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.

JUNE STATHAM – Daughters and Sons: Experiences of Non-Sexist Childraising

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

I enjoyed this early-1980s study of various families engaged in non-sexist childrearing. Some of the issues have changed, in that there is slightly better childcare and parental leave now, but a lot of it was depressingly familiar. But there are lots of good ideas here which go way beyond providing little girls with meccano kits, concentrating on pointing out and discussing sexism, racism and classism.

Will release at a suitable location.

KYLE MACDONALD – One Red Paperclip

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Acquired via BookCrossing 01 Sep 2008 – NSS gift from Jellybaby531

Interesting story about what happened when a Canadian slacker guy decided to try to trade a paperclip with “bigger and better” things until eventually he got a house.

The trades were interesting, but so was the media frenzy, starting with word-of-mouth and the blogosphere and ending up with international news coverage.

There were little paragraphs at the end of each section and I couldn’t decide if they were tongue in cheek or not. Also a bit of philosophizing which wasn’t so attractive as the basic story. But I enjoyed this quick read.

Matthew’s going to read this next then we will send it on to the next person in Skinglists’s stalled bookring.

DEBBIE MACOMBER – 8 Sandpiper Way

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Acquired 02 Sep 2008 – gift from Purplerosebud!

Oops, finished this one a few days ago…

The eighth in the Cedar Cove series and a gift from Purplerosebud as a thank you for sharing the series with a few folks!

This one centres on Pastor Dave Flemming, good living, golf-playing pillar of the community. But what’s he hiding, just how upset does his wife have to get and what will happen now? We also catch up with the other residents of the small town. A lovely read as ever.

Audrey – shall I send this up to you as usual?

JENNIFER HARRIS & ELWOOD WATSON (ed.) – The Oprah Phenomenon

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Borrowed Sept 2008 – University Library

I do get some interesting books passing through my hands at work and I baggsied this one, which is a collection of esssays looking at various aspects of Oprah Winfrey, from her appeal to older white women through to quite a lot of stuff about her book clubs and magazine.

All of the articles were quite academic but easily assimilated by the educated reader. The theme that interestingly came through many of the articles was Winfrey’s concentration on the personal, rather than the societal. Thus, people in difficult situations are exhorted to, in effect, change their reaction to the situation, pull themselves up by their bootstraps, rather than work within society and community to change the situation (even when this is as big a situation as institutionalised racism, sexism etc). Again, with her book club, the focus was on a personal reaction to each novel, an echoing in the reader’s own life and an opportunity to think about and change it, even when the novel treated large themes of povery, racism etc. This is, of course, seen as a major limitation, and one which I hadn’t had pulled out for me before.

Interesting stuff.

I have a day of flexi-leave today and this was on the list of Books I Must Finish Today. Watch this space for more…!

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