The time has come again to face an impossible task of narrowing the 117 books I have read into a top ten list. As always it was difficult to do but I have managed and I will list them in no particular order. Apart from my favourite book of the year which I will reveal at the end. You can see my review for each book by clicking on the title.
Ponden Hall is a centuries-old house on the Yorkshire moors, a magical place full of stories. It’s also where Trudy Heaton grew up. And where she ran away from…
Now, after the devastating loss of her husband, she is returning home with her young son, Will, who refuses to believe his father is dead.
While Trudy tries to do her best for her son, she must also attempt to build bridges with her eccentric mother. And then there is the Hall itself: fallen into disrepair but generations of lives and loves still echo in its shadows, sometimes even reaching out to the present…
A hauntingly beautiful story of love and hope, from the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Memory Book and The Summer of Impossible Things
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. This was the first book I have read by Rowan Coleman so I had no idea how powerful her writing was. It is a while since I have felt so emotional throughout most of a novel.
There are three stories of three women. Tru, Emily and Agnes. Emily was the one who featured the least but she was one of the more important characters, because without her there wouldn’t be a story. She is also the one who was a real person. She was a Bronte. The book takes place in the house where she spent a lot of her time, the family home of the Heaton’s, Tru’s home.
When Tru returns home after her husband is presumed dead after a plane crash it is the first time for sixteen years. She has always had a difficult relationship with her mother that they both have to try and repair, has to be a support to her young son Will, and make Ponden Hall more safe to live in. The life of Emily Bronte is always something she has been interested in and even more so when she starts to find letters written by her.
I have to admit that I know little about the Bronte family, I have never read Wuthering Heights and even though I visited Haworth and watched a programme on children’s TV many years ago I cannot remember much about it. Apart from strangely, images of an ailing Emily lying on a sofa.
Despite knowing little, I adored this novel. The tragic story of Agnes, researched many years later by Emily and still being prominent in the modern day story was one that affected me more than any other. The relationship between Tru and Ma and the way they realised that they did care for each other and the way Will helped bring them closer together. The ghostly happenings which made me feel chilled alongside the local legends.
I thoroughly enjoyed her writing style. Emily’s and Agnes’s story appearing at the end of chapters so the reader could see what Tru found out at the same time. The way Tru met Abe was revealed the same way. I have never read a book this way before and I found it added to the emotion, devastation and at times outrage.
It was a book that had me looking at information and photographs on the internet to see of they were real or invention. I was very grateful for the author notes which provided the information I couldn’t find.
An absolutely wonderful read. I don’t usually read novels twice now but I could make an exception for this. After I’ve revisited Haworth, obviously.
‘It wasn’t an extensive library. In fact, it consisted of eight books and some of them were in poor condition. But they were books. In this incredibly dark place, they were a reminder of less sombre times, when words rang out more loudly than machine guns…’
Fourteen-year-old Dita is one of the many imprisoned by the Nazis at Auschwitz. Taken, along with her mother and father, from the Terezín ghetto in Prague, Dita is adjusting to the constant terror that is life in the camp. When Jewish leader Freddy Hirsch asks Dita to take charge of the eight precious books the prisoners have managed to smuggle past the guards, she agrees. And so Dita becomes the secret librarian of Auschwitz, responsible for the safekeeping of the small collection of titles, as well as the ‘living books’ – prisoners of Auschwitz who know certain books so well, they too can be ‘borrowed’ to educate the children in the camp.
But books are extremely dangerous. They make people think. And nowhere are they more dangerous than in Block 31 of Auschwitz, the children’s block, where the slightest transgression can result in execution, no matter how young the transgressor…
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I have read books about Auschwitz before but never one that was based on the life of a survivor. I have never thought about how little water was given, how a potato peel was a luxury food, how there was no soap, and no books. The few books that Dita looked after were probably not ones many would be eager to read, but when you have nothing and want to think about something different to the predicament you are in they would be vital. I knew that I would like Dita when she reminded Freddy at the beginning of the novel that it was pointless trying to stop her reading one of the novels in her library because of what she witnessed on a daily basis.
It’s heart wrenching, I can’t remember the last time I was researching characters as I read, needing to know more about them. The books I have read before that are similar, now feel sanitised after reading this. Like the reader had been protected from what had occurred. The numbers quoted concerning the executions and the number of trains that arrived had me in tears many times. Along with a brief scene towards the end of the novel when another well known victim was mentioned.
But, I was astonished how the prisoners managed to stay positive. There were references to the life they had before internment, but no bitterness. Just fear and a determination to see another day. Even the ones who knew they were going to the gas chambers stayed dignified and proud.
The scenes that involved the children and the books will stay with me. I will never be able to listen to Ode To Joy or Alouette without thinking of this book. The passion of the teachers who would read to the children, especially the living books which were read from memory.