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This Week We Have Been Mostly Reading…

Kate has been reading…

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

The Lost Books of the Odyssey by Zachary Mason

I am, I am, I am by Maggie O’Farrell


In order to recompense for a longish silence, I’ve decided to throw in three books this week, not all of which I have finished but all of which have played a part in getting me through the past week or so.

Firstly the Mermaid & Mrs Hancock, which is by my bed: it’s a nicely written story and engaging enough not to send me to sleep too quickly but not so taxing of the brain as to send thoughts whirling around after the lights are out. I would call it a pleasant rather than a memorable read. It tells the story of a merchant who is given a mermaid and chronicles how his life changes as a result.

The Lost Books of the Odyssey has been a great find. I have enjoyed dipping in at spare moments behind the stall and its short chapters facilitate this. It provides 44 retellings of parts of Homer’s Odyssey, looking at them from different and unusual perspectives. It’s beautifully written and fits very nicely into a wonderful group of novels recently written in homage to Homer, such as The Silence of the Girls (Pat Barker) and The Song of Achilles (Madeline Miller).

Lastly, I’ve started I am, I am, I am by Maggie O’Farrell, whose novels I have always enjoyed, with stand-out titles being the devastating After You’d Gone and The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox. This one is autobiographical and centres around the many and varied near-death experiences which have befallen the author over the years. As with all of her books, this one grabs you from the start and the first chapter describes beautifully the horrible and yet unexplicable presentiment one can get when a situation is about to turn nasty.

Anne has been reading…

The Travelling Hornplayer by Barbara Trapido

My first Barbara Trapido! She was recommended to me by a friend so when we acquired this to go on the stall it seemed like a perfect opportunity. I was initially put off by the cover but enjoyed it so much that I took it out of stock on the website in case it was bought before I finished it. Now back in stock…

Lydia is killed in a car accident, but she returns to her bereft sister as a benign ghost who, none the less, comes to haunt the lives of those around her in unexpected ways: Jonathan, whose flat Lydia is running from when she is knocked down and his daughter Stella who on the same day discovers that her father has been having an affair. Each character’s background and history is fully explored and you feel that they are all real people that you could have met. There are moments of real tragedy and sadness but there is also lightness and humour and the whole convoluted story reaches a very satisfying conclusion.

A review by Philip Hensher for The Mail on Sunday which sums up the book very well: ‘Audacious, energetic and dazzling… The vividness, and the immediately engaging style, is as sure as ever, and the Dickensian swiftness with which she can draw a character is full of charm…There aren’t many novelists whose stories one doesn’t want to end but Barbara Trapido is one of them’

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