Thursday, 30 April 2015

What to read in MAY

What d'you think then?  Let's go for a title which includes some kind of kitchen tool i.e.

                               A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea by Dina Nayeri

Patience - John Coates

Patience (and her sister Helen) were brought up as Catholics.  Both were married to men found by their mother for them before she died.  Helen has divorced hers and found a man she really loves.... so is now happily married to the second husband.  Patience is just a quiet, truly submissive wife with three small children (all girls but she can try again, can't she?) and no ideas at all about what real love is all about.  Until, one night over drinks at her sister's she meets Philip.  Philip, who will make love to her rather than have sex with her.  Philip, who will make her hear violins whilst making love.  Philip who loves her unconditionally.

Patience now has a dilemma.  How can she be with Philip for the rest of her life when she is married to Edward and is an honerable Catholic wife?  How she works this out makes this a lovely, lovely read.  I found myself willing her on and wondering why she just did not declare her love for another man to her awful husband and get rid of him.  But, like life, it's much more complicated than that!

Maureen Lipman wrote the forward to this book.  She loved it, and I did too.  It was published in 1953, and has been resurrected by Persephone for which I must say a huge thank you.  Coates' style shows it's age but that is part of the charm of this book, particularly when describing sex without actually going into the graphic detail one might expect from the 50 Shades school of fiction.  It's not as light and frothy as it sounds either.  Some moral standards come into play here, and the last paragraph is a shocker but provides, for me, exactly the right ending. 

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Moon Over Soho - Ben Aaronovitch

Moon Over Soho.jpg 

You could do as I did and read this one as a stand-alone, or you could start at the beginning with Rivers of London.  If the former, you get a good, gorey, fun read and you finish it with a smile.  If the latter, you have the treat of several more to follow.  Up to you!

Such fun, this book.  And brutal.  And gorey.  And did I say it was fun?

Peter Grant, that is DC Grant of the Metropolitan Police, is a trainee wizard.  The first trainee that the Met have taken on for over 50 years. Some of his powers are developing nicely - and some he is still useless with.  Ah, well, he has time to learn.  He's involved in the investigation into the death of a jazz man.  A saxophonist whose body has an imprint - not of a boot, or a weapon, but of an old jazz standard - "Body and Soul" - which those whose ears are tuned into magic can quite clearly hear as his body lays in splendour on the mortuary slab.  It turns out there is more than one jazz man's death to investigate:  and there are other murders too... when the first body  is found with it's genitals bitten right off - that is cause for alarm!

This is not my usual genre, this book just crossed my path - and I must say I'm glad it did.  If you don't know London it will not matter, just read and enjoy, but if you know London well it is a pleasure;  you will be led around Soho and Camden Lock, and Russell Square - and you will know exactly where you are going.  You will also find out the meaning of several favourite, which made me squeak "oh!" and laugh out loud is Hoist by his own petard which I do use myself, knowing that in simplistic terms it meant too clever for his own good sort of thing.  But the real meaning is so much better.  Find it.  Read it.  Enjoy.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Where The Wild Things Are - Maurice Sendak (a stolen review!!)

Nov 03, 2007 Nathan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Delusional miscreants.
Shelves: fiction
"I have no doubt that this book damaged me, psychologically, as a small child. It is one of the earliest books I vividly remember reading aloud to myself, and I remember the first time my mother read it to me before she put me to bed. Here's the gist of the plot: A little boy named Max dresses up in a wolf costume, plays with a hammer, chases his dog with a fork, then threatens to cannibalize his mother. His mother, a master of irony, then puts him to bed with no dinner. Already, this story should start creeping you out. Then a forest starts to grow in Max's bedroom. And no, no chemicals have been ingested anywhere in the story. Though the bit about chasing the dog with the fork does imply a delusional state. Regardless, a fucking forest grows in the kids bedroom. So naturally he gets in a boat and sails off to the other side of the world, to where all these "wild things" are. And promptly subjugates everyone he sees. I'm a damn toddler, and my mom is reading me a book about a sociopath. So Max has a ball with this gang he's conquered and converted, and they howl at the moon and hop through trees. Then he gets hungry and goes home, where his mother, no doubt terrified of his new army of foreign creatures, has left his food for him, still warm. I thought, "This woman aims to do me harm." Yes, please, mother. Read me a story about my bedroom becoming a forest inhabited by monsters, then put me to bed. Think I slept that night? No, I hid out under my bed with a plastic baseball bat, a water gun and flashlight, hoping to God that if this was the night it all went wrong, I had the courage to look those monsters in the eye and pretend I wasn't wetting myself. I made a nest with a giant teddy bear and two pillows and didn't come out until the next morning, when I heard my mom coming down the hall. All day long I pretended nothing was different. But I asked her to read me Where The Wild Things Are again that night. And the next night. For months. I would ask her questions like "Do you think I will have my monsters get you if you don't make me supper?" And she'd smile, and say "Go to bed, Nathan." Spooky shit, I'm telling you. I learned to read through fear and intimidation. A subversive masterpiece."

Yes, I own up.  I stole this review from Goodreads, so the only way I can acknowledge it is to say Thank you Nathan, whoever you are, somewhere (hopefully still) in New York.  For UK readers, I have to say this is a very American peice but it's perfect.  I so enjoyed finding and reading it, and I hope you did too.

Monday, 20 April 2015

The Last Brother - Nathacha Appanah

Sometimes a small account of history crosses your path, and takes your breath away.  This is what happened when I read this.  In 1940, some 1,500 European Jews, fleeing the Nazis, arrived on the ship Atlantic at Port-Louis, Mauritus after being turned away from Haifa for not having correct immigration  papers.  Mauritus was at that time a British protectorate, and on arrival they were imprisoned for the rest of the war.
This short novel of around 200 pages, is told by Raj, a Mauritian of Indian extraction, who at the time of the Jewish imprisonment was nine years old.  Living with his two brothers, his mother and father in abject poverty like the rest of the sugar cane workers, his experience of life is very small indeed, and when the tragedy of a huge storm wipes out the plantation and takes with it the lives of his two brothers, his life is changed for ever.  He finds himself living in a house near what turns out to be the prison where the Jews are held and there, through the barbed wire fence, he and David espy each other.  The story of this very short friendship and how it effected Raj for the rest of his life is told here.  A very moving telling of the end of childhood. 
Nathacha Appanah is a Mauritian journalist, now working in France.  Beautifully translated by Geoffrey Strachan.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Claire Marvel - John Burnham Schwartz

A beautifully written tale of a relationship that should have been better.  Schwartz has written of lovers who know what they want but just cannot somehow get it right.  If this has ever happened to you, do read this book -  and put it right.
Julian and Claire first meet, whilst at college (Harvard), on the steps of a gallery in the pouring rain.  She is holding a yellow umbrella, under which she offers him shelter.  It is obvious from the outset that there is an instant attraction between them, although Julian believes that his love is unrequited, so he meets her when he can, and in the way that shy people sometimes do he desparately hopes that she will see and feel his love.  This strange and haunting relationship, including a trip to France whilst Claire's father is terminally ill, continues until I found myself shouting in my head "for goodness sake - just tell each other what you really mean".  But of course, they do not, and when Claire meets Julian's professor, it is not long before things change for ever.

This is not chick-lit by any stretch of the imagination.  It is a beautifully constructed story of love that should have no limits but has been limited by two people who just cannot say what the other wants desparately to hear.  It's Julian's story told here - but certainly you do get a feel for how Claire feels.... and wonder why she acts as she does towards Julian.  Is it because some people just do not believe that the right person loves them?  Surely that isn't right although I am sure some relationships perish on a sea of untruths or untold beliefs about what the truth really is.

If you like a really well written tale irrespective of the subject matter, then maybe this is worth searching for.  If you like a love story with or without a happy ending, maybe this book is for you.  If you are at a stage in your own life where you wonder should you speak out about your feelings or not - then do give this one a  go.  For you may find the answer here.  I was reminded of  One Day by David Nicholls whilst reading, because of the holding back of emotion; always a danger that you might hold back too long.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

So Brave, Young, and Handsome - Leif Enger

I bought this book immediately after reading Peace Like a River, some years ago.  Why I left it so long before I read this one I have no idea, but glad to say read it I have, and what a lovely couple of days I spent in the company of Monte Beckett and the friends and enemies he makes along the way when he takes a different turn in his life.

Monte has written a best seller and given up his job at the US post office because he has done well.  The publisher wants another book (and more, if he can manage to produce them).  Sadly, it seems he had just the one book in him, for attempts to get another written are just dismal failures.  At the point where it seems he must go cap in hand to his former boss and ask to go back to work, he makes the acquaintance of Glendon Hale, a middle aged man who likes to mess about on the river, and builds small boats.  It's 1915, so the age of cowboys and outlaws is nearly over.  But Glendon has a secret - he has been an outlaw, and during the telling of his tales, he lets Monte know that he has to head back to Mexico, where he left his wife, Blue, twenty years ago.  Would Monte come with him?  And before Monte quite knows what he's doing, he's left his wife and child for a six week adventure. which turns out to be rather more than six weeks, and a very challenging adventure indeed.  The characters he meets are not so much larger than life than true to life, and you feel that you know them.  You hold your breath when the going gets rough, and you wish  the villain of the piece nothing but ill - even though he is (sort of) on the right side of the law.  The villain is an ex-Pinkerton agent, who has been tracking Glendon for years............
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Monday, 13 April 2015

Bed and Breakfast Tales (3)

During our first year we had an Australian couple stay just one night, on a tour of the UK.  We expected them early evening between 5 and 6pm.  6 o'clock came and went.  6.30 also. 7.00 too sped by.  7.30 - silence.  8.00 - nothing.

Sometime after 8.00 pm we got a call to say that they were running very late as they had got lost but should be with us by 9.00pm.  They were arguing with each other whilst making the call, so I knew when they arrived they would be "frayed at the edges".  Well, they arrived at around 9.30pm, frayed and frazzled, and still arguing!  The gps had been set, and one of them (the driver) had decided that it was wrong and had chosen to turn off the device, and go in a direction that seemed right to them.  Mmmm.  In completely another direction - thus adding at least 3 hours to a journey that was long enough to start with!  Now I understand that Australians think nothing of a 5 hour drive to see a friend but they were exhausted, bad tempered and they were staying in our house!!  A large cup of tea, a slice of cake, and all was calm - for a few minutes.  But I have come across this before, some relationships thrive on arguments - and as it continued over breakfast too, this was one of them.  Everything.  The time to start on the next step of their journey, how long it was take to get to their next stop, even where the next step was.......   But off they went, and as they were a retired couple who had been together over 40 years, I am sure that they are still together even now, bickering away and loving each other to bits!

Friday, 3 April 2015

The World is a Wedding - Wendy Jones

We can continue to find out more about Wilfred Price, the undertaker, his new wife, the lovely Flora Myfanwy.  We also get to hear what happens to Grace, his former wife of a few days (an unconsummated happening).  Characters get developed, stories continued, and all in all this is a book to sit back and enjoy, whether or not you read the first.

I enjoyed this even more than The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price, Purveyor of Superior Funerals, the first book about Wilfred and other inhabitants of Narbeth.  I loved the feel of West Wales, the small-town-ness of it all, and some of the sentences are priceless - "them?  they only fart to frighten themselves", about the opposition tug of war team!  Some books, you can hear the voices in your head and this is one of them.  There is a real Welshness about this and it's glorious.  I will just say that this book will take you to a few dark places, but Wilfred, who got the lovely Flora Myfanwy as his wife, finds his character developing (as I did too) with a strength he didn't know he had.  Lovely read.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Rap? Hell Yeh!

My treat for you.     Just a little rap about Walter Raleigh.  Pardon?   Just a little rap about Walter Raleigh!

This is from a comedy show performed by Living Spit called Virgin on the Ridiculous.  And yes, if you have not guessed yet, it's about Queen Elizabeth I.  When Walter Raleigh comes back from America with a Bloomingdales bag full of goodies for the queen, you know you are in for a treat!

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...