Books Read in 2020

JANUARY
  • Shaun Bythell - Confession of a Bookseller. Non-Fiction. (Published 2019) This is the second book by this author who owns the largest second-hand bookshop in Scotland. Like the first it is a diary of all the strange people that come to the shop, the books they buy and the strange questions that get asked and about Wigtown characters and the Book Festival held there every year.
  • Alexander McCall Smith - To the Land of Long Lost Friends. Crime Fiction (Published 2019). The latest in the long running series about the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. The blue skies of Botswana always warm up a British winter.
  • Kathleen Hewitt - Plenty Under the Counter. Crime Fiction(Re-printed by the IWM 2019. Originally Published 1943).The Imperial War Museum have also started reprinting books originally published during wartime. This is a mystery/crime featuring a RAF pilot on leave after being in hospital. A murdered man is found in the back yard of the boarding house  so David sets out to solve the murder in between trying to persuade his girlfriend to marry him.
  • John Dickson Carr - The Case of the Constant Suicides. Crime Fiction (Published 2018. Originally Published 1941). Another reprint from the past. John Dickson Carr was known in his day as the master of the impossible crime..........there is one in this story and 3 possible suicides! It features his amateur sleuth Gideon Fell and is set in the Highlands of Scotland.
  • Nicola Ford - The Lost Shrine. Crime Fiction. (Published 2019). The second from this author who herself is an archaeologist. Another story set on an archaeological dig. Clare Hills takes on a new job working on a dig where the previous site director was found hanged surrounded by dead wildlife. A suspected suicide which looks more likely to have been a murder after other threats are received.
  • Elizabeth Fair - The Mingham Air. Fiction. (A Furrowed Middlebrow Reprint 2019 Originally Published 1960). A gentle story of the characters in a village and  newcomer Hester who goes to convalesce with her Godmother and sets about organising everyone.
  • Mary Stewart - The Wind Off the Small Isles/The Lost One. Fiction Novella and short story. ( Originally published 1968 and 1960, reprinted 2014).A Quick read with both stories featuring the same young woman - intrepid survivor of cliff falls on Lanzarote and escaped prisoner on the Moors.
  • Laurie Ogden - The Chimney Swallows. Children's Fiction. (Published 1999). The author and his family live in an old house where swallows return every year to nest. One summer his son John has to spend a lot of time in bed and the swallows nest right inside his room. But then comes the year where the swallows don't return.
  • Richmal Crompton - Family Roundabout. Fiction. (A Persephone reprint originally published 1948) Richmal Crompton was must better known for a chidren's books about William. She also wrote many adult books. In Family Roundabout we are shown the matriarchs of two families, and the ups and downs of their children and grandchildren in the years between the wars.The families are linked by marriage and there are other marriages, none of which are straight-forward and happy. 
9 Books Read in January
FEBRUARY
  • Esther Rutter - This Golden Fleece; A Journey Through Britain's Knitted History. Non Fiction (Published 2019). Esther Rutter was born on a Suffolk sheep farm and learned to spin, weave and knit as a child. In this book she travels the length and breadth of the UK - from Shetland to the Channel Islands unearthing the history of all thing knitted, the wool they are made from and the communities that earned their living with wool. Even though I can only knit dishcloths I found this book fascinating.
  • Donna Leon - Unto us a Son is Given. Crime Fiction. (Published 2019). The most recent in the long series of books set in Venice and featuring Commissario Brunetti and his family. 
  • Marjorie Wilenski -  Table Two. Fiction. (Published 2019 Originally 1942). Another Dean St Press/Furrowed Middlebrow Reprint. Set in the London office of the Ministry of Foreign Intelligence in WWII with the Blitz going on all around. Table Two is where the translators work, nine women - some old and bitter but independent and capable. When pretty newcomer Anne Shepley-Rice arrives she is befriended by the middle aged Elsie.
  •  Michael Gilbert - Death in Captivity; A Second World War Mystery. Crime Fiction ( Published 2019 Originally 1952.) Another Crime Classic from the British Library. This is set in an Italian Prisoner-of-war camp for British Officers. A man is found dead in one of the escape tunnels, it's an impossible scenario and one of the Officers turns detective to find out who the spy is. This is set at almost the end of the war and finishes with the British Prisoners preparing to flee south towards the British invasion line as the Germans arrive to take over the camp. 
  • Caroline Taggart - Christmas at War. Non Fiction (Published 2018). Memories of the food, presents, happiness and sadness of all the Christmases throughout the Second World War.From children in this country to prisoners of war.
  • D.E. Stevenson - Mrs Tim Gets a Job. Fiction (Published 2019 Originally 1947). The third in a series about Mrs Tim. Just after the war and Hester Christie's husband Tim is still overseas. With her daughter off to boarding school Hester is at a loose end until she gets a home and job with the formidable  Erica Clutterbuck who has opened a hotel in the Scottish Borders.
  • Kel Richards - The Sinister Student. Crime Fiction (Published 2016) Another book by this author written as a Golden Age crime and set in 1930's Oxford with C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein. Apart from the main story this one goes into the realms of Sci-Fi with a Tardis appearing and a student coming back from the future to study the two dons - very odd.
  • Eve Diett - Diary of a NAAFI girl. Non Fiction (Published 2012). After being a Land Girl during WWII and then working in a hotel, Eve and her friend Marge start working in the NAAFI (Navy,Army,Air Force Institute) working at a camp in Devon where new recruits for National Service are trained. Everyday was different as she served the young recruits and officers at the camp shop.
8 Books read in February

MARCH
  • Barbara Noble - The House Opposite. Fiction (Published 2019 Originally 1943) This is another of the Dean Street Press/Furrowed Middlebrow collaboration). Actually written during WWII by someone who lived through the London Blitz.                                                                      Elizabeth is a secretary who has been having an affair with her married boss for the last 3 years. She has moved home to live with her parents during the Blitz.In the house opposite lives Owen, a teenager, waiting for call up to the RAF. Following their lives through  Fire Watching, traveling across the city, visiting relatives in the country and the end of the affair.
  • Francis Duncan - Murder for Christmas. Crime fiction (Originally published 1949) This is a typical Country House Murder, full of strange characters all brought together for a Christmas House Party. The amateur sleuth in this goes by the wonderful name of Mordecai Tremaine.
  •  Angela Thirkell - Growing Up. Fiction. (Published 1943). Another of the Barsetshire family stories. Big houses, servants with war going on in the background. I love these books - but lots of other people don't! 
  • Laura Carlin - Requiem For a Knave. Crime Fiction (Published 2020). It is England in 1367 and when Alwin of Whittaker hears the confession of his mother on her death bed he leaves the only place he has known to travel to The Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham to discover the truth. This is a strange tale, readable but a bit odd. A quick read and I think I enjoyed it. 
  • Elly Griffiths - Now You See Them. Crime Fiction ( Published 2019). This is the fifth in the series featuring Edgar Stephens and set in Brighton. Edgar is now a Superintendent, his former sergeant Emma is now his wife and they have 3 children. It is 1963 and a schoolgirl has gone missing from Roedean Girls Boarding School. Mods and Rockers having battles on the beach is part of the story, which ends with Emma and her news reporter friend Sam deciding to start a Private Detective agency. This should make for lots more books in the series.
  • Tony Medawar(editor) - Bodies from the Library. Crime Fiction (Published 2018) Short stories from the golden age of crime. Some of these short stories had only published in newspapers and magazines back in the day. A few were very odd and it was understandable why their authors had never been heard of again!
  • Linda Grant - A Stranger City. Fiction (Published 2019) A body is found in the Thames which starts a search for her identity. A policeman, a documentary film maker and a nurse all respond to the death of the unknown woman in different ways. London is a place where people meet or pass by. The story is set now, just after Brexit but in a country where immigrants are deported by the trainful to live on prison ships in the Thames.
7 Books Read in March

APRIL
  • Tracy Chevalier  - A Single Thread. Fiction (Published 2019). As always with this author fiction is woven around fact. In this case it is the women who embroidered the kneelers and cushions for Winchester Cathedral in the 1930's. Violet has moved from Southampton to work in Winchester mainly to get away from her mother and memories of her brother and fiance both killed in the war. One day she comes across the Broderers, women from all sorts of backgrounds working the patterns designed by Louisa Pesel.                                                      A very good story which I really enjoyed.
  • D.E. Stevenson - Mrs Tim Flies Home. Fiction (Published 2019 Originally Published 1952) This is the final book featuring D.E.Stevenson's alter-ego Hester Christie. Hester has spent 18 months in Kenya where her Army Officer husband has been stationed and now comes home for the summer, renting a house where her children can join her for their summer holidays from school and university. Another gentle happy story that I enjoyed. 
  • Emma Smith - No Way of Telling. Children's Fiction (Published 1972) This is a childrens book by the author who wrote The Maidens Trip about her time on the canal boats during WWII. It's a story of a girl and her granny in Wales during a spell of harsh winter weather when a stranger appears and then vanishes.
  • Edward Marston - The Mad Courtesan. Crime Fiction (Published 1992) Featuring Nicholas Bracewell who is a Stage Manager (Book Holder) with Lord Westfields Men - a group of actors in Elizabethan London. The stories are all very similar but as I only read one now and again it doesn't matter. 
  • Mary Wesley - An Imaginative Experience. Fiction. (Published 1994). A book of co-incidences all stemming from the woman who pulled the communication cord on a train so she could leap off and turn a sheep off it's back  and the man on the train who watched and saw the sadness in her face.
  • Robert Barnard - The Killings on Jubilee Terrace. Crime Fiction. (Published 2009) When two characters in the TV soap Jubilee Terrace were killed in an arson attack not long after an anonymous letter is received questioning the death of another actor, the police investigate.
  • Carol Carnac - Crossed skis; An Alpine Mystery. Crime Fiction (Published 2020 Originally published 1952). Another British Library Crime Classic. This author has already had BLCC's republished under her other name of E.C.R.Lorac. The story moves from London still struggling after the war to an alpine ski resort and a group of friends and colleagues on holiday. One of the party is perhaps not who he say's he is.
  • Rose Macauley - The World My Wilderness. Fiction (Published 1950). Set immediately after WWII in France and London. Barbary Deniston is 17 and has spent the last few years running wild with  the French Resistance. She is sent from her beloved mothers home in France to stay with her father in war ravaged London. In the ruins she finds an area much like she has left behind and begins to run wild again. I so enjoyed this and read it very quickly.
 8 Books Read in April

MAY

  • Carola Oman - Nothing to Report. Fiction (A Furrowed Middlebrow Reprint Originally Published 1940). Mary Morrison is an unmarried lady in her early 40's and although no longer living in her family home she is still very much part of the village. There are Lords and Ladies in this and young people and her old friend Lady Rollo and her family just returning from India. England is just on the verge of war although it's not much mentioned until the very last chapter. This was OK but not riveting. 
  • John Bude - Death in White Pyjamas. Crime Fiction (A B.L.C.C reprint originally published  1942). A Theatre owner,producer and several of the actors have gathered at a country house to read through the script of a new production. But soon one of their number, staying at another home in the area is found murdered in the grounds of the house wearing white pyjamas. BLCC have already reprinted several books by this author who died in 1957. This is another good story - a typical Country House murder of the time.
  • John Bude - Death Knows no Calendar. ( Published in the same volume as the above originally published in 1944). An intriguing locked room murder set in a village with all the usual characters - A Major, servants, wealthy artist, her exuberant husband, a vicar, a Lady and her niece. Another well written and puzzling crime.
  • Janet Corke - A Hidden House in the Gwydyr Forest. Non Fiction. (Published 2019). In 1955 a young English civil engineer finds an empty cottage 1,000 feet above the Conwy Valley. There is no vehicular access and the only amenity is a nearby stream. Charlie Corke bought the cottage and gradually renovated it. When he married, his new wife struggled with the minimum facilities and soon a new baby moved in too. This story is told by his Welsh wife Janet who was training as a solicitor in Llanrwst when Charlie came into the office to purchase the house.
  • Ronald Blythe  - A Year at Bottengoms Farm. Non Fiction. (Published 2006). Another collection of short pieces from The Church Times. A year watching  nature, working his garden and travelling to church events around the country.
  • Pamela Hansford-Johnson - Winter Quarters. Fiction (Published 1944). Waiting to be posted abroad during WWII an artillery battalion is stationed in a small English Village. This book which  looks at the interaction of soldiers and civilians. Through the book we get to know the people from the village and members of the battery from the Major and Captain to the junior offices. They have personal and psychological troubles, wives, girlfriends. Spend a lot of time in the pubs and are bored and tense waiting for the off.
6 Books Read in May.

JUNE
  • Martin Edwards (Editor) - Settling Scores; Sporting Mysteries. Crime Fiction (Published 2020). Another collection of short stories reprinted by British Library Crime Classics.
  • Agatha Christie - N or M. Crime Fiction (Published 1941). This is one of her Tommy and Tuppence Mysteries, which for some reason I didn't read back in the 70's when I read dozens of her other books. I've had a copy on my shelves for about 5 years so about time it was read and sold. It is WWII and Britain faces a threat from "the enemy within". The intelligence service appoint Tommy Beresford - a very unlikely spy- to find out what connection a boarding house in the fictional Leahampton has with Germany. His wife Tuppence overhears the discussion and decides to be part of the investigation too.  A light quick read.
  • Laura Dawes - Fighting Fit;The Wartime Battle for Britain's Health. Non Fiction (Published 2016). The story of how the people of Britain were kept fit and well through WWII. How the scientists and doctors and ordinary people worked to replace the things that had once been imported. Each chapter looks at a different part of the battle from the agar needed for Petri dishes, the National Loaf, Lice and Venereal disease.
  • Carola  Oman -  Somewhere in England. Fiction ( A Furrowed Middlebrow reprint Originally Published 1943) The follow up to Nothing to Report.       At the end of the first book the main character  had just resumed her nursing career at the beginning of WWII and in the second we join her again 2 years later when she has just married and her new husband (who she knew when she was much younger but lost touch with for many years) has bought her old country home to turn it into a cottage hospital for injured soldiers which she is running with the help of a nasty Matron and several young nurses.
  • Angela Thirkell - The Dukes Daughter. Fiction (Published 1951) Another of the rambling tales from fictional Barsetshire, with lords, ladies and gentlemen, their grand and not so grand houses, their land and farms and prep schools....... and all the people who work for them. 
  • Rory Clements- Hitler's Secret.Historical crime fiction(Published 2020) In Cambridge, professor Tom Wilde is approached by an American intelligence officer who he has worked with before.He is needed to smuggle a secret package out of Germany.
    But it is only when he is deep behind enemy lines that Wilde discovers why the Nazis are so desperate to prevent the 'package' falling into Allied hands. And as ruthless killers hunt him through Europe, a treacherous question hangs over the mission.  This is the 4th in this series about the American professor living in England during the war. A very good read
6 books read in June. Running total so far 44

JULY
  • Mike Parker - On The Red Hill; Where Four Lives Fell into Place. Non Fiction (Published 2019) A story of a house and the 2 people who owned it before passing it to the author and his partner. In 2016 Mike Parker and his partner Peredur were witnesses at the civil partnership of their elderly friends Reg and George, the first to be held in the Welsh town of Machynlleth. A few years later when Reg and George died withing a few weeks of each other Mike and Peredur found that Rhiw Goch had been left to them. Mike has put this book together using George's diaries and photographs and Reg's paintings and notes and the memories of people who knew them. This fascinating book is a look at how life for gay couples has changed in 60 years and how the year turns in a quiet beautiful part of Wales.
  • Suzanne Goldring - The Year the Lights Went Out. Fiction (published 2016) . A Fictional look at what might happen if there was a nationwide power cut through-out the whole of the UK. Sandra and Martin live in an old house in Surrey when the UK National Grid is sabotaged. Luckily they are able to fetch home their daughter from her university house and their son and his fiance arrive too. There's quite a lot of luck in this book - they have fields with sheep, the village has a farm butcher and the pub has beer! 
  • Frank White - There was a Time. Fiction (Published 2017). A village in Lincolnshire going through the months of The Battle of Britain in 1940. This is a light book imagining the way lives are changed in a village through  this period.
  • Edward Marston - The Silent Woman. Historical Crime fiction (Published 1994) The sixth book featuring Nicholas Bracewell as Book Holder for Lord Westfields Men - actors in Elizabethan London. After the disastrous fire at The Queens Head, the players are forced to take their plays out on the road but just before they start a messenger from his native Devon is murdered trying to reach Nicholas.
  • Edward Marston - The Roaring Boy .Historical Crime Fiction (Published 1995). Another in this series set in late C16 London. When mysterious Simon Chaloner arrives with a new play, his proposal seems too good to refuse especially after their own playwright has been unable to write a good play for months. Unfortunately the story in this play is too close for comfort to some wealthy Londoners. 
5 Books read in July

 AUGUST
  • Erik Larson - The Splendid and the Vile; A Saga of Churchill,Family and Defiance During the Blitz. Non Fiction (Published 2020). Excellent writing with a day by day look at the first years of Churchill's time as Prime Minister and  how his family reacted. Amazon says "Drawing on once-secret intelligence reports and diaries, #1 bestselling author Larson takes readers from the shelled streets of London to Churchill’s own chambers, giving a vivid vision of true leadership, when – in the face of unrelenting horror – a leader of eloquence, strategic brilliance and perseverance bound a country, and a family, together"
  •  Alys Clare - The Indigo Ghosts.Historical Crime Fiction. (Published 2020) This is the third in a series set in the early 1600's featuring former ship's surgeon Gabriel Taverner. Gabriel is now a country doctor in south Devon not far from Plymouth. When he gets a call from a ship's Captain who is convinced his ship is haunted by evil spirits he investigates below deck and  finds a strange body hidden - it seems to have traveled all the way to Plymouth from the Caribbean. 
  • Deborah Crombie - A Bitter Feast. Crime Fiction (Published 2019). The latest in a long series of crime featuring  Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and his wife DI Gemma James. This author is American but the books are set in this country usually in London but this time in the Cotswold. They are published first in the US and some of the language and words grate as we wouldn't use them here but always a good story.

1 comment:

  1. I love your taste in books. I have read some of them and really enjoyed them. My library is closed now because of the virus. I will make a list and request some. I also love to read and finish most books in every three or four days. I also do counted crossstitch and don’t know anyone else who does it. Ginny

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