My October 2018 Reading: Secret Agents, Secret affairs and Home Comforts


These last couple of months have seen a surge in my reading; I think it is the autumnal weather calling me to retire to my bed earlier in the evening with a good book in my hand. Here is a round up of what I’ve been reading this month:

Churchill’s Angels by Bernard O’Connor

Over 60 female agents were sent out by Britain’s Special Operations Executive (SOE) during the Second World War. These women – as well as others from clandestine Allied organisations – were flown out and parachuted or landed into occupied Europe on vital and highly dangerous missions: their job was to work with resistance movements both before and after D-Day. Bernard O’Connor relates the experiences of these agents of by drawing on a range of sources, including many of the women’s accounts of their wartime service. There are stories of rigorous training, thrilling undercover operations evading capture by the Gestapo in Nazi-occupied France, tragic betrayals and extraordinary courage.

This is appropriate reading leading up to Remembrance Sunday, shedding light on an area of Britain’s wartime history that I had never considered before. The stories of these British women who left behind their ordinary lives in order to go into enemy territory for our country are truly inspiring. Women who were receptionists, teachers, wives and grandmothers choosing to do what they could to aid the war effort knowing that they risked facing torture and Nazi prison camps. Before these women went to war it was illegal for the Government to issue weapons to women, the thinking of the time being that women should be far removed from the battlefield. But the Second World War made it clear that the battlefield would be in the towns, fields and homes of ordinary people. Women had their part to play in defending the lives of citizens. The law was changed so that the female secret agents could be sent to France with weapons, as well as papers, money and supplies for the resistance. Their tales of duty, ingenuity and sacrifice are sobering, powerful and inspiring. I highly recommend reading them.

Strictly Between Us by Jane Fallon

Rumours, secrets and lies. It’s all in a day’s work.
Tamsin and her best friend Michelle have been inseparable since they were teenagers. Even now they spend all their time together, along with Patrick, Michelle’s handsome husband.

So when Tamsin hears a rumour that Patrick is having an affair, she is furious. Unwilling to ignore it, Tamsin plots a scheme to catch Patrick in the act, using her assistant Bea as live-bait. It should be fool proof. After all, Tamsin can trust Bea with anything. From her daily coffee order to fetching her dry-cleaning, writing reports and doing all the filing – Bea does everything with a smile on her face.

Except Tamsin never considered Bea might have her own agenda. 

And if she does, then Tamsin really needs to watch her back . . .

For something light hearted and wicked, Strictly Between Us reads like an episode of Desperate Housewives. The plot twists and turns in a way that kept me up reading ‘just one more chapter’ when it was long past my bedtime. Tamsin and Bea are entertaining characters that I found endearing despite the awful choices they made. My only gripe is that the ending prattles on for about three chapters after the main drama has been resolved. But that is a minor niggle in what was overall a very entertaining read.

A Sense of Home by Helen James

‘Homes should nurture and nourish us, be a private sanctuary, a deeply personal place where friends and family gather and celebrate. My hope is that this book can guide you to create the space you love – along with great tastes that make eating there a comfort and a pleasure.’ Helen James

From leading Irish designer and food blogger Helen James comes a beautiful book for all who enjoy making their house a home. Room by room, Helen shares her distinctive design sensibility inspired by the natural world, as she considers the spaces where we spend so much of our time – indoor and out – from a sensory perspective: taste, sight, scent, touch and sound.
Combining over 60 delicious, homely recipes – from bedroom feasts to ‘movie-night’ suppers – with essential design principles, natural beauty products, gardening plans and more, A Sense of Home is stunningly illustrated throughout.

I picked this up from the Library because I wanted to look at the pictures and see if there was a recipe worth trying. The pictures in here are gorgeous and are of the kind of homes that I am really drawn to. I wasn’t intending to read it properly and yet I glanced at the opening pages and my attention was hooked. I’ve since read it cover to cover.

I really enjoyed taking a slow walk through each room of the house through this book, considering ways of decorating and using each space. The book is full of tips and practical advice from cleaning wooden counter tops to chocolate cake recipes to a section on the virtue of sheepskin rugs. I guess this book won’t appeal to everyone’s style, but if you like homes that are rustic, comfy and lived in, I think you will find this to be a great book to dip in to for home inspiration.

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