Before the pandemic started I read a book by Benjamin Black about two young English princesses evacuated to Ireland during World War II – The Secret Guests. I meant to pass it on to an old friend who likes war stories with a little romance and intrigue. As it sat on my shelf over the months, I wondered how I would get it to her, since she is now protected from having visitors, and I was reluctant to stand in a post office line to mail a book. Suddenly, I saw Black’s book on a paperback list, and I mailed it to my friend from one of my favorite independent bookstores. At once, I was able to support a small business and thrill an old friend.
Benjamin Black is the pen name of Man Booker Prize winning novelist John Banville. As Benjamin Black he combines mystery and crime in easy-to-read novels. If you are a devoted viewer of The Crown and a fan of all things royal, this story will feed your curiosity about imagined conversations of the future Queen of England and her sister. Short and fun.
Paperbacks are stacked on my shelf too, and here’s one I liberated.
How to Find Love in a Bookshop
Veronica Henry’s slim novel carried me away on an imaginary trip to some of my favorite places – Oxford, Cotswold, and a side trip to Daphne du Maurier’s Fowey. As charming as its name, Nightingale Books is the center for observing the lives of the town’s characters as they meander through a series of romantic interludes and some intrigue.
Henry’s predictable storyline is a comfort to follow. I yearned to be in the bookshop, browsing through its shelves and listening to the owner’s recommendations – Tove Jansson’s adventures in Finn Family Moomintroll sounds inviting. And the cozy restaurant serving gourmet meals for only two at a time, seems perfect in this time of hazardous restaurant eating. I could almost taste the “pear mousse, light and fluffy, with a warm rich chocolate sauce in the middle.”