Sunday Serial #13


I’m following a nineteenth century tradition and publishing some of “Leefdale” by Michael Murray in weekly instalments.
You can find the links to previous instalments on this page.
So, if you like the Dickensian idea of reading your novels in weekly instalments,
read on …..

As soon as Greg left the cottage Sharon went upstairs for a shower. Afterwards, she returned to the sitting room dressed in a loose top, jeans and trainers and sat pondering what to tell Louise. She knew the child would be bitterly disappointed. Best not to mention then that she hadn’t even told Greg they’d be leaving. But what to say? What excuse could she give for breaking her promise?

Sharon glanced down at the carpet and was immediately reminded of what she and Greg had been doing there earlier. It was the sex which had made it impossible to keep her promise to Louise. It had reminded her that imperfect as the present arrangement was, she didn’t want to give it up. She was happy with the way things were. She’d never expected Greg to leave Pam, but if she told him she was leaving Leefdale he’d assume that’s what she was trying to get him to do. The last thing she wanted was to set up home with Greg and endure all the mess of his divorce; see Pam deprived of her kids at weekends and holidays. All that blame and guilt, who needed it? It wasn’t as if she actually loved him. Or rather, she didn’t think she loved him anymore. Love had been replaced by habit. But habit had its advantages. Right now she didn’t want any radical changes that would drastically alter the balance of forces in her life. The present situation was quite convenient. Besides, she had no intention of leaving Honeysuckle Cottage. To move out would be to acknowledge that her mother and father were actually dead, and even now, at the age of thirty, she wasn’t able to do that.

Sharon looked around the room that contained so many of her mother and father’s possessions. While she remained in these familiar and secure surroundings, mum and dad would always be alive and she’d feel close to them, as she’d always done. She was sure any number of people would tell her it was stupid to cling so obsessively and irrationally to the past. But that was easy to say when you weren’t obsessive and irrational, wasn’t it?

Invariably, such uncomfortable reflections on her circumstances precipitated the opening of a bottle. She stood up, went into the kitchen and returned with a big glass of Australian Merlot. She resumed her seat and took a long sip. That was better! Of course, she knew how desperately unhappy Louise was, particularly with all the taunting from Jade and others about her absent father. It was a horrible situation for the child to be in: living a life of deceit. She was determined to do everything she could to make Louise happy. Everything, that was, except leave Leefdale.

Despite the consolation of the wine, Sharon found she was still vexed. “Never make a promise you can’t keep”. That’s what her father had always said. So why had she made that rash promise to Louise, knowing she’d never go through with it? She struggled to comprehend the thought process that had led her to make such a crazy decision, but could only recall the wonderful feeling of relief when she’d made it. There was no use denying it, a big part of her longed to be free of a situation that was becoming more and more abnormal. She wanted to leave Leefdale just as much as her daughter. That’s why she’d promised Louise she would tell Greg they were leaving. At the time it had seemed the easiest promise in the world to make. But, almost immediately, all the usual doubts had returned along with that inner voice urging her not to tell him.

But why not tell him? It was ludicrous for a woman of her age to be so unwilling to let go. To be paralysed by her fear of change. After all, it was hardly an ideal or desirable situation to cling on to, was it? To be living just down the road from your secret lover, whilst stopping your child revealing to his family that she was his daughter? Surely, if only for Louise’s sake, she should leave? But that would mean conquering her fear of the unknown and she wasn’t up to it. She knew it was unhealthy and preventing her growth as a human being but there was nothing she could do about it. She was comfortable with the person she was. If she left Leefdale that person would no longer exist, and she was terrified of losing that person.

More practically, if she moved away there would be no more popping in by Greg on some gubernatorial or Community Watch pretext. Their relationship would be difficult to sustain. The sex even more impossible to organise. It might even result in discovery. And then what? He’d be forced to choose. She didn’t want to be the one responsible for breaking up his marriage and destroying his family.

How could she possibly explain to Louise all the complex reasons for breaking her promise to her? No, it looked like she’d just have to lie. Perhaps she could say she’d started telling dad they were intending to move, but he’d got so upset and distressed at the thought of it she’d backed off and promised they wouldn’t. She’d no wish to disappoint Louise and upset her, but she couldn’t allow her life to be dominated by the needs of an eleven year old.

After an inner struggle, Sharon succumbed to a second glass of wine; and then, much later, a third. At nine fifty-five the darkness outside her window reminded her that the “Oliver” rehearsal finished at ten and Mrs Henshall had specifically asked that all the children involved be collected from the village hall by a parent or another responsible adult.

Leisurely Sharon went upstairs and slipped on her fleece. She then returned to the sitting room and picked up her car keys from their usual place in the empty fruit bowl. Immediately, remembering the three very large glasses of wine she’d consumed, she threw the keys down again.


She went over to her handbag and rummaged around in it for her mobile. She accessed the number of Louise’s mobile and pressed “Call”. There was a short delay and then Louise’s phone signalled its presence somewhere in the house. Sharon darted up the stairs and into Louise’s bedroom. The unmistakable ring tone was emanating from a wardrobe. Sharon flung it open. Louise’s waterproof was still hanging in its place on the rail. The disturbing noise was coming from one of the pockets. Sharon ended the call and the sound stopped.

Carrying Louise’s waterproof, Sharon ran downstairs to the sitting room. Without the car she was going to be very late. Louise would be the last child to be collected. She visualised Mrs Henshall’s disapproving expression. What kind of a mother would she seem to her? Panicking now, she let herself out of the front door and set off down almost pitch black main street.

The half mile between Honeysuckle Cottage and the village hall had never seemed longer, and she suddenly broke into a curiously inelegant half-running, half-loping trot. As she hurried on past the curtained and lighted windows lining the street, she imagined that behind them the parents who’d already collected their kids from the village hall were self-righteously condemning that appalling Sharon Makepiece who’d sent her poor daughter to the rehearsal without a coat or a mobile phone and hadn’t even bothered to come for her when it was over.

She continued on into the darkness, cursing the refusal of the parish council to erect street lights. Greg and the Major had done their best but in the end had been defeated by the conservatism and intransigence of the other councillors.

Fortunately, ahead of her were the brightly lit windows of The Woldsman. She shivered slightly as she drew near the pub. It was still only April and although the days were warmer, the nights were very chill. Without her coat the poor kid would be freezing. She hoped Louise was waiting outside the village hall, as she’d promised, and not taken it into her head to set off alone. Sharon forced herself on, stealing a quick glance into The Woldsman as she passed, to see if Greg or any of the other parish councillors were in there. But there were only the regular faces around the bar. The meeting obviously hadn’t ended yet.

She hurried on, consoled by the thought that as she was so late there ought to be no risk of meeting Pam who’d probably collected Jade already. She felt awkward enough in Pam’s presence at the best of times. It made her cringe to imagine them standing outside the village hall chatting mumsily about the advantages of different secondary schools knowing that just a couple of hours ago she’d been shagging the woman’s husband senseless.

Sharon had only gone a few yards beyond the pub when a car appeared in the distance, its headlights flooding the black and unlit street with artificial daylight. The vehicle drew nearer. Oh no! It was one of those owned by Greg and Pam. The driver tooted and pulled up. Sharon peered in. Pam was driving and next to her in the front passenger seat was Jade. Louise was in the back, sitting next to Pam’s younger children. Pam pressed a button and the car’s nearside window slid down. Sharon bent towards the opening.

‘We thought you’d got lost so we gave her a lift,’ Pam trilled in that infuriatingly calm and complacent way of hers that suggested nothing ever mattered or was any trouble. ‘She looked so cold and forlorn waiting on her own, poor thing.’

‘Thanks. I didn’t realize it was so late. And then the car wouldn’t start.’

‘Hop in.’

That’s all I need, thought Sharon. She cursed herself for drinking those extra glasses. ‘Thanks, but there’s no room.’

‘We can squeeze you in.’ Pam turned to the children in the back. ‘Gwen. Ian. Shove up and make room for Louise’s mum. Come on, chopity chop.’

Mindful of the alcohol on her breath, Sharon pursed her lips, opened the rear passenger door and slid in next to Louise.

Pam said, ‘Do you want me to send Greg round to have a look at the car?’

‘No, it’s all right, thanks. I’ve got the AA.’

‘Did he manage to catch you?’

Sharon was never sure how much Pam knew or suspected. That’s why she always examined everything she said for nuances, subtle insinuations.

‘Yes. He got his minutes.’

Louise’s highly sensitive nose immediately detected that her mother had been drinking. So that’s why she hadn’t been there to collect her! The child experienced an inexplicable feeling of apprehension.

‘He’s hardly in the house five minutes before he’s off to some meeting or other,’ said Pam. ‘I told him you don’t have to be on the parish council and the Magnificent Britain Sub-Committee. You don’t have to be chair of school governors and the Community Watch. Give something up. Let someone else do it.’ Pam continued to complain about her husband’s civic commitments at some length. Sharon wondered if Pam was implicitly criticising her for monopolising his time. She often wondered what interpretation Pam put on Greg’s visits to Honeysuckle Cottage, and if in private she harangued him about them.

‘He thinks more about his parish council commitments than he does about his own job,’ said Pam.

How can mum bear it? Louise wondered. Why doesn’t she tell her he comes round to see us whenever he can and I call him dad and he listens to my reading? Why doesn’t she tell her Jade and Gwen are my half- sisters? And Ian’s my half-brother? Why does it have to be like this? I can’t stand it. Thank God we’re leaving. We’ll never have to speak to them again.

‘Did you have a good rehearsal?’ Sharon asked Louise.

‘All right.’

‘She’s been thrilling everyone with her singing and dancing,’ said Pam. ‘And she acts brilliantly too.’ Then, noticing her own daughter’s altered expression, she added quickly,

‘Jade was good as well.’

‘I’m only one of Fagin’s gang,’ said Jade.

‘You do it well, though,’ said Pam.

Jade regarded her mother from beneath resentful brows. ‘How do you know? You weren’t there.’

‘I came in at the end.’

‘It was better with the grown-ups playing,’ said Louise.

‘It’s a difficult score,’ said Pam. ‘It needs experienced players.’

An image appeared in Sharon’s mind of Pam’s husband and herself naked on the carpet.

‘What on earth are we going to do about these two girls?’ asked Pam, driving off.

Sharon said, ‘Yes, I got a letter from Mrs Henshall, too.’

‘It’s very worrying. I mean they used to be such good friends.’


‘I’ve asked Jade what it’s all about but she won’t tell me.’

‘No, Louise won’t say either.’

Louise pulled a face and mouthed at Sharon, ‘I did. I did.’


‘I did!’

Fortunately, apart from Sharon, no-one heard Louise. The car was a noisy diesel and in need of servicing.

‘It’s so strange,’ Pam went on. ‘I’ve told them they’ve got to make up and be friends again and stop all this silly nonsense.’

‘It’s Louise’s fault,’ said Ian, seizing the opportunity to make trouble. ‘She’s always picking on Jade.’

‘I’m not,’ Louise protested. ‘Jade’s always the one that starts it.’

‘I don’t.’

‘Yes, you do. You’re always saying I’ve got no dad.’

Pam’s equable composure vanished. She was plainly shocked and embarrassed. ‘Do you Jade? Do you say that?’


‘I should hope not!’

‘I don’t. I don’t.’

‘Then why’s she saying you do?’

Jade said nothing. Sharon felt inexplicably sorry for her. Yet she wanted to tell her to stop lying and tell the truth.

‘Louise has got a dad just like you,’ said Pam. ‘He’s not at home that’s all.’

Fortunately, they had now pulled up outside Honeysuckle Cottage.

Sharon could see the conversation was taking a dangerous direction. She quickly opened the car door. ‘Well, we’ll have to see what Mrs Henshall says about it.’

‘Yes, she’ll sort it out,’ said Pam. ‘Six of one and half a dozen of the other, I expect.’

Continue reading with the free preview below.

The beautiful English village of Leefdale seems reassuringly tranquil. But appearances can be deceptive.

#ThrowbackThursday #BookReview An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy by June Kearns @june_kearns

I saw a good idea on Twitter a few days ago.

Renee at It’s Book Talk started using the #ThrowbackThursday meme as a way to share books that are old favourites or have been waiting to be read for a long time.

I saw the idea first on a blog I read regularly: Between the Lines – Books ‘N’ Stuff and thought it was great.

For several years I wrote a book blog and accumulated thoughts on a wealth of really good reads.

So I decided to visit my old reviews and re-post my favourites here on 3sixtyfiveblog for #ThrowbackThursday.

I’m starting with An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy by June Kearns: one of the best examples of romantic fiction I’ve ever read.

Book description from Amazon

Jane Austen meets Zane Grey
The American West, 1867. After a stagecoach wreck, well-bred bookish spinster, Annie Haddon, (product of mustn’t-take-off-your-hat, mustn’t-take-off-your-gloves, mustn’t-get-hot-or-perspire Victorian society) is thrown into the company of cowboy, Colt McCall – a man who lives by his own rules and hates the English.
Can two people from such wildly different backgrounds learn to trust each other? Annie and McCall find out on their journey across the haunting , mystical landscape of the West.

My Review of An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy from Indie Bookworm

I’d noticed this book being promoted on Twitter but as I don’t regard myself as a reader of Westerns hadn’t looked at it until I was browsing in the Kindle Store and it popped up on the “other readers also read” list. I read part of the free sample and I’m glad I did as An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy by June Kearns is one of the best examples of romantic fiction I’ve ever read.

Each chapter of An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy is headed up with a quote from another book. I’ve been unable to find out whether or not this other book actually exists but if it doesn’t it should. Author June Kearns uses references from The Gentlewoman’s Guide To Good Travel by Margaret Mary Whittier to provide a marvellous structure for her novel.

The setting for An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy is the American West in 1867. The beauty of the landscape contrasts with the difficulties of living within it. Not only the heat but the periodic attacks by the dispossessed peoples of the region make life intolerable for unlikely heroine, Annie Haddon.

Annie is a well-bred, bookish, English spinster who is travelling with her stuffy aunt by stage coach across America. The aunt is Annie’s guardian and she epitomises all the repressed attitudes of the Victorian era. However, an unexpected stage coach wreck causes Annie to meet English-hating, rule-breaking, Colt McCall.

Was there ever such a hero? Heathcliff meets Rhett Butler! Colt is a wonderful romantic lead although the development of his and Annie’s relationship is far from conventional.

The supporting characters are many and varied reflecting the different aspects of society of the era and the complexity of the plot. The writing is so good that every character comes alive and makes a strong contribution to the overall story. The dialogue is excellent in An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy providing authenticity to the setting and ensuring the vivid development of the characters. The plot has more than enough complications to keep the story moving forwards at a good pace and, of course, there’s a very satisfactory ending in true romance style albeit with an unexpected twist.

I really enjoyed reading An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy and I recommend it highly not only to readers who enjoy romance but also to those who enjoy well written fiction whatever the genre.

What other readers say about An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy

Tanya Fisher –  Beautifully crafted characters and a fascinating story.

Marcia –  A must read – humourous, lively action, fast-paced. LOVED IT!!!

Lanky Lady –  A Right Rollicking Adventure

Jean Fullerton –  English decorum meets the Wild West

Paganyogini – Utterly delightful.

With 63 mainly five star reviews on Amazon and  91 four plus ratings on Goodreads, other readers  have loved this novel too.

If you’re stocking up your Kindle for summer holidays, An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy is perfect.

Click the free preview below and start reading today!!!!

Thanks for visiting my blog today and hope your day is going well.


Sunday Serial #3


This is the third instalment of the serialisation of Leefdale by Michael Murray.

If you missed the earlier posts click here for part one and here for part two.

Now read on ….

‘Well, here we are,’ said Sharon.

As they drove into Leefdale, Dylan was struck by the village’s all-pervading atmosphere of peace. He knew instinctively that the inhabitants respected tradition and continuity, yet despite having a strong attachment to the past they were not entirely resistant to change. This was evident from the eclectic pageant of charming dwellings that lined Leefdale’s main street: Elizabethan timber frame buildings stood cheek by jowl with imperiously symmetrical Georgian houses; converted seventeenth century barns were neighbours to respectable Victorian villas. Yet the occasional presence of modern cottages built in the vernacular style suggested that, even here, in this most conservative of communities, some modest degree of innovation was accepted.

Although he was cautioning himself to be detached and objective, Dylan couldn’t help but be seduced. Leefdale was so picturesque: the quintessential image of an English village in bloom that is carried nostalgically in the heart of every English exile. It seemed that the front garden of each house, no matter how small, burgeoned with leafy shrubs and masses of flowers in all the glorious colours of April; climbing plants colonised all available walls, their advancing green tendrils complementing perfectly the bricks, chalk and other materials to which they clung; the roadside verges trembled with white, gold and purple crocuses, petals agape and open to the sun like the hungry mouths of young fledglings; and there were yellow daffodils and creamy narcissi too, nodding in the gentle breeze. Spring had startled itself out of the earth and dressed in its many hues was delighting in its own existence, promising hope and renewal. The artist in Dylan was deeply moved.

‘It’s lovely,’ he said.

‘You should see it in summer.’

In some of the front gardens keen gardeners were already at work, scrupulously maintaining that high standard of horticultural perfection which seemed to characterise most of the village. What Dylan couldn’t know, of course, was that some villagers thought there was something rather sinister about the way their neighbours pursued this pleasant outdoor pastime with such competitive industry, uncompromising will and obsessive perfectionism.

‘Beautiful, isn’t it?’ said Sharon, sounding almost proprietorial.


‘It’s won the prize for best kept village four years running.’

‘Best kept village in Yorkshire?’

‘No. In the whole country!’

‘So that’s why they’re all so hard at it. I thought we’d blundered into a recording of Gardening Club.’


Despite his wife’s objections, indeed, precisely because of them, Major Roberts was now on his hands and knees vigorously weeding The Old Rectory’s borders, flinging the weeds angrily into the wheelbarrow at his side.

The tyres of Sharon’s Passat crunching over the white gravel of the Corbridge’s extensive drive halted Howard in his labours. Somewhat shakily, he got to his feet and stared at the vehicle with a look of pleasurable recognition.

The car stopped close to the house and Sharon and Dylan got out. Sharon gave Howard a smile and a quick wave. She then joined Dylan who was taking in the rectory’s impressive Georgian frontage. Howard watched as she gave Dylan information about the exterior. At one stage she became quite animated and pointed out the date above the spider’s web fanlight: 1780.

Sharon touched Dylan lightly on the arm. She said something to him and then, with a gesture, indicated Howard. Together, they set off across the lawn towards him.

With a good deal of displeasure, Howard assumed that the young man accompanying Sharon had come to view the house. This was not good news. Hopefully he would find it unsuitable. Howard had always regarded young men who wore tight black leather as profoundly suspicious; but he was courtesy itself when he wished them both good morning.

‘Hello, Howard,’ said Sharon. She turned to Dylan. ‘This is Major Howard Roberts.’

‘Dylan Bourne!’ Dylan offered his hand to the Major and was surprised by the limpness of the hand that gripped his in return. ‘You’re a soldier?’

‘Retired,’ said Howard. He quickly changed the drift. ‘Here for a look round?’


‘Well you won’t do better than this. It’s a magnificent property. Finest in the village!’

‘Are you the gardener?’

Sharon laughed loudly. Just long enough for Howard to convert his affrontedness into jovial good humour.

‘Good heavens, no! I’m just keeping everything neat and trim. I promised Bruce, that’s the owner, I’d look after the gardens for him until the place was sold.’

‘I see,’ said Dylan. ‘Sorry.’

‘The Major’s chairman of the Magnificent Britain Sub-Committee,’ said Sharon.

Dylan looked bewildered. ‘Magnificent Britain?’

‘The best village contest.’

‘Ah, yes,’ said Dylan. ‘I hear Leefdale’s won first prize four times.’

‘That’s right,’ said Howard. ‘All down to this place, of course.’

‘You shouldn’t overlook everyone else’s modest contribution,’ said Sharon.

Dylan thought she sounded a little miffed.

‘I don’t,’ said Howard. Realising he’d been tactless, his hand lightly touched her arm. ‘And I would never overlook your contribution, my dear. But you’ve got to admit that the gardens of this house are the jewel in the crown.’

Dylan turned and surveyed the lawn. ‘It’s certainly very well kept. Certainly… um… very tidy.’

‘That’s because the Major’s a fantastic gardener,’ gushed Sharon.

‘Not at all,’ said Howard. ‘It was Bruce who transformed the place. Spent a lot of money on it.’ He fixed Dylan with a searching glance. ‘You keen on gardening?’

Dylan grinned. ‘No, my flat in London doesn’t even have a window box.’

The Major looked concerned. ‘You’d be taking on a lot here. There’s an even bigger rear garden.’

Dylan shrugged, non-committedly.

‘From London, are you?’

Dylan nodded.

There was a long pause. Howard, who believed strongly in first impressions, was finding Dylan intensely irritating. The Major had an aversion to blonde, slack jawed young men who, in his experience, invariably turned out to be mummy’s boys. And what kind of a name was Dylan for Christ’s sake? Welsh background, was it? Named after the poet?

Fortunately, he didn’t seem to have a wife or family in tow: and he looked in his very early thirties, so hopefully wasn’t old enough to have teenage children.

Howard nodded towards The Old Rectory. ‘It’s a very big house you know. Got seven bedrooms.’

Sensing that he was being probed, Dylan became guarded. He saw no need to divulge any more than was necessary. ‘I know. I like a lot of space.’

Now that’s ominous, Howard thought.

‘Mr Bourne’s an artist,’ Sharon explained, and immediately shot Dylan an apologetic look. ‘Sorry, I hope that wasn’t confidential.’

‘Not at all,’ said Dylan, wondering if he’d given too much away.

Howard said, ‘An artist? Really? I like Constable and Joshua Reynolds. And, of course, military art. I’ve got a couple of good prints of “The Death of Nelson” and “The Death of General Wolfe”. Do you do that sort of thing?’

‘No. I paint abstracts.’


Major Roberts seemed at a loss. He pointed towards Rooks Nest. ‘That’s my house over there. Finest rose garden in the village, even if I’m the only one who thinks so.’

Sharon touched him on the arm. ‘Now you know everyone agrees with you. Stop fishing.’

The Major grinned back at her urbanely.

‘Well, time’s getting on,’ said Sharon. She looked to Dylan. ‘I’d better show you around.’

‘And I must get back to my weeds.’

‘See you later, Howard.’

Dylan gave Howard a nod, and then he and Sharon walked off towards the house.

The Major stared long at their retreating backs, his greying moustache accentuating his disappointed moué. ‘Oh dear! I don’t think you’ll do! I don’t think you’ll do at all!’

Continue reading Leefdale with the Look Inside feature at

More details and a free sample to read at


Do you still read fiction?


There was a report on the News a couple of days ago

about a record breaking year in 2016 for British publishing.

There was a 7% surge in the sale of books and exports of books were at an all time high.

But a closer look at the press release

on the Publishers’ Association website reveals a disturbing truth for lovers of fiction.

Not only did 2016 see a 7% fall in the sale of fiction books this contributed to an overall decline since 2012 of 23%.

This means there are almost a quarter fewer purchasers of novels than there were five years ago.

Can that really be true?

Those readers can’t have transferred to their public library, can they?

And they’ve not all gone out and bought a Kindle because the report stated that the sale of ebooks was falling too. (Although I’m not persuaded that Amazon book sales would be included in this data set.)

But if there is this decline in reading fiction, how sad!

I think that the experience of getting lost in a book is one of the great joys in life.

I started reading stories when I was very young and have been reading fiction, classics, literature and popular novels throughout my life.

I know several people who rarely read fiction and they don’t think their life is any the less because of it. But how do they know if they never read anything other than facts?

As Mark Twain said, Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.

How about some philosophical reasons for reading fiction too.

Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures, Ralph Waldo Emmerson.

There is no doubt fiction makes a better job of the truth, Doris Lessing.

Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth, Albert Camus.

I’ll lighten the mood with this quote from Gabriel García Márquez:

Fiction was invented the day Jonah arrived home and told his wife that he was three days late because he had been swallowed by a whale.

Thanks for visiting my blog today.

If you’re one of the 23% who don’t read fiction why don’t you check out the book link below?

Two readers of our acquaintance who don’t usually read fiction found that they enjoyed it!

Today’s book promo:


“Warning! This book is seriously addictive!”

“Right until the very end, everything is not as it seems.”

“The reader witnesses changing times, changing attitudes and entire lives that are shattered with secrets and deceit.”


April Bookshelf

tablet books hands

Here’s my reading list for April.

Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift

The plot of this rather short novel takes place on March 30th 1924. This is Mother’s Day or Mothering Sunday as it was known then.

Jane Fairchild is an orphan and a housemaid. Like all other housemaids in that age of large scale domestic service, Jane is given the day off to go and visit her mother. How will she occupy her time when she has no mother to visit?

Beginning with an intimate assignation but with broad hints of what the future holds for Jane, this is the story of her life encapsulated on that fateful day in March.

I found the novel slow to start and had to re-read the first chapter to get into it. But once started, I didn’t put it down again until it was finished. The writing is so succinct and vivid. Remarkably  good and very moving, particularly the subtle exploration of the emotional  impact of bereavement in WW1.

Long Spoon by Kath Middleton

I’ve read nearly all Kath Middleton’s books and was delighted to find she’d released a new title. Long Spoon takes the reader into student life and the desire of two friends, Ed and Paul, to make loads of money. Their plan is to sell a home-made legal high to their friends and other students for a grossly inflated price. Ed becomes carried away with what they might accomplish although Paul is the person in the firing line when things get out of hand.

There are some underlying serious aspects to the novel but these are explored without dragging the book down. I particularly enjoyed the way the author leads the reader to think the novel is heading in one direction then suddenly throws a spanner in the works and goes off in another. This keeps the book light and lively and makes for a most entertaining read.

Fur Coat and No Knickers by Adrienne Vaughan

This collection of short stories has so many twists on the notion of a love story: an older couple meet while a beautifully described solitary swan reflects their emerging romance; a one-sided telephone conversation is amusing and edgy; so much emotion packed into one lemon bag; a woman meets a man in a bar and her ultimate ruination; a so-called married man sends poor Eva to a tragic end; a theatrical agent is stitched up by his best friend; a lonely woman is helped to find something positive in her marriage by an ageing father; and a young woman finds out that all was not as it seemed in her early life.

My favourites were:
A Seed of Doubt
A man whose wife has died goes on a weekend bereavement course. He is struggling to come to terms with his loss as he believes his wife was unfaithful. Help and a solution come from an unexpected source and the moral of the story is one from which many might benefit.
A Visit at Christmas
I mean it: I had tears in my eyes at the end of this story.
Fur Coat and No Knickers
Just so much fun! A woman who is a snob and a traditionalist turns out to be living a life of pretence.

There’s such a great variety and depth of feeling in these short stories which makes the whole collection a pleasure to read.

Pattern of Shadows by Judith Barrow

Pattern of Shadows is a wonderful story set in the latter days of World War Two somewhere in the north of England. Mary Howarth is a nurse who is part of a medical team given the unenviable task of caring for sick and injured prisoners of war at the prison camp hospital.

Mary starts a relationship with one of the guards at the camp, Frank Shuttleworth. The relationship proves difficult for Mary but Frank is persistent. Meanwhile, Mary’s home life is far from easy and she finds solace in her work. As the novel evolves Mary’s life becomes increasingly fraught and complicated. To say more would be to give away an extremely well constructed plot which explores some challenging issues of the day.

The novel is well researched and the sense of time and place is established securely. The author has created a group of characters who are very real and the dialogue and interactions between them are a strength of the writing. The romance element of the novel has a degree of predictability but when the concluding chapter is reached there is a sense of relief that what was anticipated has occurred.

Pattern of Shadows is the first part of a trilogy and it’s going to be fascinating to see what happens next.

The Prime Suspect Cases by Lynda La Plante

We enjoyed the recent TV drama series Prime Suspect 1973 and I downloaded the three original Prime Suspect cases onto my Kindle for a bargain price of 99p. I’ve only had time to read the opening of the first case but as the price for the collection has returned to £9.99, I’m glad I downloaded it when I did.

The Britain I Want by Emanuel Shinwell

As the 2017 General Election approaches, I’ve been dipping again into The Britain I Want by Emanuel Shinwell first published in 1943. The book is now out of print but I inherited a copy from my dad many years ago and read it twice. Unfortunately, it was stored in our garage and we were plagued by a mice infestation and the book had to be thrown away. Eventually, I tracked down a second hand copy complete with war-time economy compliance accreditation and now keep it on a very safe bookshelf.

Here’s a flavour of the book:

We pride ourselves in being the highest products of the biological scheme. We stand in something not far removed from awe at the achievements of our kind in science, philosophy, the arts, high moral conduct and sublime courage. Yet, so far, it has apparently been impossible for us to devise a method of living based on social justice and the right of everyone who does useful work in the community to something more than a drab scale of living, chaotic movements of the crazy barometer of employment and souring insecurity.

If you liked Ken Loach’s Spirit of 45 you’ll find this book fascinating but it might take some tracking down.

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning by Alan Sillitoe

Alan Sillitoe, who died in 2010, left school at fourteen and worked in various factories until becoming an air traffic control assistant with the Ministry of Aircraft Production in 1945. After leaving the RAF he went to live in France and in 1958 Saturday Night and Sunday Morning was published. I read the book for the first time in 1966 and I’ve read it several times since.

The book has become a cult classic of working class life in post-war Nottingham. It’s the story of rebellious factory worker Arthur Seaton who works all day at a lathe leaving him with energy to spare in the evenings. Arthur is a hard-drinking, hard-fighting hooligan who knows what he wants and is determined to get it.

His affairs with a couple of married women are the stuff of local gossip but then one evening he meets a young woman and things start to get complicated.

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning is such a readable book and the 1960 film, starring Albert Finney, captures its spirit completely. But as Sillitoe wrote the screenplay that’s hardly surprising. This never-to-be-forgotten clip shows a few minutes from the opening scenes of the film.

Thanks for visiting my blog today.

Hope your Saturday night was enjoyable and your Sunday morning is going well!

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When a romance becomes too serious,
Julia poses an all important question.