Monthly Archives: June 2015

The Bookshop That Floated Away

by Sarah Henshaw

The Bookshop That Floated AwayNow there’s an intriguing title if ever there was one, and an accurate one too.

Now, the title and cover may make it sound like a chick-flick type of book, but it isn’t. I have to admit that that was jy first thought when I say my wife reading it. But in actual fact it is the very funny story of a real business (ad)venture undertaken by the author. 

In 2009 Sarah Henshaw decided to set up her own business – a bookshop on a barge. Unusual and certainly unique, but sensible? Possibly not.

The book itself follows the 6 month period during which she took her narrowboat Joseph on a tour of the canals of Britain, from the Midlands to London, Bath, Bristol and Manchester. It is a very funny story of how she bartered books for food and bathroom facilities, her adventures with locks and officialdom, and the wonderful and colourful people she met on the way.

I have often had a yearning to spend some time on a barge, and this book has reignited that urge. A really good read that will keep you captivated to the end.

And as a bonus, you can continue to follow her waterway adventures on Facebook.

Bellman & Black

by Diane Setterfield

Bellman and Black“Bellman & Black” is a dark tale of tragedy, success, mystery and rooks. It follows the life of William Bellman, starting with his killing of a rook as a ten-year-old. A seemingly insignificant event that comes to have greater meaning as he gets older.

In his late teens young William is taken under the wing of his uncle Paul who gives him a job at the family textiles mill. Everything goes well, with William quickly becoming an integral and increasingly important part of the Bellman empire. But tragedy is never very far away, and a series of tragic and, in some cases, unexplained deaths conspire to leave William running the family business.

Just when he feels secure, with the mill more successful than ever and his wife and children content in their lives, the ultimate tragedy brings William to despair. It is then that a chance meeting with a stranger sets William on a new course, giving him something to funnel his energies into.

But what has all this got to do with the rooks?

“Bellman & Black” is an unusual book. It is not a ghost story, although it does have some of the dark mystery that you would associate with the genre. It is compelling, well written and full of surprises. I must say I was a little disappointed with the way it ended as I felt there was something more that could have been told about William’s later years, but this does not alter the fact that I found it a riveting read, one I could not put down and enjoyed to the very last page. 

A really intriguing and entertaining book.

The Husband’s Secret

by Liane Moriarty

The Husband's SecretThis book marks a first for me – the first I have read set in Australia! As firsts go, maybe not a very exciting one, but a surprising one as I soon realise that I don’t think I have read anything by an Australian author before. Not that any of that has any relevance to the book itself, it’s just a small aside from me.

So, what about the book? Well, when I first looked at the synopsis I was interested enough to get started, but not expecting too much from it. Which just goes to show you can’t judge a book by its blurb (or something like that anyway). From the start I was hooked and unable to put the book down. The plot is unique (at least to me). 

Whilst helping her daughter with a project on the Berlin Wall, Cecilia Fitzpatrick comes across an old envelope with, written in her husband’s handwriting, the message “to be opened only in the event of my death”.

With her husband John Paul away on business, Cecelia is faced with a choice. She can either open the envelope and face what it contains, or return it unopened and try to forget it. What would you do in that situation? After much consideration, Cecilia decides to open the letter at which point her whole world begins to fall apart around her. Everything she thought she knew about her husband and their past is now in doubt. As is their future.

But Cecilia and her family are not the ones effected by the secrets contained in that letter. Events conspire to bring all the protagonists together and Cecilia finds herself at the centre of a 30 year old mystery.

“The Husband’s Secret” is a compelling, witty, dark and very emotional story that kept me glued to the pages right to the very end. The climax of the story is both heart warning and tragic, but in some ways, the only way it could have ended. 

One unusual feature of the book is that the reader gets a short update on what happens to the main characters after events of the book have finished. 

Not only did I find this a great read, but it made me think about my own family, and to what lengths I would be prepared to go to preserve its integrity. Does the love you feel for your spouse and children over ride a sense of justice? Could you really watch someone else suffer terrible pain and heartache just so you can keep your own family unit intact? These are the questions faced by Cecilia and the way she deals with them makes thought provoking reading.

A really excellent book.