#20BooksofSummer: The End
Reader, I made it.
After a few substitutes and a last minute rush to the finish line, I did indeed read twenty books between June and the end of August. I discovered writers new to me, and I revisited some I hadn’t read in many years. I enjoyed most of my reading, though a few novels did disappoint. Some books handily also qualified for my #projectplaces reading, and some formed part of a book swap with my son, in which we each challenged the other to read outside our comfort zones. Books are so multi-faceted!
And best of all, there were one or two unmissable highlights that I might never have read without this challenge.
Here’s my final list, with links to the ones I’ve reviewed so far:
The Nature of Summer by Jim Crumley
This Is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay
The Last Hillwalker by John Burns
The Girls of Chequertrees by Marion St John Webb
The Family from One End Street by Eve Graham
Fell Farm Holiday by Marjorie Lloyd
The Railway Children by E Nesbit (audiobook)
Fear in the Cotswolds by Rebecca Tope
A Cotswold Killing by Rebecca Tope
The Hog’s Back Mystery by Freeman Wills Crofts
Hide and Seek by Ian Rankin
London Calling by Sara Sheridan
Highland Fling by Nancy Mitford
The Seafront Tea Rooms by Vanessa Greene
A Breath of French Air by HE Bates
Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Vampire Menace by Olga Wojtas
Whispers in the Village by Rebecca Shaw
Monarch of the Glen by Compton McKenzie
A Cornish Summer by Catherine Alliott
The News from Ireland by William Trevor
Some of these replaced books on my original list, when I found I just wasn’t in the mood for my first choices – but I still intend to go back to the ones I set aside.
I think my favourite books in the end were The Last Hillwalker, Monarch of the Glen, A Breath of French Air, The Nature of Summer and The News from Ireland. Each combined excellent content with skilled writing and were a pleasure to read. Top place would be a tie between The Last Hillwalker and The News From Ireland – the latter chosen especially for its outstanding short story The Virgins.
I was looking for some light entertainment this summer, and some of my choices made me laugh out loud, notably This Is Going To Hurt, Highland Fling, Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Vampire Menace, and again, The Last Hillwalker and Monarch of the Glen.
Some of the crime I read was a little disappointing – and I
do wish authors didn’t think any female detective needs to be permanently
miserable. That is one of the reasons why I so much enjoyed Miss Blaine’s
Prefect – which I haven’t listed under ‘crime’ as it’s only partly that – Shona
tenacious, misguided, (over) confident and hilarious, but she still eventually
solves the mystery enveloping the fin-de-siecle village of Sans Soleil. Of the pure crime books I did read, Ian
Rankin’s Hide and Seek stood out as a brilliantly written, gripping and
Sometimes I just want to read some romance. Despite what some highbrow critics may say, there is a real art to writing a good love story; we may know that happy endings are few and far between in real life, but we can happily overlook that if – if – the writing itself is outstanding and the characters convincing. The best modern romance I read over these three months was Catherine Alliott’s A Cornish Summer, and the best ‘vintage’ version was Nancy Mitford’s Highland Fling. Alliott brings together a wealthy family, a beautiful house, corporate intrigue and personal crises to create a hugely absorbing story, while Mitford does what she always does so well by opening a door on the lives of the obscenely rich and privileged young people of the 1930s and mocking their idle, self-indulgent, lives while spinning an outrageously silly and very funny plot, This time most of the story takes place in a Scottish castle, with the ‘grown ups’ shooting, hunting and fishing while the bored socialites laze about in silk dressing gowns listening to decadent jazz and drinking Sidecars.
Returning to childhood favourites is often a risky business. What if the books one loved so much all those years ago now appear dated and dull? I’m glad to say that neither The Family From One End Street nor The Railway Children had lost their charm (though this time I did get a little irritated by Nesbit’s 'Mother' with her endless headaches and lie-downs.) I wasn’t quite so taken with Fell Farm Holiday, in which it seemed to me absolutely nothing ever happened and there were no jokes either, but I know many people continue to love it. The Girls of Chequertrees was also new to me, and although it was definitely of its time, I enjoyed this story of four teenage girls brought together by a mysterious benefactress.
The only book that I didn’t much enjoy was the British
Library Crime Classic The Hog’s Back Mystery. Having now read four or five from
this beautifully produced collection, I have come to the conclusion that I just
don’t gel with the ‘Golden Age of Crime’ format, with its endless emphasis on details
of times and places. Character development
takes a very back seat in these books, but for me it’s far more important than
whether Mr X could have been at the bus stop ay 4.18pm precisely.
#20 Books of Summer was a great challenge; I enjoyed it very much and look forward to taking part again next year. And many thanks to Cathy of 746 Books for running this project and encouraging us all along the way.