My Name is Lucy Barton – Elizabeth Strout

Another one I ordered from the library to take on holiday. Although it’s a hardback it’s quite slim and doesn’t feel like a lot of reading however it’s size is not indicative of it’s depth. It’s basically an introspective story of Lucy, mostly told during her time in hospital after she develops an illness following an appendix operation. Her estranged ┬ámother turns up at her bedside and over the next five days their conversation and Lucys own reminiscences tell of her childhood in poverty, her family, her attempts to leave her past but her discovery that it is part of who she is and her perception of herself as a writer. It’s a gentle read with the words that are not said being almost as important as those that are. The relationship between Lucy and her mother is really interesting, with a significant undercurrent of love despite it never being vocalised. Lucy is a likeable and realistic character, it’s well written and is the kind of book that sticks in your memory well after closing it’s pages.

Her – Harriet Lane

I picked this up cheaply on the kindle after seeing it reviewed by another blogger. It sounded like a good thriller following the lives of Nina, a glamorous self assured artist, and stressed out mum of toddlers Emma, as they become friends. All is not what it seems though as Ninas motivation for befriending Emma is slowly revealed. Sadly this was a disappointing read. The characters were okay but the story just didn’t seem to go anywhere, I kept thinking something was going to happen but it never really did. The eventual climax seemed to appear all of a sudden and then didn’t even properly conclude! It was perfectly adequate for a day reading beside the pool but that’s about it!

The Keeper of Lost Things – Ruth Hogan

Another one I’d had my eye on! Laura works as a housekeeper and personal assistant to author Anthony in a charming house that she loves. When he dies he leaves it to her as well as an instruction to finish the job he started. Consumed with guilt over losing an important trinket that belonged to his fiancee who died many years ago Anthony has been trying to atone by collecting lost things in the hope he can reunite them with their owners. He leaves his house to Laura with the instruction that she try to reunite the many objects he has collected over the years. The book follows Laura as she tries to do this and subsequently finds purpose for her own life. Punctuated with the stories of some of the objects this is a delight to read. It’s uplifting, sweet and although possibly slightly contrived overall it’s a feel good, happy, perfect holiday read!

The Tidal Zone – Sarah Moss

The first of my holiday reads! I was able to get most of this one read on the plane. This was a book I had seen advertised on facebook and quite fancied so popped it on the kindle. It tells the story of a family following the seemingly inexplicable collapse of their eldest daughter. Told from the stay at home dad’s point of view it is an insightful read into the lives of people who suddenly find untimely death a tangible reality. A family whose life has changed in a thousand ways that most people would never even realise. Having experienced serious illness in our family I found this to be a really accurate read, although our situations were very different so many issues were similar. The book is interspersed with information about the rebuilding Coventry cathedral after the war which is interesting as well as serving to illustrate points about rebuilding life after devastating destruction.

It’s a great read with a warm and realistic heart.

The Last of Us – Rob Ewing

This was another book I had been keen to read for a long time so I was delighted to find I could order it in at my local library! I planned to take it on holiday but finished it in the couple of days before I left as I found it to be a much quicker read than expected.

Set on a remote Scottish island it tells the story of five children who are the only people left after a mysterious illness has killed everyone else. The story isn’t set in the immediate aftermath but sometime later by which time the children have established roles and routines. It’s told through the voice of 8 year old Rona and describes a chain of events that threaten the fragile life they have formed.

At times it reminded me of Room because of the child’s voice but obviously the story is very different. As well as reading about the children’s current situation we are able to piece together information about the last few days before the illness took hold and really sense the fear that permeated the island. That fear is a huge theme of the book as we learn of the rules the children have devised to try to keep themselves safe. Alongside that fear is a hope, hope that they will be rescued and that parents are not dead but simply elsewhere. This combination of fear and hope drives everything they do in their quest to survive.

I loved this book, it was the kind of book you don’t want to put down as you’re desperate to know how it ends despite the sense that it may not end as you hope. It’s a haunting, powerful and ultimately heartbreaking read.

The Other Mrs Walker – Mary Paulson-Ellis

Having just returned from a two week holiday I now have a huge pile to blog about so the next few entries may well be on the shorter side!

I read this book shortly before my holiday, I had wanted it for a while so was pleased to buy it with a belated birthday book token. Set mostly in Edinburgh it tells the story of middle aged Margaret Penny who has turned up at the door of her childhood home in Edinburgh without a very enthusiastic welcome from her elderly mother. There are implications that she has left some sort of relationship in London but apart from the fact she faces an uncertain future this is not hugely significant to the story. Her mother is on a rota to attend funerals of people who have no one to attend and through this Margaret finds herself with a job trying to track down the families of those who have died neglected and alone. She becomes involved with the case of an elderly lady who has died in an Edinburgh flat leaving very little that helps identify her. The book jumps between Margaret in 2011 and a family in London in the 1930s and 40s as the mystery of the dead woman and her connection to Margaret is slowly revealed.

It’s a well written compelling read. The author paints very vivid pictures of each scene so you could almost imagine yourself in them. It’s sad and touching at times, particularly the story of the family in London. The relationship between Margaret and her mother is particularly well written, you can sense the exasperation but also the underlying loyalty. I had a vague idea of how it would end but was pleasantly satisfied with the way the details worked out. A great read.