Otonabee Ward: Books to read by the fire as fall comes to Peterborough

This fall, I’ve been doing a lot of reading and thought I’d share with you some of the books I’ve enjoyed. As part of the Peterborough Public Library’s book club, I have taken part in many interesting discussions facilitated by librarian Karen Bisschop. If you’re looking for a good book to snuggle up with now that the nights are getting longer and cooler, consider the following titles, many of which are available from the Peterborough Public Library, Chapters, independent bookstores or online:

“Bloomsbury Girls” is a charming story by Natalie Jenner, from Oakville, and the author of the Jane Austen Society, about three young women working at the iconic London book shop, Bloomsbury Books, and how they come into their own in the male-dominated postwar world of the 1950s. Some of the characters from “The Jane Austen Society” appear in this book, adding further depth for readers.

A novel told in two time lines, “Hamnet” by Maggie O’Farrell, is about Agnes, a woman with the powers of healing and foretelling, her husband, known only as “the Latin tutor” for most of the book, whom we come to understand is Shakespeare, and their children, including twins Hamnet and Judith. A bullying father forces the tutor to travel to London to make a living for himself and his family. We had a lively discussion about this riveting tale at the book club last month.

Set in the idyllic Italian countryside during the Second World War, “Our Darkest Night” by Jennifer Robson is the story of a young Jewish woman, daughter of a prominent Venetian doctor, who poses as the wife of a young Catholic man in order to escape persecution from the Nazis. Based on true events, the story follows the hardships and harrowing experiences of Nina who is always looking over her shoulder and worried about the loving parents she left behind in Venice. This page turner kept me on the edge of my seat all the way through.

“This is How We Love” by Lisa Moore is a lyrical, moving meditation on familial, friendly and multi-generational love and relationships. As a mother sits by her wounded son’s bedside, we learn about all of the events that have transpired till that point. A multilayered, inside look at life in Newfoundland from several perspectives.

The sequel to “The Marrow Thieves,” “Hunting by Stars” by Cherie Dimaline follows Frenchie, Rose and other First Nations people as they try to escape capture by Recruiters who are out to steal their blood and bone marrow to restore their ability to dream. A gripping, suspenseful read.

“We Have Always Been Here” by Samra Habib has written her incredible story of growing up in Lahore, Pakistan as part of a reviled Muslim sect, the Ahmadis, enduring the prejudice there, then immigrating to Canada, where she experienced racism and bullying from her classmates. Somehow she survives her arranged marriage at the age of 16 to her cousin, and gradually finds her own place in the world, earning respect as a photojournalist and spokesperson for queer, Muslim women. This beautifully written memoir won CBC’s Canada Reads in 2020.

My book, “Claudette on Keys,” based on true events, is the story of Ida Fernley, whose stage name is Claudette, and her husband Harry, a Toronto-based two-piano four-hands team who are struggling to find employment in 1936 after being laid off from their radio show. When they are invited by a British talent agent to work in England, they find fascism on the rise in this tale of intrigue in pre-war times, available from the Peterborough Public Library, Chapters, and at www.crossfieldpublishing.com.