My Week in Books – 1st March 2020

MyWeekinBooks

On What Cathy Read Next last week

Blog posts

Monday – I published my review of Improvement by Joan Silber.

TuesdayThis week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic was Characters I’d Follow On Social Media.

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.

Friday – I shared my thoughts on Wild Spinning Girls by Carol Lovekin as part of the blog tour.

Saturday – I published my reviews of The House by the Loch by Kirsty Wark and my Buchan of the Month, John Burnet of Barns by John Buchan.

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


New arrivals

Another bumper crop of goodies this week including ARCs from publishers and NetGalley, the results of a long overdue bookshop spree with some book tokens and a trip to my local Oxfam bookshop. 

The OffingThe Offing by Benjamin Myers (audiobook)

After all, there are only a few things truly worth fighting for: freedom, of course, and all that it brings with it. Poetry, perhaps, and a good glass of wine. A nice meal. Nature. Love, if you’re lucky.

One summer following the Second World War, Robert Appleyard sets out on foot from his Durham village. Sixteen and the son of a coal miner, he makes his way across the northern countryside until he reaches the former smuggling village of Robin Hood’s Bay. There he meets Dulcie, an eccentric, worldly, older woman who lives in a ramshackle cottage facing out to sea.

Staying with Dulcie, Robert’s life opens into one of rich food, sea-swimming, sunburn and poetry. The two come from different worlds, yet as the summer months pass, they form an unlikely friendship that will profoundly alter their futures.

EQ-ekwIWsAYJ3p7The Figure in the Photograph by Kevin Sullivan (proof copy, courtesy of Allison & Busby)

1898. When Juan’s father is killed while working as a photographer in Cuba, the young man is left with nothing but his last photos amid the chaos as the war between Spain and America escalates. But the images reveal a sinister truth to his father’s last moments, and Juan soon realises his death was no accident.

The young man travels alone to Scotland to grieve with his surviving family and soon immerses himself in the study of photography and pioneers a new invention, a self-timer. When this technology inadvertently solves a crime, it is not long before the device draws the attention of local law enforcement, and he is invited to Glasgow to assist police hunt down a serial killer.

The FoundlingThe Foundling by Stacey Halls (hardcover)

A mother’s love knows no bounds…

London, 1754. Six years after leaving her newborn, Clara, at London’t Foundling Hospital, young Bess Bright returns to reclaim the illegitimate daughter she has never really known. Dreading the worst – that Clara has died in care – the last thing she expects to hear is that her daughter has already been reclaimed. Her life is turned upside down as she tries to find out who has taken her little girl – and why.

Les than a mile from Bess’ lodgings in a quiet town house, a wealthy widow barely ventures outside. When her close friend – an ambitious doctor at the Foundling Hospital – persuades her to hire a nursemaid for her young daughter, she is hesitant to welcome someone new into her home and her life. But her past is threatening to catch up with her – and will soon tear her carefully constructed world apart.

TidelandsTidelands by Phillipa Gregory (paperback)

England 1648. A dangerous time for a woman to be different.
Midsummer’s Eve, 1648, and England is in the grip of civil war between renegade King and rebellious Parliament. The struggle reaches every corner of the kingdom, even to the remote Tidelands – the marshy landscape of the south coast.

Alinor, a descendant of wise women, crushed by poverty and superstition, waits in the graveyard under the full moon for a ghost who will declare her free from her abusive husband. Instead she meets James, a young man on the run, and shows him the secret ways across the treacherous marsh, not knowing that she is leading disaster into the heart of her life.

Suspected of possessing dark secrets in superstitious times, Alinor’s ambition and determination mark her out from her neighbours. This is the time of witch-mania, and Alinor, a woman without a husband, skilled with herbs, suddenly enriched, arouses envy in her rivals and fear among the villagers, who are ready to take lethal action into their own hands.

Anna of KleveAnna of Kleve: Queen of Secrets by Alison Weir (paperback)

Newly widowed and the father of an infant son, Henry VIII realizes he must marry again to insure the royal succession. Now forty-six, overweight and unwell, Henry is soundly rejected by some of Europe’s most eligible princesses, but Anna of Kleve – a small German duchy -is twenty-four and eager to wed. Henry requests Anna’s portrait from his court painter, who enhances her looks, painting her straight-on in order not to emphasize her rather long nose. Henry is entranced by the lovely image, only to be bitterly surprised when Anna arrives in England and he sees her in the flesh. She is pleasant looking, just not the lady that Henry had expected.

What follows is a fascinating story of this awkward royal union that had to somehow be terminated tactfully. Alison Weir takes a fresh and surprising look at this remarkable royal marriage by describing it from the point of view of Queen Anna, a young woman with hopes and dreams of her own, alone in a royal court that rejected her from the day she arrived.

The Unfortunate EnglishmanThe Unfortunate Englishman (Joe Wilderness #2) by John Lawton (hardcover)

Having shot someone in what he believed was self-defence in the chaos of 1963 Berlin, Wilderness finds himself locked up with little chance of escape. But an official pardon through his father-in-law Burne-Jones, a senior agent at MI6, means he is free to go – although forever in Burne-Jones’s service. His newest operation will take him back to Berlin, which is now the dividing line between the West and the Soviets. A backstory of innocence and intrigue unravels, one in which Wilderness is in and out of Berlin and Vienna like a jack-in-the-box.

When the Russians started building the Berlin wall in 1961, two unfortunate Englishmen were trapped on opposite sides. Geoffrey Masefield in the Lubyanka, and Bernard Alleyn (alias KGB Captain Leonid Liubimov) in Wormwood Scrubs. In 1965 there is a new plan. To exchange the prisoners, a swap upon Berlin’s bridge of spies. But, as ever, Joe has something on the side, just to make it interesting, just to make it profitable.

The Unfortunate Englishman is a thrilling tale of Khrushchev, Kennedy, a spy exchange…and ten thousand bottles of fine Bordeaux. What can possibly go wrong?

All the Lives We Never LivedAll The Lives We Never Lived by Anuradha Roy (hardcover)

“In my childhood, I was known as the boy whose mother had run off with an Englishman.”

So begins the story of Myshkin and his mother Gayatri, who is driven to rebel against tradition and follow her artist’s instinct for freedom.

Freedom of a different kind is in the air across India. The fight against British rule is reaching a critical turn. The Nazis have come to power in Germany. At this point of crisis, two strangers arrive in Gayatri’s town, opening up to her the vision of other possible lives.

What took Myshkin’s mother from India to Dutch-held Bali in the 1930s, ripping a knife through his comfortingly familiar universe? Excavating the roots of the world in which he was abandoned, Myshkin comes to understand the connections between the anguish at home and a war-torn universe overtaken by patriotism.

Summer of the Three PagodasSummer of the Three Pagodas by Jean Moran (hardcover, ARC courtesy of Head of Zeus)

A brilliantly exotic saga set in post-war Hong Kong and Korea, where Dr Rowena Rossiter longs to follow her heart, and her love, but the shadows of a violent past threaten to engulf her.

Hong Kong, 1950: Rowena’s daughter, conceived during the horrors of the Japanese invasion, is safely at boarding school. Her great love, Connor O’Connor, is by her side. But just as they begin planning a new life together, bad news comes. A female doctor is urgently needed in Seoul. The powers that be would like Rowena to go. At first she plans to refuse – until rumours begin to swirl that the sinister, beautiful man who held her captive during the war, may still be alive and looking for her.

Korea on the brink of war seems safer by comparison. Except, that of course, it isn’t.

image001Second Sister by Chan Ho-Kei, trans. Jeremy Tiang (e-book, courtesy of Head of Zeus and NetGalley)

Nga-Yee, a librarian, lives a quiet life with her fifteen-year-old sister Siu-Man. After a difficult, impoverished upbringing and the deaths of their parents, they are finally finding a bit of stability. Then one day, Nga-Yee comes home to find her teenage sister has jumped to her death.

Was it suicide, or was she pushed? And does it have anything to do with a recent trip on the Hong Kong subway which left Siu-Man silent and withdrawn? Nga-Yee cannot rest until she knows the truth about her sister – even if that means tracking down her sister’s friends one by one and making them confess.

Part detective novel, part revenge thriller, Second Sister explores themes of sexual harassment, internet bullying and teenage suicide – and vividly captures the zeitgeist of Hong Kong today.


On What Cathy Read Next this week

Currently reading

Planned posts

  • Blog Tour/Book Review: The Widow’s Mite by Allie Cresswell
  • Top Ten Tuesday: Books With Single Word Titles
  • Waiting on Wednesday
  • Audiobook Review: Heaven, My Home by Attica Locke
  • Book Review: The Lost Lights of St. Kilda by Elisabeth Gifford
  • Buchan of the Month: Introducing…A Lodge in the Wilderness by John Buchan
  • #6Degrees of Separation

2 thoughts on “My Week in Books – 1st March 2020

  1. Oh dear! Most of your acquisitions sound too tempting! I like the sound of The Figure in the Photograph, especially with the Glasgow connection (being a Glaswegian), and The Unfortunate Englishman sounds so realistic I’m not actually sure whether it’s fiction or fact?

    Like

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