Have you survived the severe weather this week in the UK? I got stranded in Cardiff overnight on Thursday, then tried to get home the next day. I got two trains which eventually got me to Bath, then spent 2 hours sheltering in Waterstones ‘browsing’, where the staff kindly charged up my phone for me. I had absolutely no idea what to do next as there were no trains, taxis or buses running.
Out of sheer desperation and a determination to get home, a group of us stuck at Bath station decided we would attempt to walk the 9 miles or so along the canal path in the snow. It was seriously hard work, we walked for 4 hours, barely stopping. At several points I thought I’d like to give up and just go to sleep on a bench, but the strangers walking with me, Emma the nurse and Ian the Management Consultant kept me going. I learnt to try to keep my mind off my legs seizing up by doing some complicated maths in my head and trying to remember the words to various hymns I’d had to sing at school!
I eventually got home at 7pm, freezing cold and utterly soaked through. Thank goodness for the weekend is all I can say, I stayed in bed the whole of Saturday and most of Sunday too. For someone who has always loved snow, it has done a very good job of putting me right off it!
Anyhow, onto the books I read in February. Due to a 3 hour long commute every day and a week off work in half term spent mostly reading by the log burner in my mother in laws Dorset cottage, I have been able to read a little more than I did in January.
Not Working by Lisa Owens is a funny, quick read about a woman who has rather rashly walked away from her boring job. It is written in diary format, and is full of witty observations about the experiences she has of everyday life. There are deeper issues woven through about her family that are tender and sad. Overall I enjoyed this, and read it in a few hours.
Then she was Gone by Lisa Jewell is quite a surprising book. I have read many of her previous novels and I am really enjoying her foray into crime writing. The subject of the story, Lisa has a 15 year old daughter who has been missing for ten years, when she meets a charismatic stranger who she discovers has a 9 year old daughter almost identical to her own. It was shocking and even quite far fetched in parts but nevertheless I found myself thoroughly buying into it and intrigued to see where it was going.
Birdcage Walk is the first book I have read by Helen Dunmore, but now I know how incredibly beautiful her writing is I shall be reading as many of her others as I can get my hands on! It’s based in Bristol in 1792. Lizzie Fawkes has married a property developer, a bit of an eighteenth century wheeler dealer, who stands to lose everything he has invested in the potential social upheaval of the French Revolution. He has a murky past as it turns out and Lizzie seems to be throughly under his spell. I found this book to be an incredibly insightful exploration of women’s lives in Georgian England, exploring baby farming, women’s rights and outspoken liberalism at a time when women were expected to keep quiet and know their place. A book I’ll most definitely pass on to my mum and my daughter.
Lullaby by Leila Slimani is a French domestic noir translated into English. Two of the novels main characters alarmingly have the same names as my mum and step-dad who also live in France! When Myriam, a lawyer, decides to r
eturn to work, she and her husband Paul look for the perfect nanny for their two young children. They find Louise, a quietly spoken 40 year old who is devote
d to her work who very quickly becomes a much depended on member of the family. But as time goes on she comes to rely on them as much as the
y do on her, and jealousy starts to seep in, that is when things start to get very dark. I love that this book is quite short, without relying on lengthy descriptions, yet manages to consume you in a claustrophobic, creeping fear for the family. You know the horrific details of what is going to happen for it tells you on the first page, so it is more of a howdunnit than a whodunnit.
The Reader on the 6.27 by Jean-Paul Didierlaurent is another French book translated into English which I didn’t warm to immediately, I wasn’t sure if the translation flowed particularly well. But after a while I began to love the story. The main character is like a male version of Amelie, quirky and clever. Guylain Vignolles works at a book pulping factory which he hates, but every morning on the 6.27 train, he recites aloud from pages he has saved from the pulping machine. One day he discovers by chance diary of a lonely young woman, Julie. A beautiful, quick to read little story that I will definitely read again.