Thursday 6 February 2020

A quick catch-up post

I'm falling behind with reviews, a bit of a permanent state for me if I'm honest, so I'm going to catch up by doing brief reviews of my last two books.

First up, The Returning Tide by Liz Fenwick.

On Cape Cod, on the New England coast, Lara's great-grandfather, known to all as 'Grandie', is dying. A US veteran of World War 2, he's always been very reluctant to talk about what he did in the war. But it's his last word that shocks Lara, 'Adele'. Grandie's wife was called Amelia, so who on Earth was Adele? Lara has unexpected time off from her job as a chef and decides to head across the Atlantic to Cornwall where she's discovered that her great-grandfather spent time during the war. In Cornwall, Peta is getting married. Her twin brother, Jack, is very much against the marriage and her grandmother, Elle, is also uneasy. She knows from experience how much heartache love can bring and fears for her grand-daughter getting married so young. Not that anyone in the family knows anything about her personal heartache: Elle has kept her secrets for seventy years and hopes to take them with her to her grave. But fate, naturally, has other ideas...

I loved this book. At the beginning I wasn't sure that I would. There were New England goings on and Cornish goings on, both modern day, and I couldn't see a connection or work out who was who. Eventually, after several chapters, it became clear though and turned into one of those books where the reader has a clearer idea of what's happening and 'happened' than the characters, though it's not until the very end that we get to know the exact details. It is all quite sad, the story is basically saying, 'Look at what war does to families', but it's also a beautiful book about love, loyalty, being strong in the face of adversity. Cornwall of course features very strongly, and so does World War 2 in the form of what ordinary people were forced to do as part of their everyday lives. I rather fancy a massive amount of research went into the writing of this book but it's used with a delicate touch and not as evidence of how much work the author did. It's beautifully written and I found the whole book very affecting. This is my first book by Liz Fenwick but it certainly will not be the last.

Lastly, The Icelandic Adventures of Pike Ward edited by K.J. Findlay. This is my first book for the European Reading challenge, 2020 which is being hosted by Rose City Reader. It cover the country of 'Iceland'.

Pike Ward was born in 1856 to a family who were ship brokers and shipping insurance agents by profession, in Teignmouth in South Devon (not far from where I live as a matter of fact). The family were wealthy enough that young Pike was able to go off to Iceland to see what the opportunities were for buying fish and exporting them to the UK. Very good, as it turned out and he made a home for himself there, spending a lot of time in Iceland and some in the UK. This book is based on some diaries he decided to keep for the year of 1906 by which time he had three bases in the country buying and selling the smaller fish that no one else wanted. Obviously he had to travel a fair bit and in those days there were no roads in Iceland so travelling was on horseback along mountain or coastal tracks that were often primitive and dangerous. I was quite surprised, and I don't know why because the country is called 'Ice'land for goodness sake, that it can snow all year round. Ward mentions the weather every single day and even in August he's reporting days when it's bitterly cold and snowing. I felt that I learnt quite a lot about early 20th. century Iceland, its welcoming people, their housing conditions, the landscape, the food... Pike struggled with that at times... and definitely the weather. His diaries were written with tolerance and humour, he describes one woman as,

'A nice girl but spits at meal times which takes off a bit of the glamour'.

And there was one soup meal he absolutely loathed and got caught tipping it out of the window with obvious repercussions from a ferocious landlady.

On the whole, I found the book on the repetitive side... weather, weather, more weather and I *like* weather... but interesting and revealing in parts, a good book for the European challenge.



Kay said...

Interesting that both the covers of the books show a view of the sea. I like the sound of the Cornwall book. Iceland is interesting, but I'd prefer a 'nice murder' to go along with it. LOL

DesLily said...

Only February and she's off and running!! Somehow Murder books are always more interesting!! lol.

Cath said...

Kay: You know, I hadn't noticed that. Perhaps my love of the sea lingers in my subconscious making me do things like this. Last year for quite a few weeks I seemed to be majoring on 'sea' books too.

Pat: Well the Icelandic book was partly read in Januaury so it's not as good as it sounds. lol Murder books are more interesting and because I haven't read one in all of a week or ten days I picked up a Sherlock Holmes to start, The Giant Rat of Sumatra by Richard L. Boyer. It's crazy but huge fun.

Jo said...

Each one of Liz Fenwicks books are different but so cleverly written that they draw you in. I am sure you will enjoy all her work, some more than other no doubt but an author I heartily recommend.

Cath said...

Jo: Pleased to hear they're all different. I found one on my Kindle last night that I didn't know was there - A Cornish Stranger - so that'll probably be the next one I read by Liz Fenwick.