Old Books In Between

It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between.

(C.S. Lewis)

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows, click here

Russian Dance by Andree Aelion Brooks, click here

The House on the Hill by Estelle Pinney, click here.

The Summer of Katya by Trevanian, click here.

A Rage to Live by Mary S. Lovell, click here.

The Family by Nina Fedorova, click here.

The Missionary's Wife by Tim Jeal, click here.

Kim Wilkins

Gothic horror/speculative fiction isn’t my usual choice of reading, but this seemed to fit the bill for for something escapist while being confined indoors due to extreme weather.

Maisie Fielding is a professional Australian cellist experiencing a mid-20s life crisis. She fakes a hand injury in order to escape her stultifying life and the demands of her perfectionist parents. She also doesn’t know how she feels about her long-term boyfriend Adrian, a rising opera star, so when she discovers she has a grandmother in Yorkshire about whom she knows nothing, she plans to pay her a visit. This idea is met with dismay by Maisie’s mother, Janet, who has been estranged from her mother nearly all her life but is reluctant to reveal exactly why.

Maisie heads off to the village of Solgreve on the cliff-tops of Yorkshire. She is sad to discover that her grandmother Sybill has only just recently died, but glad that she is able to stay in her cottage. But it is not long before it becomes apparent that she is not welcome in Solgreve where many of its residents all seem to live to a great age. In clearing out the cottage, Maisie finds evidence that Sybill was some kind of witch, also spells and parts of a diary of a woman who lived in the cottage two hundred years earlier.

Maisie meets Sacha, a gypsy friend of Sybill, and is attracted to him. Meanwhile, Maisie is unaware of mysterious goings-on between the local Reverend, policeman and a criminal who sources dead bodies that are taken into the crypt of the ruined abbey which is surrounded by acres of an old cemetery.

This is certainly terrific page-turning fantasy stuff with all the expected Goth horror ingredients – wintry landscapes, a spooky graveyard, ancient sorcery, wraiths (similar to Rowling’s dementers), psychic dreams and lost or trapped souls.

You can figure out where it is going, that Maisie will discover she has the same psychic gift as her grandmother, who had unsuccessfully tried to rid the village of its terrible secrets, and that her growing relationship with Sacha will complicate her feelings for Adrian.

The menacing atmosphere is really well evoked but at 692 pages, it can seem a bit too long – the obligatory detailed sex scenes and the girly coffee and chat sessions with Maisie’s irritating friend Cathy slowed the pace at times. It is also interesting how the technology used in a novel written about fifteen years ago already seems so outdated.

The whizz-bang resolution was as to be expected, but after endless build-up over how Maisie would resolve her life crisis and romantic dilemma, it fell completely flat in the last few pages which was a pity.

3 1/2 stars.

by Simon Winchester

I’ve put this into my Obib (Old Books in Between) category as it was published back in the 20th Century and has long been one of those titles I wanted to read, and I have only recently got around to it.

This marvellous work by Simon Winchester about the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary and the relationship between its editor, James Murray, and one of its main contributors, W.C. Minor, is so well-known that I don’t need to give a further summary and it is worthy of all the praise and awards it received. Simply brilliant.

For anyone who loves stories about the great enterprises of the Victorian age, this is a must. But it is also a story of a murder, madness and an obsession so bizarre that it has to be true as no fiction writer could have invented it.

5 stars.

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