Janet Gordon’s latest book reviews including Frontline by TV Doctor Hilary Jones, Three Weddings and a Proposal by Sheila O’Flanagan and Miss Aldridge Regrets by Louise Hare
Janet Gordon, who lives in Takeley, reviews bestsellers and early fiction for India…
Frontline by Dr Hilary Jones (Welbeck £8.99)
TV doctor Hilary Jones surely needs no introduction and he’s now turned his attention to the world of fiction. It is obvious from the outset that the author of Frontline is a doctor since the information regarding injuries, treatments and surgery etc. would be paid to Google.
In the pages of World War I history, we meet Grace, a daughter of landed gentry who loves horses and is determined to play her part by volunteering as a nurse and taking her beautiful horse with her. Did you know that more than 300,000 horses took part in the First World War?
Then there’s Will – tall, handsome, confident and able to pass for so much older than he really is – who was only 15 when he enlisted.
And, of course, practically on the Western front, the two meet. Grace, who is now much more than a horse nurse and has also become a paramedic, recognizes that there is something extraordinary about Will.
Will becomes a stretcher-bearer and almost a doctor at a time when victims threatened to overwhelm – if you thought you could, you did.
That said, it’s a love story set in wartime, and while there’s sometimes too much medical information, it’s a gripping read nonetheless. As the author says, it is “a tribute to the men and women who fought in what was supposed to be the war to end all wars.”
Three Weddings and a Proposal by Sheila O’Flanagan (title £8.99)
There’s something about Irish authors and the way they write such touching novels, and Sheila O’Flanagan is definitely one of my favorites. Her latest – bringing her total of published novels to nearly 30 – is Three Weddings and a Proposal.
It’s told from the perspective of Delphie, executive assistant to a millionaire Irish businessman, who is “living her best life” (I really don’t like that phrase, but maybe that’s just me) , traveling with her employer, staying at all the best hotels in the most beautiful countries and, at the start of the story, she is about to finalize the purchase at auction of a £100,000 bracelet for the mistress of her business man.
The only slight cloud on her horizon is the fact that a family wedding is looming and Delphie must appoint someone more to accompany her. She’s about to ask one of her best friends when, on a business trip, she bumps into an old flame – the one she still thinks about, once in a while – and, suddenly, head, she invites him to become her plus one. And then disaster strikes Delphie from all sides.
It’s a wonderful beach read, to be enjoyed with a G&T. I never miss a Sheila O’Flanagan novel.
Miss Aldridge Regrets by Louise Hare (HQ £14.99)
I’ll confess here – I’ve never been on a cruise ship or ocean liner. But when I was a child, my cheeky aunt used to go back and forth to New York on the Queen Mary or the Queen Elizabeth and I grew up captivated by her stories – and amazed by the one time she traveled. In first class.
Also, once I was allowed into the adult library (after reading all the books in the children’s section) I was still found nose in an Agatha Christie, so the combination of a trip at sea and a murder mystery was always going to get my vote – and although I’m only halfway through Miss Aldridge Regrets, I’m already hooked.
It’s 1936 and Lena Aldridge is a smoky singer in a sleazy nightclub, pondering her future. But she was offered the chance to escape the dangerous thing she did by fleeing to New York on the Queen Mary – how could she not take it?
This murder mystery is reminiscent of the era — dinner dress-up, class structures — and is a wonderful read, written so elegantly. I liked it.
England: A Class Apart: An Outsider’s View by Detlev Piltz (Bloomsbury Press £20)
And speaking of class, what would the UK be without any reference to its class system? From that wonderful TV sketch with John Cleese and The Two Ronnies looking down on each other, to the whims of “U” and “not U” as defined by Nancy Mitford, we are obsessed with it. Does anyone remember the Sloane Ranger Diaries from the 80s?
A Class Apart is an ironic and very Germanic take on us from Professor Piltz, who has apparently been watching us for years. And apparently the first thing we do when we meet someone new is identify what class we think they belong to. I didn’t know I had done that, but, on reflection, maybe I did.
But the subject fascinates me – and obviously it fascinates us all. Witness the popularity of Downton Abbey or, even further, Upstairs Downstairs.
A Class Apart is a real dive into the book, bringing all of our English idiosyncrasies to light. Absolutely fascinating.
Chemistry Lessons by Bonnie Garmus (Doubleday £14.99)
It sounds unbelievable, but in the late 70s when I was scheduled for my first major surgery, my ex had to sign my consent forms and no “but it’s my body” cut the ice with the authorities and their rules. I certainly could have done with a heroine like Elizabeth Zott to convince them.
On the face of it, Lessons in Chemistry isn’t something I would appreciate having done the opposite of excelling in both math and chemistry. But, oh my, what a wonderful woman Elizabeth Zott is.
She just refuses to compromise – she’s a scientist and it doesn’t matter that she’s a woman. Her mind is the equal of anyone and she is very happy to prove it.
Taking a job at the Hastings Institute and working with – of course – an all-male team, she is strangely drawn to the brilliant Nobel nominee Carl Evans, a lonely, brilliant scientist who runs the institute and falls into the love with the spirit of Elizabeth.
I love, love, love the way Bonnie Garmus writes. For example, Elizabeth and Carl have a “discussion” about rowing that Carl is obsessed with and he wants Elizabeth to join him.
” I do not want. Besides, you’re rowing at 4:30 in the morning.
“I row at 5,” he said, as if that made things so much more reasonable. “I don’t leave the house until four-thirty.”
But life is unpredictable and continuous. Elizabeth finds herself a single mother and unlikely star of the cooking show Supper At Six. Oh, and she has a dog named Six Thirty (the time she found him) and we’re also entitled to her thoughts.
The writing is so tight, so bubbly and so witty and I love Elizabeth Zott. It’s a debut novel surrounded by so much hype, but it’s all justified and will soon be an Apple TV series. Oh how I wish I was Elizabeth Zott.
Susan Cannon, from Greenstead, Sawbridgeworth, and Carole Nott, from Thornbera Gardens, Bishop’s Stortford, won copies of Dani Atkins’ Six Days and Elly Griffiths’ The Locked Room in our March 30 competitions. Jan Winter (Six Days) and Wendy Hollingsworth (The Locked Room) are also winners.