Bookish Loveliness: July

Is there anything better than discovering something that entertains, informs or just brightens your day?

Wow, what a month it has been in terms of books. My first shout-out goes to the debut novel ‘Seducing Hope’ by Adaline Winters; for lovers of fantasy fiction this is a must read. I don’t want to reveal too much about about the plot as it would ruin the denouement at the end of the novel. I will only reveal that at the novel’s core is a Greek myth that has been given the most fabulous contemporary twist. The female protagonist, Natia Waterford, is strong with just the right amount of sass to make her role-model worthy but also vulnerable and flawed enough to make her human and completely relatable.

Concomitant with the fabulous narrative comes incredible writing; something I feel isn’t always the case with debut novelists. I have found many a debut novel fabulous in narrative but flawed in execution. Not so in the case of Winters; she has a beautiful economy of language that scene sets and perfectly evokes atmosphere and emotion. That kind of shorthand is something that often is only often evinced when a writer has honed their craft over many novels.

Seducing Hope is available on Amazon Kindle and can be found here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Seducing-Hope-Adaline-Winters-ebook/dp/B08DJ5Q7J1/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=adaline+Winters&qid=1596549491&sr=8-1

All this talk of of well written, debut fantasy novels allows me to segue nicely into my favourite fantasy author: Robin Hobb. Having read pretty much everything she has written under the aforementioned pseudonym, I began reading some of her earlier works (written under the name of Megan Lindholm). I was a little apprehensive to read her earlier works for some of the reasons I outlined in review of Winters’s, ‘Seducing Hope’. However, I need not have feared. From the get-go the writing in the Ki and Vandien quartet of novels is great – not quite on a par with later works written as Hobb but fabulous nonetheless. I read all four: ‘Harpy’s Flight (1983), The Windsingers (1984), The Limbreth Gate (1984) and The Luck of the Wheels (1989) in quick succession and felt quite bereft on completing the final novel as I just wanted them to go on and on. Ki and Vandien are captivating protagonists, and as such it is difficult not to become completely absorbed in the (mis) adventures of their peripatetic life. All four novels work as both a group and as stand alone reads. Each book is a contained adventure rather than a set of four with an overarching narrative; an approach I found incredibly enjoyable as it allowed Lindholm the space to really explore and develop both her characters and the world they inhabit in an organic way.

Another book that has been a revelation but couldn’t be more different than my previous recommendations is ‘Skincare: The Ultimate No-nonsense Guide’ by Caroline Hirons. I can honestly say it has really opened my eyes as to how I should be caring for my skin. I should really caveat this, I have been a skin and beauty junkie since my teens and have a fair knowledge of the advances that have been made in skincare, but what I will say is that up until now I have been a bit “all the gear and no idea”. What Hirons’s book has taught me is what to use and when, where to save money and when to spend. Because I already had most of the skincare Hirons recommends for my age group I was able to establish a cohesive and comprehensive routine immediately. Using the right combination of products in the right order is already paying dividends. I’d even go so far as to say that the book has saved me money; in that, I’m now getting the absolute best out of products I already own, rather than constantly buying and trying new things.

When it comes to fiction I have two modes: fantasy (as has been evidenced) or 19th Century literature. ‘Ruth’ (1853) by Elizabeth Gaskell, my final July read falls into the latter group. There is so much to love about Elizabeth Gaskell’s writing: her predilection for portmanteau words, her plucky female protagonist and the challenging of societal norms; all of which are bound up in an Austen-like refinement and gentility, that engenders sympathy rather than contempt for the improprieties enacted by the titular protagonist of the novel; Ruth.

Ruth is a naïve and innocent girl who is imposed upon by a young aristocratic bounder by the name of Mr Bellingham. Having been seduced by Mr Bellingham and her character irrevocably damaged -owing to them living together unwed, which would have been shocking and anathema to Gaskell’s middle class Victorian audience-  Bellingham’s interest in Ruth wanes and she finds herself abandoned, pregnant and on the verge of suicide until a kindly dissenting Minister, Mr Benson and his sister, Faith take her in. Having given Ruth a home they decide to conceal Ruth’s unmarried status by introducing her to the town of Eccleston as Mrs Denbigh; publicly naming her a widow and -by choosing a family name- a distant relative. Ruth ensues on a redemptive journey, devoted to raising her son Leonard to be an upstanding and god-fearing boy. Naturally things go awry and the truth of Leonard’s birth is revealed, leading Ruth to be shunned by society. But such is Ruth’s true goodness of nature that she eventually redeems herself within the eyes of the town. There is of course more to the story but I am loathe to reveal too much should you wish to read it yourself.

Love and Light

Stella