No, not another Falco (although I did think it was when I borrowed it!)
If anything, I enjoyed The Course of Honour more than any of the Falco series I’ve read so far. (As does Kate Macdonald, I now recall.) It’s Lindsey Davis’ telling of the life and loves of a Roman woman, Caenis. Born a slave, she is trained as a secretary and by good fortune finds herself scribing for Emperor Claudius’ mother, Antonia. In due course, Antonia makes Caenis a freedwoman.
I’ve loved Anne Tyler’s novels in the past but I’ve put this one to one side half finished. Not even the 5 hour train journey back from Pembs provided sufficient incentive to continue reading about the Whitshank family. I wasn’t interested in any of the characters, nor their suburban Baltimore world.
Conn Iggulden’s fictional biography of Dunstan, a 10th century Anglo-Saxon Benedictine monk, Abbot, Bishop and Archbishop, and – later – Saint, who lived through the lifetimes of seven English Kings descended from Alfred the Great: Alfred’s grandsons, King Athelstan, Edmund I and Eadred, his great-grandsons Edwy and Edgar, and great-great-grandsons Edward (the Martyr) and Æthelred the Unready.
It’s an era of great change – the emergence of England, Monastic reform and the building of great Abbeys, including two by Dunstan – Glastonbury and Canterbury.
I’m now planning to track down Tom Holland’s Athelstan in the Penguin Monarchs series to read more.
I enjoyed The Muse even more than Jessie Burton’s previous novel, The Miniaturist.
It’s two intertwined tales of female creators that transpire to be one. Set either side of the Second World War, we first meet protopoet Odelle, one of the Windrush generation lured to London from Trinidad by Empire’s promise of opportunity. Thirty years earlier the story starts with secret artist Olive and her Austrian-English parents who are renting a rural finca on the edge of a village north of Malaga, in the run up to the Spanish Civil War.
All the way though the novel I came across sentences that really resonated. Here are a few:
A church bell rang in the distance, a sombre line of twelve dongs to hold the time before it slipped away once more.
She was really laughing; her eyes were almost invisible, they were so creased. She had that cheery unselfconsciousness that always makes a person beautiful, however unremarkable their face.
The idea that anyone might be able to detach their personal value from their public output was revolutionary.
Whilst I am not a fan of getting up close and personal with birds, over the years I’ve become more interested in the spotter side of things. Weekends in Walton and Pembrokeshire whetted my appetite for learning more about the birds I see on visits to these coasts.
Adam Nicolson’s book is brilliant. It’s a series of detailed dives into the fascinating world of ten different sea birds, some familiar – gulls, cormorants, Manx shearwaters and puffins (thanks Steffi!), albatross (thanks Sue!); other less so – razorbills and fulmars. Each relativity short and very readable chapter covers that bird’s biology and evolution, history and scientific study, society and relationships, lives and travels. Above all, their travels are astounding.
Recommended, even for the reluctant avian nature lover.