|Mrs Fytton and Skallagrigg are missing.|
1. Mrs Fytton's Country Life by Mavis Cheek. (St Martin's Press, 2000)
I mentioned this book a few posts ago because although it's probably my favourite book, I gave it away after re-reading it first. I passed it on to a colleague who is retiring and I'm sure she'll love it. You can read what I wrote about Mrs Fytton here.
2. Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson. (Doubleday, 1995)
Another favourite because I never saw it coming. The ending I mean. And that the sisters grow up in 1960s England, with many references to the food, tv, and culture that I remember from my childhood.
Ruby, the youngest of three sisters, believes that she is the least important of the three. When asked who's there she always replies, "it's only Ruby." She tells her story of growing up in a working class family in York in alternate chapters. The other chapters tell us about six generations of the family through which we see a pattern of secrets, misery and lies. It's only when Ruby grows up that she's able to break the pattern and discover the missing pieces of her own life.
3. Chocolat by Joanne Harris. (Doubleday, 1999)
How could I not love Chocolat. And I don't even like chocolate that much. I think I fell in love with that single mother, being one myself
Warning: Do not just watch the film and think you know the book. The book is far richer than the film. Far more intrigue and the whole thing about the power of the Church is missing from the film. Seriously, you need to read the book.
4. Skallagrigg by William Horwood. (Viking Press, 1987)
There is whole canon of stories about the Skallagrigg that is shared by physically disabled people when they meet in schools, in care facilities, and in hospitals. They pass on the secret stories between themselves. No one knows how the stories started. Who was the Skallagrigg? How did he become the superhero, champion, and guardian angel of the physically disabled community. Because they are a community who worship the Skallagrigg like a God.
One day a teenage girl with cerebral palsy decides to search for the Skallagrigg. She narrates her incredible journey, collecting the stories and tracing them back in time until she finds the Skallagrig himself. This is a life changing book, and I don't say that lightly.
I gave my copy to a friend who gifted me her very favourite book - Like Water for Chocolate. Fifteen minutes later and after I'd given her Skallagrigg, she came and asked for her book back as she couldn't bear to part with it. I didn't have the courage to say that I actually wanted my book back too. I thought it would be too rude.
5. Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi. (Poseidon Press, 1994)
A girl growing up in a small village in Nazi Germany. The girl is not ordinary (I won't spoil it) and you only understand how she is different about half way through the book. She uses her differences and her special powers to deal with being different, rejection, the Nazis, and life itself. This book is full of insights into human nature and the secrets we all share.
6. Address Unknown by Kathrine Kressman Taylor (Souvenir Press, 1995)
A very short book (only 54 pages) that was originally published in 1938 to show people how the Nazis were operating in Germany. It's written in the form of a series of correspondence between two business partners, one of whom is Jewish and has escaped to the US. He writes asking his erstwhile partner and friend to help his sister who was still in Germany. The German partner declines to help the young woman so her brother skillfully enacts his revenge by missive. A brilliantly crafted and frightening masterpiece.
7. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (Viking, 2016)
Count Alexander Rostov is tried by the Bolsheviks in 1922 and sentenced to life imprisonment in the grand Metropol Hotel in Moscow. The imprisonment lasts an incredible 32 years. On the other hand, if you're going to be imprisoned there are worse places. Instead of going stir-crazy, although he is not confined to his room, he rises to the occasion and creates a whole world for himself in the hotel.
I'm still reading this one. I bought it in London over Pesach (Passover) on the recommendation of a friend. Only 100 pages in I mentioned it to my cousin who raved about it. "He totally reinvents himself, it's amazing!" I'm all for reinvention and half way through the book as I write, I can see it happening. I'm finding it hard to restrict myself to one chapter a night.
Now I'm going to publish this post and then spend the next week remembering a whole load of other books that I loved and should have included. But the challenge was seven books only so another book another post.