Book reviews UK: May 2018
PUBLISHED: 00:00 10 May 2018
Are you sitting comfortably? Kate Houghton reviews this month’s must-reads
Dear Mrs. Bird, by AJ Pearce
London, 1941. Emmeline Lake and her best friend Bunty are trying to stay cheerful despite the Luftwaffe making life jolly annoying. Emmy dreams of becoming a Lady War Correspondent and, when she spots a job advertisement for a newspaper, seizes her chance – but finds herself typing letters for the formidable Henrietta Bird, agony aunt at Woman’s Friend magazine. Mrs Bird is very clear: letters containing any form of ‘Unpleasantness’ are to be ignored. But as Emmy reads the desperate pleas from women faced with unimaginable challenges, she decides the only thing for it is to secretly write back….
A gorgeous story of hope, happiness, love and loss. The agony aunt letters sent to Mrs Bird show us a side of wartime life rarely considered or acknowledged. The women of Britain, who stayed at home and were expected to keep smiling while facing life-shattering challenges and deprivations deserve recognition, and through the letters our heroine receives we can at last do this, even if just a little. Emmeline’s responses are pen and paper hugs to women we now call grandma, who lived through times we can’t ever really appreciate. It’s a funny, sad, hopeful treasure of a story and perfect for summertime reading.
Two steps forward, by Graeme Simsion & Anne Buist
Zoe, a sometime artist, is from California. Martin, an engineer, is from Yorkshire. Both have ended up in picturesque Cluny, in central France. Both are struggling to come to terms with their recent past - for Zoe, the death of her husband; for Martin, a messy divorce. Looking to make a new start, each sets out alone to walk the pilgrim route from France to Spain. The Camino changes you, it’s said. It’s a chance to find a new version of yourself, and a new beginning. But can these two very different people find themselves? Will they find each other?
When I chose to read this I was drawn by the fact that Graeme Simsion wrote The Rosie Project, a book I adored. I wasn’t disappointed - writing of this quality, with this degree of insight into the motives and morals of average human beings, is a rarity, but when you find it, you’re sucked into the story whatever the theme. Here, we meet a disparate collection of people all attempting the same challenge, to walk the ancient pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela; all have something vital to learn about themselves as they go and we see and learn with them. A gentle tale, yet page-turningly irresisitible.
Girl on Fire, by Tony Parsons
When terrorists use a drone to bring down a plane on one of London’s busiest shopping centres, it ignites a chain of events that will draw in the innocent and guilty alike. DC Max Wolfe finds himself caught in the crossfire in a city that seems increasingly dangerous and hostile.
A great read and a satisfying addition to the highly regarded Max Wolfe series.
London Rules, by Mick Herron
London Rules might not be written down, but everyone knows rule one. Cover your arse.
Book five in the acclaimed spy thriller series delivers another delicious read, as we sink deeper into the mire of misery that this motley crew of broken and battered spies wallow in, cheering them on as they cock up yet another mission they have no business being on and rejoicing as all comes right in the end. I love each and every one of our Regent’s Park rejects, even the foul anti-hero and super spy Jackson Lamb, who always steps in just when needed, and never before.