Category Archives: Fiction – Light

The Gown – Jennifer Robson

The Gown – Jennifer Robson

I saw this on Facebook or Instagram posted by one of the many embroiderers I follow. A story about the embroiderers working on Princess Elizabeth’s wedding gown? Of course I had to read it.

Here’s the blurb …

From the internationally bestselling author of Somewhere in France comes an enthralling historical novel about one of the most famous wedding dresses of the twentieth century—Queen Elizabeth’s wedding gown—and the fascinating women who made it.

“Millions will welcome this joyous event as a flash of color on the long road we have to travel.”—Sir Winston Churchill on the news of Princess Elizabeth’s forthcoming wedding

London, 1947: Besieged by the harshest winter in living memory, burdened by onerous shortages and rationing, the people of postwar Britain are enduring lives of quiet desperation despite their nation’s recent victory. Among them are Ann Hughes and Miriam Dassin, embroiderers at the famed Mayfair fashion house of Norman Hartnell. Together they forge an unlikely friendship, but their nascent hopes for a brighter future are tested when they are chosen for a once-in-a-lifetime honor: taking part in the creation of Princess Elizabeth’s wedding gown.

Toronto, 2016: More than half a century later, Heather Mackenzie seeks to unravel the mystery of a set of embroidered flowers, a legacy from her late grandmother. How did her beloved Nan, a woman who never spoke of her old life in Britain, come to possess the priceless embroideries that so closely resemble the motifs on the stunning gown worn by Queen Elizabeth II at her wedding almost seventy years before? And what was her Nan’s connection to the celebrated textile artist and holocaust survivor Miriam Dassin?

With The Gown, Jennifer Robson takes us inside the workrooms where one of the most famous wedding gowns in history was created. Balancing behind-the-scenes details with a sweeping portrait of a society left reeling by the calamitous costs of victory, she introduces readers to three unforgettable heroines, their points of view alternating and intersecting throughout its pages, whose lives are woven together by the pain of survival, the bonds of friendship, and the redemptive power of love. 

I enjoyed the sections about embroidery and living in post World War 2 England (but still with rationing). I wasn’t so taken with the plot. It reminded me of The Paris Seamstress. This just means that I don’t like ‘romantic drama’.

Another review.

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The Paris Seamstress – Natasha Lester

The Paris Seamstress – Natasha Lester

This novel was on sale, and it had a pretty cover, and it was about fashion, so clearly I had to have it.

Here’s the blurb …

How much will a young Parisian seamstress sacrifice to make her mark in the male-dominated world of 1940s New York fashion? From the bestselling author of A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald and Her Mother’s Secret.

1940. Parisian seamstress Estella Bissette is forced to flee France as the Germans advance. She is bound for Manhattan with a few francs, one suitcase, her sewing machine, and a dream: to have her own atelier.

2015. Australian curator Fabienne Bissette journeys to the annual Met Gala for an exhibition of her beloved grandmother’s work – one of the world’s leading designers of ready-to-wear. But as Fabienne learns more about her grandmother’s past, she uncovers a story of tragedy, heartbreak and secrets – and the sacrifices made for love.

Crossing generations, society’s boundaries and international turmoil, The Paris Seamstress is the beguiling, transporting story of the special relationship between a grandmother and her granddaughter as they attempt to heal the heartache of the past.

I went to a session at the Perth writers  festival where Natasha Lester and Amy Stewart were speaking. I must admit to judging Ms Lester’s novels before reading them – it’s the covers (beautiful as they are they do imply a particular type of novel). This novel was well-researched and I found much to admire and enjoy. It is a plot driven romance, which is not my reading cup of tea, but I know it will appeal to a large number of people. So if you like romance, intrigue and beautiful clothes then this is the novel for you.

Another review

http://www.kateforsyth.com.au/kates-blog/book-review-the-paris-seamstress-by-natasha-lester

 

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The Book Ninja – Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus

The Book Ninja – Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus

This was another discounted book bought from Target.

This is a fun, light-hearted book all about readers and books.

Here is the blurb …

Sometimes love means having to broaden your literary horizons.

Frankie Rose is desperate for love. Or a relationship. Or just a date with a semi-normal person will do.

It’s not that she hasn’t tried. She’s the queen of online dating. But enough is enough. Inspired by her job at The Little Brunswick Street Bookshop, Frankie decides to take fate into her own hands and embarks on the ultimate love experiment.

Her plan? Plant her favourite books on trains inscribed with her contact details in a bid to lure the sophisticated, charming and well-read man of her dreams.

Enter Sunny, and one spontaneous kiss later, Frankie begins to fall for him. But there’s just one problem – Frankie is strictly a classics kind of gal, and Sunny is really into Young Adult. Like really.

A quirky and uplifting love letter to books, friendship and soulmates.

I really enjoyed it and hope it will get made into a movie.

More reviews …

https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/the-book-ninja-review-ali-berg-and-michelle-kalus-have-fun-with-love-and-books-20180621-h11p7k.html

https://www.betterreading.com.au/news/a-literary-love-affair-review-of-the-book-ninja-by-ali-berg-michelle-kalus/

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Gigi – Colette

Gigi – Colette

This was the latest novel in my year of classic french literature.

Here’s the blurb …

Gigi is being educated in the skills of the Courtesan: to choose cigars, to eat lobster, to enter a world where a woman’s chief weapon is her body. However, when it comes to the question of Gaston Lachaille, very rich and very bored, Gigi does not want to obey the rules.

I have read the Claudine novels and find Colette’s life fascinating (I read this biography), but I wasn’t overly taken with this novel. A 15 year old is being trained by her family to be a courtesan, she acts simple, but is actually quite clever and gets the man to marry her in the end. I find it terribly creepy that an older man finds her young school girls ways attractive. And that her aunt, grand mother (and to some extent her mother) are grooming her to be a prostitute (hopefully well-paid and well-looked after but a prostitute none-the-less.)

Here is the wikipedia entry on Gigi

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gigi

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Math Girls – Hiroshi Yuki

Math Girls – Hiroshi Yuki

I found this book in the maths section of Kinokunia and I had to have it. I wish I bought the second at the same time.

Here is the blurb …

Math isn’t hard. Love is.

Currently in its eighteenth printing in Japan, this best-selling novel is available in English at last. Combining mathematical rigor with light romance, Math Girls is a unique introduction to advanced mathematics, delivered through the eyes of three students as they learn to deal with problems seldom found in textbooks. Math Girls has something for everyone, from advanced high school students to math majors and educators.

I loved this book – I had my piece of paper beside me and worked through the problems as they did.

The plot is OK, but it doesn’t matter it is a novel with maths!

Here’s a review by the American Mathematical Society

https://www.maa.org/press/maa-reviews/math-girls

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A Country Escape – Katie Fforde

A Country Escape – Katie Fforde

I have always liked Katie Fforde’s novels – I find them comforting. I like some more than others – the ones I like have some sort of skill or craft (pottery, gardening, antiques – this one has dairy farming and cheese making). I am not so keen on the ones that involve cooking or event planning or narrow boats (but that is just a personal preference).

Here is the blurb …

Fran has always wanted to be a farmer. And now it looks as if her childhood dream is about to come true. She has just moved in to a beautiful but very run-down farm in the Cotswolds, currently owned by an old aunt who has told Fran that if she manages to turn the place around in a year, the farm will be hers. But Fran knows nothing about farming. She might even be afraid of cows.

She’s going to need a lot of help from her best friend Issi, and also from her wealthy and very eligible neighbour – who might just have his own reasons for being so supportive. Is it the farm he is interested in? Or Fran herself?

If you like a gentle romance – where the villains aren’t too villainous – and the surroundings are beautiful, then these novels are for you.

More reviews …

Book review: A Country Escape by Katie Fforde

http://reabookreview.blogspot.com.au/2018/02/a-country-escape-by-katie-fforde.html#.Wr2VAehuY2w

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The Break – Marian Keyes

The Break – Marian Keyes

It has been a while since Marian Keyes last book – in fact I thought she had retired – I think The Woman Who Stole My Life came out in 2014? I didn’t even know this one was coming out – just came across a huge pile in Dymocks and thought ‘yay! a holiday read’.

I have always liked her books – some more than others. They are funny, but also tackle big issues. Here is the blurb for this one …

Amy’s husband Hugh isn’t really leaving her.

At least, that’s what he promises. He is just taking a break – from their marriage, their children and, most of all, from their life together. For six-months Hugh will lose himself in south-east Asia, and there is nothing Amy can say or do about it.
Yes, it’s a mid-life crisis, but let’s be clear: a break isn’t a break up – yet . . .
It’s been a long time since Amy held a briefcase in one hand and a baby in the other. She never believed she’d have to go it alone again. She just has to hold the family together until Hugh comes back.
But a lot can happen in six-months. When Hugh returns, if he returns, will he be the same man she married? And will Amy be the same woman?
Because falling in love is easy. The hard part – the painful, joyous, maddening, beautiful part – is staying in love.

Her books have aged/grown up as I have – now she is writing about middle-aged people with children (where I am right now) and it is refreshing to read one’s own experiences in a novel – the never-ending domestic slog, the needs of children, trying to balance family and work.

Once again, this one is witty and sad. It focuses on a modern marriage crisis – Hugh needs a break, 6 months and then he will be back. While he is gone it will be like they’re not married, i.e. he wants to be able to shag complete strangers in South East Asia. Amy is left to hold it together at home – three children, a hectic job, a mother who needs support caring for her demented husband – seems like a terrible and very selfish thing for Hugh to do, but he has suffered several bereavements and has Amy drifted away?

There are laugh out loud moments – Amy’s mother becoming an internet sensation, social commentary – going to England to procure an abortion.

As much as I liked this novel, I think there was too much of it. A bit of an edit would have made the whole thing tighter and more compelling.

Another review …

http://www.independent.ie/entertainment/books/book-reviews/novel-with-a-strong-moral-heart-and-plenty-of-laughs-36089516.html

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The Secret Garden – Katie Fforde

A Secret Garden – Katie Fforde

I read all of Katie Fforde’s books – usually in a day and some are better than others, but there is something very comforting and easy about her books.

Here is the blurb for this one…

Romance, humour and happy-ever-after endings in Katie Fforde’s brand new novel for 2017.

‘What I want to know’, said Lorna, ‘is what lies behind those ash trees at the back of the garden?

Lorna is a talented gardener and Philly is a plantswoman. Together they work in the grounds of a beautiful manor house in the Cotswolds

They enjoy their jobs and are surrounded by family and friends.

But for them both the door to true love remains resolutely closed.

So when Lorna is introduced to Jack at a dinner party and Lucien catches Philly’s eye at the local farmers market, it seems that dreams really can come true and happy endings lie just around the corner.

But do they?

Troublesome parents, the unexpected arrival of someone from Lorna’s past, and the discovery of an old and secret garden mean their lives are about to become a lot more complicated…

The deliciously romantic new novel from the No. 1 Sunday Times bestselling author of A Vintage Wedding, Recipe for Love, and A French Affair.

What I like about these novels is that you get to explore a new profession/job – in this one it is landscape design and growing plants (i.e. being a plantswoman).

Another review …

http://www.onemorepage.co.uk/?p=20226

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Reading in Bed – Sue Gee

Reading in Bed – Sue Gee

I am not sure where I first heard of this book – here maybe, but I was looking for something less grim to read after New Grub Street.

Here is the blurb …

Opening at the Hay Festival, and ending with the prospect of a spring wedding, Sue Gee’s novel is a lively story of tangled relationships and the sustaining powers of good books, loyal friends and conversation.

Friends since university, with busy working lives behind them, Dido and Georgia have long been looking forward to carefree days of books and conversation, when each finds herself caught up in unexpected domestic drama. Dido, for the first time, has cause to question her marriage; widowed Georgia feels certain her husband will return to her. Meanwhile, an eccentric country cousin goes wildly off the rails, children are unhappy in love, and perfect health is all at once in question.

This book will appeal to readers – a lot of casual mentions of reading, authors and the central place reading can take in people’s lives. It is also about friendship, family and romantic relationships and what it takes to make these relationships successful. It is witty and insightful, but also a comforting easy read.

 

 

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Snowdrift – Georgette Heyer

Snowdrift and other stories – Georgette Heyer

I do like Georgette Heyer novels – the regency romances the mysteries – and, so as soon as I had of this one I pre-ordered it. And then when it arrived I saved it for my trip to Rottnest – perfect!

Here’s the blurb …

Previously titled Pistols for Two, this edition includes three recently discovered short stories. A treat for all fans of Georgette Heyer, and for those who love stories full of romance and intrigue.

Affairs of honour between bucks and blades, rakes and rascals; affairs of the heart between heirs and orphans, beauties and bachelors; romance, intrigue, escapades and duels at dawn. All the gallantry, villainy and elegance of the age that Georgette Heyer has so triumphantly made her own are exquisitely revived in these wonderfully romantic stories of the Regency period.

If you have read any Heyer, then you will know exactly what this book is like. These stories are swashbuckling fun – full of beautiful girls, masterful heros and misguided young men trying to do the right thing. It is a book of short stories and it might be better to read them one at a time with a bit of a break between them because sometimes you can have too much of a good thing.

More reviews …

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/snowdrift-and-other-stories-by-georgette-heyer-lsv8jt73j

http://the-history-girls.blogspot.com.au/2016/09/new-georgette-heyer-stories.html – this one is an interview with Jennifer Kloester who wrote the introduction (plus she has written a biography of Heyer)

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