RAE’S READING ROUND-UP… AUGUST 2021

Hello Bookish Friends,

Where has summer gone! Only three books to share this month, but they are all fantastic, imaginative reads, helping us escape to other times. Also, I have loads of reading (and writing) planned for the autumn, and I’d love to hear which books are on your September bedside pile.

Finally, I’m delighted to share that mid-month, I’ll be chatting all things books and writing with author, Kerry Fisher. Please come join us.

But in the meantime, stay safe and happy reading!

HAMNET by MAGGIE O’FARRELL

The clarity of detail, the vivid descriptions of 16th century life, mean that Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell may turn out to be my favourite book of the year. Can you tell I am practically swooning over the writing?

Hamnet was the eponymous son of William Shakespeare, although Shakespeare is never mentioned by name in the book. Instead, he is referred to as Hamnet’s father, the Latin tutor, the glovemaker’s son, etc, a clever device used by O’Farrell, meaning that Shakespeare never looms large over the family, remaining simply another member. It is true that the boy, Hamnet plays a pivotal role in the novel, however the story focuses mainly on Shakespeare’s wife, Agnes (Anne Hathaway); a woman whom historians have largely ignored, casting her as strange. Yet O’Farrell paints an altogether different union, one where it is Agnes who enables her husband to escape the clutches of provincial life and take his first tentative steps as a playwright. O’Farrell is clear that Hamnet is a work of fiction, yet her writing is so vivid—I could smell the woodsmoke, hear the crunch of leaves, see every stitch Agnes sewed—that I wanted to believe it was true. With themes of motherhood and loss, and of being other, Hamnet is a beautiful novel that I didn’t want to end.

Perhaps because I’ve enjoyed a stay-at-home summer, I was in the mood for a read that swept me away and Lucinda Riley’s bestselling series, The Seven Sisters, was recommended by several friends. In the first, Maia D’Apliese and her five sisters are devastated to learn that their father, Pa Salt, who adopted each of them as babies, has died. The time has come for Maia to discover more about her past, which whisks her on a journey to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

A dual-time line story, we are then transported to the splendour of 1920s Rio, where Izabela Bonifacio is destined to marry into aristocracy until, during a trip to Paris, her path crosses with a dashing young sculptor, Laurent Brouilly. Based partly around historical events, it was interesting to learn something of the sculpting and construction of the statue of Christ the Redeemer. Also, of the privileges and restraints that governed daily life for the wealthy during Brazil’s Belle Époque.

At 670 pages, this is a lengthy novel, but if you are looking for an escapist read with characters to root for, inhabiting fabulous settings, then you’ll adore The Seven Sisters. Much cheaper than jetting off to exotic locations, I look forward to enjoying more in the series…  

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig was not only my book group read for August and a multi-million bestseller, but also one of the most imaginative novels I’ve read in a long time. Nora Seed is lonely and is convinced that the choices she has made means that life is now passing her by. But then she discovers the midnight library, where she is offered the opportunity to try the lives she might have enjoyed, had she taken a different path.

And who hasn’t considered what might have been? It’s a magical, original, thought-provoking novel filled with warmth and positivity. A reminder that no life is plain sailing, but that life itself offers the potential for change.

Published by Rae Cowie

Check out my bookish chat at raecowie.com

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