It has been an eclectic month of reading, from non-fiction essays to really good historical fiction. I’ve saved the best for last, two wonderful books both set in England. Links are provided to Amazon if you’d like to read a synopsis of the story. Thank you for using my affiliate links when you can, as they help pay the costs of my blog. Some of these are free on Audible with the Free Trial offer.
Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi – Quirky story with a provocative premise. If you could go back in time to spend just a few minutes with someone, knowing that the conversation in the past would not change the present, would you want to do it? Four patrons decide to take the chance to make amends, say what was left unsaid, or try to understand a decision. This is a character driven book, with little action, all taking place within the dark walls of a basement cafe. The easy reading prose is thought provoking, and may linger with the reader for a while.
A Stash of One’s Own Knitters on Loving, Living with, and Letting go of Yarn edited by Clara Parkes – Collection of essays about having a stash of supplies, written by knitters about yarn. Substitute fabric for yarn and it works for quilters too. Some of the essays will make you think, some may irritate you, some are just bland, and some touch the heart. As many of us believe, sometimes the stash is there just to be petted and inspire creativity, and there is nothing wrong with a well rounded ‘resource center’ as I like to call my fabric/thread/notions stash. Here is a book that will help you feel good about saving scraps. You are not alone.
Outbound Train by Renea Winchester – This book focuses on small town poverty, with the characters stuck in a cycle of generational destitution. It could have been a depressing book, and certainly the first part gives the reader a gritty look at the oppression of those at the bottom of the economic strata. But, the characters are forced to make different choices when the main employer in town lays off most of its workers. Hope arrives near the end. My problem with this book is the ending. After all the suffering and work, the last chapter jumps three years into the future and gives a quick synopsis of the events in just two and a half pages. Very disappointing after the well written story up to then. This novel should have been 50 pages longer, and told that part of the story as well as the rest. Either that, or leave the last chapter for the next book.
The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis – Interesting mystery novel without anyone ending up dead, the book centers on a series of thefts from the New York Public Library. One theft occurs during the time when the library was first opened, and revolve around the superintendent’s wife and family in 1913. The second timeline centers on her granddaughter’s job as a curator at the library, when more books are stolen. I found it well written, and and enjoyable read. Although as in many novels, the final mystery question is easily guessed, I don’t consider that too much of a big deal. It was nice to find another mystery that didn’t revolve around murder.
The last two books are must reads, highly recommend!!
The Rose Code by Kate Quinn – Historical fiction at its best, The Rose Code will grab your imagination and run with it. Based on real people, doing real work during World War II at Bletchley Park, three women’s lives are changed when they become friends. The pace gets faster as the book progresses with writing that draws the reader into the time and place. The real problems of secrecy and oppressiveness of the period in time are well depicted. My only annoyance is the jumping back and forth in time, as part of the novel takes place during the war, and then in 1947. Over the course of the story, the timelines get closer together as the 1947 timeline remains but the war years advance. As the time lines get closer, the reader finally finds out the cause of the rift between the characters. But the shifting timelines just aren’t necessary and I think the flow would have been better in a linear construct. Going back then forward multiple times didn’t add to the tension or to the story. Still, this is a thriller that gets more compelling as it gets near the end, as the women have to work together to free one from a false institutionalization and find a traitor. I enjoyed it overall, and highly recommend. Don’t miss the author’s notes at the end!! I was surprised at the historic facts and the real people the characters on whom the characters were based. Worth the extra time, and made me want to read more about them and their work.
The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly – Completely engrossing novel centered around the lives of five women, in three time periods, who all have a connection to a garden. In 1907, Venetia Smith designs the garden. In 1944, a land girl, Beth, helps tend the garden as a place for her to draw and recovering soldiers to rest. During the war years, estate owner Diana finds her own voice after tragedy, and cook Stella is pulled into a situation for which she is not equipped to handle. In present day 2021, Emma is tasked with bringing it back to its original glory after years of neglect. The women of the past are constrained by the social mores of their times, some more than others. In the present day, Emma has to find her own voice as well to follow her own path. Easy reading, and garden centered, the reader can almost smell the flowers and see the concepts of the different garden rooms. Delightful if somewhat predictable read, with a happy ending.
One thing that I am getting a bit tired of are books written in multiple timelines. This was a novel idea some years ago, but it seems like more and more writers are doing this kind of format. Frankly, in some instances, it just doesn’t add anything to the story, and at times actually takes away from it like in The Rose Code. I was deciding on a couple of books to get at the library for my next read, and the first three I picked up from my list were all multiple timeline books. Geez. So, I moved on to something else. We’ll see if my choices this next month are good ones or not.
What are you reading now?