Caroline's 2021 Reading Hammock (part 1)

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Caroline's 2021 Reading Hammock (part 1)

Dic 31, 2020, 10:07am

Welcome to my 2021 reading room. I'm Caroline, and live in London. Reading is like breathing, and I'm looking forward to some new delights this year.

Editado: Ayer, 6:13pm

2020 reading - books of the year

I have read 79books this year.

There were at least half a dozen more that could have gone on this list. Non-Fiction won out this year over all. I'll do my general breakdown on my thread later in the week, but unusually my reading has been more heavily female writers, it's usually about 50/50.


Square Haunting (Francesca Wade)
Serious Noticing (James Woods) (Essays)
The Lost Pianos of Siberia (Sophy Roberts)
Recollections of my Non-Existence (Rebecca Solnit)
The Education of an Idealist (Samantha Power)
House of Glass (Hadley Freeman)
The Argonauts (Maggie Nelson)
To See Clearly: Why Ruskin Matters (Suzanne Fagence Cooper) (04/09/20)
Vesper Flights (Helen MacDonald) (Essays)
Invisible Women (Caroline Criado Perez)
On Connection (Kae Tempest) (Essays)
Sontag: Her Life (Benjamin Moser)
A Promised Land (Barack Obama)
The Light of the World (Elizabeth Alexander)
Ex Libris: 100 Books to read and reread (Michiko Kakutani)


Girl, Woman, Other (Bernardine Evaristo)
The River Capture (Mary Costello)
The Narrow Land (Christine Dwyer Hickey)
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek (Kim Michele Richardson)
Writers and Lovers (Lily King)
Dandelion Wine (Ray Bradbury)
In Love with George Eliot (Kathy O'Shaughnessy)


A Portable Paradise (Roger Robinson)


Possession (A S Byatt)
The Great Gatsby (F Scott Fitzgerald) - 40th read

2020 threads here:

Editado: Ayer, 6:07pm

Read in 2021


A Saint in Swindon (Alice Jolly) (01/01/21) ****
Summerwater (Sarah Moss) (03/01/2021) ****
The Sleeping Beauty (Elizabeth Taylor) (07/01/21) ***1/2
Nightwoods (Charles Frazier) (13/01/21) ****
The Story of the Night (Colm Tóibín) (23/01/21) ***1/2
Restoration (Olaf Olafsson) (28/01/21) ****
Moon Tiger Penelope Lively (31/01/21) (reread) ***1/2
Love and Other Thought Experiments (Sophie Ward) (08/02/21) ****
The Road to Lichfield (Penelope Lively (15/02/21) **** (Reread)
The Green Road (Anne Enright) (25/02/21) ****


You Can Heal Your Life (Louise Hay) (17/01/21) ****
Begin Again: James Baldwin's America and his urgent lessons for today (Eddie S Glaude jnr) (05/02/21) *****
Quite (Claudia Winkelman) (11/02/21) ***1/2
handiwork (Sara Baume) (17/02/21) ****
Frostquake: The frozen winter of 1962 and how Britain emerged a different country (Juliet Nicholson) (23/02/21) ****


The Seven Ages (Louise Glück) (13/02/21) ****1/2
The Wild Iris (Louise Glück) (16/02/21) ****
Helium (Rudy Francisco) (22/02/21) ****

Total read: 18

Female: 13
Male: 5
Fiction: 10
Non-Fiction: 5
Poetry: 3

Reread: 2

UK: 9
US: 6
Iceland/US: 1
Ireland: 2

Dic 31, 2020, 10:45am

Best wishes for a better 2021!

Dic 31, 2020, 11:20am

>4 DianaNL: And to you too, Diana.

Dic 31, 2020, 11:29am

Happy New Year Caroline!

Dic 31, 2020, 11:40am

I'm following along this year. You were the only other person to have Nordic Fauna in their library when I added mine, so we must have some reading interests in common! I also note a few titles I recognise - I'm hoping to get to Square Haunting in January.

Dic 31, 2020, 12:04pm

Welcome back dear Caroline. x

Dic 31, 2020, 12:22pm

Happy New Year, Caro. Just leaving my calling card. See you in 2021!

Editado: Dic 31, 2020, 2:44pm

>6 SandDune: Thanks Rhian. I will be looking greenly at your retirement exploits, as things loosen up later in the year.

>7 Helenliz: Good to see you Helen. I plan to read Nordic Fauna in the next few weeks. I have a subscription to Peirera.

I could happily read Square Haunting again soon, but I'm a big Bloomsbury fan.

>8 PaulCranswick: Thanks Paul. I shall enjoy reading along with one of your challenges this year.

>9 lauralkeet: Good to see your calling card Laura. I finally turned up my copy of Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon and plan to give it a reread soon.

Dic 31, 2020, 2:44pm

>10 Caroline_McElwee: I eagerly await your thoughts on Song of Solomon, Caro. I enjoyed it more the second time around.

Dic 31, 2020, 2:56pm

Happy new thread, and new year, Caroline.

I am just on a bathroom break now, and will finish Obama's book this afternoon. 3 discs left, less than 100 pages. I am happy to be ending my reading year with him.

Dic 31, 2020, 3:22pm

Dropping a star, Caroline. I also loved Square Haunting, and now I am reading Medieval People by Eileen Powers because of it. Like you, I have a thing for the Bloomsbury Group.

Dic 31, 2020, 3:40pm

Welcome back!

Dic 31, 2020, 6:25pm

Happy New Year and Happy New Thread, Caroline! I'm looking forward to a year of wonderful reading, fun book discussions, and hopefully less drama all around us.

Dic 31, 2020, 7:02pm

Happy reading in 2021, Caroline!

Dic 31, 2020, 7:36pm

>11 lauralkeet: That happens with the best books Laura.

>12 jessibud2: A fine read to end the year with Shelley.

>13 Crazymamie: Good to see you Mamie. I want to revisit each of those women too, especially those I knew least.

>14 drneutron: Thanks Jim.

>15 EBT1002: Somehow Ellen I feel that 2021 will feel different, even if it takes longer to get through the pandemic than some of the predictions, because it's not going to have crept up on us the way it did last year. We have some tools. And soon you will have a new Thingaversary President... how cool is that collision?

>16 FAMeulstee: Thank you Anita.

Dic 31, 2020, 10:14pm

Happy New Year, Caroline, and many happy reading hours in 2021.

Ene 1, 1:34am

And keep up with my friends here, Caroline. Have a great 2021.

Ene 1, 6:27am

>18 bohemima: >19 PaulCranswick: Thank you Gail and Paul.

Ene 1, 9:14am

Happy New Thread, Caroline. Happy New Year! Glad we are turning the page on that one. I really like your Best of List. I plan on getting to The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek this month.

Ene 1, 11:46am

Happy New Year, Caroline. As always, your thread is filled with lovely images. I hope 2021 is a good year for you.

Ene 1, 6:28pm

>21 msf59: You won't be disappointed Mark. Our friend Joe put me onto that one.

>22 BLBera: Thank you Beth.

Editado: Ene 3, 11:56am

1. A Saint in Swindon (Alice Jolly) (01/01/21) ****

A strange reader sequester's himself in a B&B (bed & breakfast) to read, what on earth could possibly happen because of it?

A quirky and engaging novella that evolved out of a reading group experiment where a writer was invited to create a story for/with them.

It caught my eye as my sister lived many years in Swindon, so I'll be sending this on to her to read.

Ene 1, 7:14pm

Ene 1, 7:39pm

Enjoy your 2021 reading!

Ene 1, 7:42pm

>25 Berly: >26 thornton37814: Thanks Kim and Lori.

Ene 1, 8:24pm

Happy New Year, Caroline!

Ene 3, 7:39am

>28 EllaTim: Thanks Ella. And to you too.

Editado: Ene 3, 7:44am

2. Summerwater (Sarah Moss) (03/01/2021) ****

Moss communicates the dark undertow of the ordinary through a group of characters confined by weather to their cabins in a Scottish forest.

Ene 3, 8:10am

>30 Caroline_McElwee: is this a new release, Caro? I really liked Cold Earth and Ghost Wall.

Ene 3, 9:23am

Happy new year Caroline! I hope that maybe by the end of 2021 we will have managed to meet up in person again!

I just bought Summerwater in Waterstones' post Christmas sale and am looking forward to reading it.

Ene 3, 9:55am

>30 Caroline_McElwee: Mr SandDune loved Summerwater and it’s firmly towards the top of my TBR list. We don’t always like the same books but he seems to think I’ll love that one.

Ene 3, 9:57am

>30 Caroline_McElwee: A direct hit! I love Sarah Moss - I have read Cold Earth and Names for the Sea, both if which were great.

Ene 3, 10:30am

>30 Caroline_McElwee: One of my libraries owns a copy at the moment. The British edition's cover you have pictured is superior to the American one.

Ene 3, 11:18am

I have Summerwater on my WL. I just read Cold Earth, which I liked. Moss is very good with atmosphere.

Saint in Swindon sounds charming. Another one for the WL. Two books already, Caroline! You are off to a good start.

Ene 3, 11:55am

>31 lauralkeet: It came out in the summer Laura, and has been nudging up the pile.

>32 Sakerfalcon: it would be great to get together in person again Claire. I did manage a couple of visits to Chelsea Physic Garden during the easing last year.

>33 SandDune: I'm sure Mr Sandune is right Rhian. All the characters are very believable, and I think most readers will have experienced many of the feelings they have.

>34 Crazymamie: Glad to get a BB so early in the year Mamie.

>35 thornton37814: Lori, I'm always fascinated to see the different covers, not only between US and UK, but between hard and soft covers, which are often different here.

>36 BLBera: I think you would enjoy both Beth. I'm upping the star rating to the Jolly book to 4*s. It as unusual, and I've thought about it a bit since I set it aside.

Ene 3, 7:15pm

>30 Caroline_McElwee: I want to get my paws on a copy of Summerwater. I've loved everything I've read by Sarah Moss.

Ene 4, 3:15pm

Happy new year Caroline. Love the reading artwork you've chosen to decorate the place.

I wondered if your sister had read any Jasper Fforde? It was what popped into my head when you mentioned Swindon.

Ene 4, 5:53pm

>38 EBT1002: It is a quiet novel Ellen. Mostly the inner thoughts of a series of characters.

>39 charl08: I'm not sure if she has read Fforde Charlotte. I tried an early one of his, but didn't get ensnared, and have not revisited.

Ene 4, 8:06pm

>30 Caroline_McElwee: Thank you, put it on reserve at the library! I've liked Moss's other books!

Ene 7, 5:31pm

>41 mdoris: I hope you like it Mary.

Editado: Ene 7, 5:45pm

3. The Sleeping Beauty (Elizabeth Taylor) (07/01/21) ***1/2

A Taylor that slipped through the net. As ever, her characters are richly drawn. Whilst Vinny is visiting his newly widowed friend Isabella, he sees an enigmatic woman on the beach and becomes obsessed with her.

A swath of characters' secrets are slowly unfurled. Although the 'sleeping beauty' is probably intended to be Emily, the woman on the beach, each character has been sleeping in some way.

Not the best of her novels perhaps, but still engaging.

I'd also skip the Introduction til the end, as it is a summary rather than an introduction, I almost always skip these till the end as I want to make my own discoveries.

And I love the cover.

Ene 8, 3:31am

>43 Caroline_McElwee: I really love this cover. I've only read A View of the Harbour - I don't think her style suits my tendency to speed read. I should try harder.

Ene 8, 8:43am

>43 Caroline_McElwee: Gorgeous cover!

Ene 8, 8:50am

>44 charl08: A View of the Harbour is my fave of hers, but no, not speed reading material.

>45 thornton37814: we just can't avoid being wooed by a good cover sometimes Lori.

Ene 9, 9:58pm

I agree about that cover ^

Ene 10, 5:27pm

Hi, Caroline! Here's to a good 2021!

Ene 10, 6:46pm

>47 EBT1002: It reminds me of a favourite painting, and a photo I took Ellen, I'll try and find both.

>48 ffortsa: Hi Judy, thank you. Same to you.

Ene 10, 8:26pm

>43 Caroline_McElwee: That is a beautiful cover, Caroline - I don't think I have seen that one before. I must read something of hers this year.

Ene 11, 10:06am

by Winifred Nicholson

Ene 11, 10:09am

>50 PaulCranswick: Hi Paul. I glutted on her work a few years back, after my then boss gifted me A View of the Harbour.

Ene 11, 10:45am

>51 Caroline_McElwee: - So beautiful! Is the second one a painting or a photo?

Ene 11, 11:26am

>53 jessibud2: It's one of my photos Shelley, taken at Lyme Regis.

Ene 11, 5:31pm

>51 Caroline_McElwee: Looks lovely, Caroline, both in water color as at the photo. I assume it is the same place, or near.

Ene 12, 12:16pm

Happy New Year and Thread, Caroline.

>51 Caroline_McElwee: *contented sigh*

I enjoyed reading your Favorites list. How nice to see Dandelion Wine on there. I loved that as a young guy, and it's the next read-together project for Debbi and me. Nice to see Book Woman of Troublesome Creek there, too.

I really want to read Vesper Flights and Ex Libris: 100 Books.

Ene 12, 12:47pm

You have such a colourful thread, Caroline. You got me with a BB for Summerwater. It's actually a reminder because I saw Sarah Moss talking about this one. I think maybe that was at the Edinburgh Book Festival last year.

Editado: Ene 12, 1:37pm

>56 jnwelch: Good to see you padding by Joe. Couldn't narrow my favourites down. Some fine reading last year.

I think you would like the poetry volume Portable Paradise by Roger Robinson.

>57 Familyhistorian: Thanks Meg, I like to include photographs or paintings.

I hope you enjoy the novel.

Ene 13, 7:21pm

Ene 13, 11:13pm

>58 Caroline_McElwee: I managed to get that one from Jim for the Santa thing in the group. Will read it very soon, Caroline.

Ene 14, 3:42am

>30 Caroline_McElwee: You've intrigued me with the Sarah Moss novel. I've not read anything by her yet - what genre would you put her in?

Ene 14, 10:50am

>59 BLBera: Thanks Beth.

>60 PaulCranswick: I know you will appreciate it Paul.

>61 AlisonY: Tricky Alison, I'd call it 'Literary Fiction' I guess, which is broad. But that infers good writing in addition to storytelling for me. It feels like quite a simple piece, but has tone and depth.

Editado: Ene 14, 11:04am

4. Nightwoods (Charles Frazier) (13/01/21) ****

Luce, a woman of indefinable age (? Late 20s but older than her age due to tough life experience) who lives in/minds an old lodge on a lake finds herself the carer of two damaged children after her sister's murder. The unravelling of her, and their stories, and the situations their coming together have brought are told at the pace of a slow old nag, and there is one of those in the story too.

Although this novel put me a bit in mind of Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping at times (and until I could identify which novel it reminded me of, I was distracted), I enjoyed becoming acquainted with these characters, and the others they meet.

Editado: Ene 14, 11:42am

I've just started: The Story of the Night by Colm Tóibín, and Begin Again: James Baldwin's America and its Urgent Lessons for our Own (Eddie S Glaude jr), both have got off to a good start.

Editado: Ene 14, 11:57pm

>63 Caroline_McElwee: I enjoyed this one when I read it as well, Caroline. I recently finished Square Haunting and was trying to remember where I heard about it. Charlotte thought it might have been you. Thank you! I loved it.

Ene 15, 4:16am

>65 BLBera: Yes, Square Haunting was me, one of my books of the year, glad you enjoyed it Beth.

Ene 15, 4:36am

I missed that you had read Jenny Erpenbeck's essay collection at the tail end of last year. I've ordered this from the library: hope they can get hold of it soon. Glad to read you liked it so much.

Editado: Ene 15, 8:28am

Happy Friday, Caroline. I also really liked Nightwoods. I am getting ready to start The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. I just received Bright Wings from Ellen. This also looks like a perfect fit for you. Are you familiar with it?

Ene 15, 9:15am

>67 charl08: I had so many on my books of the year list, it missed by a whisker. I'll definitely be revisiting it Charlotte.

>68 msf59: Adding Bright Wings to the list Mark. There were some bird poems in Margaret Atwood's recent volume Dearly.

Ene 16, 9:08pm

>62 Caroline_McElwee: After posting and seeing your reply, I picked up A Portable Paradise in bed two nights ago and dropped everything else to concentrate on it. Really memorable collection and the best thing read in a fairly solid January so far.

Have a lovely weekend, Caroline.

Editado: Ene 17, 2:46pm

5. You Can Heal Your Life (Louise Hay) (17/01/21) ****

I dipped into this book some years ago, and reading it through now see I used some of the tools to change things. It came back to me again as a gift at Christmas, so I decided that was a sign to move forward again, and see if there is something else I can unblock.

I know some folk think of books like this as a bit 'woo woo', but the best of them, and I'd put this one in that category, can certainly help improve your life. I've learned to use affirmations to quiet that negative chatter in my head effectively, and to treat myself with the degree of compassion I offer to friends. That is big progress in my book.

You don't need to agree with everything in any book, but just finding one thing that works for you could change your life.

Ene 17, 1:00pm

>71 Caroline_McElwee: "You don't need to agree with everything in any book, but just finding one thing that works for you could change your life."

Caroline, all good wishes for a wonderful 2021. Your comment on the review of You Can Heal Your Heart is all I need to find this book and read it!

Many thanks!

Ene 17, 2:32pm

>72 Whisper1: I hope you find something that is useful to you Linda.

Ene 17, 4:20pm

>70 PaulCranswick: Oops, thought I'd waved back at you Paul. I knew you would like this volume. I'll be rereading it soon.

Ene 18, 1:35pm

>71 Caroline_McElwee: Great comments, Caroline. I agree, with many of this "improving" books, one has to use what works, generally one or two things. I like what you chose. I have been working on eliminating negative self-talk as well.

Ene 22, 11:42am

>75 BLBera: I'm the same with magazines Beth, as long as I got one good thing from it: a useful tip, bit of wisdom, recipe, fascinating nugget of information, it is worth the money.

Ene 22, 10:44pm

>71 Caroline_McElwee: I don't have anything negative to say about self-help books other than I have never felt motivated enough to read one!

Ene 23, 5:33am

>77 PaulCranswick: Tee hee Paul, good to see you about.

Editado: Ene 24, 7:04am

6. The Story of the Night (Colm Tóibín) (23/01/21) ***1/2

Set in Argentina in the 1980s during and post Falklands (Malvinas) war, Richard, a twenty-something gay man becomes involved with those wanting to change political power post war. Being half Argentine/half English, he is used as a translator for an American couple involved in the oil industry, and is encouraged into setting up his own consultancy and into corrupt dealings by another Argentinian with power.

All this set in the time of AIDS.

Although I thought the novel got off to an interesting start, I found most of the first two thirds very flat. It had little depth, and the 'business'/wheeler-dealing was tepid at most, with few three-dimensional characters.

However, the last third of the novel, once Richard gets into a relationship and is introduced to other friends is more sanguine and full-blooded. This is clearly the book Tóibín wanted to write, but writing about AIDS even in the 90s, was quite a bold move.

Certainly not The Great Believers, which it could have been in Tóibín's more mature hands, but an interesting read.

Ene 24, 5:11am

>79 Caroline_McElwee: I think I liked this more than you! I had to go back and look at my comments though to remember what I made of it. Not many can compete with The Great Believers though, that's one that *has* stuck with me.

Editado: Ene 24, 7:07am

>80 charl08: It was a Tóibíin I'd missed somehow Charlotte, a colleague recommended it. I found I was engaged when in it, but it didn't draw me back, I read the last third in two long sittings.

Ene 26, 9:36pm

Is this a new Tóibín? Yes, The Great Believers was amazing.

Ene 27, 6:32am

>82 BLBera: No Beth, it's from the 90s, one I missed, recommended by a colleague.

I agree about The Great Believers. I've recommended it to several people, all have loved it.

Editado: Ene 27, 7:36am

Hi, Caroline! I am also a fan of The Great Believers. I have her story collection, Music For Wartime waiting in the wings.

Ene 27, 2:18pm

>84 msf59: I look forward to your thoughts about it Mark.

Ene 27, 2:18pm

I wasn't aware There was a recording of F Scott Fitzgerald's voice, but as part of a promotion of a new book about he and Keats, here he is recorded declaiming 'Ode to a Nightingale':

Ene 28, 7:08pm

7. Restoration (Olaf Olafsson) (28/01/21) ****

Set in Rome and Tuscany, mostly during WWII, the lives of two women overlap in Tuscany, as the Germans are in retreat.

Art conservationist Kristin, an Icelander now studying and working in Rome; and Alice Orsini, an Englishwoman married to an Italian, who renovated an old pile in Tuscany in the 1920s, and are now harbouring the wounded, and children, as the war is drawing to an end. Following a rumour about a secret, Kirstin makes her way to the Orsini's villa as all hell is about to let loose.

Both the artistic world of art in Rome, and the muddy, bloody events in Tuscany are drawn with an authentic eye.

Editado: Ene 29, 5:16am

I'm rather looking forward to some new adventures in Gatsbyland now the book is out of copyright:

I shall start with Farris-Smith's Nick next month.

Ene 29, 5:39am

Leaving a late star here... :)

Ene 29, 6:28am

Ene 29, 9:54am

Hi Caroline - Happy Friday. As usual, I've found something to add to my WL here. Restoration sounds really good.

Ene 30, 10:15am

Hi Caroline. I found you. I’ve been late catching up this year, but now you are starred. I always enjoy seeing what you are up to.

Editado: Ene 30, 10:57am

>91 BLBera: Glad to have added to your wishlist Beth.

>92 NanaCC: Lovely to see you here Collen.

Editado: Ene 30, 3:37pm

>87 Caroline_McElwee: I just read The Sacrament having never heard of this author before, and here is another by him that sounds worth picking up. I'll add to the wishlist, thank you.

Ene 31, 5:54am

>94 charl08: Pleasure Charlotte, I will certainly be reading more of him.

Ene 31, 7:07am

I'm too far behind on so many threads to comment much here, Caroline, but lurking and enjoying your reviews, and as always taking a few book bullets.

Feb 1, 9:21am

8. Moon Tiger Penelope Lively (31/01/21) (reread) ***1/2

I had an itch to reread this novel when it got a mention elsewhere. I last read it when it was published in 1987.

Claudia Hampton reflects back on her life from her hospital bed, intending to write one last book, a history of the world, which ultimately becomes the history of Claudia, penned in her head as she lays dying. She turns over in her ageing mental hands those who have peopled her life, and the main events of her life which happened in war torn Egypt.

I gave it the same star rating as before. I think possibly because Olivia Manning's Fortunes of War trilogies, especially The Balkan Trilogy, engaged me far more, with a broader canvas of bravura characters, who I loved.

All the same, I'm glad I reread this novel. A Moon Tiger is a
mosquito coil.

Feb 1, 7:02pm

>87 Caroline_McElwee: Thanks for this recommendation Caroline - I also loved The Sacrament and hadn't thought to look for his other works.

Feb 1, 9:21pm

>97 Caroline_McElwee: Despite its huge success, Moon Tiger is not my favourite of her novels. I think The Road to Lichfield probably fulfils that role.

Feb 2, 4:40am

>98 vivians: Pleasure Vivian.

>99 PaulCranswick: Funnily enough Paul, I think RtL is my fave too, but oddly I don't own a copy. Need to sort that.

Feb 2, 6:54am

>100 Caroline_McElwee: Sometimes our tastes are eerily similar.

Feb 2, 8:22am

>97 Caroline_McElwee: Moon Tiger is a favourite of mine - definitely the one I like best of her novels.

Editado: Feb 2, 1:43pm

>97 Caroline_McElwee: This one sounds very intriguing and I haven't read anything by Lively yet. Thank you for the insight!

Feb 2, 2:40pm

Adding Restoration to the wish list. (And why did "we" add films to the touchstones again???)

Hi Caroline!

Feb 2, 3:56pm

>101 PaulCranswick: I don't find that so surprising within certain groups Paul.

>102 SandDune: I enjoyed the reread Rhian.

>103 PersephonesLibrary: Glad to be of assistance Kathy.

>104 EBT1002: Yes, that the film comes up first is frustrating Ellen. I'm sure you will enjoy that novel.

Feb 2, 5:19pm

>106 Caroline_McElwee: Thank you for sharing, Caroline!
There were some impressive pictures. Besides the winner, the puppet player in Syria and the old Portugese farmer and his goat.

Feb 2, 6:14pm

>88 Caroline_McElwee: Thanks so much for that link, Caroline! I am a huge fan of The Great Gatsby. Nick is also the one I want to read first - so interesting that he wrote the book five years ago but had to wait for the copyright to expire on The Great Gatsby.

I read Moon Tiger several years ago and really liked it, but I have not read anything else by her.

Feb 3, 4:02am

>108 Crazymamie: Hi Mamie. Yes, definitely some Gasbyesque treats ahead.

Editado: Feb 3, 1:10pm

I've finished Square Haunting and, like Mamie, have added to my reading list. I'm a little ashamed to admit to not having heard of 3 of the women featured. Must rectify that and read some of their work.

Feb 3, 2:51pm

I read an ER graphic Gatsby recently. Well done, but the original is so great. Right now I'm reading So We Read On, which is fun; I love Corrigan. I'm not sure I agree with everything she says about Gatsby, but I love reading books about books.

I love Lively, and love Moon Tiger. You remind me that I have several of hers on my shelves and have been meaning to pick up one or more. This year.

Feb 4, 1:29am

>106 Caroline_McElwee: There are some stunning photos in there. Thanks for sharing.

Feb 4, 4:16pm

Hi, Caroline.

Thanks for the tip on Portable Paradise. I put it at the top of my poetry WL. It looks very good.

The Great Gatsby coming out of copyright is a big deal, isn't it. It's going to be interesting to see what happens among the publishers. I suspect we'll see multiple versions with different scholarly intros and so on, as we do with other classics.

Editado: Feb 8, 3:44pm

9. Begin Again: James Baldwin's America and his urgent lessons for today (Eddie S Glaude jnr) (05/02/21) *****

This is a very relevant and timely revisit to the work and life of James Baldwin.

Among its intentions is to look at how Baldwin's views shifted across time, especially pre and post the deaths of Martin Luther King jnr, Malcolm X and Medgar Evers. Glaude felt that many read his shift as being more clear cut than he has come to feel. Baldwin's belief that a multiracial America was always possible, and if only white Americans could let go of their value lie, that white lives are more important than black lives, a democratic, multiracial America could evolve.

There had been at least two era's when the change had a possibility of happening, the Civil War, and the Civil Rights era (interesting both era's are described as 'civil') and never did.

After the deaths of his friends, and many others, he seems to believe that it is less the responsibility of black people to show whites the way, or to humour them. There was more anger in him, which showed in both his writing, and his interviews.

The title of the book comes from one of Baldwin's essays, inspired by a biblical quote, that one needed to go back to the beginning and understand and interrogate one's life's actions with truth and bravery, in order to progress forward. So for change to happen white Americans have to be honest with themselves about the big value lie, for true change to occur, and maybe black Americans have to be themselves, rather than always having to see or pre-empt the gaze of white people.

Ultimately, I don't believe he ever lost his belief in that democratic, multiracial America, but how to achieve it changed over time, perhaps as he saw it slipping further and further away. He never lost his belief in the need for love to be at the root of change though.

As the subtitle suggests, the author offers this work as a tool to step forward with. Is America at another crucial tipping point where it could become its best self, not least at a time where, for a while, it has been at it's worst?

The book has a very thorough resource at the back, of the works Glaude used, where and how. Something I love in areas of interest.

Feb 6, 7:03am

>114 Caroline_McElwee: - This one is on my radar and I hope to get to it one day soon. I don't have it yet but will see if the library does. Even though I promised myself to finish up the library books I have already (and those still coming) and try to read more off my own shelves this year. We'll see how that works out....

Editado: Feb 6, 8:47am

>110 Helenliz: I'm glad you enjoyed the book Helen. Yes, I too have added to my reading list, although I had heard of maybe all bar one of the women, I knew little about many of them.

>111 BLBera: Adding So we read on to my list. I have, somewhere a book by Sarah Churchwell about the Gatsby too, it got buried during a reorganisation. Need to revisit.

>112 Familyhistorian: Aren't they amazing Meg.

>113 jnwelch: It's a great volume Joe. I've just acquired some more Billy Collins, which I'll get to after a couple of volumes of Louise Glück, who I know you have been enjoying lately. I'm currently reading her The Seven Ages and have Wild Iris on the stacks.

>115 jessibud2: Now don't get me started on the books already owned v new additions Shelley. I'm failing miserably there, but keep getting back on the horse. I keep telling myself I will never read all the treasures I already own, if I don't stop buying (I won't anyway, even if I do), and I try only to buy within existing interest areas, but there are already too many of those.

I know you will like the Baldwin book.

Feb 6, 9:32am

>114 Caroline_McElwee: This sounds wonderful, Caroline. I love books like that. Onto the WL it goes, to be read sooner rather than later.

I really like Corrigan. She has a great sense of humor, and her enthusiasm for Gatsby is winning.

Feb 6, 11:17am

>117 BLBera: I shall definitely be rereading the Baldwin book Beth.

The Corrigan fell straight into my shopping cart. Thanks for that ha!

Feb 6, 11:12pm

>116 Caroline_McElwee: Billy Collins is a funny one for me and someone I see as a kindly and fairly jovial uncle. I always enjoy his volumes without ever feeling they are particularly "serious". Gluck has quickly become a favourite.

Feb 7, 8:55am

>119 PaulCranswick: It's nice to have a little softer, quirky poetry to hand, among the more serious stuff Paul. I'm going to watch his Masterclass soon.

Feb 7, 8:59am

>114 Caroline_McElwee: Begin Again sounds really good, Caroline. I had not heard of this one but it is now on the list.

Editado: Feb 8, 11:57am

I've been in love with James Baldwin and his work since I was 14. Unusually for the 1970s I had a mixed-race English teacher, who when we had done the curriculum stuff introduced us to other writers, Baldwin first. There was almost no black British writing at the time. I fell hook, line and sinker for this extraordinary writing, and have been reading and rereading it ever since.

I reread again the first three novels a couple of years ago, and plan to finish a reread of the fiction in the next 18 months, before starting again on the non-fiction, though I might run a bit of non-fiction reread this year, as Begin Again has whet my appetite for his brilliant mind and point of view.

The first three novels, and the non-fiction are what I have read and reread most, so I'm looking forward to getting to know the later fiction better, there may even be one novel I've never read. I also have the small volume of his poetry.

I also want to reread David Leeming's biography of him this year. And have just discovered a book about his time in France, speedily ordered of course, immediate gratification.

Feb 7, 9:08am

>121 msf59: Glad to have hit you with a BB Mark, you won't regret it.

Feb 7, 9:18am

>122 Caroline_McElwee: Beautiful pictures Caroline. I've been meaning to start reading something of his. What would you recommend as a first?

Editado: Feb 7, 9:35am

>124 EllaTim: His first novel Go Tell it on the Mountain is autobiographical, and as good a place as any to start with the fiction. And The Fire Next Time for the essays Ella.

Feb 7, 10:08am

I read his novels in high school, Caroline, and am planning a reread because it was a while ago. Not sure which one I'll read first.

Feb 7, 10:15am

The first thing I read of Baldwin's was Another Country and the first half of the novel is as good as almost anything I have ever had the privilege to read. I also liked Go Tell it on the Mountain. I hope to read If Beale Street Could Talk at some stage this year.

>122 Caroline_McElwee: Baldwin had such a wonderfully expressive countenance.

Editado: Feb 7, 6:29pm

>122 Caroline_McElwee: I have a few of his books on my library wishlist, Caroline. I hope to get to my first Baldwin later this year. Thanks for the reminder.

Feb 7, 7:55pm

>125 Caroline_McElwee: Thanks for the recommendations Caroline. And I see you are not the only one here who admires his writing! Autobiographical sounds good to me.

Feb 7, 8:00pm

>126 BLBera: What a treat you have ahead with your revisit Beth.

>127 PaulCranswick: He does have a great face Paul. That smile just makes you want to smile back at him.

>128 FAMeulstee: Years ago when in hospital, a consultant told me how much he envied me reading the book I was reading, for the first time (it was A S Byatt's Possession). In some ways I can understand what he means, but I don't think I want to give up my 46 year relationship with Baldwin now, I want to continue growing it. I do look forward to learning whether he will become one of your friends too though Anita.

Feb 8, 10:56am

Great review of Begin Again, Caroline! I finished it late Saturday night, and I'll write my review of it later this week.

Please keep me posted on your Baldwin reading plans. He's my favorite writer, and I've already decided to reread him later this year, although I was planning to reread the Library of America edition of James Baldwin: Collected Essays, which consists of Notes of a Native Son, Nobody Knows My Name, The Fire Next Time, No Name in the Street, The Devil Finds Work, and other essays. I've read the first four essays, but not The Devil Finds Work, nor the other essays.

Feb 8, 11:47am

>131 kidzdoc: Thanks Darryl. Although I have Baldwin's books in a variety of editions, my rereading is in the LoA editions, two for fiction and the non-fiction you mention.

I'm going to begin James Baldwin: Escape from America. exile in Provence by Jules Farber this week. Then probably reread David Leeming's fine biography next month, then back to the fiction in April with the stories Going to Meet the Man.

Feb 8, 1:44pm

>132 Caroline_McElwee: Putting James Baldwin: Escape from America. exile in Provence on my list. Baldwin is on my TBR anyway. :)

Feb 8, 3:44pm

>133 PersephonesLibrary: My copy landed today, so I will start it shortly Kathy. It is written from interviews with 70 of Baldwin's friends and family, and neighbours who knew him in Provence. Sadly the house was demolished a while ago.

Editado: Feb 8, 5:11pm

10. Love and Other Thought Experiments (Sophie Ward) (08/02/21) ****

A bravura debut novel of linked stories, using the philosophical thought experiments. I can't claim to have worked out all the links, but I enjoyed the journey, and will revisit.

Feb 8, 4:16pm

>135 Caroline_McElwee: I've heard about this (I think on the radio?) and it sounded intriguing. But I worry I won't "get" it.

Feb 8, 5:10pm

>136 Helenliz: I don't think it matters if you don't get everything, Helen. Perhaps because of that one may be drawn back, and although the stories are linked, one could choose to read them separately, or even in a different order.

Feb 8, 5:48pm

>135 Caroline_McElwee: Ooh, this sounds like one I would like, Caroline.

Feb 10, 3:12am

I had an email about this online event linked to the launch of Eddie Glaude Jr's book Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and its Urgent Lessons for Today, Caroline. Given your recent reading wondered if it would be interesting.

I am looking for debuts to read for my category challenge, and had forgotten that I have a copy of Sophie Ward's book on the shelf. Thank you!

Feb 10, 3:20am

>134 Caroline_McElwee: That makes me want to read it even more. (And I have lived there for a year as well.) So far, I have only found copies on ebay. But they have started to translate Baldwin's books to Germen during the past years. Maybe the Provence one will be one of them, too. And if not, I can still get one of those ebay copies.

>135 Caroline_McElwee: That sounds interesting, though I am not sure if I will get the links. Maybe another one to wait for the German translation.

Feb 10, 11:19am

I step away from your thread for a few days Caroline and find myself hopelessly behind again!

Interesting reading about your Baldwin love and the recent read. I've only read one book by him, but I did enjoy it, and expect to read some more in the future. Giovanni's Room was quite dark in tone - is that a consistent voice in his other fiction books?

Feb 10, 2:36pm

>138 BLBera: I suspect you might Beth.

>139 charl08: Thanks for the link Charlotte, I'll try and watch that.

Did you see this list of debuts:

Certainly some interesting prospects.

>140 PersephonesLibrary: I'm always glum about the number of books that don't get translated into English/other than their own language. Though I guess as I have a big enough tbr mountain as it is, I shouldn't fret Kathy.

>141 AlisonY: I guess much of Baldwin's work has dark tones, but most also have some joy in them too Alison.

Feb 11, 12:55pm

11. Quite (Claudia Winkelman) (11/02/21) ***1/2

Not what I would call your conventional autobiography, but has some autobiographical elements. I think it evolved from a newspaper column. Early on I asked myself ‘who is the intended reader’ and I’d say it was a young 18-25 year old woman (maybe her daughter in the future). If I were 19, the advice might come from my best mate’s cool mum.

She is primarily offering up advise based on experience. Some of it helpful to a young woman, especially relating to issues about confidence, social media, and men etc. It had moments of humour, and a few serious one’s, but I’m not sure it went too far beneath the surface. I found enough to know that were I to find myself stuck in a lift with her, I’d probably find enough common ground for a chat: we agree on naps, Rembrandt and Caravaggio, and boots, well, when I was in my late teens and early 20s I had some great boots anyway!

Read for work reading group.

Feb 11, 2:57pm

>143 Caroline_McElwee: You're never too old for a great pair of boots, Caroline!

I like Winkleman, or who I think she is at least. Out of that current ilk of female presenters she's definitely the one I'd expect to enjoy a beer with the most. She keeps her style firmly stuck somewhere around the late 80s /early 90s and couldn't give a toss what anyone thinks of that.

I'd love to see what she looks like without the fringe and eyeliner.

Feb 11, 3:58pm

>144 AlisonY: Before and after Alison:

I think she is actually very much her own woman, but she set boundaries about what she wanted to share in this book.

Feb 11, 4:01pm

>142 Caroline_McElwee: I guess I have to be thankful that there as least that kind of barrier... otherwise I would have probably been burried in books already. (Now, the piles only reach my hips...) Have a lovely weekend!

Feb 12, 3:14am

>144 AlisonY: Wow! So different. She looks really like her mum when you can see her properly and with her natural hair colour.

Feb 12, 9:05am

>143 Caroline_McElwee: I saw her on Graham Norton promoting this book and we love her as the host of Britain's Best Home Cook. Maybe I should seek this one out...

>145 Caroline_McElwee: Oh, wow! I would never have recognized her there! I *love* her bangs, to be honest.

Feb 12, 1:46pm

>146 PersephonesLibrary: They are up to my shoulders Kathy.

>147 AlisonY: She does Alison. She credits the fring for making her stand out. It would drive me mad.

>148 scaifea: Hope you enjoy it Amber.

Editado: Feb 13, 10:08am

12. The Seven Ages (Louise Glück) (13/02/21) ****

I found these poems deeply human.


There was too much, always, then too little.
Childhood: sickness.
By the side of the bed I had a little bell--
at the other end of the bell, my mother.

Sickness, gray rain. The dogs slept through it. They slept on the bed,
at the end of it, and it seemed to me they understood
about childhood: best to remain unconscious.

The rain made gray slats on the windows.
I sat with my book, the little bell beside me.
Without seeing any sign of the spirit, I determined
to live in the spirit.

The rain faded in and out.
Month after month, in the space of a day.
Things became dreams; dreams became things.

Then I was well; the bell went back to the cupboard.
The rain ended. The dogs stood at the door,
panting to go outside.

I was well, then I was an adult.
And time went on--it was like rain,
so much, so much, as though it was a weight that couldn't be moved.

I was a child, half sleeping.
I was sick; I was protected.

And I lived in the world of the spirit,
the world of the gray rain,
the lost, the remembered.

Then suddenly the sun was shining.
And time went on, even when there was almost none left.
And the perceived became the remembered,
the remembered, the perceived.

Louise Glück

Thank you to nobel for bringing her to my attention.

Feb 13, 8:42am

Happy Saturday, Caroline. As usual you got me with a pair of BBs. Love and Other Thought Experiments sounds like my cuppa and I really like the Gluck poem and will have to request that volume. I do not think I have read her poetry.

Feb 13, 12:20pm

>150 Caroline_McElwee: This is truly beautiful, Caroline. It looks like I have to get her poems sooner than planned.

Feb 13, 6:43pm

>151 msf59: I look forward to your thoughts on both Mark. I'm going to read another of Glück's volumes next.

>152 PersephonesLibrary: She's a great find IMO Kathy.

Feb 13, 9:56pm

>150 Caroline_McElwee: It is wonderful when the Nobel committee occasionally get it right! Especially in introducing a writer of tremendous qualities to a previously unenthusiastic public (me included). I have read five of her collections since November and will add the rest to my shelves steadily.

I haven't read a poet from North America who can hold a torch to her as yet.

Feb 13, 11:52pm

By the way have you read much by Alice Oswald? I read her Woods, etc. yesterday and some of it lost me completely to be honest.

Feb 14, 6:31am

>154 PaulCranswick: Glad you too are enjoying Glück Paul.

>155 PaulCranswick: I have read, and enjoyed some of Oswald's work, but not read that volume.

Feb 14, 11:21am

I am a Glück fan as well, Caroline. I'll look for this collection.

Feb 14, 11:54am

>150 Caroline_McElwee: Love that poem! I will have to read some more. Happy Sunday!

Editado: Feb 14, 3:00pm

>158 Berly: Glad to be creating some new Glück converts.

Editado: Feb 15, 5:21pm

13. The Road to Lichfield (Penelope Lively (15/02/21) **** (Reread)

40 year old Anne Linton's life takes unexpected turns, when her father's health starts to slide, and her regular visits to see him in his remaining weeks lead to secrets revealed and unexpected outcomes.

I read this probably 30 years ago now, and remembered its tone and tempo as soon as I read the first paragraph.

I love the new cover too.

Feb 16, 7:19am

>160 Caroline_McElwee: I love Penelope Lively, but this is one I haven't read yet. "Secrets revealed and unexpected outcomes" are common in her books, but not at all in a formulaic way.

Feb 16, 7:33am

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Feb 16, 3:03pm

Hi, Caroline.

>114 Caroline_McElwee: Great review of Begin Again: James Baldwin's America. I added my thumb. We may be at one of those critical "civil" junctures in the USA. For the first time, "systemic racism" was mentioned as a problem in an inauguration speech, and there seems to be an awakening going on here. It's not going to happen overnight, of course, but more and more people recognizing the problem and dedicating themselves to it should help.

I haven't read him in too long. I've always wanted to read The Fire Next Time, so that'll probably be my next one.

Good Louise Gluck poem; for me it's representative of the "mood" in most of her poems. I read the whole "collected" of hers, and found the progression over time fascinating. The later ones grew less gaudy formalistically, and more personal and revealing. And, for me, better.

Feb 16, 4:35pm

>161 lauralkeet: I agree Laura. I've enjoyed the two I have reread this year.

>163 jnwelch: James Baldwin is one of the writers I could not do without Joe (F Scott, Virginia Woolf, Toni Morrison, Shakespeare are a few others, but there are more).

I've just finished another Glück volume. I may read her essays next, of her work.

Feb 16, 4:41pm

14. The Wild Iris (Louise Glück) (16/02/21) ****

The garden literal, metaphorical and symbolic is the playground for these poems. They play with the senses and intellect. Stir emotions and record feeling.

Feb 16, 8:18pm

Caroline, you inspired me to pick up a collection of Glück's from the library. And then I left it on my desk.

I love Lively, and this one sounds great. Maybe that will be my next read of hers.

Feb 17, 3:47pm

>166 BLBera: I hope you enjoy her work Beth.

Editado: Feb 17, 5:17pm

15. handiwork (Sara Baume) (17/02/21) ****

A short meditation by artist and writer Sara Baume, on the practice of making; on observation and inspiration taken from birds, which are the subject of the project she was working on.

Short, sometimes poetic, nuggets of prose. And during this time her thoughts about the loss of her father, and who they were together.

Feb 17, 5:35pm

>160 Caroline_McElwee: This one looks lovely: and a penguin too!

Feb 18, 9:42am

>169 charl08: A Penguin of course Charlotte.

Feb 19, 5:54pm

I just watched 'I am Patrick Swayze', what an interesting, talented, complicated man he was. And what genuine love he drew to him. Very moving.

Feb 20, 7:19am

>153 Caroline_McElwee: My copy of First Four Books of Poems arrived this week. :) Looking forward to it! Happy reading weekend, Caroline!

Feb 20, 9:08am

>160 Caroline_McElwee: I have that cover too, Caroline - it is pretty isn't it?

My favourite of the novels of hers that I have so far managed to read.

Feb 20, 9:40am

>172 PersephonesLibrary: I hope she speaks to you too Kathy. I have one more volume in the pile.

>173 PaulCranswick: I know we shouldn't judge a book by it's cover Paul, but it is pleasing to get a book with a nice cover too.

Feb 21, 9:23am

Happy Sunday!

>171 Caroline_McElwee: I shall have to watch that one. I know very little about his life.

Feb 22, 7:20am

A quick aside, Caroline - BLBera on CR recently reviewed a book about reading The Great Gatsby. Just in case you haven't seen it, as I know you love that book.

Editado: Feb 22, 10:53am

>175 figsfromthistle: Hi Figs, I hope you enjoyed your Sunday too.

As well as his talent, what comes through in the documentary is his kindness.

>176 AlisonY: Ha, yes, she mentioned it a while a go, and I snaffled a copy Alison. It is winking at me. Thanks for making sure I didn't miss it though.

Editado: Feb 22, 3:05pm

16. Helium (Rudy Francisco) (22/02/21) ****

Loved this debut collection. Thanks to Mark (msf59) for bringing it to my attention.

From ButtonPoetry website

Editado: Feb 23, 6:56am

>178 Caroline_McElwee: I love that poem (and the book cover). So simple and powerful.

Editado: Feb 23, 8:04am

Hooray for Helium! I am so glad you loved this collection, Caroline. It is a real gem. I am still having a good time with Bright Wings.

Feb 23, 2:11pm

>179 Sakerfalcon: I think you would like the volume Claire. My favourite poems were a lot longer, and not online, and I was too lazy to type one fingered on my IPad!

>180 msf59: I will definitely be looking forward to more of his work Mark.

Feb 23, 2:33pm

>178 Caroline_McElwee: This looks amazing! Love the cover and the poem. Thanks for sharing.

Editado: Feb 23, 3:02pm

17. Frostquake: The frozen winter of 1962 and how Britain emerged a different country (Juliet Nicholson) (23/02/21) ****

A social history of the UK framed by the 10 week snow in 1962 in the UK (even in London).

As the grand-daughter of Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicholson, the author winds some of her family stories through this social history which covers quakes in politics, music, culture, the US/UK relationship (Macmillan and Kennedy), and societal change.

London in the snow/The Beatles change the music scene (photo Ian Wright)/Sylvia Plath commits suicide/The Profumo Affair

A snapshot of the winter of 1962/3 and some of the events that led to dramatic change over the decade that followed.

A page-turning social history with a few little gems I didn't know, and a few idiosyncratic inclusions. Well worth picking up if you are interested in or unfamiliar with the UK at this time.

I was 2 in 1962, so remember nothing beyond the stories I was told by my parents as I grew up, and the unravelling of the history as I grew older.

The BBC did a fine drama on the Profumo affair last year, called:The Trial of Christine Keeler.

Feb 23, 2:51pm

>182 PersephonesLibrary: It had some very good poems in Kathy.

Feb 23, 4:46pm

>183 Caroline_McElwee: I want to read this. My mum lived in a small town in Cumbria as a kid and has a couple of stories about that winter. Almost unbelievable now.

Editado: Feb 23, 4:49pm

Don’t Let That Horse . . .

Don’t let that horse
eat that violin

cried Chagall’s mother

But he
kept right on

And became famous

And kept on painting
The Horse With Violin In Mouth

And when he finally finished it
he jumped up upon the horse
and rode away
waving the violin

And then with a low bow gave it
to the first naked nude he ran across

And there were no strings

By Lawrence Ferlinghetti RIP - died at 101, today.
(Unfortunately LT doesn't permit it's usual layout)


Feb 23, 4:51pm

>185 charl08: I'm sure you'd enjoy it Charlotte.

Feb 23, 5:07pm

>183 Caroline_McElwee: - Oooo, this looks good! A big BB for me, Caroline!

Feb 23, 7:09pm

>186 Caroline_McElwee: Love that! As I told Julia, I didn't know Ferlinghetti was still alive.

>176 AlisonY: Isn't it nice that LTers watch out for each other?

Helium sounds like a wonderful collection.

Ayer, 3:52am

>183 Caroline_McElwee: I saw the review of Frostquake in the papers a few weeks ago, and initially thought it was something I would like. But then I realised that I’d read Juliet Nicholson recently (A House Full of Daughters) and hadn’t really cared for her style.

I don’t remember the winter of 62 either, but in my childhood I remember it being presented as an almost mythical world where there was deep snow. We lived very close to the sea, and until the year I was 16 there was never any snow at all. (Actually, I think when I was 8 or so there was a sprinkling but I remember it was quite difficult to find somewhere where it had settled enough to even make a footprint. I remember my mother taking me onto the sand dunes to make a footprint in the snow as it had not settled properly on the pavements.

Ayer, 6:05pm

18. The Green Road (Anne Enright) (25/02/21) ****

An Irish widow in her seventies lures her adult children home before Christmas to tell them she plans to sell the family home. Two sons and two daughters, each of whom have different, and mostly difficult, relationships with their mother, and with each other.

The first half of the book are chapters telling a story about Rosaleen (the mother) and each of her children. The second half of the novel, which I preferred, was the visit home.

Generally I really enjoy Irish novels, but I remember that, although seeing the quality of the work, I couldn't love The Gathering, and feel a bit the same with this novel.

I have her latest in the tbr mountain, but won't read it until later in the year.

Read for my local book group which meets on Zoom tomorrow night.