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.

Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole

I remember that, when I was a very small child, my godmother used to travel from her home in Plymouth to the Isle of Skye for her summer holidays every year. And I remember telling her that it was a very, very long way, and her telling me that it was worth it, because there was something magical about Skye.

Maybe it was that memory that drew me towards this book. I’d like to think so, because I think that there is something of that same magic that my godmother found between these pages.

This a story told entirely in letters.

16127238The first of those letters was written by David Graham of Illinois, in March 1912. He wrote to the author of a book of poetry that a friend had given him, telling her poems had really touched him, in a way that the tales of action and adventure that were his usual reading material never had.

Later that month Elspeth Dunn wrote back from the Isle of Skye, telling him of the sensation that a letter from America had caused in the small island post office, and expressing surprise and delight that somebody else in the world had read her verse.

Their correspondence went on – I noticed that both of those letters left ideas dangling that invited a response – and it became important to both of them. They both wrote warm, articulate, interesting letters that were a joy to read, and it was clear that their correspondence was valued by each of them.

There were lovely details, there were glimpses of their lives, and there was also things that went unsaid or undescribed. And so there were things that I could wonder about, and pictures for me to paint in my head.

They might have gone on sending letters back and forth across the Atlantic for years and years, but war came. That changed things ….

And then the story moved forward, to 1940 when the world was at war again. Margaret wrote to her fiancé, a pilot in the RAF, telling him of her concerns about her mother. She had found a cache of old letters but her mother had refused to talk about them. That made Margaret realise how little she knew about her family and about her mother’s past.  And when her mother disappeared Margaret decided that she had to find out.

She read the letters. She wrote to the uncle she had never met. And she travelled to the Isle of Skye, to her grandmother’s home.

That cast a different light on what had happened on the war, and on the consequences of David and Elspeth’s relationship.

I warmed to Margaret, and I wanted to find answers just as much as she did.

The story is cleverly and thoughtfully constructed. It’s a little predictable in places, but I really didn’t mind; I felt the same way reading this book that I felt reading a much loved book as a child, and wanting the pieces to fall into place the way that they did.

Which is not to say that everything fell into exactly the right place, that things worked out exactly as I wanted. They didn’t. Because I was reading about real people, who I had come about, whose correspondence had engaged me, completely and utterly.

I’ve purposely avoided details, because if this story appeals you really should learn them all as you read those wonderful, wonderful letters.

And all I’m going to say about the ending is that I had tears in my eyes ….