Thursday, February 18, 2016

Remarks on Recent Reads: The Wintry Edition

It's been awhile since I've had a Remarks on Recent Reads post. My reading has been a bit sporadic lately. There were some firsts with authors new to me--Mary Hocking, Dorothy Sayers, and Bill Clegg. I also read a couple of books set in snowy places which made for some great wintry reading.

I Saw Three Ships by Elizabeth Goudge (originally published in 1969)

I read my first Elizabeth Goudge book last year for Elizabeth Goudge Reading Week at Emerald City Book Review. Elizabeth Goudge was a prolific writer. I Saw Three Ships is the first children's book I've read of hers, and it didn't disappoint. The story takes place at Christmas. Although I Saw Three Ships is about the origin of the Christmas carol, "I Saw Three Ships," the book is much more. It's the story of Polly, a young girl who lives with her aunts in a seaside English village. She's spending the first Christmas without her parents who have died. This is a story about miracles and the magic of Christmas, and I loved it. The 60 page book is a chapter book with delightful illustrations by Margot Tomes.

The Very Dead of Winter by Mary Hocking (1994)

Another first for me is this book by British author Mary Hocking. The Very Dead of Winter is the story of a family coming together on Christmas Eve to a cottage in the woods in the midst of a blizzard. There are all kinds of subtle undercurrents going on in the family. The cottage has meaning for the two sisters, Sophia and Florence, who spent time there as children. The two sisters haven't seen each other in years. Florence's husband, Konrad, is dying. Florence and Konrad's adult children, Nick and Anita, are there, too. Hocking's writing is subtle in this story of complicated relationships between sisters, mother and daughter, and for the revelation of family secrets. I really enjoyed this novel and look forward to reading more by Mary Hocking.

The Nine Tailors by Dorothy Sayers (originally published in 1934)

Lord Peter Wimsey and his man, Bunter, find themselves stranded in a village in the Fen country of England during a blizzard on New Year's Eve day. There he makes the acquaintance of the rector and his wife and several of the members of the parish. Lord Peter is so accomplished that he joins in the ringing of the church bells on New Year's Eve. Later he's called back to the village when a dead body is found in the grave meant for another. Dorothy Sayers weaves a very detailed murder mystery where there are secrets, lies, mistaken identities, seemingly meaningless clues, and then there are the bells. A really interesting and unusual mystery, I recommend The Nine Tailors.

A Motor-Flight Through France by Edith Wharton (originally published in 1908)

This book is comprised of magazine pieces that Edith Wharton wrote at various times while travelling through France. I loved the first half of the book but then found myself getting a bit bored after that because the villages Wharton visited started to sound alike. What I did like was the spirit of the pieces and the fact that Wharton  traveled through France in one of the early motor-cars.  

Did You Ever Have A Family by Bill Clegg (2015)

Did You Ever Have A Family was heartbreaking, but I loved the characters, and I couldn't put the book down. Did You Ever Have A Family follows June and several people who are affected by tragedy as they each try to find a way to cope. The story is about connections, compassion, forgiveness, and surviving. It's wonderful writing and a novel I highly recommend.

What have you been reading? What books do you recommend?


  1. I have a copy of DID YOU EVER HAVE A FAMILY, but I'll have to be in the right mood for it. I think I've told you that I've never read a Sayers mystery. One day I will. So many books. LOL

  2. It's so nice to see a mention of I Saw Three Ships -- such a lovely little story! And The Nine Tailors, one of my favorite mysteries ever. So atmospheric.

  3. I have a soft spot for British authors, so I'll be taking a closer look at the first few books you've highlighted. And I've had an ARC of Clegg's book for ages--I really need to read it soon.

  4. I have been seeing Mary Hocking pop up a lot lately on various book blogs. I have never read any of her novels though. I have a copy of one of her books, I will have to find it and give her a try.

    I love Dorothy Sayers, though The Nine Tailors is not my favorite of her books. That being said, I haven't read it in years. Maybe it is time for a reread.

  5. Hi Monica! After an unexpected hiatus and a hacking of my blog email, I'm back and following you again :)
    I love that you read books that appeal to you, and not just the shiny-new titles of those released this month! You find hidden treasures and I thank you for that (and apologize for lurking for awhile and not commenting). I love the cover and review for the Mary Hocking and the Sayers titles. I love mysteries, suspense, and intrigue in my stories.

    I did read Have You Every Had a Family? on my hiatus, not mentioned on my blog, and found it incredibly melancholy. Good writing, but oh so sad.