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From Regency to sheep farming: Some books I’ve loved in 2016

It’s coming up to the end of another year and this is my fourth Christmas running this blog. I didn’t know when I started just how much fun I’d have with it, how many people I’d meet, and how many authors and book lovers I’d come to know because of it. I remember writing my first ever post and wondering who on earth would ever read it. People have told me that blogging is “on the way out”, but as far as I can see, in the book world blogs are alive and thriving, which is great to see!

I’ve discovered a lot of great books through book bloggers that I wouldn’t otherwise have found. Since 2016 is almost over, I thought I’d share some books I’ve read this year and loved.

First up is The Death of Lyndon Wilder and the Consequences Thereof, by E.A. Dineley (also known as Libby Dineley)

helena fairfax, e.a. dineley, I absolutely loved this book from start to finish, and I have no idea why it’s not more widely known. Fans of Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen (two of my own favourite authors) would all love it. It was first published in 2013 but I only heard of it this year when my aunt lent me her copy. She thought I’d like it…and I did!

The story starts – as the title suggests – with the death of Lyndon Wilder, the oldest and favourite son of Lord and Lady Charles Wilder, who are both absolutely distraught and plunged into bitter mourning. Lyndon has died in the Napoleonic wars, and his younger brother, Major Thomas Wilder, is now forced to leave the army he loves and return to run the crumbling estate. The reader sees the Major arrive from the viewpoint of Anna, the governess, and her young charge, Lyndon’s little daughter Lottie, who are both peeping down into the entrance hall from the landing. The house has been in deep mourning for far too long and is unnaturally dark. The Major strides in and throws back all the shutters. I thought it was a great entrance, and for the rest of the book I was totally charmed by the hero, the governess, and a whole cast of extremely well-drawn characters. E.A. Dineley has thoroughly researched the period and the historical detail adds greatly to the story. There is so much else I loved – the witty dialogue, the intricacies of the plot, the surprises in store, the gentle unfolding of the love story. This book is much more than a charming read – it deals with themes of loss and mourning, raising children, dyslexia, social inequality, the role of women in society, the brutal nature of war, male friendship, and growing up. I laughed out loud at some parts, and some scenes moved me to tears.

I was really glad to discover this book. I read the sequel – Castle Orchard – straightaway, and I do hope E.A. Dineley writes some more. I hope my recommendation gains her lots more readers because she deserves them.

Another book I enjoyed this year is The Shepherd’s Life, by James Rebanks

james rebanks, helena fairfaxJames Rebanks’ family have farmed the same area in the Lake District for more than six hundred years, which in this era of globalisation and movement of people is absolutely astonishing. I literally don’t know a single family whose children even live in the same area any more, let alone have lived in the same place for generations.

Here’s the blurb to the book: Some people’s lives are entirely their own creations. James Rebanks’ isn’t. The first son of a shepherd, who was the first son of a shepherd himself, he and his family have lived and worked in and around the Lake District for generations. Their way of life is ordered by the seasons and the work they demand, and has been for hundreds of years. A Viking would understand the work they do: sending the sheep to the fells in the summer and making the hay; the autumn fairs where the flocks are replenished; the gruelling toil of winter when the sheep must be kept alive, and the light-headedness that comes with spring, as the lambs are born and the sheep get ready to return to the fells.

This isn’t a romantic story of life in the countryside – James Rebanks tells it all, from bunking off school (he couldn’t see the point of it) to fist fights outside the local pub. It’s a totally absorbing read, moving and lyrical in parts. I learned so much about the Lakes that I previously took for granted. I’m used to being around sheep farmers as I live on the edge of the Yorkshire moors – I feature a sheep farm in my book A Way from Heart to Heart – but I hadn’t until now appreciated the extraordinary knowledge that is passed down for generations, just how important it is to keep these traditions alive, and the way farmers feel they are invisible in the landscape. There’s also the social snobbery – farming is hard, dirty work, and yet it’s looked down on by many people. Rebanks made me smile when he made the ironic comment that after he went to Oxford he was able “to pull middle-class birds”. It was a wry smile, though. (I hate snobs.) Anyone who reads this book will have a lot more respect for farmers and a lot more knowledge of the customs of the countryside. It was a fascinating read.

helena fairfax, liane moriartyAnd now for something completely different! Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty.

This is the first book by Liane Moriarty I’ve read, and I’m definitely going to check out her other books. The book was a complete surprise, in a great way. I read it because Liane Moriarty is so massively popular and I wanted to find out why. Now I know! Her characters are completely believable and have a real depth. She is a very clever writer. This story hinges around the events at a barbecue and is told from several points of view. This is the page-turning quality – you want to find out just what happened – but the characters themselves are really well drawn. The story revolves around two women – Erika and Clementine – who have been unlikely friends since childhood. Are they really friends? And if they are so unalike, why are they still seeing each other? Liane Moriarty made their relationship totally believable. The relationships between the characters are beautifully observed and I couldn’t put the book down until the very end.

Liane Moriarty’s The Husband’s Secret is on my Kindle now, and I’m very much looking forward to reading it.

* * *

These are just three of the great books I’ve read this year. I get lots of recommendations by following book bloggers, and I’m really grateful to people who take the time to post reviews.

I hope you like my selection. If you’ve read any of these books, I’d love to know what you thought of them. And if you have any recommendations regarding books you’ve read this year, I’d love to hear them!

And lastly, wishing everyone a very happy and peaceful Christmas!

 

 

 

 

 

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16 thoughts on “From Regency to sheep farming: Some books I’ve loved in 2016

  1. I’ve been hearing blogs are on their way out for a couple of years now Helena but I don’t believe it :)

    Interesting books you have read. The Shepherd’s Life sounds an entertaining read.

    Wishing you a merry Yule Helena. Blessings of love and laughter for 2017 xx

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  2. An interesting list, Helena, and I’ve not read any of them. I’m gradually working my way through well over 100 books on kindle plus several shelves of paperbacks, usually two at a time, one on kindle for bed and a paperback for reading downstairs. Wishing you and yours a wonderful Christmas!

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    1. Hi Rosemary, what a great idea to have a book upstairs and a book downstairs! I like reading my Kindle in bed. It’s much lighter than a paperback, and if I can’t sleep, I don’t have to turn the light on to read and disturb my husband.
      Happy Christmas to you and family!

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  3. Thanks for your book recommendations. I am very interested to read A Shepherd’s Life as my current research is focused on central Ontario livestock farmers and their losses from predators. I have learned so much so far from them as they are so very knowledgeable about what they do and how they do it. I saw the book in passing before but never stopped to learn what it was about, so thanks for the info! I must go out and get a copy very soon. Merry Christmas to you and your family Helena. Cheers. Lynn

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    1. That sounds such an interesting topic, Lynn. Luckily here in the UK we don’t have the predators you would have in Ontario. James Rebanks doesn’t make any mention of predators, at least. One thing he does mention is dog-walkers. The Lake District is a tourist area and full of walkers who come in from town. Dogs off the lead are a nuisance and can do a lot of damage.
      You can follow James Rebanks on Twitter @herdyshepher1. He’s very interested in farming around the world. I bet if you had any questions for him or wanted to get in touch, he’d be really helpful.
      Thanks so much for dropping in, Lynn, and for your comment. Wishing you and your family all the very best for Christmas xx

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  4. What a diverse list of books you shared. I have not read them nor heard about the authors. I love reading books set in my region of the world too. But always fun to learn about new areas. Thanks for spotlighting these. Some day I’m going to go thru my Kindle and Overdrive history and choose my faves. I’m looking for some great memoirs to read this year. Merry Christmas to you and your family!!

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  5. Thank you for these recommendations, Helena. I am going to buy The Death of Lyndon Wylder. It sounds like a wonderful read and exactly the kind of novels I love! I very enjoyed A Shepherd’s Life too.

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    1. It’s a great book, Marie. I hope you like it as much as I do! And I saw on Twitter that James Rebanks is writing another book. I’m looking forward to reading it when it comes out. Thanks for dropping in!

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  6. Great reviews, Helena. I’m going to check out Truly, Madly, Guilty. Such a great title. Hope you’ve had a wonderful holiday. Have I missed it? I’m not sure what you’re working on now. I got 3000 words done yesterday on my next book. Got me up to 16,644. Long ways to go, but it’s moving. :) Not sure why I’m not getting notification of your blogs. I see it on FB, but then I can’t actually post on the blog and sometimes I don’t get back to the computer to check it out. Will have to do better. I love your blog posts and I love blogging. It’s been an interesting journey. Happy New Year.

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    1. Hope you had a great holiday, too, Marsha. It was over too quickly!
      I’m sorry you don’t get notifications of my blog. Do you think the notifications might be going in your spam box? At least you can see it on FB when I post something, but I hope they start turning up in your email.
      That’s great news about your next book. Congratulations on getting 3000 words done in a day. Something I’ve never managed to achieve! It’s hard to get re-motivated after the Christmas break. I’m working on two books at the moment, alternately. I’ve done about 12,000 words of one, and around 3,000 of the other. I also have a completed ms and this time I’m looking for an agent. Everything takes time and work – but you already know how hard writing is!
      I love blogging, too. It does take away from writing time but it’s fun and it keeps me connected with other writers.
      Happy New Year to you and family, and best wishes for your next book!

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