FIROOZEH DUMAS – Funny in Farsi

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Acquired via BookCrossing 25 February 2006 – BookRing

I think this is the most-travelled book I’ve held yet! And so many familiar names on the list before me, as well as new ones!

As to the book – well, I really enjoyed it. Wish it had been longer and a little less disjointed – she mentions that she started writing “stories” in the final chapter, which I guess explains that aspect. I’ve read quite a lot of “immigrant experience” books, fiction and non-fiction, and many share aspects – the parents’ accents, trying to fit into two cultures, etc. I’ve not read one about an Iranian family before – it’s very interesting to see all the similarities, and then also to see her love of her individual family shine through.

A good book which would have been better if longer – and who can complain about a review like that! Also very interesting to read of the other readers’ experiences in their own lives and with friends from different nations. My point to add to this – I found out I know more about Islam and Hinduism than Judaism when my Jewish bf managed to fool me good and proper by telling me a big whopper about his birth faith – I’m so dashed liberal that I believed it and respected it without wondering if it was true or looking behind the facade! Is this just as bad as thinking everyone from a hot country has a pet camel??!

AMAZON DELIVERY TODAY

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Now I’ve caught up with my books finished over the past few days, here’s what I’ll be reading in a few months, which arrived today. Each of them cost £3.99 and I used almost the last of Matt’s Amazon voucher – I’m spending my vouchers a little at a time, to prolong my birthday as long as possible!

IAN SANSOM – The Case of the Missing Books – I don’t usually like mysteries but I believe this falls under the “cosy mystery” header, and how can I resist what will in fact be a series about a librarian who runs a mobile library!

JONATHAN LETHEM – The Fortress of Solitude – Set in 1970s Brooklyn with a multiracial cast and apparently a bit of magic realism – this is the next Liz and Matt Read after we’ve (started and) finished The Half-Brother

VIKAS SWARUP – Q&A – Ram Mohammed Thomas, a poor, 18-year old waiter from the wrong side of the tracks, becomes the biggest quiz-show winner in history, scooping a billion rupee prize in an Indian television programme which goes one better than ‘Millionaire’. Unfortunately, the producers don’t have the money to pay him, so instead, charge him with fraud

NIALL MURTAGH – The Blue-Eyed Salaryman: From World Traveller to Lifer at Mitsubishi – in which the author settles down to work in Japan. Matt has his eye on this one, too!

SHAR & BOBBY HASHEMI – Anyone Can Do It: Building Coffee Republic from Our Kitchen Table – I’ve been after this for ages, and there it was cheap!

BREENA CLARKE – River, Cross My Heart

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Bought 10 December 2005 – Waterstones, Birmingham

Another of the £1 bargains!

A fairly simple tale of a black family in 1920s Washington DC, this wears its obvious research lightly and provides a compelling narrative, concentrating mainly on teenage Johnnie Mae, but also her mother and aunt. The story is underpinned by one tragedy which stretches far into their imaginations and memories, but this is accompanied by a wealth of detail and interest.

I don’t think I’ll re-read it, so I’m going to set it free via BookCrossing. But I would recommend it (and thank Ali for recommending it to me!)

POLLY BENGE – Tea for Two… With No Cups

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Bought 10 Dec 2005 – Waterstones, Birmingham

This was the first of my 11 £1 Waterstones clearance buys!

Narrative of Polly’s decision to up sticks from her life as a dancer and tour round Northern India with her New Zealand boyfriend and his friend, on bicycles, mainly to see if she will go and live with him afterwards. Although it’s an interesting tale, it’s not very well told. The grammar and, well the editing in effect, are sloppy. I’ve noticed this with this publisher (TravellersEye) before – they seem to take on amateurs’ work, but don’t make it as professional as they could do. I found it a little hard to care about her story, and was irritated more than I perhaps should have been by the excess of commas, where semi-colons would be more appropriate, but it was interesting.

Will probably make this available via BookCrossing rather than keep it.

VED MEHTA – Up at Oxford

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Bought 19 November 2005 – Flying Pig record and book store in Kings Heath

Another volume of his autobiography. I’m reading them as I acquire them at the moment, then I’ll go back and read them all in order when I have them all.

This was good in parts – he goes up to Oxford and has all the usual experiences, while dealing with issues arising from being blind, and from India via America. I felt that the middle section dragged a little, when he went into great detail about his Oxford friends – their past and current lives, OK, but also what happened to them throughout the rest of their lives. This excepted, another well-written and interesting installment.

OLIVIA MANNING – The Play Room

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Acquired via BookCrossing 10 Dec 2005 – at Dudley meetup

This was… a bit odd. Full of repressed teenage sexuality and a bit shocking at the end. Unfortunately it seems Manning did go to write a teenage novel when she was a bit older, did the research and all that, but it feels a bit researched. It was interesting and the story carried you on, but not wonderful.

LESLIE PIETRZYK – Pears on a Willow Tree

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Acquired via BookCrossing 26 November 2005 – BCBirmingham meetup

I really enjoyed this book, a lively and absorbing read about 4 generations of Polish-Americans. As their blood and lives are diluted and absorbed into American culture, the characters are brought up against ideas of home, identity and family.

I thought the section based in Thailand was a bit of a jarring note at one point, but on reflection, it echoed the huge changes experienced by the original great-grandmother when she came to America.

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