Sunday, 27 April 2014

Old Filth - Jane Gardam

This isn't the cover of the book, it's an illustration I found.  But is does express the feeling of a man caught between two lives for me.  An international lawyer, Old Filth did well in Hong Kong.  What a story between the covers of this first of a trilogy in which, gradually, we find out about the entire life of Teddy Feathers (or Sir Edward Feathers to give him his proper title).  Teddy was born in Malaya to a mother who died two days after his birth.  His father, heartbroken, leaves the child in the care of his Malayan wet-nurse for four years, until an aunt turns up, takes him away, teaches him English and escorts him "home" to England, and thence to a foster mother in Wales, where something rather nasty happens, so that he and two distant cousins, fostered with him are spirited away.  Them to goodness knows where, Teddy, to a small private prep school. It's clear that throughout his early life that he was always moved on, his father not contacting him, and it is only when WW2 breaks out that he realises he is on his own and has to get on with it.

Simplified version of Old Filth's early life, but there is more, much more to be found within the pages of this wonderfully written book.  Some people (like me) wear their heart on their sleeves, have no secrets, and just get on with life.  And that is what Old Filth thinks he has done during his life and his career - until the death of his wife reminds him that he has lots of things locked away in his memory.

Every book of Gardam's I pick up becomes a joy.  I only recently found out that there are two more books to read - the next his wife's story.  I look forward to them. 

Friday, 25 April 2014

Mozart's Ghost - Julia Cameron

Is this a book with a happy ending?  Well, let's just say my friend Hazel wouldn't like it, so no clues on here for other readers!! 

It's been on my shelves for around 4 years, coming off, going back on.  Wanted to read it but other books had more pull until now.  In the run-up to a busy holiday, I am reading only light reads for a couple of weeks, and a book that involves a miserable medum, the mouthy ghost of Mozart and a concert pianist amongst others didn't take long to read.  Anna is the medium, so good at channelling those who have "passed over" to those who need to hear from them.  She's in her early thirties, single and looking for (but definitely unlucky in) love.  Into her upper East Side block in Manhatten moves a concert pianist who is practicing for a big competition (practicing all day and most of the night and driving Anna mad!).  With him comes the ghost of Mozart, who desparately wants him to win because "he knows how to play me!"

It's light, frothy, and would make a great holiday read.  But just because it's light, there are still hints at how difficult life can be.  One of her friends is gay, a school teacher, whose partner has died.  Another is a girlfriend who goes through men like a knife through butter, sounding as though her life is fun (although it really isn't).  And Edward, the pianist.  Wants to win that competition, but the harder he practices, the tighter his neck muscles knot up.  Liked it.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Hermelin - Mini Grey

It is just something I sometimes do..... pick a children's book.  Child at heart, I suppose!  This was a little gem, so glad I saw it in a review of children's books for the Easter Holidays.  Hermelin is a white mouse, who lives in an attic, sleeps in an empty cheese box (which by the way smells delicious) and discovers he is good at solving crimes.  I love mice detectives.... early in my blogging career I wrote several chapters of a story (and perhaps I should revisit that and publish it now that e-publishing is available!).  Anyway, back to Hermelin..... He finds a priceless bracelet, a missing child, a handbag, a teddy bear and a few other things.  The joy is in the illustrations, which I think are by Mini Grey too, as I see no detail of an illustrator between the covers.  I read it twice, discovering things the second time I had missed the first, and if reading aloud with a child this would happen for the child and the reader too, I think.  Well done Mini Grey!  I loved Hermelin and I think all read-aloud parents and grandparents will feel the same.  Probably aimed at around 3 to 6 years but on the other hand, look how old I am!

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Some Girls, Some Hats and Hitler - Trudi Kanter

It's not often I urge my blog readers to find a book and read it, in fact I just review books that I like in the hope that someone else will read the book because of what I said.  The same applies here, but with a little poke.  Do find it, do read it.

You can read this like a novel, as it certainly reads like one, but the preface will tell you that this is a true story, of a Viennese hat maker, her husband, and their desparate bid to leave Austria  when the N.azis moved in, because they were Jewish.  Trudi (Gertrude) was already married, though separated, when she met Walter.  He was older than her, good looking, smartly dressed, and it is probable that he loved her and her red hair on sight.  She was smartly dressed, wore her own hats, and loved fashion, loved dressing up to go out with matching accessories.  All in all, perhaps, a flighty peice as my grandmother might have described her.  But her love for Walter drove her to get them both out of Vienna, and then she worked to get her parents out too.   They did get out, eventually, and they got a room at the top of a house at 84 Victoria Road Kilburn in London.   Imagine my surprise then - I lived at number 45 for 24 years - one block nearer to the High Road than Trudi, and on the other side of the road.  So her description of the Kilburn High Road, its traders, and the Woolworths there rang true with me.  Walter had a part to play in Britain's war effort too, but I will leave you to find out what that was when you read it. They changed their surname to Ellis (easier on the English tongue) and were two of the first aliens to be naturalised.  First published in the early 1980's, it was out of print before long, and the small publishing house went out of business.  Somehow, someone found it and published it again, and I am so glad I found it.

Monday, 14 April 2014

I Still Dream About You - Fannie Flagg

 Maggie Fortenberry, a former Miss Alabama, is reaching the age when senior citizen bonuses are just round the corner.  She still has a job, she has good health, she has a nice little apartment.  So why is she making plans to finish herself off?  Suicide seems a nice option: she can clean her home, never have to have her hair coloured again, give her money to charity, her clothes to the local theatre company and take herself off and never come back.  What d'you know?  Life has other plans for Maggie.  Friends need help and she still worries about what will happen if the suicide bid doesn't come off.   She's worked for the same realty (estate agent) company for many years.  She's white, her best friend Brenda is black - and running for mayor of Birmingham, Alabama.  Both of them experienced the bad days of the riots and violence back in the sixties, and neither of them understood what made it so bad.  Whatever, these two women who care about each other, are reaching their 60s, and both are planning great changes.

To say more would give the reader too many clues, for this is not only a story about love and friendship, but a wonderful mystery is knitted into it. Oh, and there's a deliciously awful villain too!  Fanny Flagg cannot be accused of writing great literature..... but she can be counted on as a great storyteller, and every one of her books has been a great story.   I have never yet been disappointed in Fannie Flagg; she does lovely warm stories about human nature which are not chick lit but usually involve women and what they do.  And so readable.  Finished this in two days!

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

April's book challenge!

Read a book with a type or element of weather in the title e.g.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
The Snow Child by Ivey Eowyn

I know March's challenge was really late (so sorry), so now you have most of April to find and read one for this challenge!

Good reading!

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Madame Pamplemousse and her Incredible Edibles - Rupert Kingfisher

Enchanting, first in a series about Madame Pamplemousse, a mysterious but eminently sensible shopkeeper who sells edibles in the back streets of Paris.   Madeleine, sent during the school holidays to help her uncle, Monsieur Lard, in the kitchen of his restaurant, the terribly greasy "Squealing Pig" is treated not as an assistant chef, but at the kitchen porter, scraping all the leftovers from the plates, and washing them, up to her elbows in dirty water.  And then, one day on an errand, she finds herself in Madame Pamplemousse's shop, the one with Edibles over the door, and only candles for lighting inside, and the magnificent one eyed cat Camembert (with an eye patch!) as the assistant. 

There's a bit of magic going on in this book for children, and it's truly a modern fairy tale with a happy ending.  The characters are horrible, or kind, or helpful, depending on who Madeleine comes across, but all are somehow believeable. This would make a great read aloud book for Grandparents or parents who love to read - or for an early  reader.  If I was having this read to me, I'd not want to stop until the end, and I would certainly want to know about the next book in the series.! 

Early One Morning - Virginia Baily

I was attracted to this novel purely by the cover (as I suppose this is meant to happen!) and it has very little about the contents on the b...