Recent Revelatory Reading Part 2
I’m delighted this month to continue my reading roundup for this year of books that I absolutely loved. Last month I talked about books about writing and creativity that I highly recommend. This month I’m going to talk about three novels I really liked and that I hope you will too. Only one is a romance, but the other two definitely have romantic elements and a romantic sensibility.
First up is a book I know so many people loved – and I’m no different. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey is set in Alaska in 1920 and it’s based on an old Russian folktale about a childless couple who create a daughter out of the snow. This is such an incredibly moving story, beautifully written and with unforgettable characters. It starts quite bleakly but as the years pass, the central character, childless middle-aged wife Mabel, finds a purpose and a place in the world.
Despair to hope is always such a lovely trip to go on with interesting characters! An integral part of this story is the Alaskan wilderness that is both friend and foe to east coasters, Mabel and her husband Jack. The setting is exquisitely written – you can feel the cold of winter and the wild outbreak of life in the spring, a spring that always means the disappearance of the snow child Faina. Faina appears one night out of a blizzard and stays for each winter but then must leave. It’s hard to sum up this beautiful story in a few words – it’s heartfelt and mystical and mysterious and touching. If you haven’t read it, try and find it. It’s one of the most unusual novels I’ve ever read and a book I still think about.
The next is another novel slightly off my usual reading path. A friend of mine recommended A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman. I must say I approached it with a fair degree of reluctance. I’m usually not a fan of novels in translation – I spend all my time wondering what I’m missing out on because I don’t speak the original language (in this case Swedish). And the blurb didn’t make it sound that appealing – books about cranky old men aren’t my choice generally. Then I picked it up and started and I was immediately enchanted.
This is one of the loveliest books I’ve read in years, surprising and sweet and sincere and generous. Strangely, now I think about it, A Man Called Ove follows a similar journey from despair to hope like The Snow Child. When the story opens, lonely widower Ove is trying without much success to commit suicide – when you read it, you’ll see what I mean by saying that these scenes are hilarious! – but life just keeps getting in the way and life has a habit of dragging cranky old men with hearts bigger than Australia back into the melee. Ove meets a rich variety of characters and manages to solve most of their problems, very much despite himself, and in the process, takes the reader on a wonderful journey. Even if this doesn’t sound like your sort of book, give it a go. It wasn’t my sort of book, and I’ve emerged from reading it a complete fan.
My last recommendation is the romance in this trio, again a recommendation from a friend whose taste I trust. The Vintage Girl by Hester Browne is a real charmer. Quite old-fashioned in the best sense of the word and very, very sweet. The sort of book you close with a big happy, silly grin on your face because it was just such a lovely experience being in that world.
Evie Nicholson is a breed of heroine I love – slightly geeky, goodhearted, generous, dreamy. She’s in love with the past and devotes her time to buying antiques and collectibles which her vile antique-dealer boss derides. When she gets the chance to visit Kettlesheer Castle in the Scottish Borders, she leaps at it. Her romantic soul is aflame at all the wonderful stories she’ll discover. So Evie turns up at Kettlesheer and has to overcome a number of challenges before she gets her handsome prince and her happily ever after, not least a growing attraction to dashing Robert MacAndrew, the laird’s son, who by tradition, announces his engagement at the annual ball.
Evie needs to leave the world of her dreams and step up to the plate if she’s to prevail – it’s heartwarming to see her find her courage and confidence. There’s a lovely mixture of Regency wit and romance with contemporary sass in this story and I had such a good time reading it. I’m hunting down more Hester Browne books right now.
Come back next month when I’m talking about three fantastic memoirs that I’ve read in the last few months.