Peter Berresford Ellis

Another visit to the local library brought a whole series of books to my attention a year or so ago.

The author writes his Sister Fidelma series as Peter Tremayne and he comes from Coventry in Warwickshire. His mother was of an old Saxon family in Sussex; his father hailed from County Cork in Ireland.

The two main characters in the Sister Fidelma mysteries are the protagonist, Sister Fidelma herself and her partner, Brother Eadulf. They mirror his own family very nicely.

Fidelma is a Celtic nun born in what was the old kingdom of Munster around the seventh century AD. She is also a qualified dalaigh, an advocate of the ancient law courts in Ireland, so she can assert legal authority over the people she meets where necessary. She often does, too, to great effect.

Brother Eadulf, her partner and eventually husband, is a Saxon monk. He often provides key advice to Fidelma as she solves each mystery and saves her life on more than one occasion. They make a wonderful partnership, both personally and professionally.

The author weaves huge elements of history into the novels, often about the role of nuns in the Church at that period of time in history. In Ireland they followed their own interpretation of Catholic teaching and it was not uncommon for members of the clergy to be married and have their own families, as Fidelma and Eadulf eventually do.

I adore these type of historical stories, especially when they’re well researched. Highly recommended.

Christian Cameron

I came across Mr Cameron’s work in my local library; the series I became interested in starts with a novel called Tyrant.

It takes place during the time of Alexander the Great and among the peoples he was busy conquering.

The central character, Kineas, is one of Alexander’s most highly regarded Generals. However, when he returns to his home of Athens, he finds the veterans of these wars are being sent into exile. He becomes a mercenary, and along with his trusted band of soldiers, becomes embroiled in a tactical battle for survival, in the process finding himself an enemy of Alexander.

I really couldn’t put this one down, and I can say the same for the second and third in the series. The fourth and fifth are very high on my To Read list.

The research Mr Cameron puts into his work is certainly above and beyond the call of duty, as it were. He is a lifelong reenactor, both of the ancient and medieval worlds. Fascinating.

Penelope Fitzgerald: Human Voices

I have recently finished “Human Voices” by Penelope Fitzgerald. It’s a comedy of sorts, written from inside the BBC during the Second World War. Not my usual fare to be honest, but it does one good to branch out occasionally, does it not?

The characters seem a little exaggerated but then, having never worked in TV, perhaps I’m not the best judge of that. I love, for example, how the author describes one character going off in a huff because their carefully planned programme had to be canned because it didn’t give the right message to the public. I guess at that time, absolutely everything had to be considered within the context that Hitler was about to land on British shores at any moment. A programme that might challenge the current mood of solidarity was probably not considered suitable broadcast material.

One wonders how we would react to a similar situation in 2012, over seventy years later.

Would the BBC once again step into the breach and do their duty by providing the nation with uplifting and motivational programming?

How do the recent scandals within (and without) the Corporation change our view of the BBC as an organisation?

And what of us, the licence-paying public? How have we changed in the last seventy years?

It’s often remarked how the community spirit has left us these days, particularly in urban areas where most of us have barely even laid eyes on our neighbours, much less have had a conversation with them. Would we somehow draw together in a time of crisis and help each other, as our ancestors did? I’d like to think so.

I welcome your thoughts…

Sarah Rayner: One Moment, One Morning

The other day I finished reading an amazing novel. It’s one of those which had been sat on my bookshelf for some months, since I moved house back in April. However, it had never made it’s way off the shelf again for some reason. Instead, it sat there in hope, collecting dust.

Last week I decided I was spending far too much money on new books without ever having finished those I already had. So, I made a commitment to myself. For every new book I purchase, I must read one of my existing books first.

The book I chose was called “One Moment, One Morning” by Sarah Rayner. I read the back page. It said something about a train journey, three different passengers and their experiences. It sounded harmless enough. A bit of light reading, I thought. So, I grabbed a bookmark and started.

To say it was an emotional rollercoaster is not an exaggeration. I think the tears might have started before I finished the first chapter. I won’t give away any spoilers, but it’s a harrowing story about a personal tragedy, seen through the eyes of three very different female characters

I was very much captured by the author’s beautiful style. I could really feel the desolation of one particular character and how she comes to terms with her loss.

Let’s just say I would dearly love to be able to capture the same emotions in my readers when I write. Something to aim for, I guess.

Andrew Davidson: The Gargoyle

I picked up Andrew Davidson’s debut novel The Gargoyle at a book stall which comes to my workplace from time to time.

I always browse the stall when I can, but they very rarely bring anything I’m interested in. It’s mostly children’s literature and cookery books. Not that I have anything against these particular genres.

Indeed, I have a very healthy collection of cookery books in my kitchen and just about every one has tell-tale signs of being used frequently!

On this one occasion, however, I spotted a novel. I picked it up and it sounded interesting so I bought it.

Like many books I buy, I carefully placed it on my bookshelf and there it remained for quite some time until I spoke to my partner about it and he said he had enjoyed it. Having learnt that he has an impeccable taste in literature, I thought it was high time I gave it a go.

I remember that day I started reading it. We were going on holiday abroad, my partner and I, and he was going to a barber’s shop the evening before we were due to fly to have a wet towel shave. Apparently, they’re all the rage these days! So, we went into the shop and after he was settled in the chair, I opened the book and began to read.

I was gripped from the very first page. The action is narrated by the central character whose name we never learn. He is involved in a serious car accident and suffers life-threatening injuries and terrible disfiguring burns all over his body. His recovery is aided and abetted by another hospital patient by the name of Marianne who believes they have been lovers in a previous life, centuries before.

This is a book I couldn’t put down until the very last page. Highly recommended.