Often, I find January a month that drags its heels but it seems to have come and gone in a flash this year. The book I chose to read in January, The Chess Men by Peter May, also came and went in a flash!
I enjoyed it every bit as much as the first two in the Lewis Trilogy with a gripping story set against the backdrop of the atmospheric Hebrides. If I had any critisism it was all the background information about the main character Fin - much of which had been gradually indroduced in the first two books but I can see that it would be necessary if you hadn't read the first two. Despite this repetition, I still found it a real page turner that I finished in just five days.
There was one small passage that stayed with me from The Chess Men. Fin meets a school friend from his past, Whistler, who is living in old croft in a filthy state. Fin asks: "Smartest boy of your generation...You could have been anything you wanted to be, Whistler. Why are you living like this?" And Whistler's reply: "I'm exactly who I want to be. And there's not many can say that."
As the book progresses you do wonder if Whistler really is who he wants to be but it made me think how many of us grow up trying to meet the expectation of others rather than becoming exactly who we want to be?
I chose my February book from one of the piles of unread books lying around the house. The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier. But because I finished my January book in mid January I started my February book... and enjoyed it so much I read this one in five days too, finishing it before February!
I have read quite a few reviews of this book and they vary enormously, many of them being quite negative. Most of the negative reviews criticise the main character Honor Bright, a young Quaker girl who leaves Dorset after been jilted by her fiance, to start a new life in America, finding her an unbelievable character. But I found I was totally absorbed in Honor's story. Honor becomes involved in helping runaway slaves through a movement called The Underground Railroad, which I knew nothing about previously. I haved loved each of Tracy Chevalier's previous books and this was no exception. A good story set against an accurate historical backdrop.
One of the best things about the book was that readers are treated to an insight into the importance of quilts in colonial life. I learned that there is a difference between English and American quilting in the styles, the methods and the fabrics used and it left me wanting to learn more which I feel is always the sign of a good read. It left me wanting to make (and finish) a quilt too.
So as I have already read my intended February book before the start of February, I thought perhaps I ought to choose something different to actually read this month. So I have picked Restoration by Rose Tremain... mostly because it also happens to be our book club choice. But as I can't make book club this month I'll review it here instead. I've started it this morning and already have a good feeling about this one too. I also feel that this will take a little longer than five days!
What are you reading this month?