FEBRUARY 2021 READING ROUNDUP

I’ve read some good novels this month, due to the generosity of friends who loan me books from their shelves. You know who you are.

The latest Robert Galbraith Cormoran Strike novel, #5,  Troubled Blood kept me reading feverishly : whodunnit?  You have to read through  927 pages to find out. Not a book for readers with weak wrists, the darn thing must literally weight a kg. Its already earned the slot in my 2021  Reading Review as Doorstopper of the Year. Many readers complained it was too long. Was it?

Initially I struggled with the cast of thousands,  but once I  grew accustomed to the names, I sailed along. Yes, I could have done with shorter or less backstories but that said, this it is an epic novel with many unsolved crime stories meshing together, hence the backstory detail.  The blurb declared it: … a labyrinthine epic …. I agree.  “Unputdownable” declared the Sunday Times. Yes. Is it a terrific read? Yes.

In my usual Late-to-the-Party reading style, I finally managed to read The Salt Path. It came out in 2018, to high praise, and prizes – deservedly so. It falls into the genre of Nature Writing, melded with Memoir. Raynor Winn and her husband Moth (just diagnosed with an obscure, incurable neuro-illness) are booted off their farm, lose everything: property, home, and money. In their shell-shock homeless state, they take the bizarre decision to walk the coastal route from Wales  down to Land’s End, and up the other side of the peninsula, a trek of 638 miles. It’s a remarkable story of human endurance, the healing power of Nature and steadfast love. The book will definitely feature high on my 2021  Hits & Misses list.

FICTION

Troubled Blood – Robert Galbraith. #5 Cormoran Strike Series. A 40 year old cold crime case that takes an entire year to unravel to a satisfying conclusion. Recommended.

The Grammarians – Cathleen Schine. The grammarians are Laurel and Daphne Wolfe, identical, inseparable redheaded twins who share an obsession with words. A story about family, sibling love and rivalry, the interplay of language and life. Novel is surprisingly funny, charming and utterly irresistible if you enjoy words, language, and books.

Dear Edward – Ann Napolitano. 11 year old Eddie Adler is the sole survivor of an air crash that kills 191 passengers & crew, en route to Los Angeles. The book  describes how he slowly re-enters his new life, minus his family, and comes to terms with the aftermath. A number of the other passengers’ backstories form part of the story, as do the many letters (hence the title) written to Edward by bereft family members. Utterly engrossing. But  I’m glad I have no plans to  travel by air  in the near future.

The Second Sleep – Robert Harris. A mind-bending story of a future rooted in the past; a post-Apocalyptic, post-scientific, semi-Dark Ages future, ruled by the Church determined to root out dangerous (and now heretical) knowledge of the technological past. A quest to discover the secrets of the Ancients, mired in good old human greed, treachery and lust. Thought provoking! How would we fare if all technology ceased working today? Right now? Ask yourself the question. The answer is not a happy one.

A Theatre for Dreamers – Polly Sampson. The Greek Island of Hydra, an idyllic summer of sun, sea, wine, sex, and 17 year old Erica from London grieving over her mother’s recent death, adrift, growing up and surrounded by a bohemian expat community driven by passion, gossip and artistic dreams. An atmospheric novel, loosely based on a period in the lives of George Johnson and Charmian Clift, both writers; Leonard Cohen also features. An immersive read that made me itch for a ticket to Greece.

Red Joan – Jennie Rooney. Cambridge University in 1937, awash with ideas and idealists – Joan is swept away by exotic, glamorous Sonya and her cousin Leo. Only problem is they’re Russian spies. Young, idealistic  Joan hasn’t a clue and is drawn ever deeper into their web of treachery and deceit. A well-researched, intelligent spy novel. Recommended.

The Midnight Library – Matt Haig. I couldn’t wait to read this one, & it didn’t disappoint. The main premise is: what if you could identify and resolves past regrets and go on to live life fully? The midnight library provides the parallel  universe mechanism to do this and experience many alternate lives until she finally works it all out. An unusual and satisfying read.

The Rules of Seeing – Joe Heap. Blind from birth, Nova  undergoes an operation to restore her sight, and the process of learning to see is challenging. Add a lesbian love story to the mix, plus a dangerous psychotic husband bent on revenge and you have an unusual read.  The novel changes the way you see the world, says the cover.  A good read. Recommended.

Nine Letters – John Webb. A South African novel, published last year, and well received. I finished the book with very mixed feelings. See my stand-alone review: https://wordpress.com/post/thebooksmithblog.wordpress.com/101  on 21 February 2021.

NON-FICTION

The Salt Path – Raynor Winn. A nixture of memoir and Nature Writing, and wholly engrossing. The wild coastal landscape, the wild turmoil of bad circumstances, the physical challenges, the endurance and spirit of the two walkers. Unforgettable. Not to be missed.

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