Over the Gate, Miss Read
Villages like Fairacre have their own rich lore, and Miss Read tells a dozen tales here, most of them told to her by other villagers. (Who knew Fairacre had its own ghost?) Lighthearted, often funny, sometimes mysterious, these stories provide another way to spend a few hours in Fairacre. (I am now collecting these books for my own shelf, keeping an eye out for them every time I visit a used bookstore.)
The House at Tyneford, Natasha Solomons
Elise Landau, daughter of bourgeois Viennese Jews, comes to England in 1938 as a housemaid at Tyneford, an isolated great house on the Dorset coast. She expects to hate England – and at first she does, missing her family and her cosseted Vienna life. Slowly, though, she makes friends and comes to love the wild, windswept landscape, even as war encroaches. Solomons’ writing is wonderfully atmospheric; her characters are sometimes stereotypical, but the best ones (like Elise) break the molds of their social classes. And there’s a dazzling love story at the heart of it all. Fabulous. (Recommended by Jaclyn, who loved it too.)
The Joys of Love, Madeleine L’Engle
I stumbled upon this at the Brattle – I had no idea it existed, let alone that it was only published a few years ago. (I loved the introduction by L’Engle’s granddaughter, Lena Roy, also a writer.) Both the plot (life in a summer stock theatre in the 1940s) and the protagonist – tall, gawky, naive, erudite Elizabeth – mirror L’Engle’s own experience. The supporting characters (especially kindhearted Jane and sweet Ben) are a lot of fun, and there are some bittersweet moments of wisdom and truth and lots of quoting from Shakespeare and Chekhov. Typical L’Engle, in other words – probably best appreciated by those of us who love her already.
An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith, Barbara Brown Taylor
I liked Taylor’s first memoir (see yesterday’s post), but I loved this one. She writes about various “practices” – physical labor, Sabbath, prayer, simply looking another person in the eye – that can help ground us in the world we live in, and thereby give us a glimpse of the eternal in daily life. I might be writing a whole separate post about this book. So many gorgeous sentences, nuggets of wisdom, honest admissions, practical advice. I got this from the library, but I’ll be buying a copy. Love.
An Unmarked Grave, Charles Todd
Bess Crawford is at it again: taking on a mystery she didn’t ask for, but that just won’t let her rest. Her investigation is complicated by the Spanish flu, lots of travel back and forth between England and France, a Yankee soldier who keeps turning up like a bad penny (at least he’s endearing), and a vicious killer who’s on her tail. I like Bess and her family more and more, though this plot contained some pretty wild coincidences. To review for the Shelf (out June 5).
Three Times Lucky, Sheila Turnage
I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway and loved the story of Mo LoBeau, who washed up – literally – in Tupelo Landing, NC, as a baby. There’s a hilarious cast of small-town characters, a mystery that goes deeper than you’d think, and some truly wonderful writing. I kept cracking up and reading bits aloud to my husband. Mo is a sassy, smart, sharp-eyed narrator and she takes readers for such a fun ride. (Out May 10.)
Village Christmas, Miss Read
Two spinster sisters in Fairacre peer anxiously at the new family across the road, not sure whether to accept them, until the mother goes into labor on Christmas Day. A sweet tale of Christmas joy in a village I love. (Link is to a 3-in-1 edition of Miss Read’s Christmas tales that includes this story.)
You Know When the Men Are Gone, Siobhan Fallon
Siobhan, a military wife, writes with sensitivity and grace about army wives at Fort Hood, in central Texas, waiting for their husbands to return from deployment. So much heartbreak in these pages, but also so much courage. I do wish the stories had delved deeper, continued past their end points so I could know what happened after – there are always so many questions hanging around the lives of military families.
(Bonus: I heard Siobhan read at Porter Square Books this week, and she was so lovely and gracious and well-spoken. And – she admitted when she found out I was a Texan – my home state captivated her in a way she totally didn’t expect.)
Run With Me, Jennifer Luitwieler
Jen is a Twitter friend of mine, and she sent me the e-version of her book for review. It’s about running, but it’s also about faith, family, a mischievous dog, and coming to grips with the baggage you’ve dragged around for years. Jen is hilarious and so real, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading her story. (And have added her to the long list of online friends I’d love to meet in real life.)
Whew! April was a busy reading month, and I have several stacks awaiting my attention in May. What are you reading now?
(NB: This post contains IndieBound affiliate links.)