Thursday, May 3, 2018

A Few More Books from April

We had leftovers for supper tonight, so I had more time today to spend with my nose stuck in a book. 😊 I'm always happy when that happens!
Here's the end of my April book list:

The Asshole Survival Guide by Robert I. Sutton
I blogged about this book here.

Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon
This is the author’s second novel, but the first one I’ve read. I requested it after reading about it in an Off the Shelf email and loved it--her first novel, The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, is now in transit. This book begins with Florence, an 84-year-old woman who lives in a flat in an assisted living situation. She has taken a fall in her flat and cannot get up. As she waits for someone to find her, she thinks about the recent events that brought her to that moment and in thinking about those, a mystery unfolds--one that stretches back to childhood--and is triggered when someone who drowned in 1953 suddenly shows up to take a flat in the facility. The book alternates between narration by Florence, Miss Ambrose, a woman who works at the facility, and Handy Simon, the handyman. The Elsie of the title is Florence’s friend since childhood and we are told they are inseparable. Florence says there are three things people should know about Elsie. One is that she is Florence’s best friend. Two is that she always knows what to say to make Florence feel better. The third thing is left until the end to reveal. Florence is an unreliable narrator and the reader is never sure how her mind is working--does she have dementia? How much of what she remembers is real? I was gripped by the story and the writing of the author. There were a few times I stopped to admire a sentence or paragraph. Here, for example, Florence is describing time spent with Elsie in her flat.

‘We measured out our afternoon with pots of tea, but the rinse of a September light seemed to push at the hours, spreading the day to its very edges. I always thought September was an odd month. All you were really doing was waiting for the cold weather to arrive, the back end, and we seemed to waste most of our time just staring at the sky, waiting to be reassured that it was happening. The stretch of summer had long since disappeared, but we hadn’t quite reached the frost yet, the skate of icy pavements and the prickly breath of a winter’s morning. Instead, we were paused in a pavement-grey life with porridge skies. Around four o’clock, one of us would say the nights were drawing in, and we would nod and agree with each other. between us, we would work outhow many days it was until Christmas, and we would say how quickly the time passes, and saying how quickly the time passes would help to pass the time a little more.’ (p 17)

Her description of September and waiting for the cold to arrive could have been written about me, although when we lived in Alaska, it was August. I highly recommend this book and I’m looking forward to reading her first novel when it arrives.

Village Diary by Miss Read
This is the second book in the Fairacre series. The reader is told at the start that Miss Read, headmistress of the local school, has been given a large diary by a friend and intends to record her thoughts ‘as long as my ardor lasts. Further than that I will not go.’ Apparently her ardor lasted all year, because this fictional chronicle of life in Fairacre, a small English village populated with quirky characters, runs from January through December.

Storm in the Village by Miss Read
This is the third in the author’s Fairacre series and the final one in the omnibus edition I found at a local charity shop. I found my enjoyment of these increasing a bit with each one, so this was the best of the three. The first one was almost all about the school, which, not being much of a kid person, I found a bit tedious at times and I almost set it aside. If it had been any longer, I might have done so. The second was better because it encompassed more village life, although I was not pleased with her shrugging off domestic violence as a ‘private matter.’ I well understand that, at the time this book was written, that is how it was perceived, so I kept that in mind. This one had very little to do with the school and there was a controversy about whether or not a new development would be built between the two main villages, which seemed very current. This one also built a little more on a theme that was touched upon in the second book--that of the changing culture in rural England after WWII. She highlighted tension between townies and country folk as well and, even though we are now 60 years on from when this book was written, is still quite current. I will be putting this in the wee free library or donating it back to a charity shop, so perhaps it will be a happy surprise for someone in future.

I hope you have some entertaining and/or informative reading to look forward to in May!

1 comment:

NanaDiana said...

Thanks for the reviews. I just jotted down Three Things About Elsie to add to my list. I just finished The House of Velvet & Glass and that was quite good--also, you have probably read The Book Thief. I liked the way that played out-told through the specter of Death.

Hope you have a great upcoming weekend. I am back at work full-time-didn't think I would be doing this but there you go! xo Diana