Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Books 36 & 37 of 2016: Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells & Olalla by Robert Louis Stevenson

One of the best things about the Reading Challenge I took part in last year was that it gave me a reason to read a bunch of books which I'd had on my list to read for ages but for one reason or another, never managed to get around to. Book 37 was one of those; Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells.

This ticked the box for Week 20: a book from the bottom of your 'To Read' list; it had kept on getting pushed to the bottom of the list mainly because whenever I would resort my bookcase, I'd inevitably end up pushing it down my list by sorting my books into alphabetical order (by author).

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood is the story of two women; Siddalee Walker and her mother Vivi. The pair have fallen out following an interview in which Siddalee described her mother in a less than favourable light, so Vivi's friends send Siddalee a scrapbook about their youthful escapades which helps to shed some light onto the events that shaped Vivi into the woman she became.

I'd caught bits of the film years and years ago, though it had been so long that I really couldn't remember anything about the story, other than the fact that Ashley Judd was in it. I keep on meaning to track down a copy of the film to watch it again, but I'd wanted to read the book beforehand. On one day trip off the island I saw the book in a secondhand bookshop, I didn't buy it but it was still there when I went back again, so it seemed like a scene.

It took me a while to get into this book, but after the halfway point I got really into it. The more I read, the more I wanted to know and it became one of those books that you really don't want to put down.

Part of the appeal of it was the way that the story was revealed gradually. You had some idea of the things that might have happened to lead to the events in the story, but it took time for your suspicions to be confirmed or denied. It's one of those techniques which doesn't always work, but in this case it did. I liked that you didn't get the fully straight away.

I also really liked the way that things were described in the book. You got a brilliant sense of the setting:

As the smells of sweet woodruff and alder burning and lake water wafted about her, so did the essences of her mother's stories. Not in the way that Sidda wanted, but in the way of hidden things that mysteriously reveal worlds unsuspected and longed for.

I felt as though I could almost feel the Louisiana heat. I love that in a book.

When I finished up this book I decided I needed something short and kind of bitesized to see me through to start the next week's Reading Challenge, so I went for one of the Penguin Little Black Classics; Book 19, Olalla by Robert Louis Stevenson. It's one of his short stories about a man who goes to visit an old castle in Spain, only to find that there's something a wee bit weird about the family who live there.

I'd picked up this book from the collection because I'd studied Robert Louis Stevenson during my OU course and I'd read several of his short stories. I'm glad I read this one because I really enjoyed the South Sea Tales book as well as the other Robert Louis Stevenson books that I read; it sort of feels like I'm completing a set by reading all the books by an author.

It was kind of a creepy story. It had a slow build up and in a way it reminded me of Dracula. It wouldn't have been out of place in the South Sea Tales book which had a bit of a mix of the supernatural and more realistic stories.

This was a nice quick read. It was perfect to finish off a Reading Challenge week and see me through to the beginning of another week of reading.

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