The month began in a flurry of reading over the long weekend and then tapered off. In addition to the books below, I also read two of my own:
Careful What You Wish For
This must have been my fourth or fifth read-through after completing both copy edits and proofreading. Yet I still found a typo. If there are any more typos or mistakes in there, rather than apologising, I applaud their ability to sneak through undetected.
Wish You Were Here
My NaNoWriMo project this November is a sequel to Wish You Were Here. It will also include some of the characters from Happy Ever After. This means I had to read it again in order to make sure that I have everyone’s story and description clear before I go and accidentally change someone’s name in the new book. Oh, and I found a typo. Sigh.
Revenge In Rubies, by A.M. Stuart
The second in Stuart’s Harriet Gordon series, this was a great way to begin the reading month. I’m thoroughly enjoying getting to know these characters and wait with interest to see their further growth in their next outing. I’m in awe at Stuart’s ability to show Singapore’s colonial past in a way that I can picture alongside Singapore’s today. I hope we don’t need to wait too long for a number 3 in this series.
One Summer in Paris, by Sarah Morgan
Prior to my festive reading festival last year, I hadn’t read anything by Sarah Morgan – and I was an immediate fan. As an aside, her latest Christmas novel has just been released and is on my festive reading list for this year’s festive reading festival – which I’ll be commencing in November.
Anyways, Morgan is now a go-to author for me so I was thrilled to find this on the shelf of my favourite op shop. This novel, though, had the added attraction of being set in Paris – and Paris is always a good idea.
Us, by David Nicholls
I tend to steer clear of novels that have been listed (whether long or short) for awards. I’m not sure whether it’s reverse snobbery on my part or just that they tend to be a tad literary for my tastes and usually don’t offer me either the escape from the everyday or the happy ending I’m always looking for.
This one though, another op shop purchase, was long-listed for the Man Booker prize in 2014, intrigued me.
The story, told in first person by Douglas Petersen, begins when Connie, his wife of nearly 25 years, tells him that now that their son Albie is about to leave home for college, she wants to leave too.
The family had planned a grand tour through the artistic and cultural gems in Europe – one of those ones that young men of a certain class would have done in the days before plane travel and Ibiza was a thing – and Connie sees no reason why the trip needs to be cancelled. Douglas, however, decides to make it a trip of a lifetime – and one that will bring the three of them closer together, have Albie find respect for his father, and make Connie fall back in love with him.
The narrative winds the story of Douglas and Connie’s (unlikely) courtship (when they first meet Douglas is a scientist researching fruit flies and Connie is a free-spirited artist) and relationship, along with Douglas’ struggles with their son, into the (overly planned) itinerary.
Spoiler alert – the trip is a disaster. The book, however, is a quiet joy – and was just pipped at the post for my favourite read of the month.
A Song For The Dark Times, by Ian Rankin
While I read a lot on my kindle – for both space and economical reasons, I do love a real book, but they are so expensive. I struggle between the feeling that I should be doing my bit to help authors (not that someone like Ian Rankin needs my financial support) and bookshops against the budgetary imperative of restricting my purchases. This, however, was a new release I’d been waiting eagerly for and couldn’t wait to buy.
It’s hard to believe that this is Rankin’s 23rd Rebus novel. Rebus might be long retired and aging (thanks to his previous lifestyle, not particularly well), but he can still stick his nose in where it doesn’t belong.
The first Rebus novel, Knots and Crosses, was published in 1987 – over thirty years ago – and Rankin has aged him in real-time. There must come a point at which we need to farewell him – and I suspect that’s why the characters of Malcolm Fox and Siobhan Clarke have been given more room to move in recent outings – but as a reader, I’m not yet ready to say goodbye.
The Thursday Murder Club, by Richard Osman
I was all set to declare “Us” as my favourite read for the month – until I began this one. How cn that be, I hear you ask. “Us” was long listed for some prize or another and this is a cozy crime from a debut author. And that, dear reader, is why I’ll never make it as a critic (of pretty much anything) – because for me it’s based purely on enjoyment, and oh how I enjoyed Richard Osman’s “The Thursday Murder Club.”
Here’s the blurb:
In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved murders.
But when a brutal killing takes place on their very doorstep, the Thursday Murder Club find themselves in the middle of their first live case.
Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves.
I had so many corners tuned on this book to mark lines I loved (don’t look at me like that, I really am a page corner turning monster) and would have, if I hadn’t intended sending this to Sydney for Mum to read, actually marked the lines.
Ron’s picture was rarely in the papers without the caption ‘talks between the two sides collapsed late last night.’
or this one:
The gang has all gone now. Two cancers and a stroke. We hadn’t known that Jersey Boys would be our last trip. You always know when it’s your first time, don’t you? But you rarely know when it’s your final time…In life you have to learn to count the good days. You have to tuck them in your pocket and carry them around with you. So I’m putting today in my pocket and I’m off to bed.
What else can I say about this? It’s smart, it’s funny, it’s sweet, it’s warm and I didn’t guess whodunnit – I was having way too much fun that I almost didn’t care.
All Creatures Great and Small, by James Herriott, read by Christopher Timothy
I recall loving this series when it first screened on our TVs back in the late 70’s (yes, I’m showing my age) and read “If Only They Could Talk” (the book that began it all) when I was still quite young. I thank both the show and the book as starting me on my fascination with Yorkshire. Anyways, if anyone was going to bring these stories to life it has to be Christopher Timothy, the actor who played James Herriott in the original series. Speaking of which, the show has recently been remade – coinciding beautifully with the 50th anniversary of the publication of “If Only They Could Talk” – and I can’t wait until it makes it’s way to Australia.
This is an absolute delight for the ears – and was the perfect companion on my afternoon walks last month.
Love, Clancy, by Richard Glover, read by Richard Glover
One of the few things I miss about Sydney is Richard Glover’s drive time show on ABC radio. I used to listen every afternoon on my way home. Oh, I also miss family, friends and dumplings (to be honest, I mostly miss dumplings) but I miss Richard Glover’s drive time too.
His most recent book, The Land Before Avocado, was one of my favourite reads of 2018 , and this one has to be one of my favourites for 2020. It’s the perfect book for 2020 when you think about it. It’s about love, loyalty, life lessons, and pleasure… pure, simple pleasure.
The premise is simple – having recently lost their 14 year old much loved best dog in the world kelpie Darcy, a kelpie pup named Clancy comes into Richard and his partner’s home. (As an aside, Glover’s partner Debra Oswald is the creator of the TV show Offspring.) These are Clancy’s letters home to his pawrents back in the country.
Now, before you say that it sounds naff, it absolutely is far from that. I had tears rolling down my cheeks as Glover spoke, his voice cracking ever so slightly, about the loss of Darcy, the story of the old dog in Homer’s Odyssey; then I found myself laughing out loud at the picture of Clancy thoughtfully picking the empty tomato sauce bottle and milk bottle out of the recycling box and chewing them to pieces on Glover’s white doona. (Another side note – I read this while walking so people must have wondered who the strange woman was laughing at nothing.)
This is full of life lessons through Clancy’s doggy eyes. Lessons such as the ability to find pleasure everywhere and judge no one; how they love unconditionally and don’t care about appearances. Mostly though there’s the one about how we sit with our problems and low self-esteem, too afraid to ask for love, fearing that we don’t deserve it. Not so the dog who will use his wet nose to reposition the human hand to fulfil its proper function – to rub a doggy tummy or pat a doggy head.
My favourites though were the lessons Glover learnt from Darcy, his old dog:
- The one about making sure you get enough sleep when you’re old so you can jump up and let rip when something interesting comes your way
- the one about it being sensible to let go of your old obsessions – the ones that made your life miserable – especially when you can no longer recall why they were once so consuming.
- The one about maintaining our passions as we get older and letting the negative stuff drain away – or sleeping through it.
If you’re a dog lover, you have to read (or listen to) this book. It might make you cry, but mostly you’ll laugh and nod and understand where the tears are coming from.