The Romantic Novelists' Association is celebrating its 60th anniversary next year. In honour of this, they have asked members to submit the titles of books that they have enjoyed, one from each decade of the Association's life. I chose Anya Seton's Green Darkness as I remembered finding it riveting in the late 1970s. I decided to re-read it this month.
Anya Seton - Green Darkness
This is a big, long novel, although as the print is tiny (my copy was printed in 1975), the paperback is smaller than a book of similar length published today. The author's command of history provides a colourful background for this story of reincarnation. It's based around the story of the Tudor manor house, Ightham Mote, in Kent (I actually visited the house in the 1980s). The twentieth century section of the novel involves Celia Marsden and her aristocratic husband Richard, who find themselves influenced by their previous lives in Tudor times as Celia de Bohun, from an impoverished landowning family, and Stephen, a young priest. Their forbidden love spans the troubled times of Mary Tudor's reign. The novel is more melodramatic than I remembered, and the modern day writing is idiomatic of the late 1960s, when romantic heroes and heroines were aristocratic and attitudes not as politically correct as today.. Although my tastes have changed and I wouldn't choose it as my favourite novel today, the historic sections have authenticity and it remains a good solid read.
Cathy Kelly - The Year that Changed Everything
Typical of this popular author, this novel has characters that engage, a story that pulls you in, set around families, modern day problems, and has a satisfying resolution. I always find Cathy Kelly's novels enjoyable, and this is no exception. Three women share the same birthday: Callie, ex-model and wife of businessman Jason, is fifty, and didn't really want the flash party that he's throwing for her. Before the day is over, a shock revelation changes her and her daughter's life forever. Sam, forty on the same day, is looking forward to the birth of her longed-for first child. She's read all the books, and is fully prepared - isn't she? Journalist Ginger's thirtieth birthday is also her best friend's wedding day. But an overheard conversation destroys her fragile self-esteem and throws her life on to a different path. Each story is fascinating with its twists and turns. The women's lives eventually cross - although I felt that it would have been more satisfying if the connection had come sooner. Still, another excellent book by this author.