I’ve been assembling boxes of books for quite a few years now, I thought this year it might fall by the wayside, but it didn’t.
I spent a long time in waiting rooms and on drips yesterday, and while I was sitting around I looked back over my reading last year and found that I could assemble my box.
Lately I’ve been reading undemanding books, but I have found a few gems among them and even more from the earlier part of the year.
I try to pick my favourites, the books that stay with me and the books that call me back; and I also try to pick a cross-section of what I’ve read, so that when I look at a box I know where I was in my life as a reader that year.
Before I show you what is in my box, there are people I really must thank – authors past and present, publishers, sellers of books both new and used, fellow readers – who have all done their bit to make the contents of my box so very lovely.
And now all I have left to say is – Here are the books!
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‘The Forgotten Smile’ by Margaret Kennedy.
Like many of her novels, it tells the separate stories of a number of characters whose paths cross and it moves backwards and forwards in time. The real human drama and the lovely mix of pathos and humor makes this a particular favourite.
‘Niccolo Rising’ by Dorothy Dunnett
The first time I set out on a journey through a series of historical novels written by Dorothy Dunnett my hopes were high, because I had read so much good about it. I loved those books and so when I set out on this second series my hopes were even higher. This book was exactly the right mixture of the same and different, those high hopes were not disappointed, and when the time is right I will re-read and move forward with the rest of the series.
‘The Phoenix’ Nest’ by Elizabeth Jenkins
I picked this book up on the strength of the author’s name not knowing anything about the stort. I found myself in the theatre word of Elizabethan England and I found out that each and every character I had been reading about was a real historical figure. I wasn’t surprised, because I knew that Elizabeth Jenkins wrote non fiction about the period, but I was impressed with how real and alive she made her story.
‘Facing South’ by Winifred Peck
In this story of a clerical family, Lady Peck managed her large and diverse cast of characters beautifully, she spun her story cleverly; and though this is a relatively short book she does a great deal to illuminate the lives, relationships and concerns of different family members, with insight and empathy; and to show the effects on a generation of living through two World Wars and great deal of social change.
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‘A Thousand Ships’ by Natalie Haynes
I have had mixed feelings about the recent stream of re-tellings of ancient history, but this book really worked fot me. It re-told the story of the Trojan War in the voices of many women, reminding me of history I had been taught many years ago, drawing me right into their stories, and giving me new insights into what they experienced and what they might have thought.
‘Miss Plum and Miss Penny’ by Dorothy Evelyn Smith
It is lovely when you see than a book that you have seen praised, that you are sure that you will love, but that is impossible to find is being sent back into the world; and it is even lovelier when that book more than lives up to very high expectations. The telling of the story was lovely, it had both warmth and clarity, and it was clear that the story-teller had both the understanding of everything she wrote about and the wisdom to be unobtrusive, All of the elements worked together so well, to make a very good story that held me from the first page to the last.
‘The Moonflower Murders’ by Anthony Horowitz
I hadn’t expected a sequel to the ‘Magpie Murders’, a book I described as a’ wonderful pastiche of a golden age murder mystery, wrapped up in a contemporary mystery. Each one was a wonderfully engaging story and an intriguing puzzle; and the cleverness and originality of the connection between the two made this book a joy to read.’ I couls say exactly the same about this sequel and I am hoping for – though not necessarily expecting – a third book.
‘A Snowfall of Silver’ by Laura Wood
Laura Wood has a gift for spinning coming of age stories, set in the not too distant past, laced with romance, aspirations and charm. This one tells the story of a girl from Cornwall who runs away to work in the theatre, it is the third one she has written, and the third one that I have loved.
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‘Fanfare for Twin Trumpets’ by Margery Sharp
Margery Sharp’s once elusive but about to be reissued second novel is another gem. It tells the story of a young, provincial school-teacher who uses a small inheritence to travel to London to become a writer. His adventures were a joy to read, quite different to her first novel, and a lovely first look at things she would do so very well in later books.
‘The Other Bennet Sister’ by Janice Hardlow
I am very wary of Jane Austen sequels and re-workings, but I heard such good things about this book that I had to try it. The story of Mary Bennet was so engaging, it was a perfect remagining of a better life for an unloved character in a well-loved book, and I miss her and her sisters all over again now that the story is over.
‘Where the Light Gets In’ by Lucy Dillon
This really was the right book at the right time. It is a story of love and loss, creativity and frindship, living and ageing, womem and dogs; a touch fanciful but written with real insight and understanding. It made my heart sing and it made me both laugh and cry.
A Winter Away by Elizabeth Fair
In this lovely perid piece, young Maud has made her escape from an overbearing stepmother and come to stay with her cousin Alice and Alice’s companion Miss Conway in the countryside. They have arranged a job for her as secretary to Mr Feniston, an eccentric and intimidating neighbour who seems to have driven his previous secretary to a nervous breakdown. The story of the new life that Maud builds was wonderfully aborbing, and I missed her and her world after her story was told.
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Please forgive me if this is less articulate than it should be – my prognosis is good but the treatment I am going through is tough – and I simply wanted to write something to say goodbye to this difficult year.
Now tell me, what would you put in your box for 2020? What do you plan to read in 2021?
And please let me wish you the happiest and healthiest of New Years!