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How Refreshing!

Riding a Strong Wind - Robertson Tait

I can’t remember the last time I read a book of short stories. What a refreshing change! Robertson Tait’s stories, ‘Riding a Strong Wind’, are fun, frivolous and hopelessly romantic. And yet Tait is a skilled writer who manages to balance his story lines with beautiful observation. His settings are often romantic and exotic (Tobago, Italy, Santa Barbara …) and it’s clear that Tait has extensive personal knowledge of these fabulous locations. Such is his ability to bring these places to life that I found myself longing for a holiday and an escape from the bleak January blizzards outside!

However, I have to say that despite the many sultry sun drenched scenes, it was Tait’s Scottish story ‘Barra’ that stood out for me. It follows the romance between a local island man and an actress ‘in exile’ from her celebrity lifestyle. I thought their romance was the most convincing and touching of all the stories and found myself really rooting for their relationship to survive.

My overriding criticism of Tait’s stories would probably be that things often end too perfectly. Not only does the boy always get the girl but they inevitably seem to end up successful and often rich as well! If only life was always like that. But, as I’ve already said, these stories are refreshing and perhaps it’s that sort of optimism that we all need.

Some of the greatest writers of the past were famed for their short stories and I think it’s inspiring to see a continuing tradition. If you are deeply cynical then ‘Riding a Strong Wind’ probably isn’t for you. But, if you want to throw caution to the wind and find yourself transported to gorgeous sunny climes where life really is beautiful, then this should be right up your street. Robertson Tait, please keep writing!

Lost Island of Tamarind - Nadia Aguiar I read this with my nine and six year old daughters and can honestly say it was one of the best books I've ever read. My children are so addicted to it that we're now reading the sequel. The depth of description that Aguiar goes into about the extraordinary Tamarind is staggering. Highlights for us were the Cloud Forest Village up in the trees and the character Helix - a wild boy who helps the lost children find their parents on the beautiful but war-torn tropical island. I love the inspired imagination that went into this and wish this book had existed when I was a child.
Life of Pi - Yann Martel I think that this was an incredibly daring book that could so easily never have got published. Thank goodness it did though because I think it might just be one of those books that lasts through the generations.
One Step Too Far - Tina Seskis I read One Step Too Far on holiday and was seriously anti-social until I'd finished it! From the very first page the reader is left wondering - what on earth could have made Emily leave her perfect marriage, child and home. Part of you wants to dislike her for doing this but she is such a likeable, sympathetic character that you want her to succeed as well ... she must have had a very good reason for doing what she did. The twist at the end took me massively by surprise - I thought I was quite good at guessing these things! My favourite character by far was Angel, flawed but with a heart of gold. She could do with a book of her own. I also enjoyed the all too familiar descriptions of London's murky side and its sometimes even murkier glamorous side. Congratulations to Seskis for a great read and I look forward to reading her next novel, A Serpentine Affair.
Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell I loved the use of multiple narrators in this novel. I found it hugely inspiring.
A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini A totally harrowing account of the lives of two incredible women. I could barely bring myself to read it at times but it was equally impossible to put it down. So beautiful.