1. Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge
Several friends had recommended Green Dolphin Street to me, but it took a while to get around to it. Now I wonder what I was waiting for. I had it out from the library and by the time I was halfway through I’d bought a copy to keep. It’s such a beautiful novel, luminous, rich. I think what it shows about how married love and friendship, self-sacrifice and redemption all twine together. What had the potential to be a great tragedy instead became a great love story. My favorite kind.
2. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
A friend lent it to me over a year ago. Again, I’m not sure why I delayed except that I wasn’t in love with any of the Steinbeck I read in school. But this was different. Or possibly I’m different. It’s very dark in places, but also very hopeful. I rather wish I hadn’t read it at the same time as Green Dolphin Street. I might have liked it more had I stayed immersed in the story and not been distracted by Goudge’s very different novel. Both toy with similar themes, but Steinbeck is more gritty. Which isn’t to say I didn’t like it. I did very much. But I liked the first part of the novel more than the ending. Maybe I was just in a different place when I read it?
3. The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein
The prequel to Code Name Verity. It wasn’t nearly as good as Verity or as Rose Under Fire, the sequel. It tells the story of a much younger Lady Julia on a summer holiday from school at her grandfather’s castle in Scotland. The estate is being sold off but there is a dead body and some missing pearls. And who knocked Julia over the head? It was a rather fluffy whodunnit, perfect vacation read, but nowhere near as serious or heartbreaking as the two WW2 novels. It couldn’t decide if it wanted to be a mystery novel or a novel about sexual awakening, I could have done without the latter elements.
4. Crossbows and Crucifixes by Henry Garnett
A juvenile novel about Catholic recusants in Elizabethan England, hiding priests and moving them about the country in secret, defying the pursuivants, the priest-hunters. Bella and Sophie had read it and I wanted to be able to discuss it with them. I read it mostly while we were camping.
5. Brief Cases by Jim Butcher
Dresden Files short stories. I really liked several of these shorts. Short stories aren’t really my thing. I prefer novels. And the Dresden Files series is a long one, I wasn’t sure whether a short story collection would add much to world building and character development; but for fans of Harry Dresden, I’d say these are not to be missed. I’ve written elsewhere about the story Zoo Day, which is a kind of Rashoman story, told from three perspectives. Where Rashoman is an investigation of justice, Zoo Day is about courage, I think. About what it means to be a hero. And about responsible use of power to protect the innocent. There are three stories about Bigfoot, which were all quite fun. A story from Molly’s point of view, which filled in a gap and adds a very interesting perspective.
6. St. Nicholas Owen by Tony Reynolds.
The story of the Elizabethan carpenter who traveled as a servant to a Jesuit priest and who made priestholes in great houses where priests could be hidden from the pursuivants. Not a lot is known about Owen, but this novel tells what is known and also provides a lot of context, telling about the various priests Owen knew and worked with. Reynolds studied architecture and got interested in Owen’s work partly through his studies.
7. Endless Water Starless Sky by Rosamund Hodge
The highly anticipated second book in her post-apocalyptic Romeo and Juliet adaptation. I loved the first one, it’s very dark and unexpected. Great world building and you don’t have to be a fan of the play to enjoy it. In fact, it might provide great satisfaction to people who hated Shakespeare’s play.