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Willoyd's Reading Log 2012

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The Help by Kathryn Stockett **

 

What a great and interesting review on the book that's been one of the most hyped books on here in its time. I still haven't read it, and you didn't scare me off reading it, but I very much enjoyed reading your review and discovering that it's not to everyone's liking. And it's interesting that Books do not furnish a room didn't enjoy the novel, either. As to whether it's a man thing... I think vodkafan liked the novel, and you mentioned the other man in your reading group liked it. Very interesting indeed.

 

I like the way you think: that it's not always about the book only, but about what kind of conversation ensues in the group, re: the book of the week/month.

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What a great and interesting review on the book that's been one of the most hyped books on here in its time. I still haven't read it, and you didn't scare me off reading it,

 

I'm glad of that - whilst I only gave it 2 stars, that was my reaction. It's a book that's worth reading simply for the questions and issues it raises.

 

but I very much enjoyed reading your review and discovering that it's not to everyone's liking. And it's interesting that Books do not furnish a room didn't enjoy the novel, either. As to whether it's a man thing... I think vodkafan liked the novel, and you mentioned the other man in your reading group liked it. Very interesting indeed.

I don't think it's a man issue - not least for the points you make, plus the fact that there were women in the group who had similar thoughts to me. All seemed very mixed when it came to gender, even if the book itself is very female orientated.

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Thanks for your review of Transgressions, willoyd, I have only read one book by Dunant (Sacred Hearts, I think) I very much enjoyed it and will definitely read more. Transgressions looks a good next step :)

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A few more quick reviews:

 

Children of the Green Knowe by Lucy M Boston *****

Beautifully lyrical children's book: only child, Tolly, goes to live with his great-grandmother at her home, called Green Knowe, in the middle of the country (the Fens?). The house is steeped in magical mystery, and Tolly gets to relate to the animals and the ghosts of children of his ancestors who died in the Plague. I'm not normally into this sort of book, but Boston's writing is so addictive, and the location (based on Lucy Boston's real home, which can be visited apparently) comes so vividly to life, that I could barely put this slim volume down, reading it in one session. Slightly fizzles out as an ending, but then this is not a story in the conventional style, and I found the plot almost irrelevant to my enjoyment.

 

The Chimes by Charles Dickens ***

The second of Dickens's Christmas novellas, published the year after Christmas Carol. Enjoyable, with a classic Dickens character centre stage, but not in the same league as his full scale novels. Similar structure to Christmas Carol - indeed too samey to rate it particularly highly. But then I thought Christmas Carol was overrated too. An interesting cameo, but not a lot more.

 

Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupery ******

Widely regarded as one of the great classics of aerial literature, and all too easy to see why: beautifully evocative and poetic prose, particularly when writing about his experiences in North Africa, including a miraculous escape from a crash in the Libyan Desert. Writing this a day and a half after finishing it, I've already reread a couple of chapters just to immerse myself in the language and the narratives, and a book that I am sure to go back to in full very soon. Wonderful.

 

The Bar on the Seine by Georges Simenon ***

Maigret is always worth reading for Simenon's rounded, complex characters and sense of place. His plotting is a bit more hit and miss for me - not the classic whodunnit, more investigations based on Maigret's understanding of the psychology of the participants. For me, the plot was particularly wobby this time, and never really got off the ground to any great extent, but Maigret himself was as good as ever.

 

Summoned by Bells by John Betjeman *****

Betjeman's autobiographical blank verse poem, telling the story of his childhood and adolescence through to obtaining his first job (as a cricket master who had no understanding of cricket!). Betjeman's poetry, always so easy to read, is for me often severely underrated mainly because it is so deceptively simple, but I love his fluid sense of rhythm with words that always seem just right. There were a couple of sections where I struggled to follow what it was all about, but overall, it read beautifully. Griff Rhys Jones's Introduction is also well worth reading, and, unlike so many, can be read beforehand without spoiling the book - indeed I felt it improved my enjoyment.

 

Liza of Lambeth by W. Somerset Maugham ***

Maugham's first published novel, and to be honest, it feels a bit like that - lots of potential, but a bit rough and ready. Tells the story of the downfall of Liza through an affair with a married man. I didn't appreciate the fact that it was written to try and show the characters' South London accents, the sort of affectation which ninety-nine times out of a hundred is simply annoying and spoils what I'm reading. This wasn't one of the 1%!

Edited by willoyd

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Great reviews, Willoyd. :)

 

Tsk, I think I passed on my copy of Children of the Green Knowe unread - it sounds great!

 

The John Betjeman one sounds really good too - I've added it to my wish list :)

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The last three reviews of the year::

 

The Lambs of London by Peter Ackroyd ****(*)

Peter Ackroyd is one of the most versatile writers I know, one of the few who is capable of producing great fiction and non-fiction. Much of his fiction is based on history, and much steeped in the spirit of London, and The Lambs of London is an excellent example of both. There is no doubt though that this IS fiction: Ackroyd has taken two unrelated threads -Mary Lamb's notorious mental deterioration and the Shakespearean mysteries surrounding William Ireland, a London bookdealer of the time - and twisted them together to create a thoroughly satisfying story, but one which must not be mistaken for being historically accurate: there is no record of Ireland and the Lambs meeting, and Ackroyd deliberately alters other key facts to suit. On the way, he brings eighteenth century London alive in the way that only he can with his deceptively straighforward but tactile prose.

 

Kim by Rudyard Kipling ****

Kipling's great classic of the Indian Raj and the Great Game. I started listening to this on an audiobook on a long car journey from Leeds to South Wales and back, and finished off reading. I loved the feel of north west India that Kipling generates - i've no idea how accurate it is, but you certainly feel as if you are right there. In addition, there are some great characters (not least Kim himself!), and a good plot, but this unfortunately sometimes gets somewhat obscured by the spiritual and over wordy dialogue that abounds, and which holds up and pads out the narrative rather too more than necessary.

 

Between the Acts by Virginia Woolf ******

The last novel by Virginia Woolf, completed just before she died. Indeed, the last letter she ever wrote was about its possible publication. She thought it was "too slight and sketchy" - it is, in fact, the compete opposite, being one of her most densely packed works for ideas. There is no doubting the timeframe - the shadow of war looms over the whole story, and there is a real sense of time running out on the way of life being portrayed, both in the country house and in the rural pageant that form the centre pieces to the novel. The interrelationships of the characters are particularly intricate, central being the fragile marriage of Giles and Isa Oliver, both attracted to others, and who don't actually speak directly to each other during the entire book. Much of the second half is set during the pageant, with the words of the actors interspersed with the narrative, a narrative where Woolf uses a leaner version of her stream of consciousness style of writing. I loved this book, with my one uncertainty being the sections involving extended sections of the pageant script - I just didn't see where that was meant to be taking the reader. This is a book that definitely warrants more study, something I'm finding with most of the Woolf novels. An amazing book to finish the year on!

Edited by willoyd

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Reading notes for 20th Novemer

Following City of Fortune on Saturday, reviewed above, have got stuck straight in to Christine Falls by Benjamin Black (pseudonym used by John Banville when writing his crime fiction). First hundred pages down fairly rapidly, and proving to be solidly enjoyable, in spite of an unpromising setting (IMO!) - 1950s Catholic Dublin, and all the angst at the time surrounding babies born out of wedlock. Banville's writing helps compensate though.

 

Have now started with both my new book groups - indeed Christine Falls is reading for one of them this month, and am enjoying both. Interesting to see how differently they operate - one a new group set up by the local library service (the Chrstine Falls group), the other a group of friends still in the early days of the reading group, willing to take on another reader (we're reading The Help this month. Am going to try and keep going with both (ironic that I couldn't find a group for months, then two popped up in the space of a couple of days).

 

Have largely restricted book buying for the moment to a string of Kindle Daily Deals, having been too busy for much else. They include:

 

Time's Echo - Pamela Hartshorne (today's deal)

Findings - Kathleen Jamie

For Your Eyes Only - Ben MacIntyre

The Potter's Hand - AN Wilson

The Butterfly Isles - Patrick Barkham

Madensky Square - Eva Ibbotson

Bradley Wiggins: Tour de Force - John Deering

Sightlines - Kathleen Jamie

The Dinosaur Feather - Sessel-Jo Garzan

The Lighthouse - Alison Moore

 

None more than £1.40 and just too tempting!

 

Has anyone else read Pamela Hartshorne's "Time;s Echo"?  I'm about halfway through it and love it - fantastic, vivid, and engrossing. I believe she has a second past life novel out now too?  

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I've not read it Booknutt but i had a quick look at the synopsis on Amazon & it sounds interesting especially as York is where my eldest daughter went to university so we've visited it quite a bit over the past few years  :smile:

 

I checked out the library website & there's a copy available at my local branch  :exc:

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