Books Read this month
Secrets ripen and fester over a long sweltering summer in France . . .
The annual grape harvest at the Cambon family’s magnificent vineyard is always a cause for celebration. But not this year. When an accident destroys the crop, leaving the estate facing ruin, Clarisse Cambon knows exactly who to blame – her daughter-in-law Jane.
It’s just the latest incident in a decades-long feud whose origin both women have concealed from Luc, who struggles to keep his wife and mother on speaking terms. But is Luc the saint he appears to be? When tragedy strikes, Jane is thrown into doubt. What secrets has her husband been keeping?
Forced to take charge of the ailing vineyard, Jane uncovers further proof that Luc may not be the man she fell in love with twenty years ago. And, worse still, she knows that her old enemy Clarisse is the only one who knows the truth . . .
One of my NetGalley reads that has been calling for quite a while. In an attempt to try and fool the concentration fairy, I listened to this on audio book (via the library service). Not sure it made much difference, but the good news I got to the end, remembered most of it and for the most part enjoyed it. To be honest, despite the fact it was narrated by the author I couldn’t get on with her voice – which somewhat spoiled the experience. Anyway it was a cracking plot and the secrets being hidden were certainly not the (perhaps) obvious ones I’d imagined. Quite heavy on the process of running a vineyard, but definitely evocative of both Provence and Paris for anyone looking to lose themselves in France.
Athens 1941. After decades of political uncertainty, Greece is polarised between Right- and Left-wing views when the Germans invade.
Fifteen-year-old Themis comes from a family divided by these political differences. The Nazi occupation deepens the fault-lines between those she loves just as it reduces Greece to destitution. She watches friends die in the ensuing famine and is moved to commit acts of resistance.
In the civil war that follows the end of the occupation, Themis joins the Communist army, where she experiences the extremes of love and hatred and the paradoxes presented by a war in which Greek fights Greek.
Eventually imprisoned on the infamous islands of exile, Makronisos and then Trikeri, Themis encounters another prisoner whose life will entwine with her own in ways neither can foresee. And finds she must weigh her principles against her desire to escape and live.
As she looks back on her life, Themis realises how tightly the personal and political can become entangled. While some wounds heal, others deepen.
Another evocative read but of a different nature. Essentially tracing the story of Themis and her family leading up to the Nazi occupation of Greece to the present day. The larger part of the book concentrates on the Occupation and the ensuing Civil War between the Communists and Government right wing sympathisers. The ripples of both wars had long lasting ramifications down the decades. Much like the Spanish experience it divided families, relationships and communities leaving a shadow over the country. Not an easy read at times, the atrocities committed by the German army, were echoed by some of the abominable acts committed in the name of freedom by the home grown communists. All it serves to show is that in war there are no real winners. Winning, whether to secure control or freedom leaves behind wounds that are often impossible to heal. An enlightening and engrossing read that certainly shone a light for me onto a part of history whose ramifications lasted well into my lifetime. Copy read via The Pigeonhole
A picture hides a thousand words . . .
On a hot July day in 1967, Odelle Bastien climbs the stone steps of the Skelton gallery in London, knowing that her life is about to change forever. Having struggled to find her place in the city since she arrived from Trinidad five years ago, she has been offered a job as a typist under the tutelage of the glamorous and enigmatic Marjorie Quick. But though Quick takes Odelle into her confidence, and unlocks a potential she didn’t know she had, she remains a mystery – no more so than when a lost masterpiece with a secret history is delivered to the gallery.
The truth about the painting lies in 1936 and a large house in rural Spain, where Olive Schloss, the daughter of a renowned art dealer, is harbouring ambitions of her own. Into this fragile paradise come artist and revolutionary Isaac Robles and his half-sister Teresa, who immediately insinuate themselves into the Schloss family, with explosive and devastating consequences . . .
Christmas day, and DCI Tom Reynolds receives an alarming call. A mass grave has been discovered on Oileán na Caillte, the island which housed the controversial psychiatric institution St. Christina’s. The hospital has been closed for decades and onsite graves were tragically common. Reynolds thinks his adversarial boss is handing him a cold case to sideline him.
But then it transpires another body has been discovered amongst the dead – one of the doctors who went missing from the hospital in mysterious circumstances forty years ago. He appears to have been brutally murdered.
As events take a sudden turn, nothing can prepare Reynolds and his team for what they are about to discover once they arrive on the island . . .
The Parsees are among the oldest, most secretive and most influential communities in the city: respected, envied and sometimes feared.
When prominent industrialist Cyrus Zorabian is murdered on holy ground, his body dumped inside a Tower of Silence – where the Parsee dead are consumed by vultures – the police dismiss it as a random killing. But his daughter is unconvinced.
Chopra, uneasy at entering this world of power and privilege, is soon plagued by doubts about the case.
But murder is murder. And in Mumbai, wealth and corruption go in hand in hand, inextricably linking the lives of both high and low…
Leonard and Hungry are two quiet friends who see the world differently. They use humour, board games and silence to steer their way through the maelstrom that is the 21st Century.It is the story of two friends trying to find their place in the world. It is about those uncelebrated people who have the ability to change the world, not by effort or force, but through their appreciation of all that is special and overlooked in life.
Chosen for BBC Radio 2 Book Club
The artists are gathering together for a photograph. In one of Rome’s historic villas, a party glitters with socialites and patrons. Bear Bavinsky, creator of vast, masculine, meaty canvases, is their god. He is at the centre of the picture. His wife, Natalie, edges out of the shot.
From the side of the room watches little Pinch – their son. At five years old he loves Bear almost as much as he fears him. After Bear abandons their family, Pinch will still worship him, while Natalie faces her own wars with the art world. Trying to live up to his father’s name – one of the twentieth century’s fiercest and most controversial painters – Pinch never quite succeeds. Yet by the end of a career of twists and compromises, he enacts an unexpected rebellion that will leave forever his mark upon the Bear Bavinsky legacy.
What makes an artist? In The Italian Teacher, Tom Rachman displays a nuanced understanding of art and its demons. Moreover, in Pinch he achieves a portrait of vulnerability and frustrated talent that – with his signature humour and humanity - challenges the very idea of greatness.
Not every journey takes you far from home…
Mr Doubler is an expert in many things. He can bake the fluffiest lemon drizzle cake, distil divine gin, and grow perfect potatoes. But when it comes to company, he’s not so confident. Since he lost his wife, he’s been living on his own on top of a hill, with just one regular visitor: his housekeeper, Mrs Millwood, who visits every day.
Until the day she doesn’t.
With Mrs Millwood missing, Doubler’s routine is thrown into chaos – and he begins to worry that he might have lost his way. But could the kindness of strangers bring him down from the hill?
Mr Doubler Begins Again is a nostalgic celebration of food, friendship, kindness, and second chances.
Sometimes you have to risk everything to find your something…
All Andrew wants is to be normal. He has the perfect wife and 2.4 children waiting at home for him after a long day. At least, that’s what he’s told people.
The truth is, his life isn’t exactly as people think and his little white lie is about to catch up with him.
Because in all Andrew’s efforts to fit in, he’s forgotten one important thing: how to really live. And maybe, it’s about time for him to start.
Imagine you meet a man, spend seven glorious days together, and fall in love. And it’s mutual: you’ve never been so certain of anything.
So when he leaves for a long-booked holiday and promises to call from the airport, you have no cause to doubt him.
But he doesn’t call.
Your friends tell you to forget him, but you know they’re wrong: something must have happened; there must be a reason for his silence.
What do you do when you finally discover you’re right? That there is a reason – and that reason is the one thing you didn’t share with each other?
When DI Joe Burton and DS Sally Fielding are called to investigate a suspicious death in a care home, it is just the start of their problems.
As further bodies are discovered, with playing cards placed beside their bodies, the Manchester police realise they have their work cut out.
With the press closing in on the case, a criminal profiler is called in to help work out what the killer’s motive is.
With the clock ticking and more victims uncovered, Fielding and Burton must race to track down a twisted killer before it’s too late.
But could the killer be closer to home than anyone ever imagined?
The cast of the runaway bestseller, The Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay, are back – including Rosa, Josh, Mary, Jacob, Sheila, new mum Titch and, last but by no means least, Hot, the adorable dachshund.
Newly wed, and with her inherited corner shop successfully up and running, Rosa Smith seems to have all that anyone could wish for. But the course of true love never did run smooth and Rosa’s suspicions that her husband is having an affair have dire consequences.
Reaching rock bottom before she can climb back up to the top, fragile Rosa is forced to face her fears, addiction and jealousy head on.
With a selection of meddling locals still at large, a mystery fire and Titch’s frantic search for the real father of her sick baby, the second book in this enchanting series will take you on a further unpredictable journey of self-discovery.
Here Henry was, once again in a bustling train station, ready to resume where he had left off all those years ago…
Eighty-five-year-old Henry Arthur Applebee has had a pretty good life. But one regret has haunted him for the last sixty-five years.
And so, on an ordinary December morning, he boards a train from London to Edinburgh. His goal is simple: to find the woman who disappeared from his life decades earlier. But Henry isn’t the only person on a mission. Also bound for Edinburgh is troubled teen, Ariel. And when the two strangers collide, what began as one humble journey will catapult them both into a whole new world…
Finding Henry Applebee is a charming, tender and uplifting story about unlikely friendships, the power of love – and how it’s never too late to change your life…
What happens when a baby goes missing?
Twenty-two years ago, Erin and Vicky’s parents were killed in an explosion.
Now grown up, Erin and Vicky – who have been separated – are unaware they are siblings. But when Vicky is called to her great-aunt’s deathbed, she learns that she isn’t alone after all.
But where is Erin? Vicky’s search begins…
Elsewhere, Christine has problems of her own. In the first week of her new job, she makes a disturbing discovery and is struggling to come to terms with impending motherhood.
Vicky is almost ready to give up her search when an old foster mother calls with shocking news.
What links Vicky and Christine?
Will Vicky ever find her sister?
And can Christine’s baby escape the past that befell her mother?
Behind every successful man is a woman.
Behind the fall of a successful man is usually another woman.
Sophie Mayhew looks like she has the perfect life. Wife of rising political star John F Mayhew, a man who is one step away from the top job in the government, her glamour matches his looks, power, breeding and money. But John has made some stupid mistakes along the way, some of which are threatening to emerge. Still, all this can still be swept under the carpet as long as Sophie ‘the trophy’ plays her part in front of the cameras.
But the words that come out of Sophie’s mouth one morning on the doorstep of their country house are not the words the spin doctors put in there. Bursting out of the restrictive mould she has been in since birth, Sophie flees to a place that was special to her as a child, a small village on the coast where she intends to be alone.
But once there, she finds she becomes part of a community that warms her soul and makes her feel as if she is breathing properly for the first time. Sophie knows she won’t be left in peace for long. Now she must decide: where does her real future lie?
Tree Book Purchases
Longlisted for the Wainwright Prize 2017
As one of the largest predators left in Britain, the fox is captivating: a comfortably familiar figure in our country landscapes; an intriguing flash of bright-eyed wildness in our towns.
Yet no other animal attracts such controversy, has provoked more column inches or been so ambiguously woven into our culture over centuries, perceived variously as a beautiful animal, a cunning rogue, a vicious pest and a worthy foe. As well as being the most ubiquitous of wild animals, it is also the least understood.
In Foxes Unearthed Lucy Jones investigates the truth about foxes in a media landscape that often carries complex agendas. Delving into fact, fiction, folklore and her own family history, Lucy travels the length of Britain to find out first-hand why these animals incite such passionate emotions, revealing our rich and complex relationship with one of our most loved – and most vilified – wild animals. This compelling narrative adds much-needed depth to the debate on foxes, asking what our attitudes towards the red fox say about us and, ultimately, about our relationship with the natural world.
In 1950s and 60s Bermondsey, the fish-and-chip shop was at the centre of the community. And at the heart of the chippy itself was ‘Hooray’ Hilda Kemp, a spirited matriarch who dispensed fish suppers and an abundance of sympathy to a now-vanished world of East Enders.
For ‘Hooray’ Hilda knew all to well what it was like to feel real, aching hunger. Growing up in the slums of 1920s south-east London, the daughter of a violent alcoholic who drank away his wages rather than put food on the table, she could spot when a customer was in need and would sneak them an extra big portion of chips, on the house.
As Hilda works in the chippy six days a week – cutting the potatoes and frying the fish, yesterday’s rag becoming today’s dinner plate – she hears all the gossip from the close-knit community. There are rumours that the gang wars are hotting up: the Richardsons and the Krays are playing out their fights across south-east London. And the industrial strike is carrying on for a painfully long time for the mothers with many mouths to feed.
At home, Hilda’s children are latchkey kids, letting themselves in from school and helping themselves to whatever is in the larder until she gets in from her long, hard day at work. Despite tragedy striking her family, Hilda never complained of the loss of her daughter at a tragically young age, nor the tough upbringing she narrowly escaped.
Homage to Barcelona: The city and its art, 1888-1936 : Hayward Gallery, London 14 November 1985-23 February 1986
2nd hand exhibition Catalogue
Subscription Book Clubs
Reposed (was Reading in Heels)
‘To read Mothers is to take a journey through a landscape familiar enough to console, yet strange enough to unsettle. The thrills and dangers of such a journey lie with the unexpectedness of life’s undercurrents and our uncertain, unknowable selves. Chris Power’s quiet yet compelling touch is reminiscent of Alice Munro and Peter Stamm.’
– Yiyun Li, author of A Thousand Years of Good Prayers and The Vagrants
Chris Power’s stories are peopled by men and women who find themselves at crossroads or dead ends – characters who search without knowing what they seek. A woman uses her mother’s old travel guide to navigate nowhere; a stand-up comic with writer’s block performs a fateful gig at a cocaine-fulled bachelor party; on holiday in Greece, a father must confront the limits to which he can keep his daughters safe.
From remote and wild Exmoor to ancient Swedish burial sites and hedonistic Mexican weddings, these stories lay bare the emotional and psychic damage of life, love and abandonment.