It’s summer year round here, so I’ve given myself permission to have beach reads on my shelf anytime; in fact, it’s been a while since I’ve been immersed in a pithy book or a thought provoking tome up for an award. The Man Booker Prize longlist of books will be announced soon – maybe I’ll get some ideas for books to challenge me then,
For now, I’m content with what I’ve been reading in paperback.
Scottish author Beatrice Colin weaves a complicated historical fiction around the construction of the Eiffel Tower. The politics and sheer precision of the engineering dominates the story. But what would Paris be without romance, and Colin obliges with her characters, using the turmoil of their lives to complement the uncertainty of the tower’s completion.
The romance between a Scottish widow, Cait, and the chief engineer under the famous Gustave Eiffel, Émile Nouguier, dominates the backdrop. Cait is chaperoning two wealthy spoiled Scottish siblings, Alice and Jamie, on their world tour when she meets the handsome Émile, who is reluctantly assigned to mentor Jamie’s notion of becoming an architect. Émile’s jealous, wicked drug-addicted mistress conspires to foil Cait and Émile’s romance as well as ruin the young naive Alice in Cait’s charge. Some steamy scenes but the relationships are somewhat contrived.
The book took me longer to finish than I had expected – probably because I kept dwelling on the Parisian scenes and the descriptions of the arrondissements in the nineteenth century. The most compelling are the historical notes around the tower in progress, and the perfection needed to accomplish its completion.
A Long Way from Home – an Australian historical adventure
Peter Carey (who won the Man Booker Prize twice) writes an Australian saga of a couple who compete in the now defunct Redex Trial, a special rally to test the reliability and performance of the competing cars. The premise had me googling to see if it really existed. It did. Carey’s story focuses on Irene Bobs and her neighbor and navigator, Willie Bachhuber. Irene and her husband enter the race to publicize their new car dealership.
“The Redex Trial, a dusty tour of Australia that pits the dominance of Ford over “Australia’s Own Car,” the General Motors Holden: Two hundred lunatics circumnavigating the continent of Australia, more than 10,000 miles over outback roads so rough they might crack your chassis clean in half.”
It’a a wild ride as the Australian landscape whizzes by.
The Perfect Couple – murder, mystery and romance in Nantucket
I met an Australian couple recently from Melbourne who are fans of author Elin Hildebrand; they could not stop praising her books. I’ve read a few of Hildebrand’s Nantucket stories, but had not thought about her in a while. So I’ve downloaded her latest book – The Perfect Couple, her first murder mystery novel. Set in Nantucket, of course, the story revolves around a wedding, a dying mother, and a dead maid of honor. Fun and fast reading.
The Magic Hour – a Kristin Hannah melodrama
A 2007 novel by the author of The Nightingale and The Great Alone focuses on a six year old feral girl suddenly appearing from the surrounding woods of a Washington State town. Prominent child psychiatrist Julia Cates, struggling with her own issues of career confidence, works with her sister, the town’s police chief, to save the girl. A compelling story with a little romance and, of course, a happy ending.