Excellent Women by Barbara Pym
I always feel at home in a Barbara Pym novel. So warm, witty, and familiar – a twentieth century Jane Austen. Excellent Woman was a very happy re-read for me and I enjoyed it immensely this time around. Mildred is one of those ‘excellent women’ who is ‘capable of dealing with most of the stock situations or even the greatest moments of life – birth, marriage, death, the successful jumble sale, the garden fete spoiled by bad weather.’ Time and time again, Mildred finds herself helping her helping her friends navigate their love affairs – but she’s never a busybody. Instead, she is endearing and sardonically amusing. Indeed, I’d go as far as saying that Mildred Lathbury is one of my favourite literary creations!
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
A strange and rather depressing novel about two motherless sisters in a remote mountain town in rural America in the 1950s (I think, although it’s never specified). Beautifully and poetically written, it’s easy to read but hardly cheerful. I waited in vain for a happy ending that never came. At least it was short!
The Child from the Sea by Elizabeth Goudge
A sweeping historical saga set during the English Civil War. It’s the story of Lucy Walter, mistress of Charles II and mother of his illegitimate child, the Duke of Monmouth. It begins in a romantic Pembrokeshire castle and ends with the restoration of the English monarchy. We follow Lucy’s journey from Pembrokeshire to London, then Paris to the Netherlands – and even a brief sojourn in the Tower. There’s a cast of characters to rival Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, so you’ll need your wits about you! Elizabeth Goudge’s writing can sometimes be a little slow and ponderous for modern readers, but the story is strong enough to keep the momentum going. It was a very moving story, and I was very sad to say goodbye to Lucy’s world.
Whose Body? by Dorothy L Sayers
The first Lord Peter Wimsey mystery, from the 1920s. Light and amusing, with hints of darkness. I can’t wait to read more and get to know Lord Peter better (pampered, well-dressed, charming, but war damaged). A good solid mystery, with some fantastic one-liners which really made me laugh!
Magpie by Elizabeth Day
A tightly paced thriller that kept me gripped for a couple of days! I don’t want to talk too much about the plot as it’ll contain spoilers, but it’s about a couple and their lodger, weird narcissistic mothers, and the pain of infertility. The story is told from two different, competing perspectives. Whose version of reality is real? A great one to pack for your summer holiday!
Affairs at Thrush Green by ‘Miss Read’
I always turn to a ‘Miss Read’ when I need a gentle read. This one contains nothing more taxing than a few broken deckchairs and an argument about the church kneelers. It should be boring, but isn’t. Just enormously comforting. Whatever’s happening in your world, the residents of Thrush Green (and Fairacre) carry on regardless – forever preserved, just as we’d wish them, in their perfect mid-century English village.