NELLA LAST – Nella Last’s War

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Acquired via BookCrossing 10 Aug 2007 – BookRing

A wonderful book based on the Mass Observation diaries of Nella Last, a housewife in Barrow-in-Furness [Rosie — have you got this? You really should as it’s a beautiful portrait of Barrow and its surroundings]. She comes into her own in the War, as so many women did, amazing her peers with her abilities to make do and mend, but always modest about it. Her observations on her husband, son and friends are very well put and indeed, she could have been the writer she craved to be.

An engaging story, warmly told and well-edited, with enough editorial comments to make things clear. All the more meaningful to me because I am a Mass Observation diarist myself (it’s all answers to directives these days rather than diaries, but still very interesting to do) and I hope I’m in such a good book one day in the future!

MALCOLM BRADBURY – All Dressed Up And Nowhere To Go

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Bought ?? May 2007 from ?? charity shop?

An interesting satirical look at the 1950s, written in the 1980s, so a period piece all round. It aims to help the reader negotiate the tricky patch between English buttoned-up-ness and the new, American, freedom of purchase, speech and ideas. Very much informed by the cut and thrust of the 80s, amusing, and important in the exposition of his ideas on sociologists etc, explored to devastating effect in his campus novels.

RANULPH FIENNES – Atlantis of the Sands

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Bought 01 May 2007 – charity shop

Touted as the story of his search for the lost city of Ubar, this was more of an autobiography, with a lot of SAS and polar exploration stuff and a desultory bit on the search near the end. As such, it was OK, but not really what I’d been looking forward to!

NAOMI ALDERMAN – Disobedience

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Acquired July 2007 – loan from LindyB28

Excellent novel about an Orthodox Jewish woman returning to her North London roots after a family crisis, to confront who she is and was, and the nature of family and friendship. She did try to pack a lot of “issues” into the novel, but I think it worked. And the parts about Orthodox Jewishness were very useful, as I read it the morning of the Jewish wedding I attended at the weekend – not Orthodox, but it helped me understand a lot of the people, feelings and opinions there.

Matt’s going to have a read of this too before it goes back to the Library Of Linda!

Lynne Cox – Swimming to Antarctica

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Bought 19 May 2007 – Bookends

Interesting autobiography of a long-distance cold-water swimmer whose aim in life is to bring together people from different communities by symbolically joining them during her extreme swims. Everything very well described and atmospheric.

I will probably BookCross this, simply because I’m not that likely to read it again and would like to share it.

J.K. ROWLING – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

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Obtained 31 Jul 2007 – loan from LindyB28

I enjoyed this more than books 5 (I thought rushed and poorly edited) and 6 (read it too quickly as couldn’t be bothered). This was well-plotted although maybe a little slow to get started. Everything was tied off nicely although, as my colleague predicted, I wasn’t too keen on the Epilogue. But a lot of people will have liked that.

I got a proper tear in my eye once, and a sadness on another occasion, but not the tear-fest I feared. But I haven’t really ever engaged that fully with the characters, I’m afraid.

Thanks for the loan, Linda; I am glad I got to read it to complete the set!

BALI RAI – What’s Up?

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Bought 27 Apr 2007 – Bookends

Another in the Tales of Devana High series of interconnected novels. This one focuses on Jit and his terrifying home life, also giving another perspective on the Suky-Imtiaz relationship. It was almost unbearably tense at times and very well done. I think I have one more of these to get and read now.

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