One of my 2021 goals is to read a book every week. Here’s what I read last month.
Title: The Children of the New Forest.
Author: Frederick Marryat
Amazon Link: https://geni.us/6n1zof0
Genre: Fiction Classics
Set in the time of the English Civil War, it follows the fortunes of the four Beverley children who are orphaned during the war, and hide from their Roundhead oppressors in the shelter of the New Forest where they learn to live off the land.
My review: ★★★★
I chose this for several reasons. I felt I should read it having moved to The New Forest. It was published in 1847, and part of my book a week plan this year is to read older, classic literature. Lastly, I have memories of this from my childhood, as the BBC adapted it for TV when I was around 6 years old. I’ve still not watched it.
It’s a simple, uncomplicated tale. The writing around that time, as you’d expect, is different from today. The phrases, sentence construction and words take an hour or so to get used to, and it’s a novelty reading a book that’s 174 years old.
The children, orphaned after their house was burned to the ground by Cromwell’s revolution, flee to the forest and learn to live off the land. It offers interesting historical insights, and how it was to live in those times.
Title: The Salt Path
Author: Raynor Winn
Amazon Link UK: https://amzn.to/3qx8bE7
Amazon Link US: https://amzn.to/3byYr8l
Genre: Travel Memoir
Just days after Raynor learns that Moth, her husband of 32 years, is terminally ill, their home is taken away and they lose their livelihood. With nothing left and little time, they make the brave and impulsive decision to walk the 630 miles of the sea-swept South West Coast Path, from Somerset to Dorset, via Devon and Cornwall.
My review: ★★
I don’t get it. I should have liked this book, but I didn’t.
It promised great things: nearly 9000 Amazon reviews (hugely impressive for a two-year-old book), of which 70% are 5 stars, 29,000 ratings on Goodreads, it’s my favourite genre (memoirs), with an interesting backdrop (hiking), and a feel-good tale. And, I’ve lost count of the people who’ve recommended it.
But I struggled through it, found it tedious, and to be honest, I’m glad it’s finished.
Winn isn’t complimentary to many of the places she passes through, I shudder to think that someone from Cornwall, Devon, or anywhere else on the South West Coast Path might read this. Some events seem implausible, and at times disjointed.
Generally, the reviews are excellent, and it was nominated for some very impressive awards but I’m sorry, I don’t see it.
Title: Playing with Fire
Author: Tess Gerritsen
Amazon Link UK: https://amzn.to/2OKfeMO
Amazon Link US: https://amzn.to/3cq4drZ
Genre: Psychological Fiction / Thriller
In a shadowy antiques shop in Rome, violinist Julia Ansdell happens upon a curious piece of music—the Incendio waltz—and is immediately entranced by its unusual composition. Full of passion, torment, and chilling beauty, and seemingly unknown to the world, the waltz, its mournful minor key, its feverish arpeggios, appear to dance with a strange life of their own. Julia is determined to master the complex work and make its melody heard.
Back home in Boston, from the moment Julia’s bow moves across the strings, drawing the waltz’s fiery notes into the air, something strange is stirred—and Julia’s world comes under threat. The music has a terrifying and inexplicable effect on her young daughter, who seems violently transformed. Convinced that the hypnotic strains of Incendio are weaving a malevolent spell, Julia sets out to discover the man and the meaning behind the score.
My review: ★★★★★
Something made me pause on the cover and read the blurb for this book, and I’m glad I did because it’s one of the best I’ve read this year, and possibly one of the best ever.Told by two characters, the story is separated by 80 years, and two countries. Gradually, and seemingly implausibly, it converges to reveal a story that is haunting, yet beautiful, horrific yet heartwarming. At times I believed it wasn’t fiction, but real events.
A great indicator of superb writing is reaching for more books by the same author, something I intend to do with Tess Gerritsen.
In phone calls to his daughter in Australia, widower Hubert Bird paints a picture of the perfect retirement, packed with fun and friendship.
But Hubert Bird is lying.
Something has made him turn his back on people, and he hardly sees a soul.
So when his daughter announces she’s coming to visit, Hubert faces a race against time: to make his real life resemble his fake life before he’s found out.
My review: ★★★
Stephen King once said if you start writing a book, always finish it, even if you struggle. I don’t know if this applies to reading a book as well, but I took his advice to heart, and despite struggling with it, I finished it.
It’s sold under ‘humorous fiction’, but I couldn’t even muster a smile.
The story is basic, simple, unexciting, and I longed for the end so I could firstly, finish it, and secondly, hope to be rewarded by an inspiring finish. It didn’t arrive.
It was shortlisted in the British book awards for book of the year, but I struggled to see why.
I’ll be in touch about my April reads in early may.