Over the past month, I’ve read quite a few books and listened to just as many audio books. I’ve possibly been not making good choices as most of the books read, I would classify as three star. They were enjoyable but not memorable. The two books here are the exception. I have given them both 5 stars, as they were unputdownable and definitely memorable. Both 5 star reads were historical novels which, I must admit, are my favourite genre.
The Angel of Waterloo by Jackie French
I’ve read many war novels but none about the Battle of Waterloo, so I was interested to read this novel. The fact that it’s written by Jackie French, who’s writing I adore, was another factor to my anticipation. I enjoyed the book from the first page, but did struggle to read some of the grisly words in the first few pages, describing battle injuries and what needed to be done to repair them at the scene. However, the story quickly moved on with Henrietta, the daughter of an Army surgeon, eventually finding herself in Australia.
“The soldiers she saved called her the Angel of Waterloo. The husband she loved and lost called her Hen. The patients she treated in secret called her Auntie Love. She was Henrietta Bartlett, a surgeon’s daughter, a survivor of the Napoleonic Wars. But now the battlefield is just a blood-soaked memory, and Hen dreams of peace, a home, and a society that allows women to practise medicine:. – Goodreads
If anyone enjoyed Jackie French’s nine book series, The Matilda Saga, as much as I did, I am sure they will love this novel, as it does have a connection. That’s all I will say. You will have to read it to find out about that connection. No spoilers here.
Published in 2020 by Harper Collins. Paperback 432 pages
Dictionary of Lost Words of Pip Williams
From the first page, I absolutely loved this book and couldn’t put it down. This is the story of Esme, a young girl who spends her life in the ‘scriptorium’ completely surrounded by words. The scriptorioum is a small shed in Oxford, where her father and his colleagues are collecting words for the very first Oxford Dictionary. Esme collects the words that are either lost or overlooked and as she grows they help her make sense of the world. She is always on the look out for new words for the secret alternative dictionary that she is planning – The Dictionary of Lost Words.
“Set when the women’s suffrage movement was at its height and the Great War loomed, The Dictionary of Lost Words reveals a lost narrative, hidden between the lines of a history written by men. It’s a delightful, lyrical and deeply thought-provoking celebration of words, and the power of language to shape the world and our experience of it” – Goodreads
After I read the book, I noticed that there were quite a few negative reviews online, which shocked me. I had assumed that everyone who loves books and words, would love this book as I did. I quickly realised this wasn’t the case. Some of the reasons for the negative reviews were:
- Dislike for the taboo words that were used. I felt these words fitted into the context of the story and weren’t at all distasteful
- Many enjoyed the first half when Esme was young, but found the second half of Esme’s life story to be boring. I enjoyed Esme’s entire life story.
- A common criticism was that the story was slow moving. I didn’t find that at all.
For every criticism I came across, I was able to find more 5 star reviews. This book is a debut novel by Pip Williams. I will be watching out for her second.
Published in 2020 by Affirm Press. Paperback 384 pages.
My ‘to be read’ pile is now a ‘to be read’ shelf. Or I should say, two shelves. I promised myself to read all of these books in 2021. That’s now not going to happen, but I intend to keep working on it. The problem is that I can’t resist new releases. From now to the end of the year, is the most popular time for new releases, in the lead up to Christmas, so I’m expecting to be easily distracted from these books over the coming weeks.
This post is linked to Natalie’s Weekend Coffee Share
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