I told you that I had more books to review. Y’all thought I was joking when I said that I’m back on the reading wagon. It’s like I need to make up for lost time or something.
Below are a few others that I’ve polished off recently.
Another series which has captured my fancy is the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear. Whereas the Flavia de Luce story lines are set post WWII, this series is post WWI and heads into the forthcoming WWII. Time passes much more quickly in this series to move it towards the next catalyst that changed the world.
Not as witty or as charming as some other mystery series I’ve read, Winspear does create a world more focused on the blurred lines between men, women and social classes. Maisie Dobbs, once a servant in a big house and later a nurse at the front lines in the war, was encouraged to put her intelligence to work as a private detective in an all-men world. It is through her eyes we see the world changing, societies coming to terms with the differences started with the war and mysteries being solved by work, courage and intuition.
If you’re interested in the change of times in England, then I recommend this series, but you’ll want to start at the beginning with Maisie Dobbs. This series does build on each other. You would understand a book on its own, but it means so much more when you understand many of the references to previous stories.
Such is the premise of Before I Go To Sleep, first novel by S. J. Watson.
Christine wakes up every morning in an unfamiliar bed with an unfamiliar man. She looks in the mirror and sees an unfamiliar, middle- aged face. And every morning, the man she has woken up with must explain that he is Ben, he is her husband, she is forty-seven years old and a terrible accident two decades earlier decimated her ability to form new memories.
It’s a phone call from a Dr. Nash, a neurologist who claims to be working with Christine without her husband’s knowledge, that directs her to her journal, hidden in the back of her closet. For the past few weeks, Christine has been recording her daily activities and rereading past entries, relearning the facts of her life as retold by the husband upon whom she is completely dependent. As the entries build, so do the questions: What was life like before the accident? Why did she and Ben never have a child? What has happened to Christine’s best friend? And what exactly was the horrific accident that caused such a profound loss of memory?
It’s a good mystery novel. But I have to tell you, I knew the solution from the first few pages. (Don’t let that count much as to whether or not you read it. I guess most mysteries from the get-go. To a normal, non-freakish people not like me, it would be a great suspense!)
I just discovered that it will be made into a movie. Nicole Kidman as Christine and Colin Firth as Ben. It should be good with the likes of them.
This debut novel for Kate Morton is brilliant and well-tended from the opening of the book to the closing. The first two lines of The House at Riverton are an homage to Rebecca and then the novel is reminiscent of Remains of the Day, Gosford Park, The Great Gatsby and other gothic and romantic novels…all acknowledged by the author in the Afterward.
At 14 years old, Grace Bradley went to work at Riverton House as a house maid before the First World War. For years her life was inextricably tied up with the Hartford family, most particularly the two daughters, Hannah and Emmeline.
In 1999, when Grace is 98 years old and living out her last days in a nursing home, she is visited by a young director who is making a film about the events of that summer and is seeking details of the event and the household. Mulling over memories that she was pretending to forget, Grace goes back to Riverton House, recalling details of her “family” and protecting them to the end. Told in flashback, this is the story of Grace’s youth during the last days of Edwardian aristocratic privilege shattered by war, of the vibrant twenties and the changes she witnessed as an entire way of life vanished forever.
The Language of Flowers, Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s elegantly written debut novel, beautifully weaves past and present, creating a vivid portrait of a young woman whose gift for flowers helps her change the lives of others even as she struggles to overcome her own troubled life.
The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, aster for patience, and daisies for innocence. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating grief, mistrust, and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings.
Now eighteen and emancipated from the system, Victoria has nowhere to go and sleeps in a public park, where she plants a small garden of her own. Soon a local florist discovers her talents, and Victoria realizes that she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But a mysterious vendor at the flower market inspires her to question what’s been missing in her life. And when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.
It’s a moving story that reminds us that anyone can grow into something beautiful.
Plus it will make you think about the intended (unintended) messages for flowers received:
- yellow roses – infidelity
- lilies – desire & passion
- pink tulips – declaration of love