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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Books Read in January 2012

Those Who Wait: Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery

This review is for the L.M. Montgomery challenge.

Rilla of Ingleside starts off in a dramatic fashion when party-goers learn that war is declared.  It is 1914 and 15 year old Rilla is at her first grown-up party.  She is more interested in handsome Kenneth Ford and not ruining her beautiful French-heeled shoes than the consequences for her family and the inhabitants of Rainbow Valley.

Rilla has to grow up fast, however, as the boys of the Valley join up, one-by-one.  She watches her friends and her brother, Jem, go.  Soon the inhabitants of Ingleside are reading the papers voraciously.  They cling to every victory and mourn every disaster.  Maps are brought out and foreign names are learned.  Even Susan, the indomitable housekeeper, begins to learn an incredible amount about the war.

Rilla finds herself looking after a war baby, organising the Red Cross, and helping the war effort generally.  She struggles to 'keep the faith' as she watches Jem, Shirley, and her favourite brother, Walter, join up.

This novel isn't only about Rilla.  There are many great characters here.  Bitter and clever Miss Oliver is one of the most interesting.  There is also Irene, Rilla's much-admired friend who surprises Rilla.  Walter's poetic, visionary spirit is probably the one that truly shines in the book.

Rilla of Ingleside is a fairly dark and grim novel which brings home the consequences of war and the importance of maintaining inner strength.  It's much darker than most of the 'Anne' novels.  (Anne doesn't play much of a role in this book, except as the family's wise mother).  It's beautifully written and there are amusing scenes which lighten the bleakness.  I've read it many times and I always enjoy it.  It's probably one of Montgomery's best novels.

I did find a few things about the novel which annoyed me.  Rilla isn't an ambitious character like Anne.  She just wants to get married.  Also there's not much romance in it.  More romance might have made the book a bit happier.  Some reviewers have been upset by Rilla's urging young men to go to war.  However, she is criticised in the book for that, I felt.

Life Skills by Katie Fforde

Katie Fforde's books are perfect holiday reading.  I did find Life Skills a bit annoying, however.

Julia, the heroine, is tired of her high-pressure job and her male chauvinist boyfriend.  She begins working on
a canal boat instead and cooks for the passengers.  She makes friends with Suzie, her much younger boss, and she enjoys travelling on the boat through the glorious countryside and towns such as Tewkesbury.  Trouble looms when her old boyfriend, Oscar, and his awful mother arrive to take a tour.  The situation becomes even more confused when Julia's mother decides to match her up with an old school 'enemy' called Fergus.  He arrives to help with the boat.

The first part of the book is interesting.  I enjoyed reading about the work on the canal boat and the English towns and country.  I've been to England but I haven't been to Tewkesbury and I liked Fforde's description of it. I also liked Julia.  However, she becomes extremely irritating in the last part of the book.  The hero is a lovely man - he's too good to be true, really.  Everyone keeps telling her this but she treats him quite badly.  The worse she treats him, the nicer he becomes!  I found this a bit unbelievable.

Nevertheless, I will keep taking Fforde's books on holiday with me!

Flirting with Destiny by Sara Hylton

Miranda, Louise, Imogen and Cora are ready to be debutantes  when the First World War  begins.  It soon changes their lives rapidly.  Imogen becomes a nurse while Louise, the most interesting girl in the book, learns that she must find out what she really wants. Their lives remain intertwined even after the war.

Anyone who likes Downton Abbey will probably enjoy this rather sweet tale of friendship and love.  I thought that it was a relaxing and easy book to read.  I like Hylton's novels so I will look for more of them.

The Eternal City by Domenica della Rosa

Gabriella, the youngest daughter of an Italian-English family, hasn't found her place in life or come to terms with her strained relationship with her sisters, religious Anna and beautiful Maria.  She thought that she was her father, Enzo's favourite, and she hung on to that.

When Enzo dies, she and her family decide to take his ashes to Rome.  When her daughter, Kitty, almost dies, Gabby finds out what is really important in life.  She has to face a traumatic relationship with a past boyfriend, see what she loves about her sisters, and understand her feelings about her past.

This is a lovely, beautifully-written book in which the characters are lovingly described.  Gabby is easy to understand and identify with and her relationship with Jonathan is very emotional and moving. The city of Rome is almost like another character - the atmosphere is almost tangible.

 I will certainly buy more of Della Rosa's books.