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Virago Reading Week is here, and I have decided that despite workload and other stuff (I haven’t been very well recently and am vastly behind with everything) I would still try to take part.

I have pulled the following off the shelves:

Although all my copies have lovely old fashioned green Virago covers.

And this challenge will also help with the TBR Dare. Hurrah!

Yes, astonishingly enough the Bride is four today. Feels both extremely pleasant and very strange all at once, as I confess I’m surprised that I’ve kept going in some respects. I’m putting that down to not feeling pressure to blog every day and of course to my lovely readers out there with their own fabulous blogs and their always interesting comments.

The book blogging community is absolutely the best.

I will find myself some real cake (or equivalent) later to celebrate!

And will try to catch up with the (admittedly only one) outstanding review at some point soon.

The Winter Ghosts was my first experience of Kate Mosse, though I have both Labyrinth and Sepulchre somewhere in the stacks but just haven’t got round to them yet. I may have been slightly put off by comments from friends that her writing style wasn’t great and although I don’t usually pay attention to that sort of thing (our tastes are all different after all, and sometimes a story transcends the style in which it was written) it possibly prevented these floating to the top of the TBR pile.

However, I was looking for something reasonably short and suitably wintery to lug around in the old handbag to read on the commute, and this seemed to fit the bill.

So the story is that Freddie Watson is on holiday in the French Pyrenees in winter. Even though its 1928, he is still mourning the loss of his older brother in World War I; he’s emotionally paralysed by his grief, compounded by the fact that his brother’s body was never found so for a long time he didn’t accept that he was dead, and so ended up in a psychiatric hospital. But here he is, after the death of parents who don’t seem to have loved him as much as their dead son, trying to achieve some semblance of normality.

But he hears voices in the mountains, and on a lonely road in the middle of a snowstorm he crashes his car and has to take refuge in a small village where at a feast to mark St Etienne he meets a young, beautiful but sad woman and unburdens himself of his grief and escapes with her when strange events begin to unfold. And of course in the morning he finds himself in his room with no sign that he had been anywhere the night before, and no-one knows who the girl was. A mystery to be unravelled – will he solve it and bring peace to the village and himself?

Of course he will.

I actually rather enjoyed this. It had a nice atmosphere, the story was nicely book-ended and it does have a basis in historical events in the area. It was a nice melancholy read for a dark night; I read it over two sittings and might have enjoyed it more if I had been able to read it all in one, as the atmosphere builds nicely and can get lost if you take a break. It’s not ground-breaking and the central mystery about the girl isn’t in some respects a mystery at all, but the tension where it exists is all about Freddie – will he get to the bottom of things and will it help him?

So on the basis of this I’m going to give her other works a go this year (though having looked at some of the reviews on Amazon I may have to manage my expectations…)

Update: this is part of the TBR challenge – the book has been on my stacks since November 2010.

The first book to be finished in 2011 though it was very much the last read of 2010 and a chunky one too. But also absolutely fascinating and I found myself reading large sections of it in each sitting.

In common with a number of women, Vere Hodgson began to keep a diary when war started, partly to record her own impressions but also to share with members of her family abroad so that they would have news about what was happening on the Home Front. She describes it as:

a diary showing how unimportant people in London and Birmingham lived through the war years 1940-45 written in the Notting Hill area of London

Vere originally came from Birmingham but lived in London where she did welfare work for a private organisation which meant that she was exempt from the conscripted war work that caught up so many other women. Her descriptions of the impact of the Blitz are very vivid as you might expect, and her curiosity about the aftermath of some of the attacks took her on walks throughout London to see what had been damaged and what was still standing. It might seem a bit odd (if not slightly ghoulish) to go off and see where homes and business premises had been destroyed, but in one way I can understand that in a period where rumours about what was gone and what was still standing abounded, going to find out for yourself (if you could) was probably an effective coping mechanism.

Some of the descriptions of her walks are hugely interesting to me; I spend quite a lot of time on business in the area around London Wall, Cheapside and St Paul’s where so much was destroyed, and I work close to Holborn which was again badly hit, so (with a little bit of thinking) it is quite possible to imagine myself standing alongside her.

As the preface says, she can be a tiny bit pompous on occasion and her uncritical admiration of Churchill and De Gaulle jars a little, bit but her descriptions of rationing and fire-watching, trying to travel to visit her family in Birmingham, the sheltering from the bombs, the lack of sleep but also the camaraderie with her friends and colleagues gives a really rounded picture of what it was like during those five years, and is well-worth reading.

Part of the TBR challenge – this book has been on my shelves since I received it as a Christmas present in 2004.

Carl over at Stainless Steel Droppings is hosting his annual Sci-fi Experience between 1 January and 28 February, a challenge that isn’t really a challenge as there are no levels etc. to aim for but just an opportunity to celebrate all things science-fictionish.

I always enjoy the opportunity to indulge my love for space opera and other such things so plan to participate once again.

Given what’s on my shelves it will be a nice way to meet the TBR Dare as well.

I hear the call of Iain M Banks, Gary Gibson and Charles Stross to name but a few…..

Only thinking of doing this at the moment, given that I have told myself that because of my poor record I should be avoiding challenges. But this looks interesting, and I could keep it low-key i.e. only go for the Daring & Curious level which will only require me to read 5 books by 31 December 2011.

And given what’s on my TBR pile surely even I can manage that?

I’m not going to come up with a list yet as I need to mull this over. But I do have some interesting bits and pieces I can include. So, OK, I’m in.

Bride of the Book God

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Scottish, in my fifties, love books but not always able to find the time to read them as much as I would like. I’m based in London and happily married to the Book God.

I also blog at Bride of the Screen God (all about movies and TV) and The Dowager Bride, if you are interested in ramblings about stuff of little consequence

If you would like to get in touch you can contact me at brideofthebookgod (at) btinternet (dot) com.

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January 2011