If there’s one teensy, tiny silver lining to the big, black cloud that is delayed trains, it’s more reading time. I’ve read some truly cracking books over the past three months, and inevitably not all of them could be included in this post. As such, honourable mentions go to: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (an immensely enjoyable read and a worthy winner of the Pulitzer), Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (the definition of a literary masterpiece) and The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion (a truly heart-warming and hilarious page-turner).
Forgotten Voices of Dunkirk – Joshua Levine
I’m fascinated by the Second World War: by the cities which still bear its scars; by cinematic depictions of this period; by first-hand accounts of those who lived through it. Forgotten Voices of Dunkirk caught my eye in Heffers (where else?) a few months back, and at just shy of three quid, I couldn’t resist giving it a good home. Operation Dynamo saw 338,000 British and French troops evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk, aboard destroyers, trawlers, pleasure boats and fishing vessels, and redefined the rescued and the rescuer. Drawing on narratives from soldiers, pilots and civilians in the Imperial War Museum’s vast sound archive, Joshua Levine builds a moving, vivid picture of Dunkirk, from the first inklings that things weren’t going as planned to the retreat and mass evacuation which followed.
This is Going to Hurt – Adam Kay
This is Going to Hurt hurts in more ways than one: it’s “painfully funny” (to quote Stephen Fry), but it’s also an incredibly moving account of what it’s like to work for an increasingly under-staffed and under-funded NHS. Adam Kay’s candid and often-comic diary entries chart the highs and lows of life on – and off – the labour ward, and the sacrifices that are part and parcel of life as a junior doctor. Moments of utter hilarity (“Do you know what the economy is, darling?” “Yes, Mummy. It’s the part of the plane that’s terrible.” has to be my favourite line in the entire book) are followed by life-or-death decisions, made more difficult by the fact those making them are running on empty. There’s a reason This is Going to Hurt has picked up a bunch of awards and been translated into over twenty languages, and if you haven’t read it yet, you really ought to.
Ascent – Chris Bonington
Chris Bonington is nothing short of a climbing legend – or, as The Times put it, “the David Attenborough of mountaineering”. Ascent not only chronicles his expeditions to far-flung mountain ranges, but also his lengthy struggle to balance a life on the edge with marriage and fatherhood. Bonington transports readers first to the crags where he learnt the ropes and subsequently to the snow-capped peaks and glaciers of mountain ranges such as the Alps and the Himalaya, where he conquered Annapurna, K2 and Everest. It’s impossible not to gasp at the number of his friends who perished doing what they loved most – and, more often than not, it seemed like the only thing that kept him from meeting his maker in the mountains was a remarkable streak of luck. Bonington’s a natural storyteller, and his memoir is sure to quench any reader’s thirst for adventure.
The History of Bees – Maja Lunde
England, 1851. William, a seed merchant and biologist, seeks to secure his family’s fortune with a new type of beehive. United States, 2007. George keeps his family’s beekeeping tradition alive, but his livelihood hangs in the balance when his honeybees mysteriously disappear. China, 2098. Tao painstakingly brushes pollen onto fruit trees by hand, and when her son is taken from her following a tragic accident, she sets out to uncover the truth – no matter what the cost. In The History of Bees, Maja Lunde expertly weaves the past, present and future together to create a haunting, timeless narrative about the relationships between parents and their children, and between humanity and the natural world.
Titles | July – September 2018
Forgotten Voices of Dunkirk (Joshua Levine) / Peril at End House (Agatha Christie) / Persons Unknown (Susie Steiner) / This is Going to Hurt (Adam Kay) / Murder on the Orient Express (Agatha Christie) / Paddington Turns Detective and Other Funny Stories (Michael Bond) / The Way I See It (Alan Sugar) / The Cake Shop in the Garden (Carole Matthews) / Only We Know (Karen Perry) / The Underground Railroad (Colson Whitehead) / Life on a Plate (Gregg Wallace) / Second Life (S.J. Watson) / A Daughter’s Secret (Eleanor Moran) / The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (Agatha Christie) / The Rosie Effect (Graeme Simsion) / Hidden (Emma Kavanagh) / Ascent (Chris Bonnington) / L’Homme au Petit Chien (Georges Simenon) / Alone on the Wall (Alex Honnold with David Roberts) / Ayoade on Ayoade (Richard Ayoade) / Can You Hear Me? (Elena Varvello) / The History of Bees (Maja Lunde) / Letters to My Daughter’s Killer (Cath Staincliffe) / Cat Among the Pigeons (Agatha Christie) / Adventures of a Young Naturalist (David Attenborough)