81-85.  Five Library Books

I hadn’t been to the library for ages, but I had to return an overdue book my kids had taken out, and pay some overdue fees, and having done that could not stop myself from taking out eight random books from the new arrivals section.  And two of them were “seven day reads” in which you commit to getting the book back in a week.  And since my seven days are up tomorrow, I figured I better blog about the ones I’ve read so far, so I can return them and remain fee free (unlike my irresponsible children!).  None of these were life-changing fictions, but there are some enjoyable reads herein.

81. How to Find Love in a Bookshop, Veronica Henry

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“He never wouod have believed it if you told him a year ago.  That he’d be standing in an empty shop with a baby in a pram, seriously considering putting in an offer.”

Ok, this book is exactly what you’d think a book called How to Find Love in a Bookshop would be.  It is slightly cheesy - a total fluffy romance novel, where the the good ended happily, and the bad unhappily (to quote Miss Prism in The Importance of Being Earnest).  But, having said that, it is a very charming version of that sort of book.  Why did I like this one, when I loathed the somewhat similar Little Paris Bookshop? Because it doesn’t make any pretense of being serious fiction - its just a super sweet story about life in a small bookshop.

Emilia Nightingale’s father has just died, and she has inherited his small bookshop.  She wants to keep it running, but it’s a huge burden - her father was so loved by everyone in the community, but a businessman he was not.  So as she struggles to make the shop solvent, all the people in the community who cared about him and care about her find love and redemption in the aisles of the Nightingale Bookshop.  And maybe (DUH, definitely), Emilia will as well.

Look, it’s totall fluff, but such a nice comfort read, if that’s your bag.

82. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman

“When people ask me what I do - taxi drivers, hairdressers - I tell them I work in an office.”

This seven day read was a more serious read, and a very satisfying one.  Eleanor Oliphant lives by herself and relies on no one.  She needs no one, and has no one in her life except for her terrifying mother.  She narrates the novel, and when it starts, we think she might be on the autism spectrum, she is so awkward, and so isolated from humanity.  As the novel proceeds, and Eleanor slowly opens her life to other people - due to a random encounter with a co-worker and an injured stranger - we realize that she is just terribly terribly damaged by her horrible horrible up bringing.

Eleanor is such a compelling character, particularly as a narrator.  She is so awkward and really unlikable at the beginning - but she slowly unfolds - in a totally realistic way.  She doesn’t all of a sudden become a super normal person in a happy relationship - she just expands her life to have human contact.  And the change is so beautiful.

If I had a quibble it would be with a “twist” in the very last few pages that seemed a little unnecessary and I’m not quite sure holds up on rethinking the novel.  But this is Honeyman’s first novel and I will gladly seek out what she writes next - she’s able to write people who are terrible flawed and also realistic - and people I enjoyed spending time with.

83. The River at Night, Erica Ferencik

“Early one morning in late March, Pia forced my hand.”

Oh MY GOD this book drove me crazy.  It’s a thriller about a bunch of women who go on a rafting trip in a very isolated part of Maine, and find themselves in danger they did not anticipate.  It is snappily written and shows how brutal life can be.  But it is also a COMPLETE RIP OFF of Deliverance with ladies.  Except it’s just a junky thriller instead of an amazing meditation on the meaning of toxic masculinity and the same issue of how quick man becomes an animal. Ugh.  It made me so mad.  If you haven’t read Deliverance it might entertain you on an airplane. But Jesus, read Deliverance instead. 

84. Miss Treadway and the Field of Stars, Miranda Emmerson

“Iolanthe Green is perching on the arm of an antique wing chair.”

This is a delightful mystery about an American actress who suddenly goes missing from her British theater.  The police are looking for her, but when activity seems to die down, her dresser Anna starts an investigation of her own that brings her in contact with a whole new group of people she’d never met before.  It’s as much about the mystery itself as Anna and her growth and investigation, and I quite enjoyed it.  I think the ending was a bit abrupt, but I would recommend the book nonetheless - it kept me turning pages right until the end.  And I very much appreciated the subplot about racism in England in the mid-sixties.  A fun mystery read.

85. Local Girl Missing, Claire Douglas

“It’s a dreary afternoon, just after lunch, when I finally find out that you’re dead.”

Another basic thriller, this one about a girl (Frankie) who finally comes back to her hometown after twenty years when the body of her former best friend Sophie, who disappeared years ago, is found in the ocean.  Sophie’s brother Dan askes Frankie to come back and help him solve the mystery, all these years later.  Frankie is loathe to do so, but comes, and soon founds herself dragged into a situation that might be more than she can handle.  Like I said, a pretty basic premise, but I have to say, it has a killer ending, and one I didn’t see coming.  A fun read.

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017