#6 - OUR ENDLESS NUMBERED DAYS // Claire Fuller
This was my real life book club book and the only one of the month which wasn't a re-read. I'd heard great things and the premise - a little girl, Peggy, gets taken to a cabin in the woods by her father and told the world has ended - sounded promising. It flashes between her time in the woods and 'present day' (1985) when she's back home with her mother. In my head I thought the book would begin with the two of them in the cabin, so I was surprised and a little disappointed with the amount of build up to this there was included. A large portion of the middle of the story is their actual journey to the woods and, although beautifully written, I think this is what let it down. There were at least 50 pages which could have been left out as the story seemed to dwindle and lose momentum. That said, once I'd got past this I managed to finish the book in an evening and by the end of it really enjoyed it. There are some lovely fairy tale references within and definite talking points. Some of the main revelations at the end feel open to interpretation, which led to mystery and much discussion between our book club.
#7 - PRINCE CASPIAN // C.S. Lewis
So my first re-read of the month was the fourth in The Chronicles of Narnia. Having decided to skip The Horse and His Boy (from experience I remember not enjoying it), I was looking forward to heading back into Narnia with the Pevensie children. Prince Caspian felt like a really short book with not much to it. The children are called back to help him reclaim the throne of Narnia from his usurping uncle and much of this book centres on Caspian's story whilst they've been away and their journey through unfamiliar Narnia to meet and help him. If I'm honest, this feels like an introduction to the next installment and although it sets the scene it could have been much shorter.
#8 - THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER // C.S. Lewis
On the other hand, this book is a whirlwind of adventure! So much happens within that I can see why it couldn't be paired up with Prince Caspian. The two younger Pevensies (Edmund and Lucy) find themselves back in Narnia alongside their badly behaved cousin, Eustace. Much like Edmund in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Eustace is a brat who eventually changes his ways and becomes a much nicer person. And despite the main plot of this book being their journey, alongside Prince Caspian, to the end of the world, I feel like Eustace's change of heart is the real learning curve and message in the book. With dragons, invisible people, storms, sea-serpents and more, I really enjoyed this installment. If you like short stories, this works almost as a collection of them.
#9 - THE SILVER CHAIR // C.S. Lewis
Unlike the others, I couldn't really remember much about this one. Eustace is back, alongside schoolmate Jill, and on a quest to find (now) King Caspian's long lost son, Prince Rilian. It's another huge adventure, with giants, gnomes, a witch and the underworld, which again I really enjoyed. Rilian's captivity is a great storyline, although I found the ensuing escape quite hard to visualise and ended up skim-reading some parts. I didn't feel like I was in Narnia as much as I have with the other books, perhaps because none of the original human characters feature, and I do think it was marginally less enjoyable for it. But a wonderful adventure story nonetheless.
#10 - THE LAST BATTLE // C.S. Lewis
The final book in the series, I couldn't remember anything to do with this. It's much darker than the others, and I had a real feeling of despair as I read about the end of Narnia. There's people trying to take over, a vulture-headed god, fights aplenty and a good old fashioned dose of borderline racism. It's just quite a doom-filled book, but I found that it rushed through quite quickly in order to begin the end and have a big revelation about 50 pages from the end. It's difficult to say without ruining it for you! Now that I've finished the series, I feel it relevant to mention the Christian themes running throughout. When I'd previously read the collection, the references seemed so subtle that I barely noticed. This time around I'm surprised I ever missed them. There are so clearly themes of 'being good' - the dangers of pride, gluttony, greed, - having faith, and with Aslan himself acting as a Christ-like figure, I can see how it may be too full-on for some people although I was happy enough to take it all with a pinch of salt. I don't want to say too much here (there's a lot which could be discussed!), but I do now want to read The Narnia Code to find out more.
#11 - WEDLOCK // Wendy MooreAgain, I hadn't read this book for years and always remembered it for being an unexpected gem. It's a biography of sorts, telling the life of Mary Eleanor Bowes - one of the wealthiest heiresses in the country at that time, and (ultimately) great-great-great grandmother to The Queen Mother - who was duped into marriage and ended up a penniless, battered wife. Her life is incredible. Her husband repulsive, deceitful, greedy and abhorrent. Reading as a work of fiction, the events that take place are all the more hard-hitting for being factually true and accurately documented at the time. Involving duels, abortion, domestic violence, adultery and kidnap (at the very least), I urge anybody to read this. Re-reading it has cemented Wedlock as one of my favourite books of all time. I didn't realise that Wendy Moore has also written biographies of other Georgian characters, so will be tracking her other books down soon.