Reading is my oldest and favorite hobby. I literally can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t love to curl up with a good book. Here are my reads for July, 2017…
The Brandons (Angela Thirkell’s Barsetshire #7), by Angela Thirkell – Funny to go back to the series in order after accidentally reading Northbridge Rectory outside its proper place, and to find myself in another story in which a younger male character fancies himself in love with an older woman who is blissfully ignorant of her effect on the younger generation. (Coincidence, or is this a thing with Thirkell? August Folly had a similar plot.) Anyway, I loved meeting the Brandon family – flirtatious Mrs Brandon and her adult or near-adult children Francis and Delia. Delia is one of my favorite Thirkell creations ever (she’s Lydia Keith, without being irritating – and unsurprisingly Lydia is a friend of Delia’s and makes an appearance). I also loved seeing Mrs Morland and Tony again. Such a fun romp!
In This Grave Hour (Maisie Dobbs #13), by Jacqueline Winspear – I’ve been waiting and waiting for the Maisie Dobbs series to work itself up to World War II, and while there have been hints of the coming conflict since book #8, In This Grave Hour finds Britain officially at war. Maisie’s friends and family are preparing for the next war – Priscilla and Billy worrying about sending their sons to fight, Sandra preparing to welcome a baby into an uncertain world, Frankie and Brenda taking in young refugee Londoners – and meanwhile, an old acquaintance requests Maisie’s help in unraveling the murder of a Belgian refugee from World War I (now “the last war”) who had settled permanently in England. Before Maisie has time to do much digging, another former Belgian refugee is murdered. So while Maisie’s circle is turning their attention to the next conflict, Maisie herself continues to work on making sense of the last one.
Jane of Lantern Hill, by L.M. Montgomery – Although it’s one of my favorite summer books, I hadn’t read Jane of Lantern Hill in many seasons. One of Montgomery’s lesser-known heroines, Jane is a Torontonian who lives unhappily with her mother and grandmother in a big, opulent, dismal house. One day she discovers that her father, who she had always believed dead, is actually alive and living on Prince Edward Island. Not long after, Jane’s mother receives a letter from her estranged husband, summoning Jane for the summer. Jane reluctantly goes, but it’s not long before she falls in love first with “Dad” himself, and then with Prince Edward Island. Over two summers on P.E.I., Jane grows from an awkward and miserably unhappy child into a confident young woman. But while Jane is capable of fixing up a house and cooking anything Dad wants to eat, is she capable of mending her parents’ broken relationship? You’ll have to read this joyful book and find out.
Three Men in a Boat, by Jerome K. Jerome – I’d never heard of this book, and only vaguely heard of the unfortunately named author, until The Folio Society reprinted it as part of their May collection. One glance and I knew it was a book in the grand Wodehouse style (although it actually predated my friend P.G., who was almost certainly influenced by it) and I had to have it. J. and his two friends Harris and George, along with their incorrigible dog Montmorency, embark on a rowing vacation up the Thames. Along the way, J. treats the reader to his musings on everything from English history (oh those unfortunate souls who found themselves running into Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn “spooning all over England”) to the trick behind getting a kettle to boil in a boat (act like you don’t want tea) and everything in between. Aside from one offensive word that was very jarring to this modern reader, it’s a perfect book.
The Age of Orphans (The Age of Orphans #1), by Laleh Khadivi – A young Kurdish boy witnesses the massacre of his village’s entire menfolk during his first battle with the forces of the new Shah of Iran. As is the policy with all battle-made orphans, the boy is conscripted into the Iranian army and given a name – Reza Khourdi. (Reza for the Shah, and Khourdi after his tribe.) Reza grows to manhood in the army, rises through the ranks and marries a well-off Tehrani woman. However, his proficiency is noticed and he receives a plum assignment to return to the region of his birth and assist in putting down Kurdish rebellions. As Reza sees more and more of himself in the Kurds, his marriage and family – and his own identity – feel the strain. I thought this was a gorgeously written book, although parts of it were very brutal. (Always in a way that served the story, but it’s hard to read.)
Queen Lucia (Mapp & Lucia #1) – Lucia is the doyenne and cultural ruler over her little kingdom – a small English village called Riseholme. With her husband Peppino and faithful subordinate Georgie by her side, Lucia aims to set the standard for all art, culture and entertaining in the area. But when a young, beautiful and talented opera singer moves to town, Lucia has a revolt on her hands. Georgie switches allegiances to Olga, the opera singer, and another local resident watches with relish as it appears Lucia is going to fall from her throne. So, I liked – but didn’t love – this. Lucia irritated me (as I think she was supposed to) although less so after one scene in which she is thoroughly embarrassed and exposed as (gasp!) unable to speak fluent Italian. I was also vaguely uncomfortable with Mrs Quantock and Lucia’s battle over “the Guru” – although I can’t put my finger on why, and I loved the image of Lucia dressing in goddess robes and teaching yoga. I’m invested in the characters now, so I will definitely continue on with the series – hopefully the next book is even better.
Slow month – only six books in July. For a relatively long month, that’s pretty surprising, even in the summer. I (more or less) enjoyed everything I read, but Three Men in a Boat and The Brandons had to be the highlights. It’s always nice to visit with Maisie Dobbs, too, and to pay a call on P.E.I. No duds this month, just not much in the way of reading time or inclination. I’m expecting more of the same in August, but do check back in…