I have been reading, but I realise that I have not shared my best reads with you since last year. Life has got in the way, my friends. And perhaps I have been lazy, preferring to read rather than write. But I have three books for the holidays to share with you.
We travel the world in these books. And we also travel in time. I learned so much, but I was also entertained. I lost myself in the stories I was reading.
STILL LIFE by Sarah Winman
Captivating and charming with wonderful engaging characters, I was hooked from the opening pages. The book spans four decades and begins in Italy in 1944. It is a story about love and friendship and the role art plays in our lives. The pace is slow and gentle. Nothing happens in a hurry. That is part of its appeal. I could feel every bit of the heat of an Italian summer in the sensuous prose.
A young British soldier named Ulysses meets Miss Evelyn Skinner, a 64-year-old art historian who believes in living life to the full. Meeting her impacts hugely on his life. When he returns to London’s East End, he brings her life-changing wisdom about art and love with him.
“Beautiful art opens our eyes to the beauty of the world, Ulysses. It repositions our sight and judgment. Captures forever that which is fleeting,” Evelyn says. “Art versus humanity is not the question, Ulysses. One doesn’t exist without the other,” she tells him.
The characters in the East End are real, some lovable, some flawed. Ulysses just exists in the East End. But then he is offered the chance to return to Florence. Because he has learned to be open to new experiences, he decides to seize the opportunity for change. And life takes on a different tone.
There is plenty of dialogue, the minutiae of daily life is described in detail. This is a book to savour and enjoy.
THE SEVEN SISTERS by Lucinda Riley
This is the first book in a series of seven novels.
Maia and her five sisters gather together at their childhood home – “Atlantis” – having been told that their beloved father Pa Salt, who adopted them all as babies, has died. Each of them is handed a tantalizing clue to her true heritage. Maia’s clue takes her across the world to a crumbling mansion in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Once there, she discovers where she came from and the truth about her origins. The book is constructed in two different time frames and most of the book tells the story of Isabella. But that is all I am giving away!
Lucinda Riley’s prose is detailed and descriptive, maybe even long-winded in places, but I found the story captivating and I also love learning more about Brazil and Paris in the 1920s. Yes, we do move around.
Each book tells the story of a different sister, but moves along in time too, so it is important to read them in order.
I am in the middle of ‘The Storm Sister’, the second book and enjoying it too. This would be a perfect holiday read.
SONG OF A CAPTIVE BIRD by Jasmin Darznik
“Song of a Captive Bird” is a novel inspired by the life and poetry of Forugh Farrokhzad, an Iranian poet and film director who died in 1967 at the age of 32.
A woman in Iran in the mid-20th century had no freedom; she went from her father’s to her husband’s house. And was expected to have no voice, no opinions of her own.
The author takes what she knew of her life and creates a narrative of a young rebellious woman, determined to make a name as a ‘poet’. She did not want to live the live that she was expected to live. She was rebellious even as a child.
‘Mine was a country where they said a woman’s nature is riddled with sin, where they claimed that women’s voices had the power to drive men to lust and distract them from matters of both heaven and earth…Because I was a woman, they wanted to silence the screams on my lips and stifle the breath in my lungs. But I couldn’t stay quiet.”
A controversial figure, Farrokhzad embodied a new feminism in Iran. She forged her own path, making difficult decisions along the way.
I found this book and Farrokhzad totally fascinating. And was glad I was born in Ireland not Iran.
Have any of you read any of these?
Here are links to some of my old reviews, just in case you missed them. And I will put up another review very soon as I have lots of books to recommend.
Love Hilda x