Book Bingo Four: A book more than 500 pages, a book with themes of culture, and a book with a mystery.

 

 

AWW-2018-badge-roseIn my fourth book bingo, I have three books to include and link back to. At this stage, I have almost completed the fifth column on the square, with the final square needing a foreign translated book – yet to be decided. The others are all a little bit spaced out randomly at this stage, but for the most part, shouldn’t be too hard to fill. Whilst I was aiming to fill all of the squares with Australian women authors, with the exception of the translated novel and a novel by an Australian man, I have decided to fill them with what fits with any book as I read them.

Miss Lily 1So, for this week, I have three to report on. There is one that I have known will fit since signing up to this challenge, so let’s start there – A book with more than 500 pages. There are a few that fit into this category, but I chose Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies by Jackie French for this square. Set during the turbulent years of the First World War, Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies is the story of Sophie Higgs, an Australian from a wealthy family, learning ways of engaging men and the upper class of pre-war British society, a society that will come to change in the years of war that will soon plague Europe and the world. As with many of Jackie’s books, it tells the lesser known history, the stories of women – in all walks of life –  whose stories have been overlooked when recording history. It is a touching and emotional story full of ups and downs and gut punches that you don’t see coming, yet they work with the story, and the theme of the untold of casualties of war.

sealwomanAt the end of the second, is a book with themes of culture – The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson. The Sealwoman’s Gift tells the story of Icelanders taken into slavery by Barbary pirates in 1627, ripped away from what they know and transplanted – as all slaves were – into an alien culture where they are forced to adapt and assimilate. Ásta, the main character, struggles with her old identity and her new one, and the forced separation of her family. From Iceland to Algiers and back to Iceland, the differing cultures are referred to, and the uniting feature of story-telling of cultures shines through.

OLMEC_B_SMLFinally, my third square for this week is the fifteenth square, a book with a mystery. For this one, I read Olmec Obituary by L.J.M. Owen, the first in the Dr Elizabeth Pimms series. It has a mystery – an ancient mystery. It’s cases so cold, only a trained archaeologist-cum-librarian can solve them. It is an excellent book with mysterious colleagues who show nothing but hatred, family secrets and ancient mysteries, where people want to cover up the truth. It is a great start to the series, and though the ending leaves a few unanswered questions, I am hoping these will be picked up throughout the series. The main character is well established, and it is a decent read with a good pace that keeps things interesting, going back and forth to build the mystery of the past and finally reveal what happened.

As I go through this book bingo, I am marking the squares off that are easily completed first or that are fairly broad and open, and leaving the more challenging ones for now, until I come across something that fits them.

book bingo 2018.jpg

Booktopia

Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies by Jackie French (Miss Lily #1)

Miss Lily 1Title: Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies

Author: Jackie French

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: HarperCollins

Published: 27th March 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 524

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: A tale of espionage, love and passionate heroism.

Inspired by true events, this is the story of how society’s ‘lovely ladies’ won a war.

Each year at secluded Shillings Hall, in the snow-crisped English countryside, the mysterious Miss Lily draws around her young women selected from Europe’s royal and most influential families. Her girls are taught how to captivate a man – and find a potential husband – at a dinner, in a salon, or at a grouse shoot, and in ways that would surprise outsiders. For in 1914, persuading and charming men is the only true power a woman has.

Sophie Higgs is the daughter of Australia’s king of corned beef and the only ‘colonial’ brought to Shillings Hall. Of all Miss Lily’s lovely ladies, however, she is also the only one who suspects Miss Lily’s true purpose.

As the chaos of war spreads, women across Europe shrug off etiquette. The lovely ladies and their less privileged sisters become the unacknowledged backbone of the war, creating hospitals, canteens and transport systems where bungling officials fail to cope. And when tens of thousands can die in a single day’s battle, Sophie must use the skills Miss Lily taught her to prevent war’s most devastating weapon yet.

But is Miss Lily heroine or traitor? And who, exactly, is she?

~*~

AWW-2018-badge-roseSophie Higgs lives in Australia at Thuringa, in 1913. Her father runs a corned beef empire, and Australian women have had the vote for eleven years, unlike the women in England, who are still fighting for suffrage. Sophie’s father sends her across the seas to Shillings, where, alongside women from the upper echelons of European society and royalty, Sophie will be taught by the mysterious Miss Lily about society, and how to behave at dinner, how to talk to men and captivate them, how to flatter them, and how to speak about topics that are said to be not right for a woman to know about. But Sophie is a bit of a challenge – the “colonial” who is outspoken and questions everything she is told. Miss Lily takes Sophie under her wing and sets about preparing her for a society life where she can fit in yet still be who she is. As 1914 inches towards war between Germany and England, Sophie must decide who she can trust. Emily, who has always been aloof and focussed? Or Hannelore, a German princess who is friendly but determined that Germany will win any war that breaks out on the continent. As war breaks out, and the Lovely Ladies head home or get married, Sophie is adrift, but determined to make a difference. With the Australians joining the call to duty and heading to Gallipoli, Sophie helps Alison turn her home into a hospital for injured soldiers. As soldiers die, and babies are born, Sophie is drawn further into the war, and across the seas to the battlefields of Ypres and Flanders, where she recounts her tale to a soldier out on the fields, before they head off the battlefields, where the war slowly wraps up, and Sophie finds herself looking to an uncertain future in the inter-war years.

In Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies, Jackie French does not shy away from the horrors of war or the expectations of pre-war Georgian society. The dangers are present, and spoken about, openly and in veiled terms. When Sophie speaks about the threat of war openly. it surprises many, but she finds some men who find relief in not having to curb their chit-chat too much. Like her other novels, Jackie French is telling the stories that have been silence, or relegated to the quieter corners of history, away from the victories of those on the battlefields. whose voices are always heard. The extensive research she has done to uncover these stories is exemplary, and shows just how deep Australian history is, and how much we often miss out on in history lessons.

Sophie’s story ends with a few threads dangling, as a good series does, leaving some mystery for the books to com. The power of friendship felt more important than the romance in this book, though both were present. The romance was woven throughout nicely, so it didn’t overpower what Sophie was trying to do in the war, or her relationship with Alison and the other Lovely Ladies. I had a delightful surprise to meet Midge MacPherson from A Rose for the Anzac Boys again, and I hope she’ll come back in the next book.

The friends that Sophie made throughout the war became important to her, unable to return home because of the threat of enemy attacks, she treasured those she became friends with. As it is a story about war, I felt the deaths and consequences were dealt with realistically and sympathetically, showing the changes in Sophie over the war that altered her perception of herself and the world. I thoroughly enjoyed Sophie’s journey and look forward to it continuing, as I did with Miss Matilda and the Matilda Saga.

An excellent addition to my Jackie French Library, and a great read for fans of the author and historical fiction.

This marks off another square in my book bingo, and will be included in my next post in two weeks time.

Booktopia