Not-So-Secret Reasons to Read the Secret Countess

secret countess

Hello all! Brr it’s cold outside, so I decided it was time to cosy on up to one of my favourite historical reads. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reread this book (most recently at the end of last year) and yet I still get the urge to revisit it again and again! That’s why I found it super easy to come up with this list of reasons to pick this beautiful story up:

secret countess first line

The setting is gorgeous. Opening in a pre-Revolution Russia and moving across the sea to the English countryside, the book maintains a mythic quality and a superbly atmospheric vision throughout. Stunningly described from the first sentence to the last, I could happily recommend this for that reason alone.

Anna, the main character, is a true heroine. Self-sacrificing and, despite the title, unable to hide her noble nature, what makes her incredible is not her background, but what she does in the face of hardship. Her role in the story teaches many valuable lessons- to never give up hope, to accept responsibility and, above all, to be kind.

While we’re on the topic, this book boasts many other amazing female characters, all reflected in a historically accurate way. One of my favourites being Minna- the stepmother who lays to rest “all the wicked stepmothers since time began”

At the same time, this book manages to have some proper villains. Recently, a friend pointed out to me that a sitcom I-don’t-want-to-spoil-by-naming gave away the villain by having them kick a dog into the sun (ok big spoiler there)- well this has a dog-kicking villain. In fact, this villain is pretty much reprehensible in every way- we learn from their introduction that they are a literal eugenicist. I’m a massive fan of baddies actually being bad and this definitely achieves that. What’s also great is that the dastardly ways of said character are revealed slowly to everyone else in the story (giving the book real tension and a plot).

This is just one of the ways that Eva Ibbotson is frankly a genius writer. As well as creating an exciting cast of characters, she also presents brilliant levels of contrast, to really tug at those heartstrings. One of the things Ibbotson does especially well is building up a character’s hopes at the beginning of a scene or chapter, only to bring them crashing down. And, as if in a perfect mirror image, the happiest moments start so sadly, only to flip everything you were feeling on its head.

Also, the romance is gorgeous. I personally hold the view that one does not know a real love story until they have tried Eva Ibbotson. And this just so happens to be one of her best romances.

I feel like I could go on forever extolling this book’s virtues, but sometimes bananas speak louder than words:

5/5 bananas

hand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-banana 

If you haven’t checked it out, go read it! And if you have, feel free to gush with me in the comments! 😉

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My Top Ten Wintery Books

AHH IT SNOWED LAST NIGHT!!! WINTER IS HERE!!

winter is here

(alright that was a more terrifying affect than intended 😉 )

Okay- for reelz, it never normally snows in London, so I’m enjoying how pretty it is right now. And, rather appropriately, the post I had planned for today is actually about wintery books! Specifically my top ten wintery books! Let’s get to it:

snow child

Snow Child– the clue is in the title 😉 This exquisite tale, set in the fairy tale land of the Arctic winter, warmed me from the inside- I seriously recommend Snow Child for a cosy night in. And speaking of fairy tales…

bear and the nightingale

Bear and the Nightingale– as was pretty obvious from my gushy review the other day I LOVED this book. It’s a magical retelling of Russian folklore and if nothing else, you are guaranteed spectacular descriptions of snowy landscapes 😉

secret countess

The Secret Countess– Eva Ibbotson is a childhood favourite of mine and one of the reasons for that is her beautiful, mythical writing style. Her books are always enchanting, but this one in particular is romantic and heart-warming and perfect for this season (NB also known as A Countess Below Stairs)

Harry_Potter_and_the_Philosopher's_Stone_Book_Cover

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone– speaking of childhood books, nothing says Christmas quite like Harry Potter. Let’s be honest, who doesn’t secretly dream of Christmas at Hogwarts?

chronicles of narnia.jpg

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe– but if we want to talk a Christmasy dream come true, we’d have to go visit Narnia! I know, I know, Narnia is technically cursed to always be winter in Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe– yet that doesn’t stop it being so beautiful!

christmas carol

Christmas Carol– yes, yes, I know I’m reeling off the classics now- it’s just this is a classic for a reason. Obviously everyone knows the story, but I finally read this over Christmas last year and can tell you now it was *perfect*.

the railway children

Railway Children– honestly, I think children’s books are great for this time of year. And since it’s already a tradition that they show the movie version on the TV every year (at least in the UK) why not pick up the book? It’s moving, it’s got beautiful themes about family and it’ll make you happy in the end.

little women

Little Women– romance is what I’m looking to read most winters- and I don’t think you can get much better than this classic. It’ll make you laugh, it’ll make you cry, and it might even make you do both at the same time. Easily one of my all-time favourite books.

ivan-denisovitch

One Day in the Life of Ivan Densovitch– okay who said anything about all the books on here having to be happy? Sometimes winter gives us the chills- so if you want something a little darker, then this is the book to go for. It’s one of those quintessential books about the Soviet Union if you’re interested. (And at the risk of sounding like a book pusher, this is the kind of book everyone needs to read at some in their lives)

 

murder-on-the-orient-express-agatha-christie

Murder on the Orient Express- I read this the other day (review to come soon) and the atmosphere was exactly right for a cold evening. The intrigue, the characters and the DRAMATIC twist all made for a thrilling read (kudos goes to Lashaan@Bookidote for finally convincing me to pick it up). What a great book for the winter period!

And that’s it! What do you think of my list? Agree? Disagree? And do you have any winter favourites to add? Let me know in the comments!