Bedtime Stories: March 2021

  • March 26, 2021

What do book lovers have queued up on their nightstands and ready to read before lights-out? We asked one of them, and here’s what she said.

Bedtime Stories: March 2021

M.K. Tod:

The night table is jammed with books at the moment, and along with my handy Kindle, there are at least 12 waiting to be read. I’ve even hidden some behind a family photo so they can’t glare at me.

I recently finished The Sea Gate by Jane Johnson, an author who first captured my imagination with her novel The Tenth Gift. Dual-timeline novels are challenging because the balance has to be just right. Johnson does this beautifully in The Sea Gate, which is set in both present-day and World War II Cornwall. In the present-day story, we meet Becky, a young woman who flees London and her longtime partner to rescue a cousin she’s never met (an elderly, cantankerous, and fiercely determined woman), a raucous parrot, and a man from Morocco. There’s also a derelict house in windswept Cornwall and a scandalous secret that occurred during WWII. The novel explores themes of courage and endurance, the damage inflicted by families, and the search for independence.

Earlier this winter, as pandemic lockdowns continued in my hometown of Toronto, fiction failed to work its usual magic. After starting and stopping numerous novels, I turned to nonfiction with the thought of writing a new novel set in France and centered on D-Day. First up was The Longest Day by Cornelius Ryan, which I devoured in less than a week, and then Ben Macintyre’s Double Cross and Agnes Humbert’s Resistance. I’m now partway through D-Day Girls by Sarah Rose, the true story of female saboteurs trained in everything from demolition to intelligence-gathering to sharpshooting in order to lay the groundwork for the invasion.

I’m also partway through Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger, which was a book club selection, and although I missed the discussion, I understand why Krueger’s recent novels have received such glowing reviews. His writing is spare yet powerful, and he creates a vivid sense of time (1961) and place (a small rural community in Minnesota). The events and deaths that occur disturb members of the community in such a fundamental way that they question their faith, their values, and even their families. I’m reading it slowly in order to savor the experience.

As for the rest of the pile, I suspect those books will continue to wait until something resembling normal life returns.

M.K. Tod writes and blogs about historical fiction. Her latest novel is Paris in Ruins. Mary can be contacted on her blog, A Writer of History, or on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

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