Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Historic Worthing - the Untold Story

By Chris Hare

Read this to add to my family history research. As with the other book of Chris's I read, it's entertaining and well-written. I learned so much - who would have thought that staid old Worthing, home to thousands of retirees, was once a hotbed of rioting every Bonfire Night? And I never, ever imagined that the following three words would be used together in a section heading: Salvation Army Riots.

To find out more, track down a copy of the book! I bought mine second hand at a Family History Fair. In Worthing, of course.

Friday, 18 June 2010


Pins by Christine Todd

One of my support-a-small-press purchases, which I heard about first on Sally Zigmond's blog (again). Molly finds concrete evidence her husband's been playing away, and buys voodoo dolls of him and his lover to stick pins in. Next morning her husband wakes up dead of an aneurysm.

Molly's guilt-ridden, and worried when the handsome detective seems to take quite an interest in her. As the months pass she finds hubby had a string of lovers, and had been undermining her ad agency business. She rebuilds her business as she rebuilds her life, and eventually realises the detective's interest in her is personal rather than professional. A year on, there's hope for her future.

It's a novel about finding yourself, being who you need to be rather than who someone else expects you to be. Why did her husband keep hurting her like that? Well, says the wise funeral-director character, probably because he wanted to.

I enjoyed this novel - it's written in first person present tense and has a snappy style. It's quite American in places (set in Chicago; the author is English but lived for years in the US) and there's plenty of humour. Couple of small points didn't work for me - Molly had a secondary career as a non-fiction writer and had this career to get back on track as well which seemed unnecessary. (Why do writers so often make their characters writers as well?) Related to this, she was writing gardening articles but preferred to sell her marital home with a big garden and look for a high rise condo which she felt was more 'her'. I'd have had the properties the other way round.

Overall a good read and definitely recommended.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Talking to the Dead

Talking to the Dead by Helen Dunmore

I bought this for 10p from the community centre book stall. Beautifully, poetically written. The setting is an old country house, during a very hot summer. You feel the oppressive heat, and almost long for the inevitable storm to clear the air.

Nina is helping her sister Isabel after a difficult birth. She becomes attracted to Isabel's husband and they begin an affair. Nina and Isabel have always been close, and you start to think, maybe too close. The presence of the baby, who Nina doesn't seem to relate to as you'd expect her to, brings back memories of the girls' brother who died from cot death. Or so the story goes. Nina begins to have different recollections of her childhood days.

Isabel's a delicate character - she has an eating disorder and is agarophobic. But we begin to learn what might have caused her problems as she struggles to regain her health after the birth.

The storm, when it comes, is shocking and upsetting. This is not a cheery read, but it's a beautifully written book and I'd recommend it to fans of Dunmore.