Saturday 20 April 2019

Catching up

A couple of brief reviews to catch up on, I seem to be reading slightly quicker than I have time to review at the moment.

First up, As the Crow Flies by Damien Boyd. This is my 13th. book for Bev's Calendar of Crime challenge, qualifying for the August category, 'A Title beginning with A'.

Detective Inspector Nick Dixon has transferred from London back to his local patch in Somerset and joined The Avon and Somerset Police. When news comes through that his ex-climbing partner, Jake Fayter, has been killed in a climbing accident in Cheddar Gorge, Nick can't bring himself to believe that it was an accident: Jake was far too experienced and careful. But why would anyone want his friend dead? The parents ask Nick to investigate but the more he discovers the more he realises he didn't know Jake quite as well as he thought he did.

This is the first in a series that has already comprises 9 books. It's quite a short book but as far as I can see the books get longer, which I'm pleased to see. It was well written, I would have liked a bit more character depth but I rather suspect that will happen as the series goes along. One aspect I thoroughly enjoyed was that the setting was local to me. (I even know someone in the Avon and Somerset Police.) I loved being able to easily picture the Somerset Levels, the Somerset coast, the towns which cropped up, Cheddar Gorge... though I have never been climbing there heaven forfend. I do love reading about climbing though and this really ticked that particular box, excellent descriptions of what it's actually like. A good start to this new to me series - it's not the best I've ever read but it was a good, solid read and I have a suspicion it will settle in nicely as the books procede so I've reserved book 2 from the library.

Lastly, Cheerfulness Breaks In by Angela Thirkell. This qualifies for the World at War reading challenge, which is being hosted by Becky. The category is 'Any Book Published 1939 - 1945'.

This ninth book in Angela Thirkell's delightful Barsetshire series of books deals with the outbreak of World War 2. At the beginning most people are hopeful war won't happen but rather resigned to the fact that it probably will. The author Laura Morland, who has featured in several other books with her son Tony, moves out of her house and goes to stay with the Birketts who run a local private school for boys. She's there for the duration acting as a secretary but is also good friends with Mrs. Birkett. Slowly but surely the young men get called away to war but at first most are training nearby or in charge of training. Refugees arrive at the school in the form of a London boys' school plus the village takes evacuees from London. Naturally chaos ensues as the the village copes with the conflicts between the different factions but there's no shortage of good-will and people do what they always do in difficult circumstances: cope.

It was interesting to read a fictional account about how people living out in the British countryside dealt with various things that were thrown at them at the beginning of the war. The uncertainty, the sudden influx of people whose ways were very different to their own, the young men suddenly plucked out of their normal lives to lives that were anything but normal... that must've been incredibly hard for their parents to bear. All of this is nicely woven into a story which basically deals with the lives of a handful of people - Laura Morland, The Birketts, Lydia Keith bravely coping with a sick mother and trying to run an estate, her suitor Noel Merton, recently conscripted etc. There's a huge cast of extras, I particulary loved Miss Hampton and Miss Bent, two lesbians who write erotic fiction and can't keep out of the local pub. Because, believe it or not, for a novel with a serious theme, it's also very funny. There's a wedding at the beginning where the Birketts have managed to marry off their wayward daughter, Rose (see Summer Half), and the recounting of it is hilarious. In fact I laughed a lot all the way through, Thirkell had a very light touch with humour and it's really to the fore here. The book is of its time, I'm very tolerant when it comes to the portrayal of attitudes from the past because it serves to illustrate how much things have changed, but one thing, comments about a disabled child, made even me blanch a bit. But there you go, life *was* like that and there's no use denying it. A thoroughly delightful read but with a huge cliff-hanger at the end, so beware!

Happy Easter to everyone. This is one of my favourite times of the year, Easter being a lot less stressful I find than Christmas so, naturally, I've gone down with a cold so that I can't quite enjoy it as much as I would like... no energy to get in the garden for instance. Never mind, it's meant I've been able to read rather a lot. Silver linings and all that...



DesLily said...

Boy, you have read a lot of the Thirkell books! (guessing you like them lol)

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Happy Easter Cath ; both of these books sound pretty good to me.- feel better soon.

Cath said...

Pat: Yep, read quite a few of the Thirkell books but missed the three before this so am not quite sure if that meant I didn't quite know who everyone was. The author writes the books very haphazardly so you can never tell and I can never remember whether someone was in previous books or not because I leave long gaps between books.

Diane: Thank you... my cold is still hanging in there!

TracyK said...

The Thirkell book sounds good, I will have to look into that series. Not that I need new books. And especially a long series.

I need to get working on the World at War books. Lately I have been concentrating on Canadian books.

Cath said...

Tracy: I've been doing the reverse... OK at the World at War books but rubbish at the Canadian ones.