Normally when I am in London I go to Waterstone’s near Piccadilly Circus and spend way too much money. However, when I was in London last week, I spent most of my time in South Kensington and didn’t really feel like battling the other tourists and the Tube and the humidity. Yes, it was humid and warm though a tad bit rainy on occasion. And heat, humidity and the Tube are not a great combination. Last summer, when I was in London for the weekend, it was around 30C (86F) and taking the Tube was awful in the heat. So I walked everywhere this time and ended up at Harrod’s, where there is a Waterstone’s on the third floor. It’s not as massive as the one at Piccadilly but it has a good selection so I bought four books while I was there. And what did I buy…?
"My Last Duchess" by Daisy Goodwin
My Last Duchess by Daisy Goodwin. The US version of this book is called The American Heiress. I’ve already started reading this one, which tells the story of an American heiress named Cora Cash (whose life is loosely based on that of Consuelo Vanderbilt, the American heiress of her time and who ventured to the UK and married the land-rich but cash-poor Duke of Malrborough) whose socially ambitious mother is determined to find a titled husband for her. Within the first week of arriving in England, Cora meets and becomes engaged to Ivo, the Duke of Wareham.
There’s also a very interesting subplot with Bertha, Cora’s black maid, and the duke’s valet, Jim. Here we get to see how Bertha experiences culture clash, racism and a sense of liberation. Cora, on the other hand, feels more and more stifled by the title she now bears and there are a lot of things she still doesn’t know about the man she married… It’s a page turner.
Cover of "Vaclav & Lena" by Haley Tanner
Vaclav and Lena by Haley Tanner. Vaclav and Lena meet as children in an ESL class in Brooklyn. Vaclav dreams of becoming a magician while Lena takes comfort in Vaclav’s adoration of her and in his family who welcome her.
Then one day Lena disappears and Vaclav tries to figure out what may have happened to her and why she left him. For the next seven years, he says goodnight to her and wonders if she is somewhere doing the same. On the eve of Lena’s 17th birthday, he finds out the truth.
I haven’t started reading this one yet but I opened it to a random page before buying it and was hooked.
"The People Next Door" by Christopher Ransom
The People Next Door by Christopher Ransom. This one was sort of an impulse buy. It sounds like a horror novel about what happens when Mick and Amy Nash’s new neighbors–who seem perfectly normal at first glance–turn out to be not at all what they pretend to be. Mick finds out there is something very wrong with the neighbors and is determined to find out the truth.
Supposedly, The People Next Door is “…the most terrifying, unforgettable novel you’ll read all year”. I’ve read some reviews online that say otherwise. However, I will give it a try. I haven’t read a horror novel in a while. I’ll let you know if I was terrified by it or if it was indeed unforgettable.
"A Visit from the Goon Squad" by Jennifer Egan
And finally, A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. I think everyone has already heard quite a lot about A Visit from the Goon Squad–it having won the 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction as well as being adapted by HBO for a TV series.
A Visit from the Goon Squad is essentially a novel-in-stories, i.e. a collection of stories that are connected and can either be read like a novel or as stories in their own right. I am looking forward to diving into this book so I may do that as soon as I finish reading My Last Duchess.
Of course, I now have A Storm of Swords and A Feast of Crows (books 3 & 4 in the Song of Ice and Fire series, a.k.a Game of Thrones series) by George R.R. Martin so I may be tempted to start with them instead. I didn’t buy these two in London–I’d already ordered them a few days before I left Stockholm. Well, I think I have enough books to keep me busy for a while. 🙂