I saw this new book, from The Bloomsbury group, blogged about in several places and knew it was something I would enjoy. Basically, the story takes the form of letters written by Henrietta to her childhood friend, Robert, who is serving at the front during World War Two. She describes everyday life on the home front, digging for victory, sewing and knitting for the troops, blackout regulations, food rationing and so on. We meet various people who live in her Devon coastal village (we never learn where it is but my money's on Budleigh Salterton), Lady B who is relishing the war and writes to Hitler to tell him what she thinks of him, Henrietta's best friend, Faith, who worries that with clothing rationing she won't be able to dress fashionbly, The Conductor, who lusts after Faith, Mrs. Savernack who seems to be one scary lady, Henrietta's long suffering doctor husband, Charles, and so on. The whole thing is funny and charming and sometimes very sad when she mentions sons lost to people in the village or her worries about her own children fighting or helping in the war effort in London. A super little book, lovingly illustated and just a joy really.
Next: Grey Souls by Philippe Claudel.
This 'sort of' crime book, set during and after World War One, takes place in a French village. We're not told its exact location, only that it's very close to the front. We're also not told who the narrator is, but it's clear that he's a police investigator of some sort. And I say it's a 'sort of' crime book because yes, there is a crime - the murder of a ten year old girl - but the book is not just about that. It's about the people who inhabit the village and nearby town - the prosecutor, the judge, a female teacher who comes among them, neighbours, friends, the narrator's wife etc. and how certain events were connected, how the war changed people, and the consquences of people's actions. It's a complicated little book, very melancholy, even tragic, beautifully written and very, very French. It unfolds very much like a French film, which is no surprise as the author is apparently a film director as well as a writer. A small masterpiece but not one to read if you need cheering up.
And lastly: New Moon by Stephanie Meyer.
This is book two in the author's 'Twilight' series. Bella has settled back into life in Forks, WA, after the events of the the first book. It's her birthday and she goes to spend the evening with Edward's family, the Cullens. They're vampires of course and a chance accident when Bella cuts herself leads to chaos when one of the family can't control his bloodlust. The day after, Edward is remote and this continues until he announces that the family are leaving Forks. Bella is traumatised and spends several months in a 'living dead' sort of state. She is eventually pulled out of this by Jacob, a Native American boy, who helps Bella restore a motor cycle. At first Jacob is his usual happy self but then Bella realises the teenager has a problem. There's something going on with teenage boys in the village and things come to a head when, overnight, Jacob is no longer her friend - openly hostile in fact. And that's not her only problem. Victoria, the female member of the vampire coven who tried to kill Bella, is back with a vengeance. With Edward gone and Jacob appearing to want nothing to do with her, who will help protect Bella?
These Twilight books get quite a lot of stick but I've actually really enjoyed the two I've read. New Moon is faster paced I think than Twilight, much more going on, more complications... I liked it better. It's not great literature but then who needs that all of the time? I regard these books in the same light as Harry Potter to be honest. In other words they're page turners... Meyer, like JKR, knows exactly how to tell a good story without frills or fripperies and, to my mind anyway, that's why they're so popular. Enjoyed it.