The staff at Rugby Library are back with another raft of recommendations for your reading pleasure. Some will be available on the shelves at Rugby Library or from other Warwickshire Libraries while others will be in our BorrowBox collection, available as either an eBook or on eAudio.
Ferney by James Long
I read this book many years ago, but it left a big impression. It is a time slip novel, but that does not do it justice. It is a romantic novel, spanning 1500 years, with a lot of English history thrown in.
Gally and Ferney have been together throughout many lives, but it is often a challenge for them to find each other, and in some lives they miss each other due to age or circumstance. The book is set in 1990 and opens with Gally and Mike accidentally coming upon a rundown cottage in Somerset that immediately feels like the perfect country home they’ve been looking for. They meet an 83yr old man called Ferney, and Gally feels a connection to him but doesn’t know why; Ferney knows that she needs reminding about her past lives. He also knows that she has nightmares because she can’t remember. The book is about Ferney helping Gally to remember their past. There is mystery and suspense with an unexpected twist at the end.
Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano
Twelve year old Edward Adler is the sole survivor of a plane crash which killed all other 191 passengers including his parents and brother. The story unfolds over two time periods; the events that occurred on the flight and the storylines of its passengers, and then following Edward as he adjusts to his new life with his aunt and uncle and the intense media and public fascination with him.
Having a thirteen year old child myself, parts of the book are absolutely heart wrenching, especially watching him learn to navigate his grief and try to rebuild his life. The highlight of the book was his friendship with the fabulous Shay. Although it’s desperately sad in places, it’s also a story of strength, love and recovery.
Anxious People by Fredrik Backman
I have loved all of Fredrik Backman’s novels, especially A Man Called Ove, and this one didn’t disappoint. It is a quirky, Swedish novel, that has Backman’s usual style of being both brilliantly funny, delightful and heart breaking.
It is the tale of a botched apartment viewing, a botched bank robbery and an accidental hostage situation. The story can be quite absurd at times, but the characters are always believable. There are layers and layers of stories that become more intertwined as connections between the characters are revealed.
If you enjoy poignant, quirky novels that make you smile and break your heart, like those of Matt Haig and Rachel Joyce, you’ll love this one!
Persuasion by Jane Austen
Persuasion is one of Jane Austen’s most overlooked works but, in my opinion, one of her best. Actually, it might even be my favourite. It was the first of her books that I read without having already seen an adaptation, so I had no preconceptions about character or plot but instantly fell in love with both.
Persuasion centres around Anne Elliot, who has remained unmarried after breaking off an engagement in her youth to Frederick Wentworth because of the concerns of a dear family friend. Anne, the child oft forgotten by her family until they find her useful, is summoned to help her sister Mary, a self-obsessed attention seeker (who just so happens to be my favourite character), and her family while Anne’s father and elder sister relocate to Bath. In the society of Mary’s in-laws, the Musgroves, however, Anne finds herself reintroduced to a figure from her past, Captain Wentworth who has returned having found his success in the Navy.
Persuasion combines perfectly everything that Austen is known for, romance, drama and comedy, into a book that is half agony, half hope, all enjoyment.
The Painted Man (#1 of the Demon Cycle series) by Peter V Brett
An unknown author and a debut novel, I blindly grabbed my copy in a split-second decision, whilst rushing to catch a train. By the end of my journey, I was so engrossed that I nearly missed my stop and “The Painted Man” has become a firm favourite ever since.
Set in a fantasy world that is plagued by demons that attack at nightfall, humans shelter behind wards, in the hope they will survive to morning. Following three main protagonists Arlen, Leesha and Rojer, we see each of these characters grow in their talents and revolutionise ways of keeping humankind safe. Brett creates a substantial world by bringing depth to the main characters but also to those surrounding them. The relationships of the main characters and others is integral to the storytelling and a large focus of the series is that the humans are stronger when they work together and share their knowledge. At some points the story is predictable but made for easy reading and did not diminish the enjoyability.
Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce
Having loved ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’, which I read at a book group some years ago and its follow-up ‘The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy’ for the unforgettable characters they are titled after, I finally found time to read her latest work and it did not disappoint.
This time there are two central characters that are quirky, complex, and charming in opposing ways. They share nothing at the beginning, and everything by the end. A moving book about second chances, having the courage to live a life that gives you meaning and above all the power of friendship. Both heart-warming and heart-breaking, the non-stop action and vivid descriptions propel you through this unpredictable story, and the author notes at the end are simply genius! I never expected to enjoy a book about searching for a rare beetle and doubt I would have attempted it without my fondness for her previous books, but I am SO glad I did.
The Story of Lucy Gault by William Trevor
Wow. I LOVED this! This slim novel tells a decades-long story that begins when a bullet hits an unintended target… Young Lucy Gault loves her home in Ireland, where she spends her days swimming in the sea, and exploring the fields and woodlands that surround her family’s property. But, when her English family come under attack, and a bullet hits an unintended target, they decide to abandon their house and leave for England.
Lucy doesn’t want to leave, but, as she’s only a child, she has little say in the matter, so – in protest and defiance – she runs away. When her parents can’t find her, they assume the worst, which leads to a series of events that puts whole countries, and many years, between Lucy and her family…
The first half of this book zips along, as, bit-by-bit, Lucy’s fate in Ireland is sealed, as her parents travel across Europe trying to forget about the (supposed) death of their child. The second half of the story, meanwhile, drips with sadness, as Lucy, and, as everyone effected by the events of the first chapters, gradually age, and continue to struggle to accept and understand what their lives have become.
(UPDATE: just started another William Trevor novel (Love and Summer), and – so far – it’s also VERY GOOD!)
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
This isn’t the kind of thing I usually read, but – as it’s recently been made into an interesting-looking TV series – I thought I’d give it a try!
Published in 2014, this story describes events that take place just before, and in the years immediately after, a global pandemic. This pandemic decimates the world’s human population, and civilization is reduced to a sparce, scattered handfuls of survivors.
Amongst these survivors are a nomadic group of musicians and performers, who call themselves the Travelling Symphony, who circuit the Great Lakes region to perform Shakespeare’s plays and play concerts to the region’s small towns and settlements. However, while visiting one town, the Symphony are unsettled by a man who calls himself the Prophet, and, soon after, members of the company mysteriously disappear…
While this makes Station Eleven sound like a dark, post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller, it really isn’t! There are only a few ‘action’ scenes, and the worst of the pandemic, and its aftermath, are entirely elided. Instead, the story skips between pre- and post-pandemic times as it describes a small group of characters who are all connected to an aging Hollywood star, who, on the night the virus arrives in Toronto, is performing the titular role in a production of King Lear.
This was a great story, and an interesting, lively read. It shows how frail our lives and societies are, and how important and life-enhancing the arts are to us as a species (the Symphony’s motto sums it up: Survival is Insufficient).
Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art by Rebecca Wragg Sykes
Only just started reading this, and I’m only about 25% of the way into it, but, as I’m leaving Warwickshire Libraries soon, this is my last chance to influence the reading habits of Warwickshire folk! Anyway, based on the first 111 pages of this book, I think it’s safe to say that the remaining 300ish pages are going to be EXCELLENT!
Neanderthals seem to have gotten a bit of a bad rep, as it’s typical to think of them as brutish, wild, and… Unsophisticated? Well, none of this is true it seems, as our prehistoric cousins were, by all accounts, well human – just like us (except they were a different kind of us). Neanderthals survived by innovating, and, though they’re often thought of against a background of snow, ice, and woolly mammoths, they prospered for hundreds of thousands of years in a wide variety of very different climates and environments.
Anyway, like I said, I’m not very far into this book yet, but so far, it’s wonderful, and Sykes writes beautifully about a people and culture, who, though long extinct, are still, in a way, amongst us today.
The Room in the Attic by Louise Douglas
Set in 3 timelines 1903, 1993 and the current day it follows the story of an opposing building called All Hallows that is full of memories, whispers and cries from the past.
In 1903 a woman and child are found abandoned in a boat not far from All Hallows, after being rescued they are taken to All Hallows, then an Asylum, for medical treatment. The woman, badly injured remained in a coma and the girl, unable to remember her own name, was placed in the care of Nurse Everdeen in the attic, away from the noise of the occupants of the asylum.
In 1993, All Hollows is now a Boarding School and two young boys, Lewis and Isak find themselves housed in the attic whilst the school is being refurnished, upon hearing strange noises from the room above, which appears to be empty, they decide to investigate the fate of Nurse Everdeen and the young girl she cared for. It soon becomes clear that there are some ghosts who are still restless and need to be heard.
It is a lovely atmospheric book, a bit creepy, eerie and suspenseful but really addictive.
How to Find Your Way Home by Katy Regan
This book was new in recently and having just received my reserved copy, I am already completely drawn into the lives of the main characters, Emily and Stephen.
Stephen is 4 years older than Emily but whilst Emily has a good job, lovely flat and a caring boyfriend, Stephen is homeless. They haven’t seen each other in over a decade, why? I haven’t got to that bit yet. Emily had never given up on finding him but by chance he walks into the council offices where she works. Will finding each other again stir up the past and reveal why they were separated for so long? I do hope so.
This is a story of strong bonds that are made in childhood and about what happens in those early years that can then echo in adulthood.