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June Books-2018

Only three books to tell you about this month. The new one by Kate Mosse which I had to read as fast as I could as the library had a waiting list of readers who had reserved it. The other two are both by Laurie Lee. Three good books.

Kate Mosse- The Burning Chambers- A simple plot but beautifully done with lots of details. At the heart of the plot is a mysterious woman hell-bent on finding a girl. Why ? There is a love story, and kidnappings, and murders and intrigues. Set in Carcassonne ( and folks if you have never been , stop now and go immediately to France and visit Carcassonne), it is just the most wonderful city. Set also in Toulouse and surrounding countryside in the 1500s at a time of religious unrest between the Catholic faith and the Huguenot (Protestant ) faith.  Lots of skullduggery to enjoy. A good read and the first in a trilogy next one not due till 2020.

Laurie Lee- Cider with Rosie- This is the third time I have read this and was my choice of reading for my 30 Days Wild challenge ( Last year was the hilarious Corfu trilogy by Gerald Durrell). Cider with Rosie is a delightful evocation of village life in 1920s England. Before the days of electricity and motor cars for all, the village is a real community, schools, a Squire, church, an agricultural cycle of life and above all tolerance, acceptance and self-help. We may have gained mod cons but by golly I think we have lost more. There are funny stories and beautiful descriptions of the flora and fauna in the Gloucestershire countryside, a perfect choice for June.

The book I borrowed from the library contains all three books by Laurie Lee, and I have carried on reading.

Laurie Lee- As I walked out one midsummer morning.The second book in Laurie Lee’s autobiography. Laurie leaves home, he walks down to the south coast from Cold Slad , Gloucestershire and ends up in London. The contrast between village life and the Big Smoke could not be greater. After a year or so in London he sets sail for Spain and begins another big walk. Spain in the 1930s is poverty-stricken and desperate. he makes ends meet by busking. If you ever wondered what Malaga was like before the tourists came , this book will open your eyes. He sympathises with the farmers and fishermen and starts to be drawn into the beginning of the civil war, until he is rescued by a British destroyer sent to help all Brits in Spain. He leaves Spain, but then feels he has betrayed something important and heads back again.

We had many a holiday in Spain, admittedly not anywhere near Malaga thank goodness. I went with my parents in the days of Franco, and with Mr E  after Franco died. I found the accounts of Laurie Lee’s experiences really interesting and his descriptions of the landscape so good I could feel the heat of the Sierras coming right out of the book.

Can’t wait to start the final book in the trilogy.

Collins  Complete British wildlife, photoguide. Giving this book a mention because whilst I haven’t studied it from cover to cover it has been my companion throughout June during the month in which I may have gone a little Wild.

Coming up next month, more Laurie Lee.

So what books has everyone been reading? And are there any reference books that have gripped you recently?

 

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April Books

Not surprising at all really that I have only read two books this month.

Kate Chopin- The Awakening- Recognised now as an early feminist novel , according to the blurb on the back. Not sure I agree, unless you only focus on sexuality and desire. It was published in 1899, and is set in New Orleans. Edna is the daughter of a plantation owner, wife of a financier and has two small boys. The family holidays one summer at Grand Isle. Here she learns to swim and begins to fall for an engaging young man Robert, who by all account has worked his charms on most of the married ladies. However Robert is attracted to Edna and realising things can not go further takes himself off to Mexico. The family returns home and Edna begins to paint. She stops doing her ” at homes”.  The children go to stay with their grandparents on the plantation and her husband goes to New York, to wheel and deal. Edna spends a great deal of time with a well-known “rake”, before moving out of the family home and into the “pigeon-house”.  Robert returns to town and both realise their attraction to each other. Robert being a gentleman removes himself and Edna returns to the Grand Isle, where the book ends. I won’t say exactly how.

Now I will be up front here. this book took me a fortnight to read, which is not like me. Mostly a couple of pages a  night and in hospital corridors where I did a lot of hanging about. Not the best way to read a book. I was disappointed. Sometimes I wonder if critics have read any of the classics like Jane Eyre or Middlemarch. Plenty of repressed sensuality there! I know others have read this book already, and some for A levels. What did you make of it? It’s certainly not the revolutionary tract on feminism I was expecting. I really thought Edna was going plough her own furrow with her own house and her painting, but no.

Melvyn Bragg- The Soldier’s Return- I was drawn to this book, partly because of the Sawdust hearts which admittedly are WW1, and the return in this book is from WW2, but the war in Burma against the Japanese, which is where my own Dad was.  Sam returns home to Cumbria, somewhat traumatized in 1946, to find the euphoria and bunting from VE day has long since gone and post war austerity with rationing and housing/ unemployment problems besetting his little family. His wife and son who is now 6 years are close to each other and to the other people in the lodging house they now live. Sam feels very much an outsider and a stranger to his family. His son is frightened of him and does not like being evicted from his Mum’s bed. Sam considers him a Mummy’s Boy.

The book is well written and the descriptions of post war life in a rural/ small town setting  believable. I especially liked the chapter with the town carnival which Sam and family throw themselves into. Then Sam attends a reunion in which one of his comrades waxes lyrical about Australia. Sam feels very hemmed in after the war and decides to go. His wife however wants to stay in the town where she feels safe.

I won’t spoil the ending, it was quite satisfactory. You do find out in one chapter what Sam and his comrades witnessed and it is extremely shocking. My Dad wrote an account of his time in India nad Burma and I am pleased that he did not have such a horrific experience.

I enjoyed the book, both for its personal link to my Dad, the descriptions of Cumbria, I love that people collected rose hips and the like and could actually sell them, the reality of the promised land fit for heroes and the austerity and poverty of the post war years. I am a fifties baby boomer, and I can recall bomb sites when we visited my Grandad in Liverpool, and how carefully Mum eeked out some food stuffs. A good read.

So what next? These two.

Have you read any good books this month? Love to know.

 

 

 

March Books 2018

I don’t seem to have read as much this month. I abandoned the book “Paul Clifford” after three chapters, life is too short even though the was a dark and stormy night in the opening sentence. Anyway here is what I have read. Please let me know if you  have read any of these and what you thought about them .

Colm Toibin- The Story of the Night-Set in Argentina at the time of the Falklands war , with an English mother and Argentinian father, Richard Carey ‘s life moves from the political to the personal. There’s a lot in this book. The beginning is very much about the political situation which led to the Falklands war. There is a section in Spain where Richard goes with a pupil of his, Jorge , and they meet up with some Chilean exiles. Then back in Argentina a love story unfolds for him. It’s almost like the start of one book and then end with another with the link between the characters. On reflection I would have liked the political side to be more evident in the second part of the book. And goodness knows what happened to the Chileans. I read this book quite slowly and steadily and did enjoy it. I don’t want to give away too much, but here is what Tobias Wolff is quoted saying in the blurb on the back- ” The Story of the Night is a love story of the most serious and difficult kind. Toibin has told it with profound artistry and truth”. Please note, this is not a fluffy romantic novel.

Tracy Chevalier- Falling Angels- As England passes from the Victorian to the Edwardian age, life begins to change for women. The story is told by people from two households, and a boy who works with his father in the local cemetery where the families have neighbouring family plots. An enjoyable read but not a great book.

Ruth Rendell- Dark Corners- her last novel for the world. It was ok. I don’t know if her powers were declining or if my taste has changed. Moral of the story, do not supply medicine to others, even if it is legal.

Anne Enright- The Green Road- Set in Ireland, four adult children gather at Christmas when their Mamma announces she is selling the family home. The plot reminded me of the books by Anne Tyler. The writing is good. Most of the novel sets out the back story of the four siblings and their mother. I found none of the characters at all likeable, I really didn’t care what happened to any of them and the ending was just a stop writing. Disappointing really.

Coming up next  for me

I realise of course thet The Kate Chopin was amongst those that lived in the heap by my bed which I sent to the charity shop unread in January. No wonder it sounded familiar. I started it last night and I am actually enjoying it. Muppet that I am. Least these are all library books and I didn’t buy it.

So have you any good reads for this Easter weekend lined up? Do tell.

February Books, 2018.

I have had a lot of reading time this month and read all these ones I had from the library.

David Hanson- Children of the Mill- this book was written to accompany the TV programme The Mill based on the true stories of the children who worked in The Quarry Bank Mill at Styall. The book compares the real stories to the ones that were changed for the purposes of a good drama. It was a fascinating yet easy book to read. I really enjoyed it.

David Ebershoff- The 19th Wife- A story of two 19th wives. Ann Eliza Young trapped in an unhappy polygamous marriage to the Prophet Brigham Young, escapes and helps end the practice of polygamy within the Mormon religion. The second modern 19th wife is accused of the muder of her husband, they are part of a breakaway religion from the Mormons known as the Firsts. Her son sets about finding the truth. This was a jolly good read. Now I read this in quite a short space of time over several afternoons.  There are a lot of characters each telling their bit of two stories, and the two parts are interlinked throughout. So choose a time when you can settle down to just reading. Perfect holiday reading. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I agree with one of the reviews on the back “A big book, in every sense of the word…it does that thing, all good novels do: it entertains us”. Los Angles Times.

Toni Morrison- God Help the Child- how do you prepare a child for life’s slings and arrows? How can an adult overcome emotional abuse experienced as a child? How can children cope with bereavement? How do children survive sexual and physical abuse? What happens to the adults? God Help the Child indeed. Well written, thought provoking, distressing in places. Not for those in want of a fluffy read.

Ian McEwan- The Comfort of Strangers- or adults should think stranger danger too. Set in Venice, probably we are never told, a couple meet a local couple and are befriended. Enough said. There is such a feel of menace in this book, it draws you in and you race to the end. Absolotuely not for the faint hearted.

Kate Hamer- The Girl in the Red Coat- now did someone recommend this to me or did I hear about it on the radio, I don’t know. But by golly it grips you. Every parents nightmare, child disappears at a story telling festival. A very, very good thriller. Oh perfect holiday  reading , you are gripped. I read pretty much non stop to find out what happens. Go on, treat yourself to a good read, you know you want to….

Joanna Trollope-Second Honeymoon- as always a plot in step with our times. Edie is distraught when her youngest child, aged 22 moves out of the family home. She lacks purpose and mourns the empty nest. Russell her husband hopes they will return to the feeling of newly weds. Edie auditons for a part in Ibsen’s Ghost, and much to her surprise is offered a role. One of her co stars,  fresh out of drama school, becomes their lodger. Then her children’s lives fall apart and one by one they all return home. But having six adults under one roof does not equal happiness and a return to how life used to be. In the course of the novel everything is resolved through new jobs, new relationships, babies and greater understanding of what it means to be independent. Not a bad depiction of empty nest syndrome, and how life just goes its messy way on.

And for March I have these from the library

Now in case you think you have never heard of the book called Paul Clifford, I bet anything you have heard the opening line. What do you think it might be… honest you know it. I believe I may not actually get to the end of this one, I gather I will be in for some purple prose.

Any got any books they read this month to recommend?

 

Yarn Along!

So glad Yarn Along is back.

I am really enjoying The 19th Wife. I will do a review at the end of the month. Having finished the dragon I am now knitting some small squares to make a cushion. I am trying different patterns so it a kind of a sampler cushion, and using cotton yarn which is not my favourite but maybe I will get used to it.

To see what others are knitting and reading have a look at Small Things.

Big day tomorrow with Mr E’s Op, hopefully I will have good news for my next Knit and Natter. Take care,xx

Five Favourite Reads from 2017.

It’s usually hard to choose a top five favourite reads from the last year , but in 2017 five books made my top 100, so the task is easier.

5 Susan Hill- In the Springtime of the Year – an early novel from this author. A very young bride looses her husband in a fatal accident. Deals with the themes of grief, survival, but I loved it for its lyrical qualities in describing the countryside.

4 Joanne Harris- Blackberry Wine-an utterly charming book in the vein of Chocolat. Young boy Jay befriends an old man Joe, an ex miner, a whizz of a gardener, herbalist and wine maker. Years later Jay writes a best seller based around Joe. Then Jay moves to France, nearly spoils the idyllic life he finds there and discovers his soul.

3 John Boyne- A History of Loneliness- Irish catholic church, the abuse of power and the dangers of submission and wilful delusion. Excellent.

2 Ian McEwan- Atonement-  1935, a single very hot and languid day which takes half the book to describe, ends in a crime. Part two concerns a group of soldiers trudging towards Dunkirk in WW2. Part three, a London Hospital coping with the returning soldiers, so powerfully written. Part four- how it all ended. A very good read indeed.

1 Gerald Durrell- The Corfu Trilogy The trilogy of books on which the TV series The Durrells was based. I read this on holiday in Greece during  the” 30 days wild challenge ” in June. The books are laugh out loud funny. The nature content is superb but it must be remembered that the book was written in the 1930’s and Gerald was a naturalist, not the conservationist he is portrayed as on the telly. This was the perfect book to read in June, on holiday during the challenge. It was very Funny, and my absolute number favourite from last year.

Does anyone else have an absolute favourite book they read last year? I love suggestions for a good read as you know.

December books

I have read four books this month which gives a total of 63 books consumed in 2017. Clearly I am a Lady of Leisure.

Robert Harris- An Officer and a Spy- Robert Harris is a favourite author of mine, and this book came recommended to me by Jane who blogs at Rainbow Junkie Corner, here.   The story based on a true case,is  set in France and concerns the Dreyfus Affair, in which an innocent man is framed by the army. The Army persists in covering up their role and it takes a brave officer to help uncover the truth. As always Harris tells a good story. I was gripped very early on in the book and spent two afternoons reading it whilst indulging a head cold! A jolly good read.

Qui Xiaolong-Death of a Red Heroine- ostensibly a murder detective story, but really that is a peg to hang other things on. I was initially frustrated by the very slow pace of the tale, till I relaxed into it and stopped looking for detective bits of the plot and allowed the whole narrative to pull me in. The book is really about life in China, Shanghai in the 1990s, the political undertones and faint menace of life, food, there is a lot of food and Chinese mythology and poetry. I really enjoyed the book. It was recommended to me when I was reading my way through an alphabet of authors and had got unstuck on X. I rather suspect that the last name is really what we in the West would call the first name, so should really be Q, but it’s as close to X for an author as I think I can get, unless you know an author whose family name begins with an X. I am calling that particular challenge to myself, complete.

Margaret Foster- How to Measure a Cow- a woman released from prison tries to make a new life for herself with a new identity. But she is thwarted by the interest of three former friends and the lady who lives opposite her. The book is OK. It started off very well and had my interest quite quickly, but it is another book where I feel the author didn’t know how to draw it to a conclusion. But you do learn briefly how to measure and cow, and more importantly why. I’ve been reflecting on this book further. The plot was not the point of this book. The story was a peg to be hung on, when am I going to learn to look beyond the story line. It is an exploration of self, can you re-invent yourself to be someone completely different, or rather do you come to terms with past events and become a better you. A better book than I first thought, give it a go and let me know what you think please.

Jane Gardam- Old Filth. This author had come highly recommended to me this year, but the two books I read I didn’t enjoy.Then the BBC world book club choose Old Filth and I liked what I heard. So it came home with me for Christmas reading and did not disappoint. Sir Edward Feathers, Teddy, Eddie or Fevvers to his friends, aka Old Filth (acronym for Failed in London try Hong Kong) was born in Malay and sent back to the UK aged five for his health, fostered out to a couple in Wales along with two distant cousins and another boy. Not a very nice couple it transpires. Onto schools, Oxford, the Bar and finally Hong Kong where he is highly successful. A fascinating read which has left me wanting to read the other two books in this trilogy, and to find out more about the Raj orphans.  A good book to finished the year on.

I shall do a pick of my top five books I read in 2017 sometime next week. Next year I hope to join in with Circle of Pines, details here a blog for sharing books each month. Here’s a preview of the books I shall try to read in January.

You can tell I was shelving the B’s last time I was volunteering in the Library. The How to Read like a Professor is my own book and one day when I have absorbed it all, you will be bowled over by my erudite book reviews!!

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