Another random collection of August reads!!
The Railway Children by E. Nesbit – 4*
I absolutely love Nesbit’s books, and this one did not disappoint. I think I had read it a long time ago, but couldn’t really remember how any of it went. The story and characters are just delightful. The adventures could be a bit of a stretch – just how many lives can one family of children save?? – but all in good fun.
The Diary of a Provincial Lady by E.M. Delafield – 3.5*
This one was a Traveling Book Club book, and it was pretty fun on the whole, but there was just this edge of bitterness (?) to the whole thing that made it feel not quite as lighthearted as it appears at first. I enjoy ‘slice of life’ types of stories, so even though really nothing happens in this book other than a family living their life with the usual trials, I still found this enjoyable. The PL is a delightfully self-depreciating narrator, her sense of humor is strong, and I loved all of her side queries of introspection throughout her diary. There are some fun little adventures, and it’s an interesting glimpse of the everyday life of this place and time.
I found both the beginning and the ending to be quite abrupt, as though this book really was a random section of someone’s diary. I was also endlessly aggravated by the nearly constant quotes from the French governess, never translated yet placed in the text in a way to make it unclear as to what is being said. (It would be something like, “Couldn’t believe it was time for him to leave already. [French quote] Not sure that I can agree with these sentiments, but can’t deny that they were warmly expressed.”) I spent way too much time translating French to English just so I could confirm that she had said something like, “They grow up so fast” or something equally not-really-contributing-to-the-conversation.
Final (minor) gripe for this one is that it honestly did feel a little sad, in the sense that I’m not completely convinced that the PL is really happy. She seems to spend so much time worrying about what other people think or are saying, and spends money she doesn’t want to spend on things she thinks other people think she needs, if that makes sense. I realize that’s supposed to be part of the humor, but I just found myself wanting to reassure her that it really doesn’t matter what all those people think!
However, on the whole I really did enjoy this one. Not my new all-time favorite, and I’m not sure that I will follow the PL on her other adventures, but still a pleasant little read.
The Small Bachelor by P.G. Wodehouse – 5*
I reviewed this one detail when I read it back in 2016, but suffice to say that it was just as delightful this time around. The characters, the dialogue, the descriptions, the plot – all fabulous. My only real beef with this one is that it’s set in New York City instead of in England where all of Wodehouse’s characters belong. Nonetheless, if you combine these plot elements, how can you go wrong? – A young man falls in love with a young woman he sees out on the street; another fellow writes informative and educational pamphlets and scorns the concept of love at first sight; an ex-con valet tries to go straight and encourages his pickpocket fiancee to do the same; a man is bullied by this 2nd wife who holds the purse strings; a policemen is trying to become a poet; a young English lord is hungry a lot; and there’s about to be a raid on The Purple Chicken, where you can always get IT if you know the right people. I don’t know how Wodehouse hits it out of the park basically every time, but this one is another winner for me.
The It Girl by Ruth Ware – 3.5*
Sometimes I’m willing to suspend disbelief a bit if a thriller keeps me turning the pages, and this one definitely fell into that category. There were parts I found a bit ridiculous, and it was a one-off read for me (not one I’ll come back to again and again) BUT it kept me up way past my bedtime because I wanted to find out what happened, so it deserves some kudos for that. I wasn’t 100% satisfied with the ending – just because you find out someone didn’t do one specific bad thing doesn’t mean that that person is completely blameless of everything else – but all in all a solid thriller.