‘BOOKS GIVE A SOUL TO THE UNIVERSE, WINGS TO THE MIND, FLIGHT TO THE IMAGINATION AND LIFE TO EVERYTHING’ – PLATO
Books have the power to take you to other worlds, other times. Recently, I have been to the court of King Henry VIII, to Poland during World War 2 and to The Russian Court in the 1500s. I have spent time in Cyprus, Sweden and France. Books open up new worlds, new lives, new emotions. They take us out of ourselves in a safe way. Here are some of the books I have loved.
Bring Up The Bodies
The Mirror and The Light all by Hilary Mantel
Hilary Mantel’s trilogy of historical novels depict life in the court of King Henry VIII in England. The novels tell about the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell, who rose from poverty to become one of the most powerful men in English history. Cromwell is usually depicted as devious and calculating and he is, but Mantel gives us an insight into his private life and thoughts. Well we see everything from his point of view, so we are more sympathetic.
It is a fascinating imagining of Cromwell’s life as Henry’s ‘fixer’ until his head also hit the block. Mantel took eight years to write the final book. I promise it won’t take you as long to read it.
The Tsarina’s Daughter by Ellen Alpsten
I am not finished this yet (it is long) but I am enjoying the story of life in the Russian Court in the 1700s. We visited St Petersburg five years ago and I remember vividly some of the palaces described in this book. The tsars and tsarinas are accurately described according to history and the author gives flesh to their stories. We learn about life as a member of the royal family, through the eyes of Elizabeth Petrovna, who was the daughter of Peter the Great and Catherine 1. Just as in Henry VIII’s court, the author brings the era alive with her evocative writing. And similar to England it was very easy to fall out of favour.
BOOKS INSPIRED BY TRUE EVENTS
The Yellow Bird Sings by Jennifer Rosner
This debut novel begins in Poland in 1941. The Jews are rounded up and Roza and her daughter hide in a barn. Five-year old Shira learns to keep silent and only the yellow bird from her mother’s stories can sing the melodies she composes. Then it is no longer safe to stay and Roza has to make a heart-breaking decision.
A beautifully written book, which will linger in your mind long after you finish reading it.
Songbirds by Christy Lefteri (also the author of The Beekeeper of Aleppo)
Set in Cyprus, this will captivate you from the opening pages. A Sri Lankan nanny (Nisha) disappears and only her boyfriend (Yiannis) and employer (Petra) seem to care. The story is told from their points of view.
While it is a mystery novel, the author tackles the exploitation of these workers who sacrifice everything to care for their families at home. The real-life disappearance of domestic workers in Cyprus was her inspiration.
Bear Town by Fredrik Backman
Beartown is a small hockey town in a large forest in Sweden with a dwindling population. It has very little going for it, but when the local Junior Hockey team reaches the semi-finals, there is hope that the town might benefit.
However, a brutal act on the night of victory divides the town. Should the perpetrator be brought to justice or should it be hushed up?
Backman said he spent a lot of time in locker rooms and ‘Beartown’ is based on what he saw and heard.
The Maidens by Alex Michaelides
Set mostly in Cambridge University in England, this psychological thriller is a gripping read. Mariana, a group therapist, returns to her alma mater to comfort her niece when her room-mate goes missing and is found murdered. Edward Fosca, a Greek Tragedy professor seems to be involved in some way as the student was one of his special study group, ‘The Maidens’.
Marianna is determined to find out the truth. But her obsession with the professor spirals out of control. How can she prove his guilt?
The Holiday by T.M. Logan
This psychological thriller will keep you on your toes. Four best friends, three husbands and children share a luxurious holiday villa in France. But Kate suspects her husband is having an affair with one of her friends. But which one? It could be described as ‘the holiday from hell’.
I hope you enjoy my recommendations. And here is a link to my last book review for your perusal. Would love to know your must-reads.