What did I manage to read on holiday?  Well, in light of the fact that I usually give up reading fiction in Lent, I thought I’d get as much crammed in as I possibly could.

The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold. I enjoyed The Lovely Bones which she wrote years ago and picked this one up in a charity shop. This book begins with Helen killing her mother. A mother who was mentally ill and showed no love to Helen, only criticism. Over the next 24 hours the reader learns about Helen’s life and what brought her to this place. Layers are peeled away and human frailty is opened up in all its misery. The writing is worth savouring and makes for a powerful read. I couldn’t put it down.

A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg. Some of our bookgroup enjoyed Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven (the men didn’t) and Flagg’s books make for easy reading with some comedy insights and always a moral tale. Oswald T Campbell, alcoholic and down on his luck, is told he only has months to live and is advised to move to a warmer climate if he wants to prolong his life. He ends up in Alabama and in time becomes part of the community there. You’ll meet nosey neighbours, a wounded bird who lives in the general store, and Patsy, a sad trailer-park kid who can’t walk. Happy endings abound.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Hailed as a superlative exercise in science fiction, which almost put me off, this tells the story of a future world where women are used as breeding vessels by a repressive state. Offred knows that if she dissents she will be hanged or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. It offers a frightening glimpse into a future which is too close for comfort. Brilliant book and great writing.

One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson. Set in Edinburgh during the Festival this crime novel is just so much more. There is humour, wonderful writing, and forget 6 degrees of separation – in Edinburgh it is more like 1 or 2.  It stars Jackson Brodie (ex-policeman),  a writer of genteel spy novels, an actress, a few Russian prostitute/maids, a thug, the wife of a property magnate, and a detective with an unruly teenager son.  A great read and wonderful twist in the tail.

The Resurrectionist by James Bradley. If you don’t mind gruesome descriptions of autopsies and graverobbing, then this is the book for you. I learned more than I needed to know about body snatching in Georgian London.  Even my penchant for all things medical was overfed. The ending was disappointing and seemed almost like an afterthought. Not recommended.

Sylvia by Bryce Courtney. New to this author but what a joy. Almost finished this romp through life for a woman peasant in the middle ages. From peasant to courtesan to saint to leading the Children’s Crusade – its all there. The Church doesn’t fare terribly well but I think it is pretty accurate all the same.  I just wish she hadn’t picked up Greek, Hebrew and Latin quite so quickly. Great read.

So there we have it. That is what I did on holiday. Seated in a Parker Knoll chair, I read and read and read.  And it was ten times better than packing up the car and travelling for miles and ….

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