Casting Off by Elizabeth Jane Howard

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Whereas the first three books in the series are very much about a family spending too much time in close proximity as the result of a wartime evacuation from London to Sussex, and the problems that result from that, this book is very much about the difficulties of the post-war untangling of that situation and how it’s no easier to end things than it is to begin them. The young teenagers of the pre-war first book and now young adults making their own decisions at last. The babies have turned into proper children. The adults have grown older – sometimes wiser, sometimes not – and in many ways are finding the new world a harder place than their children are who haven’t really known anything different.

I’ve really loved reading this series, it’s been one of those “put the book down because you don’t want it to finish” experiences for me. I’m pleased to discover that despite it being advertised as a “quartet” in various places there is actually a fifth book to read which Elizabeth Jane Howard wrote some time after the others. I’m holding off on finding out exactly how auto-biographical she has been until I’ve finished the series. I started out guessing that Clary was the autobiographical character, but lately I’d be more inclined to choose Louise, mostly because it’s a much harsher portrait of a young woman’s life as she grows older. Polly has always been too happy and sensible to be any kind of self portrait. I will be interested to find out whether I am barking up completely the wrong tree.


More information about this book can be found on goodreads.
This was a kindle eBook.

The Jewels of Paradise by Donna Leon

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I’m surprised by how miserable a lot of the comments and reviews about this book are. I suspect a lot of that stems from the fact that it’s not a Brunetti book – I think it’s the only non-series book that Donna Leon has written but I may be wrong about that. I enjoyed it – Leon has stuck with Venice but moved to an entirely different kind of mystery with a female musicologist researching some chests of paperwork belonging to a seventeenth century composer. It’s a quiet sort of a plot for the most part but I found it all interesting and was surprised to search and find that the composer at the centre of the story wasn’t a fictional creation. The book certainly has a few shortcomings, the end of the story was tied up very quickly without explaining all the details. I think that may have worked better than a long drawn out conclusion though, I could imagine the holes in the plot being closed up rather than having them tediously explained to me and my perhaps not being happy with the explanations. I liked the characters and am kind of disappointed that there’s probably not another series starting here. I would quite have liked a family saga about Caterina and her sisters!


More information about this book can be found on goodreads.
This was a library book.