April showers may have had us collectively wringing our hands, but left me with plenty of time to lose myself in a book. This month, my reads were pleasingly varied and included crime, historical biography and a good old fashioned ghost story.
The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths
The first in the Dr Ruth Galloway series of crime novels. This book was a such a treat and I devoured it in hours. When some mysterious bones are found on the north Norfolk coast, forensic archaeologist Galloway is called in to help the police. She meets DCI Harry Nelson, and together this likeable duo solves the mystery. It’s a satisfying and most enjoyable read. I’m already looking forward to catching up with Galloway and Nelson in the next book…
Super-Infinite: The Transformations of John Donne by Katherine Rundell
A truly fascinating book about the many lives of John Donne, the original multi-hyphenated man. He was – variously – a love poet, lawyer, swash-buckling privateer, an MP and finally the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral. Donne’s writing (and life) is complex, but Katherine Rundell brings everything to life with such beautiful simplicity. This wonderful biography doesn’t just give you a precious glimpse into Elizabethan and Jacobean life, it makes you wonder at the super-infinite possibilities of everything!
That Certain Age by Elizabeth Buchan
I love Elizabeth Buchan’s intimate and perceptive novels. We meet Siena and Barbara, fifty years apart, both confident and fulfilled in their own different ways. While they are separated by history, they are both united by the unavoidable biological certainties of being a woman. Modern day Siena is 37 and struggling to take the leap of faith to have baby; in the 1950s, Barbara is 42 and already has grown-up children, but is slowly discovering a life and mind of her own. Duty versus desire – can you fulfil both?
A Wreath of Roses by Elizabeth Taylor
Elizabeth Taylor takes the ordinary and makes it extraordinary! It’s 1940-something: war is over, and three friends gather for their annual summer holiday. War has left the stage askew and our players are struggling to find their feet. Liz, Camilla, and Frances settle into the familiar routines of their holiday, but nothing is quite the same. Indeed, things start darkly with a shocking suicide at the train station and this sets the tone for the whole novel. Everyone’s holding their breath, waiting to see what happens next. All the simple pleasures of previous years – picnicking, walks and naps under the damson tree — are tinged with sadness and a real sense of menace. All three women are in danger of losing something precious. An unsettling but brilliant book!
Private Papers by Margaret Forster
Foster is a master at telling family stories – both real and fictional. She teases out the knotted strands of life and experience and weaves her magic across the page. Her books are usually a bit dark and sad, but usually lifted by a little chink of light and hope. Unfortunately, I found the balance in this novel rather off, and it was just unrelentingly depressing. If you’d like to try one of her books, I’d recommend the autobiographical Hidden Lives instead.
Hiding From the Light by Barbara Erskine
No one writes ghost stories quite like Barbara Erskine! Every time I pick one up, I know I’ll transported off for some thoroughly entertaining escapism. Erskine’s speciality are time-shift, psychological thrillers and Hiding from the Light doesn’t disappoint. Modern-day Kate swaps her life in London for an old cottage in the Essex marshes, but quickly find herself drawn back to the murky days of the seventeenth century, when witch hunts are rife, and danger lurks round every corner. The rector finds himself possessed by the Witch Hunter General, while Kate finds herself caught up in the dangerous world of witchcraft – both past and present! Slightly silly at times, this is nevertheless a very satisfying page-turner that won’t leave you sleeping with lights on.