“Let us read, and let us dance;
these two amusements will never do any harm to the world.”

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Travelling Suitcase is famous!!! Famous I tell thee!

I made this: Unknown at 11:27 am 0 comments Links to this post
Our very own BookElf is taking the city by storm!
Well, the reading part of it anyway! Your average football fans are probably less aware...

If you haven't followed the twitter links - please visit http://bit.ly/cT9S5M  For Books Sake (linked on the main page) are featuring our intrepid book warrier, and her mission to make books more accessable and communal!

And, a little earlier, Culture Vulture (I think www.theculturevulture.co.uk/blog/?p=6120) also ran a feature on her book swop/twitter event!

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

You Know You're Getting Old When...

I made this: BookElf at 3:36 pm 3 comments Links to this post
Possibly my favourite of all my neighbours has to be R, the coolest ten year old in the world. She is an avid reader, I've lived next door to her for two years (in two separate houses, funnily enough) and over that time I am proud to have introduced to her such classics as Nicobobinus, Watership Down and The Railway Children.

This week we had our fairly regular doorstep chat about books and got onto the subject of Little Women. Now I, like probably every girl in the world ever, have always identified strongly with Jo March. I was over-dramatic, loved to make a performance out of everything (and frequently did-massive props go to Mrs Oldfield who let us put on our weekly plays in Yr5 and gave me the writing bug!) loved writing, and in an act of teenage rebellion against traditional gender roles cut off all of my hair, much to the rest of my families annoyance. I loved the books when I was a young teen, but was angered by Jo's refusal to marry Laurie.

In my head he was perfect for her: her best friend who could smarm his way out of anything, they would have led the ideal life of constant laughter and amusement. I have to admit I did tear the page out where she said 'no' and wouldn't speak to anyone for an entire evening in a preteen sulk. When she married the old boring German intellectual I thought she had gone stark raving mad. Why would you say no to the beautiful, funny Laurie and fall instead for this austere (and much older) Professor?

Then I grew up. Now I long to meet a kind, unassuming, passionate, intelligent older man who will support me without belittling me and provide me with opportunities for self-growth and personal-development. I totally understand Jo's life choices and these are the ones I wish I had made, instead of throwing my heart away on silly boys that would show me a good time, but in reality provide no lifelong stimulus. This shift of thinking from Laurie to the Professor is one of the things I had semi acknowledged but never given much thought to until R, in her optimistic youthful brilliant way said 'and why does she marry the professor he's OLD! Laurie is so much better, I'd marry him over some boring old clever person any day'.

Oh child, child, how much you have to learn...

Sunday, 20 June 2010

World Cup Reading-Long Walk to Freedom

I made this: BookElf at 5:33 pm 0 comments Links to this post

As this summer's World Cup is taking place in a country I have never been to, and know little of, I decided my World Cup Reading would be the autobiography of the country's former leader, Nelson Mandela. I began reading the book on the evening of the opening ceremony. Long Walk to Freedom is over 700 pages long, and it would be insulting and wrong of me to skim read, or skip past sections of this amazing and inspirational man's life, so you must forgive me if I cover this in more than one blog post. This is a book that needs to be talked about.

I thought I knew something of the history of South Africa. I knew that Mandela has been released to become President after being jailed for over twenty years by the racist apartheid promoting government, and that my parents and thousands of others in this country had refused to buy South African goods, or contribute to firms and economises of countries that supported the regime. Reading the detailed, and disarming descriptions of life as a freedom fighter in the 1950s, I realised that actually I know nothing. Nationalist government used violence and intimidation as tools against a non-violent, highly organised ANC led by educated and thoughtful men and women. This policies led to people being forced out of their homes, jailed for months without legal representation in conditions that mock the idea of sanitary and massacred by a racist and ineffectual police force that did not even keep up to date records on the legal status of the supposed 'communist terrorists' they were persecuting.

The account of Mandela's early life is brief, but fascinating. I would have loved for it to go into more detail, however considering Mandela's age when the book was published, and the amazing life he has led (this books makes the idea of a 21 year old glamour model's life being worthy of the status of 'best-selling autobiography'laughable) , it is unsurprising he chooses not to go into detail of an African childhood in the early part of the twentieth century. What is well done, and as quite a politicised person in their 20s myself fascinating to me, is how Mandela's views change over time, from radical anti-communist intellectual to a man who is not searching for freedom for Africans, but for everybody. He is totally without apology, but explains how hot-headedness in youth is natural and can be tamed by thought, reflection and experience.

Mandela also does not go into detail about his 'private' life. He explains his divorce from his first wife again without apology or apparent regret, yet is loving and nostalgic about his relationship with Winnie, and talks with love of his children. He explains rationally how his involvement with the struggle (in fact a section of the book is named 'The Struggle is my Life' had impact on the amount of time he spent with his family, but as a reader knowing what his actions, and those of the movement he described, achieved, we cannot judge him too harshly for this.

I am just up to the point after the Treason Trial that lasted four years, and which over 30 members of the ANC were arrested for promoting violent other throwing of the government ans subsequently found innocent. The trial is decribded in great detail, and the farcical prosecution, and efforts to the extend the trial though making each defendant cross-examine each other is turn and told in an almost comical style. The reader is hopeful of a happy ending for Mandela, but it is only 1961, and this section of the book ends, 'During the Treason Trial, there were no examples of individuals being isolated, beaten and tortured. All of these things became commonplace shortly after'. I shall continue on.

This book was again very kindly donated to the Suitcase Library by a very kind and generous man, and I would have probably have never have read it (or at least not thought to for many years) were it not for the exchange of books, rather than relying on the best sellers or latest releases promoted by publishers. Thank you.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Green Knowe - truely, madly, creepy!

I made this: Unknown at 2:58 pm 2 comments Links to this post
I don't know about you, but as far as I'm concerned, the most enjoyable children's books always have some sort of a bite in them(is it the same as Young Adult? I've never known where the cut off point is there. Will check with the oracle in a bit! - UPDATE - she indicates that its discretionary. So I shall stick with children's, as I think YA is a horrendous degrading marketing ploy.)

From Roald Dahl (where the bite might be literal!), to Enid Blyton, to Philip Pullman, Michelle Paver, JK Rowling  and so on; the who's who of children's books  have all recognised that to appeal to a literate and intelligent young person; there needs to be an element of danger, consequences for crimes, consistent and rational (albeit fantastical) characters, and the reality that, very often, you can rely only on yourself (and a select band of buds) to get the job done. I believe that they also recognise that to provide anything less is to patronise and condescend their audience.

Recently, I read an article linking strong, successful young heroes and heroines with abusive, absent or neglectful parents. While the focus in this article was bad parents, I found myself reflecting that while society seems to enjoy portraying children as soft, delicate, vulnerable and weak, the books standing the test of time do not. Rather, they provide somewhat more of a challenge.
After all, in some parts of the world, it's little people that make our shoes - and I don't mean elves!

The prime example here is in the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness books by Michelle Paver (introduced to me by BookElf, whose speciality seems to be finding stories set in the ether before time, that are too compelling to put down!). On the first page alone of the first book, a character dies from a bear mauling. Sorry, a father dies, leaving his ten year old son alone.
It's not graphic, but it's still pretty grim, and the rest of the books are all similarly set with a realistic tone. Good things happen, and everyone feels great, but bad things also happen, and each bruise, scrape and hurt feeling is equally revealed.

It's great. In a world where children's television has never really recovered from the horrendous purple dinosaur, and the PC explosion - I love that it is in books that the shadows of this world are explained to our young un's. 

For me, one of the most delicious and creepy of worlds was created in the mid 50's by a woman in her mid-60's, Lucy M Boston. She wrote stories that linked the past to the present -  inspired by her own home, one of the oldest continually occupied houses in Britain, built in the 1130's(!) - and wasn't afraid to delve into the dark to achieve the most fulfilling stories. 

In 1976, the Beeb made a 4 episode series based on the first book, and even more recently, Maggie Smith headed the cast of From Time to Time in 2009, based on the second in the series. 

1. The Children of Green Knowe
2. The Chimneys of Green Knowe
3. The River at Green Knowe
4. A Stranger at Green Knowe
5. An Enemy at Green Knowe
6. The Stones of Green Knowe

If you're losing interest, stop now! What follows is a rather chaotic and rambling appreciation for each book, which will make no sense to those who havn't read the books...and possibly only slightly more if you have!

Meet Linnet Oldknow. She is the most recent occupant of a house that dates back to the times of Moses...or the Norman's actually. Her family have been occupying the house for generations, and when her grandchild - the most improbably named Toseland (Tolly) comes to stay, she entertains him with stories of the old days. Somehow - in a beautiful piece of magic that is all the better for not being explained - Tolly begins to interact with the 'ghosts' of the house's other children (Toby, Alex and Linnet), primarily through the only surviving picture of the family of the time (though its been a while and I might be mixing books here!).

In the following book, it is the patchwork quilt being repaired that provides the medium for the ghostly encounter, and Tolly meets the blind Susan and her special friend, and slave Jacob. The themes begin to develop and evolve from mere familial interaction and a sense of home, to the social issues that would have been present at the time - the restrictions placed on girls,(perceived!) racial superiority, the treatment of slaves, and the disabled/advantaged, and a mysterious theft!
Of all of them, I think that this is the most compelling, and I love Love LOVE Susan! She is brave, determined, kind and bossy - wonderful traits all!

The third book is my most and least favourite at the same time. Tolly and Linnet are away, and the house is rented out to homeless children. Once again, there is more focus on the social themes relating to the story. I didn't like how fantastic the house was, with time travel, flying animals and all sorts of 'kiddie' magic elements, but the sub-text, of a house that has the power to heal and provide a home for the displaced is just gorgeous.
At first, I found the change of primary cast to be very jarring, but as I was pulled back into the house, it became clear that the harmony that it encouraged affected more than the family that lived there. Ping in particular reminds you of an optimism for the future that, to be honest, seems a bit lacking at the moment!

The forth in the series won the 1961 Carnegie Medal in literature. It follows Ping - one of the homeless children mentioned above - revisiting the house, and befriending - like you do - an escaped gorrilla. 
I was fascinated by the detailed research that went into this book, and horrified and heartbroken by the cruelty that we inflict onto the animal kingdom. 
Although as a story, it all seems a bit ridiculous - and while I am a dreamer, I have always been rooted in the practical - the House, as a character in its own right is so well developed, that it seems, if not actually possible, at least an appropriate metaphore. 

But my favourite one of the books is number 5. So naturally Idon't want to reveal anything about it!
Definately the darkest in the set, I mean, how many children's books focus on the devil or his daughter...okay, far too many, but fewer have a detailed alphabet of doom, or discuss the difficulties of writing on bat wings! 
Both Tolly and Ping feature in this adventure, staying with Linnet. Naturally this leads to stories - in particular the evil Dr Vogel. The next day, a visiting academic comes in search of papers belonging to...you guessed it - the same Dr Vogel!

And it's scary. At least I found it so - all build up, and evil and hated and despair - even the ghosts struggle in this one!

Finally, the sixth book takes us back in time, to the first generation of Oldknow family occuping the house. In this, all the strands are tied together in this amazing lovely little way, as Roger finds the magic that allows him to visit with Linnet, Susan, and even Tolly!

Of this book, I won't say anything at all! Written after the rest, it fits with the series so well, but obviously from a very different standpoint, with none of the implied history that steeps each page in the earlier books!
If I could, I would donate a set of these books to every library, school and family in the country! They're like Narnia - only less divisive. Even if you don't love them, they are intereting, and I've found every re-read to be as satisfying as the last!

Anyhoo, time to stop writing about books, and get stuck into one!

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Viewing issues

I made this: Unknown at 3:32 pm 0 comments Links to this post
So, it's been brought to my attention that if you view the blog in old IE, all the empty boxes get weird nonsense typed into them - like '<!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]-->'.

Me either, though I get the sense that they don't like empty boxes.

And I have thought long and hard about setting aside some time to sit down and think long and hard about this, and try to find a fix.
But then again...
It's annoying, and its a geek fail on my behalf, but it isn't actually preventing any reading of the blog, and of course, no matter what tweeking I do, somebody will have a browser that hasn't passed the acid test, and will find something else has gone wonky in return.

So...what to do what to do, itz a dilemma...for the time being, I'm going to leave the blog as is, fill the empty boxes with something like 'TBA' and hope that sorts out that problem.

If it doesn't and you are a faithful reader, driven to the end of your tether, then email, or tweet me and I'll...do...something heroic.

Alternatively, try viewing the site via firefox - it's what I use to edit it.


Wednesday, 16 June 2010

The Saga of the Noble Dead - or what Twilight isn't...

I made this: Unknown at 9:38 pm 2 comments Links to this post
  1.  Dhampire
  2. Thief of Lives
  3. Sister of the Dead
  4. Traitor to the Blood
  5. Rebel Fay
  6. Child of a Dead God

 I am writing this in response to the incredible and outrageous adoration of the Twilight (Twishite) series - a set of books woefully written, with some of the most ridiculous and two dimensional characters ever to disgrace a page (he loves her because she smells like food. That's it. No really - that's the entire romantic plot. She smells like food, so her loves her. Romeo and Juliet must feel soooo threatened!).

This rant is directly only at the books, as the films are destined to become camp classics for me. (In fact I got quite a few angry looks at the cinema during New Swoon, as I chortled every time the hairballs with hormones appeared on the screen!).

The first and most offensive aspect to me is the writing itself. Whole passages, let alone descriptors and phrases, are repeated verbatim - presumably to avoid having to strain for more depth - and characters are mere sketches, appearing only to progress the painfully thin storylines, with one personality trait each and no more. Less in fact for the primary roles. It feels like fan fiction, rather than the more polished and edited (with more than affection and enthusiam) books usually peddled to the tween market.

The fact that Wuthering Heights was re-released with a Twilight appropriate cover and tags like 'Edward and Bella's favourite book' (cause Edward is soooo like Heathcliffe...in his non-existant dreams!) just depresses. 

As I may have mentioned before, I didn't exactly click with the characters. Edward is the most emo wimpy hero ever (and therefore perfectly represented by the anaemic Robert Patterson), and manages to carry some of the most atrocious dialogue in the books (Edward: "And so the lion fell in love with the lamb." Bella: "What a stupid lamb." Edward: "What a sick, masochistic lion.").
Bella is a battered wife to be. Despite being a total mope, loaner and self admitted social moron, she instantly becomes the darling of her new town, and falls into a love so self serving and delusional as to be harmful. Have you ever seen Secretary with James Spader? It's that level of BDSM, just not detailed on the page.

In the second book, Edward leaves town (because she has a paper cut. No, really, it isn't any more dramatic than that. She cuts her hand, he and family freak out and LEAVE THE COUNTRY) and she literally pines away for him. It was kinda like one of those pro-ana sites, advocating insanity so as to fit in with the happily ever after Disney raised us on!).
She then sort of loves someone else (but not really coz he isn't Edward) mostly because he's there, but later it turns out to be ok, as he was programmed to love her unborn, un-conceived vampire human half-breed. So it's sweet really.

What the...?

I can't go into the series any further. To do so would only make me angry. And I'm kinda like the Hulk when I'm angry. I get loud and I break things. Usually other people's feelings.

However, there are two other points that just scream for attention.

Do not read these books if you want convincing resolution to a protracted and convoluted, though fluffy story.
Do read these books if you're a fan of the super-Happy-Happy endings in Wayne's World and Austin Powers. Every character has a happy ever after.
Every single one.
Even the bad guys. They are either killed, or they realise the error of their ways. And the biggest baddies of all ever show up at the end of the final book...and ...apologise and go home.


Ed gets Bella. She gets to be vamp, but also breed, and not be as mopey as the rest of them. Jacob gets the deus ex machina who happens to be like 4 weeks old, but already flirting...(niiiice)
And the vamps and weres go back to being enemies, but not like fighting enemies, more like 'You suck!' enemies.

Actually, that's pretty much it. No one else really has that much of a storyline.

The last rant, well, this is a more personal one, and not something that I expect for everyone to get all hot and bothered about.
It's the abstinance programme that seems to run the whole way through the series. If Edward has sex with Bella before they are married, he could KILL her.

Again, I only wish I were making this up.

But fear not, gentle reader, if you would like to read intelligent, well crafted and pace-y books featuring those legends of the night, I'd really recommend JC and Barb Hendee's Saga of the Noble Dead.
These I'm not willing to spoil. They are worth reading, and discovering all for yourself. And while they might not float your boat, you won't want to tear your hair out while reading it!

    Natalie Williams

    I made this: Unknown at 3:50 pm 1 comments
    I warn you now, I might gush...

    So, many many moons ago, when faces were fresh, and tummys always seemed to be growling - there was a girl a year or so older than me in school - Natalie -  who had a knack with language. She was always scribbling stories, plays, poems and songs for school assemblies (but was also cool, rather than try-hard), and had wild hair, and a mad crazy laugh that would follow you down the corridor! Despite the near insurmountable obstacle that was our age gap, we became good chums, and it was disappointing to lose touch after I left Zimbabwe, though to be fair, that happened more often than not!
    Over a decade later, and several moves across continents and time zones, we reconnected via that wonderful facespace website, and had a catch up. Turns out that Natalie was just about to publish her first collection of poems, and become a proper adult with a career and everything!

    Her poetry is imaginative, fantastical, and evocative of a bygone era, when poetry was meant to be escapist as well as capture a specific theme and/or commentry. I bought the book, partly as a friend-favour and partly coz I do actually quite like poetry, and I quite like fantasy so the described mix seemed appealing. I didn't expect to be quite as affected as I was - its amazing how well written passages can evoke feelings about shared experiences despite the passage of the years. 

    Since then, well it seems that the only direction she knows is up!

    Please find below, one of Natalie's poems. (We have permission to post an exclsive at some point...but as that will involve me typing it out, I'm going to hold that one back for a special occasion :P)

    To Home
    When I look at you;
    I think of home.
    Memories of twisted surf
    and splashing cliffs.
    Black rocks mottled with grey
    splashes of organic paint.
    Soot soul driven
    by winds and hurricane.
    Driving home in darkness.
    Hot lemonade summers;
    red with raspberries and cream.
    What a lovely dream
    it is to look at you.

    When I think of you;
    I look at home.
    Coconut coloured eyes,
    eyelashes lifting
    and drooping
    with shy.
    Nude pink hills; your hips are
    mountains I climb with fingered wishes,
    and flowered lilac kisses.
    When you smile secret ideas
    lift with the lines your glasses
    End pecked on your nose
    Chocolate threads your hair is knitted;
    entertained by your wit.

    When I look at home; I look at you.
    I am there again.
    With you.

    And, not to get all pushy and stuff, but if you fancy having a more indepth look, check out her offerings on Amazon:

    Theodore in November

    Daydreams in Mermaid Glass

    * * * * *
    School Days Over

    Monday, 14 June 2010

    Tukking about doesn't wash

    I made this: BookElf at 3:34 pm 0 comments Links to this post
    I enter a fair few competitions, mostly because I like filling in forms, and recently won a book from Bah! To Cancer's excellent blog (thank you very much!). Because I tend to enter indiscriminately and win a fair bit, I do end up reading quite a wide selection of books. On this occasion I won a copy of Tuk Tuk To The Road, by Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent and Jo Huxster, which is taken from the tuktotheroad blog. This is a collection of blog posts from Antonia (Ants) and Jo as them attempt to drive a tuk tuk from Bangkok in Thailand across Asia and Europe, to Brighton in something like four months. The aim is to raise lots of money for the mental health charity Mind, chosen after the two of them have experiences with mental health issues. They succeeded in this, and the blog was very popular, the girl's (which is how they describe themselves) managed to get home safely and all turned out well.

    Now, I must point out the following is all down to my incredibly jealousy. For a start, if you don't know what a tuk tuk is, then join in the party of those who have never been to Thailand (or anywhere outside of Europe unaccompanied by a parent) because YOU COULDN'T AFFORD IT. A tuk tuk is apparently the Thai taxi, a three wheeled machine that, to be fair, does look very cute. If I saw one, I'd probably dream of having one of my own to drive around on, I'd probably even paint it pink and cover it is glitter, but you know what, I don't, because I Can't Afford It.

    I fully fully get that the authors were doing this all for charitah, and to raise awareness of a very important issue. I also fully get that they are not writers, just normal people (well, I say normal, I mean, to the extent where they can afford to take a year off work in order to raise loads of money for charitah and not starve in the process. I don't know many normal people who can do that, just a laod of privileged rich uns) but what is the point of doing this absolutely fantastic trip, which clearly took a lot of planning and effort, and involving so many other people to make your tuk tuk from scratch and modify it to be safe to drive accross all kinds of terrain, and then others to guide you across that terrain, if all you are going to do is use your one outlet of writing it down so that other people, you know the ones who have given you the money so you can take a year off to do the thing in the first place, can read about your Excellent Adventure for pissing and moaning about all them Foreign countries just not being up to scratch (there were flies in the food, Oh My God, the roads are awful, Oh My God! I couldn't bribe a policeman effectively by letting him grope me, Oh My God!!!). Possibly favourite bit being when they say they are going to make a sign saying 'China- Country under construction' because they weren't aloud to take a tuk tuk, basically a posh tricycle, on a motorway. How awful. In a country coming back from a communist dictatorship where millions of people died of starvation and totalitarianism. Poor things.

    Occasionally they do stop whining enough to describe the beautiful scenery and amazing places they visit. This goes something like this. 'The scenery is breath takingly beautiful and I learnt this fascinating fact about this amazing place [insert fact here]. There aren't any other Westerners here, people look at us funny, then again we are driving a bright pink tuk tuk! Aren't we funny!'.

    Also, ALSO, they 'named' their tuk tuk (no problem with that, the bibliobus shall also be named) Ting Tong. From the character is Little Britain. You know, the Thai Bride one that conforms to just about every racial stereotype going. And although they checked that Ting Tong doesn't mean anything horrendous in Mandarin (because you're not aloud to offend Chinese people, just Thai and Laon) it wasn't until about a week into their trip they realised that, you know, Thai is a language. Oh My God.

    If rich people want to raise money for charity and awareness of a good cause then I will do nothing but back them. Go have you £50 a ticket charity balls (where the waitresses still get paid less than minimum wage and are groped by the dignitaries-I speak from experience). Dress as a massive butterfly and jog around London with some random royal family member attached to your arse a la Richard Branson. But if you just want to piss about travelling, then go and take some more of the beautiful photos the centre pages were filled with, which I would have been chuffed to see more of, and don't insult me with your post-colonial xenophobia filled boring writing. And then go and win an award from Cosmo who probably thought it 'brave' to fulfill most people's wildest dreams of actually getting to leave the country. Then again, at £4 a pop, Cosmo is probably read mostly by other people who didn't balk at the idea of quitting your job for six months!

    In a few years, when hopefully I shall be earning a little more than I am now meaning I don't have to borrow £50 off my younger sister for the last two weeks of the month, I shall probably re-read this book and love it, I shall think the authors incredible, and their feet astounding. But right now I, and millions of people around the world, could not afford a ride in a tuk tuk, never mind the lessons to drive one. They did mange to raise a hell of a lot of money though, and more awareness of mental illness, so well done them.

    Tuesday, 8 June 2010

    Shak-es-pear-e is immense

    I made this: BookElf at 5:36 pm 0 comments Links to this post
    As part of the Once Upon a Time Book Challenge, this month I dug out my Complete Works (always a pleasure, one of those lucky sods who did the good plays at school and therefore has unending love for The Bard) and re-read A Midsummer Night's Dream. Love that play, and it was very revealing to me how much my sympathies change over time; used to think Titania was the be all and end all, now think all the characters are whiney and should shut up and get on with their lives, the play is merely a diversion, and that greater things are important than who ends up with who. This may be entirely cynical, but also would love love love to see a Brechtian working of the play as have a feeling it would turn out rather well...

    I have also kept with the Shakespearean theme by reading A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley, a truly wonderful book I am now going to wax lyrical about. This re-working of King Lear into the Great American Novel is truly beautiful writing, combined with innovative and inspiring character perspectives and a tragic but completely feel sable plot. The only only bit that jarred with me slightly was the re-imaging of Goneril's poisoning of Reagan, but that did so in the original play and was only because I was so upset one of my favourite ever characters (older sister trying to keep peace with overbearing and manipulative father and precocious, silly sister, finally cracking under pressure-check!) would resort to murder over a man.

    The book is set for the most part in 1970s Iowa, flat endless farmland made fertile through the hard work or pioneers for the benefit of future generations. Ginny, the books narrator, tells the story of her family, through weaving between the story of how her father Larry decides impulsively to split the farm between his daughters and the subsequent disowning of his youngest Caroline (who comes ac cross as just as much of a stuck up bitch (sorry I know its a bad word that hurts all women but only one could think of) as Cordelia did), and memories of their childhood on the farm. The theme of the land and ownership and exploitation of it being the downfall of the family is possibly my favourite thing about the book, I am love the sitting on the fence Smiley does about chemicals in farming; the probable cause of much of the families' health problems, juxtaposed with vegetarian hippy Jess (v strange seeing name in print, especially with male character) being a weak willed man who jumps from one sister's bed to the other breaking hearts and ruining his family in the mean time. By having Ginny narrate we only see the plot through her eyes, meaning we are given a biased view of how Larry treats his daughters, and I did have more sympathy with the sister's for their treatment of Lear in the original play as a result. Smiley's unreliable narrator is a wonderful device, I spent a good two hours after finishing the book (with a huge smile on my face) re-thinking the actions that took place and deciding on what I thought about them. You can see why it won a Pulitzer.

    I have never even heard of this novel, it was donated to me for the Suitcase Library. Published in the early 90s it is likely I would never have heard of it unless someone recommended it to me, and knowing my love of Shakespeare I'm pretty certain my 'bookish' friends would have done. Just goes to show you shouldn't rely on best-selling lists to find your fiction, I was fiveish when this book was published and this would have completely passed me by were it not for a very kind man who left me some really great books. This blog goes out to Mr Wragg, for making me have such a brilliant weekend, thank you sir.

    This month I've also been reading The World According to Garp by John Irving (brilliant beginning, then ground to a halt so much I almost stopped reading before speeding up again, love Irving), The White Tiger for Book Club which cannot wait to discuss, Esther Freud's Peerless Flats which was like an even more depressing 1980s version of Skins (couldn't decide if I hated Lisa or just felt sorry for her, her mother's hippy outlook made me re-evaluate how I saw my parents though, proud they let me get away with so much whilst teaching me utter contempt for those who pushed boundaries too far), The Distance Between us by Maggie O'Farrell, who I just love for After You'd Gone, but was quite disappointed with for this one (but got The Hand That First Held mine in hardback and it looks ace so I Don't Care), The Sins of the Wolf by Anne Perry, lent to me by N, which was grand and am still plowing way through the Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh, which is highly entertaining but a bit of a epic, also massive hardback beast so next to me bed book.

    I'm currently also reading The Lost World by Author Conan Doyle, which is hilarious! Prof Challenger may be favourite character ever...

    Happy reading!

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