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A Watery Tale

Once Upon a River Book Cover Once Upon a River
Diane Setterfield
Fairy Tales, Myths, Historical Thrillers, Literary fiction
Random House UK, Transworld Publishers, Doubleday
(29 Aug. 2019)

It was the longest night of the year when the strangest of things happened . . .

____________________

On a dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames, the regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open and in steps an injured stranger. In his arms is the drowned corpse of a child.

Hours later, the dead girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life.

Is it a miracle?

Is it magic?

And who does the little girl belong to?

An exquisitely crafted multi-layered mystery brimming with folklore, suspense and romance, as well as with the urgent scientific curiosity of the Darwinian age, Once Upon a River is as richly atmospheric as Setterfield’s bestseller The Thirteenth Tale.

Once upon a time – we still see echoes of it today – people gave offerings to the water goddesses. And in this story we delve back into the myths surrounding these water goddesses and fairies and the birth caul, as well as the River Thames.

In the time when traffic on the river was heavy and barges came and went loaded up with goods that were easier to transport on water than road, we find ourselves stopping at ancient inns along the towpaths. And in the dark evenings, sitting around the fireplace, stories were told to keep the travellers entertained.

The Swan Inn was such an Inn situated in the watercress fields – fields nourished by the dead bodies of those that fell in a long ago battle. The Thames has been fought over for many centuries – from Alfred onwards. Later than the time of this story, a railway was built – called the WaterCress Line (!), just to bring this prized salad crop to London. Watercress is an aquatic plant species with the botanical name Nasturtium officinale.
In former times there was little choice of green vegetables in Winter and Watercress filled that gap with its ability to crop at least 4 times a Season. https://astonrowant.wordpress.com/ewelme-watercress-beds/

I really liked the way the story was told. The sentences and phrasing reminded me of nineteenths century novels. It is slow and detailed and the characters come to life and talk to you. There is a narrator too who tells a different story – the story of rivers, the Thames and links into the various lore of the different traditions.

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Remote Reading

The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club Book Cover The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club
Sophie Green
Australian fiction, Literary Fiction, Family Sagas, Women Writers
Sphere
2019
432

'This gorgeous book completely carried me away' Jenny Ashcroft, author of Island in the East 'The perfect novel to curl up with on a cosy night in' Hello 'An absolute gem of a novel' Better Reading Australia You are warmly invited to join the Fairvale Ladies book club . . . 1978. Life in Australia's vast Northern Territory isn't always easy. Telephones are not yet common, and the treacherous seasons make even travelling to the next town a struggle. But Sybil Baxter is finding a way to connect . . . Bringing together her daughter-in-law Kate, who is finding it hard to adjust to married life, and her old friend Rita, often far away working hard for the Flying Doctors, Sybil starts a book club. Joined by Sallyanne, a mother of three with a trouble marriage, and Della, who moved to the country looking for adventure, they come together to bond over their favourite stories. But as life throws up challenges to each of its members, the club might just provide these five women with what they need more than anything: a friendship capable of overcoming any distance and weathering all seasons. _________________ Join other readers in discovering the joy of the Fairvale Ladies . . . 'A book showing more kindness between its pages than any I have read before' NetGalley Reviewer 'A warm hearted, generous book . . . it was a pleasure and a comfort to come back to the characters each night' Virginia McGregor, author of Before I Was Yours 'I didn't want this story to end and would happily spend time in this world each day' Amazon Reviewer 'The story is timeless, the characters realistic and descriptions of the landscape breathtaking' Amazon Reviewer 'Heartwarming and fulfilling' Australian Women's Weekly 'Wonderfully atmospheric' Sunday Mirror __________________ Perfect for readers of The Chilbury Ladies' Choir, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, The Sunday Lunch Club and The Lido.

 I guess the title intrigued me as I like to read about book clubs having been in them myself – and know about someof what happens within..

And this is the Northern Territory of Australia which I have never seen but is really really large and the home of the Flying Doctor. The romance of the Flying Doctor and Uluru gets to most people. And then they start reading :

My favourite quote was from Kate:

“Books give us the benefit of a lot of people’s experiences. They give us  more options to choose from – more ways to live – than we could ever find on our own.”

And then they read The Thorn Bird as the first book. Well that got me hooked. I did read it but I much preferred the TV series. How could anyone not fall in love with Richard Chamberlain as the priest? He was beyond dishy.. then.

And I loved the settings too.

So I read on and found the book excellent. The writing style, the content, the characters, the story, the whole of it.

I couldn’t stop reading and think this is one of the best of its type I’ve read for a very long time.

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Tea for Two and More

The Afternoon Tea Club Book Cover The Afternoon Tea Club
Jane Gilley
Fiction
HarperCollins UK
December 12, 2019
300

Everyone’s welcome at The Afternoon Tea Club...

Everyone’s welcome at The Afternoon Tea Club…

Marjorie, Stacy, Raymond and Dora each hold a different story to their chest – lost loves, abandoned dreams, crippling self-confidence issues, and simply feeling invisible. For each of them, the thought of letting those stories out is almost as terrifying as letting strangers in, and that makes for a very lonely life indeed.

But when these four strangers who have struggled to “fit in” end up on the same table for an event at their local community centre, little do they know that their lives are about to be entwined and changed forever because of an Afternoon Tea club.

Cue an unexpected journey of self-discovery, some unlikely new companions, and plenty of tea and biscuits along the way…

Heart-warming and poignant in equal measure, this is a story about loneliness, kindness, and the power of friendships that span generation, proving that the most simple of human connections unite us all. Perfect for fans of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village and The Keeper of Lost Things.

At first I thought ‘Oh Dear! Another sweet and cosy story about how having tea together makes you less lonely.’

But it was friendship, and intergenerational friendship too, that worked.

However, reading the characters’ back stories and finding that the characters struggled to adjust to their lives and circumstances made the book. It lifted it above the mundane. Even if it took until the end of the story for Dora to find her position in life.

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Secrets? Everyone has some

We All Have Secrets Book Cover We All Have Secrets
Dr. Molly McCormick Series Book 1
by Florence Love Karsner
General Fiction (Adult) , Mystery & Thrillers
BooksGoSocial
Pub Date 06 Apr 2019

The year is 1962. Dr. Molly McCormick, a young female physician, has been attacked by a deranged psychiatric patient and has suffered physical and psychological damage. She is recovering at her grandfather’s home which is located on an island off the Southwest coast of Florida. Such a great location with one problem . . . it is just a hop and skip to Cuba where Fidel Castro has just pointed Russian missiles in the direction of the United States. The Cuban Missile Crisis is heating up and the whole world is on pins and needles.Dr. McCormick’s grandfather, a retired U. S. Navy Captain, Intelligence Officer, is neck deep in stopping arms from being sent to the rebels in Cuba. Recently he has learned that someone on his island is preparing to supply the rebels with a stash of sulfur mustard, a chemical that can be converted to mustard gas. This weapon can be spread many ways and will cause grave illness and possibly death to thousands. Oh, and just one more small issue . . . Dr. McCormick’s attacker is still out there . . .and has promised to “find her” again!

Down to the sea we go – the steamy sea – the islands with swamps and mosquitoes and noseeums – all ready to drink your blood…

In this novel we go back to the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the islands that are just next door to Cuba.

There are some interesting hints of future storylines coming through in the male characters and it will be disappointing if the series doesn’t follow them up.

The female character – Molly- still lacks definition for me, not yet fully formed but hopefully she will develop. Her final choice of career was obvious from the visit she made to an outlying island so no surprises there.

This is not the first book by this author that I have read, but the one with most potential for me.

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When it isn’t really such fun

Such a Fun Age Book Cover Such a Fun Age
by Kiley Reid
General Fiction (Adult) , Literary Fiction
Bloomsbury Publishing
Pub Date 07 Jan 2020 

What happens when you do the right thing for the wrong reason?

Alix Chamberlain is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living showing other women how to do the same. A mother to two small girls, she started out as a blogger and has quickly built herself into a confidence-driven brand. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains’ toddler one night. Seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, a security guard at their local high-end supermarket accuses Emira of kidnapping two-year old Briar. A small crowd gathers, a bystander films everything, and Emira is furious and humiliated. Alix resolves to make it right.

But Emira herself is aimless, broke and wary of Alix’s desire to help. At twenty-five, she is about to lose her health insurance and has no idea what to do with her life. When the video of Emira unearths someone from Alix’s past, both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about themselves, and each other.

With empathy and piercing social commentary, Such a Fun Age explores the awkwardness of transactional relationships, what it means to make someone ‘family’, the complicated reality of being a grown-up and the consequences of doing the right thing for the wrong reason.

An excellent story about what it is like being a coloured person in a middle-class white culture.

It is a coming of age story but the person it concerns, Emira, comes of age much later than many.

Emira struggles to find a purpose and what she is really interested in – apart from dancing and drinking and going out – her teenage and college life never seems to end even though she has got her degree. Alex tries to help her, but fails to understand her and her background. And then we have a strange man – helping Emira – or not?

I found it difficult at times to understand the speech that the girls shared as it was very particular to their culture but mostly got the gist – I think.

It is tricky to think about your domestic help and what they might want from life – especially when they come from such a different culture to you. and when your immediate impulse is to help them find their way.

Truthfully we had a mother’s help with a degree and we did help her find her next job – after 2 years with us as we taught business skills and she helped with our own business as well as the children, and she came from a nice middle class white family so i have not been confronted with his dilemma personally. But I suspect I would be an Alex!

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