Since getting back from holiday in mid-June I have read an eclectic mix of books. I started with The President is Missing by James Patterson and Bill Clinton on the flight home from Kenya. I had been really looking forward to reading this, having read a review in The Guardian whilst lazing by the pool on holiday. It had just come out, I always read anything the Clintons write (see my blogs on What Happened, Hard Choices, Being Inspired by Bill Clinton and Reading Politics) and I don’t mind an occasional thriller. I’m afraid to say though that I found this disappointing. It just didn’t seem believable to me and I didn’t connect with any of the characters enough to really care about what happened to them.
On arriving home I switched genre completely and read Down All the Days by Christy Brown. This was given to me by my Mum last year for my birthday, having been one of her late husband’s books, and I wanted to read it before my birthday came around again, so as time was running out I gave it a go. I found Strumpet City fascinating when I read it last year (see my blog), and Down All the Days is also set in the working-class communities of Dublin, thirty years after Strumpet City, in the 1940s and 1950s. It’s beautifully written and I was immersed from page one. It is a good read for capturing some social history in fictional form and is clearly based on the author’s own experience of growing up with cerebral palsy. I got a bit lost towards the end of the book as various disasters struck, but it was certainly interesting.
I then moved on to Last Train to Istanbul by Ayse Kulin, recommended by my Mum earlier this year as it set in the Second World War. It is a thoroughly compelling, well written account of the role that Turkey played in helping to remove it’s Jewish citizens from German-occupied France. The characterisation is excellent and I was immersed in Turkish culture and the difficulties of marrying across religions before the characters set foot in France. To watch the net close in with the benefit of knowing what is about to happen was chilling – you just want to scream at Selva and her husband to get out of France before it’s too late, but you can see how at the time how people did not want to uproot their lives when they did not know how bad things would get. The story is based loosely around true events – Turkish diplomats doing everything they could to save their people and putting on a train to take as many as possible back to the safety of Turkey. It is a wonderful read and one I would highly recommend.
Switching tracks completely, I then read The Love Letter by Lucinda Riley, kindly sent to me by her publisher (see my other blogs on Lucinda Riley). It is a re-release of a book she wrote twenty years ago and is a thriller set around a young journalist’s search for the truth. It starts when Joanna meets an old lady at a funeral of a famous actor that she is covering for the paper she works for, the old lady then sends her a mysterious letter and dies under peculiar circumstances. Joanna starts investigating what is going on, falls in love along the way, gets involved with the famous actor’s family and realises that she is increasingly in danger as she gets closer to uncovering a major scandal in the heart of the British establishment. I won’t give anything else away, but this is great summer reading and I took it straight around next door for my neighbour to take on holiday.