Posted by: Corri van de Stege | June 5, 2011

Gardens, bestsellers and satisfying reads

I’ve been busy around the garden again this spring – often it’s a choice between writing a blog post and going outside to do some more digging or watering or pulling out weeds.   The soil here in my garden is very hard and I suspect that the previous owner, who happened to be a builder, left quite a lot of his legacy of bricks and other hard unhealthy stuff dug into his garden.  Nevertheless, I am quite satisfied that over the years I have been making progress and this spring was rewarded with some brilliant tulips and other fare in bits of the garden that previously looked an overgrown wilderness.  Very satisfying.

However, these tulips have gone now and are being replaced by yellows and whites and some more purple.  The most wonderful about all this is that this is the bit of the garden I look at from the front window of my work room.

Onto reading and what I have been up to lately.  Quite a bit actually.   In fact I notice that the Observer’s list of bestselling contemporary fiction on Amazon last week includes two books that I very recently read.

A little while ago Pete mentioned having read The Hand That First Held Mine, by Maggie O’Farrell.  As it was on my tbr pile on the bookshelf I decided to follow suit – he clearly enjoyed the book and  I value his recommendations!  Having now read the book I completely agree, it is an excellent read and as you would expect from O’Farrell, well written.   The book won the 2010 Costa Novel Award.  I particularly liked the way she develops the characters Elina and Ted – Elina is Finnish and an artist and Ted is English,  they live in Cornwall.    At the beginning of the story Elina has just had a baby boy, by caesarian section.  She is quite out of sorts and I can vouch that the almost out- of-this-world state of mind she is in because not everything had gone right is completely spot on.  I remember it so well, wondering whether you will ever inhabit that body again and recover!  The couple have difficulty picking up their lives as it was before the baby came along.  It takes them months to decide on a name and not only is Elina quite unwell and unable to do very much, Ted also is becoming disturbed by memories of his own childhood.

At the same time there is another story that is about Lexie which takes place in the fifties and sixties.  At first it is not clear what the link between the two stories is, but nevertheless once you start reading you cannot stop.   I absolutely loved this book and it works its way to a very dramatic and emotionally satisfying conclusion.  I must say that  I also loved O’Farrell’s previous book, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox.  She is an excellent writer who is able to keep you mesmerised as a reader with quite ordinary day-to-day things.

The other one on the bestselling list is Sister by Rosamund Lupton.  This was Richard and Judy’s Book of the Year 201 and highly praised by reviewers as a ‘superb debut novel’, a book that is both thriller and literature.  I am greatly impressed by this book, it is a very original story told by Bee in the form of a letter to her missing sister Tess.  It could so easily have become a sentimental and not very interesting book, in fact it is gripping, emotionally strong and very well written.  The approach is genuinely quite a different one from the usual story telling line of a detective or thriller.  It is literary and very compulsive.  The twist at the end is a real shocker and although the book leaves it up to you as reader to interpret what the outcome is, I think it is positive!  Enough said.  Better read it!

So here are two really good reads, that would have done well packed in a holiday suitcase.  I shall have to relook at what is still on my shelf and in my e-reader.

Must not forget to post on 28th June of course: The Literary Give-Away Blog Hop!



  1. Lovely garden! And the books look great, especially the O’Farrell book. I’ve read the Esme Lennox book and After You’d Gone is also hers I think. This book is definitely one to look out for. Thanks!

  2. Yes it is JUdith and now I remember I also read After You’d Gone, another enjoyable read. Do read the last one – it’s out in paperback!

  3. What a lovely picture of your garden. I love working outdoors and if you can move from outside to inside and read a book, that is a perfect day for me!

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