July 2019

Hello again, and thank you for dropping by.

What a month this has been! For the past 20 years Mal and I have been having our annual flu shot and have always felt rather smug when hearing reports of the thousands of cases reported each winter, as we managed to get through the season flu free. Well no more! This year, despite having the injection in good time, we both succumbed to two weeks of the worst case we have ever had. In future, I shall have more sympathy for others, and not feel so smug.

So, there is not much to report on my writing activities this month, but I do have some new memoir classes coming up in September. If you have a story to tell, check out the Speaking page for the dates if you would like some help in getting started.

The extended bout of illness gave me plenty of reading time, and I do have some good books to report on, so there are a couple of extra recommendations this month.

Let’s begin with one that was a complete surprise to me. In 1996 we were holidaying in England and stayed for a few nights in a converted old alms house in the village of Grantchester, on the outskirts of Cambridge. We both fell completely in love with the house and the village and it remains one of our favourite places in England. So we quickly became fans of the ABC series ‘Grantchester’ and when I found this book, a prequel to the series, it was one I had to read.

It was coincidental, that shortly after reading ‘Winston’s War’ – one of the books I recommended in my last newsletter, I stumbled upon ‘The Road to Grantchester’ by James Runcie. It tells of the young life of Canon Sidney Chambers, the vicar in the TV series ‘Grantchester’ and a large portion of the book tells of his army days in Italy during World War II. Reading of the physical horrors those brave soldiers endured, I could not help but wonder if the men who directed those campaigns from afar knew what they were sending those young men into.

It is 1938, and eighteen-year-old Sidney Chambers is dancing the quickstep with Amanda Kendall at her brother Robert's birthday party at the Caledonian Club. No one can believe, on this golden evening, that there could ever be another war. Returning to London seven years later, Sidney has gained a Military Cross and lost his best friend on the battlefields of Italy. The carefree youth that he and his friends were promised has been blown apart, just like the rest of the world--and Sidney, carrying a terrible, secret guilt, must decide what to do with the rest of his life. But he has heard a call: constant, though quiet, and growing ever more persistent. To the incredulity of his family and the derision of his friends--the irrepressible actor Freddie and the beautiful, vivacious Amanda--Sidney must now negotiate his path to God: the course of which, much like true love, never runs smooth.

Runcie is an author who excels at evoking the look and feel of warfare. “This is how it is,” he writes about British infantrymen, “the oscillation between boredom and terror; soldiers oiling their Tommy guns even when they are already oiled, because there is little else to do.” So many men who served would not talk of their experiences once they were home again, and reading this book it becomes clear why they just wanted to shut it all out of their minds. It is not the gentle read that one could expect as a fan of the TV series, but well worth seeking out.

‘The Thing About Clare’ was my second book by Imogen Clark, and I have to admit to preferring Postcards from a Stranger. This book was nicely crafted, and the characters were well developed. I enjoy this author’s style of writing as it flows nicely and holds the interest, although the plot was perhaps a little predictable.

A dying wish. A devastating secret. Should the truth really stay buried?

The four Bliss siblings have a loving but complicated bond, but when their mother, Dorothy, dies seemingly without a will, this relationship is put to the test. As the mourning siblings try to make sense of the situation, one of them is caught with a secret: before she died, Dorothy entrusted her favourite daughter with her will and a letter—and told her to destroy them both.

But what Anna finds in the documents could change everything. Do the other siblings not deserve to know what it is about them that their mother was so desperate to hide? And if it is revealed, will the Bliss family ever be the same again?

And so we come to this one – ‘Lethal White’ by Robert Galbraith

Here is yet another overly-long book (650 pages), and there does seem to be a plethora of those recently. This is the fourth outing for Cormoran Strike, and his luckless assistant Robin, who still frustrates me with a lack of action over her obviously loveless marriage, and her slavish devotion to her boss.

The background is the 2012 London Olympics, but this book had a feeling of being an old fashioned Agatha Christie mystery. It was far too long and complicated and if the author had been anyone other than the alter ego of J K Rowling, you can guarantee the editing team would have pruned it ruthlessly - even the author admits to this being “one of the most challenging books I’ve written.” While there are many meticulously described passages, sadly they kept me from connecting with the heart of the story. If Mr. Strike comes back again, I won’t be joining him.

That’s all for this month! Cheers for now.

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