Sunday, 10 February 2019

The Salt Path - Raynor Winn

A very readable tale of a married couple who somehow lost everything – the home they owned and all their money.  He was then diagnosed with a terminal illness and she just  had to keep going somehow.  So with an income of around £30 per month, they decided to walk the South West coastal path, from Minehead via Lands End round to Poole in the hope that.... well even they were not sure what they hoped for.   They couldn’t even afford camp sites, and there was a lot of wild camping going on.  
Her descriptions of daily happenings are both heart-breaking and heart-warming, but there were times when I struggled with their stupidity ( I mean, if you are wild camping that means no bathroom facilities, so why not ensure that a small garden trowel was part of your kit; and I understand that they are not youngsters and couldn't carry much, but surely a bar of soap. a couple more Tshirts and changes of underwear don't weigh that much more?).

And here's a strange thing.  Young people they met on the path were often more friendly, more kind, more accommodating than people their own age, who seemed to shy away from these grubby, smelly middle-agers.  Some lovely tales of kindness, some awful tales of thoughtlessness - all in all a wide view of human nature in all it's guises.  I particularly enjoyed the description of some walkers from the US who they met early on  who were doing part of the SW coastal path too, but on vacation, not out of necessity.  But there is a difference when you have to walk, pitch a tent,  and find something to eat on a daily basis;  and having your luggage taken by vehicle to your next overnight accommodation whilst you carry a water bottle for the day!

 I don’t think she has written anything before,  and I have no idea how much her editor helped out, but she should write some more. 

Monday, 4 February 2019

The Care and Management of Lies - Jaqueline Winspear

Set from just before and on into the early years of WW1, this is a book which moved me incredibly.  Winspear, author of the Maisie Dobbs series (of which I am a fan), wrote this stand alone book and I do think it better than any of those.

The title is telling, because all the characters here have lies to tell.  Not all those lies are the dreadful kind that might hurt, but lies to make others happy; and of course there is always lieing by omission.  Her descriptions of early 20th century farm life, and, of course, life (and death) in the trenches during that dreadful time (which certainly was never "over by Christmas") are drawn so clearly that you can see and feel it all.  When she writes to describe meals she is cooking for Tom, her husband, Kezia lies.  When Tom writes to her from the trenches, he is careful to leave out descriptions of the bloody torment that he sees daily in the trenches.  When his sister Thea, who is Kezia's best friend joins the fray as an ambulance driver, she cannot tell either of them why.  So the care and management of lies  are both well practiced here. 

There are plenty of books written around and about WW1, but if you have not read this one I recommend it.

Friday, 1 February 2019

Mrs Mac suggests...... What to read in February '19

Well - here we are on the first of February;  a month that's short of a few days, and is a sort of in-between time,  for the cold of January is certainly still around, but perhaps, just perhaps, life is bursting out again, with early things in the garden.  I had a little look around the garden yesterday, to make sure that bulbs had overwintered..... and there they were, all sorts of green shoots, so we shall have some flowers in March and April.  Hellibors have already shown their colours, I have one cream, one pale green and one red  and also three pots of white crocus to put in.  It snowed last night, and it's cold today, but they are fine and dandy in their little pots in a sheltered place.

So.  What to read in February?  It's still cold, still dark early, and it makes me want to curl up on the sofa with a good book.  Febrruary being short will mean my books should be short?  No!! not necessarily.  So for something different, perhaps you should all

go for a re-read!

I plan to re-read a couple of books this month, but the one on the top of the  pile is one first published in 1977 and this old paperback has the cover I originally read.  This is the tale of man who thinks he's a dog, or is that a dog who thinks he's a man?  I can't remember which, but I'll find out when I read         
                                Fluke by James Herbert                                    

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Charms for the Easy Life - Kaye Gibbons

I loved this American tale, set in the 1930s and 40s, of three women in one family.    The Daughter narrates and tells of of how her grandmother became a midwife, an unregistered doctor with an opinion on everything;   and how her mother married the wrong man early in life – a union which resulted in the daughter who loves both her grandmother and mother, but her grandmother just a little more. 

This is not the first book by Kaye Gibbons I have read, nor will it be the last.  She is a delight to read because she talks of real people.  Not people who have seen something iffy from a train, not people who wake up with the wrong man in the bed, not dead bodies found in boots of cars.  Just real life, real people.  The kind your grandmother told you about, the kind your mother warned you  about, the kind that you have come across yourself. 

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

How to Look For A Lost Dog - Ann M Martin

 Rose is an autistic child, her mother left when she was two, and her father, a man of a few words drinks too much.  He can’t (or won’t) understand autism either.    But one night he brings her a gift – a dog – and Rose’s world is turned upside down for a while. 

Rose calls the dog Rain because she arrived on a rainy day, and she changes the life of this child.  But when she finds out that her father didn't get her from the dog pound, or from an animal rescue centre, she decides that Rain has another family out there somewhere.  A family whose hearts are broken because their beloved dog has gone;  just as Rose's heart will break if she finds the family - because she will have to give Rain up.  Fortunately she is helped in the task by a lovely uncle, who really is more of a father than her own has ever been.  The reason for this is made clear, but  not until very near the end of the book, and there are a lot of smiles and a lot of tears for us us before we get there.  There are certainly more books about autistic boys than girls, but we need to know about girls too - what makes them tick;  what their coping mechanisms are.  Also how others cope.  For Rose can lose her temper, and when she does, instead of swearing she shouts prime numbers, one after the other, and this is not only disconcerting, but at school very disruptive..... "would you care to step into the corridor for a while, Rose?"    Wonderful.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Mrs Mac Suggests - What to read in JANUARY 19

Happy New Year!!

Here's to some good stuff in 2019, but majorly, good health and no money problems are my two  wishes to you all.

My suggestion for a January read?  I have just read a book written for children (How to look for a lost dog - Ann M Martin), which has as it's lead character a high functioning autistic child.  It made me think, a lot, about how that child functioned in the world with people  who did not really understand how her brain worked.  So my suggestion to you is to
look for and read a book about autism

either fiction or non fiction, long or short - you may find that like me, you laughed because of the way the child dealt with life, and cried for the same reason.  And you will be drawn into a world where you begin to understand that we are not all the same, but perhaps underneath we are mostly no different.                                                                                                                                                      

Saturday, 29 December 2018

Dear Mrs Bird - A J Pearce

Emmie and Bunty are the closest of best friends.  They share a small flat at the top of Bunty's grandmother's house  in London.  The year is 1940 and Emmie wants to be a journalist, particularly a war correspondent - working as a typist for a solicitors' office is never going to get her anywhere, so when she sees an ad for a job in the very newspaper she reads it in, she applies immediately.  After a rather strange interview she is thrilled to be offered the job.  But she didn't ask any questions, and it turns out that the job is actually typing for the Agony Aunt (Mrs Bird) of a magazine in the same group as the newspaper, and with a very low circulation, things don't bode well.

But she makes new friends, and despite the fact that Mrs Bird should never have been given the job of agony aunt (she has a huge list of subjects that she will not discuss, will not answer letters containing, and will drop straight into the waste paper bin despite there being a stamped addressed envelope from the writer) Emmie begins to think that she could help some of those women who have written.

Between her job at the magazine, and her three nights a week on the switchboard of the local fire station, Emmie and friend Bunty have time to discuss Bloomin' Hitler; go dancing; put the world to rights, and from time to time spend the night in a nearby bomb shelter.  But things are going to change.  This is wartime and some of the things they experience are, well, not very nice and hard to deal with.  Bunty is in love with a local fireman who risks his life every night attempting the put out the fires and rescue people from under the rubble of bombed out building whilst Emmie has just been "let down". But life must go on.  Tragedy will rear it's  head as it must, but as the book changes from light-hearted to heartbreaking, Emmie will do her best - after all, there's a war on.  This is the author's first book.  I'd like to read more!  Recommended. 

The Salt Path - Raynor Winn

A very readable tale of a married couple who somehow lost everything – the home they owned and all their money.   He was then diagnosed...