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Life According to Literature & My January Reads

Well, it’s been a while. It’s February already (how did that happen?) and this really is my first post of the year…

I thought I’d kick off by taking part in a fun challenge to give you an idea about some of the books I enjoyed in 2019. Davida Chazan, aka, The Chocolate Lady kindly included My Counterfeit Self  in her response to the Life According to Literature  so I thought I’d give it a try.  

THE RULES: Using only books you have read during the last year (2019), answer these questions. Try not to repeat a book title. Let others know below, if you’ve joined in too.


Describe yourself: The Story Keeper

How do you feel? Expectation

Describe Where you currently live? We Have Always Lived in the Castle

If you could go anywhere, where would you go? Manhattan Beach

Your favourite form of transportation: Bridge of Clay

Your best friend is: Daisy Jones & The Six

You and your friends are: Romantic Outlaws

What’s the weather like? The Glittering Hour

You Fear: My Sister, The Serial Killer

What is the best advice you have to give? Go Set a Watchman

Thought for the Day: This Must be the Place

How would I like to die: The Party

My soul’s present condition: Girl, Woman, Other


My January Reads

The books I’ve enjoyed this month, in order of reading.    

The Sea House by Esther Freud

Bought: Second-hand, from Word on the Water, Kings Cross

Me, shopping at Word on the Water 

What drew you to it? I like the author’s work, cover quote by Maggie O’Farrell.

Genre/Themes: timeslip (dual timeline) 1953 and 2000, architecture, post-war displacement, Jewish heritage, restlessness, art, romance.

Any coincidences with book I am writing? Yes, one of my characters hails from Suffolk and both books include the 1953 floods.

I particularly enjoyed for: Depictions of the Suffolk coast line. The gradual melding of the two story lines.

I didn’t get on with: None of the men in this novel were particularly likable. (Sorry!)

Facts: Esther Freud’s village of Steerborough is based on Walberswick. In the 1890s and 1900s the village became associated with Philip Wilson Steer and his circle of English Impressionists. It was home to the noted artist and architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh.


The Offing by Benjamin Myers

Bought: No. Acquired. Generously donated by Lynn Pearce.

What drew you to it? I greatly enjoyed The Gallows Pole by the same author.

Genre/Themes: A post-war love letter to Northern England, coming-of-age, nature, poetry, patronage, healing through art.

Any coincidences with book I am writing? Yes, set in the same era.

I particularly enjoyed for: The character of Dulcie Piper, living on black market rations in a remote and rambling Yorkshire cottage, offering a particularly curt brand of generosity and kindness to the book’s sixteen-year-old narrator, who stumbles into her life not knowing she has a story of her own.

Will you get on with it? This is a book that demands unapologetically you slow down its pace. Not for those who like lots of action and explosions.

Facts: The offing is “the distant stretch of sea where sky and water merge”.


Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout

Bought: Amazon

What drew you to it? I ‘discovered’ the author’s work in 2016 when I had to read it for a recording of BBC2’s Book Club. I got to put two questions to Elizabeth Strout! Since then, I’ve read every word she has ever written.

Genre/Themes: A novel made up of short interlinking stories, often with a disconnect in the timeline. Approaching death. Aging. Poverty. Loneliness. Love (spoiler alert – Olive marries for a second time). The setting, as always, is Maine and the stories are peopled with those who have been left behind, while others – usually their children – have moved away.

Any coincidences with book I am writing? Nope.

I particularly enjoyed for: I have to be honest, my expectations were extremely high and were not consistently met, but there were moments of great power that took my mind to places it doesn’t visit very often. One of those stories concerns Olive, who goes to visit a woman with cancer and has been given the odds of 50/50. Olive doesn’t know the woman particularly well, but she goes, while the woman’s friends stay away. Olive does what Olive does best. While the woman’s family are trying to remain upbeat, she acknowledges the woman’s need to accept the fact that she may be facing the end. It is about as beautiful as writing gets. I adore Strout’s gossipy town, pitched perfectly for life in a small town. I particularly enjoyed the fact that characters from some of Strout’s other novels crop up and how I felt as if I was bumping into old friends. Then I thought, well of course they would bump into Olive, of course they would end up in the same nursing home as her, because all of her stories are set in three small towns in Maine where everyone knows everyone else. You practically expect John Irving’s characters to make an appearance.

I didn’t get on with: Elizabeth Strout writes with great honesty and simplicity. Sometimes this came across as telling rather than showing.

Facts: Elizabeth Strout honed her writing skills by performing stand-up comedy. She wanted to see how people reacted to her words.

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One comment

  1. Fabulous answers!

    And isn’t that Word on the Water a fun place to visit? We didn’t buy anything there when we went, but it was a lovely outing!

    Comment by Davida Chazan on February 8, 2020 at 11:23 am