Book Review – The Sixteen Trees of the Somme

The Sixteen Trees of the Somme by Lars Mytting is a book I’ve been thinking about reading for a while – mainly because I’d heard it is similar in feel to All the Light we Cannot See which I loved.

I was therefore extremely pleased that my book club chose to discuss it at our meeting last night – I could add it to my teetering TBR pile without feeling at all guilty!

Publisher’s Blurb

Edvard grows up on a remote mountain farmstead in Norway with his taciturn grandfather, Sverre. The death of his parents, when he was three years old, has always been shrouded in mystery – he has never been told how or where it took place and has only a distant memory of his mother.

But he knows that the fate of his grandfather’s brother, Einar, is somehow bound up with this mystery. One day a coffin is delivered for his grandfather long before his death – a meticulous, beautiful piece of craftsmanship. Perhaps Einar is not dead after all.
Edvard’s desperate quest to unlock the family’s tragic secrets takes him on a long journey – from Norway to the Shetlands, and to the battlefields of France – to the discovery of a very unusual inheritance. The Sixteen Trees of the Somme is about the love of wood and finding your own self, a beautifully intricate and moving tale that spans an entire century.

I put off reading it until the last minute – as I’ve mentioned before, I like to read cosy wintry favourites over Christmas – mainly children’s books.

I loved this book – and for once so did most of the book club. I thought it was beautifully written and the author’s love of wood and well crafted objects really showed through – his descriptions were wonderful.

Besides that, the mystery element was intriguing and kept me guessing. I found myself riding my pony and occupying my mind with setting out the facts I knew and trying to fill in the gaps. This is a book which will stay with me for a long time and I will definitely be reading the next one.

Book Details

The Sixteen Trees of the Somme by Lars Mytting

ISBN: 9780857056061

Publisher: Maclehose Press

RRP: £8.99

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A Year of Reading

2018 was a mixed reading year for me. I had weeks when I was trying to read at every possible moment. It was like being a child again, sneaking in a few pages when I should really be doing something else. Then I had a month or two when I struggled to read anything at all. Nevertheless, I find that I have managed to read 91 books this year which is pretty good going I think. Especially when one considers the length of some of them – War and Peace is a pretty weighty tome!

I have kept a reading record for the past several years – just a list of books and the months in which I read them. I used to record start and end dates for each book but I couldn’t really keep up with that! Not that I’m completely sold on this layout – I record a book in the month I start it but if I am reading it for a while the following month looks very short of reading!

To finish up my year I have once again been reading my favourite wintry children’s books. Plus the odd new ones – I loved Noel Streatfeild’s Christmas Stories and also Christmas Pudding by Nancy Mitford (that one obviously not a children’s book!). It is my favourite way to spend the winter evenings.

A very Happy New Year to you.

Christmas Reading

For me, reading at Christmas is all about comfort. Most years I read Little Women and quite often something like Arthur Ransome’s Winter Holiday as well. Last year I exclusively read all of my favourite wintry childhood books throughout December – things like The Box of Delights and The Rat-a-Tat Mystery. It was wonderful.

Part of every Christmas is reading Lucy and Tom’s Christmas. I love Shirley Hughes’ illustrations and I always look forward to this one. This year, I treated myself to her new Christmas book – Snow in the Garden – and I am very much looking forward to reading it!

I started my Christmas reading a little late this year but my first book was brand new (to me). I found this on the book stall in our local market and I couldn’t resist it!

Christmas Book Club

My book club doesn’t have a proper meeting in December as the book shop is just too busy to cope. Instead, we had a trip to the pub for a bookish chat.

It was lovely to spend an evening with a group of book lovers without having the pressure of focusing on one book in particular. We did nominally have a book to read but only two people had actually done so – it was much more of a social evening than a proper book club meeting.

We had a great time talking about our books of the year, our all time favourite books and the books on our Christmas lists. We had a brief excursion into politics but in the main we kept strictly to books and it was wonderful. I would highly recommend it!

Winning Through

I’ve mentioned before that I have recently been struggling somewhat to find the motivation to read. It has been the strangest feeling for me – I have never had such a serious reading slump before. The mental energy and concentration required simply to pick up a book was beyond me and I really didn’t know what to do with myself.

Of course, it has been a bit of a vicious cycle – the less I read the more stressed and wound up I felt and so the less I was able to read.

This week however I am finally feeling a bit more rested and less stressed. On the train yesterday I was actually able to read my book – even though I couldn’t read I was still unable to go out without one! It turns out that Anthony Trollope is a wonderful balm to the soul.

Over these two days I have read more than I have managed in the past two weeks. I am even looking forward to settling down by the fire this evening with a cup of tea and my book. It is a wonderful feeling.

Rivers of London

For years my friend has been telling me how much she loves Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series.  Every time she mentioned it I would nod and say I must try it (she did make it sound brilliant) but my TBR is huge and somehow it never made it to the top.

Then a couple of months ago my book club chose to read the first book.  I was finally able to say I had taken the advice and read it – and also that I now understood all the fuss because I enjoyed it so much.  Having taken at least five years to start the series, I have read the first three books over the past two months and I will shortly be starting the fourth.

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This is actually the second book in the series

The series is a great mix of detective story and magic with a few ghosts and myths thrown in.  I have been loving reading them.

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It just shows that you should always listen to your friends  – they do know you after all!

A Bookish Restorative

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that it has been a busy few months for me. I was feeling very tired and drained so I have just spent a week in Dartmouth to recuperate.

I intended to have a week doing not very much at all and I relished the time I could spend curled up with a book or my crochet. It being November, most of that was indoors – I particularly loved this corner by the fire.

However, as long as one wore enough layers it was definitely possible to read outside. This little beach was wonderfully quiet and secluded.

It was definitely a good week.

L M Montgomery’s Journals

For the past few years I have been working my way through L M Montgomery’s journals. I have been a fan of her fiction for such a long time and I couldn’t resist her journals when I found them.

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So far I have read the first three volumes of the selected journals, plus the first volume of the complete journals – it has more pictures as well as all the diary entries and I just had to read it.

The writing is just beautiful and I have many, many quotes marked.  It is just the sort of book I love to carry around with me to dip into whenever I get a chance.

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Montgomery led a fascinating, if rather difficult life, and it has been wonderful to learn more about it.  My dilemma now is what to read next – I have volume four of the selected journals but also the third volume of the complete version (I have so far not managed to get hold of the second).  I can’t quite decide whether to go on or to go back and reread the years I have already covered but with extra diary entries.

Really I know I’ll go back to read the complete version at some point anyway – so it might as well be now!

Struggling

This has been a bit of a slow week for me reading wise.  I have plenty of books which I really want to read but the books I have actually been reading have not been holding my interest.

First I had After the Party by Cressida Connolly.  This was my book club’s choice for November and for some reason I was not looking forward to it.  I kept putting off starting it and eventually began it about two days before the meeting.  Once I did get started I raced through it – I thought it was well written and the words flowed easily off the page.  I did however seem to be constantly waiting for a momentous event that never materialised.  I think it was just not the right time for me to read it – most of my book club loved it and we had a great discussion about it.

I have also been reading Sylvia’s Lovers by Elizabeth Gaskell.  This one is for an Instagram readalong hosted by Shelbi over at The Nobby Life.  I was really looking forward to it as I normally love Gaskell’s books but again, I am finding it a bit slow going and I still feel as if I’m waiting for something to happen.

I don’t dislike it though – it just hasn’t fully captured my imagination yet.  I’m only halfway through so there is plenty of time!

As I said, it’s not really the fault of the books.  I have had a busy few weeks and what I really need now is a light, fast-paced, easy read.  It’s important I think not to push oneself too much to read things one doesn’t enjoy just for the sake of a discussion.  Reading is meant to be fun after all.

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On first reading ‘Frankenstein’

Frankenstein is another one of those books which I have been meaning to read for years but, somehow, never have. I never felt quite in the right mood to pick it up. Then I went to the Cheltenham Literary Festival and won a beautiful copy (along with some other great prizes).

Halloween was fast approaching and it seemed like the time was just right – so last week I settled down to enjoy it.

I knew that there would be no green monster with a bolt through his neck but I wasn’t prepared for quite how confused my feelings would become. I spent a huge proportion of the book firmly on the ‘monster’s’ side and only really started to question that right at the end.

I think my main problem is that I just didn’t like Victor Frankenstein. It seemed to me that he spent most of the time just complaining about how the monster had ruined his life but – whilst this was technically true – that was entirely his own fault and I found it very difficult to sympathise with him. If he had not abandoned his creation in the first place it is likely that none of the consequent catastrophes would have happened.

I realise of course that the book is meant to make us question the way we treat differences but – although I see that it is a fantastic book – my dislike of Victor Frankenstein is so great that it has left me wondering if I enjoyed the book at all.