chestnut book blog

Read. Recommend. Revel.

Recently reading…


Recently, I have been catching up on my reading. Last weekend, I finally had a rare chance to enjoy a few hours curled up with a hardback and it was lovely. Here is what I’ve been reading:

1. Life after Life by Kate Atkinson

When this was released, I heard such mixed reviews about it that I put it away on my bedside table for a few months rather than reading it immediately. I wanted the reviews to fade so I could judge it fairly and, also, I wanted to read it at a moment when I could really savour it. I am glad I waited until last weekend, when I devoured most of it on a rainy Sunday afternoon. The central concept of Life after Life, that of re-living your live until you get it right, is not new or original. However, there is something here that is unique. Perhaps it was the quality of the writing, or the fact that WWII setting is new…I’m not sure but Life and Life lingered in my thoughts long after I finished it.

2. The Queen’s Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle

This was a retelling of the story of Katherine Parr, sixth wife of Henry VIII and one of the more neglected characters in this well-worm period. I enjoy a good historical romp now and again and that is exactly what The Queen’s Gambit is. I did find the ending frustrating, but the bare facts are historically correct, so perhaps it was simply real life that I was annoyed with! What I did like though was the relationship between Katherine and Dot and the significance Fremantle draws into the clothes Katherine wears; a form of armour against court intrigue and her mercurial husband. This would make a good, easy, holiday read if you like historic fiction.

3. A Guide to Elegance by Genevieve Antoine Dariaux 

This lovely little hardback is quaint and wise. I really enjoyed a glimpse into the rules of elegance in the early twentieth century. Although much of this is outmoded now (four outfit changes a day anyone?!), there are still some lessons that struck home. I think this would make a lovely gift for anyone interested in fashion and style.

What have you been reading recently?

5 thoughts on “Recently reading…

  1. Its my first Kate Atkinson book and the first to address the “life after life” concept. It took me a little to get into it but then I was hooked, I really liked it! The main thing that kept me thinking was whether I was fully satisfied with the ending or not… and when I read your comment about “living it until you get it right” It then all came into place! I think my unsatisfaction comes from the fact that the whole concept is completely relative and subjetive, what is to “get it right”?? For me getting it right might need to have big family in the picture so I was not satisfied that Ursula didn’t have children, so I made it personal…. am I making any sense??
    Anyway, no matter what I loved it!

    • You are making sense! It did feel that poor Ursula had terrible luck and a very raw deal didn’t it, in all her lives?! But she did snatch moments of happiness at least. I’ve actually read a Kate Atkinson before (Behind the scenes at the museum) but wasn’t that keen on it at the time – I might give it another chance now though as I loved Life after Life so much. What are you reading at the moment?

      • I have just finished one called Maus by Art Art Spiegelman. It is actually a Graphic Novel about the Holoucast (the father’s author story actually). I would never think I would like this kind of book but it’s brilliant!! For a different type of reading, I would recommend it a lot.

        I have started one called the “Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion”, it has kind of chick flick feeling but a clever one!! To literally laugh out loud, it is hilarious!!! Will let you know how I find it when I finish it.

        In the “to read list”, I have The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson, and A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry (which was recommended by a nice guy in Waterstones).

        I have recently finished
        – Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (I’ve read her other 2 books Purple hibiscus and Half of a Yellow so was expecting a lot), but was a little disappointed. It is quite clever the way she touches on the subject of being a Non-American black in the US, but I can’t put my finger in exactly what didn’t work….
        – The fault in our stars, which we already discussed about.

        Have a lovely holiday!!!! x

  2. So glad you liked Life After Life – a terrific book, I thought.
    Off to look up A Guide to Elegance now!

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