MARIAN KEYES – The Last Chance Saloon

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Acquired via BookCrossing 16 May 2008 – from the University OBCZ

A heartwarming and heart-wrenching tale of three old friends facing their early thirties with and without love but always with friendship. Told with the usual gleeful moments, with a plot that propels you along nicely and then wraps up well at the end.

STEWART LANSLEY / ANDY FORRESTER – Top Man

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Bought 26 Mar 2008 Bookends

Subtitled: How Philip Green Built His High Street Empire, this is a carefully researched and referenced but unauthorised business biography.

Unfortunately, it comes over as bit clunky (possibly because it was co-written?) and boring. The book comes into its own when discussing the various high street brands, for example the effect of Primark on retailing as a whole. Otherwise, the book was less than thrilling, and I was a bit loath to pick it up on my commutes/at lunchtime, hence the time it took me to read and the scarcity of book reviews this week!

IRIS MURDOCH – An Unofficial Rose

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Bought 21 Jan 1995

Next on the IM a month schedule and, oddly, I didn’t remember this one at ALL, although I must have read it at least twice. How odd. I have to admit I feel a bit lacklustre about it, so I’m looking forward to hearing what the others have to say in our discussion!

RUTH WAJNRYB – C U Next Tuesday

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Bought 26 Mar 2008 – Bookends

A proper linguistic look at swearing, which was both amusing and informative (however, knowing information about non-English swearing vocabulary is *not* ideal if you work in a very international office… SO hard to resist!).  She does approach the subject from a scientific viewpoint and, although some of the points are a little repetitve, it is useful and valuable. 

PAUL WILLIAM ROBERTS – Empire of the Sun – DNF

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Bought 26 Mar 2008 – Bookends 

Oh dear, another DNF! This is a hefty tome on his travels in India, however it’s really broken up as he made many trips in the 1970s and 1990s. It’s not up to date enough to be interesting for now, and the twentysomething witterings are a bit dull. Couldn’t get into it!

I will keep it around in case it was the Pressure Of The Gigantic TBR that made me a bit unwilling to persevere with it!

ANDREW SEAN GREER – The Story of a Marriage

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 Acquired 29 May 2008 – from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers programme

An interesting and complex book, atlhough coming in at under 200, not a thick one and readable in a few hours. 

Pearlie is spending a normal housewifely day in the early 1950s, when a stranger knocking at the door sends shockwaves through her marriage and their neighbours’ lives.

The book dissects a marriage where all is not as it seems – all the way through the book and from pretty well all of the characters’ points of view.  The author teases and tricks us, as well as the characters, mentioning things so we might put two and two together, or indeed, not mentioning things and surprising us.  The marriage is full of things not mentioned, so it makes sense to put this feeling onto the reader.

There are some excellent metaphors in this book – the aunts being like cats sitting in the wrong place and, particularly, marriage being like sharing the water for a shower with a guest in the next hotel room.   The whole feels dreamlike and detatched; I’m not sure how the author achieves this, as he’s at pains to point out that the setting is in the frightening years connected to WW2, rather than the dreamy, feminine mystique years of the later 1950s.

In summary, an interesting book with many twists and turns to the plot, a theme of redemption and atonement, secrecy and concealment.  There is information I had not come across in detail before about the starvation experiments on US servicemen in WW2 which means I would not recommend this book if food and nutrition information is a “trigger” to the potential reader.

KATHLEEN DAYUS – Where There’s Life

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Bought 17 May 2008 – Sensible Bookshop, Hay-on-Wye

The 2nd volume of her autobiography – I bought this for our local authors bookswap as it is set in Birmingham, but wanted to read it first.  Poor Kathleen struggles and struggles, even having to give her children to the Barnardo’s home, as she forces her way through life, determined to better her position and make a life for her family. Although events are harrowing, it’s basically an uplifting and fascinating tale.

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