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I’ve only got through two books since my last Book Bag post, this is partly because I started a couple of other books but gave up on them half way through. I never used to leave books unfinished but I have recently decided that there are so many excellent books out there that I shouldn’t waste time on the ones that aren’t holding my interest.

But here are the two that I did finish in the last three weeks:

The Hidden Cottage by Erica James

Hidden Cottage

Mia Channing appears to have an enviable life: a beautiful home, a happy marriage, a job she enjoys and three grown-up children to whom she’s devoted. But appearances can be deceptive…

When the family gathers for her son’s 30th birthday, he brings with him his latest girlfriend who, to their surprise, has a nine-year-old daughter. Then, before the birthday cake has even been cut, Mia’s youngest daughter Daisy has seized the opportunity to drop a bombshell. It’s an evening that marks a turning point in all their lives, when old resentments and regrets surface and the carefully ordered world Mia has created begins to unravel.

Ah, stories like this remind me of lazy days in a sunny garden, a blanket on the lawn, sunglasses on and head dipped in a book. I did enjoy this book; I cared about this dysfunctional family and read it quickly to find out whether they were going to get their happy ending and whether other characters were going to their just desserts!

Mia’s husband Jess was a particularly repellent man, a perfect example of how infuriating and damaging self-righteousness is. Always justified in his own mind he is oblivious to the pain he causes his family, which means he was also pitiable as his children break free from his control and he can’t understand why.

Characters aside there were lots of comfort imagery that reminded me of happy memories of British summertime: hidden cottages in a forest, summer fetes followed by Chinese takeaways, Mum’s cooking and a roaming peacock up to mischief!

The story seemed to fizzle out rather than come to an actual ending but I still enjoyed the ride!

The Fourth Hand by John Irving


‘Imagine a young man on his way to a less-than-thirty-second event – the loss of his left hand, long before he reached middle age.’

While reporting a story from India, a New York television journalist has his left hand eaten by a lion; millions of TV viewers witness the accident. In Boston, a renowned hand surgeon awaits the opportunity to perform the nation’s first hand transplant. A married woman in Wisconsin wants to give the one-handed reporter her husband’s left hand, that is, after her husband dies. But the husband is alive, relatively young, and healthy…

I mentioned that I was reading this in my currently post and that I wasn’t too sure on it. Now that I have finished it I am still not sure. It was an interesting premise and I kept reading because I wanted to find out what happened next. But for me the book did have some problems. Mainly in its depiction of women who were mostly manipulative, screechy, emotional and desperate. It kind of got tired after a while. There was also a lot of repetition which I am guessing was a deliberate technique but got really annoying. In the long chapter introducing the surgeon who would perform the hand transplant it is explained about half a dozen times how the doctor would go jogging with a lacrosse stick which he uses to fling dog poo off the path and into the river. It was a funny image the first time but being reminded of it another six times over the next couple of pages soon diminished the humour.

Those complaints aside Patrick’s journey from being a vacant soul to a whole person kept me going and I loved seeing his slow and hard-fought-for transformation.