Book No 9 (2016) : At the Water’s Edge

At the Waters EdgeI was raised in deepest, darkest Surrey, where the highest point of the landscape is a hill near Dorking and the biggest lake is probably a man-made reservoir just off the M25. It is a complete mystery to me therefore, why I fell in love with Scotland – maybe it is the contrast. My passion for Caledonia often leads me to choose books with a Scottish setting, including Sara Gruen’s ‘At the Water’s Edge‘.

The storyline seems unlikely, but it works: an American Colonel was accused of faking pictures of the Loch Ness monster. Years later when his son, Ellis and daughter-in-law (Maddie) behave appallingly badly at a party, the Colonel threatens to cut off Ellis’s allowance. To save face and triumph where his father failed, Ellis wants to find the monster himself. He and Maddie together with a mutual friend, Hank, depart for Scotland. The trio arrive at Craig Gairbh, Glenurquhart in 1944; there are blackouts, Anderson shelters and rationing. Whilst the men set about the serious business of monster-hunting, disappearing to the loch shores every day with their cameras and equipment, Maddie is left to her own devices. Struggling with the differences between high-society Philadelphia and the hardships of war-time Scotland, Maddie is lonely at first, but gradually begins to makes herself useful. She forms unlikely friendships with people whom her husband treats as staff. But as Maddie’s confidence in her own abilities grow, she starts to question her place in the world.

This is essentially a love story; not overly complex but with richly-drawn characters whose behaviour ranges from violent to tender, honourable to deceitful and a whole range in between. I loved the contrast between the Maddie at the opening of the novel, and the same character at the close of the final chapter.

Of course I knew all along that they would find Nessie, they just had to be in the right place at the right time. After all, who hasn’t gazed into the depths of Loch Ness and known that it was just a matter of time, and patience? I mean, on our last visit, I know we’d only missed her by a few minutes….

 

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Book No 12 (2015) : The Light Behind the Window

light windowLucinda Riley spins a cracking good yarn. Her books are never going to change the world, but for a few days of engrossing reading, I find them unbeatable. I read and reviewed ‘The Midnight Rose last year and I enjoyed ‘The Light Behind the Window‘ just as much.

When her mother dies, Emillie inherits a large fortune, including a house in Paris and a country château. Unmarried and with no other immediate family, she feels overwhelmed by the decisions and choices she has to make regarding the estate. When Sebastian, an English arts dealer, sweeps her off her feet, she is reassured by his competence. The couple discover that they have a common link, as Seb’s grandmother (Connie) spent much of World War 2 in France and was acquainted with Emillie’s father, Edouard de Martinières. Once married to Sebastian, Emillie divides her time between France and her husband’s family home, a large but shabby house in Yorkshire. As the renovations to the château begin, Emillie unearths secrets which reveal she may not be as alone in the world as she believes.

The novel is told in alternate timeframes, Connie’s and Emillie’s. Their characters are not deeply developed as the story is moved along largely through the plot, which has a great many twists and turns. Although the WW2 elements of the book clearly have some basis in fact, there are a number of unlikely coincidences; but I didn’t care. This is like Enid Blyton for grown-ups and, every once in a while, a fairy tale is just the escape from reality I need.