In March I read…

The return of the monthly reading round-up. And I must say, aside from the first book, this month’s reading all appears to be themed around childbirth, pregnancy, and the consequences of both. This month I read:

Melissa – Jonathan Taylor

I reviewed this earlier on the blog so I won’t repeat it here but if you’d like to read it, please head back to this page.

Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase – Louise Walters

A dual tale where a modern day bookseller who likes to keep the things she finds in second hand books – letters, shopping lists, ephemera – tries to track down the truth about her grandmother, the Mrs Sinclair of the title. An intriguing letter sets her off on a trail of wartime romance, secrets and lost babies. This was a nice enough read for those of us who enjoy books, books about booksellers, wartime stories, and heroes bearing gramophones.

South Riding – Winifred Holtby

Oh how I loved this. I wasn’t expecting to. I only knew of it via having read Testament of Youth a couple of years back and, despite knowing Holtby was more successful as a novelist than Vera Brittain, was dreadfully worried that it would be as hard going as Testament of Youth was to read. It’s fresh, sparkling, still relevant, and full of lovely observations and descriptions. If you want to know just how awful life without a welfare state or NHS was, less than 80 years ago, look no further. A tale of a small Yorkshire town, and the local councillors trying to do their best by the citizens while perhaps serving their own interests; a tale of a spirited schoolmistress and her efforts to raise educational achievement of girls; a tale of a foolish pigheaded man and his stupid pride; and finally a tale of the incredible harm done to women through childbearing. Fine in detail, enormous in scope.

The Lives of Women – Christine Dwyer Hickey

I knew nothing of Christine Dwyer Hickey and so had no idea she was Irish or that this was set in Ireland until I was about two-thirds of the way through. Before then, I was confused about the setting. Another dual narrative running between modern day and the past, this is the story of Elaine, who returns home after her mother’s death to look after her father for a while. Why has Elaine been banished for so many years and what happened for her parents to send her away? If you return to the theme mentioned above, think about Ireland in the 1970s (and in fact today) you’ll start to get more of a clue. I didn’t find this easy to get into, and the author doesn’t give you everything so there are some facts you never find out.

The Other Mrs Walker – Mary Paulson Ellis

Hey, another dual narrative! And another wartime mystery to be solved (or not). This was much darker than Mrs Sinclair, featuring skulduggery and shady dealings. The main character, Margaret, is not the easiest person to like – fleeing her life in London following her life crashing down about her ears, and I wasn’t totally lacking in sympathy for her mother who didn’t look thrilled to see her turn up on her doorstep. Penniless and camped out in the box room, Margaret takes a job tracking down some details of unknown dead people who are clogging up Edinburgh’s morgue system. (A part of me wants a sequel where she runs into Rebus) So she starts to track down the life of Mrs Walker, an old lady found dead in a puddle of whiskey, while trying to reconcile herself to her new life. I enjoyed this very much, despite Margaret being such a wet lettuce.

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