When the weather gets cold outside, I go all Nordic and get a bit of ‘hygge‘ going, and settle down on the sofa with a good book. These are my current favourite reads to warm up this winter.
When looking for a good book to engage me for a longer period, I usually want the novel to take me somewhere new, different or exciting.
The Affair by Gill Paul comes under the ‘exciting’ category. Diana, a history scholar married to an older academic, travels alone to Rome to work as an adviser on the set of Cleopatra. There she rubs shoulders with the famous (and infamous) actors and actresses. It’s 1961 and the affair between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Buton is played out in front of her eyes, and at first, this new glamorous life fills Diana with excitement. But as she gets deeper and deeper involved with the Hollywood set, tragedy strikes, and her circumstances are suddenly and dramatically changed. Can Diana avoid disaster and find happiness? The Affair paints an evocative picture of 1960s Rome with its Hollywood actors, as well as the underworld fed by the film business, paparazzi, and the journalists always on the look out for a scandalous story to publish. There is a moral message in this novel, but to me reading The Affair felt a little like watching a black and white film on a small round-edged TV screen. Very retro.
Game by A C Efverman certainly takes you somewhere far away (especially if you live in the UK). Sydney cop, DS Morgan Callaghan, is a bit like Harry Hole of the Jo Nesbo crime thrillers Down Under. He too has the stubbornness to solve a crime whatever the consequences, as well as an impulsive and defiant character. With the addition of a few character flaws, DS Callaghan is easy to empathise with.
In ‘Game’ Callaghan is faced with a serial killer, but due to the forthcoming large sports event in Sydney, he has to keep the case from leaking out into the media and the public, hence making his task to keep one step ahead of the killer impossible. All the while his personal life seems to be imploding. I loved the way Efverman entwined the two strands of the story together, with Morgan’s own life reaching a critical point at the same time as the murder investigation. I also liked the descriptions of Sydney, which were interspersed with very scary scenes while the killer is on the rampage. I found Game hard to put down, and look forward to another installment in the series.
The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell ‘A Girl on a Train’ meets ‘The Great Gatsby’ in this psychological thriller set in 1920s New York. Rose Baker works as a typist in a Lower East side police precinct. Hers is a ‘silent job’ as she types up the confessions of murderers, rapists, and other criminals. Brought up in an orphanage, and educated at Astoria Stenographers College for Ladies, Rose is competent, unfeeling and in possession of high morals until a new typist, Odalie, enters the precinct and her life. In contrast to Rose, Odalie enjoys the finer things in life: she wears expensive clothes, jewelry, and travels everywhere by cab. In spite of their different outlooks on life, Rose become obsessed with Odalie and soon the two are inseparable. Odalie invites Rose to share her luxurious hotel apartment, as well her high life of speakeasies, expensive restaurants, fine clothes and country house parties. But can Rose trust Odalie? When Rose meets the unsavory characters that Odalie calls her friends, and gets deeper embroiled in her illegal and highly immoral activities, Rose discovers that her friend has a secret so huge that she’s prepared to do almost anything to hide it. But can we trust Rose’s first person narration? Is she a little too obsessed with Odalie? What are her true feelings for her glamorous friend? Perhaps it’s Rose whose past is a lie? Read this highly addictive book now; you won’t put it down until you’ve got the last page!
The Candyfloss Guitar by Stephen Marriot. This novella has heart-warming characters in a beautifully written coming of age tale set on a Pilgrimage in Spain. Diego is a young man with a dream. He wants a career in music, which his wise grandfather convinces him to pursue. But as he leaves the small village of San Pedro, he meets different Pilgrims. Each one teaches him a different life lesson. The Candyfloss Guitar is an uplifting story and has a great sense of place and time. From the very first page you feel the heat of the Spanish sun on your face. A great book for a cold January day or a beach holiday.
Green Ribbons by Clare Flynn is a confident and heart-breaking story set in 1920s rural England. The story begins when Hephzibah, a young daughter of an Oxford Don, loses both her parents in a freak tram accident. This terrible event leaves her completely penniless, partly due to her sex. In order to avoid destitution, Hephzibah is forced to leave her beloved Oxford to take up a position as governess at Ingleton Hall, in a small rural village of Nettlestock. But life as a young woman of limited means, and of little experience, in turn-of–the-century England isn’t easy. Hephzibah has to first fight off the unwanted advances of an older, powerful man. She then falls in and out of love, and finally, is faced with a seemingly impossible choice. I was transported to another time and could empathize with the plight of this poor young woman. I can wholeheartedly recommend this novel, especially if you love historical fiction.
I hope you enjoyed my selection of reads to curl up with. Are you reading something you’d like to share? Comment below and share!
Helen Baggott says
I bought ‘The Affair’ just because it’s set in Rome. It’s early days but I agree with you; it does have a very retro feel.
Helena Halme says
Helen, I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did! Come back and tell us what you thought.