Here is my annual roundup of some books I have recently enjoyed or found interesting. They are arranged by alphabetical order of title, and the links refer to the Amazon versions.
A Life of My Own by Claire Tomalin: The memoirs of a literary editor and biographer whose distinguished career has been combined with an eventful personal history. Despite her experiences of family tragedy, she has found contentment in later life. She comes over as remarkably intelligent, energetic and capable, and writes in elegant prose without a trace of self-pity or self-praise.
A Treachery of Spies by Manda Scott: The narrative of this long and ambitious thriller alternates between France and the UK, the 1940s and the present day. Investigation of the murder of an elderly woman reveals links with her past as an SOE agent during the wartime Resistance. The historical detail is extensively researched. An absorbing read, even if the convolutions of the plot had me baffled in places.
Admissions by Henry Marsh: Another memoir from the British neurosurgeon whose previous book Do No Harm was on my 2016 list. Descriptions of his clinical cases and frustrations with the NHS are interwoven with reflections on his own life and the approach of old age. Thoughtful, frank, provocative and drily humorous.
Air Force Blue by Patrick Bishop: Following on from Fighter Boys and Bomber Boys, this is a masterly account of the history of the Royal Air Force and its role in World War Two, illustrated by personal accounts from those who lived through the conflict.
Bluff by Michael Kardos: A fast paced American thriller about a magician who turns to cardsharping in the hope of reviving her failing fortunes. I don’t know how to play poker, so much of the detail went over my head, but even so I found it a gripping read with a clever twist at the end. Not for the squeamish.
Into the Gray Zone by Adrian Owen: Through years of painstaking research using neuroimaging techniques, the author has shown that brain-damaged patients who appear to be in a vegetative state are sometimes aware of what is said to them and capable of mental responses. This has important implications for their clinical care, even when recovery is not possible.
Salt Lane by William Shaw: Having been brought up in Kent, I liked the descriptions of the remote landscape near Dungeness which forms the backdrop to this British murder mystery. The investigation, led by a female police detective with a complex private life, touches on the topical theme of illegal immigration.
The Kingdom by Emmanuel Carrere: This extraordinary book is described as a novel but the first part, the story of a French intellectual’s passionate though transitory immersion in the Catholic faith, appears to be autobiographical. I did not finish the second part, a fictional account of early Church history focused on St Luke and St Paul.
Unmasked by Andrew Lloyd Weber: a memoir by the brilliant composer of many hit musicals (Cats, Evita, Phantom of the Opera and more), who was brought up in a bohemian London family and has led a colourful life.
Words at the Threshold by Lisa Smartt: The utterances of dying people are often dismissed as nonsensical ramblings, but this linguistic analysis of some clinical examples suggests they often contain insights about this life and the next, expressed in symbolic terms.
I haven’t published any new books of my own this year, but the Smashwords version of Carmen’s Roses – the first of my Three Novellas – is free from this link until Christmas Day. If you enjoy it you might also like the others in the trilogy: Blue Moon for Bombers and The Windflower Vibration. All these are also available through my author page on Amazon.
Best wishes for the holiday season,