March Picks

Pioneer GirlWilder, Laura Ingalls (2014) Pioneer Girl: The annotated autobiography, edited by Pamela Smith Hill. South Dakota Historical Society Press. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s never before published autobiography reveals true stories behind her pioneering life.  Pioneer Girl served as the historical foundation for Wilder’s fictional world. Out of the period, places and people in the manuscript sprang the characters and settings of her novels.  Her Little House series has become part of the American canon of children’s literature.  This annotated autobiography with its numerous primary sources, including census data, images and maps, provides new insights into Wilder’s life and times, and illuminates her writing career. Wilder’s storytelling was significant in my genesis as a reader and this book brings back all the joy of childhood discovery.  Remarkable.  Rating: 10/10.

First FrostAllen, Sarah Addison (2014) First Frost.  A sequel to the popular Garden Spells.  St Martin’s Press. The Waverley women are restless.  They are waiting for the leaves to start to turn and temperatures to drop announcing the arrival of the first dusting of frost. Both Claire and Sydney are losing their balance and are trying to hold their family together through their troublesome season, at the same time contain all the magic that swirls around them.  Charming light read.  Rating: 7/10.

UsNicholls, David (2014) Us. Hodder & Stoughton. Douglas Peterson’s family is in crisis.  Son, Albie, is leaving home for college, and his wife of 21 years has announced she wants to ‘rediscover’ herself.  Douglas resolves that they make their last family holiday a trip of a lifetime so they begin the Grand  European Tour. This portrayal of  disintegrating relationships was longlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize. David Nicholls not only takes us on a road trip but also explores the dichotomy between science and the arts, parents and children, marriage and the nature of love, and emotions and reason.  Enjoyable enough, although disturbed by the dynamic of Douglas as the fall guy to his unpleasant wife and son. Rating: 8.5/10.

My life in housesForster, Margaret (2014) My life in houses.  Chatto & Windus. In this engaging memoir Margaret Forster focuses on the houses she has lived in throughout her  76 years – from the Carlisle council estate of her early years, to a room then a flat when a student at Oxford, to marriage and a rented villa in Hampstead Heath before moving to  the cherished Boscastle Road house, where her children are born and she has lived ever since, albeit interspersed with bouts of domestic life in Portugal and the Lake District. When her existence is shaken by her long illness, it is the healing power of her house that helps her convalesce.  A touching story of places and how they inhabit us, from a well-loved author.   Rating: 8.5/10.

FangirlRowell, Rainbow (2013) Fangirl. St Martin’s Griffin. Cath is an obsessive fan of Simon Snow (a Harry Potter look-alike) and she manifests this obsession in writing fan fiction.  She and her twin Wren have ensconced themselves in the fantasy Simon Snow world since their mother left them as eight year olds. Now they are sophomores in college and Wren has moved on, but Cath can’t let go of fandom. Cath on her own is completely outside of her comfort zone with an acerbic roommate, a demanding fiction-writing professor, a fragile father, and an always-around boyfriend. How can she leave Simon Snow behind and claim a life of her own? Magical coming-of-age story.  Rating 8.5/10.

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