Well, spring is taking its time springing but I became more mobile this month. I'm back behind the wheel, which feels fab, and I've been increasing the lengths of my daily walks. Luckily the weather has been dry and the woods are on my doorstep, so I have no excuses not to get out in the fresh air and build up my strength.
I read four good books in March. "You Had Me At Hello" is the debut novel by Mhairi McFarlane.It is set in Manchester and tells the story of Rachel, a court reporter, who breaks up from her long-term boyfriend, only to have an old university flame arrive back in town. I enjoyed the story and thought the characters were very well written. Maybe I liked it so much as I live in Manchester and my other half knows the courts very well indeed! I did tweet the author to tell her I liked the book although I didn't think any northern bloke would say he was cooking "dinner" at "tea time". She gamely replied I was right, (of course!) I do like authors who take the time to reply to you on twitter. I've had interactions with JoJo Moyes, India Knight, Judith O'Reilly, Mary Beard, Amanda Foreman, Emma Kennedy and others. I never expect a reply but it's always nice when people take time to engage with their readers.
I read Judith O'Reilly's book on doing an act of kindness every day at the beginning of the year and enjoyed it so much I bought her earlier book, "Wife in the North". The author was pregnant with two young children when her husband persuades her to move from her beloved London, to a small village in Northumbria. Judith does write so vividly, she is very funny but can also move you to tears. The reader does feel part of this chaotic but loving family, I love the parts about her aged parents. She writes an excellent blog also called Wife in the North, well worth a read.
"Sleep With Me" by Joanna Briscoe started off really well. Richard and Leila are expecting their first child when a mysterious woman enters their lives, Sylvie ingratiates herself subtly with the couple and their friends, with disastrous consequences. I did think it lost its way, from being quite eerie and unsettling, the plot became a little too preposterous. I thought it was well written though, quite poetic and the air of unease caused by such a seemingly benign presence as Sylvie is very effecting.
My vintage read this month was "The Last of the Wine" by Mary Renault. Published in 1956, this is a novel set in Athens during the thirty year Peloponnesian war. It tells the story of Alexias and his love for Lysis. The story of his blossoming from a youth to young manhood is beautifully described and real historical figures such as Socrates, Plato and Xenophon are included in the action. I sometimes find historical fiction quite badly written and a tad "dumbed down" but this is good stuff. The prose can be quite dense at times, but it paints a very vivd picture of the golden age of ancient Athens