…don’t leave me now, now, now. Half my readers abandon me as soon as I announce a book review so I’m hoping to draw you in with a youthful Liam O’Maonlai as an amuse bouche.
Ah come on, he was hot back in the day. I remember, I think we were in Fourth Year, when a whisper spread like flame through the school that The Hothouse Flowers were signing records in Golden Discs on Patrick Street. The place emptied out as girls, in stealthy pairs and threes, slipped out of the side door and jogged downtown. Blue-clad SWAT teams with Mr. O’Maonlai in their sights.
I didn’t go. Why? Well, it was against the rules. I was unlikely to get caught. Even if I had, my mother was more likely to have cheered than chastised me. It’s just that I have always been OK with the principal of benign dictatorship. Put someone who knows best in charge and I will tow the line. The problems arise when you realise that someone might not know best. I have struggled all my life to become a rule breaker.
Anyway, moving on, I initially intended this to be a book review blog but people are much more interested in reading about food and … no, actually, just food. As a point of interest, the dog poo debacle remains my top post. People replied with their own shite stories…I didn’t stop laughing for a week. It was great. We should publish a compilation.
I still want to keep a record of all the books I read and this seems as good a place as any. Let’s just flake through these at great speed.
This stack cost me a fiver at the Christmas bazaar. An excellent haul. I doubt whether I’ll finish this lot before next December’s expedition. The real reason you are seeing this photo is because I am too lazy to take the memory card out of the computer, put it back in the camera, find the books and take a proper photo. Could his be a hint of rebellion? (pathetic, I know).
When Will There Be Good News? and Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson
I read these in the wrong order (just too lazy to Google it) and still loved them. I gobbled them up. They are books 3 and 4 in the series featuring Jackson Brodie, ex-soldier and policeman. Mr. Brodie is seriously challenging Ross Poldark in the divine literary hero competition (the one in my head, obviously).
I need to find Case Histories and One Good Turn and then decide whether to continue going backwards or start from the start. Good Lord, breaking rules all over the shop today.
I’ve just discovered there is a BBC series starring Jason Isaacs. I think I might be in love with the BBC. Seriously now, I didn’t know what good TV was until we started paying for BBC.
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler.
There was a day a couple of weeks ago, just as I was reading this book, when I happened to pass a fox hunt as I drove to my daughter’s school. It’s not that I’m not fond of foxes. I think they are beautiful and intelligent creatures. It is undeniable, however, that there is something impressive about thirty riders in red coats and a pack of hounds tearing across a frosty field. I was left feeling confused and guilty.
This book aims to make you think about our attitude, as humans, to other species. It makes you ponder our assumed right to use and abuse other species. This book asks you to take ‘wouldn’t hurt a fly’ literally. It won’t stop me killing the wretched slugs but has made me consider how and where I draw the line.
It’s an interesting but uncomfortable read. I found the tone a touch high and mighty. I can’t say that I enjoyed it but it was worth reading for the unique angle it takes. I can’t tell you more without giving away the bizarre twist.
Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell.
Ah yes, another classic which had me taking notes and marking pages.
The first of those marked passages is this;
‘-an old lady had an Alderney cow, which she looked upon as a daughter. You could not pay the short quarter-of-an-hour call, without being told of the wonderful milk or wonderful intelligence of this animal.’
The lady even went so far as to provide a flannel waistcoat and drawers for the cow.
An explanatory note explains that Alderney cows came from Jersey and were farmed for their rich milk. They are now extinct.
Isn’t that sad? That a breed once considered so valuable was allowed to become extinct. That neither you nor I will ever know how good that milk was. Everyone gets teary-eyed about tigers and pandas just because they are beautiful. What about Alderney cows and Ballinora Pippins?
Boy, I’m distractable today.
Here’s another extract;
‘I never knew what sad work the reading of old letters was before that evening, though I could hardly tell why. The letters were as happy as letters could be… There was in them a vivid and intense sense of the present time, which seemed so strong and full, as if it could never pass away, and as if the warm, living hearts that so expressed themselves could never die, and be as nothing to the sunny earth.’
That about sums up my feelings after reading this book. It’s gentle and sweet and charming but somehow melancholy. It’s also quite short and easy to read in coffee-break-sized segments. It was originally serialised in Dickens’ Pickwick Papers and retains that episodic quality.
Again, there is a BBC series, starring Judi Dench this time, which I have yet to see.
The Giver by Lois Lowry.
It’s heartening when your children begin to recommend books to you. My ten-year-old daughter thought I would love this and she was right.
The Giver is set in the future, in a community where every detail of life is controlled by a benign someone-who-knows-better. People are farmed, trained, indoctrinated and medicated so that their lives contain no conflict or pain. They have no memory of any other way of living. Sounds good, eh?
In each generation, one citizen must act as the memory keeper. Jonas, at age twelve, will become the only person who knows the possibilities, who sees all the colours, of a free life.
It’s a fascinating and beautiful read.
dislike HATE the ending! I enjoyed a great debate with my sweet girl about what the final passage really meant. She tends towards optimism, thank God. I wanted someone to tell me, for sure, what happens when you break the rules?
That’s the point, of course. To break the rules means taking a risk, and taking control.
I’m on a mission. Find some rules and smash them to smithereens. Anyone have any suggestions ?
(EDIT, April 9th, 2016: Alice has written her own review which you can read on her brand new blog, Treehouse Reads)
Shall we wrap up with another blast from the eighties?