It was Jo’s idea last year, and we’re doing it again this year.

Celebrate the first six months of the reading year by putting six books into each of six categories.

It’s not quite as easy as it looks. I tweaked the categories last year to suit my reading style, and I’ve tweaked them a little more this year to make sure that the right books got in.

Here they are!


Six Books that tugged at my heartstrings

The Night Rainbow by Claire King
The Lonely by Paul Gallico
A Perfect Gentle Knight by Kit Pearson
The Blue Castle by Lucy Maud Montgomery
The Young Clementina by D E Stevenson
Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole


Six books illuminated by wonderful voices from the twentieth century

The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham
The Fool Of The Family by Margaret Kennedy
A Pixy in Petticoats by John Trevena
Mariana by Monica Dickens
Excellent Women by Barbara Pym
The Slaves of Solitude by Patrick Hamilton


Six books that took me to another time and place

Serving Victoria: Life in the Royal Household by Kate Hubbard
This January Tale by Bryher
The Love-Charm of Bombs by Lara Feigel
In Diamond Square by Mercè Rodoreda
The Pinecone by Jenny Uglow
A Commonplace Killing by Siân Busby


Six books that introduced me to interesting new authors

Death of Lyndon Wilder and the Consequences Thereof by E.A. Dineley
The First Book Of Calamity Leek by Paula Lichtarowicz
Telling the Bees by Peggy Hesketh
The Sea Change by Joanna Rossiter
Chaplin and Company by Mave Fellowes
The View on the Way Down by Rebecca Wait


Six books I must mention that don’t fit nicely into any category

The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty
Yew Hall by L.M. Boston
Orkney by Amy Sackville
A Five Year Sentence by Bernice Rubens
The Asylum by John Harwood
Perfect by Rachel Joyce


Six Books I started in the first six months of the year and haven’t quite finished … yet …

The Palace of Curiosities by Rosie Garland
The House on the Cliff by Jon Godden
Elijah’s Mermaid by Essie Fox
The Criminal Conversation of Mrs Norton by Diane Atkinson
Warpaint by Alicia Foster
The Rich House by Stella Gibbons


Do think about putting your own sixes – it’s a great way of perusing your reading, and I’d love to read more lists.

The Night Rainbow by Claire King

I put down my copy of The Night Rainbow a few days ago and it is still tugging at my heartstrings. Tugging because inside its pages I met a child whose voice, whose world, whose entire existence was so utterly perfectly realised.

Night-Rainbow-HB-jacket-frontWe met in southern France in a blisteringly hot summer when Pea – short for Peony – was just five and a half years old. She spent that summer outside, running wild in the country and in her own imagination, with her little sister, Margot, in tow.

Maman stayed inside. She was heavily pregnant and she had withdrawn from the world, since she lost a child late in an earlier pregnancy, since Papa was killed in an accident.

Pea tried to help, tried to be good, tried to draw her mother back into the world, but nothing worked.

As they wandered in the countryside Pea and Margot met a man who had withdrawn from the world too. He was called Claude, and his dog was called Merlin. He took an interest in the girls, he was kind, but he kept a distance.

There is sadness and loss threaded through the lives of Pea, Margot, Maman and Claude. It never quite goes away, but nor does the sense of how wonderful the world is, and what a grand thing it is to be alive.

There’s little that can be said about the story that doesn’t say too much. But I can say that it is beautifully constructed, with gentle twists and turns that are never obvious but always right. And I can say that it is told in a voice that is captivating and so very, very real. A voice that always rang true.

Pea pulled me into her world, and she made me see and feel things as she did.  I felt the sun beating down. I saw the parched grass and the meadows full of flowers.  I tasted the baguettes that were delivered every morning, the peaches that were there to be pulled from the trees.

And she made me want to be five and a half, to take such delight in the world, to notice so many important things, to be caught in flights of fancy and amusement, to watch the strange ways adults behave from the sidelines, and most of all  to have the faith in the world that comes from living in the moment.

But though I saw the magic in Pea’s life I saw the danger too, the loneliness and that neglect. Light and shade.

That made me want to be a grown-up again, so that I could talk to people, so that I could do something to help. I don’t know what, but I had been drawn in, and I cared. Because Pea’s acute childish observation, the wealth of detail, the myriad observations,  allowed me to see adult emotions and sitautions that she couldn’t comprehend.

There were just one or two moments when I wondered if Pea was just a little wise, a little too capable for her age. But maybe that was the result of her life and situation.

I was caught up in Pea’s world, and in her life, from the first page to the very last. And she still hasn’t quite let go.

And, of course, for all of this to work so beautifully, there had to be an intelligent and sensitive writer working in the background: Claire King pulled the strings quietly, invisibly, and I am intrigued to see what she might do next.