In the High Peaks

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Some Recent Faves from This Year's Reading List

 Back again--I'm really not sure what has made me such a sluggish blogger this year. I have been taking writing classes online, so that might be part of it. I'm happy to be able to go to the library again on a weekly basis, and so glad not to have to worry as much. 

I enjoyed a two-day trip to the Connecticut River Valley in Massachusetts in early May. On the way there, I had a wonderful first-time visit at The Clark Institute, a renowned art museum in Williamstown, the town that forms the rather mountainous northwest corner of Massachusetts. From there to Historic Deerfield, where I stayed. The weather was not good, so I followed my back-up plan to visit Webs, the yarn superstore in Northampton. My evening meals were lavish and filling, but it was sad to see that so many, many restaurants have closed their doors since Covid. It was extremely difficult to find places to eat breakfast and lunch, and most of the time I didn't. I was traveling solo and I'm accustomed to meeting people, but with Covid restrictions still in place, it was impossible. I think traveling solo will improve perhaps by summer, and hopefully by next fall. 

The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher: I started listening to this on audio, but quickly switched to hardcover. Definitely one of the two best books read this year, (Belonging by Nancy Thayer being the other best read), but oh, I don't know when I've cried so while reading. So many wonderful characters.

Warning! Spoiler Alert! Next paragraph for past readers of The Shell Seekers:

I simply must say that I found the death of Richard so painfully hard to take. I just couldn't accept it. It seemed so unfair, when Penelope and Richard had finally found some happiness and then... All of the deaths in this book were hard, I thought. I guess I was so swept up in the world Pilcher created--that it became almost like real life. 

Another great read was The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, which some of you may have read when it was making news after its publication in 2003 or so. I've always meant to read it and finally did. This one is a family saga, though principally about the son of Bengali immigrants to America. 

I read two novels entitled Dark Horses. This came about because I was searching for the 2021 Dark Horses by Susan Mihalic in the New York Public Library e-book catalog. At that time, the NYPL didn't have this new title, but I became curious about another book, a YA novel named Dark Horses. Both books have the setting and situations of young adult women and girls in the competitive world of equestrian show jumping, a sport I enjoy following, but each has different situations and themes. I recommend them both, but particularly Mihalic's, which I was able to get eventually from our local library. I wasn't sure about it when I discovered what it was about, an intense, abusive relationship between father (coach) and daughter, but I think the author did a great job. Follow the links for more info about these two books. 

I must confess I've read what has seemed like an awful load of mediocre books this year. For my birthday, I received the novel The Forest Lover by Susan Vreeland (2004), set in British Columbia, about the artist Emily Carr.



  1. I hope to read The Shell Seekers someday, I think I can handle the length.

    Right now I am reading The Birdwatcher by William Shaw and getting close to the end. Loving it.

    I have read a lot of good books recently. I finished The Mirror & the Light by Hilary Mantel but it took me a long time. My favorite books in May were: A Month in the Country by JL Carr, Checkmate to Murder by ECR Lorac, and The Man in the Queue by Josephine Tey. But every book I read was good.

    1. Hi Tracy,
      The story covers so many decades and is told, in sections, from so many viewpoints, that I don't think you'll have trouble with its length.
      My all-time favorite of Pilcher's is Winter Solstice, which I've read twice, though I am sure that I'll read it again in the next Christmas season or two.
      Ah! The Birdwatcher! I believe I have it on my Nook. So glad to hear you're loving it--I'll make a note of that. Thanks.
      It gives me hope that you made it through The Mirror and The Light. I tried, but got so bogged down by it by page 60, that I set it aside, hoping inspiration will eventually lead me back to it.
      I'm so glad you had a good reading month.

  2. Oh Judith, I wish I knew you were in the Deerfield/Northampton area, I might have been able to meet you for coffee or lunch as it's not too far from my daughter. Isn't WEBS awesome and, I'm not even a knitter but have been there several times with my daughter.

    Dark Horses was a DNF for me, I didn't like where it was headed:( and, yes, thank goodness for libraries returning to preCOVID days, so happy. I've never read Shell Seekers but know others have loved it. I bought the audio of Belonging and hope to listen this summer. I loved Thayer's new release: Family Reunion.

    also, I loved Namesake when I read it.

    Hope June is a good month for you.

    1. Diane!
      I would have loved to have met up with you, and yes, let's do it in the future. I will be returning to the Deerfield area at some point, to do some research in the great library and archives there--probably not this year, but in 2022, I think. I hope to visit the Boston area in late October.
      Diane, I believe you would love The Shell Seekers and absolutely don't miss her novel Winter Solstice, a stupendous Christmas season read. It touches all the right chords and is my favorite.
      So glad you have the audio of Belonging! I thought the production was very, very well done.
      And I just finished Thayer's The Girls of Summer, which you recommended, and I enjoyed heartily.
      And now I'll keep in mind Family Reunion. Such wonderful listening while indulging my knitting obsession. Yes--Yay Webs!!

  3. I have The Shell Seekers on my pile for the 20 Books of Summer challenge so avoided reading too much about that. I've been lucky I think and have found quite a few good books this year. At the moment I'm thoroughly enjoying A Borrowing of Bones by Paula Munier, a newish crime series set in Vermont. I love that we've been there and I can picture it all.

    1. Hi Cath,
      I really think you will love The Shell Seekers. Sigh! What a book...
      And I'm so glad you've read so many really good books this year.
      And I'm fascinated by your current read, set in Vermont. I am going to immediately look it up. I love visiting Vermont, and if I were a bird, it would not take me an hour to get there, but we have Lake George and Lake Champlain as boundaries, so it's a little bit trickier and longer.
      Just curious, which parts of Vermont did you visit and like best?
      Happy reading!

  4. It's great to see you back Judith. I know what you mean about travelling around at the moment, it's just the same here, very difficult to eat out without jumping through hoops. Everything has to be planned ahead.
    I see that it's 11 years since I read The Shell Seekers, I remember that I enjoyed it but forget the details.

    1. Hi Katrina,
      Yes, jumping through hoops or hunger is on the menu while traveling!
      Winter Solstice is a Pilcher novel that I will read again and again, but I'm wondering if The Shell Seekers has been a one-time experience for me. A colossal novel, but painful and true to real life. Sigh.
      I hope your weather will give your garden a fabulous run this year! And of course best wishes to Jack.

  5. I connected with your post on several things. I love the Clark Museum, which, if I'm not confusing it with another museum, has a great collection of art by one of my favorites, Maurice Prendergast.
    I also read and loved The Shellseekers, only realizing after finishing it that I'd read it and loved it many years ago. Oh, the joys of aging!
    I read The Namesake and liked it, but not as much as I liked Lahiri's book In Other Words.

    1. Hi Joan,
      Absolutely right--the Clark does have a number of Prendergast paintings.
      I, too, read In Other Words this year. It fascinated me. And right now I have Lahiri's most recently published novel in the house, Whereabouts. Have you heard about it? Lahiri wrote it in Italian, then translated it herself into English for publication here. It's a brief novel, made up of very brief chapters, based on the experiences of a woman wandering in her home Italian city--almost anecdotal. Interesting and of course, very good.

    2. It seems I have heard something about this book, not about the content, just that she'd written it in Italian. Thanks for the tip.

  6. It's good to hear from you, Judith, and I'm glad to hear you have been out and traveling a bit. My SIL used to live in Northampton and still visits Deerfield as often as she can... it's one of her favorite places.

    I'm so glad you are enjoying The Shell Seekers! I reread it last summer and it was a highlight of my reading year. I've had Winter Solstice on my list ever since you raved about it here. My plan is to read it before the year is over!

    I just reviewed Jhumpa Lahiri's latest novel, Whereabouts, on my blog today. It's been so long since I read The Namesake, but remember it was wonderful. Her stories may be even better - loved Interpreter of Maladies and Unaccustomed Earth.

    We are getting ready to head north at the end of the month. Our plan is to spent a couple of months on the CT coast with 2 week stays in central NY on either end. Looking forward to seeing family and friends!