Loan Shark

As much as I love bookshops and well stocked bookshelves, this year I am going to try to make the most of my local library.  Public libraries are under threat with swathes of local library buildings and services being closed over the last few years and library jobs being lost or replaced with volunteers .

So here are just a few reasons to love your library:

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The year of living Danishly – Helen Russell

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This is my favourite kind of non-fiction. Armchair tourism at its best with a really funny guide who knows her stuff (mainly because she went and found the experts on said stuff). It reads as easily as fiction and has lots of personality woven through what is a pretty informative guide to the Danish lifestyle. The recurring theme of happiness matched quite nicely with my own ethos and has too many laughs to be pretentious or lecturing.

From: a friend with great taste in books

Read: while sheltering from the rain at National Trust Tyntesfield

Felt: like having a chat with a new friend over coffee and some pretty tasty Danish pastries. It was funny and moving and honest and informative. Well researched, well written and a joy to read. The whole expat palava rang painfully true.

Would recommend: highly to everyone, especially those who have lived abroad or are planning a move or anyone who likes a good laugh. So everyone then. Heads up – the food descriptions will make you really very hungry.

No one writes to the Colonel – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

img_5169There is something wonderful about a novella; a sense of dipping only a toe into another world. Visiting for a short while makes it easier to settle in a space that might not be naturally yours, a chance to try out a new author, genre or style of writing. I think I might find a longer work by Marquez more daunting but this was a lovely taster and I found myself taking the time to enjoy the slow meandering tale. The entire world of the colonel is painted with such attention to detail and colour it doesn’t matter that the plot meanders and the pace dawdles. This seems to have been written to be read in the shade when it’s too hot to do anything fast.

Here’s a snippet of brilliant writing:

The lightning interrupted her. The thunder exploded in the street, entered the bedroom and went rolling under the bed like a heap of stones.

and here ‘the woman’ and ‘the colonel’ are as close to names as these main characters get:

‘You can’t eat hope,’ the woman said.

‘You can’t eat it, but it sustains you,’ the colonel replied.

From: Hatchards St Pancras

Read: In a morning while sitting by the pool

Felt: Transported to Spain. Not absorbed by the book but more a curious observer.

Liked: the hope and simplicity of the Colonel

Would recommend: as a quick time filler, a good hand luggage book for a short journey.

The Buddha of Suburbia: Hanif Kureishi

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Written in the style of a memoir, this is harsh and bleak and very honest in a way that softens it slightly. People are continually hateful to each other and yet seem to, almost inexplicably, still care deeply about each other. Karim, who introduces himself as ‘an Englishman born and bred, almost’, goes through the wretched business of growing up with all the awkwardness and unpleasantness laid out in graphic detail. The details make this the great read it is, despite a plot I’m not entirely enamoured by. All the little nods to life in Britain in the 1970s, the current events, the fashions and the music, all give this a feeling of authenticity and being a lived experience rather than a work of fiction. Although certain elements seem fantastical or outrageous, it is always kept just within the realm of possibility and makes for an intriguing read.
On the intensity of a first crush
I admired him more than anyone but I didn’t wish him well. It was that I preferred him to me and wanted to be him.

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Mrs Dalloway – Virginia Woolf

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This has the appearance of being a day in the life of a wealthy married woman in London after WW1 but Mrs Dalloway is not defined as a mother or wife. This is not a guide to her daily tasks but to her psyche – how she came to be herself, from her experiences and the choices she has made, to how she reacts to the people and world around her. Many books run like plays where a cast of characters act out scenes and the authors deftly supply the details to help us stage the action in our imagination. While Woolf always assembles an intriguing cast, she does not write so much about actions but emotions, impressions Continue reading “Mrs Dalloway – Virginia Woolf”

The Shepherd’s Life – James Rebanks

 

This book has a bit of everything for everyone. As well as conjuring up the traditions  of generations against a backdrop of the beautiful Lake District, there is a strong human element, unexpected happenings and the perfect balance of detail and technical talk to keep both those with prior knowledge and those without a clue hooked throughout. It should be read by farmers, walkers, lovers of the British countryside and ancient traditions, anyone who has ever knitted or eaten lamb or even refused to eat lamb. Basically everyone, get you this book. There is also an illustrated version jam-packed with photographs that looks stunning or you can check out his instagram account full of sheepish goings on.

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