I’m enjoying a steaming cup of chai tea and a yummy cinnamon bun from the market this morning as I think about my reading experiences over the past week. The sun is shining in and it’s promising to be an awesome day, just right for the beginning of spring.
I read a short novel by Helen Humphreys earlier in the week, The Evening Chorus, which tells the story of James Hunter, a British pilot in the RAF who was shot down in 1942 and is taken to a German POW camp. There he finds a way to pass the days by watching a pair of redstarts that have nested on the far side of the camp, just outside of the enclosure. He begins making a study of these birds, with detailed notes that follow them from courtship to nesting to the development of their young family. After witnessing a scene of unnecessary cruelty, Hunter is summoned by the Kommandant and taken on a ride that causes him to fear for his life. Back in England, his young wife, Rose, falls in love with another soldier and struggles to decide what to do about James. When James’ sister, Enid, is bombed out of her flat in London, she comes, out of necessity, to stay with Rose, and the two women form an unexpected bond of friendship that will change the course of their lives. I am not a huge fan of Humphreys. I read her excellent early novel, Wild Dogs, many years ago and loved it – in fact, it was the first book we discussed for my book group, more than eight years ago. Then last year I read Nocturne, her rather self-indulgent memoir on the death of her brother. I know she has had several popular historical novels, Coventry and The Lost Garden, but I haven’t read these and so cannot compare it to them. I can’t decide if this very readable novel was overly simplistic, or if it had hidden depth that I just didn’t get. It dealt with very real issues of love and loss, friendship and the search for happiness, which can often be found in the most surprising places. But I felt a bit cheated by the end, like there should have been a deeper, more complete exploration of these issues, not just surface treatment. All of the characters seemed very “real” to me, in that their thoughts, actions and feelings were believable. I guess I was just hoping for more. Still, it was very easy to read, and I think I could recommend this very short book to just about anyone.
I then tried to read a few different novels that have come in for me as holds from the library. I tried reading Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper, about an elderly woman in Saskatchewan who decides to walk to the East Coast because she had never seen the ocean (too much like The Unlikely Pilgrimmage of Harold Fry), If I fall, If I Die by Michael Christie, about a boy who has never been outside his house due to his agoraphobic mother (too much like Room by Emma Donoghue) and Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon, about an introverted boy who may or may not have been the perpetrator in the horrific shooting at his high school (too much like We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver). The effort of trying to find a next read can be exhausting, so I wasted one full night of precious reading time doing that last week. I then settled on Higher Ed by Tessa Mcwatt, which I’m working on now. I will write about that book once I’ve finished, but so far it is a good choice.
That’s all for today. Get outside and enjoy the sunshine!
Bye for now…