Thursday, 29 March 2018

Mrs Mac Suggests - What to read in April

In my garden I have had the early daffodils (and there are later ones still to come), there are primroses all over, and the tulips are in bud.  So I think I can say Spring is on the way!  So even though it may be grey and cold, the plants know best.

So what's for April?  Something with a lot of scope, that's what!

A book set on an island.....

and for once, I am mentioning a children's  book I read in March, because it was magical and you might find a copy at the library  or treat yourself.  It may even be on your shelves already.  

The Island - Nicky Singer 
(with illustrations by Chris Riddell)  

Tin Man - Sarah Winman


See all 6 images


Ah. That is a sigh.  And maybe, just maybe, this will be my book of the year.  Whatever else I thought about it, it broke my heart.  This is a book that explores many kinds of love but in particular, the love of two friends who meet as children.  It's very short, and my advice is to read it all at once, or at the very least in a couple of big chunks - that way you can envelope yourself in the feelings described and remember what love means to you, or wonder what it should mean.  
The first half of the book is Ellis's story, the Tin Man, who has become emotionless because of circumstances.  A lot of history in this first half, his mother, his friend, his wife, and you can feel his hurt.  The second half of the book is rather different, told in the first person, a sort of diary, or perhaps just a "talking out loud" in the voice of Michael, describing his version of a life and breaking my heart as I read it. I did say that in particular this was the love of two friends who meet as children - but in fact, it is the love they have which is big enough to include a third - the wife of one, the friend of the other
The two parts do knit together, but I am going to read it again to make sure I get everything in the order I think is right on first reading..... don't be put off by that comment, just treat yourself to a wonderful, wonderful book.  
*Sarah Winman is the author of  When God Was a Rabbit and A Year of Marvellous Ways, both of which are very different, but worth seeking out.

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Moon Over Manifest - Clare Vanderpool

What a wonderful read this was, and it's certainly going to be in my top ten favourites of 2018.  Winner of the Newbery Medal (US) and published in 2010. I just came across this somewhere on the internet and ordered it.  Apparently aimed at good readers 9-12ish, I would dismiss that altogether and implore anyone of any age who loves a good story to beg, steal or borrow this, because it's so worth it.

It's a dual time novel,  1918 and 1936.  It includes some world history (Spanish flu epidemic, WW1) and a great deal of small town stuff, and therein lies it's certain charm.  The heroine of the tale is Abeline, who having been brought up by her itinerant father, suddenly finds herself in 1936, alone on a train, aged 12, and headed for the town of Manifest, where her father is sending her for the summer whilst he takes a railroad job.  She's taken under the wing of a preacher called Shady Howard (and let me tell you his past is more shady than his current life!); she makes friends, and she gets to know a woman who tells her about Manifest and what happened back there in 1918.   She and her friends are investigating an old mystery, not least because of the cigar box of bits and pieces she finds under a loose floor board in her bedroom.

When I had finished, suddenly, Anne of Green Gables came into my head.  Not that the books are similar in any way except that they are both about girls who have to make their way in a strange world;  but I guess if you love Anne, you will take to Abeline too.  Highly recommended.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

The Royal Rabbits of London – Santa and Simon Sebag Montefiere


Children’s book – cracking adventure about a small, runty rabbit with lots of lovely in-jokes for the adult read-alouder.... the rats who want a pic of the Queen in her nightie are called the  ....Ratzi;  a good looking Royal Rabbit who looks like James Bond in evening dress is called Clooney – and so on. 

Amazon reviewers show that this is a marmite book..... some love it and some hate it.  But some comments worry me, for example "violence"..... Nature in the raw is horrible - you only have to watch David Attenborough's programmes to see that, and yes, rats will eat anything they can, so why not threaten a rabbit?!   This is how children learn about life.   "No coloured illustrations" ..... Oh dear, why not just let the child imagine?  or like me, encourage them to fill in the black and white illustrations with their own colours?

We can't please everyone, but I thought this was brilliant for the read aloud crowd (and the littlies who listen) but of course, also brilliant for me and others like me!!

PS, there is a second book out now, and also I hear, a film in the making!


Thursday, 15 March 2018

The Little Paris Bookshop - Nina George

You know when you start a book and it doesn't "fit"?  The book I read before this one was like that, so when finished, I needed something lovely to read.  And what a treat I found in The Little Paris Bookshop, despite the 6% on UK Amazon who didn't seem to get it at all.....  and the Good Reads contributor who said "I thought this was a romance.....".  Well, you know what they say - "one man's meat is another man's poison".
 Translated from the German, this book has a rather misleading title and I don't think that is the fault of the translator! Yes, it is partly about a bookshop, and yes,  the bookshop is in Paris at the start of the story.  But it's a bookshop on a barge, moored on the River Seine, owned by a very reserved man who enjoys his customers getting the right book;  but very little else in his life.  A woman left him twenty years ago, he just awoke one morning and she was gone.  This event left him morose, with a dislike of friendship, of human contact, and it may have been that way for ever more but two things happened.  First, a middle aged woman moves into an empty apartment in his block.  The Consierge asks does he have any furniture to spare?  "A table would do", for she comes with nothing, her husband having upped and left with a younger model  and the locks to their home changed, her clothes in a single suitcase on the door step.  Second, a young man, who has become a best selling author whilst abhoring all the fuss, becomes a visitor to the bookshop. Those two events become catalysts in a story about love.  The table which the bookseller does pass on to the new neighbour contains a letter.   A letter from the woman who left him, and that he could not  bring himself to open.  For 21 years.  And so, casting off the barge with himself , two cats and the young author aboard, he sets out to find out the truth of the contents of that letter, to find himself, to find friends, and to find what kinds of love there are in the world. 
 I loved the story.  I loved the fact that there is a diary which makes an appearance from time to time.  I loved the bits about real books.  I loved the new friends he made and their support for him.   I loved this rather morose man, who wants dearly to break free from his 21 years of solitude.  I also loved some very nice recipes indeed at the end;  and the glossary of books that are mentioned within.  I had a little tear too, at the last part of that diary - but that's OK, this is not a sloppy book, just a book about love in all it's guises.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Lapwing sighting February 2018 (following the snowfalls)

Seen today on grass surrounding car parking area of farm shop about 1 mile north of Bridport we saw a lapwing 

Image result for lapwing bird pics
My! a handsome bird with a lovely cry, but I have never seen one of these in my life before. Somerset Levels seem to be a common overwinter spot... I wonder if he got blown about a bit in the Siberian winds last week?   I don't live on farmland, and although our town is small, it is of course an urban area.  Love his jaunty hairdo and his "peewit" call - and what a treat that was.  Numbers declining due to  change of farming methods, but you can find out a lot in the link I showed above.

The Inn At Lake Devine - Elinor Lipman

Another of those books that I just picked up somewhere... second hand emporium perhaps?  I love it when my small purchase turns into something I really enjoy - and that happened with this book. 

A subject matter that is rather deeper than the first few pages suggests, although I was left in no doubt that anti-semitism was the subject when Natalie's mother receives a letter following an attempt to book a holiday at a lakeside in which contains the following sentence:

"... Our guests who feel most comfortable here, and return year after year, are Gentiles.
                          Yours sincerely....."

But this book is not a rant, it is a clever and charmingly constructed book about how a child manages to get a holiday at this very hotel by latching on to a girl at school, and how that girl, when they are both grown up, will be the catalyst for unimagined changes in Natalie's life.  There are shocks, there are tears and there is laughter.  The discription of her stay, as an adult in a very Jewish hotel was a gem for many reasons, not least because of the descriptions of mealtimes.  I laughed out loud several times!  

I'm so glad I discovered this author.  Must find some more of hers to read now.

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...