Summer reading: The Feast by Margaret Kennedy, DS Cupidi series by William Shaw and All my Mothers by Joanna Glen
Whether you're at home or abroad this summer, hopefully you'll have time to sit and relax with a good book.
Here are three picks including a reprinted morality tale from 1949, a detective series set in Kent and an exploration of motherhood.
The Feast was written in 1949 by Margaret Kennedy and has recently been republished by Faber books.
I confess I had never heard of the author or her biggest ‘hit’ The Constant Nymph, which achieved critical acclaim both as a book and a play, but on reflection some of Miss Kennedy's observations in The Feast are ahead of their time.
The book opens with the local vicar explaining to a fellow clergyman that he has to give a sermon at the funerals of seven guests at a hotel which which collapsed following a landslide. He recounts the stories he has heard from the survivors about the run up to the catastrophic event and the reader is introduced to a cast of characters.
Many of the guests and staff are extremely unpleasant and I found myself at times not caring who survived given that there were not many likeable personalities. But as the days preceding the accident unfold the ‘goodies’ start to emerge and it soon becomes clear what the moral of the tale is.
In fact, if you read any synopsis or critique of the book one of the first things it tells you is that seven of the characters represent the seven deadly sins. There is indeed a greedy one, a lazy one, a lustful one etc, but the way in which their individual characteristics are revealed is intriguing and in some instances just plain weird.
There’s a very strange passage involving one of the young guests being driven to a country house full of eccentric characters who are clearly on drugs and probably abusers – it is all very alarming. But Miss Kennedy also reflects on society and the general feeling of entitlement and how the class system was changing post war.
I recommend this book with a caveat – read it bearing in mind the period in which it was written – and do 'feast' on the cover which is a work of art even if to my mind it doesn’t reflect the contents!
If you like a good detective yarn I recommend the DS Cupidi books by William Shaw and set in Kent.
The first in the series, Salt Lane, deals with the plight of illegal immigrants, tying in with a mystery corpse and a mother who abandoned her son in the 1990s.
While it may become fairly obvious who the culprit is quite quickly, that doesn't take away from the enjoyment of the unravelling of the mystery and the tying together of the various plots.
It's a good yarn and the central character DS Cupidi has her own demons – of course – to cope with, not least a very annoying name, but I got over that! She is a single mum, newly-arrived from London with an angry teenage daughter.
Her partner in crime Constable Jill Ferriter (Mr Shaw obviously likes making up weird surnames) is an equally convoluted character with her own hang ups, but as a team they work well together.
I was sufficiently taken with them to read the second in the series – Deadland – and that was even better. A severed limb turns up inside a modern sculpture in Margate’s Turner Contemporary while two teenage misfits take on more than they bargained for when they steal a mobile phone.
Make sure you have a 'do not disturb' sign while you are reading these engrossing page turners.
All my Mothers by Joanna Glen is a little gem.
It is the story of Eva Gomez-Green who lives a privileged life in Chelsea, but is convinced that her mother is not her birth mother.
Her parents are evasive about her questions and there are no pictures of her before the age of three. In her quest to discover find her real mother, she makes the discovery that 'family' can be found in the most unexpected places.
Her friendship with Bridget Blume when she starts school shapes her idea of family and what it is to have a loving mother and from there she is on a mission.
Her quest spans years and continents and her idea of what a mother should be is challenged by the women she meets along the way.
Both touching and uplifting this is an emotional roller coaster of a read that will make you smile, but be warned a box of tissues may also come in handy.