PAULE MARSHALL – Brown Girl, Brownstones

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Bought 04 Aug 2007 – Any Amount of Books on Charing Cross Road

This is a special book – it’s both a traditional, Green, Virago Modern Classic, which I collect, and was once owned by Angela Carter!

It’s an important work, centering on the interior life of Selina, a black girl in poverty-stricken Brooklyn around WWII, coming of age, trying to deal with her monolithic mother and fly-by-night father, others’ attitudes and the different role models around her.

I didn’t engage with this as much as I might have; maybe too many books about poverty-stricken Brooklyn have come my way recently…

Mr Dexter And The Girls

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A lovely photo from Matt’s dad’s visit earlier in the month!

ELIZABETH HERRON – The Fierce Beauty Club

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10 Dec 2005!!!! I think from a good sale at Waterstones

I found this book under a pile of library books I was due to take back. I was just over half way through it and finished it off these last few days. It’s a bit self-helpy and new-agey, talking about reclaiming your inner goddess etc, but had some interesting and positive things to say, especially about creativity etc. I always think I’m not a creative person, limiting myself to cataloguing and proofreading other people’s creative work, but of course I have a great talent for introducing people to each other and to new ideas, BookCrossing, LibraryThing etc etc – for bringing people together and that is creative in its own right. So that was something good to come out of it, and the stories of the group of (fictional??) women who are discussed in the book are interesting and inspiring too.

ROGER SILVERSTONE (ed) – Visions of Suburbia

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11 Jul 2007 – work book sale

Excellent volume of cultural studies essays, reclaiming the study of the suburb for academia.

VED MEHTA – Face To Face

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Bought 04 Aug 2007 – Any Amount of Books, Charing Cross Road

This is a somewhat confusing installment of Mehta’s multi-volume autobiography. It overlaps the first one about his early life in India, which I haven’t read, Sound Shadows of the [Something} World, which treats his time in America, and, I think the one after that. So some material was familar, although treated in a different and less full way. Anyway, we get his usual open and honest portrayal of what it was like to be a blind, uneducated boy travelling far away from the horrors of Partition, and his first attempts in academia and writing. I would have preferred the greater detail, but this must have been published for a slightly different purpose. As I don’t have all the volumes collected yet (I also have Up At Oxford and the one about building a house by a lake) I will keep hold of this one.

OLIVE ANN BURNS – Cold Sassy Tree

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Acquired via BookCrossing 08 Nov 2007 – BookRing

A lovely book set in small town Georgia at the beginning of the 20th century. With the time frame, I was a bit worried about reading it so soon after A Tree Grows In Brooklyn but, while it is another coming-of-age novel, it’s very different. We follow young Will, growing up in the middle strata of society, his family and his slightly renegade Grandpa, who causes a scandal by upping and marrying a much younger woman, 3 weeks after his wife died. The small town is beautifully observed; I see it comes from the author’s father’s memories in part. Reminscent of the world of “And Ladies of the Club”. This was woven together well into a lovely narrative that was hard to put down and sad to leave.

I finished it becuase I was home with a cold, but now I can’t pass it on to Ali because I’m at home with a cold! Bah!

BETTY SMITH – A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

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Acquired via BookCrossing 06 Nov 2007 – BookRing

A lovely read – and heartbreaking. I found that it was a little preachy and didactic; the author could have left it more at showing rather than telling. But that’s probably an artefact of the time it was written. I found echoes in the language in both Jonathan Lethem’s much later “Fortress of Solitude” and was also reminded of “Marjory Morningstar”, whose author I forget and I read ages ago. Both of course, are New York novels, and I wonder if Fortress, set in Brooklyn, had the echoes consciously.

Anyway, I would have loved this book when I was 14, and I really liked it now, and am glad to have read it at last.

EMMA DONAGHUE – Stir Fry

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Acquired via BookCrossing 10 Nov 2007 – BookRing

Maria, new to University and Dublin, moves in with a couple of women who turn out to be, in fact, a couple.

A nice read. I found the stuff about women’s groups very nostalgic, taking me back to my University days, when there was a lot of militant feminism and male chauvinists butting up against each other. Does that happen now? I remember someone from one of my literature classes having a real go at me because they saw me sitting on the stairs in the Student Union talking to a bloke! Shock, horror!

Anyway, a jolly read with some tense and well-done moments.

RICHARD LEWIS – The Magic Spring: My Year Learning To Be English

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Bought 27 Jul 2007 – Bookends

An excellent and worthwhile book, looking a bit deeper into the English folk and revival scene; he throws himself in to dressing as a horse, learning the melodeon etc, enjoying but not mocking the eccentric characters he happens upon, and exploring our “heritage” and its roots (or “roots”). I’ve read several books of this type, but this one is contemplative and a bit deeper than some of them. Also very entertaining, though!

CHERYL KAYE TARDIF – Whale Song

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Acquired via BookCrossing 05 Nov 2007 – BookRing

The central character moves from the US to Canada, meets the local indigenous people and whales, and suffers upheaval in her family life.

Although this was in some ways a book that was all about an Issue, it had enough life in the characters, especially the more peripheral ones such as the grandparents’ generation, to satisfy in its own right. I felt that the beginning of the book was well-drawn, but it seemed a little perfunctory in the latter stages – I could have taken more detail there without the sparseness of the story and the prose being compromised. The messages about tolerance and community, reminiscent of those in Barbara Kingsolver, were put across well.

An interesting read. The fact of this book being a new edition in memory of the author’s brother, and the circumstances in which this came about, were heartbreaking.

Thanks to the author for sharing this with the BookCrossers! I have several bookrings on the go which originated with the authors themselves, and it always makes them that bit more special!

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