Category Archives: joy of reading

Scottish Islands in Contemporary Fiction

scotlandMurder Mysteries;

In my next few blogs I will be discussing murder mysteries and thrillers that are set on various Islands in Scotland. It is hardly surprising to see authors setting their novels on Scottish Islands because it would be difficult to  find anywhere in the world that provided such a perfect atmosphere and backdrop.  The landscape can be austerely beautiful,  but it can also have a barren severe quality with sharp rocky outcrops and marshy peat bogs. The rainstorms can be unrelenting throughout the seasons  (and at times the storms can produce an angry sea), and clouds and mist can seriously affect visibility . Life can be very dangerous for the fisherman; and the crofters experience the often difficult task ,familiar to all farmers, of just scraping by during times of changing markets. These Islands are often remote and isolated and visitors are usually welcomed for the tourist trade but at times they may feel very much like outsiders. Let me assure you that I am making a generalization and I recognize the fact that all the Islands are different with their own culture and character.  The best books capture that culture and character along with providing an interesting plot.

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Filed under books, General fiction, joy of reading, Mysteries, mystery fiction, Scottish Island Fiction

MY DEAR I WANTED TO TELL YOU….by Louisa Young (2011)

Historical Fiction, WWl  Fiction

In  my last blog entry I vowed  that my next blog entries would be about novels set during World War l. The first in this series is a terrific novel called “My Dear I Wanted to Tell You” by Louisa Young. It is, indeed, a strange title (and a long one) but I heard the author explain her choice of title on an internet interview. When a soldier was wounded it could take ages for their family to hear news of the injury because the mail had to go through the censors.  The medical stations had little postcards available to the soldiers where they could tick off little boxes regarding their injury and send them on the way without going through the censors. Some of these postcards had a first line that said—My dear I wanted to tell you. Hence the title.

Riley Purefoy is a bright, agreeable young lad from a working class family in London. He is sponsored and educated by a wealthy family and he develops a close bond with the daughter Nadine. As the children get older, this family (who had thought themselves quite progressive) decide they must discourage this relationship since this working class boy is unsuitable for their daughter. As soon as the war breaks out Riley enlists.

Riley’s commanding officer, a man name Peter, has his own marital problem as he endures life in the trenches.  These two relationships develop in different ways as the result of the war. The novel moves between the hell of life in the trenches and the difficulties experienced by the friends and families at home. The novel is painfully honest about the injuries and wounds suffered by the soldiers.  It also addresses the recuperation of the soldiers. One of the characters requires major facial reconstruction–a fairly new art during this time.

This is a WWI novel that is more about the relationships during the war than the battles.  I have seen in many novels during this time period that it was during this war that the social class divisions began to blur.   I read this novel about six months ago but it has stayed with me–a sign of a good read.

New York-Harper 2011

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Filed under book review, books, General fiction, historical fiction, joy of reading, world war 1

The Great War….(in fiction)

World War l and the surrounding years.

WWI  is only now reaching a point in history where the first person accounts will no longer be available. We know all the old soldiers are gone  and the few living witnesses are dwindling in numbers.  It is such a fascinating time to visit; a time when one can be witness to the horrors that humans are capable of committing, but also the strength and perseverance that can also be attributed to our species. The stories from the battlefields are famous but there are also family stories and  the stories of individual bravery.  This time period offers a great background for historical fiction because it allows the reader to be a witness to the turmoil and the change that accompanied this important time. Sometimes I need to remind myself that , as the reader, I have the advantage of knowing certain things about history and I simply can’t imagine what it must have been like to deal with all that loss and heartache while wondering if it will all be for nothing. The war that was supposed to last for a “few months” lasted considerably longer. The reader can feel supportive of a character who is trying to heal after the war but the reader also knows that  another, deadlier conflict is in the character’s future.  I am also reminded, when I am reading these books, that the war did not end when the ceasefire was called. Many families were crushed (and sometimes wiped out) by the losses of life and many of the soldiers who returned were physically or mentally wounded. Most of these soldiers were just boys-yes BOYS when they lost their lives. Each and every death was a tragedy and each and every soldier was a hero.

This was also a time of great transition as motor cars and horses shared the roadways and women were allowed (encouraged) to work outside the home( since all the men were away in France).It was also a time when the strict social class divisions began to blur. I enjoy the British fiction novels-I don’t know why but I find all the manners and politeness, and etiquette reassuring even if it stands in contrast to the HELL that was actually happening or maybe because  it is such a contrast. I think I read one novel in this time period, enjoyed it, and just started looking for similar novels. That is why I will be concentrating on novels of this time period in my next several blogs.  My entries will include novels by Charles Todd, Jaqueline Winspear, Kate Morton, Louisa Young, and I am sure I will think of others.

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The Dry Grass of Autumn ……by Anna Jean Mayhew (2011)

HISTORICAL FICTION    This is a book about racism, cruelty and prejudice as seen through the eyes of a 13-year-old white girl. At times difficult to read (due to the subject matter) but definitely an eye-opening and important novel.

It is 1954 and our narrator is 13-year-old Jubie Watts.  Her family is about to take a road trip from North Carolina to Florida and in the big family car is Jubie, her mother, two sisters, little brother and the beloved African-American  maid Mary. Mary is the anchor of Jubie’s life-her strength and comfort when her father beats her or her mother ignores her. The farther south this family travels-the greater the signs of racial discrimination and unrest.  Jubie sees this but it leaves her feeling confused and helpless.  Eventually the travellers are involved in a tragedy and their lives are changed for ever.

The author does a good job of relaying Jubie’s denial and shock and we see this young lass eventually act with courage and compassion.  This is an excellent book that has the power to stay with the reader long after it is finished. This would make an excellent book club choice.

This book would probably appeal to fans of THE HELP

Kensington books 2011.

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Instruments of Darkness….by Imogene Robertson

Historical Mystery, Regency Mystery

(2011, Pamela Dorman Books, Viking)

I suppose it is probably pretty obvious that I am a fan of historical Mysteries, and if they are in a series-well that is even better.  INSTRUMENTS OF DARKNESS is the first book in a new series that now numbers three books.  The heroine is a ship captain’s wife; a woman who spent many years at sea with her husband but , since the arrival of children, she has been running the family estate; a stay at home mom circa 1780 with wet nurses and servants. She is a no-nonsense person who has run this estate profitably.  Her neighbour is a gentleman recluse, a man who has rejected his own noble title and instead he stays at home and studies human  anatomy among other things. His name is Gabriel Crowther and he is  more at home with the company of dead things.

The sea captain’s wife (Mrs. Harriet Westerman) discovers a dead body on her property and she immediately seeks the assistance of her reclusive neighbour. They become a team as they try to unravel this mystery. Along the way they encounter a misplaced heir. The American war of Independence figures in to the plot and the action moves between a country estate and London. Harriet and Gabriel make an interesting pair of amateur sleuths and the murder mystery is satisfying.  We see small glimpses into Gabriel’s past that hints at why he is such a hermit.

The second book in the series is called ANATOMY OF MURDER  and there is also a third book called ISLAND OF BONES. The third book is available at bookstores but it is not yet available at my library.  I am in queue and look forward to receiving it to read.

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Filed under General fiction, historical fiction, Historical mysteries, joy of reading, Mysteries, Mysterious Ladies, mystery fiction

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows…….by Alan Bradley

Historical Mystery

A Flavia de Luce Mystery

Post War England

This is the fourth book in a mystery series featuring the precocious, self-taught, 11-year old chemist–Flavia de Luce.  I can’t imagine any 11-year-old being this smart but then, I suppose I can’t imagine any household being visited by four murders in one year either. The beauty of fiction. I like  following  a series since each book wraps up a nice little who-done-it yet there are other mysteries unravelling slowly–like a soap opera.  It certainly keeps me watching for the next book in the series to be released.

This book has a Christmas background .  Father is almost completely out of funds so he reluctantly rents the entire Buckshaw Estate to a film company. Flavia and  her two sisters, beautiful Ophelia and bookworm Daphne, are excited about the impending film shoot and the townspeople at nearby Bishop Lacey are thrilled to have movie stars in their midst. A special Christmas eve fund-raiser for the church is planned at the estate–but of course, all does not go smoothly. A blizzard strands the household and then there is a murder .It’s a little Agatha Christie-like (which is referenced in the book) but definitely entertaining.

The  main characters reveal a few more secrets; just enough to keep the reader anticipating the next book . A quick and enjoyable read.

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Filed under General fiction, historical fiction, joy of reading, Mysteries, Mysterious Ladies, mystery fiction, Uncategorized

Mom wants to read!

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Mom wants to read……

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