My Friday Post: Our Spoons Came From Woolworths

Book Beginnings ButtonEvery Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City
Reader
 where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

My opening this week is from Our Spoons Came From Woolworths by Barbara Comyns.

I told Helen my story and she went home and cried. In the evening her husband came to see me and brought some strawberries; he mended my bicycle, too, and was kind, but he needn’t have been, because it all happened eight years ago, and I’m not unhappy now.

Friday 56Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice.

These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

From Page 56:

Charles said he had borrowed some money to send telegrams to his relations saying we had a boy of six ounces. I told him it was six pounds not ounces, but he said a few pounds either way wouldn’t make any difference. But Charles’s telegrams caused a huge sensation, and his family was most disappointed when in due course they discovered we had had quite a normal baby.

Description from the back cover:

Pretty, unworldly Sophia is twenty-one years old and hastily married to a young painter called Charles. An artist’s model with an eccentric collection of pets, she is ill-equipped to cope with the bohemian London of the 1930s, where poverty, babies (however much loved) and husband conspire to torment her.

Hoping to add some spice to her life, Sophia takes up with Peregrine, a dismal, ageing critic, and comes to regret her marriage – and her affair. But in this case virtue is more than its own reward, for repentance brings an abrupt end to the cycle of unsold pictures, unpaid bills and unwashed dishes . . .

I’m only a few chapters into this book which at first seems to be a comic novel, written in a chatty, relaxed style, but going by the blurb it may not end that way.

My Friday Post: A Place of Execution

Book Beginnings ButtonEvery Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City
Reader
 where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

One of the books I’m reading is A Place of Execution by Val McDermid.

A Place of Execution

It begins:

Like Alison Carter I was born in Derbyshire in 1950. Like her, I grew up familiar with the limestone dales of the White Peak, no stranger to the winter blizzards that regularly cut us off from the rest of the country. It was in Buxton, after all, that snow once stopped play in a county cricket match in June.

Blurb:

In the Peak District village of Scarsdale, thirteen-year-old girls didn’t just run away. So when Alison Carter vanished in the winter of ’63, everyone knew it was a murder.

Catherine Heathcote remembers the case well. A child herself when Alison vanished, decades on she still recalls the sense of fear as parents kept their children close, terrified of strangers.

Now a journalist, she persuades DI George Bennett to speak of the hunt for Alison, the tantalising leads and harrowing dead ends. But when a fresh lead emerges, Bennett tries to stop the story – plunging Catherine into a world of buried secrets and revelations.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice.

Friday 56

These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

From Page 56:

Nothing made sense. If someone was ruthless enough to kidnap a young girl, surely they wouldn’t show mercy to a dog? Especially a dog as lively as Shep. He couldn’t imagine a dog with the collie’s spirit meekly submitting to having elastoplast tightly wound round its muzzle. Unless it had been Alison who’d done the deed.

I’ve read nearly half the book so far and I’m really enjoying it so far. It’s a standalone mystery and is compelling reading.

My Friday Post: Night Falls on Ardnamurchan

Book Beginnings ButtonEvery Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City
Reader
 where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

One of the books I’m currently reading is Night Falls on Ardnamurchan: The Twilight of a Crofting Family by Alasdair Maclean.

Night Falls on Ardnamurchan: The Twilight of a Crofting Family

It begins:

Introduction 1: Father and Son

We hardly conceive of our parents as human. There are innumerable actions, there are whole areas of life and thought, that we do not care to see connected with them, that we scarcely allow ourselves, far less others, to connect with them.

From the back cover:

The Scottish poet Alasdair Maclean records the rise and fall of the remote crofting hamlet in the little-known area of Ardnamurchan where his family had its roots.

Perceptive, humorous and sharp he binds his own account of the crofter’s lifestyle and extracts from his father’s journal, a terser, more factual and down-to-earth vision of the day-to-day. It is an unusual and memorable story, one that not only describes life in a dying crofting community but also illuminates the shifting, often tortuous, relationship between children and their parents.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice.

Friday 56

These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

The events on page 56 are concerned with winkle gathering, which provided an additional income to many of the crofters. The winkles were gathered and then stored where they could be refreshed by sea water until they were shipped to a merchant.

The reaction of a bag of thirsty winkles to a good splash of Mother Atlantic is delightful. For a few minutes all is creaks and squeaks and bubblings, as though a buzz of winkly conversation had broken out.

I found it was slow going at first, but now I’ve read half the book I’m really enjoying Maclean’s commentary on his father’s journal.

My Friday Post: Caedmon’s Song

Book Beginnings ButtonEvery Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City
Reader
 where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

I’ve been rather neglecting my TBRs so far this year, so I’ve been going through them deciding which one to read next and came across Caedmon’s Song by Peter Robinson, one of his standalone books.

Caedmon's Song

It begins:

Martha Browne arrived in Whitby one clear afternoon in early September, convinced of her destiny.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice.

Friday 56

These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

Page 56:

Kirsten looked away towards the window. Outside, beyond the flowers, and the get-well cards on her table, she could see the tops of trees swaying slowly in the wind and a distant block of flats, white in the July sun, ‘I don’t know if I want to remember,’ she whispered. ‘I feel so empty.’

Blurb:

On a balmy June night, Kirsten, a young university student, strolls home through a silent moonlit park. Suddenly her tranquil mood is shattered as she is viciously attacked.

When she awakes in hospital, she has no recollection of that brutal night. But then, slowly and painfully, details reveal themselves – dreams of two figures, one white and one black, hovering over her; wisps of a strange and haunting song; the unfamiliar texture of a rough and deadly hand . . .

In another part of England, Martha Browne arrives in Whitby, posing as an author doing research for a book. But her research is of a particularly macabre variety. Who is she hunting with such deadly determination? And why?

I’ve enjoyed reading some of Peter Robinson’s Inspector Banks books. Caedmon’s Song, described as a ‘psychological thriller‘ looks a bit different and I’m wondering about Martha’s research – is it connected to Dracula? after all Whitby Abbey was Bram Stoker’s inspiration for his novel, Dracula.

My Friday Post: Harriet Said by Beryl Bainbridge

Book Beginnings ButtonEvery Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Harriet Said...

My opener this week is from Harriet Said by Beryl Bainbridge. I’ve enjoyed all of Beryl Bainbridge’s books that I’ve read so far, so I’m keen to read this one – the first book she wrote and submitted for publication in 1958. However, it was rejected because of its content and was not published until 1972. It is set just after the war in a Liverpool suburb near the Formby sand dunes where Beryl Bainbridge grew up.

It begins:

When I came home for the holidays, Harriet was away with her family in Wales. She had written to explain it was not her fault and that when she came back we would have a lovely time.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice.

Friday 56

These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

Page 56:

We rode the roundabouts, shrieking among the painted horses, riding endlessly round and round, waiting for the Tsar to come.

Blurb (from Goodreads):

Two schoolgirls are spending their holiday in an English coastal town: Harriet is the older at 14 and the leader of the two. The 13-year-old unnamed narrator develops a crush on an unhappily married middle-aged man, Peter Biggs, whom they nickname “the Tsar.” Led by pretty, malevolent Harriet they study his relationship with his wife, planning to humiliate him. Their plan quickly goes wrong, however, with horrifying results.

My Friday Post: Rather Be the Devil

Book Beginnings Button

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

Ian Rankin’s latest book was published yesterday and it arrived in the post as I’d pre-ordered it back in March. It’s Rather Be the Devil, the 21st Rebus book.  I immediately started reading it.

Rather Be the Devil (Inspector Rebus, #21)

It begins:

Rebus placed his knife and Fork on the empty plate, then leaned back in his chair, studying the other diners in the restaurant.

‘Someone was murdered here, you know,’ he announced.

Blurb

Some cases never leave you.

For John Rebus, forty years may have passed, but the death of beautiful, promiscuous Maria Turquand still preys on his mind. Murdered in her hotel room on the night a famous rock star and his entourage were staying there, Maria’s killer has never been found.

Meanwhile, the dark heart of Edinburgh remains up for grabs. A young pretender, Darryl Christie, may have staked his claim, but a vicious attack leaves him weakened and vulnerable, and an inquiry into a major money laundering scheme threatens his position. Has old-time crime boss Big Ger Cafferty really given up the ghost, or is he biding his time until Edinburgh is once more ripe for the picking?

In a tale of twisted power, deep-rooted corruption and bitter rivalries, Rather Be the Devil showcases Rankin and Rebus at their unstoppable best.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice.

Friday 56

These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

Page 56:

‘So what’s this all about?’ Chatham enquired.

‘It’s just a feeling I got, right back at the start of the original investigation. The feeling we were missing something, not seeing something.’

I see that even in retirement Rebus just can’t stop being a detective!

My Friday Post: Sunshine on Scotland Street

Book Beginnings ButtonEvery Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City
Reader
 where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

I’ve just started reading Sunshine on Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith, one of his 44 Scotland Street novels.

It begins:

Even if she had not been an anthropologist, Domenica Macdonald would have understood the very particular significance of weddings. Anthropologists – and sociologists too, perhaps even more so – often tell us what we already know, or what we expect to hear, or what we are not surprised to learn. And so we all know, as did Domenica, that weddings are far more than marriage ceremonies; we know that they are occasions for family stock-taking and catharsis; that they furnish opportunities for naked displays of emotion and unscheduled tears; that they are a stage for sartorial and social ostentation; that they are far from the simple public exchange of vows they appear to be.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice.

Friday 56

These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

Page 56:

He looked at his watch. That brief encounter with the two girls on Queen’s Street had taken place about twenty minutes previously. That gave him forty minutes to have a necessary cup of coffee, unpack his clothes and products, and have a quick shower before the girls arrived – if they arrived. They had laughed when he had shouted out the invitation, but it had been, he thought, a laugh of delight rather than a dismissive laugh.

The 44 Scotland Street books form a serial novel about the residents of 44 Scotland Street, a fictitious building in a real street in the author’s home town of Edinburgh. It first appeared in daily episodes in the Scotsman newspaper in 2004 and I read a few of them online some years ago.

I felt in the mood for something light and not about murder, psychologically disturbed characters, or full of doom and gloom and this seems to be just that – ‘a joyous, charming portrait of city life and human foibles‘ according to the Sunday Express (quoted on the back cover).

My Friday Post: The Scent of Death

Book Beginnings ButtonEvery Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City
Reader
 where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

This week’s book is a library book I’m thinking of reading. It’s The Scent of Death by Andrew Taylor. I borrowed it because I’ve enjoyed some of his other books. It begins:

This is the story of a woman and a city. I saw the city first, glimpsing it from afar as it shimmered like the new Jerusalem in the light of the setting sun.

Synopsis:

August, 1778. British-controlled Manhattan is a melting pot of soldiers, traitors and refugees, surrounded by rebel forces as the American War of Independence rages on. Into this simmering tension sails Edward Savill, a London clerk tasked with assessing the claims of loyalists who have lost out during the war.

Savill lodges with the ageing Judge Wintour, his ailing wife, and their enigmatic daughter-in-law Arabella. However, as Savill soon learns, what the Wintours have lost in wealth, they have gained in secrets.

The murder of a gentleman in the slums pulls Savill into the city’s underbelly. But when life is so cheap, why does one death matter? Because making a nation is a lucrative business, and some people cannot afford to miss out, whatever the price…

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice.Friday 56

These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

Page 56:

You’re a thief, a damned pickpocket. There were two empty purses in your bundle. And those shoes you had on your feet – well they tell their own story don’t they?

I like the promise of this book – historical crime fiction set during the American War of Independence, a war about which I know only the briefest of details.

My Friday Post

Book Beginnings ButtonEvery Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

This week’s book is Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear, the 10th Maisie Dobbs novel. It begins:

Prologue – London, July 1933

Edith Billings – Mrs Edith Billings, that is, proprietor of Billings’ Bakery – watched as the dark woman walked past the shop window, her black head with its oiled ebony hair appearing to bob up and down between the top shelf of cottage loaves and the middle shelf of fancy cakes as she made her way along with a confidence to her step.

Blurb:

London, 1933. Some two months after an Indian woman, Usha Pramal, is found murdered in a South London canal, her brother turns to Maisie Dobbs to find the truth about her death. Not only has Scotland Yard made no arrests, but evidence indicates they failed to conduct a full and thorough investigation. Before her death, Usha was staying at an ayah’s hostel, a refuge for Indian women whose British employers had turned them out. As Maisie learns, Usha was different from the hostel’s other lodgers. But with this discovery comes new danger – soon another Indian woman who was close to Usha is found murdered before she can speak out. As Maisie is pulled deeper into an unfamiliar yet alluring subculture, her investigation becomes clouded by the unfinished business of a previous case. And at the same time her lover, James Compton, gives her an ultimatum she cannot ignore …

Friday 56Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice.

These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

Page 56:

Maisie felt her skin prickle when she read the more common name for the Camberwell Beauty: the Mourning Cloak. It was not a clue, not an element of great import of her investigation, but there was something in the picture before her that touched her heart. That something beautiful was so bold, yet at once so fragile.

I’ve read a few of the Maisie Dobbs books and like them. I’ve read just the first chapter of this book so far and it promises to be as good as the others. I don’t know the significance of the Camberwell Beauty butterfly but I know it under that name – not as the Mourning Cloak. It’s a rare butterfly here in the UK.

My Friday Post: The Glass Room by Simon Mawer

Book Beginnings ButtonEvery Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

This week’s book is The Glass Room by Simon Mawer, which I’ve just begun to read. It begins:

Oh yes, we’re here.

She knew after all these years. Something about the slope of the road, the way the trajectory of the car began to curve upwards, a perception of shape and motion that, despite being unused for thirty years, was still engraved on her mind, to be reawakened by the subtle coincidence of movement and inclination.

Friday 56

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice.

These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

Page 56:

Her eyes were blue, so pale that they gave the curious illusion of transparency, as though you were looking through them and seeing the sky.

He fumbled for his lighter and watched as she bent towards the flame. She wore a grey cloche hat and her hair was dark and cut short, not cropped as severely as Liesel’s and her friends’, but short enough to be a statement that she was a modern woman. A Slav he fancied.

It looks from the opening sentences and the extract from page 56 that this is going to be a detailed, descriptive book. I like that.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

High on a Czechoslovak hill, the Landauer House has been built for newlyweds Viktor and Liesel Landauer, a Jew married to a gentile. But, when the storm clouds of WW2 gather, the family must flee, accompanied by Viktor’s lover and her child. But the house’s story is far from over, as it passes from hand to hand, from Czech to Russian.

This is a work of fiction, but the house in Prague is real. Mawer follows it through all of the upheavals of 20th century Czech history.

My Friday Post: Housekeeping

Book Beginnings ButtonEvery Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

This week’s book is Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson.

It begins:

My name is Ruth. I grew up with my younger sister, Lucille, under the care of my grandmother, Mrs Sylvia Foster, and then when she died, of her sisters-in-law, Misses Lily and Nona Foster, and when they fled of her daughter, Mrs Sylvia Fisher.

Friday 56

A sad opening, I thought. Two young children passed from pillar to post.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice.

These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

Page 56:

Sylvie put her hands in her pockets. “I think I should stay for a while,” she said. The aunts are too old. I think it’s best for now, at least.”

See my previous post for the synopsis.

My Friday Post: Book Beginnings & The Friday 56

Friday is book excerpts day on two blogs:

Book Beginnings ButtonBook Beginnings on Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader, where bloggers share the first sentence or more of a current read, as well as initial thoughts about the sentence(s), impressions of the book, or anything else that the opening inspires.  Friday 56

The Friday 56 hosted by Freda’s Voice, where you grab a book and turn to page 56 (or 56% of an ebook), find one or more sentences (no spoilers), and post them.

I’ve just started to read Wycliffe and the Tangled Web by W. J.  Burley. It begins:

The fair girl looked out of place in a doctor’s waiting room: she seemed to glow with health.

From page 56:

‘Alice has just come down from the village; she says the police are questioning Ralph Martin again; they’ve got him in their van on the quay.

After reading a few long books I fancied something shorter – this book has just 191 pages. It’s set in Cornwall where Chief Superintendent Wycliffe is investigating the case of a schoolgirl who went missing on the day that she told her boyfriend and sister she was pregnant. As he digs deeper Wycliffe finds a web of hatred and resentment – a web he will have to untangle.

It promises to be both easy reading and a satisfying mystery. I’ve read a few of Burley’s Wycliffe books and enjoyed them.

My Friday Post: Book Beginnings & The Friday 56

Friday is book excerpts day on two blogs:

Book Beginnings ButtonBook Beginnings on Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader, where bloggers share the first sentence or more of a current read, as well as initial thoughts about the sentence(s), impressions of the book, or anything else that the opening inspires.  Friday 56

The Friday 56 hosted by Freda’s Voice, where you grab a book and turn to page 56 (or 56% of an ebook), find one or more sentences (no spoilers), and post them.

I’m currently reading The Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle by Kirsty Wark. (See this post for the synopsis)

It begins with a letter dated 1 January 2006:

Holmlea, 20 Shore Road, Lamlash, Isle of Arran

Dear Mrs Morrison,

A long time ago, almost thirty-four years past, you wrote to me requesting that I contact you should I ever wish to leave my home. I knew then that I would never live anywhere else, and so there was no point in my replying to you. I have lived in this house since I was eight years old but I am what people these days describe as ‘ancient’ and somewhat frail, and although I have managed perfectly well on my own until now, I know I am not long for this world. I have told my doctor I will move to a small nursing home as I realise it will be less trouble for him, and I have finally locked up the house.

My family such as it was, is long dead. There is no one alive but me.

I am instructing my solicitor to write to you at the address on your letter. Holmlea is yours if you still wish it.

Page 54 (pages 55 and 56 are blank pages)

It was Mary who raced to Benkiln that fateful September of 1918 clutching a newspaper from France. I have read the cutting so often I know it by heart. ‘Arran gunner in brave attack on the Hun. Sergeant James Allan Pringle showed conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during an attack north of Bray-sur-Somme on 22 August. 

My thoughts

There were several things that caught my attention when I saw this book on display in the bookshop – first of all the cover, with its delicate colours, of a young woman entering a door, then the title with its hint of a past to be revealed, and thirdly the opening letter with its offer of a house on the Isle of Arran if Mrs Morrison still wished it. It’s a poignant letter, which saddened me a little with that sentence – There is no one alive but me. 

I’ve now read just over half of the book, which tells Elizabeth’s story along with that of Martha, Mrs Morrison’s daughter. I’ve never been to Arran, an island off the north-west coast of Scotland, but Kirsty Wark’s description is making me eager to see it for myself. The book has a quiet, gentle atmosphere, which is also very compelling reading, packed with the events of both Elizabeth’s and Martha’s lives.

Book Beginnings: The Outcast Dead

Book Beginnings ButtonEvery Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

This week’s book is The Outcast Dead by Elly Griffiths, which I’m planning to read soon. It begins:

‘And we ask your abundant blessing, Lord, on these, the outcast dead.

There is a murmured response from the group gathered on the bank below the castle walls. But Ruth Galloway, standing at the back, says nothing. She is wearing the expression of polite neutrality she assumes whenever God is mentioned. This mask has stood her in good stead over the years and she sees no reason to drop it now. But she approves of the Prayers for the Outcast Dead. This brief ecumenical service is held every year for the unknown dead of Norwich: the bodies thrown into unmarked graves, the paupers, the plague victims, forgotten, unmourned, except this motley collection of archaeologists, historians and sundry hangers-on.

Friday 56Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice.

These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

Page 56:

Ruth drinks her cold cappuccino and wonders how Cathbad always manages to make her feel so guilty. It’s not her fault that his friend’s been arrested.

Blurb:

Forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway has excavated a body from the grounds of Norwich Castle, once a prison. The body may be that of Victorian murderess Jemima Green. Called Mother Hook for her claw-like hand, Jemima was hanged for the murder of five children.

DCI Harry Nelson has no time for long-ago killers. Investigating the case of three infants found dead, one after the other, in their King’s Lynn home, he’s convinced that their mother is responsible.

Then a child goes missing. Could the abduction be linked to the long-dead Mother Hook? Ruth is pulled into the case, and back towards Nelson.

I always enjoy the Ruth Galloway books, despite the fact that they are written in the present tense, so I’m hoping this one is just as good as the earlier books. This is the sixth in the series. (I’m behind with this series – the seventh book was published earlier this year.) They are a mix of modern day murder mysteries and archaeology, with an added element of the supernatural.

Book Beginnings: An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth

Book Beginnings ButtonEvery Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

This morning I have started to read An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield.

It begins with an Introduction: Mission Impossible

The windows of a spaceship casually frame miracles. Every 92 seconds, another sunrise: a layer cake that starts with orange, then a thick wedge of blue, then the richest, darkest icing decorated with stars.

Moving on to the first chapter:The Trip Takes a Lifetime

One morning a strange thought  occurs to me shortly after waking: the socks I am about to put on are the ones I’ll wear to leave Earth. That prospect feels real yet surreal, the way a particularly vivid dream does. The feeling intensifies at breakfast, when reporters jostle each other to get a good photo, as though I’m a condemned man and this is my last meal.

I first heard of this book when Chris Hadfield appeared on Sunday Brunch and then Jackie of Farm Lane Books Blog wrote about his book, which reminded me I wanted to read it.

What an amazing  experience to be looking down on Earth, seeing its entirety and beauty from a totally different perspective!

My Friday Post

Book Beginnings ButtonEvery Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

Today I began reading Sad Cypress by Agatha Christie. It’s a Poirot mystery first published in 1940.

Sad cypress

It begins:

Prologue

Elinor Katharine Carlisle. You have been charged upon this indictment with the murder of Mary Gerrard upon the 27th of July last. Are you guilty or not guilty?

Elinor Carlisle stood very straight, her head raised. It was a graceful head, the modelling of the bones sharp and well defined. The eyes were a deep vivid blue, the hair black. The brows had been plucked to a faint thin line.

There was a silence – quite a noticeable silence.

Friday 56Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice.

These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

Page 56:

Mrs Wellman may have thought she wanted to die; but side by side with that feeling there ran the hope that she would recover absolutely. And because of that hope, I think she felt that to make a will would be unlucky.

I’ve read up to page 75 and so far Poirot hasn’t appeared, except in the Prologue during Elinor’s trial: Hercule Poirot, his head a little on one side, his eyes thoughtful, was watching her.

Book Beginnings: Firmin

Book Beginnings ButtonEvery Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

I’ve been meaning to read this book for ages and I’ve listed it as one of the books to read for Once Upon A Time IX this year, so now is the time to read it. It is Firmin: Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife by Sam Savage – the tale of a rat living in the basement of a bookstore who develops the ability to read.

It begins:

I had always imagined that my life story, if and when I wrote it, would have a great first line: ‘Lolita. light of my life, fire of my loins’; or, if I could not do lyric, then something sweeping like Tolstoy’s ‘All happy families are alike, but every happy family is unhappy in it’s own way.’ People remember those words, even when they have forgotten everything else about the books. When it comes to openers, though, the best in my view has to be Ford Madox Ford’s The Good Soldier: ‘This is the saddest story I have ever read.’ I’ve read that one dozens of times and it still knocks my socks off. Ford Madox Ford was a Big One.

Not just one book beginning, but four!

From the back cover:

Firmin is a debonair soul, trapped in a rat’s body. He lives in the basement of a ramshackle old bookstore run by Norman Shine, where as the runt of his litter, he chews the books around him in order to survive. Thanks to his unusual diet Firmin develops the ability to read … and a very unratlike sense of the world and his place in it.

This week I’m joining in with The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice.

These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

Page 56:

My intellect grew sharper than my teeth. Soon I could do a four-hundred-page novel in an hour, knock off Spinoza in a day.

Book Beginnings: Spilling the Beans

As I have several books on the go right now (listed on the side bar), it will be some time before I can write a full post about any of them. So I thought I give a taster of one of them to be going on with.

It’s Spilling the Beans by Clarissa Dickson Wright, her autobiography. It begins:

I was conceived in a bath in Norfolk in September 1946. How can I know? Well my mother told me. As she put it they were all exhausted after the war and there weren’t that many opportune occasions. I was born in the London Clinic on 24 June 1947 and my first journey in the world was in a London taxi. My mother had become bored waiting for my father to collect us, so she wrapped me in a blanket, went outside, hailed a taxi and took me home, leaving the luggage for my father to pick up later. The only really good advice my mother ever gave me was, ‘If in doubt take a taxi,’ and I have followed it ever since.

Clarissa Dickson Wright was an English celebrity chef – one of the Two Fat Ladies, a television personality, writer, businesswoman, and former barrister. She died last year on 15 March in the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. Clarissa was a huge character in more than her size! Her autobiography is fascinating, coming from a privileged and wealthy background she had a difficult childhood- her father, a well respected surgeon was also an alcoholic who beat his wife and Clarissa.

I’ve been reading this book slowly over the last few weeks and have read nearly half of it. After her mother died she took comfort from alcohol and at the mid point of the book she was as she described it ‘sunk in gin’ and homeless. I am looking forward to reading about her road to recovery.

Book Beginnings Button

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

Book Beginnings: The Crow Road by Iain Banks

It was the day that my grandmother exploded. I sat in the crematorium, listening to my Uncle Hamish quietly snoring in harmony to Bach’s Mass in B Minor, and I reflected that it always seemed to be death that drew me back to Gallanach.

A dramatic opening that caught my attention when I began reading Iain Bank’s novel The Crow Road. I’ve read on further and so far I’m intrigued and amused by this family saga of the McHoans, that switches about between the generations.

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

Book Beginning: The Lost Army of Cambyses

After a month of reading library books and new books I’ve got this year I thought it was time to get back into my stock of to-be-read books and picked one at random. It’s The Lost Army of Cambyses by Paul Sussman. Before I began this blog I read Sussman’s The Last Secret of the Temple, which I thought was excellent, so I was looking out for more of his books. Three years later I found this book and it has been sitting unread for the last four years! Time to read it …

The Lost Army of Cambyses is his first book, featuring Inspector Yusuf Khalifa of the Luxor police (as in The Last Secret of the Temple). It begins in 523BC as the Persian army of Cambyses is crossing Egypt’s western desert on their way to destroy the oracle at Siwa:

The Prologue: The Western Desert, 523 BC

The fly had been pestering the Greek all morning. As if the furnace-like heat of the desert wasn’t enough, and the forced marches, and the stale rations, now he had this added torment. He cursed the gods and landed a heavy blow on his cheek, dislodging a shower of sweat droplets, but missing the insect by some way.

‘Damned flies!’ he spat!

As the  account by Herodotus quoted at the front of the book reveals, the story goes that this army never reached its destination and never returned – it was engulfed by a violent sandstorm and disappeared forever.

Chapter 1 picks up the story in Cairo, September 2000, where a mutilated corpse is washed up on the banks of the Nile at Luxor, an antiques dealer is savagely murdered in Cairo, and an eminent British archaeologist is found dead at the ancient necropolis of Saqqara.

The whole thing intrigues me and I’m eagerly reading on …

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

Book Beginnings: The Chosen Dead

What to read next is nearly always a difficult question, the problem being that I have so many books I’ve bought/borrowed that I really want to read right now and much as I would like to I can’t read them all at once.

So, this morning here I am nearly ready to start a new book and wondering which one to go for. It could be The Chosen Dead by M R Hall, his fifth novel in the Coroner Jenny Cooper series.

It begins:

Scottsdale Arizona, 12 March 1982

The last thing Roy Emmett Hudson was expecting on the eve of his forty-first birthday was a bullet in the head, but life and death are only a single breath apart, and as a biologist, he appreciated that more than most. Even as he strolled across the company lot to the Mercedes Coupé he had driven all winter without once raising the roof, his killers’ thoughts were already moving on to where they might dump his body so that it might never be found.

I’ve read three of the earlier books in the series, and liked them, so I’m hoping this one will be good. It’s an intriguing beginning because it doesn’t seem likely that Coroner Jenny Cooper could be involved in investigating this death as she is a Bristol coroner …

Synopsis from the back cover:

When Bristol Coroner Jenny Cooper investigates the fatal plunge of a man from a motorway bridge, she little suspects that it has any connection with the sudden death of a friend’s thirteen year old daughter from a deadly strain of meningitis. But as Jenny pieces together the dead man’s last days, she’s drawn into a mystery whose dark ripples stretch across continents and back through decades. In an investigation which will take her into the sinister realms of unbridled human ambition and corrupt scientific endeavour, Jenny is soon forced to risk the love and lives of those closest to her, as a deadly race to uncover the truth begins . . .

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

Book Beginning: Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck

Book Beginnings ButtonEvery Friday Gilion at Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Friday, where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

With just a few days left to go to the end of the TBR Triple Dog Dare I’m still reading from my TBR books and enjoying it. But I’m looking forward to next week when I’m going to start reading some of the books I’ve recently bought. One of them is Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck, which begins with a Prologue:

One night Mack lay back on his bed in the Palace flop-house and he said, “I ain’t never been satisfied with that book Cannery Row, I would have went about it different.”

And after a while he rolled over and raised his head on his hand and he said, “I guess I’m just a critic. But if I ever come across the guy that wrote that book I could tell him a few things.”

I like this humorous opening, carrying on with the story Steinbeck began in Cannery Row, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Mack is a great character and I’m expecting to find out what happened to him and his friends after the end of the Second World War.

Book Beginnings: The Potter’s Hand by A N Wilson

Whilst I’ve been reading from my own book shelves this year so far, I’ve accumulated a pile of library books that are tempting me away from them. One of these books is The Potter’s Hand by A N Wilson.

It begins:

The unoiled hinge joined its melancholy whine to the opium-dosed whimper of the patient who st gagged in his chair, and to the swift rasping of the saw. The door creaked ajar in the very moment that the doctor sawed off the leg of Sukey’s pa.

Such a dramatic opening that immediately grabbed my attention, conjuring up such a vivid picture complete with sound effects! The year is 1768. Sukey (Susannah), who later became the mother of Charles Darwin, was the daughter of Josiah Wedgwood,  an English potter and founder of the Wedgwood company.

The Potter’s Hand is a novel about Josiah Wedgwood and his family. Wilson explains in an Afterword that the broad outlines of the story and most of the details are true, but he has altered dates and rearranged historical events and nearly all the letters are invented. It is ‘meant to be read as fiction, even thought it is intended in part, as an act of homage to one of the great men of our history.’

I’ve read the first two chapters and think I’ll have to read on soon, after I’ve finished Death Under Sail by C P Snow, a crime fiction novel, if not sooner.

Book Beginnings ButtonEvery Friday Gilion at Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Friday, where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

Book Beginnings – The Flower Book

Yesterday I finished reading Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which I thought was an amazing book that kept me captivated even though it’s a challenging book to read because of its subject matter. I’ll write more about that in a later post.

It has left me with the usual problem of deciding what to read next and I’ve picked up and started so many books, none of which seem good enough after Purple Hibiscus. I’ve been reading from my own bookshelves this year, but I’m thinking of having a little break from that and reading a library book. It’s one I picked off the mobile library van, not knowing anything about it or about the author, Catherine Law – The Flower Book. It’s set in 1914 and also in 1936.

It begins in Cornwall in March 1914:

On certain nights if the wind was right, you could hear the sea from Old Trellick. So the legend has it, although Violet had never heard the waves and her parents would not try, due to the fact, she decided, that they had no imagination.

As a child she’d stand at the French windows and implore them to be quiet, to stop what they were doing and to concentrate with her, to catch this magical and elusive sound.

Every Friday Gilion at Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Friday, where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

I like the images the beginning of this book conjures and also the sounds. I always like the sight and sound of the waves breaking on the shore; to me too that has a certain magic. So this appealed to me straight away. Couple that with a story set against the backdrop of World War I as Aster Fairling searches for the truth behind her parents’ tragic love through the pages of her mother journal and I want to know more.

The Flower Book is Catherine Law’s third book.

Book Beginning: A Sight for Sore Eyes by Ruth Rendell

The library van came round this week and I borrowed another Ruth Rendell book: A Sight for Sore Eyes, first published in 1998. I don’t really check what the book is about when it’s one by Ruth Rendell, as I usually enjoy her books. This one begins:

They were to hold hands and look at one another. Deeply, into each other’s eyes.

‘It’s not a sitting,’ she said, ‘it’s a standing. Why can’t I sit on his knee?’

He laughed. Everything she said amused him or delighted him, everything about her captivated him from her dark-red curly hair to her small white feet. The painter’s instructions were that he should look at her as if in love and she at him as if enthralled. This was easy, this was to act naturally.

This could be the opening to a love story, but this is a Ruth Rendell book and I’m expecting it to be something darker and more mysterious. Indeed, the information on the back cover warns that this is ‘Masterfully spooky. Don’t read this alone.’

For more Book Beginnings see Gilion’s blog Rose City Reader.

The Cupboard by Rose Tremain

I’ve never read any of Rose Tremain’s books, but when I saw The Cupboard on the library van’s shelves the plainness of the title and the photo on the cover interested me, because they just didn’t seem to match.

The Cupboard 001

I took it off the shelf and read the back cover, where the newspaper critics’ quotations are glowing with praise for Rose Tremain: ‘one of the finest writers in English’ from the Daily Telegraph, ‘Rose Tremain’s fiction is my gold standard’, from The Independent on Sunday’, and ‘Miss Tremain has fashioned the totality of one life – and conveyed the evanescence of all human existence’ from the Sunday Telegraph. So I thought I should have a look inside the book, where I see that Rose Tremain has won many prizes for her books.

But it was the opening paragraph that really caught my attention and is the reason I borrowed the book:

At the age of eighty-seven, Erica March died in a cupboard. She wrapped her body in a chenille tablecloth, laid it out neatly under a few skirts and dresses that still hung on the clothes rail and put it to death very quietly, pill by pill.

Now that makes me want to read on to find out why she did that! Not the accolades or the awards, but the words.

For more Book Beginnings see Gilion’s blog Rose City Reader.

The Steel Bonnets: the opening chapter

A friend has just lent me The Steel Bonnets : the Story of the Anglo-Scottish Border Reivers by George MacDonald Fraser and having looked at the opening chapter I know I just have to read on, rather than waiting for January when Peggy Ann’s Read Scotland 2014 Challenge starts. It’s a long, detailed book so I shall probably still be reading it in January anyway.

The Steel Bonnets 001I live on the English side of the Border with Scotland and the history of the area just fascinates me. The Steel Bonnets covers the period from the building of Hadrian’s Wall to 1603, when James VI of Scotland became James I of England. Four hundred or so years ago it was all very different around here and as the history of the Border Reivers is very complicated I’m hoping this book will guide me through it.

The opening paragraph took me by surprise:

At one moment when President Richard Nixon was taking part in his inauguration ceremony, he appeared flanked by Lyndon Johnson and Billy Graham. To anyone familiar with Border history it was one of those historical coincidences which send a little shudder through the mind: in that moment, thousands of miles and centuries away in time away from the Debateable Land, the threads came together again; the descendants of three notable Anglo-Scottish Border tribes – families who lived and fought within a few miles of each other on the West Marches in Queen Elizabeth’s time – were standing side by side, and it took very little effort of the imagination to replace the custom-made suits with leather jacks or backs-and-breasts. Only a political commentator would be tactless enough to pursue the resemblance to Border reivers beyond the physical, but there the similarity is strong.

In the following paragraphs he goes on to describe their physical features, particularly those of Nixon and Johnson, as ‘excellent specimens of two distinct but common Border types.’ I hadn’t expected this at all.

For more Book Beginnings see Gilion’s blog Rose City Reader.

Book Beginnings: The Midwich Cuckoos

Every Friday Gilion at Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Friday, where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires..

I’ve borrowed The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham from the Kindle Lending Library and have only read the opening paragraphs so far. I’ve liked other books by Wyndham, such as Chocky, The Chrysalids, and The Kraken Wakes, so I’m expecting to enjoy this one too.

It begins:

One of the luckiest accidents in my wife’s life is that she happened to marry a man who was born on the 26th of September. But for that, we should both of us undoubtedly have been at home in Midwich on the night of the 26th-27th, with consequences which, I have never ceased to be thankful, she was spared.

According to the reviews on Amazon this Kindle version is full of grammatical errors and typos, so I’m hoping I can overlook them and enjoy this book set in the sleepy English village of Midwich, where a mysterious silver object appears and all the inhabitants fall unconscious.

Book Beginnings

Book Beginnings ButtonGilion at Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Friday in which you share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

I was looking at some of my books that I’ve had for a long time and wondering which one to read next and I came across Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. This was immensely popular when it first came out in 2004 and so I bought a copy and began to read it. Although the opening pages intrigued me after a few more pages I put it down; I just couldn’t get into it. After a while I tried it again, and again and still found it not very interesting and when I looked forward in the book I found it looked very disjointed and I gave up. There were plenty of books to read without struggling to read one that wasn’t interesting me.

Then they made a film and people started enthusing about it again. So, how many times do I try to read this book? It begins:

Thursday, 7th November –

Beyond the Indian hamlet, on a forlorn strand, I happened upon on trail of recent footprints. Through rotting kelp, sea cocoanuts & bamboo, the tracks led me to their maker, a white man, his trowsers & Pea-jacket rolled up, sporting a kempt board & an outsized Beaver, shovelling & sifting the cindery sand with a tea-spoon so intently that he noticed me only after I hailed him from ten yards away. Thus it was, I made the acquaintance of Dr Henry Goose, surgeon to the London nobility. His nationality was no surprise. If there be any eyrie so desolate, or isle so remote that one may resort unchallenged by an Englishman, ’tis not down on any map I ever saw.

From the back cover:

Six interlocking lives – one amazing adventure. In a narrative that circles the globe and reaches from the 19th century to a post-apocalyptic future, David Mitchell erases the boundaries of time, genre and language to offer an enthralling vision of humanity’s will to power, and where it will lead us.

It knits together science fiction, political thriller and historical pastiche with musical virtuosity and linguistic exuberance …

It sounds amazing and extraordinary, but I’m still not sure because when I actually start reading it, the first chapter ends in the middle of a sentence. Is that really meant to make me want to read on when the next chapter seems totally unconnected? It reminds me of Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller, a book I didn’t finish reading, although I loved the beginning of that book.

Is Cloud Atlas really so good! If you have read it, what do you think? Please let me know.

Searching for The Secret River: a Book Beginnings Post

Book Beginnings ButtonGilion at Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Friday in which you share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

I’m currently reading Searching for The Secret River by Kate Grenville. It begins:

In the puritan Australia of my childhood, you could only get a drink on a Sunday if you were a ‘bona fide traveller’. That meant you had to have travelled fifty miles or more. Around Sydney a ring of townships at exactly the fifty-mile mark filled with cheerful people every Sunday. One of them was a little place called Wiseman’s Ferry.

I loved Kate Grenville’s book The Secret River, so when I discovered that she had written a book about how she came to write it I just had to get a copy. Her interest began with her great-great-great grandfather, Solomon Wiseman,the original ferryman at Wiseman’s Ferry. Her mother had told her stories about him, but she wanted to know more about, what he was like and what he might have done when he first encountered Aboriginal people … she needed to know.

I haven’t finished the book yet, but it is fascinating – seeing how she went about her research into family history and how she imagined his life from facts gleaned from the records and the places he had lived.

Lilian’s Story by Kate Grenville: a Book Beginnings post

Book Beginnings ButtonBook Beginnings on Friday at Gilion’s blog Rose City Reader is the place to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

Lilian’s Story by Kate Grenville begins:

It was a wild night in the year of the Federation that the birth took place. Horses kicked down their stables. Pigs flew, figs grew thorns. the infant mewled and stared and the doctor assured the mother that a caul was a lucky sign. A girl? the father exclaimed, outside in the waiting room, tiled as if for horrible emergencies. This was a contingency he was not prepared for, but he rallied within a day and announced: Lilian. She will be called Lilian Una.

When I returned Sarah Thornhill by Kate Grenville to the library the other day Lilian’s Story was sitting on the shelf and because I’d enjoyed Sarah Thornhill and before that The Secret River I decided to borrow this book, even though I’ve got more than enough books of my own to keep me busy for a long time.

The back cover tells me that Lilian begins life as the daughter of a prosperous middle-class family and ends it as an eccentric bag-lady living on the streets, quoting Shakespeare for a living. I’m hoping it will be as good as the other two of Grenville’s books that I’ve read! This opening is promising, I think.

Sarah Thornhill by Kate Grenville: a Book Beginnings post

Book Beginnings Button

Book Beginnings on Friday at Gilion’s blog Rose City Reader is the place to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

I’m currently reading Sarah Thornhill by Kate Grenville. It begins:

The Hawkesbury was a lovely river, wide and calm, the water dimply green, the cliffs golden in the sun, and white birds roosting in the trees like so much washing. It was a sweet thing of a still morning, the river-oaks whispering and the land standing upside down in the water.

They called us the Colony of New South Wales. I never liked that. We wasn’t new anything. We was ourselves. (page 3)

I heaved a sigh of relief when I read these opening paragraphs. They paint such a beautiful picture in the first paragraph – I love the peaceful image of a dimply green river reflecting the world upside down – and then the contrast of the strongly individual statements in the second paragraph. The narrator is Sarah Thornhill, a young girl at the beginning of the book, the youngest daughter of William Thornhill, who had been transported to Australia for stealing timber and whose story is told in Kate Grenville’s book The Secret River.

My sigh of relief is because recently I’ve been rather disappointed in my choice of books. Sarah Thornhill is the follow up book to The Secret River, a book I absolutely loved and I was concerned that this book wouldn’t live up to my expectations (see my previous post on Joanne Harris’s book The Lollipop Shoes).

I’m now over half way through the book and although it’s written in different style from The Secret River, so far it’s living up to its early promise. My sigh of relief is now a sigh of contentment.

Book Beginnings

Peaches for Monsieur Le Curé: I really shouldn’t be reading this book yet as I’m still reading Joanne Harris’s The Lollipop Shoes, the book that precedes Peaches for Monsieur Le Curé, but I just had to see how it starts.

This is the beginning (and the whole of Chapter One):

Someone once told me that, in France alone, a quarter of a million letters are delivered every year to the dead.

What she didn’t tell me is that sometimes the dead write back.

Well, that seemed so familiar – and it is because here is the opening sentence of The Lollipop Shoes:

It is a relatively little-known fact that, over the course of a single year, about twenty million letters are delivered to the dead.

I’ve had The Lollipop Shoes for nearly five years and have only just got round to reading it. I bought it when it came out in hardback because I’d loved reading Chocolat and wanted to read more about Vianne Rocher – my post on Chocolat explains my love of this book. So far, though, it just doesn’t have the same enchantment as Chocolat and it’s giving me uneasy feelings. I don’t want to say too much just yet as I’ve only read half the book – but one of the characters is definitely not ‘nice’, she’s dangerous and devious, out to  change Vianne’s world.

In fact, when I first looked at The Lollipop Shoes I found I didn’t want to read it – it’s so different in mood from Chocolat. So it went back on the shelf until this week, when I read Christine’s review of Peaches for Monsieur Le Curé and I knew it was time to read Joanne Harris’s books. It sounds as though  Peaches for Monsieur Le Curé is just as enjoyable as Chocolat and maybe not quite so dark as The Lollipop Shoes, because she wrote: ‘it’s the kind of novel I’ll turn to on a grey day, when the world seems against me, and I want my spirits lifting without having to think too deeply about anything’.

For more Book Beginnings on Friday see Gilion’s blog Rose City Reader.

The Blackhouse by Peter May

I’ve had The Lewis Man, Peter May’s second book in his Lewis Trilogy since last year, but I haven’t read it yet as I’ve been meaning to read the trilogy in order. I’ve borrowed the first book, The Blackhouse, from the library and as I’ve just realised that it is due back next week – I thought I’d better start it.

 

It begins:

Prologue

They are just kids. Sixteen years old. Emboldened by alcohol, and hastened by the approaching Sabbath, they embrace the dark in search of love, and find only death.

A chilling beginning!

There is a murder, on the beautiful and desolate Isle of Lewis. Detective Inspector Fin MacLeod is sent to investigate. And there is a secret, something sinister lurking in the close-knit community. This is a mystery set in a place where ‘the past is ever near the surface, and life blurs into myth and history.’

It all looks very promising I think.

Book Beginnings ButtonBook Beginnings on Friday is hosted by  Gilion @ Rose City Reader.

Full Tilt: Book Beginnings

One of the books I’m reading is Dervla Murphy’s Full Tilt: Dunkirk to Delhi on a Bicycle. It was first published in 1965 and is an account of her journey in 1963. I’m finding it slow reading because I’m constantly wondering about the places she describes, how they’ve changed since the early 1960s and looking them up.

Her journey took her through Europe, Persia (Iran), Afghanistan, over the Himalayas to Pakistan and into India. She travelled on her own, with a revolver in her saddle bag. It’s amazing.

It begins with her desire to cycle to India:

On my tenth birthday a bicycle and an atlas coincided as presents and a few days later I decided to cycle to India. I’ve never forgotten the exact spot on a hill near my home at Lismore, County Waterford, where the decision was made and it seemed to me then, as it still seems to me now, a logical decision, based on the discoveries that cycling was a most satisfactory method of transport and that (excluding the USSR for political reasons) the way to India offered few watery obstacles than any other destination at a similar distance. (page 1)

And that is what she did 21 years later.

So far I have travelled with her to Afghanistan, where she is on her way to Kabul via Khandahar. Needless to say I’m struck with thoughts about how much has changed in the world since then. I’m full of questions, not just about the current situation with all the places she describes, but also about how she managed it, how she found out where to stay, and how she communicated with people for example.

It’s very much a personal account, not so much about the actual cycling, although I was amused by her account of getting her cycle repaired in a Persian cycle shop where they would not use a screwdriver but hammered every screw into place. Not so funny, because a few days later the back wheel came off, as the relevant screw had been ruined!

Book Beginnings on Fridays is hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader.

Standing in Another Man’s Grave by Ian Rankin

Yesterday I received Ian Rankin’s new book, Standing in Another Man’s Grave and it’s looking good.

It begins:

He’d made sure he wasn’t standing too near the open grave.

Closed ranks of other mourners between him and it. The pall-bearers had been called forward by number rather than name – six of them starting with the deceased ‘s son. Rain wasn’t quite falling yet, but it had scheduled an appointment.

The deceased is a retired policeman. The unnamed man, standing at the funeral had known him. He was desperate for a cigarette. After the coffin is lowered into the grave one of the mourners approaches him with a nod of recognition:

‘John’, he said.

‘Tommy’, Rebus replied, with another nod.

Rebus is back!

With the rain now falling he heads for his car, turns on the car’s CD player and Jackie Leven’s voice emerges singing about standing in another man’s grave. Except he isn’t – the track is called ‘Another Man’s Rain’.

I paused and decided to look for the track. Here it is:

I’m trying to read this book slowly, but the plot and Rebus is gradually pulling me in. I just have to keep turning the pages. So, it’s back to the book now.

Fro more Book Beginnings on Friday see Gilion’s blog Rose City Reader.

Book Beginnings …

I’m currently reading  Ian McEwan’s latest book, Sweet Tooth. At the moment I’m still quite near the beginning of the book.

It didn’t take me long to decide that I wanted to read Sweet Tooth. I like Ian McEwan’s books, although I wasn’t that keen on his previous book, Solar, but this one looked good when I picked it up from one of the display tables in a local bookshop. Set in 1972, it’s about Serena Frome, the daughter of an Anglican bishop, who is a compulsive reader of novels. She works for MI5 in a very junior position, until she is assigned to a ‘special mission’ called ‘Sweet Tooth’, which brings her into the literary world of a promising young writer.

I’m hoping it’s going to be as good as Atonement, one of my favourite books.  Like Atonement, Sweet Tooth is both a love story and a book about writing.

It begins:

My name is Serena Frome (rhymes with plume) and almost forty years ago I was sent on a secret mission for the British security service. I didn’t return safely. Within eighteen months of joining I was sacked, having disgraced myself and ruined my lover, though he certainly had a hand in his own undoing. (page 1)

For more Book Beginnings on Friday see Gilion’s blog Rose City Reader.

Book Beginnings: Before the Fact

I went to Barter Books yesterday and came home with several crime fiction books, plus a book on painting with pastels and a book on Northumberland’s coastal castles.

The book I’m writing about today is one of the crime fiction books, that I was quite excited to find, because I’ve never read anything by Francis Iles, the pseudonym of Anthony Berkeley Cox (1893-1970), a journalist and mystery writer from the Golden Age of crime fiction.

The book is his second novel written as Francis Iles, Before the Fact and it is a psychological study of a potential murderer as seen through the eyes of his intended victim. It begins:

Some women give birth to murderers, some go to bed with them, and some marry them. Lina Aygarth had lived with her husband for nearly eight years before she realized that she was married to a murderer.

I’m eager to read on …

For more Book Beginnings on Friday see Gilion’s blog Rose City Reader.

Book Beginnings: The Glass Guardian

Linda Gillard’s latest book The Glass Guardian came out on Kindle on 1 June. It begins:

When I was a child I nearly drowned. In a pond. Nothing dramatic, apart from the fact that I nearly died. I fell into a big pool at my Aunt Janet’s house on the Isle of Skye.

I fell from a wooden bridge over the pool. At least I think I fell. I don’t remember falling. All I remember is drowning – almost drowning – and then I remember being very cold and so sick, I thought I must have vomited up my insides.

I’ve read and loved Linda’s previous books and I have high hopes that this one will be no exception. It’s described as a ‘supernatural love story‘. When Ruth prepares to put her Aunt’s old house up for sale, she’s astonished to find she’s not the only occupant. Worse, she suspects she might be falling in love again.

With a man who died almost a hundred years ago…

Edited 9 June with the following information from Linda:

TGG originally began with Ch 1. The Prologue was one of the last parts of the book to be written. I started writing TGG pre-Kindle, but when I got one myself & downloaded & read many samples without buying the whole book, I realised the importance of grabbing the reader on p.1. So I decided to insert a Prologue which I hoped would keep readers’ thumbs clicking.

Thanks, Linda – I think it’s a dramatic opening that certainly did grab my attention and makes me want to find out more.

For more Book Beginnings on Friday see Gilion’s blog Rose City Reader.

Book Beginnings: Run by Ann Patchett

Way back in 2008 I read The Magician’s Assistant by Ann Patchett and because I enjoyed it I wanted to read more of her books. The Magician’s Assistant is about families with strongly drawn characters and from the opening of Run it looks as though it too has family as its theme.

Bernadette had been dead two weeks when her sisters showed up in Doyle’s living room asking for the statue back. They had no legal claim to it, of course, she would never have thought of leaving it to them, but the statue had been in their family for four generations, passing down the maternal line from mother to daughter, and it was their intention to hold with tradition. Bernadette had no daughters.

Further down the opening page it seems that Bernadette had an uncanny resemblance to the statue, which looked like her, ‘as if she had modeled in a blue robe with a halo stuck to the back of her head.’ The opening leads me into the story, making me want to read on.

Ann Patchett’s latest novel State of Wonder is shortlisted for this year’s Orange Prize for Fiction – the winner will be announced on 30 May. Her novel Bel Canto was the 2002 Orange Prize winner.

For more Book Beginnings on Friday see Gilion’s blog Rose City Reader.

 

Book Beginnings

Some books sit unread on my bookshelves for quite a long time before I read them. Then when I do pick them up I wonder why on earth I’ve left them so long – they look so good.

The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox is one of these many unread books of mine. I am shocked to see from my LibraryThing catalogue that I’ve had this book since August 2007, not long after I started writing this blog – no doubt I’d read about it on another book blog.

It begins:

After killing the red-haired man, I took myself off to Quinn’s for an oyster supper.

It had been surprisingly – almost laughably – easy.

The first chapter is called Exordium and a footnote explains that this means ‘an introduction to a treatise or discourse’. A second footnote tells me that ‘Quinn’s’ is a shell fishmonger and supper house at 40, Haymarket. So, not only is this a dramatic opening the first few lines tell me this is an historical murder mystery set in London, most likely to be in the Victorian period, all of which makes me want to read on.

Reading the back cover it seems that this book is following on in the tradition of Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens, described as a ‘tale of obsession, love and revenge, played out amid London’s swirling smog’, an ‘extraordinary story of Edward Glyver, book lover, scholar and murderer.’

I think one of the reasons I haven’t read it before now is that not only is it nearly 600 pages long, my copy is printed in a small font!

Book Beginnings ButtonSee more Book Beginnings on Friday at Gilion’s blog Rose City Reader.

 

Book Beginnings: Ninepins by Rosy Thornton

I’m a fan of Rosy Thornton’s books and so I’m pleased she has a new book Ninepins due out in a few days. Rosy has kindly set me a copy and I’ve just started to read it – it promises to be just as good as her earlier books. See my reviews of The Tapestry of Love, (my post here) and Hearts and Minds, (my post here).

Ninepins is an old tollhouse, deep in the Cambridgeshire fens where single mother Laura lives with her 12 year old daughter, Beth. She rents out the pumphouse, once a fen drainage station, to students but this time she is persuaded to let it to Willow, a seventeen-year-old care leaver with a mysterious past, by Vince Willow’s social worker. But, is Willow dangerous or vulnerable, or maybe a little of both? And what effect will this have on Beth, already causing her mother concern?

Ninepins begins:

Half past two: she was certain she’d said half past two. Oh dear – why was there already a car in front of the house when it was only 2:17?

From the back cover:

With the tension of a thriller, Ninepins, explores the idea of family, and the volatile and changing relationships between mothers and daughter, in a landscape that is beautiful but – as they all discover – perilous.

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader.

Book Beginnings on Friday

This is the opening sentence of the book I’m going to read next:

The night the war ended, both Mrs Trevor and Mrs Wilson went on duty at the Red Cross post as usual.

from The Village by Marghanita Laski. As this sentence indicates the setting is at the end of World War Two – in fact, the very day it ended. It seems to me as though Mrs Trevor and Mrs Wilson don’t want to give up the routine they had during the war and I’m keen to see what effect the end of the war will have on them.

This opening reminds me a bit of One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downes, also set in 1946 and chronicles the changes the Marshall family encountered, a book which I loved.

Book Beginnings on Friday is now hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader.

Book Beginnings on Friday

I’ve just finished reading Standing Water by Terri Armstrong, which I greatly enjoyed and will write more about it in another post. But for now here are the opening lines:

On the way to the funeral Hester started to cry. Neal, driving the ute, glanced at her. He reached over and squeezed her hand, too tightly. The tears wouldn’t stop. She pulled in jagged breaths and held a tissue to her face. Without warning, Neal swerved the ute into a gravel siding, throwing her against the door. He kept the engine idling.

‘For Christ’s sake, Hester. We’ll be there in five minutes.’

‘I know. Sorry.’ She had to pull herself together. She turned her head to look at the roadside scrub, focused on the pale, thin limbs of a top-heavy mallee tree.

‘Wasn’t even your bloody mother,’ Neal muttered.

These lines caught my imagination – I assumed that Neal and Hester were an apparently unemotional son and a very upset daughter-in-law. They drew me into the story and also very definitely set the scene for me, in Western Australia – what I wondered is a ‘mallee tree’. (I thought maybe a eucalyptus, and was pleased to discover that it is.)

Standing Water is Terri Armstrong’s first novel and is the winner of the 2010 Yeovil Literary Prize (pre-publication). It is to be published by Pewter Rose Press on 28 February. (My copy was sent to me by the publishers.)

Book Beginnings is hosted by Katy at A Few More Pages every Friday.

Book Beginnings on Friday: The Inspector’s Daughter

How to participate: Share the first line (or two) of the book you are currently reading. Book Beginnings is hosted by Katy at A Few More Pages every Friday.

I found The Inspector’s Daughter by Alanna Knight in my local library recently. I’d never come across this author before but see from the book cover that she has written more than 40 novels, 4 non-fiction books, numerous short stories and 2 plays!

With some many books to her name I thought I’d once again jumped into a series of books, but I was lucky because The Inspector’s Daughter is the first in the Rose McQuinn Mysteries. In this book set in 1895 Rose has returned home to Edinburgh from the American Wild West and it’s not long before she steps into her father’s shoes by agreeing to investigate the strange behaviour of her friend’s husband.

The book begins:

Soon I would be safe.

The journey from nightmare was almost ended. Every turn of the train’s wheels, every drifting smoke wreath closed the door more firmly on the past.

Beyond the hills, the blue glimpse of the sea, Edinburgh was fast approaching, epilogue to ten years in America, so-called land of opportunity but for me a land of tragedy and loss.

So, this opening shows that Rose has had a bad time – ‘a nightmare’, and  a ‘tragedy’ in America, but raises questions, such as – what happened? What was the loss? And why did she go to America and what is she coming home to? I haven’t read much further so I don’t know the answers yet – but this opening does make me want to read on to find out.

I’ve borrowed this book from the library but I see on Amazon that a Kindle edition is available. Alanna Knight has a website, where I see she not only writes but also paints!

Book Beginnings on Friday

How to participate: Share the first line (or two) of the book you are currently reading. Book Beginnings is hosted by Katy at A Few More Pages every Friday.

I’m in the middle of reading The Safe House by Nicci French. It begins:

The door was the first thing. The door was open. The front door was never open, even in the wonderful heat of the previous summer that had been so like home, but there it was teetering inwards, on a morning so cold that the moisture hanging in the air stung Mrs Ferrer’s pocked cheeks. She pushed her gloved hand against the white painted surface, testing the evidence of her eyes.

‘Mrs Mackenzie?’

Silence. Mrs Ferrer raised her voice and called for her employer once more and felt embarrassed as the words echoed, high and wavering, in the large hallway. She stepped inside and wiped her feet on the mat too many times, as she always did. she removed her gloves and clutched them in her left hand. there was a smell now. It was heavy and sweet. It reminded her of something. the smell of a barnyard. No, inside. A barn maybe.

These paragraphs drew me into this mystery/psychological thriller and I wanted to know why the door was open and the source of the barnyard smell. There’s not long to wait because that becomes clear on the next page. After a dramatic opening the book settles down to a more leisurely pace, but slowly building up the tension.

I am wondering just how safe the Safe House of the title really is.

Book Beginnings on Friday

I began reading The Crocodile Bird by Ruth Rendell last night for no reason other than it has been on the top of a pile by my bedside for a while.

It begins well:

 The world began to fall apart at nine in the evening. Not at five when it happened, nor at half-past six when the policemen came and Eve said to go into the little castle and not show herself, but at nine when all was quiet again and it was dark outside.

I had to read on, even though I was falling asleep. It grabbed my attention – what had happened? It must have been something bad, because the policemen came. Who is Eve? Who did she tell to go into the little castle and why? The little castle … what is that? If the thing that happened was so bad, why hadn’t the world begun to fall apart at five? Whatever happened at nine must have been much worse – or was it?

This is a Ruth Rendell book, so I expect it to be mysterious and creepy. I’ve read further on and it’s full of secrets that are slowly being revealed and so far I’m enjoying the experience.

Book Beginnings is run by Kathy at A Few More Pages.

How to participate: Share the first line (or two) of the book you are currently reading on your blog or in the comments. Include the title and the author so we know what you’re reading. Then, if you would like, let us know what your first impressions were based on that first line, and let us know if you liked or did not like the sentence. The link-up will be at  every Friday and will be open for the entire week.

Book Beginnings: Westwood by Stella Gibbons

One of the books I’m currently reading is Westwood by Stella Gibbons. It begins:

London was beautiful that summer. In the poor streets the people made an open-air life for themselves under the blue sky as if they were living in a warmer climate. Old men sat on the fallen masonry and smoked their pipes and talked about the war, while women stood patiently in the shops or round the stalls selling large fresh vegetables, ceaselessly talking. (page 1)

Written in 1946 this is set in wartime London, just after the Blitz. In the next paragraphs the ruins of bombed houses are described surrounded by deep pools of water (from the fire-fighters), ducks on the pools, willow-herb growing where houses once stood, foxes raiding gardens, a hawk flying over the city –

London in ruin was beautiful as a city in a dream. (page 2)

I love the way Gibbons sets the scene, showing the effects of war. It’s a novel about ordinary people and what it was like to live then, during the war. I haven’t read much further on and I’m hoping it will live up to its opening.

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Katy at A Few More Pages.

Book Beginnings: Dracula by Bram Stoker

JONATHAN HARKER’S JOURNAL

(Kept in shorthand)

3 May. Bistritz. – Left Munich at 8.35 pm on 1st May, arriving at Vienna early next morning; should have arrived at 6.46, but the train was an hour late. Buda-Pesth seems a wonderful place, from the glimpse which I got of it from the train and the little I could walk through the streets. I feared to go very far from the station, as we had arrived late and would start as near the correct time as possible. The impression I got was that we were leaving the West and entering the East; the most Western part of splendid bridges over the Danube, which is here of noble width and depth, took us among the traditions of Turkish rule.

With such an ordinary straight forward paragraph Bram Stoker begins his Gothic novel of the tale of Count Dracula and the Un-Dead.

I have no interest whatsoever in the modern vampire books, but for a while now I have been thinking about reading Dracula and now in the middle of Carl’s RIP Challenge I decided the time had come.

The opening surprised me a little, so matter-of-fact and such attention to detail. So I knew from the start that this was going to be a meticulously detailed book and that the character of Jonathan Harker was going to be that of a reliable narrator. I also guessed that after such a factual start Jonathan’s Journal would reveal more startling and scary events – well, this is Dracula! And it’s not long before he is on his way to Castle Dracula, his journey accompanied by queer dreams and warnings to go no further. As he approaches the castle he ‘felt a sort of paralysis of fear.’

I’m reading a hard-back copy of Dracula. There are many editions available and the link above is to the Kindle original and unabridged version.

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Katy at A Few More Pages.

Book Beginnings: A Summer Bird-Cage by Margaret Drabble

Last Friday I quoted the opening sentences of Life Support by Tess Gerritsen, which was going to be the next book I read. I did read on for a couple of chapters but had to stop as I was just not in the mood for reading a medical thriller set in a hospital – too close to the bone! I fancied reading something less disturbing, so I took A Summer Bird-Cage by Margaret Drabble down from the bookcase and began to read that:

I had to come home for my sister’s wedding. Home is a house in Warwickshire, and where I was coming from was Paris. I was keen on Paris, but will refrain from launching into a description of the Seine. I would if I could, but I can’t. (page 7)

A Summer Bird-Cage was Margaret Drabble’s first novel. It was first published in 1963 and is set at the in the early 1960s, about the lives of two sisters – Sarah, the narrator who has just graduated from Oxford University and is wondering what to do with her life, and her beautiful sister Louise who at the start of the book is about to marry, Stephen, a rich novelist. From what I’ve read so far, neither of them seem happy and there is definitely tension between them.

Interesting I think, and I’m wondering if it maybe a bit autobiographical – Margaret Drabble is the younger sister of A S Byatt. Maybe this sentence was personal, comparing the two sisters, when Sarah says – ‘As far as tags go she is grande dame where I am jeune fille, and she leads all her life to match it.’ Or maybe I’m reading too much into that.

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Katy at A Few MorePages.

Book Beginnings: Life Support

Life Support by Tess Gerritsen is the fourth book I’ll be reading in the RIP IV Challenge. According to the back cover this is ‘a quick, delightfully scary read‘, which fits in well with the RIP challenge criteria.

It begins:

A scalpel is a beautiful thing.

Dr Stanley Mackie had never noticed this before, but as he stood with head bowed beneath the OR lamps, he suddenly found himself marveling at how the light reflected with diamondlike brilliance off the blade. It was a work of art, that razor sharp lunula of stainless steel. So beautiful in fact, that he scarcely dared to pick it up for fear he would somehow tarnish its magic. In its surface he saw a rainbow of colors, light fractured to its purest elements. (Page 13)

This will be the first book by Tess Gerritsen that I’ve read. It’s been on my bookshelves for quite a while now and I have been wary of reading it in case it’s too gory for me. I didn’t buy it, it was a free book with the magazine Woman and Home, which I buy now and then. When I read the Introduction I was even less sure this book was for me as Tess Gerritsen wrote that she got the idea for the book whilst at medical school (she is a doctor), when she heard the professor say the words ‘human cannibalism’ in his lecture on Creutzfeld-Jakob disease, a viral infection of the brain.

So I put this book way down on my to-be-read books, but since then I’ve read several favourable reviews of other books by Gerritsen so I thought I’d try this one. I like the style of writing in this first paragraph and it does make me want to read on, so when I’ve finished one of my current reads I’m going to start Life Support. Let me know what you think if you’ve read it?

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Katy at A Few More Pages.

Book Beginnings

Today I finished reading Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates. It has taken me several weeks to read it and I fancy a complete change and a shorter book!

So, I’m thinking of reading No Longer at Ease by Chinua Achebe, which begins:

For three or four weeks Obi Okonkwo had been steeling himself against this moment. And when he walked into the dock that morning he thought he was fully prepared. He wore a smart palm-beach suit and appeared unruffled and indifferent. The proceeding seemed to be of little interest to him. Except for one brief moment at the very beginning when one of the counsel had got into trouble with the judge. (page 1)

This is my copy which I bought several years ago from a second-hand bookshop somewhere, after reading its predecessor Things Fall Apart, whose hero was Obi’s grandfather. I thought Things Fall Apart was an amazing book and one that had made a great impression on me, so why haven’t I read No Longer at Ease before now?

From the blurb on the back cover I see that Obi has returned to Nigeria from studying in England. He is a civil servant with a respectable job and a fiancée, but despite the expectations of his family and tribe he falls victim to the corruption of Lagos. It promises to be a study of the cultural change in Nigeria during the 1950s.

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Katy, at ‘A Few More Pages’.

Book Beginnings

I’ve been reading books recently and not writing about them. I didn’t have the impetus at the time (too many other things going on in my life right now to distract me), but I hope to write about them quite soon:

  • The Hanging Wood by Martin Edwards – excellent
  • Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie  – very good
  • Murder on the Eiffel Tower by Claude Izner – a bit disappointing

I’m about to start reading S J Bolton’s second book Awakening. Here are the opening sentences from the Prologue:

The darkest hour I’ve ever known began last Thursday, a heartbeat before the sun came up.

It was going to be a beautiful morning, I remember thinking, as I left the house; soft and close, bursting with whispered promises, as only a daybreak in early summer can be. The air was still cool but an iridescence on the horizon warned of baking heat to come. Birds were singing as though every note might be their last and event the insects had risen early.

This opening is full of threat. Even though it is a beautiful morning it foreshadows some dreadful event coming soon, in contrast to the fine day.

I decided to read Awakening after finishing Sacrifice, which I wrote about in my last post, especially as several people commented that her later books are better.

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Katy at A Few More Pages.

Book Beginnings

Miss Arundell died on May 1st. Though her illness was short her death did not occasion much surprise in the little country town of Market Basing where she had lived since she was a girl of sixteen. For Emily Arundell was well over seventy, the last of a family of five, and she had been known to be in delicate health for many years and had indeed nearly died of a similar attack to the one that killed her some eighteen months before.

But though Miss Arundell’s death surprised no one, something else did. The provisions of her will gave rise to varying emotions, astonishment, pleasurable excitement, deep condemnation, fury, despair, anger and general gossip.

These are the opening lines of Agatha Christie’s Dumb Witness. And because it is an Agatha Christie book, it is obvious that Miss Arundell’s death should be cause for suspicion and that it was most unlikely to have been a natural death.

From the fact that the date of her death is specified in the first sentence makes me think that must be significant. And the surprising contents of her will also indicate that Miss Arundell had perhaps changed her it – why was that?

I’m still reading Dumb Witness and as the title indicates and the cover picture on my copy shows, a dog has an important part in the mystery – one which Hercule Poirot has to solve, with very little to go on.

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Katy, at  A Few More Pages.

Book Beginnings

Last week I found another little secondhand bookshop – The Border Reader – a lovely little shop above a tea room near Melrose in the Scottish Borders. I browsed the bookshelves upstairs and had a cup of Earl Grey tea and a slice of Lavender and Lemon Drizzle Madeira cake downstairs – a most pleasurable afternoon.

And up the stairs I found in the bookcase to the right of the photo a book I’ve had on my wishlist for a while. It’s On the Black Hill by Bruce Chatwin.

The book begins:

For forty-two years, Lewis and Benjamin Jones slept side by side, in their parents’ bed, at their farm which was known as ‘The Vision’.

The bedstead, an oak four-poster, came from their mother’s home at Bryn-Draenog when she married in 1899. Its faded cretonne hangings, printed with a design of larkspur and roses shut out the mosquitoes of summer, and the draughts in winter. Calloused heels had worn holes in the linen sheets, and parts of the patchwork quilt had frayed. Under the goose-feather mattress, there was a second mattress, of horsehair, and this had sunk into two troughs, leaving a ridge between the sleepers. (page (9)

The Black Hill is not one of the Black Hills of Dakota – known to me only from the song, sung by Doris Day, but it is one of the Black Mountains on the border of England and Wales, although fictionalised in this book. The book was first published in 1982 and won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize that same year. It’s also been made into a film. It looks to be a gentle, richly descriptive book about lonely lives on a farm, largely untouched by the 20th century. A nice change from all the crime fiction I’ve been reading recently.

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Katy, at  A Few More Pages.

Book Beginnings

There came Death hurtling along the Boulevard in waning sepia light.

There came Death flying as a children’s cartoon on a heavy unadorned messenger’s bicycle.

There came Death unerring. Death not to be persuaded. Death-in-a-hurry. Death furiously pedalling. Death carrying a package marked *SPECIAL DELIVERY HANDLE WITH CARE* in a sturdy wire basket behind his seat.

These are the opening lines of the Prologue, ‘Special Delivery’ in Joyce Carol Oates’s novel Blonde. The date is 3 August 1962 – the date of Marilyn Monroe’s death. It doesn’t give anything away – Marilyn’s death has been well documented even if it still remains under suspicion and speculation. Blonde tells the fictionalised story of Norma Jeane Baker, who became the beautiful ‘Fair Princess‘ of the movies.

The only difficulty I have in reading Blonde is the weight and size of the book – not ideal for reading in bed. And it has 738 pages – and I’m only on page 52.

Book Beginnings is hosted by Katy at A Few More Pages, where you can leave a link to your own post on the opening lines of a book you’re currently reading.

Book Beginnings

This morning I finished reading Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake, a fantastic book, which I’ll write more about soon. And as I’m nearing the end of the other books I’m currently reading I’m thinking about what to read next.

One, of course, will be the next book in the Gormenghast trilogy – Gormenghast. The opening paragraph is:

Titus is seven. His confines, Gormenghast. Suckled on shadows; weaned as it were on webs of  rituals: for his ears, echoes, for his eyes a labyrinth of stone: and yet within his body something other – other than this umbrageous legacy. For first and foremost he is child. (page 7)

This sets the scene, following on from Titus Groan, which began with his birth and ended with his second birthday. Five years have passed since the ending of Titus Groan and this book promises to develop his story as evil spreads throughout Gormenghast. I just know it’s going to be good.

But I like to have more than one book on the go. As well as my own books, I’ve got a fair number of library books out at the moment all vying for attention and some are due back soon. So I was thinking of reading one of those next. But out shopping today I went into the British Heart Foundation charity shop and bought We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates. I’ve been looking for this book for several years as I read somewhere it’s one of her best books. I was so pleased to find a good copy in the shop. It begins:

We were the Mulvaneys, remember us?

You may have thought our family was larger, often I’ve met people who believed we Mulvaneys were a virtual clan, but in fact there were only six of us: my dad who was Michael John Mulvaney, Sr., my mom Corinne, my brothers Mike Jr. and Patrick and my sister Marianne, and me – Judd. (page 3)

That’s a good start – introducing the family. I like family sagas. Described on the back cover as a ‘book that will break your heart, heal it, then break it again‘, it may be a roller-coaster ride and I’m anticipating it will be very good.

Book Beginnings is hosted by Katy at A Few More Pages, where you can leave a link to your own post on the opening lines of a book you’re currently reading.

Book Beginnings: The Bell

I love starting a book. There’s such potential to find a book that really satisfies the imagination, that draws you into its world and also makes you think. It’s even better when you can start a book you’ve read before, knowing that you enjoyed it but not remembering all the details and have it unfold before you still with the power to enchant. Such a book is The Bell by Iris Murdoch.

I first read it in the early 199os (I think), so my memory of it is only of the outline story – a new bell is to be installed at an Abbey, which triggers the discovery of the old bell and then tragedy strikes. I also remember that it was peopled by some interesting characters, but I couldn’t have told you who they are.

Here is the opening paragraph:

Dora Greenfield left her husband because she was afraid of him. She decided six months later to return to him for the same reason. The absent Paul, haunting her with letters and telephone bells and imagined footsteps on the stairs had begun to be the greater torment. Dora suffered from guilt, and with guilt came fear. She decided at last that the persecution of his presence was to be preferred to the persecution of his absence. (page 7)

Now, that’s not a good marriage, but it is a great opening to this story of a lay community at Imber Court, a beautiful house outside Imber Abbey, the home of an enclosed order of nuns. Paul is a guest at Imber Court studying some 14th century manuscripts which belong to the Abbey. You know straight away that Dora and Paul’s marriage is a disaster area, that Paul is a man to be feared and that Dora is a mass of contradictions, a complex character – will she be able to stand living with Paul? My immediate reaction was that she is making a big mistake.

So far I’ve read about a quarter of the book and it’s just as good as I remember. Iris Murdoch’s writing is so good, full of description so that you can see the people and places as though you were there and also full of insights into the characters thoughts and feelings. There is an impending sense of evil  and menace, for below the peaceful surface stress and tension abound.

Book Beginnings is hosted by Katy at A Few More Pages, where you can leave a link to your own post on the opening lines of a book you’re currently reading.

First Lines

Currently I’m reading The Weather in the Streets by Rosamond Lehmann, but I’m getting increasingly tired of it. It maybe very well written, chronicling (in detail) the tension and despair in Olivia Curtis’s life as she has an affair with a married man in the 1930s, and no doubt it captures the spirit of the times of the interwar years but I just want to shake her. I’m probably in the wrong frame of mind to read it right now with its stream of consciousness style of writing and the small font that is blurring in front of my eyes as I read.

So this morning instead of struggling on with it I opened Once a Biker by Peter Turnbull, a Hennessey and Yellich mystery and began reading. It was a relief – the font size is much bigger, the writing is straightforward and the action is quick-moving.

I’ll write more about both books when I’ve finished them, but for now here are the opening lines of Once a Biker:

Monday, 17th June, 09.05 hours – 23.42 hours in which a realization comes to a dying man.

She had found the hospice had a wholly unexpected air of happiness about it. The peace of the institution she could understand, and indeed expected, as with the atmosphere of resignation, but the happiness of those awaiting death was something that came as a surprise. (page 1)

and of The Weather in the Streets:

Turning over in bed, she was aware of a summons: Rouse yourself. Float up, up from the submerging element … But it’s still night, surely … She opened one eye. Everything was in darkness; a dun glimmer mourned in the crack between the curtains. Fog stung faintly in nose, eyelids. So what was it: the fog had come down again: it might be morning. But I hadn’t been called yet. What was it woke me? Listen: yes the telephone, ringing downstairs in Etty’s sitting room; ringing goodness knows how long, nobody to answer it. (page 1)

Both books invite me to carry on reading. They are very different genres, but I’m keener to find out who killed Terry North, whose body has been found buried in a wood, twenty years after he disappeared, than I am to find out how Olivia’s affair progresses. I suspect it’s doomed.

A Book Beginnings post hosted by Katy at A Few More Pages.

Book Beginnings on Friday

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Becky at Page Turners. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you’re reading. If you like, share with everyone why you do, or do not, like the sentence.

My opening sentence this week is from The Art of Drowning by Frances Fyfield:

Someone wants to kill me.

Nice and short and dramatic, leading me to wonder who is writing, who wants to kill him/her.

Book Beginnings on Friday

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Becky at Page Turners. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you’re reading. If you like, share with everyone why you do, or do not, like the sentence.

I’m just about to start reading 4.50 From Paddington by Agatha Christie. The first sentence is:

Mrs McGillicuddy panted along the platform in the wake of the porter carrying her suitcase.

I like this sentence because it paints a picture and I know immediately that Mrs McGillicuddy is not a young or a fit woman, as she’s out of breath, or she’s running late for the train. The next few sentences pad out the picture of a woman who is short and stout, carrying a large quantity of parcels as a result of Christmas shopping. So I also know that it is most likely to be December and as she has been shopping she is most likely to be going home and she’s probably tired out.

As this is an Agatha Christie book I know there’ll be a murder and I also know from the blurb that she is about to witness the murder on a passing train through the train window. Now I just need to get reading.