Book Reviews: The CountryWives Ten Best Books of 2018

Over the past year we have all read some great books so here are our Top Ten Best Books of 2018 chosen by Annabel, Grace and our own reviewer, The Page Turner.

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THIS IS GOING TO HURT by ADAM KAY (reviewed by The Page Turner) This is the story of the life of a Junior Doctor.

Best books of 2018 / It's going to hurt / Book review

I am a fervent supporter of the NHS, particularly as it has come to mine and, more recently, my grandchildren’s aid, many times. This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay is a frank record of his time as a junior doctor between the years of 2004 and 2010. His diary is his memoir of being on the front line of the NHS. He writes of the joy, pain and very often the frustration at all the bureaucracy.

Adam Kay’s diary is his memoir of being on the front line of the NHS. He writes of the joy, pain and very often the frustration at all the bureaucracy.

It has been a long time since I have laughed out loud and conversely cried at all the things he had to deal with. The account of his first six months in Surgery brought tears to my eyes and probably those too of his patients. For the full review click HERE.

A DIFFERENT KIND OF DAUGHTER by Maria Toorpakai with Katharine Holstein (reviewed by The Page Turner). This is an amazing story of Hardship, Love, Struggle and Success.

Best books of 2018 / A Different Kind of Daughter / Book Review

Maria Toorpakai was born in 1990 in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

Maria was brought up as a boy, not as a typical Tribal daughter. Her remarkable Father Shamsul Qayyum Wazir made all this possible.

Just before her fifth birthday Maria went on a ‘quiet rampage through the house’, gathered up all her dresses and took them to the cooking pit and burnt them. This was witnessed by her Father who quietly accepted it.

A few days earlier Maria had complained about being suffocated by the dresses and confinement. So her father bought her a yellow T-shirt and shorts. Maria then ‘experienced a great rush of freedom’ as she left the home wearing her new outfit and her new identity. Her Father named her Genghis Khan.

To read the full review click HERE

CHILD OF ALL NATIONS by Irmgard Keun.(reviewed by The Page Turner) This book, Child of all Nations, was recommended to me by the salesman in Waterstones. I had no previous knowledge of this author.

Books of 2018 / A Child of all Nations / Book review

Keun was born in 1905 and lived in Berlin. While growing up she wanted to be an actress. But having failed at this she started writing novels in 1929. She had instant success but this led them to being black listed by the Nazis for their immoral depictions of the modern young woman. She lived in Germany during the war years under an assumed name.

After the War she wrote humorous sketches for radio and had a daughter whom she brought up on her own. By the time she died she had gathered a following made up of younger generation feminists.

Child of all Nations is a delightful novella. The main character is Kully the daughter of a German writer, who has been banned from Germany for his writings. Kully is educated in the ways of the world but not academically. She knows how to roll a cigarette, pack suitcases and what you need to enter different countries. Kully lives in a very adult world, meeting eccentric characters on the way. She understands life dangers.

For the full review click HERE.

TRANSCRIPTION by KATE ATKINSON. (reviewed by Annabel) This is the latest from this sublime author. Kate Atkinson has written eleven books in total and her last two, Life after Life and A God in Ruins are hard to beat. This time around it’s not so much life after life, but aftermath and afterlife that Atkinson is concerned with, making the point that our lives are not tidily parcelled but extend beyond moments of drama into periods of consequence and reckoning.

Best books of 2018 . Transcription / Book review

In 1940, eighteen-year old Juliet Armstrong is reluctantly recruited into the world of espionage. Sent to an obscure department of MI5 tasked with monitoring the comings and goings of British Fascist sympathisers, she discovers the work to be by turns both tedious and terrifying. But after the war has ended, she presumes the events of those years have been relegated to the past for ever.

Ten years later, now a producer at the BBC, Juliet is unexpectedly confronted by figures from her past. A different war is being fought now, on a different battleground, but Juliet finds herself once more under threat. A bill of reckoning is due, and she finally begins to realise that there is no action without consequence.

For full review click HERE.

TIN MAN by SARAH WINMAN (reviewed by Annabel) From the internationally bestselling author of WHEN GOD WAS A RABBIT comes a heartbreaking celebration of love in all its forms, and the moments that illuminate the life of one man. Sarah Winman, author of the Tin Man, has written a beautifully crafted book which is much more than a simple love story. It is an intricately woven story of so many different relationships.

Best books of 2018 / Tin Man / Book review

Two young boys, Ellis and Michael, are thrown together through different circumstances and this is the story of each of their lives. They grow up with their lives woven together and also apart. They discover their sexuality however it is only when Annie comes into their lives that life becomes complicated. It is a triangle of love that is hard to separate but the author, Sarah Winman, manages to write Tin Man in such a way that is both powerful and delicate. She understands the complications of young childhood love and how it can develop into something different but the bond is never broken. Her warmth and compassion for two boys discovering their sexuality is portrayed with such intimacy yet it never crosses the boundary into seediness.

For full review click HERE.

THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ by Heather Morris (reviewed by Annabel) When I visited Auschwitz in June I thought it was a good time to read this book, The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris. It has been top of so many bestselling lists and whilst I have read many books written by survivors of the Auschwitz death camp, there are always more stories to be told.

Best books of 2018 / The Tattooist of Auschwitz / Book review

This story is unlike so many others that have been written about this appalling time in the world’s history. I felt that unlike other books there was an incredible feeling of hope that ran throughout The Tattooist of Auschwitz. Hope is what we all need to keep us going and it is extraordinary that in Auschwitz some of the prisoners could find hope. Because of this I found the book very uplifting as the love between Lale and Gita was obviously what kept them going as they lived for the snatched minutes together. However it also seemed to be uplifting for some of their friends, perhaps because for them they were surrounded by evil and darkness and then there was this one tiny flickering light of hope. Two people found each other and found love. It is like seeing one small flower breaking through a mass of weeds – it seems all the more beautiful because you can see the struggle it has had to survive but it found the sunlight eventually and bloomed.

For the full review click HERE.

MUNICH by ROBERT HARRIS (reviewed by the Page Turner). I read this book just after seeing the film, The Darkest Hour.

Best books of 2018 / Munich / Book review

Harris’s spy novel, Munich, is set in September 1938. Neville Chamberlain is Prime Minister and is fighting to secure a last-ditch peace deal with Hitler. Hitler at this point is threatening to invade The Czechoslovak Republic and force them to give non-Czechs major concessions.

Harris treats Chamberlain in a kindly sympathetic way unlike most historians. He makes an intelligent argument for a man who desperately believed he could avoid war. Although Chamberlain did install back up plans in case war was unavoidable.

Harris creates a thriller plot with in this scenario. There are two main characters. Hugh Legat, a private secretary to Chamberlain and a German Diplomat, Paul Hartmann. They had met previously at Oxford and were long lost University friends. They hadn’t met since those days. Hartmann is part of a group that is plotting to depose Hitler. He sees the meeting of the leaders in Munich as an opportunity to stop the treaty being signed and highlight to the British the dangers that Hitler will create if left in power.

For full review click HERE.

THE BOLTER by FRANCIS OSBORNE (reviewed by Annabel) As was once famously said by Mark Twain, “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn’t.”  The Bolter by Frances Osborne is a good example of this quote as alcohol, cocaine, promiscuity, nympho­mania, wife swapping, divorce and profligate spending are rife in this book. It is the true story of Lady Idina Sackville born in 1893, an English aristocrat and member of the Happy Valley set. Her behaviour and lifestyle scandalised middle class society and that was 100 years ago, however even now some of it would be considered quite wild!

Best books of 2018 / The Bolter / Book review

I have often described books as ‘page turners’ however in every case they have been works of fiction. This book written by Frances Osborne, Idina’s great granddaughter, is the first biography that I have ever read that I would classify as such. It was hard to put down and there were chapters where I was shocked by the behaviour of this seemingly upper class group that it made me feel like a real boring middle-class wife! She married and divorced 5 times and died when she was 62 years of age. She was called The Bolter however she was more of a Boltee (if there was such a word) since in most cases her husbands left her. She did not confine her liaisons to her husbands and there were a fair few lovers along the way.

For full review click HERE.

LULLABY by LEILA SLÏMANI (reviewed by Annabel) When I hear that a book is a must-read, international bestseller I always worry that it is not going to live up to its hype. However Lullaby by Leïla Slimani does not disappoint, it does more than that, it actually exceeds the hype.

Best books of 2018 / Lullaby / Book review

When Myriam, a French-Moroccan lawyer, decides to return to work after having children, she and her husband look for the perfect caretaker for their two young children. They never dreamed they would find Louise: a quiet, polite and devoted woman who sings to their children, cleans the family’s chic apartment in Paris’s upscale tenth arrondissement, stays late without complaint and is able to host enviable birthday parties.

The couple and nanny become more dependent on each other. But as jealousy, resentment and suspicions increase, Myriam and Paul’s idyllic tableau is shattered…

For the full review click HERE.

LAND OF PLENTY by CHARLIE PYE-SMITH (reviewed by the Page Turner) When I was handed this book, Land of Plenty by Charlie Pye-Smith, to review my heart sank. Was I really interested in reading a book about the land and agriculture? Well I was riveted from start to finish. I have learnt so much. Farming has changed from being a prosperous way of life to being one of extreme hard work and struggle.

Best books of 2018 / Land of Plenty / Book review

In order to research this book Charlie travelled around the country in a motor home. He started in the Spring of one year and finished the following Spring. He visited large estates, hill farms, and fruit and vegetable farms. He looked at the pros and cons of indoor and outdoor animal keeping. These chapters challenged me.

Large subsidies from the EU have certainly contributed to the changes in the way the land has been farmed in the past few decades. The EU demanded the increase in dairy products. Farmers invested in dairy herds but this led to the butter mountain. There are other examples of similar over production. As a result, farmers sold their herds and took up arable farming and produced quantities of rape and wheat. This led to the soil being sapped of all its minerals and it becoming far less fertile. So now Farmers are returning to the old system of rotation mixed with the return of animals and the use of their manure.

For the full review click HERE.