Sunday 28 June 2020

Books read in June

Well, we're only a couple of days away from the end of June and I'm unlikely to finish another book, so I thought I'd do my end of the month book run-down and include several short book reviews. Anyway, five books read this month and these are they:

40. The Farm at the Edge of the World - Sarah Vaughan

41. All Passion Spent - Vita Sackville-West.

As a young girl Lady Slane secretly wanted to be an artist. Instead she marries a man who becomes a well known politician and they produce six children. Her life is full of order and structure, always doing her duty, organised by all and sundry. Now that her husband is dead her six children assume that this will continue and 'Mother' will live with one of them and do what they want her to do. But Lady Slane has other ideas and buys a house in Hampstead. She's to live on her own for the first time in her life and do exactly as she pleases. This was so delightful. You can't help rooting for Lady Slane as she defies her awful children and gets to know some rather odd characters. Everyone in it comes beautifully to life, the children all very much individuals, the French maid, Genoux, in her eighties like Lady Slane but still looking after her. I particularly liked Mr. FitzGeorge a reclusive millionaire with very odd collecting habits who fell in love with Lady Slane as a young woman in India. I rather fancy reading something non-fiction about Vita Sackville-West now, must see what I can find.

42. To War With Whitaker - Hermione Ranfurly. This is my 9th. book for Bev's Mount TBR 2020 challenge. It also qualifies for Carl's Venture Forth under the category 'A book connected to one of the world wars'.

I think this is one of the best books I've read about World War 2. It's written in diary form by Hermione, Countess of Ranfurly (1913 - 2001) wife of Dan, Earl of Ranfurly. When war broke out Dan was posted to the Middle East but Hermione had no intention of moldering away in England and set off after him, with the idea of getting a secretatial job somewhere close. She struggled because civilians were not really being employed by the services in a warzone, but in the end she overcame all and ended up with jobs in several different Middle Eastern spots working for some of the very top brass. A year or two in and Dan is taken prisoner and taken to Italy. Hermione swears not to return to the UK until the couple are reunited. I knew very little about the war in the Middle East, I didn't realise that such a lot was going on in Egypt and what was then Palestine, and that we had such a huge presence there. This book gives a real flavour of what was happening behind the scenes and the movements of figures like Churchill, Roosevelt, Eisenhower and so on. She mentions Peter Fleming several times and I assume this is the travel writer brother of Ian Fleming; Freya Stark was also a friend. I think Hermione Ranfurly must've been an amazing woman and I was curious to find out what happened to her after the war, luckily it turns out that there's another book, Hermione: After to War with Whitaker which I now own. 'Whitaker' by the way is the couple's butler!

43. Escape to the French Farmhouse by Jo Thomas. This is my second book for Rosemary's #ProjectPlaces, the 'place' being a lovely old farmhouse in Provence.

Del is married to Ollie who begged Del to move to France to live in an old farmhouse with him. She gave up her much loved job, did as he wanted, six weeks later they're moving back to England as Ollie hates it in Provence. But Del, realising the marriage is pretty much over, changes her mind at the very last minute and decides to stay, watching Ollie and the removal van disappear into the distance. Now Del has to find a way to make a living in a small French town. The owner of a local brocante gives her an old book of recipes that use lavender, which of course grows everywhere in Provence. Del starts by making some biscuits and eventually gets a market stall in order to sell some of her baking produce. She's shocked when a teenager steals one of the packages and drops something that needs returning. Del goes in search of the thief and that one act very much changes her existance in France. This must sound a bit cosy and to some extent it is, lovely Provence setting, gorgeous old farmhouse, colourful locals etc. But there is a background theme of homelessness which was a little more sobering so while this was a lovely read it did have many realistic moments. I really enjoyed it to be honest and will read more by Jo Thomas, in fact have already downloaded a couple to my Kindle.

44. Fireside Gothic - Andrew Taylor. Three really excellent supernatural long short stories in this volume. All have a slight flavour of M.R. James about them, especially the first, Broken Voices, set in a cathedral. I've read one of the author's novels, The American Boy, but really must try something from his 'James Marwood & Cat Lovett' series that is so popular.

Hard to believe we're now halfway through the year. Happy summer reading!



DesLily said...

Good Lord Woman!... SLOW DOWN lol lol ! You have nearly double the amount of books I've read so far this year!! I'll be happy if I wind up at the end with how many you've read so far!

Lark said...

I read All Passion Spent last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. :)

Sam said...

"To War with Whitaker" sounds fascinating. That woman reminds me a lot of the way women reacted during the American Civil War when dozens of them are known to have followed their husbands into war zones, some of them even disguising themselves as men so that they could fight as common soldiers. To think that a similar spirit still existed during WWII is pretty inspirational.

TracyK said...

Both the book by Vita Sackville-West and and the one by Hermione Ranfurly sound very interesting. I also knew little about the war in the Middle East.

Have you switched over to the new version of Blogger? I know you tried it, can't remember if you had problems. I just did it today and it is taking a little getting used to although some of the navigation is similar to some applications I used at work before I retired. Just have to get used to the changes I guess. I am currently working on a post and hope it comes out all right.

Dorothy Borders said...

That's an interesting collection of books read in June. I confess I haven't read any of them but I enjoyed your short reviews.

Judith said...

Hi Cath,
I am very interested in the Vita Sackville-West novel. I know I may be mangling her name here. My brain is like lead this evening! We have had thunderstorms off and on all day, deep darkness, and lots of rain, the latter of which is a wonderful thing because we were diving into a deep drought.
I also ordered the Austrian Alpine mystery from the Book Depository. I'm very keen to read it because it has been well received all round, and sounds like the perfect summer read for me. If not from the Book Depository, I would have had to wait for a US publication of mid-late November. Looking forward! Hope the two of you are settling in well right now.

Mary said...

Totally agree with you about To War with Whitaker. It was an excellent read. Love how she outfoxed the bureaucracy. She and her husband/family went on to do some wonderful things in later life to help others.

Margaret @ BooksPlease said...

I loved All Passion Spent and would like to read more about Vita Sackville-West too. I see my library service has a copy of Behind the Mask by Matthew Dennison, but there isn't an online copy available - the library service is only available online. I do miss going to the library! There is a Kindle version, though.

Cath said...

Pat: I'm going to do a few jigsaw puzzles soon so yeah, the reading will probably slow a bit.

Lark: I was quite surprised at how much I enjoyed All Passion Spent, I thought it might be a bit dry.

Sam: I found what Hermione did, kicking against the rules, quite inspiring and uplifting. She just would not lie down and I liked that a lot. I didn't know a similar thing happened in the American Civil War. I feel like I ought to read something about that.

Tracy: Yes, I tried the new blogger and didn't like it but I think that was because of other issues. I'm waiting to have it imposed on me, although I might just change when I've finished these comments. We'll see, at the moment my brain's like mush and I just hope it doesn't give me any real trouble or I will be off to be honest. I don't understand why sites like FB, Blogger etc have to fix what isn't broken.

Cath said...

Dorothy: Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed my mini-reviews.

Judith: No you haven't mangled her name, LOL! So pleased your drought has broken, we've had a couple of days of rain after a mini-heatwave too, and it's very welcome.

Crossed Skis is good, I haven't quite finished it but it has a very strong sense of Austria. The Book Depository is an excellent company. I had a recent issue where I sent Pat (who commented on this post) a book via them, it was damaged on arrival and they refunded me very promptly. I use them quite a lot.

We're doing ok thanks. P's not getting on too well with the strong antibiotics he has to take but that's temporary, in himself he's improving and getting over this horrible thing.

Mary: I loved how she outfoxed the authorities too, and never gave up, not once. I can't wait to hear about the rest of her life, I think there's also a book about her childhood. I plan to read about Freya Stark too and have two books lined up.

Margaret: I'll look Behind the Mask up on Goodreads, it might be justs sthe book I'm looking for. Thanks! I miss going to the library too, I think they'll be open again in July. I really hope so.