Two More Books for Your Library List

Two splendid books this week. The Unlikely Pigrimage of Harold Fry was recommended by Linda.

Harold and Maureen, two English pensioners, have slowed down so much they have nearly stopped altogether. They live in separate worlds, sitting each side of the breakfast table, so close, yet so far from each other. When Harold gets up from the table to post a letter to a long ago friend, he has no idea that he won't be back in time for morning tea. Or lunch, or dinner, or bedtime.

This is the story of Harold's unexpected journey. And it is a love story, and a reminder that every one of us carries secrets and burdens, whole inner worlds invisible to those around us. I needed that reminder.

The second recommendation is from Miss Maudy. Cross Stitch, as it is published in the UK and Oz, or Outlanders, its much better title in the US, couldn't be more different to Harold Fry. Miss Maudy sent me to Diana Gabaldon when I said I didn't like fantasy, and did like decent historical fiction. Well, this does contain elements of fantasy (time travel anyone?), and is completely indecent, although historically accurate..

I drive The Man crazy by pointing out unworkable paradoxes in time travel movies, so he refuses to watch them with me anymore. SO FAR this is the best time travelish device I've come across in a novel, with a delightfully spooky 'timey-wimey' (sorry, the children watch Doctor Who) twist at a moment when you are least expecting it..

I grew up reading Scottish novels - Robert Louis Stevenson and John Buchan, then about a hundred years ago wrote an honours thesis on an obscure point of historical oddity in Walter Scott's novels, and I have Scottish ancestors, so enjoyed ever so much this wild, heart-in-mouth adventure around the Scottish highlands, as the clans are beginning to rise in support of King James in 1743.

The most unlikely moment in the novel, I thought, was when a woman who had just given birth the week before, jumped on a horse and rode for two solid days hunting for her brother over the moors. I don't know about you, but the most I could ever manage a week after giving birth was a weak totter down the street to the nearest cafe.. clearly I am not cut out to whisk around in the Scottish Highlands in the eighteenth century. Must make mental note not to muck about near standing stones..

Also I would love some advice as to how to pronounce Leoch, Laoghaire and Geillis?

However before you click over and order it for your thirteen year old who loves Doctor Who and time travel, or rush down to the bookshop to buy it for your Baptist mother-in-law who loves Scottish history, just be warned, there is language, graphic violence, and a certain... earthiness that is no doubt very historically accurate, but that may have had Walter Scott turning in his grave. Or maybe not. There is an endearing minor character who is a fussy and pedantic lawyer from Edinburgh, but who has the romantic soul of an adventurer and throws in his lot with a band of highland outlaws. I can't help but hope that the author meant it as a tribute to Scotland's own romantic literary lawyer.

So thank you my lovelies, for a most profitable and entertaining week of reading, and how wonderful that Rachel Joyce has written another novel, and that Diana Gabaldon has written two entire series related to Outlander. Oh, goody! And keep the recommendations coming..


Anonymous said…

As always gutteral wins out when attempting Gaelic. I come from good Scottish stock as well. My grandfather was the Aussie born son of 2 Scottish imigrants and with German on the other side of the family our "sturdy bones" were somewhat inevitable. Not even vaguely interested in the historical type novel. Not my cup of tea but I love the look of Harold Fry and have just placed a hold on it. Do you know what is delicious? Being able to put a hold on a library book that you just KNOW is going to be a wonderful read at 3.22am. I always said to Steve that I didn't want to end up like my Grandparents...I think it might be time to revisit the scenario and see how love wins out (if, indeed it does) because I remember my grandad (Scottish remember ;) ) being banished to the garden until he was called in for his cup of tea by my tutting grandmother. I want to be those elderly people that I see walking hand in hand...not that tutting grandmother with the weary old grandfather who has given up on resisting...
Anonymous said…
Can't help you with the pronunciation questions. I think we all have words we can read but just don't know how to say out loud! There for our reading self.

I've been a timey-wimey watcher at times. I love the episode, Weeping Angels, where he first said that. It is soooo scary. I showed it to a class once and a student ended up under the desk. Another slept with her grandmother for a week. Isn't it wonderful to know teachers and drama can have such a psychic impact on our youf of today? (Lest you decry the students' future mental health bills, they all wanted to see it again, even the grandmother sleeper.)

I've read Harold Fry. Interesting analogy.

And I've read her latest, Perfect.
Anonymous said…
Of course the there should be They're for our reading self.

iPad auto correct.

(Don't want you to think I don't know.)
Anonymous said…
Also I would love some advice as to how to pronounce Leoch, Laoghaire and Geillis

I recognised Laoghaire straight away from our trip to Ireland. It's pronounced Leery. The port from which the ferry to Wales sails is Dún Laoghaire.

I found this in my searching too. Might be of interest?
Jo said…
Fran, I will rush Harold Fry back to the library so you can read it :)
Lucinda, I read your not-so-enthusiastic reviews so didn't rush out to order it, then had completely forgotten about it when Linda recommended it. I really liked this novel, the gradual stripping away of the stories the characters had built up around themselves as they face their past and their fears. It also reminded me of those scenes in Forrest Gump where he starts running one day, and just doesn't stop, and attracts followers who thinks he is a guru. Harold even develops the same beard..

You are a very meany-weany teacher (but I bet they loved it!). I only ever watch parts of Doctor Who episodes because I am usually running around doing something else, but I was terribly indignant when Rory and Amy got conveniently 'lost' in an unreachable time warp. What about Rory's dad, poor Brian, sat at home waiting for them, watering their pot plants? We've never seen him again.. and he was my favourite. The scene where he is sitting in the doorway of the tardis eating a sandwich and drinking a mug of tea with his legs swinging in space, looking down at the Earth revolving in the blackness below, that was my favourite bit ever. Very Python-esque. And DID you know that Donna's grandad, Wilfrid, was played by Bernard Cribbens who narrated The Wombles? The Girl imparted this vitally important fact to me recently.
It's all right, I know you are a fellow grammar fanaticist. But actually, it makes sense both ways, hence auto correct? I read it that you did it deliberately:)
Jessie, leery? Seriously? Who on earth was the chucklehead who first transcribed Gaelic? And thanks for the link, but I never read book forums. I like to pretend I am the only person who ever read a book! And I actually think I am the last person to read this one, by the looks of it. There appear to be some several million die-hard fans...
Good recommendations for sure. I will have to look up the Fry one, haven't seen or heard of that one before.
You did know (I'm guessing) that Outlander is an entire series, and the books get bigger and better each time?! You can forget realism and unlikely moments I think, the more you get into them. They are all really good and although its a while since I read the series, they are very good. Pretty racey too from memory. Maybe we all need a bit of time travel occasionally. cheers Wendy
Jo said…
Wendy, I love unlikely adventure stories - I started with The Famous Five and Biggles, and still enjoy them, unlikely coincidences, hair raising fights that the hero always survives and all. I just object if historical details are inaccurate. It's like my grammar fetish. That's the sort of person I am :(
So I loved the first book, and was very chuffed to find there are not one but two series. Yay!

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