I started reading this in January and mentioned it in last month’s What I’ve Read, I said then that I thought it would make me sad and think of things that I don’t want to think about. Yep, it did that.
The book is the story of Maria, a medical student, who grieving for her dead mother goes to Sudan to do aid work and ends up stranded in a village when the airstrip is bombed. It’s narrated 10 years after the event so we switch from Maria then to Maria now. It’s very clear about the lack of solutions in the conflict. The foreword to the book, which was published in 2012, points out that South Sudan is an independent country now and sits on huge oil wealth and even so 5 million people, half the population, are reliant on the UN for food. I was glad that, although what happened to Maria changed her, there was no sentimentally about Africa or it’s inhabitants. Some of that is my personal impatience with people who come back from Africa claiming to have had a spiritual experience (it’s easy to feel, the small bit that I’ve seen is very beautiful) but it was important to me that Maria got that Africa, it’s beauty and it’s issues, didn’t exist for her to learn something important.
Worth reading, it’s not a book I can say I loved or enjoyed reading it, I read a lot it wanting to cover my face from what was happening on the page, but even though I knew it wasn’t going to end well, I wanted to know how it was going to end. I’ve been thinking about it since I finished it and it wouldn’t be fair to say it was a tragic book because although horrible things have happened (and are happening in South Sudan), the hope that it might come right yet if you can just survive threads itself through the book.
I read this with the 12 year old god-daughter and we started off enjoying it but it seemed a bit rushed towards the end. I thought it was a really good idea but that it lacked something.
I’m still not sure about these books. I read The Light Years last month and wasn’t sure if I enjoyed it or not and I’m not sure about this one either. I wanted to find out what happened but I was still irritated by the family.
Given that I’m still not sure about the Cazelet Chronicles, I’m reading them at a rate. I’m still don’t like many of the characters but I am coming to admire the way that Howard writes about them. She manages to show everything that is happening to the family while at the same time giving you a narrow view through each character.
Finally finished. This was the longest of the four books as if she was trying to give everyone a decent ending. Spoliers follow. Zoe and Rupert end up happy. Polly gets a nice husband, her own age who she loves and is in love with. Edward is unhappy with his new wife (to which I say serves him right!). Hugh gets a happy ending. Clary ends up eventually happy with Archie who is 20 odd years her senior.
As I read this, I realised how good it has been in small ways at evoking a time that is just in living memory (though not mine). How cold it it, how few clothes even the well off had, that asprin seems to be the only available drug, except for Hugh’s ‘dope’ for his migraines (which was probably an opiate). Washing every morning instead of having a bath or shower and how bloody cold and damp a house without central heating can get in England (I do know that actually, I grew up in a big flat with one gas fire in the living room, it was pretty cold everywhere else!).
In the end, I liked some of them and wanted them to have happy endings. I do wonder how much of the story of Louise, is Howard’s story (married at 19 to an older man in the Navy and eventually leaves him and her child). The Clary ends up with Archie story was the most annoying for me but that’s my prejudice talking, I have no problem with large age gaps between couples but falling in love with someone you knew, as a child, when you were an adult is just icky. I am glad I read them, I don’t know if I would re-read them though.
I think my love of and interest in the Napoleonic wars and the Duke of Wellington is well established by now. This was one of Ma’s Christmas presents. It’s a short book (300 pages) and yet quite detailed at the same time. It’s a great first book for people that don’t know anything about Wellington or the period and I really enjoyed it and would recommend it! I was amused by a description of Wellington’s abstemiousness whilst in India drinking, ‘only four or five glasses of wine with dinner and ‘about a pint of claret’ afterwards.’