ended. This means one of two things – either I have some serious memory issues or the ending wasn’t a particularly good one. I’m going with the later.

It’s 1922, and in South London, in a large, silent house now bereft of brothers, husband, and even servants, life is transformed for widowed Mrs Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances when they are forced to take in lodgers – to ‘make ends meet’.

Frances and her mother sat with books at the French windows, ready to eke out the last of the daylight – having got used, in the past few years, to making little economies like that. Continue reading

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

There’s pride, there’s prejudice, and there’s also text break-ups, reality tv, ‘hate sex’, Bitcoin, jogging, and Ivy League schools in Eligible, Curtis Sittenfeld’s fabulous, frothy take on the Austen classic, Pride and Prejudice.

The brilliance in Sittenfeld’s rendering of Pride is that she stayed absolutely true to the story (a ridiculous social-climber plots to marry-off her five daughters to suitable, wealthy men), and yet made it very much her own.

All five  girls had then gone on to private colleges before embarking on what could euphemistically be called non-lucrative careers, though in the case of some sisters, non-lucrative non-careers was a more precise descriptor.

The story is set in Cincinnati (Sittenfeld’s hometown) and we find Liz as a magazine journalist; Jane, a yoga instructor; Mary doing her third online masters degree; and Kitty and Lydia gadding about eating high-protein meals and attending CrossFit. Continue reading

Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

Here’s the thing about Geraldine Brooks (because I’m totally qualified to comment on Geraldine Brooks, obvs) and Caleb’s Crossing (which, according to many aggrieved Goodreads members, should be called Bethia’s Crossing) –

01. Stating the obvious but she knows how to write historical fiction. I reckon Brooks tests every single word for authenticity – it’s meticulous.

02. Even the emotions her characters are feeling are ‘historically appropriate’ (tricky, right?) and yet, she manages to create these wonderfully strong females who both make a mark on their time and offer something for the present.

Is it ever thus, at the end of things? Does any woman ever count the grains of her harvest and say: Good enough? Or does one always think of what more one might have laid in, had the labor been harder, the ambition more vast, the choices more sage? Continue reading

Six Degrees of Separation – from Picnic at Hanging Rock to Love in a Cold Climate

It’s time for #6degrees. It’s unquestionably the least demanding bookish meme on the interwebs, so join in!

This month we begin with Joan Lindsay’s Picnic at Hanging Rock (thanks to Brona for the suggestion). My first link is to Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, Born to Run. That might seem an unlikely link but I’ve seen Springsteen twice in the last few years, and both times Hanging Rock was the backdrop. Continue reading