World Book Day is generally celebrated by children, but what about all the adults? Surely we can have a day talking about books, swapping recommendations, visiting the library and reading over a coffee or three? What better example to set? I might give the dress-up-as-your-favourite-character bit a miss though!
So here are a few books that I have really enjoyed reading over the last six months or so that you might like to try! Whatever you choose, make sure you dedicate some time on Thursday to reading!
Dorothy Whipple: Greenbanks, They Knew Mr Knight, They were Sisters, The Priory, Because of the Lockwoods
These are all published by Persephone Books and come in gorgeous silver covers with beautiful end papers and matching bookmarks. They are £14 each but you can buy three for a discount. They are available on Amazon second hand. Dorothy Whipple was writing in the 1930s and 40s. She is a sharp and witty observer and her books are very readable and entertaining. "They Knew Mr Knight" follows the very ordinary Blake family and their entanglement with the financier Mr Knight who they meet by chance. It portrays their seduction and the inevitable drama from following his investment advice as they are swept along by his charisma. It is full of tension and very readable. "Greenbanks" is a very rewarding read about a large grown up family in the 1920s. There is some fascinating insight into the effect of WW1 on women and families and also the role of women at this time. The women reflect a range of positions, roles and characters and it is an enjoyable saga. I find her novels really engaging and suit people who like classics but prefer more accessible texts - or are huge fans of Downtown Abbey and other period dramas!
Emma Kennedy: Shoes for Anthony
This is a truly delightful read! It is funny, witty, thrilling and deeply moving. It includes tragedy, drama, adventure and humour. Kennedy's insight and observations about a small Welsh community during WW2 are so vividly accurate and evocative that the book really comes to life. You can hear the characters' voices so clearly and feel the energy of 11 year old Anthony and his friends. Despite the light and entertaining feel of the book, it also has depth and a gripping plot about how even the most remote, smallest places become embroiled in the war. Plenty to think about. Plenty to laugh about. Somethings to cry about. Something definitely worth reading.
Fredrik Backman: A Man Called Ove
A quietly pleasing novel. Ove is a grumpy, unfriendly, newly retired man of high morals who enjoys making life uncomfortable for his neighbours. Or is he? Told with wry humour, this initially unlikeable character will grow on you. With a mix of sadness, insight and observational humour we follow Ove as he begins retired life and finds that actually, the people on his street are not all he quite thought them to be...... An uplifting and memorable tale.
Patrick Gale: A Place Called Winter
I discovered Patrick Gale relatively recently having never quite got around to reading "Notes From An Exhibition" when it was first published and became one of the most talked about bestsellers. Once I did, I regretted having left it so long and now am trying to read the rest of his novels - all absorbing, exquisitely written books. "A Place Called Winter" is the story of Harry Cane who leaves Edwardian England for Canada and takes up a home in the remote and new settlement of Winter. It is a fascinating saga of self discovery; Harry is a quietly complex yet hugely mesmerising character. An outstanding novel.
Isabel Wolff: Ghostwritten
I came across this book by accident as it wasn't what I thought it was when I ordered it (can't remember what I was actually after!) and even though it took me a while to get into, it was worth it and has stayed with me! Although the content was harrowing in some places, it was fascinating and I learnt a lot about a period of history I was totally ignorant about. Despite the traumatic and tragic themes, it is actually quite a light, quick read about survival, love and hope. Jenny is a "ghost" - she writes other people's stories. Here, her commission is to write the story of Clara, a Dutchwoman who was interned in Java, a Japanese Prisoner of War camp, during WW2. In conjunction with this plot, Jenny also has to confront her own "ghosts" from a childhood trauma which she has tried to ignore for too long. Clara's retelling sometimes felt a little disconnected and separate from the parallel storyline but overall the writing and narrative will keep you engaged and gripped.
Philippa Gregory: The Cousins War Series
Oh yes, a little guilty pleasure here! A "go to" for a reliable bit of historical escapism! If you fancy a saga of romance, secrets, plotting, deception and strong female women then these are for you! These were recently on TV and were brilliant adaptations of very readable books. My favourite was "The Lady of the Rivers" as it was more mystical and featured the enigmatic Joan of Arc. I'd recommend you skipped "The Red Queen" as it is largely political / war based and has the least human interest out of the whole series. Gregory has thoroughly researched this period of history which is often overlooked in favour of the subsequent Tudor dynasty but in my opinion is even more intriguing, exciting and interesting with some strong characters.
M L Stedman: The Light Between The Oceans
This is the most atmospheric, moving, poignant novel I have read in a long time. I did not want it to end. It was heart breaking. It was captivating. It was extraordinary. It was unforgettable.
Set in a lighthouse off the coast of Australia after WW1, it is the story of Tom who brings his wife to live on their remote island where they are completely cut off for weeks at a time. Their newly married life together is saddened by their inability to have children and then one day, as they try to come to terms with their sorrow, a baby is washed up on the island....... Their decision to follow their hearts will have devastating consequences for everyone- including you!
Equally heartbreaking is the fact that this is the only novel written by M L Stedman, although I am reliably informed the book is being adapted to film this year!
Charity Norman: After the Fall
I got this from the library on a whim and didn't really have any expectations but I am so glad I read it! I have since looked out for all her other books which are also good reads. With a similarities to writers like Jodi Picoult, Anita Shreve and Diane Chamberlain, this novel explores a family dealing with a sudden tragedy following their move to New Zealand for a fresh start. What should have been an exciting adventure becomes a terrible nightmare. It is full of twists, suspense and tension. Norman creates captivating characters who are more complex than they first appear and she her plot structure is well executed with flashbacks inserted within the present day forcing the reader to frantically piece together the truth of what happened.
Beatriz Williams: Along the Infinite Sea
Again, I picked this up at the library on a complete whim - and it's a "W" author, I so rarely get that far down the shelf!! And once again I was pleasantly surprised with this engaging story. This is a New York Times Bestseller and has two main characters, Pepper and Annabelle. They meet when Pepper tries to sell her vintage Mercedes. Annabelle recognises the car and so begins the story of how she came to know it. Moving between the two eras of 1966 Florida and 1935 Cote d'Azur, this is an enthralling tale of love, relationships and self discovery. An easy but satisfying read.
Anthony Doerr: All the Light We Cannot See
This is set in WW2 and follows the fortunes of French girl Marie-Laure, who has been blind since the age of 6, and Werner, a German boy with a talent for engineering who wins a place at a brutal military academy. The most compulsive aspect of this novel is Marie-Laure's father's model. He has constructed a meticulous miniature reproduction of their Paris neighbourhood so that she can memorise and it find her way home. Unbeknownst to Marie-Laure, it is also the hiding place of a dangerous secret. As the Nazi's invade, Marie-Laure and Werner's worlds collide. This novel is a very elegantly written. It is a charming and spellbinding read.
I hope there is enough variety here for everyone to find something that appeals to them! Happy World Book Day and hope you all get a chance to indulge in a few chapters at some point during the day! Happy reading!
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