Books read 2018 #6-10

#6 and #7 Cynthia Harrod-Eagles The long long trail and Till the boys come home

Set in 1917 and 1918 respectively these two go right up to the conclusion of the First World War, although there did seem some potential for further books following the family’s fortunes? There are more accounts from the front in these two, mainly because there are more family members out there, reporting back from their various perspectives. The weariness of those back at home is well-portrayed, those keeping everything running and wondering how much longer the war will go on for. Again, the books manage to give both a big picture and incidental detail too. Feeling a bit sad I’ve finished them all now, although I’m tempted to make a start on the Morland Dynasty ones now (that’ll keep me busy, there are LOADS of them!).

#8 Charlotte Dujardin The girl on the dancing horse

Bit of a different one for me as I don’t often read biography and never read anything about sport! Charlotte is the dressage rider who won gold in the London Olympics and really brought dressage to public notice. I used to ride, although I haven’t for years, and have done a bit of dressage so this appealed to me. It was a fascinating read. The first part jarred a little as she seemed to think her family were poorly off, although it just sounds like they weren’t as well off as some of the people they were competing against. The later parts are inspirational though, and you really get a feel for the amount of work it took to reach those heights. Her descriptions of her relationships with the horses she rides are amazing and it also filled me in on a lot of detail I was unaware of, such as how lower profile sport is funded.

#9 Bethany Hallett Dear Mummy, welcome: a memoir

This was a Mumsnet suggestion (they do a great book review forum) and is basically an autobiographical account of the author’s adopting a four year old girl, the process of adopting and the first year. It was quite interesting, although some of it is dated now (she was adopting in the early years of the 2000s, and I know from friends who have adopted more recently that some things have changed a lot since). I was surprised at how selfish the author seemed – she was desperate to have a child, which hadn’t happened naturally as she hadn’t been in a relationship at the right time, so she decided to adopt as a single woman. But she does quite a bit to jeopardise the process, including omitting to tell social services that she has a new partner, who lives overseas and whom she doesn’t actually know that much about. She also spends a lot of time moaning about how hard it is and how she never has any time to herself, yet the child sleeps through the night, goes to nursery school at least three mornings a week and a relative takes her for a whole day every week. Must admit my sympathy was a little in short supply here. Some bits also don’t really add up – she mentions the child leaving loving messages for her, but this is at an age when she couldn’t read, let alone write. Still, an interesting read, and at least it worked out for both of them and the child found a safe and secure new home.

#10 Leïla Slimani Lullaby

Myriam and her husband Paul decide they need a nanny and eventually find what appears to be the perfect person. She takes amazing care of their two children and revolutionises their lives. But slowly she becomes a burden, becoming entwined in their lives so they want to let her go, but can’t. It’s a disturbing book, starting with the murder of the baby by the perfect nanny, so you know what the outcome is, but slowly the plot unwinds and more is revealed about her motivations. Fascinating insights into a woman who was desperate to be wanted and needed, and yet was not at all maternal to her own child. Highly recommended although some of the images it conjures up are really unpleasant.

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