Wednesday 2 March 2022

What I've been reading - the February edition


The first book that I read this month was Before We Grow Old by Clare Swatman.

I saw it mentioned on
Jo's Blog and thought it sounded good.  Fran and Will first meet when they are seven and are inseparable friends for the next eleven years when fate splits them apart.  Will's father decides to emigrate to Australia, taking his two sons with him and Fran goes to university, devastated that her best friend has disappeared from her life.  Twenty five years later they meet again in a coffee shop and rekindle their friendship.  Both have children from relationships that have broken up.  Both have secrets that they are keeping hidden.

I knew from the reviews of this book that it was going to have a mix of happy and sad moments.  From half way through it is obvious what the sad bits are going to be but that didn't stop me enjoying the story.  The title 'Before we grow old' refers to a bucket list of things the friends draw up when they are young, all the things they want to do before they get old - at that point they set an age of 'old' being forty.  No comment!


Our book club's choice this month was The Paris Bookseller by Kerry Maher

This book is inspired by a famous Parisian bookshop, Shakespeare and Company and set in Paris in 1919 where a young American woman, Sylvia Beach, opens an English language bookshop to cater for the English speaking expatriates living in the city. The bookshop is a wonderful success and is soon 'the' place to go.  It is frequented by the popular novelists of the time who would go there to buy books and discuss literature.  Sylvia befriends James Joyce whose latest novel, Ulysses, is very controversial and no one is prepared to publish it. Sylvia takes on the challenge and publishes the book.

I hadn't realised that this was a true story until I started reading it, I thought it was fictional.  To be honest, I didn't find it easy to 'get into' at first.  People in the book club who were listening to it as an audio book seemed to enjoy it more than I did.  It was an interesting story, although at times I could not understand why Sylvia tolerated Joyce's behaviour and put so much at risk in order to support him.  It opened my eyes to the time in history when so much censorship was in place in the US and also the very different attitude of the French.

And so to my third book, Still Life by Louise Penny.

 I had seen Alexa mention this series of books and thought I would investigate for myself.  I quite liked the idea of finding a series of books that I could dip in and out of and this seemed to fit the bill.  This is the first in the series that involves Chief Inspector Gamache and is set in Canada.  I'm enjoying reading books set in places other than America or the UK!  

Who would murder a well loved local artist in the village of Three Pines?  A close knit community with such a low crime rate, it has no police force of its own.  Inspector Gamache is brought in to investigate.  It's an unusual crime, the victim has been shot through the heart with an arrow.  Was it an accidental shot by someone hunting deer in the woods or something more sinister?  It was an incredibly accurate shot to have been an accident, and the arrow, which passed completely through the body, has not been found.  Just the day before, the victim had submitted a painting to be displayed at the annual fair, could there be a clue hidden in the artwork?

This book exercised my detective skills and I didn't guess who was the guilty party before it was revealed.  It was an enjoyable book and having got to know the inhabitants of Three Pines I think I will be downloading another in the series to read after our next book club choice.


Patio Postcards said...

Always appreciate book recommendations.

I am a huge Louise Penny fan & have read all the Inspector Gamache books at least 3 times. This series was my go to during the first lockdown in 2020. It is not necessary to read in order, but I recommend that you do as the development of each character happens in each book & trust me you don't want to miss the development of Ruth's duck! She's working on her next book which hopefully will get published early in 2023.

Ruth said...

I'm adding Before We Grow Old to be TBR list, thanks for the recommendation.

I knew about Shakespeare and Co. but not her connection to James Joyce. There's a lovely story about S&C during the German occupation of France during WW2 ... apparently a high ranking German officer wanted to buy a book and Sylvia refused. He threatened her and said he would be back the following day. That night, heled by friends, she packed up her whole store and then kept it closed until the end of the war.

Jennifer said...

Just stopping by to say...enjoy that Zumba class! Today is the big day:) Not sure I would be so brave but I hope you have a lot of fun!

Barbara Eads said...

I knew I had read something by Louise Penny, so I went back and checked my list. I read Still Life in 2017. I don't remember much about it. Back then, rather than use a 5 star rating system for myself, I just "bolded" the books I thought were really good. Unfortunately, I did not "bold" this one. Maybe that's why I don't rembmer it! Thanks for your reviews. I always find something to add to my list.

Mrsjobee said...

I hope you enjoyed Before We Grow Old. I have added your other books to my ever growing list. Your book club choice looks interesting - we are reading Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro - not my usual sort of read at all.

alexa said...

Delighted you've found Inspector Gamache and Three Pines - I've just finished my fourth (I'm reading library copies in order as there are various back-stories which develop). I've enjoyed them though have a few criticisms too :).

Susanne said...

I have 2 of the 3 on my TBR list, I just need to get to them. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.