What a live this week. What more could you ask for when the rain is lashing down than an evening of books and wine? Plenty of rooms with a view too with SJ Axelby’s beautiful ode to room portraiture in her collection of illustrations and vignettes into designers’ living spaces, Interior Portraits: An Artist’s View of Designers’ Living Spaces. Definitely the perfect accompaniment to any new beginning and an antidote for when the weather outside isn’t quite as picture perfect as we’d like.
If you found yourself falling in love with our lovely guest, author and TV and print wine expert, Helen McGinn, then do seek out her first two novels, In Just One Day and This Changes Everything. This Changes Everything is the gorgeous light-hearted love story of 70 something Julia who receives a letter from an old flame asking her to meet him in Rome. Her daughters, Annie and Jess, suspicious that she might return married again – Julia has form – follow her out there to keep an eye on her. Against the backdrop of one of the most romantic cities in the world, they uncover a secret which changes the course of all their lives, proving that first love is hard to forget and sometimes we get the chance to write ourselves a new chapter.
No theme of new beginnings would be complete without the inclusion of my favourite of Kate Atkinson’s novels, Life After Life. A global bestseller and recently made into a BBC series, Life After Life tells the story of Ursula Todd who is born to a banker and his wife one snowy night in 1910. She dies before taking her first breath. That same night Ursula Todd is born and embarks on what will be an extraordinary life – growing, living, dying all on repeat. Journeying alongside her as she lives many lives, we witness a new century drawing ever closer to war as Ursula asks “What if we had a chance to do it again and again, until we finally did get it right? Wouldn’t that be wonderful?” Past and present converge as do wit and compassion in this beautifully drawn tale of ‘what ifs.’
In another love letter to Florence, the ghost of E M Forster casts a hand over Sarah Winman’s Still Life. The city takes on a character all of its own in this marvellous story of the power of friendship and of course, new beginnings. As the bombs fall around them in the wine cellar in a ruined Tuscan villa, an unlikely friendship is formed between a young soldier, Ulysses Temper and art historian, Evelyn Skinner. This chance meeting between two strangers will have a profound effect on young Ulysses, changing the course of not only his destiny but those of the people he holds dearest over the next few decades. From London’s colourful East end to the back streets and piazzas of Florence, Still Life brings hope that the meaning of life is to be found in friendships that transcend ages and love in its many forms.
Hitting rock bottom is where we begin with Marian Keyes’ Rachel’s Holiday. Bear with me though, lovely readers. Rachel Walsh has been living it up in New York, attending the most glam parties and staggering back to her boyfriend’s house in the early hours. What she doesn’t plan on is her own sister rocking up with a plan to send her to rehab. Rachel agrees because, you know, how hard can it be? Isn’t it all spa treatments and jacuzzis? Saying goodbye to freedom and fun might just be a bit harder than Rachel bargained for. From an author who is beyond doubt the powerhouse of all things witty and heart-breaking and brutally honest, this seminal novel from Marian Keyes will have you rooting for Rachel to finally learn to love herself. Can she really start a new chapter?
Last but not least and because we simply couldn’t have A Room with a View without offering up E M Forster’s other Italian gem, Where Angels Fear to Tread. Travelling to Italy with her friend Caroline, impulsive and widowed Lilia Herriton leaves her late husband’s family outraged when she meets and decides to marry the handsome and wholly unsuitable Italian, Gio, who turns out to be over a decade younger than her. The family rally to try and stop Lilia from disgracing both herself and them (just think of the scandal), sending brother-in-law, Phillip, to Italy to bring her to her senses. His trip isn’t quite as much of a success as everyone might have hoped. However, when things take a turn towards tragic, Philip and Caroline find themselves returning to Italy once more. Against the beautiful backdrop of the Tuscan countryside, perhaps Lilia’s misadventure will bring about a chance for them to take a look at their own lives?
A huge thank you to our delicious sponsor for this month “The Uncommon” for the prettiest, most deliciousest and planet friendly wine. Their English sparkling wine is truly tongue tinglingly spectacular, in forever recyclable aluminium cans that keep the wine super fresh, this is a wonderful company who “tread lightly and where we do tread, we act”.
They have committed 2% of their revenue to support Kent Wildlife Trust‘s mission to wild 30% of the county by 2030 and last week the one of the Wilder Blean Bisons gave birth to the first baby bison to be born in the UK for a millennia! This is a truly wonderful project supported by a company who genuinely care about their environmental impact “Act Local, Impact Global”.
Thank you wonderful The Uncommon. Use “COTTAGE40” for 40% off these extraordinary English Wines.