Saturday, 9 March 2019

Song of the Sea Maid - Rebecca Mascull

I really enjoyed reading this one, especially I was reading it in the week that International Womens' Day fell, and this was a tale of an orphan child who came up with a similar theory to Charles Darwin but some time before he did!  Well - it is fiction, but historical fiction, something that the author is especially good at.  I like a well researched book, and the notes at the end will enlighten the reader no end.

It's the middle of the 18th Century, and Dawnay Price, who had been found on the streets of London as a a tiny child, filthy, bedraggled, starving is handed over by her finder and benefactor into the care of an orphanage until old enough to be passed to employment as a maid or seamstress, seeing as that was all girl orphans were apparently fit for.  But Dawnay Price is desperate to learn.  To learn about things, to learn how to find out about those things, and of course to write.  Because the orphans get taught how to read, but what good is writing to a kitchen maid or such?  By stealing ink, quill and paper she starts to copy words out in the dead of night, thinking that no-one knows.......  And this is only the start of her wonderful adventure, travelling to Portugal in her early twenties to do research, travelling on to Minorca to do the same.

I really liked the style of writing, because it seemed whilst reading that it really was true to 18th Century prose but still easy to read.  Her notes afterwards will tell you how the author achieved this.  It's written in the present tense and the first person which worked really well for me.   What also worked well was the weaving of real life happenings into Dawnay's story (did you know that Lisbon was nearly totally destroyed by an earthquake and tidal wave in the 1750s?) so if you like historical fiction, you may find that this is just the kind of read you'll enjoy.

Just a PS about this cover.  Wrong!  Wrong! Wrong!  Downay dressed down, as we'd say now.  She never wore the kind of dress shown on the cover, indeed she was a very plain dresser  and usually wore her hair inside a cotton cap.  One doesn't wear  a party frock whilst looking at the ocean floor - ever!

Sunday, 3 March 2019

The Conditions of Love - Dale M Kushner

 Eunice is around ten years old at the start of this book, and it will take you through  to her adolescence and the rest of her teen years.  She's in love with her father, a man who turns up just once since he left home when she was a baby, and oh! how lovely and how handsome he is.  Her mother, on the other hand, yearns for Hollywood - the stars, the famous, the entire lifestyle.  The first third of the book describes this time in Eunice's life and the people she meets beautifully (as does the rest of it), and we get to understand how a fatherless child might feel.  During a flood in her home area she is lost, and would have died if she was not found by a woods-woman, Rose, who keeps bees and lives in her own home-built cabin.  This third of the book is entirely different, except that Eunice is continuing to tell you her story.  I loved Rose, a woman who had lost everything but made a life anyway.  And finally, the last third tells if the meeting of Eunice's love of her life and the early days of that relationship.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   And if you think I have told all - you'd be wrong, for this book is full of things!  Also, for me, an absolute joy to read, honestly.  A lovely writing style (and this is Kushner's first novel) and a tale to be read in huge chunks if you can - I cannot recommend this one enough.  Go.  Find.  Read!

P.S. ...... the cover picture is wrong - the bird in question was a turquoise parakeet, not a blue budgerigar........ but that's all I could find wrong with this lovely book. 

Friday, 1 March 2019

Mrs Mac suggests - what to read in March '19

Hello!  The second half of February was obliterated by a gigantic gallstone attack which laid me low and stopped me reading - what a bummer is that?!!  And watching daytime TV didn't really make up for it, either.  Anyway, yesterday I picked up a book and felt good reading a few pages, so I am off and running today, and hope that you will be too.

Spring came early to the UK with a few days of high temps and sunshine.  All my miniature daffodils are out, so are the wild primroses which appear every year in new places around the garden, as they seed themselves where they will.  So of course I could suggest reading a gardening book of some kind for March.  But that may not appeal to everyone, and I've been scratching my head.

Ahah!  let's go with
                            A book set in another country

which gives you oodles of choice!  I mean!  Crime/travel/history/love...... whatever.  You will find something easily and so will I.  In fact my next book is set in the American Midwest, and it's                

The Conditions of Love - Dale M Kushner                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

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. 

Song of the Sea Maid - Rebecca Mascull

I really enjoyed reading this one, especially I was reading it in the week that International Womens' Day fell, and this was a tale of a...