Friday, April 28, 2017

The Wild Dark Flowers by Elizabeth Cooke

This book is exquisitely written of a time past as the war years approach and affect the lives of the people who live at Rutherford Park.  There is the story of Harry Cavendish and his child, Cecilia, by a servant which he finds difficult to deal with.  There is also the story of the servants and especially Josh and Jack Armitage, father and son, who look after the horses, especially Jack’s beloved horse, Wencelas.  Jack has also had a soft spot for Louisa, a daughter of the house-hold.  Louisa also featured in the first book of Rutherford Park and nearly brought her parents to grief with her impulsive actions when she was supposed to be staying with friends in London for the Season.
The story is particularly poignant as it also relates the tale, of Harrison, the footman, who left to join the war effort without even informing  His Lordhip, Lord Cavendish.  This follows his exploits in France and in particular in the trenches and mud of France.  He was so keen to leave Rutherford Park when he signed up but when he was in France he would have given anything for the peace and calm of the beautiful estate where he once lived and worked.
There is much to commend in this book as politics, the war, tragedy and the lives of ordinary people are swept along in a turmoil of events which occurred in the earlier days of the First World War.

Rutherford Park by Elizabeth Cooke

This novel is a story set at a beautiful country estate in England, Rutherford Park.  It is written with a wonderful insight  into the lives of the gentry and also the servants living at the estate.  It  is indicative of a time past where there was so much beauty and elegance in the simple things of life.
The story revolves around William and Octavia Cavendish and their three children.  Octavia was more or less rail-roaded into a marriage by a severe and domineering father.  Her husband, William, is very much old school with conservative values of a much earlier time from the 1800’s.  He fails to understand the complexities of modern changes on society as the country gets ready for another war.
The servants of the house-hold, gardens and also stables  add another dimension to the story as also  an Amercan traveller who stays at Rutherford Park during the summer months at an invitation by Lord Cavendish.  This is the American, John Gould.
This is a wonderful story and I looked forward to reading  this initial story as I had previously read
The Wild Dark Flowers which is the second novel in the series, which I enjoyed reading and thought
was very poignant, sad and so realisitic as it portrays the war years and the effect on the inhabitants

of Rutherford Park, servants and members of the family alike.

Only Time Will Tell by Jeffrey Archer

This fascinating tale is set in Bristol of the 1920’s and 1930’s.  It is a wonderful story
of Harry Clifton, brought up and raised in the city but by a mere chance of his singing
ability is given opportunities which he would not otherwise have and receives an
excellent grammar school education.  This can only be marvelled at when he is living in
a working class environment of the times and often accompanies his uncle to the dockyards,
where he meets Old Jack, who later becomes a defining influence on his young life.
This book is the first book of a series of The Clifton Chronicles and I eagerly await the next book
“The Sins of the Father” in the series to read.
Harry Clifton is the main character of the story and he realises that there is a mystery surrounding
the death of his father which is a theme in the story.  His early life, school companions, friendships,
his mother’s life and world of his grand-parents and education are all covered in this book and the story also involves a beautiful romance with Emma, a sister of one of his school companions.  The story certainly does keep the reader spellbound and the ending is very much a cliff-hanger where the second book in the series is bound to keep the reader engaged with this absolutely fascinating story.  It is a touching, sad and poignant tale and also appears very authentic of the times with the descriptions of people and places and the dialogue of the characters.
The story is so real it is almost as though the reader is there with the characters and following them
every step of the way.   

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

It Was Only Ever You by Kate Kerrigan

It Was Only Ever You by Kate Kerrigan

This book is a wonderful story about three girls in the early years of rock and roll.  The story starts out in Ireland, County Mayo, and later is set in the halcyon days of New York where there were dance clubs and venues which seemed to be all the rage for the younger set.
Firstly, there was Rose, a doctor’s daughter, who I would have believed while reading the book, had a doomed romance mostly caused by time and distance, though this does not really seem to be the case.   However, perhaps there is scope for a sequel to this fascinating story.  Then there is Ava, who is impulsive and in some respects wishes to escape the staid complacency and predictability of her conventional  life and rushes into matters without thinking clearly and finally there is  Sheila, who is completely different from the other two women.  Sheila likes to give the impression she is tough and hard but this is just a guise and does not reveal her true character, which is not as it seems.   
Patrick Murphy, also from Ireland, as is Rose, is a new immigrant to New York and also an inspiring singer of Irish ballads who wishes to make a name for himself in the music scene in New York.  
This book is a page turner and seemed very authentic to me in tone and also the era of the rock and roll music.  It seemed to be a nice age where people enjoyed themselves dancing and loved the new style of music.
The human element and spiritual element is also present in this story.  It is very beautiful and well recommended.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Globe Life in Shakespeare's London by Catherine Arnold

I enjoyed reading this fascinating book which describes the
times and life of William Shakespeare.  London was a bustling,
busy town during Tudor times and Shakespeare found his place
and popularity  as a well known playwright.   His success was not
always enthusiastically acclaimed as one writer referred to him
as shake-scene and was obviously at a loss to understand the
reason that people were flocking to see his plays.

Other playwrights and well known writers of the time are also
included in this book.  It certainly does give an understanding
of the development of theatre and plays in earlier times which in a
way was the beginnings of the mass audience crowd at a popular

Descriptions of the theatres are given, the professional and business
approach to theatres and the painstaking building of the initial theatres
and the losses often incurred.    Often people became jealous or for various
other reasons people wanted the theatres shut down and would complain
to the London authorities about them.  It may even have been because of
the narrow streets and people may have become encumbered walking down
the narrow alleys when horses and coaches were waiting outside the theatres.
There were also the puritans who wanted the theatres shut down and often in times
of plague the theatres were also shut down.  During one of these times of a plague
Shakespeare wrote some of his wonderful poetry.

The players and actors were very committed and passionate towards their cause.  Often
they needed patronage and at times their situation did seem grim.  This book tells the
story of the very early beginnings of theatre and plays and how the players initially
travelled to country homes to give entertainments and would receive food and board.
I loved reading this book as it is so full of interesting detail and fascinating anecdotes
about the life of Shakespeare and his associates.  It is a wonderful book and well recommended.


Portrait of a Spy by Daniel Silva

Portrait of a Spy by Daniel Silva

This wonderful tale by the famed author of spy fiction weaves
magic and reality together.  I enjoyed reading this story of the Israeli
spy, Gabriel Allon and his glamorous wife, Chiara and also other members
of his team who stop terrorists in their tracks.  I am always amazed at how
prescient and contemporary Daniel Silva’s stories seem to be even though this
particular book was written seven years ago.

Following a complex trail of money and people Gabriel Allon and his team aided
by the assistance of a wealthy woman manage to infiltrate the terrorist mind-set
and also their network.
This is a compelling tale combining exotic locations of the desert of Saudi Arabia
and Dubai and beautiful windswept places on the Cornish coast of England.  London,
New York and Washington D.C. are also settings and it is fascinating to learn of the
intricate workings of the spy agencies. 

Gabriel Allon is also a fascinating character in his own right as he is a wonderful
art restorer and painter.  This aspect of his character is recognised in Portrait of a Spy,
where  as well as restoring noted art works he also paints a portrait of a beautiful woman.
However, events have often conspired to keep him away
from his favoured occupation and he is obliged to turn his hand to infiltrating the
terrorist networks and seeking out known terrorists.

This is another excellent book by Daniel Silva and I look forward to reading more of
the exploits of Gabriel Allon in other books.


Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Villa Girls by Nicky Pellegrino

This book of The Villa Girls is wonderful and a joy to read.  Nicky Pellegrino writes about life, beautiful landscapes and gardens, olive trees and celebrations.  The story involves four girls who become life-long friends and take their holidays together.
Rosie is alone in the world without a family and much of the story is about her interaction with Addolorata’s  family and Italian restaurant, Little Italy.  Rosie makes her own way in the world with a love of photography and works in this field in London.

On one of the holidays to Italy Rosie meets Enzo whose life evolves around his family’s estate of the olive trees.  This did seem to be a wonderful romance at the beginning but unfortunately life turned out differently at the time for Rosie and Enzo.

 I found the descriptions of the olive estate, the harvests, the celebrations, food and wine and family of Enzo, especially his Nonna  with her words of wisdom beautiful.  There was beauty in the olive groves and it was a life which seemed to be determined by the state of the trees and the weather.  However, at one time, Enzo’s grand-mother spoke to Enzo and told him to forget the trees for a moment and that if she had made him believe that the olive trees were the most important thing of all then she was sorry.  Nothing is more important than love.  Perhaps counsel such as this and wise words from his sister Concetta, may have made him see sense before he embarked on a marriage of convenience with a local woman, Maria Luisa, who saw him as a second best choice as her husband.

This story is well recommended and it is wonderful to read each new chapter with anticipation as the story unfolds.  The settings in London and also Italy with its winding little cobble stone lanes and pizza parlours, coffee shops  and pastries are quite beguiling.  Lovely descriptions of the scenery , the flowering gardens of fruit trees and blooms in the summertime, coastal roads, the villages, beaches of Triente and Amalfi  are also wonderful.