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!

HILDA D. SPEAR – Iris Murdoch

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From the library

Rather naughtily, I’ve picked this off the cataloguing shelf and have been reading it at lunchtimes. It’s not been off the premises!

Anyway, this is a workmanlike and spirited dash through Murdoch’s novels. Grouping them chronologically, it doesn’t treat them all at equal length, and I was disappointed there wasn’t more detail about The Sea The Sea and especially The Philosopher’s Pupil. But, a useful summary, and a springboard for my 2008-09 project: “A Murdoch A Month”, aiming to re-read them all in order of publication. As you do.

ROBIN McKIE – Face of Britain

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24 Jun 2007 – Bookends

This book examining the genetic heritage of Britons is a darn sight better than the TV programme, which got so repetitive that we switched it off! Here, it’s not just a case of trying to match face shape to region, but of looking at the genes of locally-rooted, rural people to see if they can trace their oldest ancestors. Some very interesting points are raised (we are not as socially/ locationally mobile as we think we are; most of us are descended from the Stone Age dwellers of our landscape; the slaves of the C18th show up in our blood if not in our skin colour) in a non-threatening, not overly-jargony way.

Enthralling and well done.

BILL RICHARDSON – The Bachelor Brothers’ Bed & Breakfast

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Acquired via BookCrossing 03 Nov 2007 – BookRing

An absolutely charming book, ostensibly written by two ageing bachelors who run a literary-themed B&B. Pieces from the guestbook, recipes, lists of books to enjoy in the bath – it’s all here, with a deep love for the small town coming strongly through the gentle humour.

Don’t all rush out to buy it or join the ring, as you might find it in your Christmas Stocking!

R.K,NARAYAN – My Dateless Diary

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

A delightful diary of his sojourn in America. By turns whimsical, bored and overwhelmed, he is always a good-value read and it’s very interesting to see his writing and editing process as he produces a novel while he’s there.

A sweet copy printed in India which will have to be looked after carefully.

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