This year my reading has taken me to the Far East, Italy and Paris. Historic Fiction has frequently featured, mostly 20th Century and there has definitely been more murder mysteries. To read the whole review please click on the book cover.
Journey to Paradise by Paula Greenlees
This book describes post-war life for the British community during The Malayan Emergency. Miranda engages our sympathy with her fight to find meaning in life after the tragic death of her baby. A new country is not helpful when your husband is out of the house for long hours and the other colonial wives gossip behind your back. Gerry is a handsome, successful colonial officer but he expects his wife to conform to the life of leisure and shopping rather than continuing to volunteer in a hospital as she had in England. Meeting Dr Nick Wythenshaw, “their eyes met like sunlight catching a mirror,” but to respond to this would be playing with fire.
The Sapphire Child by Janet MacLeod Trotter
This long, detailed story takes us from pre-war India and Scotland to the tragic events during World War Two in India and Burma. The heroine, Stella Dubois, assists both her parents at the Raj Hotel, Rawlpindi and Mr and Mrs Lomax at the Raj-in-the-hills Hotel. She has always been a good friend of Andrew Lomax, even though the young teenager is 6 years younger than her, so when it is decided that he should visit his mother, Lydia, former wife of Tom Lomax, Stella accompanies him on the journey to Scotland. Expecting to be welcomed by Lydia, whom she remembers from her childhood, she is surprised to be treated like a servant. Lydia soon turns Andrew against his father and stepmother, so Stella returns to India leaving Andrew in Scotland.
Where There’s Doubt by Terry Tyler
This enthralling novel, told from multiple viewpoints, grips you from the first page. Kate is an engaging character whom you might meet in a romance novel. She is a strong, intelligent woman with a new business and a group of friends, living in a pleasant coastal town in Norfolk. But then we meet Nico; a handsome charmer with a publishing business appealing to those who have been unsuccessful in putting their first novels on the market. Having parted with several thousands they may find that Nico never follows through. Now, aided by his girlfriend, Em, Nico has a new scam, dating wealthy women to extract funds from them.
The Tuscan Countess by Dinah Jefferies
This novel, set in wartime Italy, has two very different heroines, Sofia, a kind, intelligent Countess who cares for her husband, her household and village of Castello and Maxine, a brave Italian American airlifted to the area to co-ordinate between the Tuscan partisan resistance and the Allies. The two women have little in common, but they are soon relying upon each other. As Maxine travels around on her motorbike making contacts and participating in action against the German army, Sofia shelters a wounded British airman and tries to persuade 17-year-old Aldo, her cook’s son, to stay in the castle rather than risking his life by joining the partisans.
The Last Summer by Karen Swan
It is 1930 and the remote settlement of St Kilda 40 miles west of the Outer Hebrides will shortly be evacuated. The population has declined to 36, 13 of them children, and a harsh winter has left them short of fleeces and bird oil to pay their rent to the island’s owner Sir Reginald MacLeod. But 18-year-old, Effie Gillies, has no desire to leave her home. A tomboy, she has had to take over a man’s role after the death of her brother. Her climbing skills, down the cliff face, impress the tourists and her knowledge of the bird species which populate the island is second to none. When Mathieson, the Factor, employed by Sir Reginald to collect their dues and supply their needs, arrives by boat, he often brings a present for Effie of a book about birds but this time he is also accompanied by Sir Reginald’s friend the Earl of Dumfries and his son Lord Sholto. The two visitors wish to see the island and collect eggs for the Earl’s collection. They are friendly and treat Effie with great respect. She feels an immediate attraction to Sholto and he seems to feel the same, but there cannot be any future relationship.
Murder on the Marshes by Clare Chase
On the night Tara Thorpe is spooked by a hooded figure watching her as she enters her lonely cottage set on a common on the outskirts of Cambridge, she discovers she was not the only young woman to be threatened. Her report to the police about a personal letter, accompanied by a noosed doll, causes DI Garstin Blake to come early next morning because another woman has been murdered and she too had received a doll with a noose around its neck. The murder victim is Professor Samantha Seabrook, a successful Cambridge academic and Tara has just been instructed by the editor of the Magazine she works for, to cover the story.
An Air That Kills by Andrew Taylor
This melancholy tale is set in a small town a few years after the second world war. Lydmouth is a place where everyone knows everybody else. The class system is alive and well, even though it is now much harder to find women willing to clean for their “betters.” Into this parochial atmosphere arrives London journalist Jill Francis whose nervous disposition on the train belies the confidence you would expect from her career. Staying with old friend Phillip and his stately wife Charlotte, a pillar of the community, she soon meets the other new inhabitant of the town. Richard Thornhill is a recently appointed Police Inspector trying to find his feet in the new job. His boss is a stereotypical Police Chief who likes to take credit for the work others have done. Meanwhile his wife Edith is worn out with housework and caring for two children, wishing her husband could be at home for longer hours.
Murder & Mischief by Carol Hedges
On a snowy day in 1868 we encounter two thoroughly unpleasant boys, the sons of successful land speculator J W M Barrowclough, who have benefited at Eton College from, “learning Latin, Greek and social superiority.” But shortly afterwards DI Lachlan Greig is summoned from Scotland Yard to their residence, Hill House, to investigate a snowman which encases a dead body. Greig is a wise man with all the right contacts, so he gains useful information about the Barrowclough family from Lilith Marks in the Lily Lounge Tearoom. He then follows up the snowman’s top hat, originally purchased from Lock & Co, Hatters. We also meet two much more charming children, Liza & Flitch, who have run away from the Poor Law Union Workhouse in Cambridge, hidden on board a stagecoach to London.
The Paris Library By Janet Skeslien Charles
This tantalising title and intriguing book cover does not disappoint. If you love books then you will understand Odile’s excitement when she is offered a job at the famous American Library in Paris. Only the date 1939 forewarns the reader that all will not be well. Odile is close to her twin brother Remy, but living at home can be annoying when her father, a police commander, brings home junior policemen as possible suitors for his daughter.
The rich, detailed description of the other members of staff in the Library (many real people who worked there during World War Two) made me long to curl up with a book there, observe the arrival of the subscribers and see Bitsi entertaining the children at Story Hour. But of course there are more serious events occurring too. When the Nazis arrive, the library is threatened with closure and certain individuals are no longer allowed to use its facilities. Soon Odile and her colleagues are walking around the city, avoiding checkpoints, to deliver books to their Jewish friends.
I Stopped Time by Jane Davis
Lottie Pye, an orphan adopted by an old couple in Brighton, has no desire to work in her parents pie shop but once she meets photographer, Mr Parker, she discovers her life’s purpose. The sadness of “I Stopped Time,” is that Lottie’s photographs only freeze moments, they don’t stop time permanently at a happy occasion. Lottie tells her life story in detail. Confused by the story of her real mother and distressed when Mr Parker is called up to go to war, she boards a train for London, hoping to continue her photography apprenticeship.
In dual time we meet Lottie’s son, James, a reclusive old man who had never known his mother since she left him with his father as a baby. Sir James is not pleased to be left so many boxes of his mother’s photographs, even though she was a gifted photographer. A chance meeting with a young student, Jenny, encourages him to look carefully at the pictures. Images of Brighton on the point of war, are poignant, but he wonders about the identities of some of the more personal ones.
4 thoughts on “My Ten Best Reads in 2022 #Books #Reading #ThrowbackThursday”
A lovely selection, thanks for all the books that you read for out book review team.
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Thank you so very much, Liz – just made my day!
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Happy Christmas, Terry.
Well done Lizanne, I’m always intrigued by the books you discover.
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