The Fascinating Hat by Isabel Cameron – 20 Books of Summer 2021

 The Fascinating Hat cover

The Fascinating Hat by the Scottish author Isabel Cameron was first published in 1941. The book begins with Jinty Campbell trimming a hat that she’s going to wear in a dramatic entertainment in the village hall the following week. She’s interrupted by the local minister who has a habit of just walking into people’s houses unannounced. With him is his nephew who is a doctor, he has come to stand in for the local doctor who is going on holiday. There’s quite a lot of snappy banter as the two young people seem to hit it off quickly, having a similar sense of humour.

The screeching of tyres in the street and a crash alert them to a taxi which has ended up on its side while swerving to avoid a child on the road. The young passenger has been knocked out, tended by Jinty who had been a VAD, and the new young doctor. But their patient has lost his memory and has no idea who he is.

Jinty is an apprentice at a firm of architects, planning to become an architect herself eventually. As far as she’s concerned it’s about time that houses were designed by women for women as men have no idea of how to design homes with women in mind, making a lot of unnecessary work for them. Cupboards too high up, the sink in a corner facing a wall, sometimes no sink at all, the dishes to be washed in a basin on the kitchen table, no cupboards for storage and unneccesary steps. Secretly her bosses have to admit that she has a point.

The architects had got a commission to build a wonderful large house locally, with no expense spared. Their client was abroad and wanted to come home apparently. As you can imagine Jinty is in her element.

This was an enjoyable read and I imagine that in 1941 it must have been very unusual to have a young woman with the ambition of becoming an architect, so that was quite a surprise to me. However the storyline took a weird turn when the patient’s memory was restored by an operation. I found the thought of that quite shuddersome as so many people in reality were damaged forever when doctor’s performed brain operations when probably what they needed was a good psychologist – or even a nice wee rest!

The Grove of Eagles by Winston Graham – 20 Books of Summer 2021

 The Grove of Eagles cover

The Grove of Eagles by Winston Graham was first published in 1963 and the setting is mainly Cornwall although at times the action moves to Spain and London.

The story is told by Maugan Killigrew who has grown up at Arwenack House in Cornwall. Maugan is his father’s eldest son but he is a base son – illegitimate – but as his mother is dead he has been brought up in his father’s household. It’s a busy one as his gentle step-mother seems to be forever pregnant. Maugan’s father is a philanderer and up to his ears in debt despite having an important situation as commander of a castle at the mouth of the River Fal.

Maugan’s ambition is to go to sea and make something of himself, as it’s the 1590s and Sir Walter Raleigh visits his father from time to time Maugan hopes that Raleigh will take him on in some capacity and he can make his fortune at sea. With the second Spanish Armada attacking the Cornish coast in 1597 things don’t quite go to plan for Maugan.

This was a good read, marred only slightly for me by what seemed like quite long sections of sea battles. As ever I’m more interested in the domestic side of history, and of course there’s a romance involved.

Some of the characters were based on actual people who lived in Cornwall at that time, and as you would expect from Winston Graham it’s all very authentic and atmospheric. It’s a fairly long read at 576 pages.

This book was one of my 20 Books of Summer.

20 Books of Summer 2021

It’s Cathy’s 20 Books of Summer time again. Last year I managed to finish all twenty on my list so I hope I’ll be able to do as well this year. Mind you last year due to the pandemic there was no distracting holiday time, we’ll be staying fairly local this year, but all going well we’ll be out and about more, visiting people and actually having friends around, I’ll just have to see how it goes reading time wise. These books have almost all been languishing on my shelves unread for a good wee while, but a few are quite new to me and a few were written with children in mind, a few are real chunksters. There are only a couple of crime/espionage books, this is because I read those ones almost as soon as they get into the house – I need to get more! Have you read any of these ones?

1. Mamma by Diana Tutton
2. The Spring of the Ram by Dorothy Dunnett
3. The New House Captain by Dorita Fairlie Bruce
4. Julia by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
5. Henrietta’s House by Elizabeth Goudge
6. Tortoise by Candlelight by Nina Bawden
7. The Fascinating Hat by Isabel Cameron
8. The School at the Chalet by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer
9. Lightly Poached by Lillian Beckwith
10. Appleby’s Answer by Michael Innes
11. The Feast by Margaret Kennedy
12. The Women of Troy by Pat Barker
13. Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian
14. The Shield Ring by Rosemary Sutcliff
15. White Boots by Noel Streatfeild
16. Neither Five Nor Three by Helen MacInnes
17. bag and baggage by Judy Allen
18. After a Dead Dog by Colin Murray
19. Cross Gaits by Isabel Cameron
20. The Grove of Eagles by Winston Graham