Monday, 5 February 2018

What I read in January

I did very well at Christmas for books and book tokens; I am looking forward to getting plenty of reading done this year. I've talked before about my love of Persephone Books and I was lucky enough to get five of their titles as presents. I couldn't wait to start them which is why one of them is the first read of the year.

In 1939 Mollie Panter-Downe was a 33 year old writer of novels, short stories and articles, living in Surrey. Between the years covered in this book, 1939-1945, she wrote a regular 'Letter from London' for the New Yorker. These letters gave American readers a real idea of what it was like to live in wartime Britain.

The author covers all topics in her letters; politics, war reports, rationing, evacuation, bombing, entertainment and work. She can be critical, stern, amusing and is detailed in her accounts. Her writing feels very immediate, she is quite chatty, as a reader you get a real snapshot of exactly what was happening on that day, both locally, nationally and often globally and, importantly, you also get to know people's reactions and feelings to these events. I found the book fascinating and very readable. Even if you have read quite a bit of wartime social history this book will enhance your knowledge and understanding.

Sarah Dunnakey is an author local to me and this book takes inspiration from some of the places and landscapes in the area in which we live. I was looking forward to reading her book for these reasons alone but I really enjoyed her writing and story too. It is a fantastic read, rich in detail and captivating.

The book is set in both the 1930's and the present day. The main character in the 1930's is Billy Shaw, a young boy who lives with his family at the mill turned Pleasure Palace where his mother works and he helps out. He becomes a companion to Jasper Harper who lives on the moors above the palace with his mother Edie and his uncle Charles, both of whom are writers. Billy's life becomes entwined in theirs until a tragic event occurs which leaves behind a mystery.

In the present day Anna Sallis is the new custodian at the mill/palace and she is working on the archives, history and exhibitions to make it more of a tourist attraction. She comes across Billy's story and begins to unfold the mystery linking him and the Harpers. As the mystery unravels all the events of years ago and their consequences become clear.

Set in 1831 in the grimy, murky, crime ridden streets of London this novel follows the story of Hester White. She wishes to escape her dire surroundings to find a better life. She is also worried about the number of people in her area who are disappearing without a trace. A chance meeting with a gentleman doctor and his sister, Rebekah Brock, leads to a change in Hester's circumstances. She becomes caught up in a perilous attempt to solve a grim mystery and finds love and belonging along the way. An atmospheric and gripping tale.

I really enjoyed reading this, it was quite a page turner. I thought the author captured the sights and smells of London at that time very well, as a reader you were transported there. I was a bit disappointed by the end of the book, not so much that it spoilt it for me but it was all just rather convenient.

This is the true story of Lale Solokov, a Slovakian Jew who was sent to Auschwitz. The author became friends with him in the last few years of his life and Lale shared his story with her as he wanted it to be recorded before he died.

Lale's job in Auschwitz was to tattoo the numbers onto the prisoner's arms as they first arrived at the camp. This job allowed him some small perks, he got a few extra rations and he was allowed to move around the camp more freely than an ordinary prisoner. Lale used his position to aid his fellow prisoners; he shared his extra rations and traded smuggled jewels and cash for food and medicine. He met a young woman, Gita, as he tattooed her number and they managed to keep meeting up and fell in love. This book tells their struggle for survival in the most desperate and harrowing of places. It is an incredibly moving, powerful and important read.

What have you been reading this month?


  1. Some really fascinating books once again. I love the sound of the London War Notes one, I'm defintiely going to have to add that to my wish list. I honestly don't know where you find the time to read so much, I'm lucky if I finish one book in a month! xx

  2. More fascinating reads! Most of these sound a bit intense for my current hormones, but fascinating just the same.

  3. Gosh I wish I could devour books like you do and how I USED to do, but I just sadly don't have the time anymore. thanks for another heads up on books to check out!