My Week in Books – 30th June 2019

MyWeekinBooks

New arrivals

Hmm, someone has been let loose on NetGalley…

Train ManTrain Man by Andrew Mulligan (eARC, courtesy of Chatto & Windus, NetGalley and Random Things Tours)

It’s never too late to get back on track.

Michael is a broken man. He’s waiting for the 09.46 to Gloucester, so as to reach Crewe for 11.22: the platforms are long at Crewe, and he can walk easily into the path of a high-speed train to London. He’s planned it all: a net of tangerines (for when the refreshments trolley is cancelled), and a juice carton, full of neat whisky. To make identification swift, he has taped his last credit card to the inside of his shoe.

What Michael hasn’t factored in is a twelve-minute delay, which risks him missing his connection, and making new ones. He longs to silence the voices in his own head: ex-girlfriends, colleagues, and the memories from his schooldays, decades old. They all torment him. What Michael needs is somebody to listen.

A last, lonely journey becomes a lesson in the power of human connection, proving that no matter how bad things seem, it’s never too late to get back on track.

Journeys intersect. People find hope when and where they least expect it. A missed connection needn’t be a disaster: it could just save your life.

The Stationmaster's DaughterThe Stationmaster’s Daughter by Kathleen McGurl (eARC, courtesy of HQ Digital, NetGalley and Rachel’s Random Resources)

As the last train leaves, will life ever be the same?

Dorset, 1935. Stationmaster Ted has never cared much for romance. Occupied with ensuring England’s most beautiful railway runs on time, love has always felt like a comparatively trivial matter. Yet when he meets Annie Galbraith on the 8.42 train to Lynford, he can’t help but instantly fall for her.

But when the railway is forced to close and a terrible accident occurs within the station grounds. Ted finds his job and any hope of a relationship with Annie hanging in the balance…

Present day. Recovering from heartbreak after a disastrous marriage, Tilly decides to escape from the bustling capital and move to Dorset to stay with her dad, Ken. When Ken convinces Tilly to help with the restoration of the old railway, she discovers a diary hidden in the old ticket office. Tilly is soon swept up in Ted’s story, and the fateful accident that changed his life forever. But an encounter with an enigmatic stranger takes Tilly by surprise, and she can’t help but feel a connection with Ted’s story in the past…

The Most Difficult ThingThe Most Difficult Thing by Charlotte Philby (eARC, courtesy of The Borough Press and NetGalley)

On the surface, Anna Witherall personifies everything the aspirational magazine she works for represents. Married to her university boyfriend David, she has a beautiful home and gorgeous three-year-old twin daughters, Stella and Rose. But beneath the veneer of success and happiness, Anna is hiding a dark secret, one that threatens to unravel everything she has worked so hard to create.

As Anna finds herself drawn into the dark and highly controlled world of secret intelligence, she is forced to question her family’s safety, and her own. Only one thing is certain: in order to protect her children, she must leave them, forever.

And someone is watching. Someone she thought she could trust. Someone who is determined to make them all pay.

Stylish and assured, The Most Difficult Thing is an irresistible combination of contemporary espionage and domestic suspense, and a compulsive, highly charged examination of betrayal.

Olive, AgainOlive, Again by Elizabeth Strout (eARC, courtesy of Vintage and NetGalley)

Olive, Again follows the blunt, contradictory yet deeply loveable Olive Kitteridge as she grows older, navigating the second half of her life as she comes to terms with the changes – sometimes welcome, sometimes not – in her own existence and in those around her.

Olive adjusts to her new life with her second husband, challenges her estranged son and his family to accept him, experiences loss and loneliness, witnesses the triumphs and heartbreaks of her friends and neighbours in the small coastal town of Crosby, Maine – and, finally, opens herself to new lessons about life.

RaziaRazia by Abda Khan (eARC, courtesy of Unbound and Random Things Tours)

Farah is a young lawyer living and working in London. She’s just ended a long relationship, and her parents are looking for a husband – whether Farah wants one or not. So far, so normal. But at a work dinner, hosted by a dangerously powerful man, she comes across a young woman called Razia, who Farah soon realises is being kept as a domestic slave. We follow Farah’s daring investigations from the law courts of London to the brick kilns of Lahore, as she begins to uncover the traps that keep generation after generation enslaved. Everywhere she turns there is deep-rooted oppression and corruption, and when the authorities finally intervene, their actions have dire consequences. Farah teams up with a human rights lawyer, Ali, and the two become close… but can she trust him; can they help Razia and others like her; and will they ever discover the explosive secret behind these tragic events?

A Cornish AffairA Cornish Affair by Jo Lambert (eARC, courtesy of ChocLit and Rachel’s Random Resources)

Even in your hometown, you can feel like an outsider …

In the close-knit community of Carrenporth in Cornwall everyone knows everyone else’s business. Luke Carrack is only too aware of this. He’s been away for two years but nothing has changed – from the town gossips who can’t see past the scandal of his childhood, to the cold way he is treated by some of his so-called family.

The only person who seems to understand is local hotelier’s daughter Cat Trevelyan, although even Luke’s new friendship with her could set tongues wagging.

But Carrenporth is about to experience far bigger scandals than the return of Luke Carrack – and the secrets unearthed in the process will shake the sleepy seaside town to its core …

Bone ChinaBone China by Laura Purcell (eARC, courtesy of Raven Books and NetGalley)

Consumption has ravaged Louise Pinecroft’s family, leaving her and her father alone and heartbroken. But Dr Pinecroft has plans for a revolutionary experiment: convinced that sea air will prove to be the cure his wife and children needed, he arranges to house a group of prisoners suffering from the same disease in the cliffs beneath his new Cornish home. While he devotes himself to his controversial medical trials, Louise finds herself increasingly discomfited by the strange tales her new maid tells of the fairies that hunt the land, searching for those they can steal away to their realm.

Forty years later, Hester Why arrives at Morvoren House to take up a position as nurse to the now partially paralysed and almost entirely mute Miss Pinecroft. Hester has fled to Cornwall to try and escape her past, but surrounded by superstitious staff enacting bizarre rituals, she soon discovers that her new home may be just as dangerous as her last…

A Tapestry of TreasonA Tapestry of Treason by Anne O’Brien (eARC, courtesy of HQ Stories and NetGalley)

1399: Constance of York, Lady Despenser, proves herself more than a mere observer in the devious intrigues of her magnificently dysfunctional family, The House of York.

Surrounded by power-hungry men, including her aggressively self-centred husband Thomas and ruthless siblings Edward and Richard, Constance places herself at the heart of two treasonous plots against King Henry IV.  Will it be possible for this Plantagenet family to safeguard its own political power by restoring either King Richard II to the throne, or the precarious Mortimer claimant?

Although the execution of these conspiracies will place them all in jeopardy, Constance is not deterred, even when the cost of her ambition threatens to overwhelm her.  Even when it endangers her new-found happiness.

With treason, tragedy, heartbreak and betrayal, this is the story of a woman ahead of her time, fighting for herself and what she believes to be right in a world of men.


On What Cathy Read Next last week

Blog posts

Tuesday – I took part in the blog tour for Overture by Vanessa Counchman.  This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic was Books on my Summer 2019 TBR.

WednesdayWWW Wednesday is the opportunity to share what I’ve just read, what I’m currently reading and what I plan to read next…and have a good nose around to see what other bloggers are reading.   I also hosted a stop on the blog tour for The Body Lies by Jo Baker sharing my review of this intriguing literary thriller.

Thursday – I shared my review of family drama, A Modern Family by Helga Flatland as part of the blog tour. I also took a look back at the 2018 Henley Literary Festival for Throwback Thursday.

Saturday – I published my review of my Buchan of the Month for June, The Dancing Floor by John Buchan.

As always, thanks to everyone who has liked, commented on or shared my blog posts on social media this week.


On What Cathy Read Next this week

Currently reading

Planned posts

  • Book Review: Where the Hornbeam Grows by Beth Lynch
  • Top Ten Tuesday: Childhood Favourites
  • Waiting on Wednesday
  • Book Review: Hudson’s Kill by Paddy Hirsch
  • Six Degrees of Separation
  • Blog Tour/Book Review: Train Man by Andew Mulligan

Buchan of the Month/Book Review: The Dancing Floor by John Buchan

buchan of the month 2019 poster

20190607_101841About the Book

Vernon Milburne, orphaned since childhood and haunted by a recurring dream, is friends with the protective lawyer and MP, Sir Edward Leithen. An Aegean cruise takes them to the mysterious island of Plakos, where Vernon is fascinated by the island’s myths. Local superstitions turn to menace as Vernon’s encounter with a beautiful woman results in obsession and adventure.

Format: Paperback (258 pp.)    Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Published: 1961 [1926]   Genre: Mystery

Purchase Links*
Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com | Hive.co.uk (supporting UK bookshops)
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

Find The Dancing Floor on Goodreads


My Review

The Dancing Floor is the sixth book in my Buchan of the Month reading project for 2019.  You can find out more about the project and my reading list for 2019 here.  You can also read my spoiler-free introduction to The Dancing Floor here.

As I mentioned in my introduction to the book, John Buchan first explored the idea for the novel in a supernatural short story called ‘Basilissa’ published in Blackwood’s Magazine in April 1914. The story was inspired by a cruise John Buchan and his wife, Susan, made in the company of friend Gerard Craig Sellar in 1910. Later Buchan expanded his short story to novel length, adding the character Sir Edward Leithen, who had first appeared in The Power-House. The novel sees Leithen and the young man he befriends, Vernon Milburne, make a similar voyage during which they stop at the (invented) island of Plakos.

Structured in three sections, the first part of the book sees Sir Edward Leithen become acquainted with two young people, Vernon Milburne, and Kore Arabin, both of whom turn to him for help. Initially, Leithen is sceptical about the significance of Vernon’s recurring dream. He also finds himself disinclined to help Kore, finding her aloof and arrogant. (Slim and boyish, she is somewhat of a typical John Buchan heroine.) However, Leithen’s feelings change as he learns more about her situation and the danger she faces – and is determined to confront – on the island of Plakos.

The second part of the book involves Leithen’s arrival on the island and attempts to gain entry to the house where Kore has found herself imprisoned by the superstitious and vengeful locals. The house is the site of unspecified evil, immoral deeds carried out by Kore’s father and grandfather, for which the villagers seek revenge. The final part centres on events from Vernon’s point of view and the book’s dramatic conclusion, coinciding with the Christian festival of Easter and ancient pagan rituals for the arrival of Spring.

In The Dancing Floor, Buchan explores some familiar themes such as the conflict between sacred and pagan, reason and superstition, civilization and anarchy. For example, at one point, Leithen describes feeling himself on ‘the razor-edge of life’. The Greek concept of ‘temenos’, a sacred place reserved for worship of ancient gods or pagan rituals, embodied in this case by the Dancing Floor, is also a feature.

I’m not sure I can be quite as enthusiastic as Buchan expert, Kate Macdonald, who argues The Dancing Floor demonstrates Buchan’s ‘complete mastery of plotting’. She praises the way the reader is ‘lulled into accepting absurd and impossible coincidences because of the need to know what happens next’. Admittedly my experience is coloured by having read the book before but, to me, the coincidences were just a little too unlikely, such as all the key players ending up in the same place at the same time, and in one case by pure chance. However, as you would expect from a Buchan novel, the story moves along at a swift pace and there is a particularly powerful scene in which Leithen and a comrade participate in the Greek Easter ritual through the silent, empty village whose inhabitants have deserted it to await events on the Dancing Floor.

‘We were celebrating but there were no votaries. The torches had gone to redden the Dancing Floor, sorrow had been exchanged for a guilty ecstasy, the worshippers were seeking another Saviour. Our rite was more than a commemoration, it was a defiance, and I felt like a man who carries a challenge to the enemy.’

July’s Buchan of the Month will be The Runagates Club. Look out for my spoiler free introduction to the book shortly and my review towards the end of the month.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

In three words: Adventure, mystery, romance

Try something similar: Huntingtower or Witch Wood by John Buchan


John BuchanAbout the Author

John Buchan (1875 – 1940) was an author, poet, lawyer, publisher, journalist, war correspondent, Member of Parliament, University Chancellor, keen angler and family man.  He was ennobled and, as Lord Tweedsmuir, became Governor-General of Canada.  In this role, he signed Canada’s entry into the Second World War.   Nowadays he is probably best known – maybe only known – as the author of The Thirty-Nine Steps.  However, in his lifetime he published over 100 books: fiction, poetry, short stories, biographies, memoirs and history.

You can find out more about John Buchan, his life and literary output by visiting The John Buchan Society website.

buchan of the month 2019