* Prices may differ from that shown
I pride myself on reading wide variety of books - from classical literature to pulp fiction and being able to enjoy them all. I also pride myself on never forgetting whether I have a read a book or not. I may not remember the plot very well but I will know if I've read it. That is until, I read September (again).
A long train journey en route to a holiday in Scotland meant that I had finished my book by the time I got there. I needed to pick something up for bedtime reading so I went into the first charity shop I saw to find something to keep me going. I didn't want anything to heavy so 'September' caught my eye - it was a good old fashioned family saga type novel and best of all, it was set in Scotland! I invested my £2.50 and opened it that night in my hotel looking forward to my book.
A few pages in my feeling in content was replaced by a strong sense of déjà vu. Had I read this book before? The events were so familiar but I didn't remember ANYTHING about it. I couldn't remember any of the plot twists in advance but they seemed familiar as soon as I read them. I have never had such a bizarre experience before with a book. However, I did finish it so I fee fully equipped to review it - even it is the second time round!
Well, as I said, September is a family saga based around the September of one year and the events that lead up to it, both in the immediate past and in the more distant history of the people involved. The well heeled populace of Croy are invited to a dance in September and invitations are sent out to everyone that anyone knows (literally - the hostess is a relative newcomer to the area and certainly doesn't know many of the main characters she invites for her party). But the story isn't really about the hostess or even the dance. It is about two families - the Airds and the Balmerinos. The heads of both families are in their late forties and were great friends as children and young men. Then something happened and there a cooling off of relations between Edmund Aird and Archie Balmerino. They are still friends but there is a coldness between them , the reason for which we discover later in the book. Archie is the impoverished, war wounded Laird of Croy, while Edmund is the rich investment banker (something like that anyway) with a heart of steel. Other characters include Edmund's American wife Virginia who is struggling to accept his domineering ways, his wise-old-woman mother, Violet, his gauche, innocent daughter, Alexa (which 21 year old living in London and running her own business is this naïve?) and his little boy, Henry, who is being sent off to boarding school for the first time. There are several other characters, notably Archie's sister, Pandora, around whom the whole story revolves. But telling you about the characters will reveal too much of the story.
The characters are interesting and fairly well rounded, the plot is not terribly exciting but it isn't meant to be, and the writing is smooth and welcoming. I felt it was a nice warm, cuddly, duvet day type of book. But I did think it was very divorced from reality. Not hat I know very much about how the Scottish upper classes live but surely they don't live like an Agatha Christie novel? Fires in every grate, wives not working any jobs, no shortage of money (or shortage that can be dealt with by taking paying guests over the summer in one's enormous country pile!), and conversations that sound like they are taking place in the 1940s (the novel is set in the 1980s at the earliest). For this reason I couldn't really identify or even empathise with any of the characters.
It's a nice book and light reading for a holiday but perhaps a bit too disconnected with my reality to be really enjoyable.