FRANCES SPALDING – Stevie Smith: A Biography

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Bought 18 May 2008 – Cinema Bookshop, Hay-on-Wye

Smith is the novelist and poet, author of Novel On Yellow Paper and Not Waving, But Drowning. Spalding does her very best with extremely unpromising material – Smith lived all her life with her Aunt, in Palmers Green, had a boring office job and about one and a half love affairs. She used her friends in her work, often quite spitefully, and seemed to destroy a lot of her own records. For all that, Spalding manages to weave a reasonably interesting picture, with a lot of use of other people’s archives and comments. The index isn’t very good, unfortunately – a reference to Iris Murdoch led me to the author’s comment about Smith being philosophical like IM, which I don’t think merited an index entry!

MARGE PIERCY – Braided Lives

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Acquired via BookCrossing 30 May 2008 – from the Red Cross donation bags

This was a valid attempt to portray the pre-Pill lives of our feminist foremothers in the 1950s, with some flashes into the future to see how their lives worked out – kind of like a mix between Mary Macarthy’s The Group and Marilyn French’s The Women’s Room. It was an interesting read but a little predictable and trying too hard to tick the right boxes, at the risk of losing some subtleties of characterisation and plot.

Quiz from everybody!

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What kind of bookcrosser are you

Your Result: Thematic dropper

You release in themes. The pianotuner in a jazzbar, a suitable boy at the gifttable of a wedding of a friend, the Minotaur in the centre of a maze, a prayer for Owen Meany in a baseball stadium, name the title, you release it somewhere suitable.

Obsessive releaser
Playfull RBACKer
ring in bundles
Talk of the toy
Love to meet
strange looking bystander
lucky lurker
What kind of bookcrosser are you
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

I’m the only person I’ve seen with this result… then again I’ve wild released a couple of thousand books…

YVONE LENARD – The Magic of Provence: Pleasures of Southern France

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Acquired via BookCrossing 18 Sep 2008 – on a bookring

In which a Californian couple “accidentally” purchase a house in a hilltop village in Southern France…

I do like an “expatriates settle in abroad” read and this was a good example. The author’s style is nice and fresh and confiding without being twee or patronising the locals; I particularly liked the tales of her freezing in the house in winter and I’ll complain a little less when we freeze in our big English terraced house – at least ice doesn’t actually form inside the walls! The recipes were lovely and ah… I pine for the lavendar and actually for the South of France…

MARIAN GILES JONES – Alain-Fournier – Le Grand Meaulnes: A Critical Commentary

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Bought 18 May 2008 – Castle Bookshop (outside), Hay-on-Wye

A short book making a close critical reading of this seminal French novel, one of the few I’ve read and understood, having studied it at A Level.

Brought the book back to me in all its glory, and a very A-levelly feel to it made it, ironically, a nostalgic read in itself. I’m pretty sure I recognised some of the essay questions in the back!

This was a marvellous find in the funny old Castle Bookshop outside shelves and an interesting, if not groundbreaking read.

JAN CLAUSEN – Sinking, Stealing

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Acquired via BookCrossing 30 May 2008 – from the Red Cross donation bags

I am alternating Women’s Press books from the Red Cross bag with non-fiction from Hay at the moment.

When Josie’s partner Rhea dies, Josie becomes separated from Ericka, the girl they were raising together, as her dad seeks to draw her back into a more conventional family set-up with his new wife. Although they see each other fairly regularly, things are threatened and they face a choice about whether to run away or not.

Rooted in the third wave feminism of the 1970s and 80s, there are some affectionate satirisations of systers and militants, with some surprises coming from the outwardly more suburban and conventional females.

A nicely done story and some good, detailed observation, and a good conclusion that doesn’t leave too many ends neatly tied.

VED MEHTA – The Red Letters : My Father’s Enchanted Period

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Bought 18 May 2008 – Cinema Bookshop, Hay-on-Wye

Last in Mehta’s “Continents of Exile” series, and following on from books he wrote about both his father’s and his mother’s life, all sorts of illusions about his father’s life and his parents’ marriage are shattered. Ved’s father gives him the text of a short story he’s written, but being a doctor and self-proclaimed man of science and truth, he’s not very good at masking the truth. Ved soon realises he’s looking at a work of autobiography, and then has to reassess a lot of his own past, including the inclusion of a certain Aunty.

As usual, the writing is confiding and self-assured so that we follow through the story as if listening to a lecture or presentation. I look forward to the time when I can read all these books in order, as I gradually acquire the set.

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