Sometimes I just want a book to transport me and both of these books did just that. Set nearly 500 years apart they both entertained and absorbed me. There is nothing better than to curl up on the sofa on a winter’s day with the rain bucketing down outside with a good book – a simple pleasure but you do need the good book.
DARLING by India Knight
I am constantly impressed by how many fiction books are written each year. So many people with so many stories to tell. However, when a writer takes on a known book and updates it to the 21st century and makes it her own and then writes in such a style that has me laughing out loud I am even more impressed.
India Knight has done just that with Darling. She has transported the much loved book, The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford, into the 21st century. The characters come to life from page 1 and are so relatable. India’s observations about modern day life are razor-sharp and her humourous style of writing is wonderfully entertaining.
It is compulsive reading as the re-imagined Radlett family take on the 21st century with equal amounts of eccentricity and heartbreak. Linda, the heartbeat of the story, as with any teenager is looking for passion whilst the rest of the extended family revolve around her each with their own story and value. The exceptionally kind and sensible Fran who narrates most of the story. The short-tempered ageing rock star, Uncle Matthew, and his slightly ditsy and charming wife, Aunt Sadie. Aunt Sadie’s two sisters – the Bolter, Fran’s mother and Aunt Emily who adopts Fran. Linda’s occasionally annoying younger sister, Jassy, and the toddler Robin. Then there are all the family friends, Merlin, Davey etc. And finally Linda’s collection of lovers and husbands including the son of a UKIP peer. Yes it is all there, India has modernised them all without taking away any of their charm and authenticity.
The sign of a good book is when you don’t want it to end and this book is at the top of that book list for me. My only complaint is that it was not long enough!
Buy this book and step into the Radlett world, fill your life with love, laughter and humour and temporarily leave behind our own bad news-filled world. You deserve this treat.
THE MARRIAGE PORTRAIT by Maggie O’Farrell
I think I have admitted more than once in A&G my obsession with the Medicis and Renaissance Italy. They are the Italian Tudors, rich, powerful, brutal and flawed. Combine this with one of my favourite authors, Maggie O’Farrell and we have The Marriage Portrait.
The Marriage Portrait is the story of Lucrezia di Cosimo de’ Medici who left Florence in 1560, aged fifteen years old to begin her married life with Alfonso II d’Este, Duke of Ferrara. Less than a year later, she would be dead. The official cause of her death was given as ‘putrid fever’, however it was rumoured that she had been murdered by her husband.
The Marriage Portrait is Maggie O’Ferrell’s powerful reimagining of this story. It is deliciously colourful and transports the reader back to those brutal and hard-hearted times, the treacherous political world of the Italian Renaissance.
A new Maggie O’Farrell is always a pleasure and after Hamnet I was worried if she could do it again. And as always she has. The beautifully evocative description makes this such a great read.
This story of an arranged marriage is haunting and it made me think that some parts of the modern world have not advanced from these times.