Sunday, 29 July 2018

Two Books to Take on a Cruise to the Canary Islands!

I found it really hard to find any books to take on my cruise to the Canary Islands, because I love to read a novel set in the place that I'm visiting. There's obviously a need for somebody to write some more!
So after a good search on Amazon, I came up with two set in Lanzarote.
They couldn't  be more different from each other: one is an up-to-the-minute picture of a crazy family holiday with lots of thrills and spills by one of my favourite authors, Chrissie Manby, and the other was written in the Sixties by the famous twentieth century novelist, Mary Stewart, whose books I'd never read.
I will start with a  A Proper Family Holiday by Chrissie Manby, about the crazy Benson family. (I've already enjoyed A Proper Family Adventure  when I 'sailed' with them to the Mediterranean; you can read my review here.)
However, this book was written first, and here the Benson family are off to Lanzarote for a week, paid for by Jacqui and Dave. It's her 60th birthday, and this will be the perfect opportunity for getting the family together and telling them a secret they've been keeping.
They have two daughters, Ronnie and Chelsea. Ronnie and Mark have yet to tie the knot, but have Sophie, aged fifteen, and Jack, aged six.
Chelsea works in London on a society magazine. She fell out with her sister two years ago, and they haven't been able to forgive each other for what happened.
Bill, Sophie and Jack's great-granddad and Dave's father, is a great character, always forgetting that he is actually eighty-five years old and getting into as much trouble as Jack!
On the plane, Chelsea meets Adam and his daughter, Lily, who becomes a great rival to Jack. One of the best bits of the story is the sandcastle-making competition!
This is a wonderful family novel with comedy and drama. It flows along, and is brilliant for summer holiday reading.
The Wind Off the Small Isles is a long lost novella by Mary Stewart who died in 2014. She was one of the best selling and best loved writers
of the twentieth century. It was written in 1968 with a foreword from Jennifer Ogden, her niece and companion for the last twelve years of her life.
Set in Lanzarote, with a close attention to detail of the volcanic island and its flora and fauna, the story begins in 1879 when a wealthy young woman elopes with a poor fisherman.
Then in 1968, Coralie Gresham, a writer of children's novels, arrives with her assistant, Perdita West, to find a place to settle down and write a rip-roaring adventure about the Barbary pirates. It so happens that Coralie's son, Michael, is also an assistant to a struggling playwright called James Blair. They have come to the island and have found the perfect house at Playa Blanca.
Whilst Cora is taken out to an old shipwreck to research her story, Perdita goes snorkelling and gets trapped in an underwater cave. She is rescued by Mike, of course, but not before they've discovered what happened to the nineteenth century star-crossed lovers.
This is another wonderful holiday read, yet from a totally different angle to A Proper Family Holiday. It gives the full atmosphere of this Canary Island, exploring the relationships of the twentieth century characters against the story of the past.
Although written fifty years ago, I did not find it stuffy and old-fashioned, but fresh and new. As I said, I haven't read any of Mary Stewart's novels before, but I did see The Moon-Spinners, starring Hayley Mills, which I remember enjoying, so I think I'll look out for some of her other books.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Somewhere Beyond the Sea by Miranda Dickinson - A Romantic, Heartwarming, and Magical Read

Wow! What a romantic story!
I've just finished reading Somewhere Beyond the Sea by Miranda Dickinson, told in alternate chapters by the protagonists, Seren and Jack.

Seren's father has died, leaving her MacArthur's Gallery, tucked into a tiny courtyard in St Ives, and his vision of saving The Old Parsonage, the former home of Elinor Carne, an astronomer who discovered new stars in the nineteenth century when women's endeavours were ignored and their glory given to their male rivals instead.
Seren is a designer and makes beautiful jewellery out of the seaglass that she finds on her morning wanderings on Gwithian Beach. One day, she discovers an half-finished star, made out of seaglass pebbles, and can't resist finishing it herself.

Jack Dixon is on his own with his daughter, Nessie, now that his wife, Tash, has died. He's a qualified and experienced builder, but he's struggling to find work to make ends meet. He and Nessie live in a beach chalet on a holiday park in return for doing odd-jobs for his friend, Jeb. Each evening, he and Nessie go down to Gwithian Beach and half make a seaglass star, hoping the mermaids will complete it.

When Jack is offered a job by Bill Brotherson to redevelop the parsonage site and turn it into flats, Jack and Seren find they are on opposing sides. Will they ever discover who is making/completing the seaglass stars? Will they ever be able to have a future together if the Brotherson scheme goes ahead?

With her colourful descriptions of St Ives, and the many other characters, I could tell how much Miranda Dickinson loves the place. It's one of those novels that really takes you out of your armchair and transports you to somewhere magical. With its song-title title, it is more like her earlier novels and is a heartwarming, marvellous read. I loved it and I'm sure the story of Seren and Jack, and the beauty of St Ives will stay with me for a very long time. It's almost as good as taking a holiday in St Ives itself!