April – May Picks

All-girl FSFlagg, Fannie (2013) The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion. Random House.  Mrs Sookie Poole of Point Clear, Alabama has just married off the last of her daughters, and is looking forward to a relaxing future.  The only fly in the ointment is her formidable mother Mrs Leonore Simmons Krackenberry.  Sookie’s new found peace is shattered when a letter arrives that calls into question everything she thought she knew about herself.  Her search for answers involves a journey into an ‘all-girl’ past.  Heart-felt story of family secrets and courageous women.  Rating: 7.5/10.

Arctic summer Galgut, Damon (2014) Arctic Summer. Atlantic Books.  In 1912 novelist E.M. Forster (Morgan) embarked on a voyage of discovery to India, thereby beginning his journey of self-discovery, with a focus on sexuality, relationships and empire, that culminated in the publication of his greatest work A Passage to India 12 years later.  Damon Galgut reconstructs the Arctic summer of Forster’s long fictional silence. E.M. Forster began his own unfinished novel he called Arctic Summer in 1909 which he defined as “the long cold day in which there is time to do things”. Galgut seamlessly incorporates Forster’s diaries, letters and novels into his narrative so that it is often hard to tell that this is a work of fiction.  Rating: 9/10.

A covert affiarConant, Jennet (2011) A covert affair: Julia Child and Paul Child in the OSS.  Simon & Schuster.  An account of Julia and Paul Child’s experiences as members of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in the Far East during World War II, and the tumultuous years when they were caught up in the McCarthy Red spy hunt in the 1950s. Although Conant’s title identifies the Childs as her focus, she devotes most of her attention to the puzzling case of Jane Foster, fellow OSS operative and friend who is later indicted as a Soviet spy. A fascinating insight into the Asian theatre and the rise of nationalism (and communism), and the blinding of US foreign policy in the region.   Rating: 9/10.

How to be a heroineEllis, Samantha (2014) How to be a heroine or what I’ve learned from reading too much.  Chatto & Windus. On a pilgrimage to the Bronte’s Yorkshire Moors Samantha Ellis began a debate with her best friend as to whether she would rather be Cathy Earnshaw or Jane Eyre. This inspired her to look again at the women in fiction that had impacted her life from Lizzy Bennet, Scarlet O’Hara, and Lucy Honeychurch to Anne of Green Gables and many more.  This unassuming gem is a touching exploration of our favourite literary heroines and how they shape our lives and expectations.  Wonderful.  Rating: 9/10.

Road to MiddlemarchMead, Rebecca (2014) The road to Middlemarch: My life with George Eliot.  Granta.  Rebecca Mead read Middlemarch for the first time at the age of 17 and on her subsequent rereads she has been engaged in interpreting and discovering it anew.  Mead interweaves her own life, with readings and Eliot’s life story, whilst exploring how the ambitions, dreams and attachments of Middlemarch‘s characters are relevant to our everyday life.  Conveys all the excitement of living in a novel.  A pleasure.  Rating: 9/10.

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