First up, The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies.
Esther is the Welsh girl of the title, aged seventeen, she works hard on her father's farm in North Wales and in the evening in the local pub. She's dating a soldier who is constructing a POW camp in the hills behind their farm. The year is 1944. The soldier rapes Esther one night and she soon realises that she is pregnant. Meanwhile, Karsten, a German soldier is surrendering on the beaches of Normandy and enduring the hatred of his fellow captives for doing so. Also involved in the story is Captain Rotheram, a German Jew working for British Intelligence, whose current assignment is to interview Rudolph Hess. The various stories of these people become linked as we find out what happens to them as the war draws to a close.
I expected to love this book, whereas in fact I only 'liked' it. The Welsh setting and details of farming life in the 1940s was fascinating. The strength of Welsh nationalism surprised me, the English really were hated, even during the war. The story of Karsten was equally interesting, his background and feelings about the war were revealing. What I couldn't work out was what all the Rudolph Hess stuff was for. Yes, it was quite interesting but I couldn't see the real point of it where the plot was concerned. No matter, an entertaining read where I learnt a fair bit, but not a keeper, not even for that gorgeous cover.
Next up, Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman.
This one came from the library. I'm slowly reading a few books by an author that I can never really decide whether I'm a fan of or not. I was so-so about Stardust, liked Good Omens, enjoyed the anthology, Smoke and Mirrors, and I quite enjoyed Fragile Things. Gaiman never does the expected and I like that.
I'd already read A Study in Emerald several times but after that the stories I enjoyed most were, October in the Chair where the various months of the year sit around and tell each other stories in a competitive manner; Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire (think I got all of that)... a nice little reverse reality sort of story; Keepsakes and Treasures, quite a hard hitting story about a criminal and the boss who owns him and what has to be done to keep the boss happy; The Problem of Susan, which is a fascinating story about what happened to Susan at the end of the Narnia books, and How to Talk to Girls, about how gate-crashing a party is not *always* a good idea (loved that one). A bit of a patchy anthology but the stories that were good were *very* good. I think probably that Smoke and Mirrors is slightly better though.
And lastly a purely indulgent read for a day when I wasn't feeling too well, The Sea of Adventure by Enid Blyton.
This is the fourth in Blyton's 'Adventure' series that she wrote for children in the 1940s and 50s. Philip and Dinah and Jack and Lucy-Ann are recovering from a bad bout of the measles. Bill Smugs, their policeman friend, takes them off to the islands off the Scottish mainland for a sailing holiday, having been told by Philip and Dinah's mother not have another adventure. Of course they do - first of all they notice planes flying overhead and depositing large packages into the sea, then Bill is kidnapped leaving the children stranded on an island. They can either stay there and hope to be rescued or they can do something positive about their predicament. You're ahead of me I'm sure. *g*
I'm enjoying these books far too much - they're a sort of guilty pleasure and pure nostalgia for anyone of my generation. But it's not just that, Blyton is not given due credit in my opinion for her powers of description. She conveys the wild beauty of that part of Scotland wonderfully and days after finishing the book I'm still wishing I could visit those lovely islands. A terrific comfort read.