On the Bookshelf – June

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Okay, another month is gone…time to share what I’ve been reading for the last month…

I read seven books over the month – two of those being audiobooks, and one coming in at a massive 892 pages…or thereabouts.

500 Miles From You, Jenny Colgan

A nice predictable start to the reading month at a time when we need both nice and predictable – well, I do anyway.

In this one we’re back to Kirrinfief, the Scottish town that we first visited in The Bookshop On The Shore and seeing it in hard contrast to London. 

What I love about Jenny Colgan’s books is how she narrates it as if she’s taken a bird’s eye view of all the action, like a kindly storyteller. It does make thinks more distant than if she was at close point of view, but the feels are still there.

A Springtime Affair, Katie Fforde

Katie Fforde books are always sweet, and this was no different. There were a few parts in the storyline that I felt were a tad exaggerated – but that’s what we do in chick lit, exaggerate – and way too easily explained and resolved. To be honest, it did dampen my enjoyment of the read a little.

Blue, by Sue-Ellen Pashley

I met Sue-Ellen at the Melbourne RWA Conference last year – which is surprising in that she comes from Gladstone, Queensland, and is the mother of one of my daughter’s closest friends. #smallworld

The thing is, I don’t read YA – I never have…no reason, I just haven’t. Despite being way out of my normal reading comfort zone I LOVED this. Sue-Ellen’s character development is first-rate – she really gets into the head of a teenager – probably a result of her social work training. 

Blue is a modern, urban retelling of Pinocchio (which I admit I had to look up), but it also felt a tad Oliver Twist-ish, mainly in relation to the darker undertones. That’s where this book is both surprising and, for me, enjoyable – it is, on so many levels, about love and hope. And I loved it… (I already said that, didn’t I?)

The Grantchester Mysteries: Sidney Chambers and the Problem of Evil, James Runcie

This one was on the bookshelf at our Air BNB in Moffatdale and I, being a fan of the TV show, pounced on it.

More a collection of four short stories starring the curate, Sidney Chambers, this was perfect reading on the verandah with a glass of wine.

The Forsyte Saga, John Galsworthy

I first read this book years ago – soon after watching the 2002 BBC series of the same name starring Damian Lewis as Soames, Gina McKee as Irene, Rupert Graves as Young Jolyon and Ioan Gruffiudd as Phillip Bosinney. It’s a story that has always stuck with me, but comprising three books and something like 872 pages, this is a saga indeed. In fact, it took me most of the month to read.

At the centre is the rich Forsyte clan – on one side is Soames and the status conscious acquisitive Forsytes, on the other, the more philanthropic, progressive side of the family. At their centre is the story of the marriage of Soames Forsyte to the beautiful and rebellious Irene, and the fallout from his attempts to own her that lasts for decades.

Aside from a family saga this is a study of that class at the end of the Victorian era through the Boer War, the Great War and into Edwardian England.

Audio books

Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh, read by Jeremy Irons

Another one that I read years ago, I remember loving the original BBCTV series with Jeremy Irons as Charles Ryder and Anthony Andrews as Sebastian Flyte, so to me there was no better possible narrator for this one than Jeremy Irons.

There’s such an air of melancholy about this – of a world lost, or about to be lost – I guess that’s why it works so well to open and close Ryder’s narration in wartime. Stars that burn brightly and sputter out, the brevity of an English summer as metaphor – that sort of thing. It deserves its place in literary history.

After listening to this I took a look at the movie (2008) with Matthew Goode as Charles Ryder, Ben Whishaw as Sebastian, and Emma Thompson as Lady Marchmain. If I hadn’t read the book I might have been able to enjoy it more.

Phosphorescence by Julia Baird, read by Julia Baird

I did not expect to like this book, I mainly downloaded it from Audible because I loved the title and the cover. 

This isn’t a book about being happy all the time, it’s about finding joy and little pieces of light that shimmer in the darkness – for that reason, it’s very now.

Baird talks about awe and wonder, about allowing yourself to feel small in the presence of the things that bring awe and make you wonder – even when society is telling us to not be afraid to take up space. That’s fine, she says, in the corporate world, but to feel small in the face of nature and storms and true awesomeness, is entirely another thing. 

There was so much that I loved about this book, so much, that I may tackle a couple of the concepts as ideas for blog posts.

This one was definitely my read of the month.

What did you read in June?