Thursday, 30 June 2011

Read in 2011 - 15: A Village Deception

Some of you may know Rebecca Shaw and her series of "Village" books, and some of you may meet my choice of reading with slight derision, for these books are nowhere near highbrow literature - nor do they claim to be.
"A Village Deception" by Rebecca Shaw is No. 15 and the (currently) latest in a series about the lives of the inhabitants of a fictious English village by the name of Turnham Malpas.
As with several other series I have come to enjoy, the first time I came across one of these books was through my mother-in-law, who regularly sends me parcels from England, containing the essentials without which I rarely want to be: books and chocolate :-)

There are no steamy sex scenes or blood-splattering descriptions of violence; there is nothing outworldly or paranormal, and no political message in Rebecca Shaw's writing.
Admittedly, she is not the most elegant or witty of authors, but her stories are well told, with no unneccessary lengths, and because the village and its characters provide such a cozy read, she is forgiven some of the slightly wooden-sounding bits.

Each book has a map of the village printed in the front, and a list of the characters, which I find quite useful, as not every character features equally often in all the stories, and can be looked up when you are not quite sure anymore of who is who.

The Turnham Malpas series strictly follows a chronological order without ever stating a year (at least I can't remember having come across one), but it is clearly set in our days and not in some remote past. People age with the ongoing stories, they grow up, get married, some move away, they change their jobs, have children, and some die. Village life is not portrayed in an overly idyllic, unrealistic manner; there are some gossips you'd rather not have watching your every move in such a small community, and of course there is no village without its very own scandals (some real, some imagined by aforementioned gossips), drama and sometimes even crime.

This story takes place almost 20 years after the first book of the series, so the rector's twins who were born in the first book are now ready to hit university, and the rector and his wife himself are not getting any younger, either. In each book, there are newcomers to the village, and this time it is a handsome, charming stranger who makes himself immediately liked by everyone he meets. He finds a job, a (rented) house and even the love of his life. Sounds too good to be true?
Well, it is - and that's why he loses said love under very tragic circumstances, and his past catches up with him in a way that the whole village soon knows how he made his living before arriving in Turnham Malpas.

There is an unlikely couple who find each other and get married, and an elderly lady finds a friend. Someone gets offered a job that would mean to move away from the village, and someone else is about to say good-bye to the village for good because of a disagreement that seems unsolvable.

In the end, there are enough loose ends tied up to leave the reader satisfied, but others are still pending, clearly with book No. 16 in mind - which I am certainly going to get once it is published.

Like I said, this is nothing for the highbrow reader. It is nothing for the reader who wants their toes curling up in excitement and thrill, nor is it for the one who seeks side-splitting laughter from a book.
But it is a very cozy, not overly "sweet", read, just right for me to unwind after an active day.


  1. Sounds like my kind of village.
    Thanks for the review, and the tip. The cover art sure is inviting. I want tea and scones just looking at it!

  2. Sounds like The Archers. Sometimes we just want comfortable situations in our lives. Reality is quite stressful enough and I, for one, like a good dose of comfort in my films and books these days. I spent my youth reading, amongst other things of course, the Russian Novels and I think when The Gulag Archipelago and Cancer Ward were published I decided enough was enough.

  3. GB I quite agree Re. The Gulag Archipelago which rests on a shelf just above my computer station. I don't know why I don't donate it to a book sale!

  4. Thank you, Julie, GB and Jill. I think it is good that we always have such a wide range of reading material and films to choose from and can fit that according to our mood and our needs at the time.
    I, for instance, always need something substantial, some non-fiction preferably, after a few cozy books, and at the moment, I am once again doing a parallel reading of novels at night and a book about the Medieval Frederic II (who has featured in my blog before, in one of the chapters about Sicily) and his time (the early 1200s).

  5. Ha! I have an omnibus of her first three books which I keep meaning to read, and now you've inspired me to pack it and take it along to the cottage this holiday weekend.

  6. Kristi, they are just right for a cottage weekend - I hope you will enjoy them. Just don't expect too much :-)

  7. I have read some of these books and I think they are very good of their own type. I don't hold to the belief that books should always have something "important" to say. There is a great art in being able to create something that can be appreciated by many people, but is not stupid or vulgar.

  8. Jenny, you are right - all too often, readers' attention is sought through sensationalism, when sometimes one really just wants nothing more from a book than a bit of harmless entertainment.