BRENDA BULLOCK – A Pocket With A Hole: A Birmingham Childhood of the 1940s and 1950s

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01 Feb 2009 – birthday present from Ann

I can see why this was bought for me, with my interest in local history, and it was interesting reading about life on the poverty line in post-war Sheldon. I would say that it was a little self-publishedy feeling, with a bit of an emphasis on redressing wrongs in her past rather than talking historically, and it ended *extremely* abruptly, but in general atmospheric and interesting.

CINDY WOODSMALL – When The Soul Mends

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Acquired via BookCrossing 20 Apr 2009 – on a BookRing

Third in the Sisters Of The Quilt trilogy, set inside and outside of an Old Order Amish community in Pennsylvania.  Hannah has always been headstrong and independent, but content to live within the community.  But when trauma and tragedy strike, she is shunned rather than supported and ends up fleeing the community into the world of the "Englischers".

A great read and a good end to the trilogy.  The book tends to be contemplative and progresses gently, rather than in big shocking scenes and sudden revelations, much like the lives of its characters.  The author is good at "showing not telling", letting the characters reveal their strengths and weaknesses through their actions rather than being told how they operate.  Taking up where the last book left off, we find Hannah on her way back to her Amish community, called there by her unstable sister Sarah after another fire has been set.  As Hannah starts to build bridges with her home community, its values and differences from the outside world are thrown into relief.  Is there a middle way, where she can hold true to her own values yet not be trapped into a sometimes hidebound and over-judgemental group?  Is her love for Martin strong enough to deal with the 40 in TV and the dresses he wants her to wear? Hannah is a lovely character and so are Paul and Matthew, all shown as rounded people who make mistakes.

I will definitely look out for more by this author – there is mention of a new book in the back of this one…

IMOGEN LYCETT GREEN – Grandmother’s Footsteps: A Journey In Search of Penelope Betjeman

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Acquired via BookCrossing 27 Jan 2009 – from the Red Cross donation bags

An enjoyable book in which the author retraces the journey she took with her grandmother, Penelope Betjeman, seven years previously.  Colourful impressions of India, then and now, and Betjeman herself, make for a decent read and Imogen’s love for her grandmother and a country that is now dear to them both, shines through.

PRUE LEITH – The Gardener

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Acquired via BookCrossing 18 Apr 2009 – BookRing

Previously published under another title and republished by Transita.

Lotte, divorced with three children, goes for a job as head gardener to the rich but vulgar Brody and his trophy wife.  She restores the glory of the old garden, fighting with her employees and getting entangled with the local archivist.

I really liked the garden bits in this and felt the author would do really well writing a history of a real estate rather than having to be fictional – she really shone in her depictions of the real work of the place.

I found the characters pretty well one-dimensional and stereotyped – even Lotte (how *do* you pronounce her name? Lotty? Lottuh? Can’t be Lot as that’s what Brody calls her!) was the archetypal Transita heroine and I have read most of them. And if one more man comes up "triumphant" with glasses from a dusty cupboard I will eat my hat!

Anyway, the characters’ actions were often unlikeable and poor old Peter too much the other way.

But I did like the gardening bits and an easy read.

ELSPETH THOMPSON – The Wonderful Weekend Book

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21 Jan 2009 – present from Jen

A nice book about reclaiming the simple things in life such as baking your own bread, picnics, spending time putting your photos in order etc.  There are ideas for different seasons as well as general things you can do at the weekend.  Some of it was a little twee and there were some assumptions about how much money one had and having a car, but generally full of good ideas – and very sweet 50s style illustrations.

JENNIFER CHIAVERINI – The Quilter’s Homecoming

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22 Dec 2008 – Amazon order

Another installment in the Elm Creek Quilts series and this time we find out what happened to the slightly mysterious Cousin Elizabeth, who set off for a new life in California with brand new husband Henry.  But the farm they think they’ve bought isn’t quite what it seems, and they settle into quite a different existence to the one they envisaged.  Hard work and decency have their own rewards, and Elizabeth sticks up for a local woman and follows her heart as a mysterious pair of quilts are mended and cherished…

PAUL O’GRADY – At My Mother’s Knee

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21 Jan 2009 – from Gill

A very well written and entertaining autobiography, taking O’Grady up to his early years in London, with brief forays into times nearer the present,l too.  It seems he didn’t have a co-writer, if that’s true then fair play to him as it’s well put together (and also well edited) and both interesting and funny.  You can see where he got the inspiration for Lily Savage, as he delineates his tough aunties and the milieux in which he grew up.

CARO FRASER – A Hallowed Place

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Acquired via BookCrossing 28 Feb 2009 – passed to me by Wyldetwo

I enjoyed installment 4 in the Caper Court series more than the last two.  At last we can gain some sympathy for Leo as he makes a few dodgy decisions and his life starts to unravel.  It finishes very much on a cliffhanger, so hopefully I can obtain books 5 & 6 from Ali soon – or are you reading them first, Jen?

D. H. STEVENSON – Miss Buncle’s Book (Persephone)


21 Jan 2009 – birthday present from Matthew

A truly delicious book and I think it could be the next Miss Pettigrew.  Miss Buncle is the quietest resident of a country village.  Who would have dreamt that, to make a bit of money to make up for her sagging dividends, she could have written a wickedly accurate portrayal of her neighbours – both as they are and, in a fantasy section, as they would perhaps like to be.   As the book hits the village, hackles are raised as well as eyebrows…. but also something strange starts to happen, as truth begins to echo fiction.  Miss Buncle observes, backed up by her lovely publisher Mr Abbott and her marvel of a maid, Dorcas.  Will anyone realise who the real author of the book, one “John Smith” is? And what will happen when they do?

A lovely fairytale of a  book; I particularly liked the more monstrous characters and the gentle satire of genteel novels of village life.  Let’s hope Persephone decide to publish some more of this author’s work!


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14 Jan 2009 – from the Red Cross donation bags

Another hitherto-unknown Streatfeild.  Sporting the worst, most camp cover photo in the world (girl poses in front of strong man and jester) this is an excellent longer novel about a family living in a village at the end of WW2.  Selina, plan cousin in a family of vivid and excitable siblings, is sent a party dress by her godmother.  In order to have an occasion to wear it, the children plan a village pageant.  Gradually the whole village gets involved, and all seems well until a few disasters striike.  Will Selina get to wear her dress or will she have grown out of it by the time the pageant comes along? Great read.

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