Book review – Iris Murdoch – “Henry and Cato” #IMReadalong @IrisMurdoch

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“Henry and Cato” is the later book I remember least, even though I have to have read it at least four times now. I always remember there’s the dodgy character of Beautiful Joe and a rather sulky inheritor, but the details had once again escaped me. Once I’d re-read it, I wasn’t entirely sure what to think. Is it actually a thriller? Does it work as a thriller? Does it work better than “The Nice and the Good” which is the other one with thriller elements? I’ll try to unpick my thoughts and many, many post-it notes, and look forward to hearing everyone else’s reactions.

If you’re doing the readalong or even selected books along with me, or of course some time afterwards, do share how you’re getting on and which have been your favourites so far.

Iris Murdoch – “Henry and Cato”

(08 January 2018)

We open so memorably (OK, I will admit to always recalling this scene when crossing Hungerford Bridge myself, but never quite remembering which book it’s out of) with someone called Cato dropping a gun into the Thames, in a bit of a state. And of course in a lovely echo and doubling, he’s popping back over the bridge with something else bulky in his coat in the closing moments of the book. In between he goes through an ordeal which he survives but doesn’t feel he acquitted himself well in – his father certainly doesn’t think so, but did he?

We are then introduced to Henry, a bit spoilt, a rubbish academic, coming back to the UK to claim his inheritance after his loathed brother has died. He considers his mother, then we cut to her and faithful retainer Lucius, and Cato’s father John, disappointed in his unacademic daughter, all concurrently – which I think is a masterful stroke that shows IM’s confidence and technical ability as a novelist (something I’m not entirely certain the book shows off all the way through). IM gets into her element describing Laxlinden Hall – has she had a lovely big house to dwell on quite so happily since “The Bell”? Henry will decide what to do and bend everyone to his will before curiously giving up. Cato will stick to his principles until he suddenly doesn’t. Everything will be changed but still somehow the same, and two people will die, only one violently. Oh, and there’s a faithless priest in an abandoned house in an East London wasteland, which we’ve definitely had before, haven’t we.

We have the usual Murdochian themes and echoes of other books. Themes-wise, we find out very early on that Henry is writing a book on an artist, John Forbes intends to write one on Quakerism, and Lucius is also writing a book, which is getting shorter and more personal as he approaches the end of his life. The theme of ageing women comes in again, with Gerda coming in for a hard time, Lucius wondering if she dyes her hair, and noticing, “Of course she was faded and her features were less fine” (p. 10) (that “of course” is harsh, isn’t it?). Women’s lots are discussed – John Forbes has always “fought for women’s liberation” but sees women as having an “invincible stupidity” which somewhat undermines that (p. 20). Stephanie is described right from the start in fairly disgusting/disgusted terms, with her moustache and her greasy nose, her fat and her unflattering clothes, and her ageing is pinned down cruelly, too:

How strangely and mysteriously evident was the ageing of the body. A weariness in the breasts, in the buttocks, a certain coarsening and staleness of the flesh, proclaim the years as much as lines and wrinkles can. (p. 166)

Siblings abound, of course, and they either complement or are wildly contrasted – “really Sandy was just a big calm relaxed man, unlike dark manic Henry” (p. 16). We climb over a wall with Henry, notably at the start of the book but then also over the gate between Laxlinden and the Forbes estate. And of course we also find ourselves looking at people standing outside windows (Henry, seen by Gerda), looking through windows (on Henry’s first arrival, peering at his mother), trailing across gardens (Henry seems to be forever running off down the terraces) and indeed following people, with Henry following Colette through the bamboo (as one does; and she comes back, which is unusual: does this signify that she’s more his equal?). Colette is the one with the hair, apart from Henry’s dark curls and Joe’s weird blond bob: she even has straight and flat bits of hair that frame her face, although they’re not metallic like some people’s. She looks like her hair has been cut when Henry visits her after her injury (although it hasn’t been: she has remained whole (see below)). Gerda also stands with her “pale, broad face thrust forward” (p. 109) which is a common Murdochian way to arrange oneself.

There are flashes of humour in this odd book with its large themes. When Henry thinks of his brother being dead, he is said to have “flexed his toes with joy” (p. 3) The descriptions of Lucius’ creeping age, “a kind of itching ache was crawling about his body, making it impossible for him to find comfort in any position” (p. 10) shouldn’t be funny but is in light of his fussiness, and he’s a creature of arrogance who we laugh at – and also produces that dreadful poetry that so upsets Gerda in a very funny scene where she’s found it in his room: “Clump, clump. The old girl” (p. 201). The sentence, “He had lived on talk and curiosity and drink and the misfortunes of his friends” seems perfect. There’s also the lovely detail of the different kinds of holy men, with Cato finding Father Thomas dull and Father Thomas thinking he’s a “frivolous amateur”:

Of course, Cato and Father Thomas, being decent sincere men of God, recognized their prejudices as prejudices. But this did not stop them from quietly feuding. (p. 34)

I really giggled at the description of Henry, having met Stephanie for the first time: “As he began to calm down he bought himself four very expensive shirts” (p. 104) and he also has a very odd scene playing with hats.

We have one of our mysterious figures who moves the plot along in certain ways (near the end in her case) in Rhoda, whose speech is unintelligible to everyone except for Gerda (was she given to her like Biscuit was to Lady Kitty). She doesn’t run her errands for her, but a mystery hinges on her. What an odd character. Along with the mystery, fate leans and breathes heavily over the action as often seems to happen (c.f. all the portents in “Sacred and Profane”: “[Henry] felt panic, terror, a kind of nebulous horror as if he were a man destined by dark forces to commit a murder for which he had no will and of which he had no understanding” (p. 59) – although of course he doesn’t, and this is probably something about accepting contingency which I’m trying to grasp to understand myself.

Seeing and attention, which IM is obviously famous for talking about and which slip into the novels more and more as time passes, are prominent here. Beautiful Joe says early on, “You’re the only one who can really see me at all” (p. 38). Gerda mentions that Henry cannot see his future wife (Stephanie) when she’s met her and observed them. Gerda herself is described as having “attended carefully to Stephanie” (p. 315) and reaches an understanding with her (in the literal and figurative senses, it turns out).

There’s a very odd quirk in the language – did anyone else notice this? We have “adjective Henry” all over the place, as well as bird-headed Rhoda and philistine Sandy: changeling Henry, much-travelled Henry, etc., etc.

The portrait of Gerda’s grief is very moving, as she tries to hold herself together and not make a fuss. I didn’t much notice her as a character originally but I feel she’s very brave, actually. An almost feminist point gets made about a certain kind of woman at a certain point in time and society:

I suppose that women … learn pretty early on that they’ve got to be alone and bear things alone, even when they’re in the bosom of their family. (p. 196)

Who is the saint and who the enchanter? Henry seems to enchant Stephanie but then she’s looking for an owner to create (“You needed me and you invented me” (p. 264)) and he wants to keep her submissive rather than being created as an enchanter figure. They enchant each other, “So it turned out that in an upside-down way, he was her captive, not she his” (p. 165) but then Henry also admits that, having been bullied, maybe he was looking for someone to bully (certainly thus not doing the absorbing of pain that IM espouses).

Cato tries to be a hero and maybe even though he commits a crime in truth, it’s more like when Tallis drives the assailant away in the Chinese restaurant in “A Fairly Honourable Defeat”, as he’s doing it to protect someone weaker. He also has a revelation when imprisoned, but his this the kind that is had in “The Unicorn” or a lasting one? He also finds he has to “hold onto myself” – is this the opposite of unselfing? Father Brendan has too fancy and well-arranged an apartment to be a saint (Cato lives in a smelly state). Or is it Colette, who restores order and knows her own mind, but is fearless in protecting her brother? She has her own trial and comes through wounded but stronger, and gets what she always wanted. Is that the reward of a saint, though or something else? She certainly doesn’t pass pain on, as she knows about the lack of accomplices but doesn’t tell Cato. She tries to even love her enemies, saying of Joe, “you must try to love people even when it’s hard or awfully odd” (p. 286)She’s also used by Henry to give himself courage, “the thought of her wholeness and her courage entered into him like a spear, like a hard line of pure non-Henry in the midst of the humiliating jelly of his personal terror” (p. 260). And I’m glad that her father sees her as “the heroic one” in the end, although he’s too hard on Cato, perhaps. Could Gerda be seen to be a saint, absorbing her own suffering (although she does impose it on Lucius, doesn’t she?). She does have some netsuke, always a good indication of Good, although she happily parts with them (in a Buddhist way?).  In the end, maybe it’s Colette and Cato’s dead mother who was the saint, described as such by her children:

She was the sort of saint that no one notices or sees, she was almost invisible. (p. 335)

In a nod to “A Severed Head”, Henry, Bella and Russ have discussed Henry’s affair with Bella with their analyst. John Forbes buying Oak Meadow echoes Monty wanting to buy his end of the garden in “Sacred and Profane”. The mention of John’s engagement with Quakerism reminds me of N and his community in “The Philosopher’s Pupil”. Surely it’s a hat-tip to “The Black Prince” when Henry randomly sends Russ a postcard of the Post Office Tower? Cato mentions the underground warrens underneath government offices that play such a part in “The Nice and the Good”.

I’ve not even mentioned the religious aspects: I found them interesting and the network of religious sponsors and mentors fascinating. I loved how Father Brendan described priesthood as being like a marriage, long-term and needing to be worked on after the first excitement of love. But I’ve written a lot and if you’ve got this far, I salute you!


Please either place your review in the comments, discuss mine or others’, or post a link to your review if you’ve posted it on your own blog, Goodreads, etc. I’d love to know how you’ve got on with this book and if you read it having read others of Murdoch’s novels or this was a reread, I’d love to hear your specific thoughts on those aspects, as well as if it’s your first one!

If you’re catching up or looking at the project as a whole, do take a look at the project page, where I list all the blog posts so far.

Sedate lady running 08-14 April 2019 #amrunning #running

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Not such a long one today although I’d appreciate comments on my training plan as I reach the last (ish) stages. But first my exercise week.

Tuesday – I didn’t do a recovery run on Monday as had only run 12 miles on Sunday as my rest weekend, so was able to do our last winter club run of the season – “Feck Hill”. I started off with Mary Ellen and enjoyed speaking bad Spanish to her (I’m learning Spanish but haven’t got very far yet!) and then teamed up with another Liz, who I ran with on her first run with club. I ran up clutching my friend Maria’s new Run and Talk / Mental Health Champion t-shirt and wore mine, too (I’m glad we ordered the women’s Large! I’m also glad it has the Mind charity logo on the sleeve, my second to have that after my RED January one).

Mental Health Champion!

Ran there, round and back in one go and it was still pretty light when I got home!

Still light!

5.4 miles, 12:29 mins per mile

Wednesday – our two yoga classes on a Weds and Fri have been combined into one class each day so we had a mixed levels class with Dave. A balance we only do in the 10am class had some people squeaking and there were lots more (optional) transitions between poses, but a good class. I then got changed and ran with Ruth. We met up near my house and did 2.5 miles of jeffing (walk 30 sec, run 1 min) then when Ruth finished and left me to get back home, I decided to swap it around and sprint 30 sec, run 1 min, which I did by counting paces but it was fun and did work (and I got reverse splits on my mile times.3.1 miles, 12:27 mins per mile

Friday – A combined Claire yoga class that was quite hard and I couldn’t bring myself to go up into a shoulder stand. I have been doing my physio exercises regularly and could hold my legs straight up while lying on the floor and back bends a  bit more effectively.

Saturday – Met up with one of my cousins and his family in Herefordshire and had a lovely c 5 mile walk around an arboretum

Sunday – Long run day. Run up to meet Jenny, seeing Tara’s other half Matt on the way (and telling him how far I was going, which was handy as that convinced me to do it) and we ran a loop then I made it to the park for the next stage with 4.5 miles under my belt. Then met up with Ruth and Tara – Ruth was doing yet another half marathon distance, this time a virtual race as she’d missed her last one through illness. We went out and back along the bus 11 outer circle route, jeffing 30 sec walk, 1 min run, and made it to Bearwood before coming back – here’s a pretty photo of another clock:

Bearwood Clock

and here’s a photo proving Ruth got to Bearwood because the sign says so: we actually ran past the sign and up the road.

I know a lot of readers like the pretty stuff I post but this industrial/commercial/residential mix from the 1910s, 1930s and 1970s is very representative of the areas we run in, too. Tara said goodbye and popped on the bus after 10 miles and Ruth and I got back to the park for her 13.1 yay! And THEN I met Fay who had heroically come to meet me and run with me even though she’d done an Easter Egg 5k in the morning!! and we did a flattish route around the place before I said goodbye to her in the park and ran home a slightly wiggly way for another 4.5ish miles.

I found this hard. I know why. I have NOT been going to bed early enough. I worked really hard on Thursday to give me time to go and visit a friend who has just had an operation, worked really hard on Friday to get something finished so I didn’t have to get up early on Monday to do it, and out all day Saturday (that wasn’t too bad but still not an early enough night). I REALLY have to work on this. Anyway, I was really pleased with my pace – still within 6 hour marathon limits!

22 miles / 13:36 mins per mile

Hayulp! Hayulp! Am I even doing this right?

So that was a long one even though my marathon isn’t until the end of May. But I am aiming to do another long one next weekend, then have a rest week, then another long one before I taper a bit for the marathon, then 2 weeks of taper, 2 weekends of back-to-back runs (with a 10 mile trail run in the mix) then tapering for the ultra. This feels sensible for me so I’m accustomed to going long, the mara will be “just another training run”, I am not overstraining myself in the week or rest weeks, and the 31 mile ultra is a natural progression. But I’d love comments on how sensible this is, given I’ve invented it for myself (this is my 4th marathon and I enjoy running long).

Miles this week: 30.5 Miles this year: 337.

weekly-run-down-final-300x300The Weekly Run Down is run by two wonderful running women and joined by lots of other inspirational women. Kim’s weekly wrap is here and Deborah’s is here.

Book review – Sara Marcus – “Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution” #amreading

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A bit of a late review here as I’m over half-way through my next two books (“Henry and Cato” and “The Library of Ice” – about 60% of the way through both!) but a great read that my lovely friend Sian gave me for my birthday in 2018 – she always gets it spot-on with booky presents and in fact I’m going to be lending this back to her now! This one came under my “oldest on the TBR” category and I can confirm I’m enjoying dotting back and forth between new acquisitions and old favourites from the front left!

Sara Marcus – “Girls to the Front”

(21 January 2018)

Undermining the subtitle, the author makes it quite clear in a number of places that this is A history of the Riot Grrrl movement rather than THE history, although it’s as meticulously researched and referenced as any work of academic history. I came to Riot Grrrl a bit late (in the late 80s and early 90s I was more of a goth then a grebo when I couldn’t be bothered with all the hair and makeup, being briefly vaguely trendy when I was into the Madchester stuff and sliding back into dark and noisy obscure stuff and twee pop with a side serving of Erasure and The Men They Couldn’t Hang) and although I was already a strong feminist, I was more aware of the music side. So this was a revelation to me and a great read that made me wish I could rewind a few decades.

So it was much more than a music genre, starting in a DIY movement which was about art and music and feminism, about teenage girls joining forces against a society that was trying to shape them and an art scene that was seemingly for the boys. These teenage girls were encouraged to talk about their experiences, raise their consciousnesses and find safety in numbers, thrillingly getting to know about each other through secret signs drawn on their arms in marker pen or shrinky-dink pendants. As well as sharing stories and organising chapters, they were encouraged to form their own bands.

Marcus introduces her own experiences in the introduction then goes on to chart the movement from its beginnings to its fading. She carefully uses women and girls’ own words, including texts and images from zines either reproduced or typed out in courier font – a nice touch. She explains how Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill became the movement’s de facto leader because she saw the need for it and “knew that feminism could save lives,” but never wanted to be a leader and moved back from that position, how the next short generation took it on, how the local then mainstream media examined and distorted it, and how the movement reacted, charting dozens of lives and experiences as they interwove and somehow keeping track of them all.

The twin centres of Olympia and Washington DC are documented as well as smaller mid-West chapters (and the reaction to Riot Grrrl in the UK, briefly), and the book discusses who wasn’t Riot Grrrl (Courtney Love, famously, apparently) and why, and where all those cute hairslides came from (reclaiming lost childhoods). The differences between this movement and 1970s and early 90s adult feminism are drawn out interestingly – there are fewer position papers and resolutions, more forums, zines and, to an extent, group voices, although a hegemony does arise over media interviews and the like. There are also different views on the fractured and fractious issue of sex work. It also addresses what we’d call intersectionality and the role and part-exclusion of working class women and women of colour in the movement.

Marcus ends by exhorting readers to “tell your own stories. Tell what I left out” wherever they are and whatever position they’re in, being carefully inclusive, and following the DIY ethic to the end. there’s then a useful round-up of what many of the women featured did next, although it’s worth bearing in mind this was published in 2010.

A great and fascinating read with much to learn about and some familiar stuff.

Shiny Linkiness and book review – Elizabeth Emens – “The Art of Life Admin” @ShinyNewBooks @ElizFEmens

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This was the last book I read in March: I left my review at the end of the month sitting in the Shiny New Books publishing queue and here it is, published today.

Elizabeth Emens’ “The Art of Life Admin: How to do less, do it better, and live more” takes as its topic the office-type admin you have to do AROUND chores (so choosing a new dishwasher but not loading it; arranging play dates but not overseeing them), how people face them, and the different styles people have around life admin and how we can learn from these styles. It’s well-researched and referenced and has a list of handy hints at the end to save the admin of marking them up and noting them down: a nice touch.

Oh, and it made me Say Something to my husband!

Read more.

Thank you to the publisher Penguin / Viking for sending me a review copy in exchange for an honest review in Shiny.

Book review – Jennifer Niven – “Holding up the Universe” @jenniferniven #amreading

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A foray into YA today, an age group I’m not averse to, although I’m not keen on vampires and the like and keep it to the more real-life stuff. In the case of this book, I came to it via the prosopagnosia group I’m in, because one of the two central characters has proso (or face-blindness) just like me (read about my experiences with it here on my professional blog). I have to admit to a little trepidation, because would she get it right? Reader, she did: very, very right. And it was a good read it in its own right, too.

Jennifer Niven – “Holding up the Universe”

(13 March 2019)

A marvellous YA novel with its central characters a fat girl (who used to be America’s Fattest Teen, and has lost enough weight to be able to run and buy clothes at the mall but no more with no plans to lose more) and a boy with the best-described (OK, only) case of prosopagnosia I’ve seen in fiction.

Libby is going back to high school after a couple of years of hiding away and home-schooling, and Jack’s trying to keep an eye on his younger brothers, especially Dusty, who’s just started carrying a handbag around, although this is tricky when he has to constantly recalibrate who they are (he has it worse than me, knowing someone is his mum because it’s a woman in his house and he can extrapolate from there). Libby’s weight loss doesn’t win her a boyfriend, as some more conventional narratives would have it: working on herself and going back to school with her head held high give her friends, and if it’s a choice between losing weight and losing one of her dreams, well, you trust the author on this one. She’s her own authentic self, even when that brings her into the public eye – although the first spotlight on her is not exactly her fault.

The two teens meet when Jack does something disrespectful to Libby but with good motives, to prevent he from having someone more malevolent target her in a new craze (there is no animal cruelty (in fact the elderly cat makes it through to the end) or hazing, as some reviews have mentioned a shocking incident: it is shocking, but not gratuitous). They reach an understanding and start to fall in love with one another, in a nicely believable, supportive and respectful way (sometimes this seems a bit twee in YA books but then the young adults I know are pretty respectful and open-minded, so …).

But the best bits are the bits describing prosopagnosia. Niven has done her research (and thanks those who helped her) and it shows, but is put in naturally. There’s such a good explanation that I will try to remember and use myself:

“So you can see my face, but you can’t remember it.”

“Something like that. It’s not like faces are a blank. I see eyes, noses, mouths. I just can’t associated them with specific people. Not like how you, as in Libby, can take a mental snapshot of someone and store it away in your mind for next time. I take a snapshot, and it immediately goes in the trash. If it takes you one or two meetings to be able to remember someone, it can take me a hundred. Or never. It’s kind of like amnesia or like trying to tell everyone apart by their hands.”

She glances down at her hands and then at mind. “So when you turn away and then you turn back, you’re not sure who I am?”

“Intellectually, I get that it’s you. But i don’t believe it, if that makes sense. I have to convince myself all over again.” (p. 145)

Like the rest of us, he uses signifiers, the way someone walks, the shape of their nose, the colour of their hair, the sound of their voice, to identify them.

And then look at what happens when Jack is asked to hand out test results to the class:

The class is looking at me as I look at them. There are four kids who are definite IDs. Three, I’m fairly sure I don’t know and am not supposed to know (but I’m not completely, totally sure). Eight are in the gray zone, better known as the danger zone. (p. 43)

It even has one scene where, panicked, Jack only sees blurred disks rather than faces with features – this has happened to me very rarely and is very uncomfortable. Libby gets it and announces to Jack who she is when she comes up to him (hooray for friends who do this!) and when he finally “comes out” about it, some friends laugh, some get it wrong, “I heard you went blind,” and some research it and arm themselves with the facts – pretty representative of real life, where it’s always better to tell people, I’ve found.

Libby is comfortable with who she is: “Why should what I weigh affect other people?” she asks (p. 310) but she’s worked hard on herself to get here and shows that’s something people can do. And she’s a powerful force for good in Jack’s life, but also seen as attractive in her own right. A good read and one I will be telling the proso groups all about!


Do feel free it you want to ask me anything about prosopagnosia in the comments!

Sedate lady running 01-07 2019 #amrunning #running

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Quite a big post today and quite a bit mileage for me for a week – but Monday’s run, as mentioned last week, was really part of last week, but I elected to do my long run on Monday rather than at the weekend so I could run with the lovely Claire on her last long one before the London Marathon. I hope I remember all of Monday’s action, given that I neglected to write it down at the time!

Monday – It was just me and Claire, so she did a super route across the south side of the city to Edgbaston Reservoir, somewhere I’d not been for years and had not run around. We went up past the University and up one lot of canals then back down another set, following the Canal Canter route, with some wiggling around once home to make up the miles (20 for me, 23 for Claire). It was a lovely run: some bits where we felt down, of course, some giggles (something I said made Claire giggle uncontrollably for a bit), some lovely scenery, and good chats. I’ve really enjoyed my training runs with Claire this mara campaign and I’m going to miss them!

Of course we had to photograph the Lego giraffe in town …

Edgbaston Reservoir

City skyline from the canal by the reservoir

Aqueduct by the university – it always cheers me to run across this!

I finished half a mile before Claire’s 22 was up, so reclined against her gatepost, eating a banana, while she did a loop and ran up and down our road. But it meant I could get a photo of her in action!

Claire comes in – great strong work!

And we were done!

Claire and Liz, 42 miles between us!

The route made a kind of Pete’s Dragon dragon (right?)

I was really glad to get 20 in and was a bit early for it, so I have three more long runs with a rest week after the first two before tapering for the marathon, which I will treat as a training run. That sounds sensible, yes? Fortunately, the 6 hour cut-off starts when the last person crosses the start line – thank you, Liverpool RnR!

I was also pleased with my pace, esp as it kept recording when I had a toilet break, a bit faster than my 18. As long as I beat that cut-off …

20 miles, 13:00 mins per mile

Tuesday – A recovery run, I went up to the park, ran into my friend Vikki and her baby, walked a circuit or two with her (not recording some of the walk, so I actually went further than this) and ran home the long way. As usual, unknotted my legs and felt better after.

Some shocking (for me) matchy-matching going on here!

3.2 miles, 13:50 mins per mile (running miles 11:46, 11:37 and 10:45 pace)

Wednesday – Went to Easy Dave yoga for a much-needed stretch out.

Thursday – I was meaning to go for a run but it SNOWED and HAILED and I also didn’t want to do 5 runs in a week. So I actually DID do 30 mins of all my physio exercises plus some serious slow stretching.

Friday – Went to Easy Claire yoga which was good but we had some challenging things (Tortoise pose? I think not!). A lovely long nidra relaxation at the end.

Saturday – I realised I’d been covering Beginners for someone else when I was reminded I was rotaed to lead club beginners today! Oops! Anyway it was fine, ran up to the park, then led the beginners round. I had my 79-year-old learner from last week, who ran-walked 3 circuits 30sec per mile faster than last week and two returners, one a Sedate Lady friend, plus a lady who we gave some advice to about increasing her distance and graduating to the four-mile route. Lee took two four-milers out. Then our newest trainee coach, Julie, had asked for more volunteers to attend her coaching session, so I said yes and took that immediately afterwards. I had not really breakfasted sufficiently for this! We had a great warm-up with out and backs doing lunges, skips, high knees, etc, then did time-based intervals in a pyramid (0.5, 1, 2 and 3 minutes’ effort then back down). I jogged between all the efforts and felt OK but was a bit disappointed that my Strava shows an almost uniform line, meaning I did my recovery too fast and my efforts too slow, but I was pleased with this shocking pace for me (not for long!).

0.6 miles, 10:18 mins per mile / 2.1 miles, 13:36 mins per mile / 1.7 miles, 13:13 mins per mile / 0.8 miles, 11:35 mins per mile / total 5.3 miles.

Sunday – This is rest week so called for only a mid-length run. I needed 11.5 miles to round the “real” week up to 20, my minimum if I can. I met Claire and went down to the rugby club and common to run a bit on the gravelly paths, grass and earth paths in the woods, down to the canal, to get more off-road practice (go me!). We poked around the back of a house that’s for sale, losing speed but having a nice time in the cool woods. Then back to ours, I ran into my friend Andy and had a chat, then we ran down to the Midlands Arts Centre where my lovely husband Matthew’s photography course was having a second pop-up exhibition (they had another on Thursday in town). I’m very proud of his patience in taking up and succeeding at macro photography and here he is with his exhibit.

We took a look at a great exhibition of photos taken in Handsworth in 1979 then ran back home via the back of the park and one other park. I have to say I was flagging and stiff, but I’ve done a lot of activities over the last 3 days, including my dreaded lunges, so I’m not that surprised!

Well done to everyone who completed the Manchester Marathon today – so proud of my clubmates plus the Bournville Harriers who all did so well!

Oh, and I tried to emulate the lovely Kim‘s wonderful poses but don’t think I’ve got it quite right yet!

12 miles, 12:51 mins per mile

Miles this week: 40.5 (eeeps, however 20 of them did “belong” to last week, making that 31.2 and this 20.5). Miles this year: 306.5.

weekly-run-down-final-300x300The Weekly Run Down is run by two wonderful running women and joined by lots of other inspirational women. Kim’s weekly wrap is here and Deborah’s is here.

Book review and GIVEAWAY – Anja Snellman (trans. Timo Luhtanen) – “Continents” #amreading

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Do you like reading books by Women in Translation? Do other people’s relationships fascinate you? Do you like reading about exactly what life is like in other countries? Do you make it an aim to support small presses?

If so, this book is for you, and there’s a copy as a prize for one lucky blog reader!

About the author, from the back of the book:

“One of the leading names in contemporary Northern European fiction, Anja Snellman has authored 25 novels, with translations into more than 20 languages. Her debut, “Sonia O. was here”, remains the highest-selling first novel in the history of Finnish literature”.

You can find out more about the publisher, New Terrain Press, here.

Anja Snellman – “Continents”

(24 March 2019, kindly sent to me by the publisher in return for an honest review)

First of all, this small paperback is a lovely, well-made object and the cover excellent. I’m glad I was sent the physical object as well as the e-book. Impeccably translated, it takes a forensic view of a couple’s journey through what the impulsive, artistic Oona describes as “the continents of love”, from sultry Asia, where it’s mostly about the bedroom and you learn a lot of information, not all useful, to, perhaps, the threat of Antarctica.

Originally published in Finnish in 2005, it feels like a very European (both in its general feel and in its openness to discussing matters of a sexual nature) and modern (the pulls that all couples feel come to the fore) and can be devoured in a couple of sittings or savoured. It’s highly competent and well-written and there’s not even a hint of the noir about it, which is refreshing for this reader!

The couple’s social milieu as they grow and age is gently but expertly skewered: Oona’s friends are described, for example, as people

who were always on their way to or from the opening of a performance art event or an art exhibition, who had a hammock in their bedroom, who cut their own hair, and whose T-shirts proclaimed Feminist Fatale. (p. 54)

As they travel through Australia, the land of small children and discovery, and Europe with its new hobbies and redecoration projects, Oona’s cartoon couple, whose books she lives off, Rainbow and Scoop, echo her and Alex’s journey, their cats pass through their lives (this is sensitively done and not too massively upsetting) and their children grow up and react to them, in a skilful interweaving. Oona wants a room of her own, and Alex grows a beard in some desperation: you root for them but also enjoy their life being exposed in this clever and highly technically competent novel with a warm heart.


Would you like to win a copy of “Continents”? It’s a quick read and a good one and the publisher has kindly offered a copy to one of my readers. Simple post a comment making it clear you’d like to win and I’ll pick a winner at random on 15 April and contact you for your address.

(Comp small print: you will need to give me your address to pass to the publisher, this will not put you on any tricky mailing list and you can rest assured they will delete your address once they’ve sent out the book. If you really don’t want them to have your address, you can give it to me and I’ll post your copy on, but I do know and trust the publisher!).

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