Goodbye to January


It’s been such a long time since I last posted an end-of-month reading summary! I didn’t bother with them last year or the year before, but now I’ve decided that I miss having a place to reflect on what I’ve read, am reading and am about to read.

Fair Helen January has been a good month for me in terms of number of books read, as the cold weather and dark nights mean more time spent inside reading. At a quick glance, my month has been dominated by historical fiction (I’ve made a great start to the Historical Fiction challenge) but the books I’ve read within that genre have been quite diverse. Two of them were for my Reading the Walter Scott Prize project, coincidentally both by Andrews. Andrew Greig’s Fair Helen was a beautifully written novel set in Scotland and based on a Border Ballad, while Andrew Miller’s Pure was the story of the destruction of a Parisian cemetery in the 18th century.

I also read The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory which I found to be one of the best of her Cousins’ War series. It’s actually more of a Tudor novel than a ‘cousins’ war’ one, but that’s fine as it got me into the mood for the BBC’s excellent new adaptation of Wolf Hall. Has anyone else been watching it? What do you think?

Going back to the early days of the cousins’ war, or Wars of the Roses as we more commonly call it these days, I read Red Rose, White Rose by Joanna Hickson. I’d been hesitant about reading it as I wasn’t particularly impressed by her earlier novel, The Agincourt Bride, but I was pleasantly surprised by how good this one was.

I was pleased to finally read two books I’ve been meaning to read for years: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber. I loved the latter but was slightly disappointed with the former – the story was great but I didn’t like the writing style.

BellarionI read two books from my Classics Club list in January as well. The first was Bellarion by Rafael Sabatini, which I enjoyed – not surprisingly, as Sabatini is quickly becoming a favourite author. The other was one of the Charles Dickens novels on my list, David Copperfield. I’ve just finished, so my thoughts will be coming soon.

After reading Kate Atkinson’s Case Histories just before the New Year, I couldn’t wait to read the next in the series, so went straight on to One Good Turn. I loved it and am looking forward to reading the rest of the Jackson Brodie series. I also read The Glassblower of Murano by Marina Fiorato, a dual timeline novel set in Venice. And I reviewed Mercedes Rochelle’s Shakespeare-inspired Heir to a Prophecy for Issue 4 of Shiny New Books.

Mary of CarisbrookeI’ve been making an effort to write about every book I read within a few days of finishing, but I haven’t quite managed it. As well as David Copperfield, there are a few others that I finished towards the end of the month and haven’t had time to review yet. First there was Mary of Carisbrooke, a novel set on the Isle of Wight during the English Civil War, the first book I’ve read by Margaret Campbell Barnes. Then I read Georgette Heyer’s The Quiet Gentleman, which I think might be one of my favourite Heyer novels so far. And finally, I read one of Sarah Dunant’s Italian Renaissance novels, The Birth of Venus, and a historical mystery by Andrew Taylor called The Silent Boy. I’ll be posting my thoughts on all of these books as soon as I can!

Also in January, I brought back my Remember These series, with a selection of books beginning with F and G and I added two new pages to My Journey Through TimeThe Plantagenets and The English Civil War.

As February begins I am reading The Vanishing Witch by Karen Maitland and M.M. Kaye’s Death in Kashmir. I don’t have any plans for the rest of the month as I’m enjoying just reading whatever I want to read!

What about you? Did you have a good start to the year?

20 thoughts on “Goodbye to January

  1. eduardodefrutos says:

    In January I’ve read three novels, the three of which I have found extrememely enjoyable:
    The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
    Bonjour, tristesse by Françoise Sagan
    Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
    Have you read any of these, if so, could you give me your opinion?

    • Helen says:

      I love Wilkie Collins and The Woman in White is one of my favourite books. I’m glad you enjoyed it! I also liked Pride and Prejudice, though it’s been a very long time since I read it. I haven’t read Bonjour Tristesse yet but I’m pleased to hear that one was enjoyable too.

  2. Lisa says:

    Helen, I’m so glad that you enjoyed The Quiet Gentleman! That is I think my favorite of Georgette Heyer’s books. Drusilla is such a wonderful heroine, the Dowager channels Lady Catherine de Bourgh, & I dote on St Erth. Though Cotillion runs it a close second.

  3. Jo says:

    8 for me for January. Which is more than normal for a January when I have gone back to work. I abandoned The Crimson, Petal and White it was just not working for me, not sure whether it was the length but I have since been reluctant to pick it up again. Maybe one day.

    Not sure where February’s reading is going to take me?

    • Helen says:

      The Crimson Petal and the White did seem quite daunting at first because of the length, but luckily I was quickly pulled into the story and didn’t want to put it down.

  4. Joanne says:

    I’m watching Wolf Hall and I’m really enjoying it. One of the interesting things I found about it is there is quite a lot of silence in it. We’re so surrounded with noise these days that it really stood out for me. I was a bit worried about watching it because it was such a brutal time and I’m very squeamish – but so far no torture!

  5. jessicabookworm says:

    Sounds like you had great first month of reading, I am always so amazed by how much you read. I am also pleased to see the return of your monthly posts. I finished 6 books which is a good amount for me. I am recording Wolf Hall but haven’t watched any of it yet as I have the book on my to-be-read pile, and can’t decide if I should read it first?! Happy reading in February Helen 🙂

    • Helen says:

      I’m glad I read Wolf Hall first as I think it’s making the adaptation easier to follow (and so far it has been quite faithful to the book) but I don’t think it would really matter which way round you do it.

  6. Carmen says:

    You read a lot in a month. I can only manage 3-5 depending on the length.
    I loved The Birth of Venus, read it long ago though I’m planning to reread. I started David Copperfield last year but I saw its length and got discouraged. I’m looking forward to your reviews.
    By the way, I am following your blog now.

    • Helen says:

      Thanks for following, Carmen. 🙂
      We all read at different speeds. Most months I seem to read 8-10 books, but sometimes read more or less. The problem is, if I have a month where I read a lot it means I fall behind with reviews! I’m hoping to post my David Copperfield and The Birth of Venus reviews next week.

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