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Welcome to the November 2013 Reading Circle :smile:

 

This month's theme is buildings and the book chosen was Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake :clapping:

 

**It is assumed that you have read the book before reading posts in this thread, as the discussion might give away crucial points, and the continuous use of spoiler tags might hinder fluent reading of posts.**

 

Here are some basic questions but feel free to write your thoughts down in whichever way you prefer.

1- What were your first impressions? .. did you find it an easy story to engage with?
2- The castle and it's environs are pretty sprawling .. were you able to visualise it?
3- Did you have a favourite character? And a least favourite?
4- Was there a particular part you enjoyed more than the rest?
5- Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?

6- Was this the first book you've read by this author and has it encouraged you to read more? Are you planning to read the sequels?

7- Steerpike is a very manipulative and machiavellian character .. did this make you dislike or admire him? (could you ever love a book burner?)

8- What, do you think, was Keda's purpose in the story?

9- Overall was reading the book an enjoyable experience?

10- Would you recommend the book to others?

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Ok then .. off I go .. :blush2: 
 
1- What were your first impressions? .. did you find it an easy story to engage with?
I was hooked from the first page, or very soon after it. I picked the book up with such trepidation and was expecting something extremely difficult but though it is quite different from anything else I've read and it's fairly (no scratch that .. very) wordy I found it quite easy.
2- The castle and it's environs are pretty sprawling .. were you able to visualise it?

Not totally, it kept outstripping my imagination :blush2: I could visualise certain rooms as he described them so thoroughly but the castle as a whole was quite sketchy in my mind. I would have liked a detailed drawing or map.
3- Did you have a favourite character? And a least favourite?

Well, except for perhaps Keda, they were all bonkers weren't they? My favourite was Fuchsia .. there was something quite heartbreaking about her and she did seem to be one of the few that actually 'felt' .. she was a bit of a free spirit but one that was caged. Also I liked Dr Prunesquallor who .. though irritating in speech .. made me laugh and was one of the few compassionate characters. I felt a lot of sympathy for Lord Sepulchrave whose life was just a continuous drudge of ritual and duty .. his only joy were his books and they were taken away .. those later scenes between him and Fuchsia were very moving. Swelter was a great evil character but grotesque and repulsive .. also I was exasperated by Nannie Slagg and really annoyed with Gertrude who felt much for the birds and cats but nothing at all for Fuchsia or Titus. Cora and Clarice almost drove me up the wall though there was great comedic value in nearly all of the characters.
4- Was there a particular part you enjoyed more than the rest?

I really enjoyed the beginning when introduced to all of the characters and the castle. I loved reading all the bits about Fuchsia and, though it put my heart in my mouth, the burning of Sepulchrave's library was edge of the seat stuff .. I swear I could hardly breathe properly through it :blush2:
 5- Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?

I lost interest slightly with Keda's story .. in contrast castle life seemed more vibrant so when she returned to the Dwellers I couldn't wait to be back with the barmy lot again. Some of the rituals were (purposefully) tedious and were a little bit of a trial to get through .. also .. though it was a fantastic scene .. the fight between Swelter and Flay in the 'Hall of Spiders' made me shudder :hide:
Also being a woman (or at least last time I checked ;)) I was annoyed at the way Fuchsia was considered unimportant. I understand all about male heirs and succession and whatnot but all the same .. she was practically invisible.
6- Was this the first book you've read by this author and has it encouraged you to read more? Are you planning to read the sequels?

I haven't read anything else of Mervyn's but I would like to read Mr Pye at some point. I do intend to read the sequels and am especially looking forward to Gormenghast. I was saddened to read though that he was suffering from dementia by the time he wrote Titus Alone and as such it has quite a different feel to it and some say is much weaker than the other two. Also he had more sequels planned so we've not ended up with the full story as he wanted it told. I understand that his wife published a further sequel .. Titus Awakes .. some years later basing it on Mervyn's original ideas but it doesn't appear to have been well received and I don't think I would read it .. I'd be interested to read any notes written by Mervyn detailing his vision though. 
7- Steerpike is a very manipulative and machiavellian character .. did this make you dislike or admire him? (could you ever love a book burner?)

No I couldn't :7_mad: In the first instance I was prepared to like him and had a lot of sympathy for his situation but he didn't seem to have any redeeming features .. he only thought about himself and was clearly a dangerous and devious character. Obviously, at this stage, I don't know where all this scheming will take him .. I'm extremely fearful for both Fuchsia and Dr Prunesquallor though .. and poor Titus presumably will be at risk. Titus was a strange title character .. I expected to know all about him but of course, being as he was only a baby, he was probably the character I got to know least (I think I may have even learnt more about Rottcod :D) Was he the only one we didn't read a reverie from? .. I thought it might be funny if we had :D .. oh but thinking about it ... I don't think we heard Steerpike's reverie either.
8- What, do you think, was Keda's purpose in the story?

Do you know, I'm still not sure ... I think it might yet be revealed. She seemed at odds with the story but that last scene at the Earling was interesting. The child she conceived must have some future part to play.
9- Overall was reading the book an enjoyable experience?

Yes .. enormously. It was one of those books where I just constantly marvelled at the genius of the writing. Beautifully descriptive prose .. written as if every word mattered. I was reading somewhere that Peake greatly admired Dickens and it has that scope to it. If Dickens had ever written fantasy, I imagine it wouldn't have been far off this. The comedy and tragedy are every bit as sharp. It was quite luxurious to read .. I couldn't resist reading bits out loud (only to the walls) just to hear the sound of the words rolling about. 
10- Would you recommend the book to others?

Yes definitely. To fantasy lovers especially :smile: 

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1- What were your first impressions? .. did you find it an easy story to engage with?

Even though i already had The Gormenghast Trilogy on my TBR pile I was a little unsure wether it would be something that i'd like not being a huge fan of fantasy novels & it did take me a little while to get into the book , say 50 pages or so just because it was so different from the book i'd just finished reading but once i'd gotten into the story that was it i was totally absorbed by the story & it's characters.
2- The castle and it's environs are pretty sprawling .. were you able to visualise it?

Yes i didn't have any trouble visualising the castle i imagined it to be quite cold & spartan and in need of a lot of TLC as the Groan's didn't strike me as the sort of family that would be into home furnishings in a big way.
3- Did you have a favourite character? And a least favourite?

I have to say i loved all the characters & their names, i suppose  because it is a fantasy novel Peake was able to make his characters much larger than life without them seeming ridiculous. I admired Flay's loyalty to Lord Sepulchrave & although Dr Prunesquallor came across at first as being a silly irritating little man by the end of the book i liked him a lot as he was so kind & considerate to Fuchsia especially.
4- Was there a particular part you enjoyed more than the rest?

I thought the fight between Swelter & Flay was the best bit in the whole book it was so tense & scary i was totally gripped while i was reading it. When Swelter is spinning round & round holding his blade & getting closer & closer to Flay it was so chilling i was literally holding my breath.
5- Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?

Not really i enjoyed the whole book

6- Was this the first book you've read by this author and has it encouraged you to read more? Are you planning to read the sequels?

This is the first book i've read by Peake & as i have the whole trilogy i'm definitely going to finish it before the years out.

7- Steerpike is a very manipulative and machiavellian character .. did this make you dislike or admire him? (could you ever love a book burner?)

I was rooting for Steerpike in the beginning & i wanted him to succeed i could even forgive his manipulation of the Prunesquallors but it was his explotation of Cora & Clarice that i couldn't forgive. They  were so vulnerable & he was so cruel to them that i lost all sympathy for him & sincerely hope he gets his comeuppance in the end. I liked the fact that other people saw through him as well Dr Prunesquallor & the Countess were both suspicious of him after the fire , it can be quite annoying when a character is sly & down right evil like Steerpike but no one can see through him.

8- What, do you think, was Keda's purpose in the story?

I'm not sure, I think her purpose & the significance of her child will probably come out further on in the story.

9- Overall was reading the book an enjoyable experience?

Very enjoyable i thought it was so well written & very different from anything else i normally read or have read before , i'm so pleased it was a reading circle choice as it might have stayed gathering dust under my bed for quite awhile before i attempted to read it.

10- Would you recommend the book to others?

Yes i would recommend it.

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3- Did you have a favourite character? And a least favourite?

  I felt a lot of sympathy for Lord Sepulchrave whose life was just a continuous drudge of ritual and duty .. his only joy were his books and they were taken away .. those later scenes between him and Fuchsia were very moving. Swelter was a great evil character but grotesque and repulsive .. also I was exasperated by Nannie Slagg and really annoyed with Gertrude who felt much for the birds and cats but nothing at all for Fuchsia or Titus. Cora and Clarice almost drove me up the wall though there was great comedic value in nearly all of the characters.   

 

Poor Lord Sepulchrave, he reminded me of King Lear although i think i might become slightly unhinged if someone was to burn my books  :tease:

Swelter was a great character wasn't he..... that scene where Flay comes across him practising to kill him sent a shiver up my spine  :hide:

For some reason in my head Nannie Slagg looked like the Queen Mother  :drama:

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Poor Lord Sepulchrave, he reminded me of King Lear although i think i might become slightly unhinged if someone was to burn my books  :tease:

He was tragic wasn't he? I was so alarmed by his behaviour when he was sitting (perching :D) on the mantelpiece and calling for the largest mouse to be brought to him :wibbly: .. almost made my hair stand on end.

Swelter was a great character wasn't he..... that scene where Flay comes across him practising to kill him sent a shiver up my spine  :hide:

Yes .. I loathed him but he was a brilliant character (played to awful perfection by Richard Griffiths in the TV adaptation) and that scene I thought was just genius.

For some reason in my head Nannie Slagg looked like the Queen Mother  :drama:

:D Having seen some of the adaptation, I had most of the actors/actresses fixed in my mind (though I couldn't remember those who were unknown to me when watching.) Consequently I had June Brown (Dot Cotton) in mind as she had played Nannie Slagg :D 

It was ages ago and I never watched it to the end so am thankfully unaware of what's to come (as I think it encompassed at least Gormenghast as well.)

 

I too admired Flay's loyalty and was sad that he ended up being outcast (though perhaps he shouldn't have flung the cat :blush2: .. still .. he was extremely provoked :D and it was very bad timing :D)  

 

Great answers KM :smile: .. I'm glad too that it was picked because it's always been there in the back of my mind as a 'must get around to' but a 500 pager is daunting at the best of times .. one has to be encouraged into it :D I think you will get to the sequels well ahead of me so I'll be very interested to see what you make of them and whether you enjoy them as much.

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1- What were your first impressions? .. did you find it an easy story to engage with?

Not easy a bit.  First impression was ponderous prose, round-about and wordy, although some passages were truly beautifully written and flowed in a lovely manner.


2- The castle and it's environs are pretty sprawling .. were you able to visualise it?

Partially, the distances came home to me when Steerpike was climbing the wall, and just after.


3- Did you have a favourite character? And a least favourite?

That is difficult, as not only did I not like any of the characters, none even came within a glimmering of "like". 


4- Was there a particular part you enjoyed more than the rest?

Not really.


5- Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?

That is a bit difficult to answer.  Struggle?  No.  Struggle isn't the right word, I'd say more that nothing managed to really hook me into wanting or caring what happened to any of the characters.

 

6- Was this the first book you've read by this author and has it encouraged you to read more? Are you planning to read the sequels?

Yes, it is the first and the last of his writing I'll read.  I managed 200 pages.  If it cannot hook me by than, it won't.

 

7- Steerpike is a very manipulative and machiavellian character .. did this make you dislike or admire him? (could you ever love a book burner?)

Neither.  And......definitely.....NO!

 

8- What, do you think, was Keda's purpose in the story?

Of all the characters, she is, I think, the only one that I felt I could begin to like, if more had been told of her history and feelings.  Maybe she is there to balance the wingnuts of the main story.  :10_confused:

 

9- Overall was reading the book an enjoyable experience?

No.  Not a bit.  I thought for a short time I could manage it if I looked at it through the lens of an old time Fairy Story.  Didn't work long.

 

10- Would you recommend the book to others?

Somewhere I read that those readers that enjoyed Tolkien, et als would enjoy this story.  I believe it.  And to those readers, I heartily recommend the book.  It's just not my cuppa.  I gave it the old college try, and failed.  No black marks on either the book, or myself, we just don't fit.

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Two reasons, finally, that I put the book down after 200 pages, IOW, half of it.

 

First of all, the idea of burning down a library with people inside, taking a chance on all that could have happened.....I was really put off, big time.

 

Then I decided to go ahead and read this thread, even though I'd avoided it on account of spoilers.  When I saw that a cat was thrown.....I hope it survived and mangled the thrower...I knew I didn't want to read anymore.

 

Not, as you know, that I was ever enamored of the book's style, but those two things were simply the straw(s) that broke the camel's back.

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Aww poor Kate :empathy: .. I feel bad for mentioning the cat but you would have come across it eventually :blush2: .. it did survive you'll be glad to know but the thrower threw it by mistake .. it wasn't intentional.

Sometimes books are just not for us .. there's nothing we can do about it .. we don't fit and there's no point in trying to make us (you have my admiration here because I will slog on with a book that's almost killing me .. I've no idea why .. it only puts me out of temper.)

10/10 for giving it 'the old college try' (which I have no idea about but it sounds admirable :D)

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Well, if it hadn't been for the reading circle, I'd have quit sooner. :D 

 

Not sure exactly where the expression "the old college try" came from, but it only means to do one's best, heroic effort, all that rubbish.

 

In thinking about the book this morning I thought, also, that the characters were too one dimensional, without any real edges or mitigating factors to them. Maybe I didn't read far enough, although if by page 200 I didn't see it, I don't think I would have. 

 

I think that's why I liked Keda, she had some ambiguity to her presentation.  JMO. :)

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I haven't read anyone else's replies as yet ... :smile: 

 

 

 

1- What were your first impressions? .. did you find it an easy story to engage with?

 

 

I like it when the opening of a book grabs me straight away, but this one didn't.  I thought okay, maybe it's a slow burner.  Sadly, I don't think I ever really engaged with the story because I didn't think there was much of one throughout.  I nearly gave up on the book after just over 100 pages because it wasn't holding my attention.  I decided to persevere in the end.  I guess I was curious to see if it picked up and where it was going, if anywhere.  I thought the second half of the book was better than the first, because a couple of interesting things happened, but I turned the final page and did have to wonder what the point of it all had been.

 

 


2- The castle and it's environs are pretty sprawling .. were you able to visualise it?

 

 

I suppose, to a degree, but for all its wordiness I don't think a clear picture of the place came over at any time.  Certain rooms were described well enough, but how they all linked together is a mystery to me.

 


3- Did you have a favourite character? And a least favourite?

 

I can't say I liked any of the characters - and I'm not sure I was supposed to.  A lot of the dialogue was so repetitive, especially with Prunesquallor, Slagg, and the twins, I felt it was there just to bolster the word count.  I suppose Fuschia was the most sympathetic character, for me, especially in her relationship with her father.  Overall, I think all of them came across more as caricatures than as characters, apart from Steerpike and Keda.

 


4- Was there a particular part you enjoyed more than the rest?

 

The fire in the library, I guess, and the face-off between Flay and Swelter - although both seemed to go on much longer than they needed to.  There was a nice build up of tension before each, although why anyone should want to go into a room full of spiders is beyond me :hide:

 

 

5- Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?

 

No, I thought it was generally easy to read, there was just too much of it with too little happening to really grip me.  Tbh, I felt at the end of it like I'd just read a huge prologue.

 

 

6- Was this the first book you've read by this author and has it encouraged you to read more? Are you planning to read the sequels?

 

Yes, no, and God I hope not :giggle2:

 

 

7- Steerpike is a very manipulative and machiavellian character .. did this make you dislike or admire him? (could you ever love a book burner?)

 

At the start, I thought I'd like Steerpike because he was the only one who felt like a normal character, and it almost felt like his desire to escape from the kitchen showed that he felt the same way about the other characters that I did.  But then he turned into this detestable, manipulative being who had no character whatsoever, not even in a caricature sense.  So I ended up hating him more than all the other characters put together, even without the book burning.

 

 

8- What, do you think, was Keda's purpose in the story?

 

I'm still trying to figure that one out.  I thought, once she'd left the castle, that her story became pointless and didn't fit with the rest of the story, and those chapters were hard work to get through.  It seemed to take the focus away from the castle, which seemed very odd.  Perhaps, because I hadn't engaged with it, I missed some subtext or other :shrug:

 

 

9- Overall was reading the book an enjoyable experience?

 

I didn't hate it, but I didn't like it much, either.  But I did get past that point 100 pages in where the thought of reading anymore was driving me to distraction.  I admired the writing.  The switched from third person to first, and from past to present tense, were interesting exercises in writing styles, and I realised - when I thought that as I was reading - that this was what the whole book felt like to me: an exercise in style over content.

 

 

10- Would you recommend the book to others?

 

Let's just say that there are a lot of other books I'd recommend before getting to this one. 

 

That said, it is quite possible that the subsequent books benefit from all this prolonged set up, and that all of this faffing about gains some purpose, but I don't think I'll ever bother to find out for myself.  I'm glad I read it, though, just to be able to make up my own mind about it :smile: 

 

 

I'll go and read the rest of the thread now and find out I'm the only one who didn't like it :giggle2: 

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Somewhere I read that those readers that enjoyed Tolkien, et als would enjoy this story. 

 

I'm not sure I'd agree with that, speaking as a fantasy fan, although I'm wondering if those people were meaning The Silmarillion, which I haven't read :shrug:  Otherwise, give me Tolkien over this any day :D

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I'm not sure I'd agree with that, speaking as a fantasy fan, although I'm wondering if those people were meaning The Silmarillion, which I haven't read :shrug:  Otherwise, give me Tolkien over this any day :D

 

I'm finding that out!  Another poster over on Constant Reader mentioned that as well, with regard to my review. 

 

Whoops!  :blush2:

 

I tried reading The Hobbit, et als when I was quite young, and didn't care for them at all.  I associated TG with that feeling. 

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 Yes .. I loathed him but he was a brilliant character (played to awful perfection by Richard Griffiths in the TV adaptation) and that scene I thought was just genius.

  Consequently I had June Brown (Dot Cotton) in mind as she had played Nannie Slagg :D 

 I too admired Flay's loyalty and was sad that he ended up being outcast (though perhaps he shouldn't have flung the cat :blush2: .. still .. he was extremely provoked :D and it was very bad timing :D)  

 

 

I can see Richard Griffiths making a really good Swelter also Robert Morley , he certainly had the girth for it  :smile: Not a very flattering part to be cast in but i'm sure it was lots of fun to act you could go really OTT with the character.

 

You know i could see June Brown being a good Irma Prunesquallor, when she was much younger of course  :D

 

Poor Flay, he definitely should have counted to ten & took a few deep breaths instead of throwing the moggy. Still it did seem rather harsh after all those years of loyal service  :empathy:

 

 

3- Did you have a favourite character? And a least favourite?

That is difficult, as not only did I not like any of the characters, none even came within a glimmering of "like". 

 

  8- What, do you think, was Keda's purpose in the story?

Of all the characters, she is, I think, the only one that I felt I could begin to like, if more had been told of her history and feelings.  Maybe she is there to balance the wingnuts of the main story.  :10_confused:

 

9- Overall was reading the book an enjoyable experience?

No.  Not a bit.  I thought for a short time I could manage it if I looked at it through the lens of an old time Fairy Story.  Didn't work long.

 

 

 

Well done for persevering so far, i don't think i could have stuck with it for so long if i hadn't enjoyed it. I find that if i don't like the characters that's it the books dead in the water as far as i'm concerned

 

I liked Keda as well i thought she had a quiet strength i would have liked her to have been more in the story.

 

I think that's a good way of describing it a kind of fairy story for grownups  :smile:

 

 1- What were your first impressions? .. did you find it an easy story to engage with?

 

 

I like it when the opening of a book grabs me straight away, but this one didn't.  I thought okay, maybe it's a slow burner.   

 

 

 

4- Was there a particular part you enjoyed more than the rest?

 

The fire in the library, I guess, and the face-off between Flay and Swelter  

 

 

   

10- Would you recommend the book to others?

 

Let's just say that there are a lot of other books I'd recommend before getting to this one.  

 

I've done that before, stuck with a book hoping that the ending will make it a worthwhile read & then flung it in the charity bag when it hasn't  :D

 

The confrontation between Flay & Swelter was definitely my favourite part  :smile:

 

I'll think twice about recommending the book to others now after reading yours & Pontalba's comments it's obviously not a read that appeals to everyone  :D

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I'm a bit late starting this month's book, so I'm only about 30 pages or so in.  And these 30 pages have been a struggle :(  I don't really like much description in my books as I very rarely visualise what I'm reading, and in a normal book will just skip over paragraphs with lots of description to get back to the story, but I quickly realised that if I do that with this book then there will only be about one sentence on every page worth reading!  I'm persevering for now though, as I hate giving up on a book and usually insist on reading them to the end no matter what I think of them - and I do have the sequels, too... :o

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I'm sorry you're not enjoying it Oosh :friends0: I tend to be a sticker too once I've started a book but commiserations on this being a very large book for you to have to get through :empathy: Yes .. I don't think it's possible to skip over the descriptive bits .. unless you go straight to the last page :D 

 

Like Kidsmum I'm going to be wary of recommending it now :blush2: .. read a bit of it before purchasing .. that would be my advice :D 

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Like Kidsmum I'm going to be wary of recommending it now :blush2: .. read a bit of it before purchasing .. that would be my advice :D 

 

That is always good advice, in any case.  One I, all to often, don't follow. :D

 

You said earlier that this is a marmite book, and I absolutely agree. 

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That is always good advice, in any case.  One I, all to often, don't follow. :D

Me too :blush2: though if I'm buying for other people I often read a few pages to see if I think it'll suit. When buying for myself though I usually just rush right in and buy without checking .. the most I do is read the back  :blush2:  

You said earlier that this is a marmite book, and I absolutely agree.

Yes .. or for those down under .. a Vegemite book :D

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It's interesting to see how many people liked or preferred Keda to the other characters .. she actually bored me senseless (well .. no .. I can't truthfully put the blame on her for that :giggle:) .. I couldn't really see the purpose of her in the story and thought that .. for one of the more well balanced characters .. she behaved ridiculously when she went back to the Dwellers (having said that .. I did think it was the only time she was interesting :blush2:) Probably, as we've mentioned, her part in the story will become clearer later (so most of you will remain in the dark  :P) but I hope there's a very good reason for her being there because I did find her story a trudge :blush2: 

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Off to bed early with a hot drink to see if getting a big chunk read while I'm in a lovely happy relaxed state helps me get into it  :smile: 

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Off to bed early with a hot drink to see if getting a big chunk read while I'm in a lovely happy relaxed state helps me get into it  :smile:

Good luck Oosh :smile: 

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Well, I am getting quite into it now - but I'm only able to read a chapter or maybe two maximum at a time, so I'm not quite sure when I will finish it! :D

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I'm so glad that it's improved for you Oosh :) Look forward to seeing what you eventually make of it :)

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