The Painter – Will Davenport

A birthday present from Emma, this novel travelled out to Walton and back again before I started it this weekend just gone.

Shuttling between mid-17th century life of down on his luck portrait painter van Rijn (Rembrandt), and 21st century girl Amy Dale, this is shaping up to be a lovely combination of historical novel with a quasi-Changing Rooms slant, and a smidgeon of Joanna Trollope thrown in for good measure.

Reminds me of Michael Frayn’s Headlong, and I suspect that it stems from the current trend in novels about Dutch art. However, as far as I can tell, neither Deborah Moggach’s Tulip Fever, or Tracy Chevalier’s Girl With a Pearl Earring, are set partly in modern day Hull!

Hmm… there’s a hint of Philippa Gregory here too….

Verdict: Haddock review

Buy it: Amazon link

The Road to Jerusalem, The Knight Templar – Jan Guillou

Vols 1 and 2 of The Crusades Trilogy, by swede Jan Guillou, translated by Anna Paterson.

Borrowed from Battersea library in April 2003, and after a slow start, devoured over the chil Easter weekend in Walton (well, Good Friday and Easter Saturday at least).

Verdict: Haddock Review

Haven’t yet come to terms with prospect of waiting until June 2004 to read the third and final book – The Kingdom at the End of the Road.

Buy it: Amazon link

Update – April 2005

I contacted the UK publishers to ask when/if they would be publishing the third and final instalment in the trilogy. The bad news is that they won’t. From the sound of it, the first two weren’t profitable enough. How very annoying.

The Other Boleyn Girl – Philippa Gregory

One for lovers (and avoiders) of historial fiction.

A fantastic page turner, with believable characters illustrating that events in the great Henry the Eighth’s reign were not the dry theological and poltical posturigs they may have seemed at school.

Philippa Gregory’s latest novel may have attracted criticism on the ground of historical inaccuracies, but it does not claim to be a text book. Rather, as a novel it provides a cast of the soap opera stars of the period and indications as to their motives, which in turn allows the reader to develop an understanding of what prompted the twists and turns of the court factions and of the king at its helm. This in turn underlines the signifiance of his power and his decisions, and their impact on the people living in the lands he ruled and in the wider European arena.

Personally I

Ship Fever – Andrea Barrett

For once, choosing a book by its cover proved a good decision!

A great collection of short stories, themed around the scientific explorations flowing from the Enlightenment, and set against the backdrop of daily life – ordinary, and, in Ship Fever (the novella which closes the collection) extraordinary.

Ideas crop up in different guises throughout the collection – the most memorable being the part played by amateurs and women in piecing together the small discoveries and theories into the patchwork of the sciences we are taught today.

The River Crossing – Peter Rippon

One woman, three journeys, many perspectives.

A chance find in one of Hay-on-Wye’s many bookshops, this has turned out to be one of my favourite books of the year so far.

Part historical novel, part mystery with a romantic hue, this slight novel demanded to be read in one sitting. A rare book, combining history and travel, together with astute observations on the emerging desire of and support for women to be able to share in the freedoms and the intellectual and educational becoming opportunities available in the closing decades of the 19th century.

An excellent read for anyone who enjoys history (in particular women’s history) and travel. And not as heavy as I might have made it sound!