A bit of catching up to do today as I've read five books this month and not written a word about any of them.
First up Master and Commander which is my second book for Marg's Historical Fiction Reading challenge 2021.
Jack Aubrey is kicking his heels on Minorca, in The Med, hoping to get promotion and command of his own ship. Meanwhile he's having an affair with a local Captain's wife. The promotion happens eventually and he's given a brig (sloop? I never did get which), the Sophie, to command, although he's not an actual captain yet. He manages to persuade naturalist and doctor, Stephen Maturin, very much a non-nautical man, to come aboard as the ship's surgeon and thus begins a close friendship. On my first reading of this, quite a few years ago, I gave up a few chapters in because I didn't know what the nautical terms meant. I discovered this time that it doesn't matter a jot and read the book quite easily. The relationship between Aubrey and Maturin is immediately a delight and from Maturin comes a lot of the humour in the book as he struggles to comprehend the wierd and wonderful ways of The Royal Navy in the early 1800s. The book is set at the beginning of the Napoleonic wars and features fictional action and engagements that took place off the coast of southern Spain, Italy and Greece. I had a good time checking Google maps for locations I had not heard of but did find myself skim reading the battle sections a bit as I find those tedious. For me the book was strongest when it was people based, dealing with relationships and characters who had a history with one another, Maturin and the first officer, Dillon, for instance, found they had fought together in Ireland some years previously. But Aubrey and Maturin are the absolute stars of the show and I'm very keen to read more of their escapades even though they run to 20 or so books.
Next, Gardens of Delight by Erica James.
Lucy's parents split up when she was a young teenager, now aged 29 she has never forgiven her father for leaving her to cope alone with her difficult mother. Her mother has recently married again and Lucy still lives in her mother's old house with Orlando, her best friend but not romantic partner. Lucy's father, Marcus, moved to Italy with his new wife but always sends her birthday cards, which she never opens and just bins. Helen has married for the first time, in her forties. Her new husband, Hunter, is a bit of a ruthess business man, she also knows that he's been a womaniser throughout his life, this is his third marriage. Conrad, a widower who has never fully recovered from the loss of his young wife, lives with his elderly uncle, Mac, who is recovering from a stroke. All of these people live in a village in Cheshire, some know each other through the local gardening club and all decide to go on an organised holiday to Lake Como in Italy, where Lucy's father lives. Gardens of Delight was just that, 'a delight', even if it was slightly tricky keeping track of so many characters and their complicated lives. The real 'spanner in the works' was Hunter's daughter, Savannah, a twenty year old spoilt brat because of her upbringing, and it's really her character that acts as a catalyst for the change that's badly needed in the lives of her family and 'friends'. The novel certainly gives the reader a lot of think about. The setting, once they get to Lake Como, is gorgeous, but this is not really a fluffy novel. There are issues around forgiveness, infidelity, ill health, grieving and so on. Which makes it sound dire. It's not, it's about people and what makes them tick and how difficult it can be to do the right thing or what's best for 'yourself'. I loved it.
Sooooo, the three other books I've read are:
Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear. This was an excellent installment of the author's 'Maisie Dobbs' series, involving the death of a much loved young man with learning difficulties. The machinations of big business enter into the plot, how far should they be allowed to go, given there's a suspicion that another war is imminent? Very interesting and quite heart-breaking to be honest. This series continues to impress.
Underground by Will Hunt. A non-fiction book a bit similar to Underland by Robert McFarlane but not as long or involved. It wasn't bad, especially on prehistoric cave art in France, and the catacombs under Paris, but nevertheless I was ever so slightly underwhelmed by it.
Firestorm by Nevada Barr, is the fourth instalment of her Anna Pigeon series. It's 'years' since I read one of these and it was a very slow burner to be honest ... I nearly gave up. Glad I didn't though as it got rather exciting when firefighters fighting a wildfire in the mountains and forests of northern California were overtaken by a firestorm, after which a man is found dead in his shelter thing (I forget the proper name) with a knife in his back. Anna has to work out which of the seven or eight survivors did for him. Very good.
So now, although I have two other 'slow reads' (see to the right) on the go, I have the difficult task of choosing a new book. I've knocked three off my 2021 shelf below, all non-fiction, so perhaps it's time to attack the fiction half.
Unfortunately, my inability to make up my mind is sorely getting in the way of this decision and not helped by some delicious books recently downloaded to my Kindle.
I hope everyone is staying safe while waiting to be jabbed. My husband had his on Saturday and as I'm in the 65 to 70 age range that they're now moving onto, I should hear soon. I fantasise about running amok in some wonderful bookshop so let's hope that opportunity is not far off.