When I look at my list of books, my teetering ‘to be read’ pile, I have to make a number of decisions. I do try to read books within a short time of their publication date – preferably before, but possibly soon after- so I will start off by checking out upcoming titles but sometimes I will also need to decide how much time and energy I have. I love a big fat history book or something scientific but they do take quite a while to read and, sometimes a bit of an intellectual run-up. To be honest, I don’t think I’d have had the enthusiasm to read anything of that nature during the recent mayhem of the Bradford Literature Festival – I’d have managed about half a page each night before falling asleep and if I tried to read on the bus home I’d have ended up snoring in Halifax – so I have been reading a few shorter or lighter books.
Miracle on Cherry Hill – Sun-mi Hwang
I have read a couple of Korean author Sun-mi Hwuang’s novels. They are always physically slight, nothing much over 200 pages, but they are beautifully told stories which always seem to end up making me happy. They aren’t necessarily books with happy subjects – this one tells of Kang Dae-su, a successful and wealthy architect who returns to the place where he had been a poor and lonely child. He has been diagnosed with a brain tumour and is somewhat obsessed with punishing what he sees as the poor treatment he received as a child. Gradually, however, he comes to discover that he may not have seen the whole picture and, somewhat against his will, he meets more and more of the current residents of Cherry Hill: those who call the place home.
Kang is an interesting character – he plans to destroy the community which now takes him in but you don’t feel that he is a bad man. Despite his professional standing and the wealth and power he now possesses he is, at heart, the child who felt alone and abandoned to his fate. His return to his childhood home and the people he meets there show him that not only is he valued now but that his childhood was watched over by the community who welcome him back in without knowing his past. The ending is bittersweet – acknowledging that some of the ravages of time can never be repaired – but it does remind us of all the good which exists in the world, whether we are aware of it or not.
Full Steam Ahead, Felix – Kate Moore
Felix the station cat is a bit of a Yorkshire celebrity – a fluffy, black and white moggy who lives on Huddersfield railway station. The station itself is a stunning piece of neo-classical Victorian architecture and is the second busiest in West Yorkshire – it gets both the usual commuters and those heading to and from Manchester airport – so the addition of a station cat (or Senior Pest Controller as she is known) can only add to its interest.
This is the second book about Felix. The first covered her early years at the station (which she moved to as a kitten) and the station staff she worked with there and, in this book we are reunited with many of those characters. Felix is a more mature cat at this point – a veteran of social media and a bit of a star – and the book looks at a lot of her interactions with both staff and passengers. Towards the end it is made clear that she is, in cat years, approaching a time in her life when she has to slow down, think of her own health and even change her diet to prevent a more sedentary lifestyle from causing her to gain an unhealthy amount of weight. Let’s face it, I could certainly relate the that! The station staff, who all seem to be genuinely fond of Felix, come up with plans to make her life easier..
This is a warm, cosy and, generally, unchallenging read. There are emotional parts – where Felix helps various people to overcome problems with health, anxiety or grief – but nothing too stressful. All in all a perfectly relaxing book to read to recover from a busy week or so of heavy festivalling.
I didn’t just read the short or comforting over the last month though. Next post will cover some of the crime novels I read to keep the blood pumping and my adrenaline levels up…