Saturday, 1 February 2014

A Year in Books :: February

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?

14 comments:

  1. All those books sound like good reads. I have returned to childhood and am reading The Box of Delights by John Masefield, to be followed by The Hobbit!
    I remember watching The Box of Delights when it was adapted for Children's TV nearly 30 years ago with our youngest daughter - we both loved it.

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  2. I'm not a great reader if fiction I'm afraid. I do love books though but those which teach me something new to make, cook or grow!
    I love that quote too, don't you think being exactly who you want to be comes with age, I think I'm almost there just wish I could have been more like that in my teens and twenties. That's life I suppose. :)
    V xxx

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  3. I got the last runaway for dot for Christmas and she loved it and has recommended it to me. I've also jumped on the bandwagon and bought the new Costa winner The Shock of the Fall and so far it's very good - when I can tear myself away from reading blogs into the small hours! Maybe taking my new kindle to bed with me is not such a good idea! X

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  4. I'll be interested to see how you get on with Restoration ... if I'm honest I'm not a big Rose Tremain fan but I've been meaning to give this one a try for ages.

    I've been guided by my January choice to a book mentioned therein ... in February I'll be reading Wanderers in the New Forest by Juliette de Bairacli Levy.

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  5. I loved The Last Runaway too! I loved the story and I loved the details of the quilting too. I'm currently reading The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. Set in the Congo in the early 60's it tells the story of a missionary family's life there from the perspective of the three daughters. Gripping!

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  6. gina, I was so thrilled you chose The Chessman for your January read - I bought all three books on my kindle immediately and have not been able to stop reading them. I was particularly thrilled as we stay at Scarista on the Isle of Harris and drove around both Isles on a wonderful visit many years ago - so I am enjoying the memories as well as the cracking good read. Cheers

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  7. Oops, I was in too much of a hurry, should have written stayed, not stay!

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  8. They all sound very good reads, Our book group is currently reading Twelve Years a Slave and we will be reviewing it in February. A few years ago I chose The Lady and The Unicorn also by Tracy Chevalier about the tapestries in Paris. I love how she weaves a story about a piece of artwork. Unfortunately it wasn't on display when we visited in December but is a good excuse for another trip to Paris. Thank you for sharing your choices.

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  9. I enjoyed the Last Runaway and Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier and thanks to Bev above will order The Lady and The Unicorn from the library. Will also try that series set in Scotland.

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  10. What am I reading? Don't you mean 'what am I trying to read?'.... my pile grows ever taller and I dip in and out of things.I am reading Not the End of the World, a book of short stories by Kate Atkinson and I feel I must finish this before I start on her latest which I bought the other day. There's also a couple of Alice Munro short story books in the pile too.... and why did Heather have to go and mention The Box of Delights. I read it years ago and still have my old copy. Now I want to re-read that too! So many books, so little time......

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  11. Glad you enjoyed The chessmen. I am reading the Mercy Seat by Martyn Waites. Bit of a boys book, if I'm allowed to say that - lots of violence and the seedier side of life, so obviously I'm quite enjoying it. I am going to read something more ladylike next x

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  12. I'm reading 'London belongs to me' by Norman Collins at the moment having just finished 'Mrs Tim of the regiment' by D E Stevenson so I'm on a pre-1950s kick as I've also been reading Angela Thirkell re-issues all on kindle. Already read the last of the Cazalet novels and a 'new' Peter Wimsey from Jill Paton Walsh amongst others since the start of the year. There's a sequel to Restoration now which I've not yet read. Hope you enjoy the original.

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  13. I havn't read any of the Peter May books so they're now on my list. I love Tracy Chevalier's work and have read The Last Runaway and enjoyed all the quilting references. I'm currently reading the book Philomena that was made into a film. I havn't got too far and already I am finding it a very engaging and disturbing tale, especially as it's factual. I havn't seen the film yet so have no preconceptions. It probably isn't the book to read at bedtime as it gets your brain buzzing.

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  14. Oh gosh -- you're making me want to join this book club! Your books all sound wonderful and I've taken note. Now, if only I could put down my knitting!

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