Winter reading

I’ve read a surprising number of books since Christmas, keeping track of them in a beautiful notebook my great friend Edith gave me.

The Aviator's WifeThe Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin

The story of Anne Morrow Lindbergh and her husband Charles. Anne struggles with the reality that her life is defined and tightly controlled by Charles. As their marriage unfolds, she realizes that her husband was greatly affected by “the dark side of fame.” Despite all their troubles, Charles says that he “only ever wanted to be [her] hero”.

A compelling read.

The Book ThiefThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I have to confess that I did not finish this novel. I found the notion of death as the narrator did not suit me.

Nonetheless, Zusak offers an intriguing approach and a voice that creates an impending sense of doom. This book was recently done as a movie.

The Secret RoomsThe Secret Rooms by Catherine Bailey

A work of non-fiction I read as a reviewer for the Historical Novel Society. The review won’t be posted until the May issue but as a sneak peek, The Secret Rooms is a terrific story with double-dealing, deliberately destroyed evidence from a Duke’s life, the inner workings of high society, a family curse and world war one.

Truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

The Book of SaltThe Book of Salt by Monique Truong

A fascinating novel chock full of superb prose. I reviewed this recently in Book Club Gals Read The Book of Salt.

Binh is the Vietnamese cook for Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. Through his story we are also exposed to those of Gertrude and Alice and the many artists and writers who gathered around them in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Reading Like a WriterReading like a Writer by Francine Prose

Francine Prose discusses words, sentences, paragraphs, character, dialogue, details, gesture and learning from Chekhov.

Many good thoughts for writers. While I found some chapters more helpful than others, my copy is full of underlined passages and ideas that I will try to incorporate into my writing.

The Golden DiceThe Golden Dice by Elisabeth Storrs

A novel set during the wars between the Etruscans and Rome and told through the eyes of three strong women. I was captivated by the story of Caecilia, Semni and Pinna, three very different women, and the men they loved.

Highly recommended.

The ProposalThe Proposal by Margaret Evans Porter

A delightful story about Sophie Pinnock, a lonely young widow, and Cassian Carysfort, a mysterious earl, who clash over a neglected castle garden, a suspicious past, and secrets that threaten their blossoming love.

Porter’s dialogue and descriptions are excellent and she has created a romance that offers depth, as well as twists and turns.

Becoming JosephineBecoming Josephine by Heather Webb

Heather Webb has crafted the story of Rose Tascher originally from Martinique who sails for France to wed Alexander Beauharnais. As France undergoes the turmoil of the revolution, Rose matures. By the time she meets Napoleon Bonaparte, who gives her the name Josephine, she has become an influential woman in her own right. A wonderful read set in a time of great change.

At the moment, I’m reading two more books: The Mountain of Light by Indu Sundaresan and Churchill’s First War by Con Coughlin.

Why read one book when you can juggle two at the same time?

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13 Responses

  1. This is a lot of books, Mary. I find I read more during the winter months, too. And we’ve had a lot of winter this year 😉 I was intrigued by The Book Thief. Over the course of the novel, I came to sympathize with Death. What a difficult job Death has to do. And he does it with compassion. I like the idea of recording the books read in a journal.

    1. Hi Carol – thanks for stopping by. The journal is helping me remember what I’ve read and note writing techniques that work (or don’t work!). I should have done this a long time ago!

  2. Old habits of a figure’s engineer die hard. I keep a SS for all my reading to chart different genres and split between my fiction and nonfiction reading. 2014 is an interesting reading year so far.

    The Railwayman by Eric Lomax led to five other books about the Burma Railway and war with Japan including The Prisoners List. This book an excellent factual background written by a son Reuben supported by quotations from his father, Ben who was a prisoner of Japan. On all the recent film awards the awful events still remain part of a forgotten war, although I see the Railwayman Book has topped UK non fiction best seller charts in January 2014.

    Also related fiction Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng and J G Ballard’s biography and Kingdom Come his dystopian book. The latter has poor reviews, but I liked the theme of the story all very memorable and frightening.

    Robert Wilson’s A Small Death in Lisbon as well as being a good read gave me help in structuring ideas for books over two timeframes. Kiss me first by Lottie Moggach a great idea, but too long and I found hard to read. Tom Cain Assassin probably a better book than I found it to read. The Yellow Birds by Kevin Power a disturbing book about modern warfare, almost a biography. Abomination Jonathan Holt – yawn.

    Various books about self and e book publishing and how to write also started, but they are hardly page turners.

    Current delightful reading – Little Aloud and a wonderful read – Michael Morpurgo’s biography structured nicely with a Maggie Fergusson telling his life story and Michael contributes seven stories. Even he had some awful rejection letters as a writer and apart from marriage cash did not benefit from Penguin from writing as I thought he did.

    Books by Bernard Cornwall, Hanif Kureishi and Diana Gabaldon and book The Sky Wept Fire started but put down.

    Most books I find too long … a bit like this post you will no doubt say!


      1. They did not hook me in … My book pile is fiercely competitive for my time. I will find and pick up Diana Gabaldon again simply because she finished so well up your listings.

        Just finished catch up listening of the following 15 minute UK BBC radio programmes early morning this week.

        “Highlights from The Fun Stuff an entertaining and idiosyncratic series of essays from James Wood, the leading literary critic of his generation. It’s a collection which ranges widely, from a loving analysis of Keith Moon’s drum technique to the intentions, gifts and limitations of some of our most celebrated modern novelists, including Kazuo Ishiguro and Ian McEwan.”

        Keith Moon from the Who just amazing! I recall seeing some old B&W film raw talent. James Wood found much more from Kazuo Ishiguro and to some extent Ian McEwan’s writing than I did and how much they divided and even upset their readers. I have read most of the latter’s books but found the formers quite hard going. Easier to watch the film versions

        I see from Amazon James Wood has also written – How Fiction Works

        Both books on my wish list until my book buying freeze is over!


  3. Thanks for this list. I’ve read about half of these books, but will look for the others.
    I loved The Book Thief. I wasn’t sold on Death as the narrator either, but the story was wonderful and the prose often beautiful.

  4. The Prose book was one of our texts in an MA course but only 2 chapters – I must pull it out and revisit.

    I listened to The Book Thief on CDs a few years back – it broke my heart but I couldn’t stop listening, driving around town on errands, tears rolling down my cheeks.

    I am speed reading War Horse as we are taking children to a production tonight.

  5. What a case of synchronicity,Mary. I was just berating myself for not keeping a notebook of books I have read and noting comments, etc, when you make this grand post about several books since Christmas. I have to do better in the future. So I guess this is a late new years resoution.

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