SUSIE DENT – The Language Report

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21 Jan 2007 – Birthday present from Matt

A series now, this was another excellent look at developments in English language during the past year – new words, new uses for words, new trends in talking about language etc. A good book to pick at or go straight through – and I have a standing birthday/christmas order with Matt for these!

KAY LANGDALE – Redemption

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Acquired via BookCrossing 24 Mar 2007 – BookRing

A really interesting and well-done book. It studies the different lives and marriages of six women.

Rather than weaving the characters’ lives together too self-consciously from the beginning, she leaves them their own space, with a stream-of-consciousness narrative rooted so firmly in the domestic that it leaves you tear-struck with the beauty and poignancy of all those little moments in a marriage or a parent-child relationship. I found myself wondering where each woman would fit in – then an ah, yes! moment. And the final chapter seemed natural and took the viewpoint further outside the women, darting in for a close-up occasionally, and very moving.

Heartily recommended.

RICHARD LEWIS – The Encyclopaedia of cult children’s TV

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Acquired Feb 2007 – lend from LindyB and family

I have decided this “counts” as I did read all the sections on programmes I actually remembered. Very well done, a good balance between sentimentality and sarcasm. Brought it all back!

AHDAF SOUEIF – The Map of Love

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Received 21 January 2007 – birthday present from Audrey/Scotsbookie

Wow – I’m on to my birthday books in March!

A wonderful book that I’ve really enjoyed reading. You need long bursts of time at this, so at the beginning I found it a little disjointed, because I was reading it in small amounts of time. Anyway, a beautiful tale of love, echoes and politics, the history of Egypt and the universals of love.

And my review from September 2002 (borrowed from Ann, read, I think, on holiday in Croatia)

“Excellent, totally absorbing novel of Egypt in 1900 and 1997. Political but not heavy, intertwined love stories, sweet but not at all saccharine, long and satisfying. Really excellent.

R.K. NARAYAN – The English Teacher

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Acquired via BookCrossing 21 Mar 2007 – BookRing

A strange, meditative, poignant little book. I hadn’t realised it was the sequel to Swami and Friends and The Bachelor of Arts, which made it all the more poignant. The usual Narayan features of the hapless narrator, capable women, a cast of secondary characters with various and unusual characters was supplemented by a supernatural – or is it? – element which was interesting.

Glad I got to read this.

VICTORIA FINLAY – Buried Treasure: Travels Through The Jewel Box (DNF)

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Acquired via BookCrossing 11 Mar 2007 – BookRing

Did Not Finish.

I’m afraid that I couldn’t really get on with this one and I’m going to give up. I’m not sure what it is, I have read her other one fine. It just seems a little perfunctory, like she’s ticking off the boxes – here’s the history, here’s where I go and look at x, here’s where I go and look at y – and I found myself having to force myself to read a few pages a night. So I’m going to admit defeat and will send it on at the weekend.

MURIEL SPARK – The Finishing School

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Acquired via BookCrossing 15 Mar 2007 – BookRing

Jealousies in a rather odd Swiss finishing school. What a peculiar little story (not in a bad way!). The narrative voice was quite distanced and had echoes of course of Spark’s earlier work, but also of Penelope Fitzgerald and Iris Murdoch, both mistresses too of the community of oddities. There was a palpable feeling of discontent and warning all the way through, and I was glad that the terrifying climax I’d imagined was in fact something a little more gentle!

HAROLD NICHOLSON – The Harold Nicholson Diaries 1907-1964

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Bought 31 Dec 2006 – Bookends in Birmingham

Actually letters and diaries, and edited by his son Nigel, this was a wonderful book. He was a great writer, mixing political information and statesmanship with personal observation and comments. Nigel’s editing is a marvel; just enough additional information in the comments between sets of entries, footnotes and parentheses within the text. The parts about the end of WW1 and the political background to WW2 were fascinating, and the latter gave me an insight I didn’t have before, and sent me to read other works I’ve got by more “ordinary” people. I enjoyed the glimpses of Chamberlain and Eden, whose papers I have seen at the University. I could hardly put this down and had to ration myself.

Recent book purchases

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Went with Ali to the Flying Pig 2nd hand bookshop in Kings Heath on Saturday and got:

NELL DUNN – Living Like I Do – by the author of the wonderful Poor Cow and Up The Junction, this is a study from the 1970s about alternative families and their arrangements. I love obscure sociology!

PAUL KOCKER – Master of Middle-Earth: The Achievement of J.R.R. Tolkien – a 1970s study of the major and minor works

DAVID CRYSTAL – Listen to Your Child: A Parent’s Guide to Children’s Language – this guy is so prolific. I’m fascinated by child language development and this is really practical and filled with examples rather than theorising.

And then today, went with Linda to the Oxfam Books shop in Harborne:

RUBY FERGUSON – Pony Jobs For Jill / Jill And THe Perfect Pony – no 6 and 7 in the series and I think this means I can get a BC Perfect Pony back into circulation

MICHAEL HOLROYD – Lytton Strachey – I saw this in Flying Pig and tried to persuade Ali to buy it, so when I saw it today I had to get it. Excellent biographer pins down perhaps the lynchpin of Bloomsbury life.

Will let you know what I think of these in about July…

SARA BANERJI – Blood Precious (Transita)

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Acquired 03 Mar 2007 – sent to me by publishers

Well! The odds were stacked against me liking this one, I have to say. I have found the other two Sara Banerji books I’ve read (one did not finish, the Transita one finished) a bit disturbing and confusing. The cover art did not appeal to me, and I don’t like thrillers.

But… I *loved* it! What a marvellous heroine in Lady Arabella! Feisty, outspoken, rude and over 80 – just what we all long to be! The story mixed magic and prosaic descriptions of the rigours of old age. The characters were a colourful and very well-drawn bunch. Lady Arabella is bats and we should all love her for it. The story is well thought out and exciting – and although there is violence, it didn’t seem as explicit and disturbing (as the non-T one I read, “The Wedding Of Jayanthi Mandel”), almost blurred, like in Lord Of The Rings. What a great read and one I will be enthusiastically recommending.

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