… but still it’s time for me to launch my CLEARING THE DECKS PROJECT
You see, I have reached the point where my rooms are over furnished. Books on shelves, books in boxes, books in piles on pretty much every available surface …
So I have rounded up one hundred books that I think I will be happy into pass on, once I’ve read them and written about them. They are now my home library, stacked in a corner that I will turn to whenever I think I have nothing to read.
No deadlines – if I do that I’ll only read the short ones to try to hit targets – but I will post regular updates.
I will make space!
My plan is to introduce those books in batches of ten over the next few weeks.
I’d love to know if there are any you could particularly recommend. Or if there is a book you would particularly like, and I’ll pass it on to you if I can.
And so to the first batch of books …
Working my way down from the top …
Serena by Ron Rash
“The year is 1929, and newly-weds George and Serena Pemberton arrive from Boston in the North Carolina mountains to create a timber empire. Serena is new to the mountains – but she soon shows herself the equal of any worker, overseeing crews, hunting rattlesnakes, even saving her husband’s life in the wilderness. Yet she also learns that she will never bear a child. Serena’s discovery will set in motion a course of events that will change the lives of everyone in this remote community. As the Pembertons’ intense, passionate marriage starts to unravel, this riveting story of love, passion and revenge moves toward its shocking reckoning.”
A spotted this in a charity shop just a few weeks ago. It was acclaimed, it was published by Canongate and it seemed to have been out for quite a while without me coming across it. So I brought it home in case it was good and I never came across it again.
The Châtelet Apprentice by Jean-François Parot
“It’s France, 1761. Beyond the glittering court of Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour at Versailles, lies Paris, a capital in the grip of crime and immorality …A police officer disappears and Nicolas Le Floch, a young recruit to the force, is instructed to find him. When unidentified human remains suddenly come to light, he seems to have a murder investigation on his hands. As the city descends into Carnival debauchery, Le Floch will need all his skill, courage and integrity to unravel a mystery which threatens to implicate the highest in the land.”
“I don’t remember where this one came from, so it probably came from a local charity shop. It’s the first in what looks like a very interesting series, and fortunately the library has the next books in the series on the shelves.
The Bitch Goddess Notebook by Martha O’Connor
“Set in a small-town high school in Illinois in 1988, three misfit girls join forces with devastating consequences. Rennie, the stunningly attractive straight-A student, finds herself way out of her depth when she embarks on an affair with her married teacher. Cherry builds a shrine to Princess Diana in her bedroom while nursing her hippy mother through her coke-fuelled rages. Amy, who tears up her cheerleader’s uniform while her drunken parents concentrate on presenting a facade of perfect family life to the outside world. Together the three girls form the Bitch Goddesses, a take-no-prisoners gang of fierce teenage rebellion. They swear to stick together, whatever life throws at them, until one night at Porter’s Point when something so horrific happens it shatters their friendship forever. Fifteen years on, Rennie is a writer living in New York, struggling to keep her life on track and hiding an erotic obsession. In her Lake Superior show-home, a heavily pregnant Amy is certain that her husband is cheating on her and that she is jinxed by her past. Cherry, a model patient – obedient, co-operative, taking her medication on time – wakes in blind terror every night in an institution, dreaming of four red letters carved on human skin. The Bitch Goddesses may have grown up, but one way or another they must come to terms with a shared past…”
This was the first new book after I moved back to Cornwall. It was the comparison to Heathers on the cover that got me. I’ve started this a few times and dropped it, but this time it’s got to be read it or ditch it.
The Truth About Melody Browne by Lisa Jewell
“When she was nine years old, Melody Browne’s house burned down, taking every toy, every photograph, every item of clothing and old Christmas card with it. But not only did the fire destroy all her possessions, it took with it all her memories – Melody Browne can remember nothing before her ninth birthday. Now in her early thirties, Melody lives in a council flat in the middle of London with her seventeen-year-old son. She hasn’t seen her parents since she left home at fifteen, but Melody doesn’t mind, she’s better off on her own. She’s made a good life for herself and her son and she likes it that way. Until one night something extraordinary happens. Whilst attending a hypnotist show with her first date in years she faints – and when she comes round she starts to remember. At first her memories mean nothing to her but then slowly, day by day, she begins to piece together the real story of her childhood. Her journey takes her to the seaside town of Broadstairs, to oddly familiar houses in London backstreets and to meetings with strangers who love her like their own. But with every mystery she solves another one materialises, with every question she answers another appears. And Melody begins to wonder if she’ll ever know the truth about her past…”
I don’t read much that you could call chick lit, but Lisa Jewell I love. This one came courtesy of ReadItSwapIt.
The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff
“Jordan returns from California to Utah to visit his mother in jail. As a teenager he was expelled from his family and religious community, a secretive Mormon offshoot sect. Now his father has been found shot dead in front of his computer, and one of his many wives – Jordan’s mother – is accused of the crime. Over a century earlier, Ann Eliza Young, the nineteenth wife of Brigham Young, Prophet and Leader of the Mormon Church, tells the sensational story of how her own parents were drawn into plural marriage, and how she herself battled for her freedom and escaped her powerful husband, to lead a crusade to end polygamy in the United States.”
I seem to remember this being a Richard & Judy Book a few years ago. I spotted a trade paperback edition for just 50p on the library sale shelf, and so home it came.
The Ninth Stone by Kylie Fitzgerald.
“Amen Corner, London, 1864. Orphan Sarah O’Reilly has disguised herself as a boy so that she can work in the offices of Septimus Harding’s newspaper, the London Mercury. She meets Lily Korechnya, a wealthy widow who writes a column for the paper under a pseudonym. Lily has been enlisted by Lady Cynthia Herbert to help catalogue her magnificent jewel collection. She is especially struck by several large gems that belong to the Maharaja of Benares, which Lady Herbert has promised to have made into a special charm. The gems include a fiery red diamond that seems to exert an unsettling influence over anyone who touches it. Then two gruesome murders take place — first a customs officer at the docks and next a jeweller in Hatton Gardens, both of whom were strangled in an unusual, distinct way. A local simpleton, Holy Joe, is blamed for the murders but neither Lily or Sara are convinced the police have the right man. The trail of the missing gems leads them back to India, to ghosts, and the dangerous cult of the destroyer goddess Kali.”
Another ReadItswapIt book that I haven’t got to … yet.
Bleedout by Joan Brady
“Hugh Freyl is a blind lawyer, scion of Illinois’ most influential family. He recounts this story from the grave. David Marion is Freyl’s protege and a young convicted killer whose release from prison Freyl has orchestrated. He now stands accused of Hugh Freyl’s murder. None from Freyl’s powerful inner circle will stand up for David’s innocence. The perfect scapegoat for their misdoings, he alone bears the burden of proof. Revealing the inner-workings of an untouchable elite with all their tricks, entitlements and intricate financial schemes, Brady shows us a place that could be any small American city – a place where innocence can backfire and where fear is the only effective weapon against a corrupt government.”
I went a little mad buying books on my first trip back to London after I moved back to Cornwall. I think this one came from Any Amount of Books in Charing Cross Road, just around the corner from my old office.
The Tall Man by Chloe Hooper
“When Cameron Doomadgee, a 36-year-old member of the Aboriginal community of Palm Island, was arrested for swearing at a white police officer, he was dead within forty-five minutes of being locked up. The police claimed he’d tripped on a step, but the pathologist likened his injuries to those received in a plane crash. The main suspect was the handsome, charismatic Senior Sergeant Christopher Hurley, an experienced cop with decorations for his work. In following Hurley’s trail to some of the wildest and most remote parts of Australia, Chloe Hooper explores Aboriginal myths and history and uncovers buried secrets of white mischief.”
I read a glowing review – I forget where – but the library didn’t have a copy in the county. It turned up for a mre 50p in a charity shop, and so I just had to bring it home.
The Harrowing by Robert Dinsdale
“January, 1916, and the rooftops of Leeds creak with the weight of the winter’s snows. William Redmond, soon to join the Chapeltown Rifles, wanders with his younger brother Samuel through the old haunts of their childhood – and, there, at the top of the Moor across which they are forbidden to walk, Samuel, for too long trapped in his brother’s shadow, stoves William’s head in with a stone. When William wakes, it is a different world through which he walks. His brother has vanished, the town is silent, and not a man among them will give up the secret of where he has gone. On the other side of the water, the fields of France and Belgium are torn apart by war – and, when William discovers that Samuel has been sent to the war in his stead as punishment for what he did upon the Moor, he resolves to go out there and bring him back, to put right what his family has done wrong. This will not be revenge; this will be forgiveness. And so, with the fresh wound of Samuel’s attack still screaming at the back of his head, William ventures into the hell of Flanders – a mire of death and disease and deserters – to bring back alive the brother who wanted him dead.”
“When James McElroy saw the ad for a lodger with ‘Bibi Sanders’ in a smart Edinburgh street, he pictured a glamorous young landlady with whom he would form a meaningful and deep relationship. But Bibi’s in her seventies. She’s led a full life, including marriage to the domineering and difficult Callum, now deceased, and raised six children.She’s not sure what to make of James and suspects – rightly – a troubling secret in his past. When Bibi sets out to re-visit the past for the final time via a tour of Britain in her rather unexpected Volvo sports car, James decides to go with her. It’s a journey full of surprises and revelations which will change them both.”
This was my first BookMooch book – Isla Dewar is one of those contemporary authors who really should be much better known.
That’s the first ten, and the next ten will be along before too long.
And, most importantly, books will be read!