SHARON ARIS – It’s My Party and I’ll Knit If I Want To

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Acquired via BookCrossing 07 Apr 2008 – BookRing

A book about the new craze for knitting; set in Australia, the author writes her own knitting diary and interviews other new and experienced knitters.

A nice jolly, easy read. Yes, it’s a bit old hat and there are maybe too many stories about executive women, but the general tone is good and the stories well told. I was amazed (although not surprised) that a lot of the talk about knitting came from a PR company in the pay of a wool company, or that’s how it seemed. Also touched by the mention of the Knitting For Penguins campaign – we talked about that at Birmingham BookCrossing and ended up knowing a dear lady, Anne, unfortunately now no longer with us, and setting up our Indian Library Fund with the same fundraising pages.

I have to say that I get incredibly stressed trying to knit (I’m OK when being taught, but revert back to hopeless once I’m on my own), and I thought the book could have had a basic how-to in the back as well as the patterns. One day I’ll manage it!

JAMES KNOX – Robert Byron

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Bought 26 Jan 2008 – Bookends

Very well done biography, nice and full and detailed from the unprecedented access given to him by his family. I love The Road to Oxiania, although I’m not sure I’d have liked the man himself. A good read.

MARITA CONLON-MCKENNA – The Hat Shop On The Corner

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Acquired via BookCrossing 01 Feb 2008 – from the Red Cross donation bags

Picked this out of the bags as it looked jolly. Lots of stories centered around Ellie’s hat shop, inherited from her French mother. The stories could have been a little more intertwined, but it was sweet and gentle, and the cat survives the story! The author obviously loves Dublin and this makes the book a bit special.

Julie/Anglers – you might be interested?

IRIS MURDOCH – The Bell

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Bought ? 1980s

As usual this is part of our IM a Month read and I’m not going to go into too much detail. It was great, though, to re-read what is probably the best, at least of her early novels. So many great characters and complex ideas, alongside a good story!

MICHAEL YOUNG & PETER WILLMOTT – Family and Kinship in East London

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28 Jan 2008 – Kidney Research charity shop

Oops – I finished this before the last two but forgot to put it for reviewing!

An excellent Pelican book looking at post-war life in the East End, and contrasting it with life on one of the new estates to which the East End folk were being encouraged to move. Approaching the study of the families like an anthropologist would view exotic societies, it is also a very human, humane and special book – probably partly made so by the fact that one of the researchers lived in the area during the research period.

A fascinating book and an important one in the history of sociology and anthropology.

REBECCA MILLER – The Private Lives of Pippa Lee

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27 Mar 2008 – via the LibraryThing Early Reviewers programme

This is a longer review, as we are asked to write 250 words or so when we get a book as part of the Early Reviewers programme.

A novel primarily about mother-daughter relationships (I think) and their effect on the next generation. And about outward appearances, and what they might mask. A coming-of-age novel in which the protagonist is constantly re-invented by those around her, and comes-of-age (at least) twice.

This competently-written novel was a slightly uneasy mix between two styles, which I found made it feel a little disjointed. The beginning, and much of the end, would appeal to the Anne Tyler reader, looking at a classic “perfect housewife” and hinting throughout the first section about what lies beneath, taking it to its logical conclusion in the end section. The middle, narrated in the first person, takes more of a racy stance, with echoes of Anais Nin, Armistead Maupin and Michael Cunningham in its depiction of the New York underworld, sex and drugs (thoroughly) included. At times Miller appears to be trying to subvert the coming-of-age and maybe romance genre, with her non-standard alpha males, and certainly has a good look at mother-daughter relationships and patterning in romantic relationships, but then she also over-eggs the pudding at times, making echoes in the mother-daugher relationships a little too overt.

Overall a decent read, which didn’t totally engage me but had flashes of excellent writing. It may be a little too racy for some people’s tastes, and those attracted by the beginning may be put off by the middle, whereas someone who would enjoy the middle might find the beginning harder to get into. As a first full-length novel, it certainly shows a lot of promise. I’d say stick with the beginning and end stuff and have the courage to leave behind the sex and drugs…

PIPPA FUNNELL – The Autobiography

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26 Jan 2008 – BookEnds

Three-day eventer and Olympian Funnell writes the story of her life so far, with help to which she freely admits. Sometimes this descends into a litany of events ridden and results obtained, but there are parts, especially where the sport itself is challenged, or she faces challenges in her personal life, where the writing becomes more open, engaging and personal. Interesting.

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