Florence’s Book club

Welcome to another book club – it’s been a while since we have shared some good reads and I’ll be reading with particular interest today, particularly in the comments as I’m going away soon and could do with some holiday reading. 🙂 Thank you to Alexa and Victoria for providing the reviews this month and do let me know if you have any great reads we should be sharing soon – just send an email to me with a short review.

Longbourn by Jo Baker

My name is Victoria and I am a Pride and Prejudice addict. I’ve read the book countless times. I own the 90s BBC series on VHS, DVD and have it saved on my Sky+ for emergency Jane Austen watching. The recent Keira Knightley version continues to grow on me after a number of re-watches and I’ve also dabbled with the “sequels”, but remain largely disappointed. (As an aside, thoughts on Death at Pemberley this Christmas?)

So it’ll be no surprise that, while searching for some literary escapism on the shelves of my local bookstore, I was hooked by a quote on the back cover of Longbourn by Jo Baker:

“If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats,’ Sarah thought, ‘she would be more careful not to tramp through muddy fields.'”

This isn’t a sequel where we follow the characters in to the next step of their lives, although there is a little glimpse of life post Lizzie-Darcy nuptials. Nor is it a re-telling of the original from a different perspective, though we do see a lot of behind-the-scenes action around the key events of the original tale. It’s actually a parallel story about the servants at Longbourn, in particular Sarah the housemaid, and their lives, loves, worries, woes and the secrets they hide.

P&P fans should, however, read with caution. The author takes some liberties with one or two of our favourite characters with a shocking-ish plot twist or two (I guessed, not sure if I liked), we see very little of Darcy and Bingley and far too much of the dastardly Wickham and, be warned, as you follow Sarah’s story your love for Miss Lizzie may start to wane just a little.

My main criticism would be that there was a little bit too much back-story devoted to life outside of Longbourn for one particular character where I lost interest slightly but overall, for P&P fans I’d recommend this as a good light read.

– Victoria

Dominion – CJ Sansom

What if Churchill hadn’t become Prime Minister in 1940? Set in 1952, Dominion works on that idea and gives an alternative history of what could have happened if Britain had surrendered to Nazi Germany in 1940 and instead become, in essence, a Nazi satellite state. Within a few chapters of the book, Britain is a place where press, radio, speech and the streets are controlled by the state and subject to violent police and sometimes Gestapo rule and where there is an ever increasing move towards anti-Semitism.

The story focuses on David Fitzgerald, a disillusioned civil servant who becomes a spy for the resistance and is tasked with helping an old university friend escape a mental hospital with a secret that could change the balance of power all the while keeping his actions secret from his wife.

Interwoven with actual events and real people, it’s an incredibly thought provoking book about one of the many alternatives to what could have happened if Britain hadn’t continued the war effort. It’s part spy thriller, part love story, but also part what could have happened. Maybe it’s coming from a Jewish family, or some of the current rhetoric from certain political parties but it really made me think about undercurrents of thought that sit in society and can easily come to be accepted and mainstream beliefs.

The Fault in Our Stars – John Green

I’d recommend you start this book with a lot of tissues close by. And also probably some chocolate to hand. The Fault in our Stars tells the story of Hazel, a 16 year old cancer patient who attends a support group (somewhat unwillingly) and meets August Waters, a 17 year old amputee and ex basketball player.

It’s billed as a young adult book but I don’t think anyone would struggle to relate to the characters or the experiences through the book which although ultimately are a story about death, actually are more about life and living and taking chances. John Green writes beautifully and has a way of making you feel for all the characters from Hazel’s parents to Hazel and Augustus themselves, without making you feel pity. And don’t worry; some bits will make you laugh as well as cry.

– Alexa

Have you read anything good lately readers?


#JanuaryJoy: Read something new

This morning Gemma is taking the reins with one of my favourite posts of the month, sharing her recent reads and reviewing them for your pleasure. Don’t forget to tell us if you agree with her appraisals or if you can recommend something she has missed…

The Cuckoo’s Calling – Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling)

Tightly plotted, laugh out loud funny at times and with some of the most tightly written characters I’ve ever come across in detective fiction, The Cuckoo’s Calling is a treat of a book.  Especially good for those who are familiar with London, who’ll recognise places and people loosely yet distinctly referenced in her fictional locations.  About a private detective with the flat-out-fabulous name of Cormorant Strike who is hired by the brother of a famous model who’s just committed suicide (or has she?) The Cuckoo’s Calling has all the elements of a classic gumshoe detective story, but is somehow still incredibly fresh and engaging.  One of my favourites of 2013.

The Girl With All The Gifts – M R Carey

Now firstly, I have to declare my bias about this book.  I have recently changed jobs and now work in PR for Little, Brown, the publishers of The Girl With All The Gifts.  HOWEVER.  I didn’t have the job when I read this book, and I would still recommend every last thrilling page of this unique, moving novel.  Despite a strong sci-fi element which might put some FFers off, please take my word as an incurable book worm and give this book a go, if only for the strong female characters and moments of bleak but beautiful prose along with big questions about what makes us human.  (I could go on and on and ON about this but am erring on the side of ‘least said’, because there are a couple of big twists in this tale and I really don’t want to give them away.  But please leave a comment if you’d like to know more or if you’ve read it!)

The Last Letter from your Lover – JoJo Moyes

Me before you – an earlier Jojo Moyes title, had me in absolute floods. We’re talking ‘oh god where are the chocolate biscuits and oh my wasn’t mascara a mistake today’ floods, so I was looking forward to The Last Letter from your Lover.  Added to Moyes’ genuiune ability to make you feel for her characters was the fact that The Last Letter From Your Lover was set in two different time periods and I couldn’t stop reading it, especially when it became clear how the two different stories overlapped.  Did I love it as much as Me Before You?   Not quite.  But it’s still worth a read.  Here’s the online description:

When journalist Ellie looks through her newspaper’s archives for a story, she doesn’t think she’ll find anything of interest. Instead she discovers a letter from 1960, written by a man asking his lover to leave her husband – and Ellie is caught up in the intrigue of a past love affair. Despite, or perhaps because of her own romantic entanglements with a married man.

In 1960, Jennifer wakes up in hospital after a car accident. She can’t remember anything – her husband, her friends, who she used to be. And then, when she returns home, she uncovers a hidden letter, and begins to remember the lover she was willing to risk everything for.

The Emergence of Judy Taylor Angela Jackson

In a first for my reviews here at FF towers, I have a confession to make.  Despite the review in Grazia saying ‘The Emergence of Judy Taylor is a heart-wrenching yet dryly funny tale of relationships and second chances’, despite reading and hearing great things about this book, it, well, left me totally cold.  I found Angela Taylor’s prose hard to get into and I didn’t really like any of the characters.  The eponymous Judy Taylor has become dissatisfied with her life married to Oliver, living near her parents and brother, in the same English town she grew up in, and the novel charts her decision to leave it all behind to go and live in ‘vibrant Edinburgh’.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Edinburgh isn’t vibrant, (as I’m sure I’ve said many times, I flipping LOVE Scotland and Edinburgh is one of my favourite places.)  it’s just that for me, moving from a village to Edinburgh isn’t all that out of the ordinary, and there I think is the crux of my problem with this book.  At its core, it’s about a woman thinking ‘there’s got to be more to life’ but I think most people could imagine for themselves the situations Judy finds herself in in her new life, and I also found the storyline with Oliver afterwards quite unrealistic.

Mad About The Boy – Helen Fielding
In contrast to the review above – I wasn’t expecting to like the latest Bridget Jones outing as much as I did. The book has certainly had some less than positive feedback about, for example, its opening (Mark Darcy has been killed off) Bridget’s lifestyle (she’s now closer to fifty than thirty and a mum of two) and its plot arc (I’d heard: a bit cobbled together, rushed at the end, and predictable.) with the above in mind (some I agree with to an extent) I still found Mad About the Boy funny and sharp on the social commentary. I wasn’t the right generation for the first two Bridget books, and have found more in them in later re-reads now that I’m close to thirty, so in that respect I’m not qualified to say whether Mad About The Boy is an accurate portrayal of mid-life motherhood or not. If you’re expecting a literary, thought provoking read, I doubt Bridget Jones would be your first pick anyway. But for flashes of brilliance, like the pitfalls of making friends on Twitter, Helen Fielding is on form. My only gripe is, what happened to Shazza??

As always, let us know in the comments what you’re reading.  Anything that should be on my radar?

Love, Gemma C-S.

Florence’s Book Club: September

Before Rachel went off on maternity leave from her book club contributions to Florence Finds, she sent me in a book club post for June. Somehow I completely over looked it and recently rediscovered it, so thought it was about time I got around to posting! (In case you didn’t know, Rachel has a beautiful baby girl called Alice Emmeline.)

The Garden Party and Other Stories by Katherine Mansfield
In my memory I’d studied these short stories at school, however reading/rereading them I’m not so sure. I like short stories, a perfect accompaniment for holidays. This time however they weren’t read on holiday but on my newly acquired Kindle in preparation for the baby. They were perfect for middle of the night insomnia – some are very very short, each is gentle with thoughtful and sometimes quietly unsettling emotions lying under the surface. They are also free to download on Kindle.

Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness by Alexandra Fuller
I must admit it was the title that drew me to this book. Set in Kenya (or Keen-ya as her mother pronounces it), Rhodesia, as was and ending up in Zambia with the odd short journey to Britain sandwiched in between. It is an autobiographical/biographical memoir of her mother, AKA Nicola Fuller of Central Africa, as she refers to herself. I learnt a lot about Rhodesia and although her parents are no way in poverty they have to work hard to earn a living from the land, and sometimes it is a precarious living. There are touching mother daughter conversations, mad mother daughter conversations and sad mother daughter conversations.

…with my first best friend, Stephen Foster.”
Mum smiles at the memory. “Stephen and I used to take turns pushing each other on his tricycle. We wore matching romper suits. We had tea parties. We went everywhere together, hand in hand.”
“Stephen was one of Zoe’s sons?” I guess.
Mum frowns. “No, no, no,” she says. “Stephen wasn’t her son. Stephen was her chimpanzee.”

It’s an entertaining, informative and enjoyable easy read. One to add to FF African Book club post and thought provoking for new mums or mothers-to-be.

Restoration by Rose Tremain
Rose Tremain is one of my favourite female authors, I always think one gets a good quality female read from her. This book is different, it felt quite masculine and in some places it was a slow read. Set in England after the Civil War with Charles II now on the throne it follows surgeon Robert Merival on his journey of being King’s favourite, and relishing all the pomp, glory and debauchery that gave, to being married off to the King’s favourite mistress of the time and being sent out of London. He becomes Lord of a manor, again relishing in the pomp, glory and debauchery until he is no longer in the king’s favour. He joins a Quaker friend at a mental hospital where he helps care for the patients, reuses his medical knowledge and falls in lust with one of the patients. He then returns to London just after the plague, survives the Great Fire of London, returns to practising medicine and is restored to the King’s favour. If this intrigues you but you’re not sure about reading it then there is always the 1995 film with a young Robert Downey Jr as Merival.

Have you read any wonderful books recently readers? I’d love to hear your recommendations as I could do with something to help me turn my brain off before sleep these days!


Summer Reading: Florence’s readers recommend…

In the absence of Rachel (whilst she is on maternity leave getting acquainted with her beautiful baby daughter Alice,) I thought it would be fun and fascinating to get some reading recommendations from you, the Florence Finds readership, for summer holiday reads. I asked followers on Twitter and Facebook to send in a short paragraph reviewing their favourite recent reads and I know I have made a subsequent purchase or two as a result – I hope you all find something you fancy too.

The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern

“The circus arrives without warning…..” This is how The Night Circus starts and within a couple of pages it reels you in and doesn’t let you go until the end. It’s actually quite difficult to write about without giving the story too much, but suffice to say I loved it. The entire book is woven around the circus, the amazing magical circus that’s quite unlike any other circus. But this is not where the story begins and there’s a parallel narrative about a challenge that underpins the circus it’s self and this is what drives the story forward, until it all collides together. It’s so beautifully written, so descriptive and evocative you feel like you live in that world and know the characters, as if you might bump into them on the street. Or wake up one morning to see the circus in your local park. One of aspects of the story I most enjoyed is that it’s not light and fanciful. It’s imaginative, full of magic and vivid descriptions but there’s a tangible darkness to the story and it’s not afraid to be quite bittersweet at times, which makes the story feel far more real than it might have otherwise done. I was lucky enough to be given this book by someone and I’m so grateful that she did, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone.

– Reviewed by Zan @foxysynt

The Shining Girls – Lauren Beukes

I heard about this book on Twitter – it was recommended with the caveat that it is quite difficult to read in parts. It’s a thriller set in Chicago where a serial killer – a misfit called Harper Curtis – somehow gets access to a house that allows him to travel around in time, from the 1920s to the early 1990s. He hunts out his ‘Shining Girls’ – women who have a spark – at different points in their lives and eventually kills them. Except for one victim, who escapes him and becomes determined to track Harper down. The book’s chronology (necessarily) jumps around quite a lot – apart from the subject matter it actually reminded me of The Time Traveller’s Wife in that respect – so particularly in the beginning you need to concentrate. The story is really well written and tense, despite the different timelines. As soon as I finished it I wanted to go back and read it again as I’m sure there were clues and details I missed the first time round. Some of the violent scenes are hard to read (the author has said that she wanted them to be so because murder shouldn’t be something that is easy to read about) but even with that in mind I would really recommend this as a well written thriller – the time travel doesn’t detract from the story and actually gives it an extra layer of tension.

– Reviewed by Katy W @KatyWells1

The White Princess – Phillipa Gregory

For those that haven’t been watching Phillipa Gregory’s Sunday night drama, The White Queen, what have you been doing? The books, although you can read them independently, form part of a mini series covering different periods of history. The most recent series, the Cousin’s Wars, covers the period during the War of the Roses. The author tends to view the period through another, lesser known, female character, adding a twist to contradict popular opinion. The first book, The Lady of the Rivers, is followed by a three way version of events covering the Red Queen, Margaret Beaufort, the White Queen, Elizabeth Woodville and the Kingmakers daughter, Anne Neville.

The latest book (although you should read the whole series because they are awesome) is The White Princess, which follows Princess Elizabeth of York (it seems that there are a lot of Elizabeths), daughter of Elizabeth Woodville, the White Queen. The end of the White Queen sees Elizabeth’s lover, Richard III die by the hand of Henry Tudor, whom she then marries, thereby uniting the houses of York and Lancaster in a union brought about by the respective mothers’ Margaret Beaufort and Elizabeth Woodville. Elizabeth’s brothers’ Princes Edward and Richard were supposedly taken to the tower and killed on the order of either Richard III, her former lover, or the Red Queen – also our Princess’ mother in law, Margaret Beaufort (my money is on the pushy mother in law). The story focuses on the idea that the White Queen (who I like less and less on the BBC One drama as we go on – also pushy,) smuggled out the younger son, Richard, to be raised in Flanders, keeping him waiting for the day he will come back and reclaim his throne from the pretender, Henry VII and his wife who is, you’ll remember, our White Princess. Will Elizabeth choose to protect her Tudor childrens’ inheritance, or remain true to the House of York and the true claimant to the throne?

This is perfect for holidays because its not intellectual in the slightest (once you get your head around all of the Elizabeths,) but is more substantive than the usual genre of chick lit. Go Forth and Buy it Now.

– Reviewed by Becca @BeccanotTBTMMO

Life After Life – Kate Atkinson
I think Kate Atkinson is my favourite author of all time and her latest release, Life After Life, is my new favourite book, replacing her earlier book Behind the Scenes at the Museum. It’s hard to review Kate Atkinson’s work as she’s such an amazing writer and her books are often so peculiar, but amazing, that it’s hard to do it justice, but I’ll try:

If you’ve read her stuff before you’ll be familiar with the idea of a quirky story that requires you to leave, let’s call it “reality” behind. Ursula lives her liver over and over again, from 1910 until the late sixties, meeting various untimely ends along the way. In each updated version of her life, minor adjustments are made here and there until we end up face to face with a key figure in modern history. With the opportunity to change the world and its future, not to mention her own fate, I was sucked in to Ursula’s home, her family and her journey over and over again and hungry to know more. From the first page you know exactly where we were headed but what’s exciting is to see how we get there and more importantly how, and if, we can move on from there.

I loved this book not just because it displays Atkinson’s sparkling, witty and unique writing style, or because of the delicious oddity of her stories, but also because it’s set against a period of history that we know well and it so really made me think. It spurred me to speak at length with my brother (a passionate amateur historian) my father (an avid reader of New Scientist) and spend hours reading about modern history and scientific theorems. It’s not often I find books funny, touching, gripping, philosophical and perhaps even a little scientific all in one.

– Reviewed by Victoria – Sugar Plum Slipper

Thank you so much to Zan, Katy, Becca and Victoria for sending in their reviews. Now it’s over to you guys, do you agree with them or do you have another book you can recommend?

Don’t forget, if you would like to contribute to a future round up of fab reads, just send in a short paragraph or two to hello@florencefinds.com.

Happy reading folks!


Florence’s Book Club: April

Today Rachel is back with more book recommendations and this month it’s a real mixed bag of a classic, current literature and a book for Mums and fans of social commentary. As always we love to hear if you have read anything particularly good recently or have your eye on anything. Just drop us a comment in the comments box!

The Parasites by Daphne Du Maurier

This was recommended to me by my Mr B’s Reading Spa Experience.

It’s a Sunday afternoon tea in the drawing room novel. Set over one day with flashbacks to childhood and young adulthood all with an undercurrent. The Parasites refer to three siblings, they’re siblings through their parent’s marriage, and where their lives have been and perhaps are leading to. I really enjoyed it for the story and the writing, the descriptions are wonderful.

Grown up people… How suddenly would it happen, the final plunge into their world? Did it really come about overnight, as Pappy said, between sleeping and waking? A day would come, a day like any other day, and looking over your shoulder you would see the shadow of the child that was, receding; and there would be no going back, no possibility of recapturing the shadow. You had to go on; you had to step forward into the future, however much you dreaded the thought, however much you were afraid.

A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam

Another book recommended to me by Mr. B’s. This caught my attention because I work in a predominantly Bengali community and this novel is set in 1971 during the civil war. I know nothing about the politics of East Pakistan/Bangladesh and although you learn a little about it, a golden age is more a story that happens the world over when there’s war. A story about mother child relationships, that no matter how old we are parents still worry, the parental desire to please ones children and the private lives and desires that we have no matter how old or who we are. But more than that it’s about a woman who finds strength and courage to take on a role that she would previously have said she’d never be able to do.

French Children Don’t Throw Food by Pamela Druckerman

An American married to a British man living in Paris. She starts to observe French children and their parents. How there appear to be differences to how her Anglophone friends and family raise, and therefore how their children respond and behave. As well as observing lots she’s also spoken to, researched historical information about how various French institutions arose and read about the French way of raising children. Reading it one can think how wonderful everything is in France. It felt, for me, quite easy to agree with some of what she writes when it’s all hypothetical, the reality of a baby sleeping through the night the French way may be quite the other thing when the baby is really there awake and crying. It’s made me think, which is always good and I’ll be interested to see if I take this book down off the bookshelf once the baby is here.

What are you reading this month?


PS you can read more from Rachel at her blog Flowers and Stripes, or find her on Twitter @MrsHunterDunn.

Florence’s Book Club

This month’s book club is particularly well timed for me with a ski-ing holiday looming during which I usually can’t summon up the energy to do much more than relax with a good book after a hard day on the slopes. I’m looking forward to catching up with some reading and all three of Rachel’s suggestions appeal this month – thank you Rachel!

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

For part of my job I’m on a course and have to read well recommended and reviewed fiction for secondary aged pupils. This term it was The Boy in Striped Pajamas. I’d already seen the film, but remembered very little about it. It explores friendship between two boys during World War II, one in a concentration camp and one on the other side, telling the truth about what friendship means. It is in some ways a simple book, but reminded me never to forget the horrors of World War II and the concentration camps and has challenged me to read more fiction, or non-fiction, about world events so I don’t forget how fortunate I am.

Alys, Always by Harriet Lane

As a great friend would say ‘ the best thing about being in a book club is reading books you wouldn’t usually read, and the worst thing about being in a book club is reading books you wouldn’t normally read.’ I decided to broaden my reading a little for this month and read a book I wouldn’t normally choose. Set in modern affluent London, it tells the story of a creative woman subtly, but in a calculated way, and all through a chance encounter, manoeuvring her way into a family’s life. A good read that isn’t hard, but with a good story that gripped me in a slightly ‘peep through fingers, Joey in Friends put the book in the freezer’ way, but then I am a wimp. The book also tackles are bigger thoughts about who we are, identity and how others treat us, but I don’t want to give too much away.

‘…and I think, We’re all pretending. The room is full of constructs and inventions. People are experimenting, trying out lines… I watch the way they draw closer to and turn away from each other. I hear the things that they say and the things that they leave unsaid.’

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

I like to keep an eye on the winners of the major literary prizes and this book won the Orange Prize in 2012. I should start by saying I have a bit of a soft spot for the ancient Greeks. This story is of Achilles but told from the perspective of his friend, confidante and lover Patroclus, from when they meet as boys to them going into battle to fight the Trojan War for Helen of Troy. There are lots of ancient references to Gods and ancient families but you don’t need to know anything about them to enjoy the story. My thoughts on finishing were that I’d read a lovely, and very unusual love story. It has made me want to re-read The Iliad but only when I have the luxury of lazing on a sandy beach in Greece.

What are you reading this month?


PS you can read more from Rachel at her blog Flowers and Stripes, or find her on Twitter @MrsHunterDunn.

Florence’s Gift Guide: The Literary Edition

Please welcome Rachel back this month with another installment of Florence’s Book Club – her selection of books for December. It’s not a true gift guide, but the books have been selected with the Christmas season and Christmas gifts in mind. Thank you Rachel!

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Published this year yet set in 1920’s Alaska. A heart warming story about Jack and Mabel who move to Alaska to start a new life. It’s one of those magical books where the reader is unwrapping a story within a story. A true winter book – the protagonists are warmly nestled in their cabin, only going out if they need to for food, knowing the hardship of a long cold winter. It reminds you of the importance of good neighbours, hoping and healing. Of joy and not knowing, nor necessarily planning, where life is going to lead you. The greatest recommendation is that the day after I finished it I found myself missing Jack, Mabel and community. A book that makes the people feel like friends.

Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris: Including Books, Street Fashion and Jewelry: Strachan & Quinn Auctioneers (by Leanne Shapton)

My husband bought this for me a few Christmas’ ago having heard it reviewed on the radio. This book is set out as an auction catalogue, so there are lots of photographs and not many words, and it tells the intense love affair and relationship of Lenore and Harold. A couple who live in New York in 2002 when she’s a 22 year old journalist and he a 39 year old photographer. It catalogues their meeting, their relationship and the moments the cracks begin to show and the relationship ends. It’s clever, it’s wonderful and a highly unusual way of telling a story.

Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm (Vintage Classics) by Stella Gibbons

Although the title suggests that it will be about Christmas and will return us to our friends from Gibbons’ famous book Cold Comfort Farm, it’s a little misleading. It’s a book of short stories where there is one story about the farm and a couple about Christmas. All are gentle and oh so very rural England in the 1930’s but each has its own undercurrent of emotion. I’m really enjoying dipping into these short stories in the lead up to Christmas and could imagine enjoying them lazing leisurely on the sofa with a blanket and just another mince pie or two in the lull after Christmas.

‘…bedding the shapely little tree into a flower-pot and fastening the glass bells and lemon on to the tips of its branches. She stood it in the sitting-room window, with the curtains pulled back, when it was ready, and could not resist lighting its tipsy green and white candles, just to see what it would look like.’

Seeing by Jose Saramago

So this isn’t one of my favourite authors but my husband loves him and I felt rather uneducated about books when he started talking about him, he’s won the Nobel Prize for Literature. He doesn’t really go in for much punctuation and his stories are rather strange. Seeing is about an election where the majority of the votes have been left blank and what this implies for the officials, government and people. Saramago is a great writer and a good gift for someone who likes to read something a little different.

Miss Pettgrew Lives for the day by Winifred Watson

I’ve been wanting to write about Persephone Books for a while and Christmas felt the ideal time to do so. They are an independent publishers, each book is grey with a wonderful end piece from the era of the novel. They are mainly books that have become out of print, written by female author tending to be domestic novels but that would swipe many away often they are gently hard hitting. Miss Pettigrew Lives for the day is one of their most famous and tells the most gorgeous fairy tale, there is a film of it but it has a subtle, yet important change in it that just isn’t right, in my eyes. It’s now my go to book when I need to be cheered up. The other reason for mentioning Persephone in this post is because on Sunday ITV showed Lady which is an adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s (The Secret Garden) The Making of a Marchioness, another classic Persephone book.

Rachel x

Florence’s Book Club: White, Red and Rivers

For today’s book club I wanted to share a trilogy that I think many of you may have dipped into, or if you haven’t then I’m recommending you do.

I’ll go right out there and say it, although I read a lot of classics as a teen, once I got into my adult reading years there is a strong theme in the books that I tend to enjoy. Nearly all of them are historical, often depicting historical stories from other cultures, the far East, (Memoirs of a Geisha springs to mind,) pioneers and early travelers. This series is set closer to home and depicts our own bloody Royal history, and focuses on the Women behind The Cousins War, between The Houses of Lancaster and York.

I first read The White Queen a while back and loved the romance and imagery Phillipa Gregory portrays so well, but it’s also fascinating to learn a little more about the real history behind it. Of course the records have been embroidered to serve the purposes of writing a book, but it’s a decent starting point (and I believe there’s now a factual book that accompanies the series and details the evidence behind Phillipa’s research.) The White Queen was a commoner, Elizabeth Woodville who’s sons eventually became the legend of the Princes in the Tower.

On holiday last week I read The Lady of the Rivers , which details the story of Elizabeth’s mother, Jaquetta and talks more about the witchcraft and magic she inherits from her family. It’s the most romantic yet – I loved reading about the young King Henry and Queen Margaret of Anjou – little more than kids yet thrust into leadership and manipulated, exposing all the flaws of the old monarchy. It has more than re-ignited my interest in the series and now I’m about to read The Red Queen about Margaret Beaufort, The White Queen’s greatest adversary. I love reading a book that looks at a story I already know ‘from the other side’ and a new perspective.

Have you read any of The Cousins war or would you like to join me?


Found: What should I read next?

As I’m on holiday, it seemed an apt time to share a website I found recently called What Should I Read Next? One of the things that gets chief importance on my holiday packing list is planning my reading material. I have a fear of being stuck with nothing to do on holiday and so you can see that Florence’s bookclub was not an entirely self-less series idea 😉 – I love that it provides new ideas for my reading list and sometimes things I wouldn’t have normally tried.

So when I found What Should I Read Next? I was intrigued. Put in your favourite book or a recent read that your enjoyed and it gives you 20 similar books that you should enjoy.

I tested the theory with Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – one of my favourite books. Inevitably, some of the listed titles I had already read, Birdsong for example. Interestingly though, it did throw up some of those ‘I’ve been meaning to read that,’ books and I thought it was worth sharing.

Head on over this morning, plug in your favourite and let me know in the comments box what it came up with, or if any on my suggested reading list are particularly good! 🙂


Florence’s Book Club

Good Afternoon readers! It’s time to share your reads this months, recommendations (do drop us a comment if you’ve read something brilliant recently) and opinions on this months choices by Rachel. As ever she has curated a wide selection and I’ve already spotted two from her list that I’ll be reading this month. Can you guess?

Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh
This book is mad. Its Waugh’s second novel written 15 years before Brideshead. It is nothing like Brideshead Revisited, but still as wonderful – just different wonderful. Whilst reading it I found myself really enjoying the way Waugh writes, his way with words. A story about a fictional group of ‘Bright Young Things’, they truly are characters in 1920’s London and how their lives intertwine. Yes they are wealthy, or broke but with wealthy friends or lovers, the parties sound great fun but not Gatsby-esque glorious. Where else do you get drunk majors, mad fathers, lost money, journalists of gossip columns making people up. Oh and if you’re into vintage cars there is a bonkers car race. This book may not be your cup of tea but I don’t think you’ll be bored reading it.

Balzac And The Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie
My sister lent me this book. The author was sent to the depths of rural China as a child and now lives in France. His story is about the friendship of two boys who have been sent to Phoenix Mountain to be ‘re-educated’ there they meet the little seamstress. It’s a love story. A story of hidden love. Of teenage hidden love, climbing over steep mountain ridges to meet your love. It’s also a story of falling in love with books and the worlds they can take you to.

‘Did Four-Eyes stop to think about which book he would lend us? Or was it a random choice? Perhaps he picked it simply because of all the treasures in his precious suitcase, it was the thinnest boo, and the most decrepit. Did he have ulterior motives which we could not fathom? Whatever his reasons his choice was to have a profound effect on our lives.’

The Report : A Novel by Jessica Francis Kane
Based on the true event of the accident, where 173 people died, at Bethnal Green Tube Station during the war and the writing of the report. A tragic evening in March 1943, where the most harrowing fact is that night no bombs fell over London and Bethnal Green tube station in the impoverished East End was the only tube with a staircase that size with no middle banister. A report was written and the style of the report was ground breaking, the report was also buried for fear of the effect on wartime spirits, especially in the local area. The fiction part to it is the characters involved – their personalities and some of their actions. It is a book that is technically an ‘easy read’ the way the words, sentences and paragraphs flow, but emotionally as a fellow human being imagining oneself there in the midst, an onlooker or living at that time it’s hard and emotional. As someone who works near to Bethnal Green it made me want to find out more and surely that’s a good thing about reading.

Mrs Harris Goes to Paris by Paul Gallico
After all the reports on the SS13 fashion shows of London, Milan and Paris it felt fitting to include this book this month. First published in 1958 and republished in 2010 by Bloomsbury, as part of a small collection. Mrs Harris Goes to Paris is about a London char lady who dreams of couture, of Dior couture. She saves and saves and makes her way to Paris. If you want to be wrapped up in a world of descriptions and daydreams of dresses and the wonder of humanity then do read this. Ps In this edition Mrs Harris Goes to New York is also included, it’s good but nowhere near as precious and delightful as Mrs Harris goes to Paris.


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