Saturday 13 August 2022

A Suitcase Full of Books by Sheena Wilkinson

It's not an actual suitcase of books, but the next best thing, and rather easier to carry. 

Hooray! I'm off on holiday next week! Well, a sort of holiday -- two days in the Malverns with one of my very best and oldest friends, and then a weekend conference in Bristol, 'Twentieth Century Schoolgirls and their Books' ( The conference is usually biannual, but of course we missed out 2020 so there are people I haven't seen for four years that I'm looking forward to meeting again. And I'm excited about talking about my third historical novel Hope against Hope, to an adult audience that actually want me to focus on my favourite stuff -- how my reading of schoolgirl fiction influenced my own writing.

But there's going to be a lot of travelling, which for me starts with a plane journey -- never really fun, and likely to be even less so in this summer of discontent. I am prepared for delay, frustration and discomfort, and it's even more important than usual for me to be well stocked with comfort reads. So I thought I would share my holiday reading with you: I must confess that these are mainly on my kindle, for reasons of convenience. I rarely use the kindle at home, but it's a faithful companion when I'm on the road, or in the air, and it's all charged up with some old friends and new.  

Susan Scarlett -- an assortment

Susan Scarlett was the pen name under which Noel Streatfeild, one of my favourite writers, wrote a series of light romances. Great literature they may not be -- Streatfeild herself was rather snooty about them -- but they are lively and engaging, with all Streatfeild's concern for character and the rich detail of everyday life. The baddies are punished and the good triumph. And sometimes, especially now, that's what you want. Dean Street Press have just reissued the books, only two of which I have read before, and I have several of them to speed me on my way. 

Anne Booth -- Small Miracles

I first heard of this novel here on ABBA!( Anne Booth is of this very parish! As soon as I read about this novel about nuns playing the lottery, I knew it would be my kind of book. I am obsessed with books about women's communities -- schools, colleges, convents, etc., and this one promises to be warm and witty. 

R. M. Ward -- Safe with You 

I was lucky enough to get a proof of this and I must admit I have already started it! Described as 'unputdownable psychological suspense', Safe with You is the story of Kath, an elderly woman who has lived all her life in the same estate. She has seen the area change for the worse, losing the sense of community, but when the little girl next door disappears, she is drawn into a dark and twisted mystery. I've loved the first few chapters of this book: I was attracted to it because I adored Ward's 'cosy crime' series, The Ant and Bea mysteries (published as Rachel Ward). This book is obviously much darker, but even in the first few chapters I have loved Ward's juxtaposition of warm and worrying. I do think it's going to be scarier than the books above, though! 

Eve Ainsworth -- Duckling 

I've actually already read this, but I'm going to bring my copy with me to pass on to my friend, who I know will love it as much as I did, so it counts among my holiday books. Lucy, the 'Duckling' of the title, is an awkward, lonely, compelling and deeply original heroine, living alone on a council estate, working in a bookshop. Her life is small and safe, until it isn't. There's a missing person here too, but this time it's the adult next door who's missing, leaving a small child in the care of an unwilling and out of her depth Lucy. As someone who has never had to look after a child for very long, I really identified with Lucy's situation when Rubi is forced upon her. This book was full of heart and I loved it.

And the last book is a bit of a secret one! It's the second historical novel by Emma Pass. I absolutely adored her heartbreaking and totally immersive WW2 novel Before the Dawn, and was thrilled and excited to have the chance to read an early draft of her next book. I can't say anything about it yet, but I have started it, and all I can say is, so far I'm loving it even more than the first one! And that's saying something! 

Did I say the last book? Maybe not the very last. There's always a book sale at the conference, so chances are I will be coming home with an actual suitcase of books...


Lynne Benton said...

Hope your "holiday" proves to be as brilliant as you hope, Sheena! Best of luck with "Hope against Hope" - hope you find loads of new readers (well-deserved!) And thanks so much for these other recommendations - they all sound so good that I've just downloaded them all (except for the one that doesn't come out till September!)

Abbeybufo said...

... and I, who have today come home from that very conference, have only just caught up with this post.
Thank you for your interesting (as always!) talk on Hope against Hope and for your part in the Saturday night entertainment with Sue S.