4 recent reads

How do you prefer to read?

I still love the feel of an actual book, although when travelling I tend to use my Kindle for practical reasons.

Perhaps you are part of a book club. I don’t belong to one but I do swap books with family and friends.

In our village, we have an Oxfam bookshop which I frequent both to buy and donate. We’re lucky enough to have a library which I also use on a regular basis.

The first book I’m going to talk about is written by Joanna Cannon and is her second novel ‘Three Things About Elsie’.

99C5F124-4EDF-42E6-B722-1BFDA284F18D

I loved her first novel ‘The Trouble with Goats and Sheep’, so I was very interested to see if I would enjoy this second book as much.

The book features Florence who is eighty four years old and lives in a flat in Cherry Tree Home for the elderly. When the story begins, Florence has fallen and is lying on the floor waiting to be rescued. One of the things troubling Florence is the arrival of a new resident who looks exactly like a man she used to know. The problem is that he died sixty years ago and Florence is extremely worried this could lead to the disclosure of a terrible secret from her past.

Florence tells us “There are three things you should know about Elsie. The first thing is that she’s my best friend. The second is that she always knows what to say to make me feel better. And the third thing … might take a little bit more explaining.”

I loved this book, party because I enjoy the author’s writing style but also because it’s quirky, funny, poignant and original.

The next two books, I bought at the airport, on my way back to France, which is unusual for me. It might have been because I was travelling on my own and had more time to browse.

AFD90E7A-8911-469B-B38A-EB93937D8885

This book was highly recommended by my sister in law who is an avid reader and has made some excellent suggestions in the past.

This novel is set in Shaker Heights, Ohio, which is a ‘perfect’ suburban community. The plot focuses on the Richardsons who are the personification of the ‘ideal’ family. They have four teenage children. Mia Warren, a struggling artist, arrives in this community, with her teenage daughter and a very different set of values. The sparks begin to fly.

The story actually begins with a raging house fire but travels back in time to follow the chain of events leading to this catastrophe. There is the element of a thriller. Who lit the fire and why?

Central to the plot is a custody battle over the adoption of a Chinese-American baby which raises questions over race and motherhood.

I must admit that it took me a while to get into this book but I’m so glad I persevered.

3E6B2B50-169A-4B2F-B5F4-C31610509472

This was the second book I bought at the airport, as part of a buy one-get one free offer. It’s basically a love story but with a twist. We are introduced to Robbie and Emily who have been together for years. They met in the sixties and share a deep bond. However, there is a secret they’ve been keeping… One ordinary morning Robbie wakes up, gets dressed, writes Emily a letter and leaves for good.

The book is beautifully written and goes back and forth over the decades, until we discover the whole story. A perfect holiday read!

5EF45BCF-11B8-4D9D-9656-0A108A103B7B

This book is very different to many of my choices. It was passed on to me by a friend and I’m so glad I read it.

The main character is Tom Hazard who has a dangerous secret. He may look like a 41-year-old, but he has a rare condition and he’s actually been alive for centuries. We travel, with Tom, from  Elizabethan England to Jazz-Age Paris and from New York to the South Seas, encountering Shakespeare and Captain Cook on the way, amongst others.

There are two main problems that make life very difficult for Tom. He has to hide his condition from ‘normal’ people and he must not fall in love.

We meet Tom in the present where he has the perfect cover – working as a history teacher at a London comprehensive. He can teach the kids about witches, plagues and wars as if he had seen them!

I loved this book and I didn’t want it to end!

Have you read any of these books or do you have any recommendations based on your recent reading? I’d love to know!

3 recent reads and 3 French series

I love reading. I always have. I think reading is one of life’s greatest pleasures. However, I’m very lazy about reading in French. I love to speak French, listen to French and even write in French but I don’t sit and read a French novel anymore. I think that might be because I studied French literature at A level and then as part of my degree. Or is that just an excuse?!

There are three books I have enjoyed recently. My favourite is ‘Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine’. This is the first novel written by Gail Honeyman. I cannot begin to tell you how much I loved this book. It made me laugh but also brought a tear to my eye. I found it original and beautifully written and I haven’t come across anyone who hasn’t enjoyed it – yet!

5E49616F-FC00-44AF-A731-B26801F8DF2A

The second book is ‘The Trouble with Goats and Sheep’ by Joanna Cannon. This is also a debut novel and takes place in the summer of 76; one I remember well. It is in part a thriller, in part a story of coming of age but also about the nature of friendships. This book appears to divide opinion, according to the reviews I have read, but it is one I definitely enjoyed.

08363544-B094-43C6-A00C-9C635475D84C

My final recent read was ‘Swing Time’ by Zadie Smith. I have read, and enjoyed, her books previously. This book focuses initially on the friendship between two mixed race school girls, in NW London, in the 1980s. The themes of race, class and gender are visited and overall, it is very well written. However, although the book started really promisingly, I struggled to get to the end – although I did! Again, reviews and opinions are divided on this novel.
AFF0C6AC-690C-447C-80AE-8DE8DD192394

I might have been lazy about reading in French but this hasn’t been the case with watching French television series! Have you ever watched Spiral, or Engrenages, as it is known in French? There have been six series and they were shown, in the UK, on BBC4 on a Saturday night. It is a gritty police drama which takes place in the Parisian suburbs. The main characters are complex and flawed and the acting is fantastic. We are also offered an interesting insight into the French judical system and the way it works. Although some of the action is a bit gruesome, I found Spiral to be totally addictive and I cannot recommend it enough.

9040203F-34CE-46A8-B65F-801673487FF1

My next two series are part of Walter Presents which is showcased on Channel 4 and All4. Walter selects a range of foreign language dramas, not just French. If you enjoy ‘Scandi noir’, I’m sure you’ll be able to find something to watch.

The first series I’m going to talk about is called ‘Vanished by the Lake’ (Le mystère du lac). It was filmed in the very beautiful Var region and is centred on the return of a woman detective, to her home town, to care for her mother. The day of her arrival, a neighbour’s teenage daughter disappears. The circumstances are similar to the disappearance of the detective’s two closest friends when they were teenagers.

No where near as gripping as Spiral but an engaging watch, nevertheless.

DC1A1CBB-F66D-4236-A10C-BD61E55EB238.png

My second series from Walter presents is Dead Beautiful (Les Dames) and stars Thierry Goddard (who was outstanding as Gilou in Spiral) playing a Parisian detective, Martin – bit of a theme going here! He is on the hunt for a particularly nasty murderer who targets women and uses a crossbow. Alongside the crimes, we get an insight into Martin’s complex love life – how very French!

D04A377E-A44F-4DE5-BE32-F6BE64E3DD77

Quite a long post from me, this time. Congratulations on making it to the end! I’d love to know what you’re been watching and reading.