Jump to content
  • Announcements

    • Hayley

      Signing Up   11/06/2018

      Signing Up is once again available. New members are very welcome
    • Hayley

      January Supporter Giveaway   01/16/2019

        I'm thrilled to (finally, sorry for the delay!) announce the January giveaway, with a Sherlock Holmes theme! Supporters can win a beautiful little hardback edition of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as well as a stylish a5 print by www.thestorygift.co.uk/, featuring some witty advice from the great detective.     As always, if you support on patreon or if you supported before patreon (and did so less than twelve months ago), you'll be entered into the giveaway automatically. If you're not a supporter but want to take part, you can support for this month here: https://www.patreon.com/bookclubforum .   The winner will be selected at random on January 31st. Good luck!  
Books do furnish a room

A Book blog, 2019 by Books do Furnish a Room

Recommended Posts

Currently I have in progress

Colour Me English by Caryl Phillips

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

Let's talk diabetes with owls by David Sedaris

Butterfly Stories by William T Vollmann

Snow and Roses by Lettice Cooper

Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid

Why be happy when you could be normal by Jeanette Winterson

The Sleeping Beauty by Elizabeth Taylor

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris

This set of essays/musings is typical Sedaris. The collection is variable. Some of it is brilliant observational comedy, often at Sedaris’s expense, there are also recollections of childhood and its dysfunctionalities. He sends up his own liberal values and his own obsessions (litter for instance). There are some fictional pieces as well, usually from the point of view of racists or conservatives, which are pure satire, although I felt that these were the weakest parts of the book. The random conversations overheard are very funny too. Sedaris records all these musings in a diary, which must take up an inordinate amount of his time. "It's not lost on me that I'm so busy recording life, I don't have time to really live it....Even if what I'm recording is of no consequence, I've got to put it down on paper." There are also tender and moving moments as well.

Sedaris’s own frailties are well highlighted:

“There’s a short circuit between my brain and my tongue, thus “leave me the fu** alone”, comes out as “Well. Maybe. Sure. I guess I can see your point.””

Losing a laptop with a year’s unbacked up work in a robbery:

“There are only two places to get robbed, TV and the real world. On television you get your stuff back. In the real world, if you’re lucky, the policeman who responds to your call will wonder what kind of computer it was. Don’t let this get your hopes up. Chances are he’s asking only because he has a software question.”

The travel sections are fascinating and tend to show Sedaris at his most curmudgeonly; the comparisons between Japan and China in relation to public hygiene and toilets are not for the squeamish. He also refers to Australia as “Canada in a thong”. Sedaris does tend to dismiss whole groups of people in this way, sacrificing integrity for humour at times. But his rants against racism are also refreshing.

The essay about trying to buy a stuffed owl for his partner Hugh is one of the most bizarre. He managed to find one in a taxidermy shop in London, but the owner thought it appropriate to offer him some human remains from the nineteenth century and earlier: I wasn’t even aware that was legal. It worries me that Sedaris didn’t seem to realise how fundamentally wrong that was, especially as the remains in question were those of what Sedaris described as a “pygmy”, a pejorative term used to describe a number of central African tribes who are still persecuted today.

On the whole there is good and funny stuff in this, but there are also areas I found problematic as well.

6 out of 10

Starting Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

Edited by Books do furnish a room

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am really looking forward to your review of Midnight's Children its been on my TBR for years now.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've been meaning to read Midnight's Children for years as well Brian!

Why be happy when you could be normal by Jeanette Winterson

This is a remarkable memoir, honest and very moving; beautifully written and there is a passion for reading and books that runs through it. Winterson describes books as her hearth and home and I know exactly what she means. As well as being a moving memoir, it is a memoir that will resonate with every lover of books. This is also a follow up from the fictionalised version of Winterson’s childhood: Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit. The first half of the book outlines the real story of Winterson’s childhood, including the less palatable parts. The second half takes a few snapshots from her life, her time at university and her breakdown at the end of a relationship: the descriptions of the breakdown are very painful and difficult to read. The last part of the memoir relates to Winterson’s search for her birth mother and what happened when she found her.

Some parts of this certainly resonated with me as I was also brought up in an Elim Pentecostal Church and recognised some of the character traits and apocalyptic beliefs (and the exorcism). The telling title comes from the moment Winterson told her mother she was leaving home because she was in love with a girl and was happy. Her mother’s response was “Why be happy when you could be normal.” Winterson’s mother (throughout referred to as Mrs Winterson) is a monstrous character, regularly locking her daughter in the coal shed or locking her out of the house so she had to sit on the doorstep. “Love was not an emotion. It was a bomb site between us.” Winterson used to hide the books she bought under her mattress, when her mother found them, she burnt them. Another thing that really resonates with readers.

Winterson’s adventures in the library are interesting as she discovers new authors and there are touches of humour throughout. “The one good thing about being shut in a coal hole is that it prompts reflection.” The passages relating to Winterson’s breakdown are difficult to read, but the presence of Susie Orbach as Winterson begins a relationship adds some light and a fixed point. Winterson also manages throughout to show even her mother as human and severely damaged herself as well as the monster she undoubtedly was. Winterson is very honest about herself:

“I have big problems around home, making homes, making homes with someone.”

Love, loss and longing are central to her writing as is adoption:

“Adoption drops you into the story after it has started. It’s like arriving after curtain up. The feeling that something is missing never, ever leaves you — and it can’t, and it shouldn’t, because something is missing.”

This is a memoir well worth reading and has reminded me I need to read more by Jeanette Winterson

9 out of 10

Starting The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Edited by Books do furnish a room

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am also looking forward to your review of Midnight's Children. Reading your reviews is such a delight. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I read Jeanette Winterson's Lighthousekeeping and found it a beautifully lyrical and moving book. One of my all-time favourites. I've watched the mini-series Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and your wonderful review makes me want to read the sequel. I did try Sexing the Cherry but found it a little too odd and quite weird.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you Chrissy. Poppy, I think Winterson is good and I need to read her more

Annie John by Jamaica Knicaid

This is an interesting coming of novel set in Antigua in the 1950s, when it was still under British rule. It concerns Annie John and takes us from when she is ten until she is seventeen and is leaving the island to go to England. Kincaid covers a wide range of issues, but in particular mother/daughter relationships, education, the tension between local indigenous beliefs and those imposed by the colonial power (especially in the realm of health), teenage sexual exploration, poverty and the effects and misdiagnosis of depression.

Kincaid says that her fiction usually has an element of autobiography and clearly the relationship with her own mother is partly reflected here. Kincaid writes Annie’s ambivalence about leaving home very well, there is an honesty about the protagonist and she does feel like any number of teenagers one might have met with the sense of rebelliousness and experimentation. Also the sense of a child beginning not to understand her mother and to wrestle with starting to grow up:

“I immediately said how much I loved this piece of cloth and how nice I thought it would look on us both, but my mother replied, ‘Oh, no. You are getting too old for that.  It’s time you had your own clothes. You just cannot go around the rest of your life looking like a little me.’  To say that I felt the earth swept away from under me would not be going too far.”

The reader follows Annie’s internal feelings and struggles as she begins by loving her mother and then feelings develop which feel more like hatred and even fear as she talks about her mother’s shadow:

“It was a big and solid shadow, and it looked so much like my mother that I became frightened. For I could not be sure whether for the rest of my life I would be able to tell when it was really my mother and when it was really her shadow standing between me and the rest of the world.”

There is a description of the development of depression when Annie is fifteen which is very powerful:

“In the year I turned fifteen, I felt more unhappy than I had ever imagined anyone could be. It wasn’t the unhappiness of wanting a new dress, or the unhappiness of wanting to go to cinema on a Sunday afternoon and not being allowed to do so, or the unhappiness of being unable to solve some mystery in geometry, or the unhappiness at causing my dearest friend, Gwen, some pain. My unhappiness was something deep inside me, and when I closed my eyes I could even see it. It sat somewhere–maybe in my belly, maybe in my heart; I could not exactly tell–and it took the shape of a small black ball, all wrapped up in cobwebs.”

It’s a vivid description and the whole works well as a description of the pains of growing up and becoming a separate person to one’s parents.

7 out of 10

Starting A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now



×