These are my favourite reads from January:
Naomi Wood - Mrs Hemingway
A sensitive and engrossing novel, exploring the four women who were married to author Ernest Hemingway. Each woman's story begins in the decaying months of their marriages, with the women looking back on times of passion and the bitter heartache that accompanies the role of wife to one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. We see Ernest through their eyes, his devastating attraction for them, as well as his frailties and failures. This is a fine novel, wonderfully written, an intimate and insightful portrayal of four remarkable women who were not just connected by the man who stole their hearts. Thoroughly recommended.
Jane Holland - Girl Number One
A tense suspense novel, the girl in the title is young P.E. teacher Ellie, who witnessed her mother's murder as a young child. She has blanked out most of the horrific experience, but years later, on the anniversary of her mother's death and at the very place it happened, she comes across another murder victim. The body has disappeared by the time the police get there, leaving Ellie's sanity in question. Supported by friends Hannah and Denzil, colleague Jenny and ex-boyfriend Tris and his brother Connor, Ellie tries to prove her integrity. But as further crimes are committed she begins to doubt the people around her, especially Tris, with whom she still feels a strong connection. We're kept guessing right up to the final moments.
Petra Durst Benning - Paradise of Glass
This is the third novel in the Glassblowers series by this author, set in the German town of Lauscha in late 19th and early 20th century. The final installment of the trilogy takes place in 1911, continuing the story of Wanda, daughter of Ruth. Wanda grew up in America, but in the last novel returned to Germany to meet her birth father, and found that she loved the way of life in the glassblowing community. At the start of this novel she's engaged to a glassblower, Richard, but misses the purpose and opportunities that she had in America. She sets out to raise investment so that the villagers can buy a local glass foundry and save themselves from exploitation. But her well-meaning efforts make her the victim of deception, bringing her misery and at the same time uncovering past family secrets. Aided by young banker David Wagner, hers is a journey of self-discovery. A good, page-turning book that expertly captures the flavour of the era and the setting.