The Book of Beginnings by Sally Page was just published last year and it’s a Sunday Times best seller, I tend not to read many best sellers, I read about this one on a blog recently though and decided to get it from the library. I’m really glad that I did as it ended up being an uplifting read.
Jo had recently been dumped by James, her boyfriend of six years. It’s only then that she realises that nobody else liked him, but she had been besotted with James and had neglected old friends to be with him and his even more obnoxious cronies. What is worse is that Jo had been desperate to start a family and now she feels time running out for her, she’s in her late 30s and James had been several years younger than her. As they had worked at the same company it seemed a good idea to leave that job, and Jo travels to London to help out at her uncle’s stationery shop while he is in hospital. It’s a place that she has fond memories of as she used to help her uncle there during school holidays.
The work, stationery bits and pieces, and the customers she meets in the shop begin to have a healing effect on Jo, especially two of them who become close friends, despite them being quite a bit older. One of them Jo has recognised from the TV news, Ruth is a runaway vicar – what is she running from? Malcolm is over 70, but is still haunted by a decision he had made in the past. He also has an interest in Highgate Cemetery which is nearby, and his project draws the three of them into close companionship which begins to heal them all.
I really enjoyed this one.
Secret Water by Arthur Ransome was first published in 1939. It’s the eighth book in the Swallows and Amazons series and the setting is islands just off the Essex coast.
A planned sailing trip with their father has to be postponed when he is called away on naval duty. The children are desperately disappointed so to make up for it their father maroons them on an island and tells them to map the whole area naming any geographical areas of interest, creeks and islands.There is a farm nearby so at least they’ll have access to fresh milk. As ever though they’re well off for food and equipment and in no time they’re all set up in their camp. Bridget, the baby of the family, has been allowed to take part in a family adventure for the first time.
The whole place is very tidal and the mudflats appear and disappear, making it a dangerous place to be sailing around, but almost immediately they make friends with a local who can give them tips on how to cope with the tides. They name their new friend ‘the Mastodon’ as they had seen his giant footprints in the mud before they met him and had speculated as to what had made such large prints. He wears ‘splatchers’ which are like huge snow shoes but specially for walking on the mudflats safely.
It turns out that the Mastodon is part of another gang of child sailors who call themselves Eels, and the others aren’t keen on joining up with the newcomers, but of course everything works out fine in the end.
I didn’t enjoy this one as much as the books which are set in the Lake District, probably because I really dislike mudflats, and the children were always dripping with mud. There was no mention of smell, but I could smell those mudflats, because they always stink – not pleasant.