As I don't seem to have been doing much blogging about what I've read recently, here's a little catch-up. Most of my recent readings were chosen from quick visits to one of my local libraries (surveys have shown that the average time for a reader to visit a public library and choose one or more books is just under ten minutes) I picked up Sandra Howard's Ursula's Story, a follow-on to Glass Houses, which was her first novel. This later book tells the aftermath of Ursula's marriage break-up and divorce from her newspaper-editor husband, and also how Ursula gradually copes with life on her own, and sets about building a new and different life for herself and her two daughters. Ursula has begun a relationship with Julian an antiquarian bookseller and writer, and Ursula's younger daughter works in his bookshop on Saturday mornings. Later, both daughter and lover go missing at the same time, causing a family crisis. There is a lot of emetion in this book and I felt everything was seen through Ursula's eyes, but with little reagard for her daughters or others feelings. A bit tedious in places, although the plot does make you keep turning the pages.
Helen Dunmore always provides a thought provoking read, and I found House of Orphans no exception. Set in Finland in the very early years of the twentieth century, this is the story of Eeva and how her life develops from early years with her politically active parents in Helsinki, a period in an orphange outside the city after her father's death; Thomas, a doctor who regulalrly visits the orphanage takes her into his house as a servant. He is recently widowed after an unhappy marriage and his servants left on the death of his wife. Eventually Thomas realizes that Eeva needs to return to the city and helps her to do that. Eeva finds a flat to share and meets Laurie again, a friend of her childhood. Laurie is sharing a flat with Sacha, who is involved in a plot to assassinate the Russian governor, Finland being a Grand Duchy within the Russian Empire. The plot is exciting, and there are also some beautiful lyrical passages, for instance Thomas in his sauna and Thomas watching Eeva after her sauna; Laurie and Eeva's growing adult relationship and the flat that Eeva shares with Magda, a journalist.
Another couple of recent reads were two of Alexander McCall Smith's Sunday Philosophy Club series, featuring Isobel Dalhousie who gently solves a problem or two while often thinking deeply about other matters, such as her young son Charlie and her relationship with Jamie his father and Isobel's lover. I enjoy these stories for their gentle pace, their philosophising and their attitude that life is on the whole good, despite the fact that bad things can and do happen sometimes. The Careful Use of Compliments and The Lost Art of Gratitude are the two most recent books in this series, which I think I prefer to the Mma Ramotswe stories.