The Long, Long Trail by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

This is the fourth book in a series following a family and their servants through the First World War – think Downton Abbey, but not so grand. Each novel is set in a different year of the war. Although it is fiction it documents the battles of the war and reflects the hardships that those living through it, both at home and at the front had to endure.

She appears to have written each novel exactly one hundred years after which it was set. She is a very prolific writer, but there is nothing except the titles of this particular series on her website. I expect that they may be her own commemoration of the terrible events of those years which we have been looking back on recently.

I quite like reading a series of books, always something to look forward to when you get to the end of the novel. I think that I picked the first one up off the library shelf by chance and then reserved the others so that I could read them in order.

The House by the Sea – Santa Montefiore

I just picked this book at random off of the library shelf, recognising the surname as I had heard of her husband Simon Sebag Montefiore, novelist and historian.

Santa is a British author who describes her books as being about Love, with a capital L. This is what life is all about according to her.

It is an easy read which is set in a hotel near the Devon coast and a villa in Tuscany. Santa bases her description of the hotel on Alex Polizzi’s, aka the Hotel Inspector, Endsleigh. If you are a fan of the programme you will have seen it occasionally as Alex uses it as an example of how to do things well.  At over £200 per night for a room reading her portrayal of ‘The Polzane’, as she calls it, is probably the closest that I will ever get.

What I found interesting were the occasional philosophical messages articulated by the character, ‘Rafa’, a young Argentinian man who takes up the post of artist-in-residence for the summer. In his interaction with the hotel owner’s resentful step-daughter he gives her the following advice:

You will never be happy living your life for other people. You have to go your own way and work it all out for yourself.

Don’t let what happened in the past control who you are now.

You have the power of choice and you are choosing to hold onto old grievances. The past no longer exists but in your mind. You can choose to let it go whenever you like.

If you choose to hold onto grudges you will create a future that it unhappy, because every decision will be born out of your resentment. This is a great big liner you are pulling across the waves. Cut the rope. Release yourself. You can rise to great heights in spite of the terrible start you had in life, but more probably because of it.

For what is in many ways a frivolous and light-hearted book designed to carry you away to another world for a few minutes every evening before bed I found these to be quite profound statements. I thought that they were Santa’s way of writing about ‘Love’ and lessons for all of us in how to let go of the past and any negative thoughts and embrace positivity.