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      Important Announcement!   07/28/2018

      Dear BCF members,   This forum has been running now for many years, and over that time we have seen many changes. Generalised forums are nowhere near as popular as they once were, and they have been very much taken over by blogs, vlogs and social media discussions. Running a forum well takes money, and a lot of care and attention, as there is so much which goes on behind the scenes to keep things running smoothly.   With all of this in mind, and after discussion within the current moderator team, the decision has been made to close this forum in its current format. I know that this will disappoint a lot of our long term members, but I want to reassure you that it's not a decision which has been taken lightly.    The remaining moderator team have agreed that we do not want to lose everything which is special about our home, and so we are starting a brand new facebook group, so that people can stay in touch, and discussions can continue. We can use it for free and should be easier for us to run (it won't need to be updated or hosted). We know not everyone has FaceBook, but we hope that those of you who are interested will join the group. We will share the link, and send invites as soon as we are ready to go. Added: We may as well get this going, find us here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/195289821332924/   The forum will close to new registrations, but will remain open for some time, to allow people to collect up any information, reading lists etc they need to, and to ensure they have contact details for those they wish to stay in touch with.    The whole team feel sad to say goodbye, but we also feel that it's perhaps time and that it feels like the right choice. We hope we can stay in touch with all of you through our new FaceBook group.   I personally want to thank everyone who has helped me moderate the forum, both in the past and the present, and I also want to thank every single person who has visited, and shared their love of books.. I'm so proud of everything we've achieved, and the home we built.   Please visit the new section in the Lounge section to discuss this further, ask questions etc.
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willoyd

Willoyd's Reading 2016

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I think Jamaica Inn will be my next English Counties read.  Interesting review, it's certainly intrigued me after having just finished North and South where the woman are mostly strong characters, so this sounds like it'll be a very different read.
 
I'll add my praise to the other with regards to Rebecca which I thought was fantastic.  I've read another of her books The House on the Strand which was very different and I didn't enjoy at all, so I think she'll be an author to take each book as it comes and not assume you're getting something you'll enjoy every time.

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I think Jamaica Inn will be my next English Counties read.  Interesting review, it's certainly intrigued me after having just finished North and South where the woman are mostly strong characters, so this sounds like it'll be a very different read.

Certainly, it's a very different read! But perhaps not as much on that score as one might initially think.  Without giving any of the plot away, Mary is a strong female character, stronger than she thinks she is.  It's just that she seems to accept the view that women are weaker than the men, even when demonstrating that they are patently not.  It wasn't a serious niggle, just that every now and again it irritated me slightly as it seemed to run counter to the general timbre of the rest of the novel.  Anyway, hope you enjoy it  I certainly did, more than I expected.

Edited by willoyd

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Howards End by EM Forster *****

 

Before reading Howards End, my only experience of EM Forster was through A Room with a View. Whilst enjoyable, it promised more than it delivered. As a result, it has taken some time to give him a second go.

 

In fact, Howards End turned out to be a completely different animal.  It's still an 'easy' read - Forster is more twentieth century than nineteenth in his style - but the content is a whole lot meatier.

 

The story focuses on the differences between two generally antagonistic families, but who seem almost inevitably intertwined: the Schlegels, Anglo-German (at a time when antagonism to Germany was on the rise), valuing culture and intellect, on a comfortable income, are contrasted with the Wilcoxes, more pragmatic, financially orientated, earning their income.  Nothing illustrates the differences better than the respective families' attitude to where they live. To the Schlegels, it is a home, and an enforced move is for them almost heartbreaking. For the Wilcoxes, it is merely a 'house' to live in, an investment, a status symbol.  In between, are Leonard and Jackie Bast, at the bottom end of middle class, but destined to act as catalysts in the affairs of the other two families. 

 

The Schlegels and Wilcoxes reflect two poles of English society, and this is what Forster's real target appears to be, for society is changing. Forster addresses multiple aspects of Edwardian life: the position of women (at a time when the suffragette movement was gathering pace), the relationship between rich and poor (and the responsibilities of the former), increased urbanisation etc. Within the families there are also tensions: Margaret and Helen Schlegel for instance are like latter day Dashwoods, Margaret the more down to earth sister with 'sense', Helen the more emotionally governed 'sensibility'.  In many respects their stories parallel the Dashwood sisters too, although in a way that Austen would probably not have recognised (that's the second time in the past month I've drawn a parallel with Sense and Sensibility!). 

 

Overall, I loved this book, a book that I am already reading 'around', and which I could readily pick up and read again almost immediately - there is so much more to take in than was possible on a first reading.  How much precisely I enjoyed it, only time can tell, so in the first instance, it carries five stars, but it's one that may well get bumped up later.

 

Later edit: well, I did bump it up to six stars a month or two later, but when I came to review books at the end of the year, it didn't really fit comfortably with the others I had rated with a six, so dropped it back down again. I must read it again to make up my mind!

Edited by willoyd

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I was rereading Cold Comfort Farm for the English County Challenge, but got a little bit bogged down with other commitments, and realised that I needed to read this month's book group choice before our meeting on next week.  Fortunately And The Mountains Echoed was a really easy read, and I ripped through it in a couple of longish sessions - review to follow later, but thoroughly enjoyed the storytelling.  I can now go back to Cold Comfort Farm with an easy conscience now - even if work really has to come first!

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Had And the Mountains Echoed on TBR for ages now. Just sitting there. For some reason never felt like picking it up. Looking forward to your review, it'll probably convince me to bump it up the list.

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And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini ****
 
I must be one of the last people not to have read at least one book by Khaled Hosseini given the ubiquity of his first two novels, and really only came around to this one because it was my reading group's choice for the April meeting, as this is the sort of reading that usually flies somewhere underneath my radar.

I left it late for the meeting too, having got a bit bogged down in what was expected to be quite a short read, so had to really get stuck into it. This was, however, rather easy to do. Right from the outset, I felt myself pulled into the story, and, except for one or two short moments, never felt it letting go. Indeed, I read the vast bulk of it in just two sittings, even though I had plenty of work to get on with!

The story starts off in rural Afghanistan, with two children being taken to Kabul by the father of a poor village family, ostensibly to visit an uncle who works for a wealthy couple in the capital. Seen from the older brother's point of view, we gradually learn about both children's deep attachment for each other, and the real reason for the journey, the impact of which will have profound effects on both children's lives. The rest of the book covers that time span, although the point of view changes, as we see different stages of the story from different characters' perspectives.

The style of story telling is probably the source of the main reviewing controversy. Some readers obviouly disliked what they saw as the rather disjointed approach, exacerbated by the fact that, presumably because it was how the character saw things, the main narrative, the story of the siblings Abdullah and Pari, was not always the main focus of the narrator. Indeed, the story sometimes seems to go off at a complete tangent for a while, sometimes all the way through to the end of that particular narrator's stint. I can certainly see why that could lead to frustration.

And yet, the effect on me as a reader was completely the opposite. I certainly found the shift between narrators sometimes a bit unnerving, especially, or because, we weren't always immediately aware of the narrator's identity, and sometimes had to build it up gradually from the evidence available. But what this enabled the writer to do was to show how lives can intertwine, how they can run along parallel lines and follow similar themes, and yet lead to widely different outcomes. Above all, I found fascinating the different relationships each character had with Afghanistan itself, not just the expatriates who each react very differently (and not always following what you think is the initial obvious route) to what they find when they return, but also those who remain to cope (or not!) with the constantly changing regimes.

Inevitably, in such a complex story, there were moments when I wondered what the relevance of a passage was, or I had to flick back to try and find a moment that was far more significant than I originally had supposed, or work out precisely who was who, but personally, I would much rather these multiple layers and nuances than a 'straightforward' story.  I also liked the fact that when we reached the end there as a satisfying completeness to it, without all the questions being answered.  Indeed, there was quite a lot of uncertainty that gave our group plenty to discuss, particularly focusing on why certain characters did or did not do certain things (see the spoiler section).


Of the seven of us discussing the book, one thoroughly disliked it for its structure, describing it as a 'mess'. The rest of us really enjoyed it, with one absolutely loving it.   However, we all agreed that it was a great book for a reading group discussion! For my part, having come to Hosseini's work for the first time here, I'm looking forward to reading one or both of his other books.
 

The main question that none of us felt able to answer was: Why did Abduallah never search for his sister? Once Pari knew she had a brother, she started looking for him immediately. We wondered whether it was because he was too poor and needed to concentrate on earning a living.

It was also interesting that Pari's visit to Afghanistan was not covered, but simply mentioned almost as an aside - why?

 

Did either Timur or Idris ever click about the Abdullah - Pari connection, given that they knew both at different times?  Intriguing network of believable coincidence.

 

Edited by willoyd

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Great review! I'm glad you enjoyed And The Mountains Echoed. I have the book on my TBR. It seems like an interesting style to tell the story (I'll have to find out for myself some day).

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I keep seeing And The Mountains Echoed at the library, but haven't borrowed it yet. I enjoyed The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns enough, though I thought the former was a bit saccharine. It's always available at the library, so maybe I will give it a read this year.

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Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons *****

 

I first read Cold Comfort Farm about 12 years ago, but came round to it again as it was on the English Counties Challenge list. Then I had rated it as a 5-star read, and I have to admit that, a couple of chapters in, I was beginning to wonder why. For various reasons, I wasn't able to get a good run at the book, forced to pick it off a few pages at a time (usually at bedtime), and another couple of chapters on I was beginning to doubt my sanity that first time, thinking that this was going the way of most 'humorous' books in my ratings, i.e. bouncing round near the bottom. With a book group deadline looming, I suspended further efforts, and got stuck into that choice (see my previous review, And The Mountains Echoed). Then, a deep breath, an evening cleared, surely this couldn't be so bad if I rated it so highly last time?

 

Well, no it couldn't, and I read the rest of the book (over half) in one sitting, smiling my way through most of it, and even, on occasions, laughing out loud (the scene of The Counting was pure magic). Which all goes to show how much one's enjoyment of a book can depend on context, mood, and any number of other factors. But above all else, a book has got to have a chance to breathe, and the reader has got to have a chance to immerse him or herself. Reading a book a few pages at a time is no way to treat the animal, and I had been desperately unfair to both the author and her book in trying to do so.

 

Cold Comfort Farm was written as a send-up of rural dramas by the likes of Mary Webb, Thomas Hardy, DH Lawrence etc, often laced as they are with tragedy and doom ridden atmospherics. Thoroughly practical, modern, metropolitan, but pauperised, Flora Poste goes off to live with her cousins, the extensive, agricultural and deeply conservative Starkadders. The impact is initially fairly gentle, but then Flora starts to get to work, and the feathers start to fly, especially when the family matriarch, Great-Aunt Ada Doom, normally hidden away in her room, starts to get wind of what Flora is up to....

 

Even if one hasn't read any of the (affectionately) lampooned authors, there is much to enjoy. I have to admit that I thought that some of the jokes were a bit obvious to start with, and  that there was a danger that the whole book would slide into a slough of cliche and stereotypes, especially the Starkadders themselves, whose characters initially teetered on the edge of Little Britain nonsense (sorry, but for me it was). But having set it up to look this way, the author rapidly veered away from these dangerous rocks, as Flora's efforts started to reveal previously hidden strengths in the family and they turned into characters one cared for rather than laughed at. And that was the point at which I actually started to laugh - and any book that manages that with me is pretty exceptional!

Edited by willoyd

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Great review :) Like you, I'm wary of 'humorous' books - only a select few appeal and I find the rest forced.

 

So I was a bit worried about this. No longer! Looking forward to it now.

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I'm enjoying Cold Comfort Farm more the second time round than I did the first time, I think.  :)

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The Unexpected Professor by John Carey ***

 

I'm always in two minds about memoirs. I love biographies, and feel I ought to really enjoy autobiographies too, but they almost always gently disappoint. I sort of enjoy them, but by the end I rarely if ever feel quite grabbed. Of course, it partly depends on the subject, but the level of detail, the subjectivity, the limited viewpoint, the banality of so much of the action and/or writing, just doesn't float my boat - but I keep trying because I'm sure that the next one will be different.

 

John Carey's memoir appealed almost instantly when the blurb suggested that a goodly part of his memoir was centred around his reading and views on books. In the end, there was a decent element of this, but not as much as I expected. In particular, his early years tended to gloss over this aspect: yes there were mentions and a brief discussion or two, but almost as an aside. Later, the content on this front picked up.

 

So, I would have expected to be reporting yet more disappointment. However, I did actually enjoy the memoir itself. Carey's writing style is perceptive, nicely relaxed, and proved an easier read than I expected; I liked his willingness to offer opinions and his transparency about where he is coming from so that, whilst I didn't always agree with him, I at least felt I could appreciate his viewpoint. And, whilst I would have liked more, I did enjoy his unpretentious take on reading and books , even if, again, I didn't always agree with him. He certainly made me think again about literature that I usually see being set on a pedestal: his take on Don Quixote (dislikes the whole moral ethos of the book) was positively refreshing!

 

In the end, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this. I enjoyed the insight it provided into 20th century academia, but have to admit that it's the books wot make this for me. It was certainly light years from my own experience as a lecturer in a polytechnic turning itself into a university; all I can say is thank goodness for that!

Edited by willoyd

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The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver ****

 

The Bean Trees was Barbara Kingsolver's first published book, and is the second of her works I have read, the first being The Poisonwood Bible. They are very different novels!

 

Taylor Greer decides to leave her hometown in Kentucky, and sets off west in her distinctly rundown car. In a bar in Oklahoma, she 'acquires' a young native American baby, and the rest of the novel centres on how she and the baby, now called 'Turtle', make their way as they settle in Tucson, Arizona.

 

Serious issues abound, including child abuse, native American rights, and illegal immigration, but the tenor of the novel is remarkably light and upbeat - a positive whiff of feel good factoring. It is rather broadbrush in its approach - pretty much all men are wasters, all women are feisty survivors - and none of those issues are addressed with any sense of nuance, but, whatever it lacks in subtlety, The Bean Trees makes up for it in sheer bravado. An easy, enjoyable, entertainment with a serious if underdeveloped core, that could be at the centre of an interesting political and moral debate.

Edited by willoyd

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April has been a surprisingly busy month of reading, and I'm struggling to keep up with reviews, so here are a few mini-reviews to help me stay ahead of the backlog:

 

Landskipping by Anna Pavord *****

Anna Pavord takes a look at how our perception of the landscape has developed over the past two hundred years or so, as influenced by writers and artists. It's a slim book, barely 220 pages, but her economy of style means that a lot is packed in to these pages, all of it beautifully readable. Her own farming roots ooze through the text, her chapters on agricultural reformers such as William Cobbett and the role of farming being amongst the best, although I had a sneaking regard for the section on the ultimately frustrated efforts of Thomas Johnes to develop his estate at Hafod in mid-Wales into a model picturesque estate. Her near-philippic on leaving people to find landscape for themselves rather than having everything pre-packaged and signboarded struck a humungous chord as well!

 

Landfalls by Naomi Williams *****

Historical fiction based on the French Laperouse expedition in the eighteenth century to the Pacific, building on and attempting to overtake the work of Captain Cooke. Intriguingly, none of the book is actually set at sea. Instead, it is made up of a series of episodes related to the expedition, set on land, mainly on occasions when the expedition made landfall. Each is told from or focuses on the perspective of a different member of the expedition.

I was totally captivated by the story, all the more so because it was so steeped in real history - the author's research and knowledge suffused the whole book yet never seemed to dominate. Initially I wondered about the episodic nature, and the unsettling nature of the shifts of both location and viewpoint, but gradually found that this actually added to the intensity of the experience, underlining indirectly but forcibly the length of time the expedition took up and how the nature of it changed. A remarkable first novel, and one of the best book group choices we've had.

 

Rain, Four Walks in English Weather by Melissa Harrison ****

Another beautifully written book made up of four essays, one for each season, on walks undertaken in the rain, and ruminating on our relationship with this form of weather. Like the previous Pavord book, the author packs a lot into the space evoking one's own experiences too; I particularly enjoyed her first essay, on Wicken Fell in East Anglia, perhaps because it's the one landscape I have experienced in these conditions myself, but also because this was the one that felt most 'rainy'. My one complaint is that this felt somewhat underwritten: Harrison talks about a year long investigation into this particularly English obsession, yet there are only the four experiences, all in the southern half of the country. I loved what there was, and am generally a fan of the less is more style of writing, but found that my immediate reaction at the end was more "Is that it?"

 

The Go-Between by LP Hartley ***

Read as part of the English Counties Challenge, I last encountered The Go-Between as a set text at O-level back in the mists of time. I have to admit that I wasn't a particular fan then, and whilst my revisiting the books I studied at school has almost always found me extracting much greater pleasure than when I actually studied them, this particular reread left me comparatively unmoved. There was no doubting the quality of the writing, but some way before the well flagged denouement, I was willing the author to get a move on. The edition I used (Penguin Modern Classics) was also well endowed with footnotes. Normally, I really enjoy the insights these provide, but on this occasion I found much of the symbolism and textual cross-referencing tedious and even pretentious, so fairly soon stopped taking notice of them, enjoying the book rather more as a result. Overall, I still enjoyed this more than first time round, but can't say that it goes down as a classic read. I do seem to have a bit of a problem with 1950s/60s British literature!

 

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark *****

Well, you can't get much leaner than Muriel Spark's novels! The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is no different; if anything it's one of her leanest, yet there is so much to absorb. Spark keeps the reader on their toes as well with her chronological inter-cutting, using the technique both to reveal at key stages, and to intrigue and keep the reader guessing at others. The result is a novel that continually pulls at you, knowing the ultimate fate of most of the characters but still on tenterhooks, rather to find out how it actually works out that way rather than what happens, Spark's coruscating humour entertaining us on the way. With every word counting, one is forced to read right they way through to virtually the last word, and not miss anything out on the way! Buzzing around in the back of my mind all the time were themes that Spark appears to consider, but which the reader is never quite sure if she is addressing, so lightly does she touch on them. One way or another, she certainly made me think, not least given the way modern day education is going. Interestingly, I watched the film some years ago, and wasn't particularly struck. The book on the other hand is wonderfully different, and I will almost certainly revisit it in the not too distant future.

Edited by willoyd

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I've come across the long list for the Wainwright Prize for this year, and both Rain and Landskipping are on the list.  In fact, a good few of the twelve books were already on my wishlist, so I'm going to try and read all twelve as they all look very interesting.  I've put the full list in my reading blog in this post if you're interested. :)

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That's a really interesting list. Rather than duplicate across, I've posted on your thread.

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Winnie-the-Pooh by AA Milne ******

Another book on the English Counties Challenge list, I haven't read this classic for many years in spite (or maybe because?) of the fact that I have such joyful memories of it from my childhood (and reading it to my own child). Indeed, I came to it with slight trepidation, as it really is one of those books which is so ingrained in the fabric of my child-orientated memory that I was worried the gloss might come off it reading it purely as an adult.

 

I needn't have worried! Beautifully written, wiith something that strikes a chord on every page, and so much gentle humour, it was easy to see why this continues to maintain its position as one of the great classics of children's literature. I was doubly fortunate to be reading the Folio Society edition, with the wonderful EH Shepard drawings in colour (along with examples of his original sketches as an appendix) - the book simply wouldn't have been the same without them.

 

Any child who has only encountered Winnie-the-Pooh through the Disney version has surely missed out on one of the great childhood experiences, the film being a very pale shadow of the original. Words can't really do the book justice; suffice to say, it is sheer genius.

Edited by willoyd

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My Uncle Silas by HE Bates **
Read as part of the English Counties challenge, this is one of the rare books on that list that I really haven't liked - rather contrary to the majority of reviews I have to say. Oh dear. I'm sorry, but I really can't share everybody else's enthusiasm. Indeed, I'd go so far as to say it has been the most disappointing read of the 27 books to date aside from, perhaps, Cider with Rosie, of a similar ilk.

Right from the first, I had concerns, with its overblown idyllic descriptions (how many colours can one cram into a single paragraph? How many adjectives can be squeezed into a sentence?), and this was soon exacerbated by some highly stereotypical characterisation, all of which persisted throughout. As the book progressed, I also tired of the incessant repetition in those descriptions ('wet' lips stick in the mind!), and the predictability of the stories. I can't say I was excited either by the alcoholic japes around which most were centred. There were moments of genuine pathos (I found the ending of The Wedding particularly moving - ironically one of the rare occasions when the author kept it brief and to the point), but they were just moments.  I couldn't but help recall Cold Comfort Farm - this could have almost been the original target of that far more strongly written book's satire.

In the end, for me the one strong point was the book's overall brevity, This and the fact that it is part of the Counties challenge are the sole reasons for me reaching the end. I say 'the end', but the edition I read was, in fact, The Complete Uncle Silas, merging the two Silas books into one for the Kindle. I was relieved to put it down after the last story from the first book, and am in no hurry to move on to the others!

Edited by willoyd

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The Strangest Family by Janice Hadlow ****
The Strangest Family is that of the Hanoverian royal family, whose relationships come under the magnfiying lens in this brick of a book: 617 pages of closely written text supported by over 100 pages of notes. The author's main focus is the immediate family of King George III, including his wife (Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz) and their sixteen (!) children, fourteen of whom survived to adulthood (the oldest, the future George IV, was closer in age to his mother than he was to his youngest sibling, Princess Amelia).

The Hanoverians did not have a good track record when it came to father-son relationships, and George III was determined to change that. The Strangest Family tracks in fascinating detail the reasons for this, the early successes as the family initially grow up together, and then its gradual disintegration, as George's sons openly rebelled (none more so than the Prince of Wales, later George IV), whilst his daughters, somewhat more hide-bound by society's strictures, were forced into frustrated despair, or to act rather more subversively, as they sought to escape their parents' stifling and obsessive ties. For them, marriage was the one escape route, and most either failed to achieve it owing to their father's possessiveness, or only did so into middle age: George and Charlotte had significantly less legitimate grandchildren than children.

Juggling all these dramatis personae and sustaining the narrative pace takes some doing, yet Hadlow mostly achieves this with apparent ease, which is a testament to her skills. In particular, I never once felt unsure of her characters, in spite of the potentially confusing mixture of names (at least four Carolines!) and titles (plenty of German place names!). She also mined a rich seam of material, as there is no shortage of stories with letter writers and diarists to bring them to life (Fanny Burney, of Evelina fame, and later one of the Queen's dressers, is a particularly lively recorder). The book may be over 600 pages long, but it only occasionally flags.

And yet, that balancing act isn't totally successful. Whilst the early stages of the rebellious sons' careers are satisfyingly detailed, little is recorded once they fly the family coop - just enough to want to learn more in fact! Rather, the main focus of the story is on the daughters, locked more tightly into the parental orbit. This is obviously deliberate, this focusing on those who remain in the immediate presence of George and Charlotte, and using this as the basis for filtering the narrative probably aids its coherence, but it does also mean that some glaring holes are left: for instance, we hear virtually nothing of many of the sons, including the future King William IV, until we are suddenly told on the death of George's daughter Princess Charlotte that they had to get weaving on producing legitimate heirs, and a quick resume of their very limited success is given - indeed this is virtually the only mention of Edward, Duke of Kent and Queen Victoria's father, beyond his infancy in the whole book.  As a result, there are a few too many loose ends and intriguing scraps left lying around to in turn leave me completely satisfied.

However, that may well have meant another couple of hundred pages, and whilst The Strangest Family is eminently readable, that may have proved rather too much of a good thing! On the other hand, some judicious editing, there was certainly room amongst all the domestic detail, would have helped create sufficient room.  These caveats aside, overall, this was an excellent read that kept me in its thrall for almost a fortnight and brought to life a gloriously interesting family that, in spite of the best intentions, continued much of the dysfunctionality of the Hanoverian dynasty into the nineteenth century.  Yet, at the same time, it managed to survive as a family at a time when many of the European monarchies were falling apart - no mean achievement.

Edited by willoyd

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The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark *****

Well, you can't get much leaner than Muriel Spark's novels! The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is no different; if anything it's one of her leanest, yet there is so much to absorb. Spark keeps the reader on their toes as well with her chronological inter-cutting, using the technique both to reveal at key stages, and to intrigue and keep the reader guessing at others. The result is a novel that continually pulls at you, knowing the ultimate fate of most of the characters but still on tenterhooks, rather to find out how it actually works out that way rather than what happens, Sparks coruscating humour entertaining us on the way. With every word counting, one is forced to read right they way through to virtually the last word, and not miss anything out on the way! Buzzing around in the back of my mind all the time were themes that Spark appears to consider, but which the reader is never quite sure if she is addressing, so lightly does she touch on them. One way or another, she certainly made me think, not least given the way modern day education is going. Interestingly, I watched the film some years ago, and wasn't particularly struck. The book on the other hand is wonderfully different, and I will almost certainly revisit it in the not too distant future.

 

Was this your first reading of the novel? For some reason I had thought that you'd already read the book before... 

 

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your review! I had to read the book for a uni course some many years ago and I have to say it was one of my least favorites of all the novels I had to read for uni lit courses... Personally I thought that it was such a disappointment to realize that the huge 'thing' that happened was revealed in the early stages (and even in the blurb...?) and we didn't get any other huge revelations after that, even though I was expecting there to be many... But I have to say, I was in my very early twenties when I read the book and I was probably a whole lot more plot-driven than I might be today. I've wondered about possibly re-reading the book, to see if there was more to the narrative and the characters etc. than I realized back in the day. As the 'twist' was revealed right in the beginning... I'm very curious at the moment :D 

 

I think I gave the book 1/5 or 2/5, tops, but wholy hecks, I'm glad that you were able to enjoy it far more than I did! :smile2: 

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Was this your first reading of the novel? For some reason I had thought that you'd already read the book before...

 

No, you're right (and very perceptive!); this was a reread.  But the last time I read this book was some 35-40 years ago, and I barely remember it.  In fact, I didn't remember anything of it at all, except what happened to Jean Brodie at the end (which is no secret, as you so regretted)  So, a reread, but effectively a new read.

Edited by willoyd

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No, you're right (and very perceptive!); this was a reread.  But the last time I read this book was some 35-40 years ago, and I barely remember it.  In fact, I didn't remember anything of it at all, except what happened to Jean Brodie at the end (which is no secret, as you so regretted)  So, a reread, but effectively a new read.

Ah, I'm rather too happy to have been as perceptive :D:giggle: But, even though I believe the blurb revealed the great 'mystery' in the novel, I dare say I can't remember what it was. Something scandalous back in the days, I'm sure, but at the moment, I can't remember what it was. All in all, however, your review has made me want to revisit the 'scene' and I've just made a reservation for a copy at the library. I have many library loans and reservations as I speak, so I won't promise to read the book, but I've at least made the effort of making a reservation. The book is very short, I know, so it wouldn't be too much of an effort to read, page-wise.. But I'll see what happens :)

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 The book is very short, I know, so it wouldn't be too much of an effort to read, page-wise.. But I'll see what happens :)

 

Fingers crossed.  I can recommend her other work as well.  She is the mistress of the lean novel - all of hers are short, but she says more in a sentence than some writers do in a couple of paragraphs.  So far, I have particularly enjoyed The Girls of Slender Means and The Ballad of Peckham Rye.

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Fingers crossed.  I can recommend her other work as well.  She is the mistress of the lean novel - all of hers are short, but she says more in a sentence than some writers do in a couple of paragraphs.  So far, I have particularly enjoyed The Girls of Slender Means and The Ballad of Peckham Rye.

 

Yes I've heard she's not written that many longer novels :)  I actually have The Girls of Slender Means on my wishlist already: ethan's review of the novel on here made me want to give Muriel Spark another chance :) 

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