Friday, 9 August 2013

Katherine Webb - The Misbegotten

Well what a pot boiler and I do not mean this disparagingly This book starts slowly and I have to confess that I found it at first hard to get into. Indeed I put it to one side and read another book and then came back to it. I am so glad that I did, by half way though I was hooked and unable to put it down - the pot that had been simmering came to the boil.
The fact is that like real life, I was unsure as to whether I liked any of the characters, but as I read I came to know them better and they separated into those I think I liked , those I think I didn't and those I was unsure about even at the end.

This is a book about lies and mysteries. It is set in Bath and Bathampton spanning the years from 1803 - 1822. However, drop any illusions about Regency Bath a la Jane Austen. This is the underbelly, the dark places where rot breeds, where the gentile and impoverished sink into the mud of poverty and corruption. Here we follow the fortunes of Rachel who escapes her life as a governess to marry an up and coming wine merchant. Through him she comes to know the Alleyn's and is quickly drawn into their dark secrets when she is employed as a companion for the son, invalided in the Peninsular war. We come to know Starling the foundling, whose determination and anger precipitate the events that unfold.

It is a long book at 570 pages for book groups but there is so much in it to discuss, it is worth the initial groans when they see the size of it. It will be read quickly I can assure you.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Martin Davies - The Year After

This is a real page turner from one of Richard and Judy's bestsellers.

Here we have all the ingredients of a country house drama, set in 1919, our hero has returned from the war a wiser young man than when he left. After a chance encounter he is unable to resist and invite down to the house that featured so prominently in his youth and the stellar family that lived there.
Now he sees it all with new eyes and is quickly drawn into the family lies and deceit as he attempts to unravel the mystery surrounding the traumatic events that occurred in 1914.

I am unable to amplify too much of the plot without revealing spoilers. This book is well written and atmospheric and I guarantee you will be unable to put it down. He has captured the period perfectly. I think it would make an excellent book for a reading group as there is much to discuss, not only the plot but also the social attitudes of the day.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Charlie Lovett - The Bookman's Tale

This excellent book has recently been published and I highly recommend it.
It is an intelligent and fast paced thriller but also a timeslip novel in which we alternate between the modern day, our heroes youth and back in time as he chases the provenance of a book that might prove that Shakespeare was indeed the author of his plays.
There is even an element of the supernatural when he finds an Victorian portrait that looks just like his dead wife. The book also travels from the US to the UK and this also added interest.
I like the way the book progressed and we flipped between time periods, it kept up the suspense. I particularly found the Antiquarian side fascinating, but then I would as a librarian. I found the dip into Shakespearean history believable and interesting. All in all an excellent debut and I suspect we will see more of our intrepid antiquarian bookseller Peter Byerly - at least I hope so!

I think this would make an excellent reading group book as there is plenty to discuss. The whole Shakespeare, did he did he not write his plays issue could take up the whole of a meeting on it's own.