JOHN MOLE – All Greek to Me

Leave a comment

Acquired via BookCrossing 10 Jul 2010 – BookRing

I really enjoyed this honest and funny account of doing up a battered house in a Greek island village, although it was a little odd that it was written 25 or so years after the events it portrays.

I have a weakness for an expatriate-buys-a-house book and have read quite a few in my time.  This was a good one, with a real feel for, and love for, the people in the village.  There were a few rather vivid scenes around animal slaughter which may not  be particularly suitable for the squeamish.  I really liked the truthful scenes of family life, bickering and all, and the sense of luck that they found and could restore this lovely building. 

More photos would have perhaps been nice…

E. LYNN HARRIS – In My Father’s House

Leave a comment

Received 07 Jul 2010 – LibraryThing Early Reviewers programme

My being white, female, straight and English did not stem my enjoyment of this novel about black gay men in America, and presumably this was why I was picked to receive this book.  I’ve read and enjoyed Harris’ books for some time now and was very pleased to win this one.  It was a fairly quick read.  

The main character, Bentley, is a man who is trying to stay moral and just in a world that tries to encourage just the opposite.  In conflict with his father, who dislikes his "life choices", he sets up his own business away from the riches of the family firm.  When recession hits and it’s a struggle to keep going, he feels forced to take on a job for his modelling agency that he wouldn’t normally touch, supplying men for a private party.  He has bad feelings, especially when his mentee, Jah, becomes involved, but squashes them for the sake of the money. 

Now, you wouldn’t maybe expect a novel about modelling agencies and gay men who indulge in all sorts of practices (and some of it is a bit explicit, which doesn’t bother me but might be worth mentioning), to be a particularly moral read, and indeed the dust jacket plays up the glamour and risk, but it’s actually all about mentoring, fatherhood (of various kinds), doing the right thing, keeping safe, and love.

Being set at the time of the Obama election and the credit crunch offers an interesting dimention to this novel and it’s up to date in its use of facebook and texting as plot devices, without this seeming laboured.  Some characters are not rounded enough for me, and the ending seemed a bit sudden – but the back of the jacket implies that this was supposed to be the first in a series featuring Bentley and his modelling agency.  Tragically, the author died after completing this book, so this won’t happen.

A good read with momentum given by the thriller-y plot, some satisfyingly twisty sub-plots, and depth given by the probing questions of Bentley’s therapist.

MICHAEL FOOT – Aneurin Bevan 1945-60

Leave a comment

25 Dec 2009 – from Matthew

The second volume of Foot’s carefully written and very detailed biography of his friend Bevan.  Their friendship starts in the years covered by this volume, and among the description of the founding of the NHS and the various upheavals the Labour Party went through during this time, it’s fascinating to see their relationship develop and be tested by their opposing views on nuclear disarmament.  Although there is a risk of hagiography, I don’t see it in this book – there is admiration but also truth and honesty.  Although it took me a while to read this, I have thoroughly enjoyed it and was really pleased Matthew managed to track it down for me.

FRED HALLIDAY – Britain’s First Muslims: Portrait of an Arab Community

Leave a comment

From the library

Lots of interesting books pass through my hands at the library and this was one of them.  A study of Yemeni immigrants to the UK, I was attracted to it because it talked about people in Birmingham.  Cardiff and South Shields were other important centres and there’s a good longitidinal basis to the study, as we find that these people were very early immigrants to the UK, and how their experiences mirrored those of the larger populations who came later.  Interesting and thoughtful.

GREG MORTENSON (with Mike Bryan) – Stones into Schools

Leave a comment

Borrowed from Bridget via Gill

The story started in Three Cups of Tea continues with Mortensen’s struggles to get schools built in Afghanistan, especially in the remote Wakhan Corridor.  The  book does go over the founding of the charity but not in too much detail, just enough to make the book work as a standalone as well as a sequel.  It starts really with the earthquake that hit Afghanistan/Pakistan in 2005, introduces us to Sarfaz, a tribal horseman who makes epic journies, both in terms of administration and distance, across and around the region, and follows Mortenson’s "Dirty Dozen", the workers on the ground who carry out his vision.

Rather better written than the first book, in a first person narrative that does seem to allow Mortenson to speak through it, this book is also not afraid to face up to failure (will he ever get to the end of the Wakhan Corridor?) or uncomfortable truths, whether about the amount of time he spends away from his children, or about the wisdom of dashing away from the people who need him to accept an honour which will in time help him access more people.  There is also a sufficient amount of detail and thought amongst all the male bonding and rushing around.

A great project, and a good read.

Newer Entries