Over the course of the last year, I served on a book award committee. For the most part it was a great experience. Brand new, straight from the publisher books arrived at my house (some 1800 titles!) like clockwork. I was privy to writers and titles I never would have discovered on my own. It was interesting work, overwhelming at times but tremendously exciting to be riding the crest of the publishing wave. The downside of this experience was that my reading choices were not truly my own. Someone and something dictated the whole of my reading life. Sad as I am to see a lengthy and engrossing project end I am once again delighted to be reading whatever I please. But where to start? I decided to start by revisiting some old favorites, authors and works I have deeply enjoyed in the past and that seemed perfect for a revisit.
Barbara Buncle is low on cash. Her unorthodox solution to the problem is to write a novel. Lacking in experience but chock full of determination and keen observational skills she writes Disturber of the Peace, a somewhat screwball comedy based on the quirky inhabitants of her own village. The novel is a smashing success and the cash starts to flow until her friends and neighbors begin to recognize themselves within the pages. When her publisher begs for a sequel will Miss Buncle be able to deliver the goods while keeping her neighbors at bay?
Dinner at Antoine’s by Frances Parkinson Keyes.
Wealthy businessman Orson Foxworth hosts a dinner party to introduce his niece Ruth to the cream of New Orleans society. But hours later one of the guests is found dead with a pistol and a note by her side. Keyes' most memorable and best-selling novel is set in the immediate aftermath of World War II. It is an engrossing who-done-it filled with period detail and beautifully mixing the history and customs of 1940’s Louisiana.
The Valorous Years by A. J. Cronin.
Trained as a physician, many of A.J. Cronin’s novels have a hard-working doctor at their heart. The result was a forty-seven year career filled with engaging novels, masterful characters and stories with a deep moral code. In The Valorous Years, Duncan Stirling is a young man whose arm is crippled by polio yet is determined to become a doctor. Without the support of his family, Duncan struggles to believe in himself and to reach is goals. Best known for his 1937 book The Citadel, Cronin was a prolific writer and deeply engaging storyteller whose books have never gone out of style.