Friday, 14 July 2017

What I read in May

Gosh, how am I behind on this series already?! I can't believe it is July! If you didn't catch the first post about my reading habits you can find the post for April here.

I have only read 3 or 4 Agatha Christie novels and decided I really needed to read some more seeing as she is one of the most famous and prolific crime writers. When this lovely copy turned up at my book group I knew I would read it. The story is interesting, all the action is based around a famous precious ruby called the Heart of Fire and it's new owner. Most of the story occurs on the Blue Train which is travelling from London to Nice and many of the passengers become involved in the drama. This is a Poirot story so we get to see him unravelling all the mysteries. I enjoyed the story and there were some interesting characters.

However, when reading old books there can be some uncomfortable/upsetting moments when your values/beliefs clash with those in the book and you come across what Mim at Crinoline Robot calls 'Attitudes of their Time' and she discusses this very well, probably better than I can. In this case this book published in 1928 displays some antisemitism with regards to some minor characters.

Next I switched to non fiction and picked this social history book. It is a collection of entries from a Mass Observation diary that a Yorkshire woman kept during World War Two. Her sister and brother in law were shop keepers in Dewsbury (which is relatively local to me) and Kathleen worked in the grocery shop with them. I have read quite a few Mass Observation diaries and always enjoy learning about ordinary people on the Home Front and their wartime experience. This one was interesting as I have read a lot about rationing and shopping from the shopper's point of view but nothing about it from the other side. Kathleen writes about the difficulties of keeping up with the changing rationing system, the trials of getting their share of supplies, the filling in of endless forms and the worries of letting down their regular customers. You find out how oranges can cause major disruption and how unpopular tea rationing was. Unlike some diaries there is very little of a personal nature so you don't get to know Kathleen very well but you do find out lots about shop and town life during the war.

One reason that I didn't read many books in May is right here. I have been trying to read this book, all about the fashion industry and in theory it is right up my street and I should be enjoying it. However, I am only on chapter 4 and that has been a struggle. It is interesting but I think the anti capitalist viewpoint is rammed home so strongly and constantly that I just found it a bit wearing. So I have decided it might be one to dip in and out of, reading a chapter here and there, rather than reading it straight through. I don't want to give up on it yet as what I have read has been of interest.

The final book I read in May was 'The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets" by Eva Rice. I was so efficient at passing it on to the charity shop when I had finished it that I didn't even take a photo of the front cover. In a way that is good though as the cover is one of those off putting pink sickly chick lit things which might make you stay away from a really enjoyable book.

It is set in the 1950's and reflects the recovery from wartime that is occurring and also the split between those who had a life before the war and those who were born during it so they are now just starting to have some fun. It follows the unlikely friendship of two quite different young women, Penelope and Charlotte and the lives that they are trying to build for themselves. There are financial worries about an ancestral pile, rock n roll, debutante type parties, memoirs, love affairs and guinea pigs. It was very readable and I really enjoyed it. It would be a great holiday book.

What have you been reading?