Saturday, 5 September 2015

The Year in Books - September

Thank you to everyone who stuck with me through my holiday postcards from Tuscany. Although we have had a couple of lovely weekends away this was our first proper holiday in over two years... and it was wonderful. We drove to Italy through France and the Mont Blanc tunnel. The scenery was stunning!
As well as sightseeing and relaxing there was a lot of eating and drinking... food was definitely one of the highlights of the holiday! And there was also plenty of time for reading too which has meant I've got through several books this month.

I finished The Hand That First Held Mine before we went away and loved it, but I've not yet read a Maggie O'Farrell book that I've not enjoyed. It tells two parallel stories, that of Lexie who moves to London from rural Devon in the 1950s and the other set in the present, tells of new parents Ted and Elina as they struggle with parenthood and the effects it has on them. The two stories gradually come together in  beautifully observed writing
I was given Go Set a Watchman for my birthday but before I read it I wanted to reread To Kill a Mockingbird as it is so long since I read it the first time. It was every bit as good as I had remembered and well worth reading again. I'm sure I don't need to give a review as can there be anyone who hasn't read it? I wasn't so enamoured with the sequel however. Much has already been said and written about it since its release and I don't want to give too much away but I was disappointed. The best word I can think of to descibe it is 'unecessary' and I think Harper Lee should have left well alone! Fortunately for me it didn't detract from Mockingbird, but if you want your images of Scout and Atticus (who will always be Gregory Peck in my mind) left untarnished then don't read it!

The next book I read while we were away was The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce. This is not so much a sequel to The Unlikely Pilgramage of Harold Fry, which I read and enjoyed a few years ago, but more of a companion, telling the same story from a diffeent perspective. Queenie is dying, but she is waiting for Harold as he makes his way on foot from Devon to Berwick to see her one last time. It was sad, but funny too and another beautifully observed book. If you enjoyed Harold Fry you will like this too.

My last holiday book was Mrs Hemingway by Naomi Wood. Although a novel, it tells the story of each of Earnest Hemingway's four wives, cleverly weaving each story together, whilst also painting an interesting picture of Hemingway himself. I found it fascinating as it moved from Paris, Antibes, Key West, Cuba and London. And as a bonus we stopped over in Antibes on our journey home, which was absolutely beautiful..
Since coming home I'm finding it hard to settle to a new book or to anything very much really. My washing machine broke the day before we went away so I have had that and the holiday laundry to deal with as well as getting Jacob safely back to Guildford and settled in his new accommodation. Today I'm off to Tunbridge Wells to give a talk and there are all sorts of other new things bubbling away on the horizon but I'll save those for another day!
For some reason I seem to have bought a lot of magazines this week which have made up most of my reading... it's about all I can concentrate on in the evenings. But I have started a new book for September - The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared. I've started it and so far I'm finding it sort of funny but strange... but I'll let you know next month!
Of course, the other thing I've been doing since coming home is baking and finding creative ways to use up the courgettes that had grown in our absence in the form of a courgette and lime cake. (I used Nigella's recipe from The Domestic Goddess) Like I need more cake after all we've eaten on holiday! It did taste good though.
Joining in with Laura at  Circle of Pine Trees for The Year in Books


  1. Glad you had a lovely break Gina.The Hemingway book is now on my list and I'll be interested to know what you think of the ending to The Hundred Year Old Man.

  2. Good to hear you enjoyed your Tuscan break but yes, the 'holiday hangover' can be unsettling. Keep eating cake, I say! I'd more or less decided not to read Go Set a Watchman. I'm definitely not reading it now!

  3. I am glad you had a lovely holiday. Hope the washing machine is fixed! You read some interesting books, I am quite keen to read Maggie o'Farrell. I liked the book of the old man, it was funny and refreshing without asking too much of the reader. The cake looks good. I have not eaten cake for a whole month and have serious cravings. Two birthdays next week, so I'll wait. Have a lovely weekend. x

  4. So glad you had a lovely break Gina and had lots of time to read.
    Lovely to see beautiful Antibes, we're going back next week, we stay a half hour walk from there.
    V x

  5. I'm fairly new to your blog (as a reader, I mean). Lovely pix. What was your talk about in Tunbridge Wells?
    Margaret P

  6. Well Gina, I guess that knowing your washing machine is broker Before you return from a glorious holiday is better than having a sudden surprise. Even if that laundry still needs to be done, you've had a glorious time away.

    Best wishes to your son this year at Guildford.

    Thank you for sharing the reading list. Some of the books were new to me, and I have made some notes of their titles. Here's a little coincidence. During the past week's really hot and humid days I have read To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time. I guess I was a young teenage about the time it was originally published, living in the South, and don't have any distinct memory of being encouraged or discouraged from reading it. And yet, i suspect that I was discouraged from doing many things back then.

    I think that telling the novel's story from a wise child's viewpoint was key to getting the story told with its mixture of knowing and unknowing, yet also made for an occasionally choppy narrative. Sometimes the plot's building blocks were obvious, and the depiction of the passage of time seemed irregular. Maybe the next time we actually see each other, we could chat a bit more about Mockingbird and my own memories of growing up in Virginia. Don't think that I will be reading Watchman, as I am suspicious of the motivation for publishing the book and wonder if Harper Lee actually did want that to happen.

    Switching topics...that cake looks mighty good! xo

  7. Thank you for hauling yourself down to Tunbridge Wells, and bearing miniature versions of the cake! Lovely to see you and your ladies x

  8. You drove to Italy? I'm impressed. Ive tried to persuade my husband to drive but he won't as he only has 2 weeks leave in the summer & they, being very precious, are to be maximised and that doesn't involve driving, anywhwere. I have very fond memories of driving to Italy as a child. The tunnels, the Alps and Hotels. We didn't usually stay in hotels. It was camping for us all the way.

  9. So glad you had such a great time away!! The return from holiday cake looks delicious! I hope that all will be well for your son. xx

  10. I thoroughly enjoyed your postcards, thank you.

    I read the Harper Lee just the other day and I must say that I was disappointed in it. So two books read so far this month and I have no idea what is in the pipeline.

    Your cake looks delicious, I will bake something tomorrow since I have apples...

  11. Oh no, that's more books I need to read (in addition to Capture the Castle' and 'The Pink Suit' that I've just read about elsewhere. I won't be attempting Courgette cake though - I have been banned from making cakes with courgettes - no one liked mine xxx

  12. Lovely holiday pics and another varied and interesting book list. Hope the washing machine has been repaired or replaced by now, and that you don't already need another break after being plunged back into normal life.

  13. I really enjoyed your postcards - i've never been there but your pictures tempt me! hope the washing machine is fixed soon.

  14. I enjoyed the tour around Tuscany and I'm glad it was a reviving holiday for you both.Good to have you home and back to reading about those cakes and books! I couldn't give our courgettes away fast enough and some did come back to us as cake - although made by my friend and not myself I hasten to add. Now we're in the same boat with figs, which neither of us like. This time they're queueing up to relieve us of our crop but I doubt there's a cake to be made with them... or is there?


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