JOSEPH McKENNA – Birmingham: The Building of a City

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Bought 25 Jul 2006 – Amazon

Informative book about the building of Birmingham’s corporate structures, roads, and housing developments. There isn’t a general map, so you have to know your Birmingham to follow it, but I know the areas quite well, so it wasn’t a problem. Lots of detail and diagrams make it interesting and informative, but never dull.

JANE GARDAM – God On The Rocks

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Bought 29 Jul 2006 – charity shop

A short novel with the usual excellent Gardam themes of slightly wonky religious sects, mad families, the Northern seaside and batty old ladies, all seen from a child’s point of view. Interestingly, the main event of the story is not seen directly, but is told obliquely, from a multi-layered point of view, years after it happened.

LINDA GILLARD – A Lifetime Burning

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Recieved 25 Oct 2006 – sent to me by the author (waves to Linda)

Wow. An amazing book. I have had a copy go through my hands before, and I was a bit put off by the cover art and by the (well-known) fact about the central character at the beginning. But then Linda talked to me about it and sent me a copy and I decided to give it a go. Well, I was hooked. I read most of it in bed this morning, mouth hanging open and eyes popping. A LOT of things happen in this book. But, while a great deal of them are shocking, it is in fact a very moral book, when you look at the outcomes for the various characters. It reminded me a little of a Restoration Revenge Tragedy, all tangles and action and shock. I even swore aloud at a couple of points!

Very glad I read it! I do prefer Emotional Geology, for the spaces between the words, and the beautiful landscapes, North Uist becoming a character in the drama. There are plants and domestic landscapes, but not much description in this one (hence I was able to read it so fast). But that is not to put this one down as EG was one of my all-time favourite reads EVER! This is very different, but equally valid.

MARGARET ATWOOD – Curious Pursuits

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Bought 25 Jul 2006 – Amazon (this is where all those from that day were from – I suddenly remembered!)

Excellent collection of essays from the 1970s to 2002 – book reviews, pieces for papers and journals, introductions to various books, and some obituaries. I’d read the one on visiting England in her early 20s already – and all the others were as good, even when I hadn’t read the book in question. Some fascinating insights into her life while she was writing various of her works – even though I’ve always subscribed to “Death Of The Author” (ie the author’s life has no bearing on your reading of their works – it saved me having to read too many secondary texts at University and does help you bring a more open mind to people’s books) I did like this aspect!

EVE MAKIS – The Mother-In-Law

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Acquired 18 Oct 2006 – won a signed copy in a competition on the author’s web page!

I started this a couple of days ago then read about the last third of the book sitting up in bed after a coughing fit at 3.30 am! This was excellent. Feeling more serious than Eat, Drink, and sometimes a slightly uncomfortable read but only due to the fact that the observation was so wonderful and the mother-in-law situation so resonant, even without such a large cultural difference! I loved all the main characters, especially Aunt Miroullis, larger than life in all ways but providing Electra with the Greek culture she so desperately needed in cold England, and Alvaro, the 6 year old who thinks he’s Elvis. Oh, and Sean, sketched in of necessity but SO lovely. An intricate plot and great observation (esp of the interactions between adults and kids) made this a gallop of a read but with enough substance to keep one satisfied too. As in Eat, Drink, too, we learn something about what it is like to live in a different country from one’s homeland, and what the partition of Cyprus really was, and is, like.

Can’t wait for the next one!

NB this is the author who is coming to Birmingham 25 November to do a talk – sign up on BCBirm or BCUK if you’re a BookCrosser, let me know you’re coming if you’re not!

NOEL STREATFEILD – The Circus is Coming

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Bought 28 Jul 2006 (charity shop?)

A lovely 1965 paperback by a favourite author. Peter and Santa are spoiled children living with their snobbish aunt. When she dies, they run away to try and find their uncle, little realising that he works at a Circus. Charming and full of life – a sweet read.

GURNAM GILL – Half A Century

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Axquired via BookCrossing 25 Jul 2006 – at the BCBirm curry night

Oops – read this a week or so ago and forgot to journal it! I really enjoyed this story of first, second, third and fourth generation immigrants from the Punjab to the UK. Skillfully told so as to seem to reflect their actual speech patterns and experiences, we watch the families settle and interact. Slight in pages but not slight in character and value.

NADEEM ASLAM – Maps For Lost Lovers


Acquired via BookCrossing 11 Oct 2006 – BookRing

Wow. This was an amazing book which I simultaneously wanted to gallop through and make last forever, read all the time and shy away from what I knew was coming. I loved the women in the book and I loved the way their faith was central, and fully described, showing its effect on their lives and thoughts. Unlike one journaller, I wasn’t so much shocked at the central tenets of Islam, as at the way it was interpreted for people’s own use. And I was saddened almost to tears by Kaukab’s life, counting the times she spoke to a white person each year on the fingers of one hand, feeling she didn’t know who or what she was sitting next to on the bus – I’d have tried to make friends with her if she was my neighbour!

A lovely, if profoundly unsettling book – so many unanswered questions. The peacocks, butterflies and moths, beautifully observed, added a wonderful extra dimension to the book.

JENNIFER COX – Around the World in Eighty Dates

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Acquired via BookCrossing 16 Oct 2006 – BookRing

In which the author seeks The One by casting her net wide and finding 80 men to go with a date on, all over the world.

Well I did enjoy this. It was an ideal travelling read – I read the whole thing going Birmingham-Bristol-Birmingham on the coach on Saturday! I thought she paced it well, and didn’t get bored (the previous reader did) – but that’s maybe because of the context in which I was reading it.

6 Random Facts meme

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OK so I was tagged by LindyB… here goes…

Once tagged by this entry, the assignment is to write a blog entry of some kind with six random facts about yourself. Then, pick six of your friends and tag them; no tag backs. This explanation should be included.

1. I am unable to lie. You will always get the truth from me. However, it makes it harder to make this more interesting for people!

2. I do not possess any item of clothing in the colour pink, apart from pajamas. This is on my mind at the moment as we’re coming up to Wear Pink For Breast Cancer Day and I may have to go to work in my pajamas.

3. I have had, on occasion, in my youth, blue hair.

4. The first band I saw was the Violent Femmes, at Moseley Dance Centre in 1990.

5. I used to have emetophobia but was incidentally cured by my hypnotherapist.

6. I called my cat Dottie because she had cute dot markings on her face… which turned out to be mange. Not after Dorothy Parker, which is what I let people think. Oh.

I don’t actually know how to put links to people’s names. So – anyone who hasn’t done this yet and feels a need to – consider yourselves tagged!

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