Archive for Adult Fiction – Womens Reading

The Land Girls by Angela Huth

Get yourself settled into a comfy armchair with a pot of tea and biscuits close to hand and read all about the marvellous tales of The Land Girls by Angela Huth. The story begins in 1941 England with three girls headed towards a Dorset farm to take the place of the male farm workers who have recently been conscripted into the war effort. The girls, Prue, Agatha and Stella are not by any means familiar with the demands of farm work but are all the same answering the call to save England’s farms. The three characters are so different from one another and their backgrounds are so far removed from muck and manure that you can’t help but admire them and enjoy their ‘adventures’ (though I suppose the real Land Girls of World War 2 would never have described their farm experiences as jolly adventures! Far from it!)

The Land GirlsIt’s great getting to know the girls, Prue’s a street savvy hair stylist, swotty Aggie’s just graduated from Cambridge and Stella is madly in love with a handsome soldier. Just as so many did, when the war turned the country on its head, these girls attempt to throw themselves into unfamiliar territory…and in a lot of case, the results are hilarious!

Living on a farm is generally without its comforts but despite this, they muck in and help each other through the difficulties. I have since read a number of factual books on how our ancestors coped with the war such as “Wartime” by Juliet Gardiner and “Wartime Women” by Dorothy Sheridan and have found the subject completely fascinating. What a great story!

I was particularly interested in the farmer’s initial reactions to the girls and the considerable doubt in their minds that these girls would be up to the job. Everyone just gets on with the job in the hand and makes the best of the situation. The results speak for themselves as the girls eventually succeed in their efforts and gain the respect of those around them.

This was an entertaining tale of friendship, duty and country living. Off course, as with all wartime stories, there’s plenty of romance too. The impact of the war forced people to live for the moment because there might not be a tomorrow and this was demonstrated in the within the storyline of the farmers’ son Joe and his relationships with the girls.

I love nostalgic storylines, especially ever since reading The Land Girls by Angela Huth, other wartime tales. How heroic everyone was and how genuinely selfless everybody seemed to be. Everyone just mucked in together all joined together as one against the might of Adolf Hitler et al. Now that the wartime survivors – our grannies and granddads of that time – are largely long gone, it is from books like these that the memories of the war live on. I think we could all learn a thing or two by reading books such as this.

If you love the author and fancy trying something else out, I can recommend “Easy Silence” about the trials and tribulations of marriage and violinists.

The Red House by Mark Haddon

Richard (hospital consultant, newly remarried), sister Angela, Karen (stillborn daughter), holiday home in Wales not a million miles from Ross on Wye possibly. Estranged. Losing of their dad made Richard reach out to his sister. 4 children, four adults, all strangers but family. But not for much longer. 7 days in the wet of wales will change that.

The Red House - Mark HaddonThe Red House by Mark Haddon was my holiday read. About a family who somewhere along the line have become complete strangers to one another. You begin as all holidays do with a journey. In this case you’re riding on the train across to Herefordshire full of anticipation for the coming week. To most people, a holiday begins with excitement but in this case you sense little more than dread. The reason being the two families have become estranged with one another and there is hope in the air that something can be improved on the matter.

It is the idea of Richard the hospital consultant and brother to Angela that they both take their families and spend a week together out in the countryside of Wales. Angela, on the other hand, is somewhat reluctant as she basically thinks very little of her brother and doesn’t seem to want to let go of this ill feeling. A tricky situation. Not sure this is what I would call a holiday yet, once I get this I can’t wait to get to the bottom of all the ill feeling that hovers over the 2 families. Gradually you get to know the other members of the family such as Angela’s adulterous husband Dominic, Richard’s new wife Louisa, his step daughter and Angela’s three children. Most of all I was intrigued by Angela’s headstrong daughter Daisy. She’s a teenager who’s finding out who she is and is currently involved in a journey of self-discovery as well as coming to terms with her sexuality.

There is a teenage son in the family who is obsessed with sex – he’s on a journey of his own which is quite good fun to watch as he pursues seemingly every female who moves.

What’s great about this book is the way the story unfolds through each and every character.  From the complex thoughts of the teenagers to the confusion of the adults to the innocence of the very small child Benjy, each and every one of them has an opportunity to step forward and let us know exactly what is going on in their minds.

One other thing, Angela had a stillborn child, Karen, some years ago and she has never got over the experience. What makes the story all the more intriguing is the inclusion of Karen the ghost, watching over the Red House, out in the gloomy countryside. Combine all these ingredients and you have the makings of a deliciously gripping romp! Readers of The Red House who fancy a similarly good read by the same author, why not have a go at “A Spot of Bother” by Mark Haddon?

The Forgotten Garden – Kate Morton

If you’re in the mood for a lovely story to escape into with a few weeps thrown in, The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton is most definitely the story for you! I loved it and didn’t want it to end. When it did, I sat with an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction, staring into space clutching the book as though my life depended on it! I wholeheartedly recommend this book to you as though you were my best friend.

Here is a mystery, like all great mysteries, that you only really get to the bottom of, right at the end. This story begins with the abandonment of a little girl aboard a ship destined for Australia. Why is she on her own? Who’s just left her there? Then the story throws you into the future with a new character who’s finding out about her ancestors and has come into an inheritance. Next we meet the grown up granddaughter of this character who’s come into an inheritance too. We discover she has been left a cottage on the coast of Cornwall within what was once the Blackthorne Estate.

The Forgotten Garden - Kate Morton

Little by little all the pieces of a rich and intriguing jigsaw are spoon fed to you as you travel back and forth in time till you reach the ending.

The characters that dominate the story are the affluent Mountrachet family, in particular Georgiana who is sickly and spoilt. She becomes friends with Eliza the central character in the past. You’ll love Eliza Makepeace. She writes enchanting children’s stories that are featured within their own chapters. Georgiana is beautiful and advantaged in many ways but ultimately cannot have what she craves in life.

The angles to this book are numerous, you could never complain the format is dull I’m glad to say! Each chapter in the book revolves around one of the main characters. At times this can seem unsettling however it is never too long before you feel as though you are back on terra firma and actually discovering more about the circumstances behind the seeming abandonment of the little girl on the ship at the beginning of the story.

This was one story I really wasn’t ready to finish. I loved the main character Eliza and would have happily devoured a whole book focused on this one character. Maybe Kate Morton would consider writing a sequel one day?

Other books by Kate Morton have been brilliant too but Forgotten Garden is my personal favourite. The House at Riverton was another chunky story concerning a life looked back on. In this story the main character, an elderly woman looks back on her experiences whilst serving as domestic help at the stately home named in the title. You won’t be able to put this one down either! Kate Morton is a superb storyteller and one I will always recommend!

No Angel – Penny Vincenzi

This is the first book of the Spoils of Time trilogy. This is a bumper story of epic proportions packed with a grand cast of characters all of which  have been embellished by the hand of one of my favourite authors Penny Vincenzi!

No Angel begins during the fun pre war years of the Belle Epoque when the trilogy’s central character Celia is found walking down the aisle pregnant with her husband to be’s first child. From the very first page of the book, you realise Celia is a lady who often gets what she wants out of life. Celia’s life, one of privilege belonging to the upper class, brushes with a number of the real life historical events such as the women’s suffragette movement, the sinking of the Titanic, the First World War, the Blitz whilst learning a trade in the publishing industry. Her new husband Oliver runs (along with his sister, LM) this pioneering printing house, which will eventually over the span of the trilogy to become a supreme publishing empire.

No Angel - Penny Vincenzi

As the novel progresses, it isn’t long before you realise that privileged Celia is not someone who will turn the other cheek as long as she is okay. In the beginning of the book we witness her befriending a poor working class woman whom, a victim of her circumstances, tries to cope with the demands that a large family have on her. We witness her dance with danger in a way you would never expect in her collusion with Mrs Miller to help reduce the pressures of family life. In addition to her own growing family, Celia adopted Barty Miller too, a decision that she may come close to regretting one day.

The first book of the Spoils of Time Trilogy by Penny Vincenzi is about the beginnings of the publishing industry  and encompasses life before, during and after the first world war. Celia and Oliver are rearing a young family and would be no more if it were not for the news of a sickly child having booked passages upon the Titanic. Wherever would the story have gone if the nurse had succeeded in keeping quiet about their adopted daughter being ill?

You get everything in this book! Romance, intrigue, history, mystery and a cast filled to bursting with lots of lovely personality and character detail. You can never have too much detail and that’s what you get in abundance with any Penny Vincenzi novel. If you haven’t read anything by this novel, I would highly recommend that you start with No Angel. You wont want to put it down till the end of the third book!