When I reviewed my books read in February I noted that a lot of them were in series and I talked about six particularly which I had read recently. You can read that blog here. When I came to look at the books I read in March I noticed that there were quite a lot of stand-alone books so I thought that I would highlight some that I have particularly enjoyed during the month.
Stand-alone books have their own attraction. The story has to be told and completed in a certain period of time with no unresolved issues to be carried across to another instalment. You have to get to know and identify with the characters very quickly. I don’t usually read a huge amount of these because I like to be completely immersed in another world and I find that I like to stay with people for a long period but I am beginning to read more of them especially as I explore the classics.
I read these stand-alone novels in March :
- Black Narcissus by Rumer Godden. This is set in India in the Himalayas and is the story of a group of nuns who live and start a hospital in an isolated palace that used to be a harem. Slowly, things begin to go wrong as the location and the people affect the nuns. The book is full of tension as you realise that the nuns are very out of place. Quite a quick read but I enjoyed it.
- As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner is also quite a quick read but a harder and (to me) less satisfying one. It is the story of a family of poor, rural Americans who take the dead mother of the family back to the place where she wanted to be buried. The story is told in a series of viewpoints including the family, people they meet along the way and even the dead mother. I found it quite strange and wasn’t entirely sure what some of it was about but the author depicts each voice very individually and you really feel the difference between the characters.
- My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier is a chilling suspense novel about a young man’s growing obsession with his cousin’s widow as they live is isolated Cornwall. You are never quite sure about anything in this book but the growing tension is excellently portrayed. The ending is particularly powerful.
- Burmese Days by George Orwell is about British colonial rule (spoiler – Orwell is not a fan). It is about prejudice, corruption and racism told through the story of an ex-patriot and the tight British community and how they are affected by a new arrival. It is actually quite a sad book in many ways and quite scathing in others.
- A Place of Execution by Val McDermid is set in the Peak District in the 1960s when a girl disappears and also more recently when a book is being written about the crime. All this author’s books are compelling reading and this is a real page turner where the location plays a really important part in the story.
- Macbeth by Jo Nesbo is a retelling of the Shakespeare play. It is cleverly done and very dark. I did think it was slightly too long as I lost contact a bit in the middle but I really admired how the author took the elements of the play and translated them to modern times making the story into a crime thriller as well as a tragedy about how power corrupts.
- Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift is a classic I don’t think I would have read except by listening to it on audio. It is a very clever parody of how people behave and their prejudices and strikes home even three hundred years after it was first published. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it.
- A Month in the Country by JL Carr is the shortest book in this little collection. It has a very slight plot as the narrator uncovers a mural in a country church just after WW1. It is about grief and healing and I found it rather sad but absolutely compelling.
Some excellent stand-alone novels there which are definitely worth looking at. I shall be interested to see if April tends towards stand-alone or series books.