Books I’ve enjoyed #10

I had plenty of time for reading during Auckland’s prolonged lockdown and the very hot summer which followed.

First, some popular novels set in the UK. The Rose Code by Kate Quinn, about three young women who worked as code-breakers at Bletchley Park during World War Two, is an intriguing and well researched combination of fact and fiction. Watch her Fall by Erin Kelly is a complicated story which gives insights into the world of ballet, and after reading it I will watch Swan Lake with new eyes. The Black Dress by Deborah Moggach, an elderly woman’s quest to find a new man after being deserted by her husband, is full of dark humour and was described in The Times review as a “deliciously savage tale of sex and death”. And Greenwich Park by Katherine Faulkner is a psychological thriller in which a pregnant woman’s life is disrupted by the stalker she meets at an antenatal class.

Next, a small selection of the many books recently published by members of the Auckland Crime Writers group. Blood on Vines by Madeleine Eskedahl, Quiet in her Bones by Nalini Singh and my own novel Cardamine are all set in New Zealand and evoke the local scenery of forests, beaches and vineyards. Some describe other locations. The Girl in the Mirror by Rose Carlyle is set on a yacht, and The Forger and the Thief by Kirsten McKenzie is a historical thriller set in Florence.

Two novels in the literary fiction genre. Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro, narrated in the voice of a gentle and observant robot who is purchased as the “artificial friend” of a fragile teenage girl, is a readable story which raises some profound questions. More challenging is We Germans by Alexander Starritt, in which an old man writes to his grandson in an attempt to come to terms with his past as a soldier serving on the Eastern front in World War Two.

Four non-fiction books which left an impression on me. The Devil You Know by Gwen Adshead and Eileen Horne contains a series of (disguised) case histories of psychotherapy with mentally disturbed criminal offenders, not all of whom could be helped. I reread an older book, The Power of Premonitions by Larry Dossey, a physician who has made a detailed study of “psi” phenomena. Against All Odds by Craig Challen and Richard Harris is a vivid description of the 2018 rescue of the young boys trapped in a cave in Thailand. Lastly, Dear John by Joan Le Mesurier is about her marriage to the actor who is still fondly remembered for his role as Sergeant Wilson in Dad’s Army.

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