WIDE SARGASSO SEA by Jean Rhys: a re-read for book club. It’s the story of Bertha Antoinette Mason, the mad wife in the attic from JANE EYRE. Part I is her childhood in the West Indies, with a dangerously unstable mother and personal poverty. Part II is the story of her marriage to Rochester, the well-blooded but unmoneyed Englishman who’s been lied to about his intended bride and her family. Part III is a brief look at the events in JANE EYRE through Antoinette’s eyes. I love this book, probably even more this time than when I first read it in college. It changed the way I read all books—now I’m always aware of the untold stories hovering behind the corner of every book I read.
GREGOR AND THE MARKS OF SECRET by Suzanne Collins: the fourth in the Overlander YA series. Jacob’s a big fan, and I’ve followed right along with him. In this installment, Gregor gets swept along as Luaxa tries to discover what’s happening to the Underland’s mice population. By the time the book ends, war is no longer threatening but at the very doorstep of the human’s kingdom in the Underland. A well-realized fantasy, with unique features and compelling characters. Can’t wait for the next one.
BIRDS OF A FEATHER by Jacqueline Winspear: the second in the Maisie Dobbs mystery series, set in 1930 in a London that is still dealing with the devastating effects of WWI. The mystery of three dead women leads Maisie back into the early days of the war—the “feather” referenced in the title is the white feather that some women handed out to men in England who were not in uniform, a mark of cowardice and a means of trying to guilt them into the military. I love Maisie herself and Winspear is a master of setting, class, and characters of the time-period. I’d love to do half as well as she has done in this series.
CHARLIE BONE AND THE HIDDEN KING by Jenny Nimmo: another YA fantasy, about children in England endowed with gifts as diverse as calling up storms, talking to animals, and learning about people by touching clothing. This is the fifth in the series and Charlie Bone, whose father disappeared when he was a baby, is dealing with other crises in his home. From his mother’s bewitchment by a sorcerer to his grandmother being frozen and left in the bathtub until they can figure out to thaw her, Charlie and his friends search for the Red King himself, who has spent a thousand years in the form of a tree. Not as good as Harry Potter, but intriguing enough to have kept me reading thus far.
PAST POISONS edited by Maxim Jakubowski: a collection of mystery short stories, all historical. I read it for obvious purposes. There were several standouts, including Anne Perry’s tale of Scotland’s Queen Gruoch, also known as Lady MacBeth. A pleasant way to spend research time and see what can be accomplished in the short form of historical mysteries.
DECLARE by Tim Powers: A book I picked up on recommendations from DorothyL. In 1963, Andrew Hale is 40-year-old English tutor at Cambridge. But one phone call pulls him back into the world of British Intelligence which he served throughout WWII, ending on Mount Ararat in 1948 with the death of a team he’d led up the mountain to kill a colony of djinn. A combination spy thriller/paranormal story, with the real-world figure of British double agent Kim Philby playing a key role, I loved everything about this book. This is a fabulous, fabulous book that I would recommend to anyone.
PEACE LIKE A RIVER by Leif Enger: a bestseller upon publication in 2001, this is still a popular book-club choice (which is why I read it.) Eleven-year-old Reuben Land is the narrator and, as he calls it, the witness of his father’s miracles. This book has everything: a shooting that may or may not have been self-defense, a little sister who writes epic Western ballads about a cowboy named Sunny Sundown, a father who performs actual miracles, a posse searching the Dakota Badlands in the middle of winter, and a penultimate chapter that left me in tears. Highly recommended.