Hello and welcome to another reading roundup. I’ve clearly been on a bit of a social history kick lately – all of the books I’ve read and/or listened to in the last couple of weeks have had social change as a strong theme. Let me tell you about them.
The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson is a slice-of-life look at an English town in the summer of 1914, just before the First World War. This conflict had a profound impact on British life, especially in terms of the class system and women’s role in society and so this particular period of time about which Simonson writes is a real turning point. The author clearly has a strong knowledge of and interest in social history and it comes across very well in the book.
Add to this wonderful, engaging characters (I’m heavily invested in our protagonist Beatrice Nash and young Snout) and this is a great read. I’m about two thirds of the way through the audiobook and enjoying it very much. Fiona Hardingham is undertaking narration duties and does an excellent job of distinguishing all the characters.
The second social historical audiobook I’m enjoying is Julian Fellowes’ Belgravia. Fellowes is, of course, known for the wonderful Downton Abbey television series, which follows the Crawley family through a period of history that saw major social change in the UK. How accurate it was is a different discussion. Belgravia is set a few years earlier, on the eve of Waterloo, but again it follows a family through a period of social change.
The interesting thing about Belgravia is that is being published in a serial format. There are eleven episodes, each one around one hour long, narrated by Juliet Stevenson. The first four episodes have been published – of which I have listened to one – and the others are following weekly. Each episode costs around $2.50 with a complete book to be published when the series is complete. I enjoyed the first episode and intend to keep following it.
The final book I’d like to talk about is The Translation of Love by Lynne Kutsukake. This is a non-typical choice for me. It tells the story of Aya, a young second generation Japanese Canadian who along with her father at the end of the Second World War after life in an interment camp is forced to choose between moving east of the Rockies or repatriation to Japan. (Not a great period in Canada’s history). She moves to Japan where her path intersects with that of Fumi, a young Japanese girl trying to find her sister and that of Matt Matsumoto, a Japanese American who serves in the office of General MacArthur translating the thousands of letters received by the General from Japanese citizens requesting his aid.
I’m about a third of the way through this and am enjoying it very much. I am unfamiliar with much of Japanese culture, but Kutsukake is doing an excellent job of describing it through the eyes of Canadian born Aya who, raised in Vancouver, is more Canadian than Japanese in outlook. I am also very much appreciating the characters and following their story.
Upcoming books in May
There are three books coming out in May about which I am very excited.
First, we have The Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle, by Rick Riordan. This is a new series set in his Percy Jackson Greek/Roman world, but this time there is a twist. His protagonist is the god Apollo himself, who, stripped of his powers by Zeus, must live as a mortal – with Percy and friends’ help of course! I love Rick Riordan’s writing style, humour and world building so this is a no brainer for me. I have pre-ordered it in both Kindle and Audible formats.
The Hidden Oracle is released on May 3rd.
Also on May 3rd we have the release of The Crown, the fifth and final book in Keira Cass’s Selection series. The Selection has always been my guilty pleasure with its soapy mix of The Bachelor(ette) meets Cinderella meets dystopian YA fiction and again this was another no brainer, especially as the previous book left a real cliffhanger ending. I pre-ordered The Crown in Kindle format.
The final book about which I am excited, also being released on May 3rd is A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas. This is the second in the Court of Thorns and Roses series. Although I prefer Maas’ Throne of Glass series, I did enjoy a Court of Thorns and Roses and expect to enjoy the sequel. I have pre-ordered A Court of Mist and Fury in Kindle format.
That’s all I have today. Enjoy your reading and perhaps I’ll meet some of you next month at the Book Expo of America!