Books I read In 2021: Part 3

Before I continue writing about Tuscany, it's time for me to share a little bit about the books I read between July and September 2021. I read a total of 8 books in 3 months which is a bit less than my usual average but there were 2 very thick books in there: The Corfu Trilogy (757 pages) and Outlander (850 pages).

The Corfu Trilogy by Gerald Durrell

This wonderful memoir recounts the years that the Durrell family spent on Corfu in the years leading up to World War 2. 

Sincerely Loree: The Corfu Trilogy by Gerald Durrell

Durrell is a keen observant of both nature and the people he encounters and he writes about both with affection and humour. His sharp observations about his family and the often-hilarious situations they ended up in had me laughing out  loud several times. The Durrells' life on Corfu is presented as an idyllic time of innocent pleasures and simple joys. This, coupled with the author's detailed descriptions of the natural world, made this book immensely pleasurable to read.

Trigger warnings: some words and phrases used may sound old-fashioned and mildly offensive to modern readers but bearing in mind that this book was first published in 1956 I think that this can be easily forgiven.

My rating: 4.5 ⭐

The Pianist: The Extraordinary Story of One Man's Survival in Warsaw, 1939-45 by Władysław Szpilman

Most people are already familiar with this story due to the movie adaptation of the book by Roman Polanski starring Adrien Brody as Władysław Szpilman. 

The Pianist is an extraordinary account of one man's quest for survival in the Jewish ghetto and in war-ravaged Warsaw during the Nazi occupation. The narrative, told in simple, stark language does not embellish the horrors that Szpilman lived through. Instead, its matter-of-fact tone and the author's ability to state things as he sees them and move on without dwelling on them, seem to indicate the he was still in a state of shock and disbelief when this book was first published in 1946. It was probably also the only way for him to stay sane and alive in a world that had gone completely mad. I found the diary entries of the German Officer who helped Szpilman survive in Warsaw in the months leading to its liberation especially poignant and extremely moving. 

My rating: 4.5 ⭐

The  Lady Of The Rivers by Philippa Gregory

This is a novel about Jacquetta of Luxembourg, the mother of Elizabeth Woodville, wife of Edward IV and queen consort of England. This book starts from Jacquetta's girlhood in France, where she was married at a young age to John of Lancaster, Duke of Bedford and uncle to Henry VI of England. After his death she falls in love and marries his squire, Richard Woodville. Together they would have 14 children. Jacquetta and Richard faithfully served the House of Lancaster and its last king, the childlike Henry VI and his fierce queen, Margaret of Anjou.

Henry and Margaret are ill-suited and the king is often sick, suffering from a malady of the mind that often made him sleep for long periods of time. The kingdom is weak and England's coffers are empty after a protracted war with France. Gregory captures this turbulent period that led to the Wars of the Roses very well and, in Jacquetta, gives us a protagonist that is not easily forgotten.

Sincerely Loree: The Lady Of The Rivers by Philippa Gregory

By now you all know that I enjoy works of historical fiction and, while this book takes several liberties with the actual facts, it did help me unravel some of the complicated succession issues that arose after the death of the much-loved warrior king, Henry V. However, be warned that this book is only for serious historical fictions geeks with a special interest in the Plantagenet rulers of England.

My rating: 3.0 ⭐

Ordinary Grace by Willian Kent Krueger

You may read my full review of Ordinary Grace here.

The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain

This is the story of Gustav Perle and his best friend Anton Zwiebel, a budding concert pianist. Anton is selfish and doesn't always treat Gustav well. Gustav's mother, Emilie, treats him roughly and is often hard-hearted towards him. She is a sad and bitter woman . Gustav Perle, on the other hand, is a warm, kind-hearted boy who adores his mother in spite of the way she treated him.

Sincerely Loree: The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain
The Gustav Sonata is a character-driven book that is quite melancholic at times. Emilie's treatment of Gustav and Anton's self-centredness make for some heart-breaking moments. I would not say it is an enjoyable book to read but I felt that Rose Tremain skilfully created a tale about a friendship that lasted a lifetime while delving into issues such as cruelty and tenderness, racism and tolerance, and the eternal question about whether, in certain extreme circumstances, we should always do what is legal or what is right. The author does not try to answer this question, nor does she direct us towards one answer or another but simply shows us that even an act carried out in good conscience can have devastating effects on those around us. Ultimately, I that the book wants us to think what we would do it faced with such a difficult decision.

My rating: 3.9 ⭐

The Au Pair by Emma Rous

Seraphine Mayes and her twin brother Danny were born in the middle of summer at their family’s estate on the Norfolk coast. Within hours of their birth, their mother threw herself from the cliffs, the au pair fled, and the village was rife with rumours. As an adult, Seraphine discovers a photo that raises a set of dangerous questions and sets in motion a trail of bizarre events that all lead to the elusive au pair.

This book was a mildly entertaining read that was spoilt by the highly unlikely behaviour of its characters. I found the writing to be childish in places and most of the characters lacked any depth, with most of them coming across as mere caricatures. Midway through the novel I had a good inkling of where it was going so there were no surprises at the end unfortunately.

My rating: 2.6 ⭐

The French Photographer by Natasha Lester

In 1942 successful model Jessica May halts her career and gets behind the camera as a photojournalist for Vogue  but the military makes this as difficult as possible for her. In Europe she meets paratrooper Dan Hallworth and his protegee, Victorine, a little girl who has grown up in a field hospital.

In 2005 Australian curator D'Arcy Hallworth arrives at a beautiful chateau in France to manage a famous collection of photographs taken by an enigmatic person known only as The Photographer.

Sincerely Loree: The French Photographer by Natasha Lester

This book is another WW2 story with a dual to timeline. I really enjoyed the war story and the characters and I loved Jess. I was rooting for her all along so I was quite disappointed with the way the author decided to end the story. The contemporary story was not as well-told as I'd expected and I thought D'Arcy was rather shallow. But perhaps more important than the actual story, The French Photographer highlighted the misogyny that was still so prevalent in the 1940s and that the Allied  liberators of Europe were not all gentlemen and many women were raped and suffered the consequences. It reminded me that in war things are rarely ever black or white but a hundred shades of grey. 

Trigger warnings: rape, suicide and the assorted horrors of war.

My rating: 3.2 ⭐

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

In 1945 Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone circle in the Highlands of Scotland. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year 1743.

It was hard for me to rate this book because I've been watching the TV series (so nothing came as much a surprise)  but especially because I have a huge soft spot for James Alexander Malcolm McKenzie Fraser, the man Claire falls in love with after she goes though the Stones. But I did my best not to let that influence me in any way and be as impartial as possible. I can't say I totally succeeded but the bottom line is that I really enjoyed reading this book.

At first I was a bit overwhelmed by its length and by the great detail the author went into but I got into a good rhythm pretty quickly, especially after Claire went through the Stones. In reality this book is the type of swashbuckling adventure that I love and when there's some fantasy thrown in, I'm hooked. So no complaints from me about this one.

My rating: 4.2 ⭐

That sums up my reading for the summer months. Unsurprisingly, I read a lot of historical fiction during this time. It is a genre I am always drawn to and I am not completely sure why but I think it has something to do with escaping reality into a completely different world of knights in shining armour and ladies in distress. I think I prefer that to the reality of the brutal world we are all living in at the moment.

Gattina said...

I read mostly in French, English books are hard to find here in Brussels. Mostly in second hand shops. And the Frenchs translate the titles so I don't know if I have read the books or not !

My Instagram

Sincerely, Loree. Theme by STS.