There are few things nicer than snuggling up with a good book as the days turn colder and I read some excellent books this month.
Justine Picardie is an author I really enjoy, her biography of Coco Chanel is superb and her talk at the Oxford Literary Festival was captivating. "My Mother's Wedding Dress" is a beautifully written memoir. She describes outfits that have been important in her life, stories about her family, interviews with designers and so on. It's a cornucopia of essays and I loved it. My copy is signed "To Ellen, who understands the threads between mother and daughter". Justine wrote this after a conversation we had after her very moving talk. She seems an extremely nice lady, writes an excellent blog and I highly recommend this book.
"The Language Of Flowers" by Vanessa Diffenbaugh" was a lovely read. Victoria is a girl just leaving state care in San Francisco after several disastrous foster placements. She is fascinated by flowers and the Victorian language of flowers. After finding work at a florists she comes face to face with her troubled past. I found this very poignant and the author has fostered children herself, showing a real insight into their plight. I was rooting ( not a pun!) for Victoria and really cared how it would end for her. The actual language of flowers is fascinating too and the author includes a dictionary of their meanings at the end.
Andrew Motion's biography of Philip Larkin, "A Writer's Life" was a huge book but surprisingly easy to read and a deeply fascinating account of the poet's life. I love Larkin's poems but he was a difficult man, misogynistic, racist and quite gloriously grumpy. However, Motion succeeds in making him human and has added immensely to my understanding of his poems.
Sue Townsend is another author I look forward to reading. Her tales of Adrian Mole have been a constant since I was a teenager, I have grown older with Adrian! "The Woman Who Went To Bed For A Year" is very funny, Eva Beaver waits until her deeply ungrateful twins leave for university, then takes to her bed. A cast of brilliantly drawn characters react in different ways to her defiance. Various lines had me laughing out loud, Eva's inept husband, Brian, comes home to find her in her scruffs, pulling up vegetables, "For Christ's sake, Eva! You look like post-war Poland". My husband had said only last week I looked like a coal man when I donned my Gillet, I may take to my bed too! My only quibble would be that I thought it fizzled out at the end of the story, it was a little unsatisfying. Still worth a read though.
My lovely friend Jo, leant me JoJo Moyes "The Girl You Left Behind" and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Set in modern day London and France in the First World War, it follows the lives of two women who have to fight for what they love. A picture of a young woman connects them and I found the story absorbing, a real page turner. One for the dark afternoons, with a cuppa and slice of Parkin!