Wednesday 17 April 2024

Reading as a retreat from reality

I've been so grateful to be a reader since my husband passed away, just over a month ago. Not that I wasn't before of course, but having somewhere to escape to, where reality doesn't intrude, has been a huge comfort. For a few days even books didn't help but slowly I managed to get back into a book and the author I turned to was Agatha Christie. I have no idea why but she worked for me and the couple of books I read by her were a real escape.

I'll quickly list the books I read in March with one longer review that I had already written weeks ago.

18. The Last Bookshop in London - Madeline Martin

19. A Death in the Parish - Richard Coles

So, this is book two in the author's fairly new 'Canon Clement' mystery series. A new associate vicar is on the scene, Chris Biddle. He's taking over a couple of churches in Daniel Clement's parish so Daniel will have to work with him. But it's not easy as their views on church matters are opposing, Chris being of a more fundimental bent and Daniel, not. All this has to be put to one side though when the ritualistic murder of a teenage boy is discovered on a disused airbase. Policeman and friend of Daniel's, Neil Vanloo, is brought in to investigate and Daniel, as in the first book, helps him to solve the crime. Running alongside this are a couple of other issues including an elderly woman, nearing death, being preyed on by a couple who make it their business to insinuate themselves into death-bed families like this, hoping to pick up a legacy. (I'm assuming this is a 'thing'.) I thoroughly enjoyed this second book about Daniel and his parishioners. I like his mum, Audrey, far from any perfect vicar's mother, judging by what she was up in this instalment. There is some personal stuff which took rather an unexpected twist right at the very end. A genuine 'Wut?' moment. I hesitate to call this a 'cosy' because it has a slight edge in that some of the situations feel very real and quite gritty, but they're not written in a gritty manner. Coles writes in a gentle, non-judgemental, way about human foibles and mistakes and it's actually really well done. There is plenty of humour too. I suspect some situations are based on his personal experiences or that of people he knows and I found some of his theological explanations really interesting too. I gave it five stars on Goodreads, no agonising required.  I gather the next book is based in a monastery and as I love a good monkish murder story I can't wait for that. Murder at the Monastery is out in June I think. 

20. The World's Greatest Sea Mysteries - edited by Michael and Molly Hardwicke. What it says on the tin, an anthology of mysterious happenings on sea voyages etc. Entertaining in places but not fantastic. 

21. Lending a Paw - Laurie Cass.  Book one in the author's cost mystery series: 'Bookmobile Cat Mystery'. This is set in Michigan and revolves around a mobile lending library. There's a murder and a cat and lots of books so what's not to like? I loved it.

22. The Hairy Bikers, Blood, Sweat and Tyres - Si King and Dave Myers. This is a biography of the TV British cooking duo who're household names in the UK. Particularly poignant now of course because Dave Myers died of cancer about 2 months ago. A really enjoyable biography of two lovely men.

23. Best Detective Stories of Cyril Hare. I've been reading this vintage collection for several months and can't recommend it highly enough, it has some really excellent crime short stories in it.

24. Crooked House - Agatha Christie. Terrific story about a family living in a huge house and the death of the patriarch with all the money. Who, amongst the dozens of suspects, knocked him off? Agatha Christie at her best.

25. Passenger to Frankfurt - Agatha Christie. This spy type yarn didn't work quite so well for me and is known as one of her odder books I believe. But I still enjoyed it and noted that, as they say, 'the more things change, the more they stay the same' because much of what Christie worries about in this book are things which are still worrying us now. 

So that was my March reading. Six fiction books, two non-fiction, eight books in all. Personally, one of the strangest and most unsettling months I've experienced in my life and April is not much different if I'm honest. Books continue to be the place I retreat to and so far this month I've finished just two.

Silent Creed by Alex Kava is book two in her 'Ryder Creed' K9 series of crime novels. Quite gritty and scary in its background premise of experimental labs where we have no idea what's goes on inside and what happens when one is destroyed in a landslide. Really good.

Agatha Christie: A Very Elusive Woman by Lucy Worsley. This is a really excellent biography of the iconic crime writer. Having read Christie's own autobiography I thought it might be just a rehash of that but it wasn't at all. There was a lot more comment than I expected and clearly heaps of research done. A really good read and I also highly recommend the accompanying BBC documentary Lucy Worsley made. 

My current read is this:

A cosy murder mystery set at a writing weekend for authors who write erotic fiction: the narrator is there by mistake. The setting of Tuscany is gorgeous, the writing style is gently funny, and I'm really enjoying it.

I hope you're all doing well, enjoying the spring when it's not pouring with rain, and finding lots of good books to read.


Sue in Suffolk said...

Lovely to see a post from you. Hope you are still moving along day by day.
Reading was my saviour too and still is as there is always a new author to find and a series to follow and the library van bringing me my reservations every month. I'd be quite lost without books and the TV.

Jeane said...

Books are my great comfort in times of distress too. I often turn back to long-ago favorites and indulge in a lot of re-reads during those times, too.

Margot Kinberg said...

So glad you're posting again, Cath! It's good to hear that you've found just a little comfort in reading. Books really can be a balm, can't they? You have a good selection here. Wishing you continued comfort and peace as you go on.

Mary said...

So comforting to have a book to escape into when life just simply hurts too much. Good to know you are able to find some respite at times. Thinking of you this past month; would that we could meet for a cup of tea and a chat. Heading over the Pond tonight, but I'll be a tad north of you...Edinburgh, to start. Take care, Cath. X

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...

It is good to know that books and reading remain your comfort blanket and escape to place, amidst the distress and grief which undoubtedly still consumes your days. I hope that with each passing day, things become a little more bearable for yourself and the family.

I noticed on Goodreads that you were reading the T.A. Williams book and I have added that particular series to my wish list as they sound like really good stories.

Agatha Christie is always a good companion to have in times of need. I remember reading Crooked House many moons ago. Perhaps a refresh is in order - but do I really have the time? :)

Thinking of you and hoping that your next batch of books continues to transport you to those happy places, even if only for a few precious moments :)

Kay said...

Cath, I too am so glad that reading and books are a peaceful activity for you at this hard time. In my own life, books and reading were a balm for my soul as well when my parents passed from this life. I think of you often and hope that you will continue to find peace. Big hugs!

TracyK said...

Cath, it is good to see a post from you and to hear that reading is helping you at this time. The book by Richard Coles does sound good and the new one that is coming. Maybe I will try that series some time. I do like religious settings.

I still have not tried that book of short stories by Cyril Hare, I should do that soon. Crooked House was one of the first Agatha Christie mysteries that I read when I started blogging and I remember that it was very good.

Lark said...

I'm glad you've found some solace in books. The summer after my dad died I read a ton of books because they were such a comforting escape from the grief. And there's nothing like an Agatha Christie; her writing is so easy to read and she does a good job of pulling you into each story. Kava's Ryder Creed series is good, isn't it? The books in it just keep getting better imo. And Lending a Paw sounds like a fun mystery. Hang in there!

Kathy's Corner said...

Hi Cath, great to see you posting and someone once said books are there for us when we need them and mostly I have found that to be true.

The mystery with the mobile library and a cat sounds very good and so does the Robert Coles series. It reminds me a bit of Susan Howatch's Starbridge series of novels which also deals with church politics and tells a good story. I wish you all the best.

Cath said...

Hi Sue. Thank you. Yes, taking it day by day, some days not too bad, others not that great but I think that's the way it will be for quite a while. I'm not sure I will ever get used to living on my own but I will do my best to cope. I'm very lucky to have a wonderful family to support me.

I'm finding that I too would be lost without my books and the TV. I do need to find some kind of interest out of the house though, possibly the U3A, but I'm not sure at the moment.

Cath said...

Jeanne: Yes, favourites authors and rereads are definitely the way to go in times of distress. You need something comforting and familiar I think.

Cath said...

Margot: Thank you, it's nice to be back posting and I will try to get back to doing it regularly as I do need structure I think when things are out of my control. Books really are a balm, I like how they keep your mind focussed rather than wandering off to all kinds of sad places. Thank you for your kind wishes.

Cath said...

Mary: Thank you, it means such a lot to know that people have me in their thoughts. I would never have expected such kindness.

Have a good time over here in the UK! It looks like you might've struck lucky with the weather as the rain appears to have stopped for a while. Enjoy.

Cath said...

Yvonne: Yes, it is becoming more bearable as I get used to my new reality. What I have to get used to as well is the realisation that I only have myself to look after now. Peter's health issues were very much to the fore as you know and the sudden removal of that has created a huge vacumm which feels very odd indeed. That will take a while to get my head around.

The T.A. Williams series has the potential to be a lot of fun. I haven't bought book 2 yet but I know I'm going to soon. :-)

Thank you, I'm being careful about my choice of each book, trying to choose something I know will keep my mind away from the sadness.

Thanks for your support, Yvonne. xx

Cath said...

Kay: Thank you *so* much. I appreciate your kind words more than you can imagine. I can't believe how kind everyone has been during this very difficult time. It's been a real eye-opener for me. And I'm glad books were a balm for you too when your parents passed away. I'm so grateful for my huge collection of physical and ebooks now!

Cath said...

Tracy: Thank you. I never imagined that reading would be quite this helpful so it's been a pleasant surprise to find it is so.

The Richard Cole series has surprised me. I thought it might be too cosy or religious and it's neither, he's hit just the right balance and also made the books historically interesting.

I was very impressed by the Cyril Hare short stories. Lots of stories with really good twists at the end. Recommend those.

Cath said...

Lark: I'm so glad you found solace in reading after your dad died. I didn't realise how comforted I would be by books and how much they would take me away, so it's been a welcome suprise.

The Ryder Creed series is excellent! I even got my eldest daughter and her husband onto them and they're now devouring them quicker than me! LOL! So thank you for that. Book 2 was quite the ride I have to say, particularly when the landslide came down on top of him. Wow.

Cath said...

Kathy: That person was right, I just didn't realise 'how' right! I'm even glad my tbr pile is so huge because I can choose exactly the right thing to suit my mood.

Oh yes, I've had Susan Howatch's Starbridge series recommended to me before but not tried those yet. I must look at those as I do enjoy a good church based series, the politics is always so interesting.

Thank you.

Nan said...

Oh, it is so good to hear from you. And Agatha. Perfect. I can't imagine not loving reading. It is the true escape, even if for just a few minutes.
I just recently read of Dave Myers death, and I felt so sad about it. Isn't it funny how one can care about someone they don't know. We got a few of their series over here, and I just loved them.
How I wish you were close, and I could pop in and watch tv with you, or just sit.
Thank you for writing.

Sam said...

It's wonderful to see you back, Cath. I do think that readers are blessed by their love of books, especially by how much comfort they can bring in tough times as we immerse ourselves in worlds very different from the ones we suddenly find ourselves living in. Even if they only distract us for a moment, they do something very valuable for us. Take care of yourself.

Cath said...

Nan: Thank you! I have to say, losing myself in a book has been a godsend quite honestly.

I too felt very sad when Dave Myers died. Having watched their latest series, although he did look fragile, I thought he was on course to be ok. Apparently not. There was a big motorbike gathering and ride on the east coast as a sort of tribute to him, which I thought was really lovely.

It would be so lovely to have you pop in to visit, Nan. I feel that way about a lot of the people who comment here, they're all 'real' friends, not just online ones.

Cath said...

Sam: Thank you. I still have many 'moments' but all in all I'm doing ok.

I agree wholeheartedly, we readers are blessed to be able to take ourselves away from grim reality by just picking up a book. I count that as a blessing every day.

I will take care of myself and I'm blessed too with a wonderful family who are also taking care of me.

Vallypee said...

Thank heavens for books, Cath. Reading these comments tells me you’re coping but struggling too. I’m so pleased you have family, but the loss of your husband in your life every day will take a long time to get used to. A big hug flying your way, Cath. Agatha Christie and similar books sound just the right thing fir the moment.

Vintage Reading said...

Just caught up with your recent news, Cath. Glad to know that reading is providing solace at this sad time.

Margaret @ BooksPlease said...

I've been wondering how you're getting on, Cath and am relieved to see you back on your blog (I've been a bit missing too this year - more health problems). Reading is such a help and it's good to escape from reality now and then. And you have your lovely family to help too.

I too enjoyed Agatha Christie: A Very Elusive Woman by Lucy Worsley. As you say it's not at all a rehash of her Autobiography. I must try Richard Coles' books - they sound good.

Take care, Cath and look after yourself x Margaret

Cath said...

Val: I really don't know what I would've done with myself if it weren't for having books to read. Thank you for the big hug. We had the funeral on Friday and I do feel a bit lighter now that is behind us. But yes, there is now a huge gap in my life and I'm not sure I'll ever get used to that.

Cath said...

Nicola: Thank you.

Cath said...

Margaret: Thank you for thinking about me. I've been missing again to be honest as I'm having computer problems at the moment. I have a Kindle Fire but I don't find doing blog posts on a tablet very easy. I will probably end up taking over Peter's pc. Hopefully I can get back here fairly soon.

Really sorry to hear that your health continues to be a problem and am sending positive thoughts and good vibes.

Richard Coles' new series is delightful, I think you would enjoy the first two books.

You look after yourself too, Margaret. xx

Susan said...

I'm so glad that you've been able to find some solace in books as you navigate this uncharted territory in life. I can't imagine. I'm so very sorry for your loss, Cath.

Cath said...

Susan: Thank you so much. 'Uncharted territory' is a very good way to describe things at the moment. But my love of books has helped me navigate in a way I could not have imagined.