Review Roundup 7/22/16
Nothing in particular binds these reviews together, other than the fact that I’ve read the books fairly recently, and had some thoughts about them that weren’t long enough for bigger posts.
Everyone Brave is Forgiven
Simon & Schuster
e-galley from Edelweiss
Devastating. Impressive, in that it didn’t put a valiant sheen on war by turning it into an adventure. Ensemble, alternating perspective, weaving from Tom and Mary living in London and bearing the destruction of bombs and the Blitz… and Alastair, joining up and heading to the front. Alternating between their stories and perspectives makes the emotional pacing work really well, even though they’re living completely different (and heartbreaking) experiences.
Impressive, in that I’ve never seen a WWII novel openly deal with racism this way.
Lovely turns of phrase kept weaving through brutal, violent passages. Marking a long night of bombs overhead, with a piano in a jazz club. A jar of blackberry jam, luminous on a barracks windowsill. I kept underlining bits of sentences, or brief images, both the lovely happy ones, and the startling, harrowing images of war. It took me ages to read this, because I kept putting it down, just before I decided I wanted to cry. Possibly pair this with The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson, for similar lovely prose surrounding wartime heartbreak.
The Bookshop on the Corner
William Morrow Paperbacks
e-galley from Edelweiss
This is possibly the sweet, reassuring book you need right after reading the above. The start of this book hit a little bit close to home for an early-career librarian, I have to say. Nora’s job at her beloved library comes under threat when the library is redesigned as a digital, interactive, space, with new management that is looking for cutting edge corporate technology, rather than the skills of a readers’ advisory librarian. On the plus side, it’s set in Scotland, and it’s a romance for a librarian, so it’s wish-fulfilliment for me. Nora gathers up her courage, leaves everything familiar behind and moves to rural Scotland, where she purchases a giant van to turn into a mobile bookshop. The tiny Scottish village where she lands is almost too precious, with an idyllic setting and gruff eccentrics slow to welcome Nora. I was just as jealous of the sensuous descriptions of farm-fresh eggs and cream and food, as I was of the bookshop life and the romance. Not too many surprises (Am I too cynical to read romance novels?) it’s a romance, after all. But it’s a good, happy read. I liked the characters. My only complaint is that I wish there was an annotated bibliography at the end, so that I can go read all the books that were described just as tantalizingly as the food. Some of the titles Nora mentioned and sold real books I recognized, but I’m pretty sure others were invented for the sake of the story… and I want that confirmed, or I want to find the books being referenced. Especially that one children’s book!
A Shameful Murder
Lucked into this as a book recommendation on Goodreads, and found a copy at the library. Set in the dark, foggy streets of Cork, Ireland in 1923, this wonderfully atmospheric mystery forces Reverend Mother Aquinas to confront murder and dark secrets when the body of a murdered debutante floats up from the canal, almost onto the convent’s doorstep. The Reverend Mother sends for Police Sergeant Peter Cashman, one of her former pupils, now a member of the police force. A member of the clergy solving mysteries? Yes please! (It was possibly my Grantchester binge that tipped off the Goodreads recommendation algorithm). I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the story through Mother Aquinas. Although living in the convent, she’s not completely cloistered from the realities of the world. Interestingly, there are intimations of her own origins, born into a high society life she left to take vows. She’s observant, curious, resourceful. The dynamic between the Reverend Mother and the Police Inspector was a delight. They had to transition from past pupil and teacher, to sort of collaborating to solve the crime, in a way that stayed respectful of her vows, his work, their past as student and teacher. The whole mystery is fascinatingly steered by the social strictures of Cork of that time: religion and class and family relationships govern how secrets are kept, who can learn what information, and even how the mystery can be solved. This has the feel of a great series, and turned the last few pages hoping there were at least 6 more books to launch me into a binge read.