CHAS GRIFFIN – More Scenes From A Smallholding

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04 Dec 2010 – charity shop

Further (I haven’t read the first one) tales of life on a Welsh smallholding, originaly articles for a magazine, expanded and commented upon. I’m afraid the style, which I’m sure many would enjoy, was a bit laboured and silly for me at many times, and detracted from the interesting and yes, at times naturally humorous, narrative. Not the best example of its kind, and I usually love this type of book.

Will register on BookCrossing.

IRIS MURDOCH – The Green Knight

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19 Jan 1995

I was dreading doing the last two books in the IM Project but was pleasantly surprised by this one, which I had only read once before. The characters and plot are rich and satisfying, there is a good collection of her archetypes and themes, and Anax, the best dog in Iris Murdoch. There are only a few moments that evidence her Alzheimer’s and a “tassellated” scarf is quite a nice image, actually. A relief, and a good read as well.

Iris Murdoch project update (2)


I’m quite excited about the Iris Murdoch and Book Groups project today – and a bit nervous, too.

Yesterday was my Doing Libro Work At Home day, and I managed to carve out of the afternoon a bit of time to work on the Project. As well as my study of Murdoch’s novel, “The Bell” and book groups around the world, I am also writing up a case study of the group I and some friends formed to read all of Murdoch’s novels in chronological order. This is also a study of “ordinary people”, rather than academics, reading Murdoch and will look at our experiences in the group. Although we haven’t quite finished the reading challenge yet (we’re on “The Green Knight” so only one more to go!), I asked all of the participants to give me a short biographical paragraph, a note of whether they’d read any Murdoch before, and what they thought the experience would be like. I thought I might as well extract this information from everyone now, as I’ll be asking more questions later when we’ve finished! Anyway, I had all these lovely messages from my fellow group-members, so took the opportunity to start to write up a bit about the group, how we formed, how we function and what we expected of the project.

So yes, I’ve got some words on paper (screen) – very exciting. I had to stop to work on someone’s essay on Money, but never mind, it’s a start.

The other exciting thing that’s happening at the moment is that my Test Book Group, the lovely Urban Coffee Company Book Group, lead by my friend Laura, have been reading “The Bell” all month and are discussing it… TONIGHT! They’re piloting the whole experience, questionnaires and all, and also providing feedback on the questionnaires so I can hone them for all my other book groups. Some of these are reading the book in April, so once I get the feedback in I need to get a move on and do something with it! I don’t mind if everyone hated the book and think it’s a useless book group read, as long as they can give me reasons and as long as they think SOMETHING!

So, fingers crossed that something useful and interesting comes out of my guinea pig group – and that they have found the process useful and interesting too!

If you’re interested in taking part, or if I don’t have your email address yet, please contact me at lyzzybee AT googlemail DOT com

CLARE MORRALL – The Language of Others

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04 Dec 2010 – charity shop

Jessica leads a fairly quiet life as a part-time librarian and part-time concert pianist, although she sometimes wishes her son would develop a social life and maybe move out. As she reflects on her past and family, her ex-husband reappears, trying to insinuate himself into the centre of attention. Can she learn to do things differently and will she ever understand how other people operate? Some lovely characters and I really liked the Birmingham (including the University) setting, the flashbacks and different perspectives were done well, and it was beautifully observed. A fitting companion to the wonderful Astonishing Splashes of Colour.


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Acquired via BookCrossing 18 Mar 2011 – BookRing

Two black maids and one young white women start to chafe against the bonds of their society as the civil rights movement starts to gain momentum. Sensitively and carefully done, the women’s voices are beautifully delineated and there are many hilarious moments as well as poignant scenes. Some of the plot seems a little far-fetched, but in general very well done, telling the story of an important part of history and showing how the personal can be political and Political.

ANNE STEWART O’DONNELL – C.F.A. Voysey: Architect, Designer, Individualist

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20 March 2011 – LibraryThing Early Reviewers

“Voysey decided early in his career that humankind’s spiritual growth hinged on qualities such as love, reverence, humility, self-sacrifice, simplicity and truthfulness – and that these were far from abstract; they could and must be given concrete form, in the humblest articles of daily life as well as in homes and public buildings. Every house Voysey built, every pattern that he drafted, every chair or coat hook he designed, reflected this conviction.” (p. 14)

This quotation sums up Voysey’s modus operandi. Most active in the 2 decades around the turn of the 20th century, Voysey was a descendent of Pugin and Morris’ homespun gothic and utlitarianism, but he disliked socialist collectivism and did not like being associated with Art Nouveau, believing instead in individualism and the art of, not copying but interpreting the flora and fauna around him into patterns for fabrics and papers, and in providing living conditions that were unfussy and easy to clean and live with.

Unlike similar books i’ve read on Morris, etc, this has a real, substantial text, interesting and well-referenced. It has been carefully proof-read and copy-edited, which I always appreciate. The illustrations are superb, with many full-page prints of his lovely wallpaper and fabric designs. However, most of the house plans are reproduced too small and faint to see the details of the floor plans, which surely other people than me would want to see and study?

A delightful and attractive book which I would recommend both to someone looking for an overview or a new designer to learn about, or someone needing a resource for patterns and references.

JANE SMILEY – Private Life

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16 Dec 2010 – BCBirmingham Not So Secret Santa from Kate

The story of one woman’s life and marriage from the 1880s through to the early 1940s. It can be seen as a strongly feminist work, highlighting the lack of opportunities for self-fulfilment for somen of this time, and it also highlights the plight of Japanese Americans in WWII. It was also really depressing, though, and I couldn’t see what genre it belonged to, although there have been various portraits of women in the 20th century and of marriage recently (Andrew Sean Greer, Anne Tyler…). I’m glad I’ve read it, as I’ve read all of hers, but not my favourite of her oeuvre. Looking at reviews on LibraryThing and Amazon, most other readers seem to agree with me, which is something of a relief. Oh, and it’s got elements of her own family, describing some situations of a great-aunt and uncle, which is probably where the “different genre every time” bit comes into play.

CRAIG TAYLOR – Return to Akenfield

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Bought 18 Nov 2010 – Oxfam

An update of the original Ronald Blythe “Akenfield”, which I’ve been looking for for ages. Although it was interesting and had interviews with Blythe himself, it didn’t really seem to have any of the original characters or families (I might be wrong here) and seemed distanced from the original somehow. I found it quite depressing to see what was becoming of our lovely countryside and farming tradition although there were glimmers of hope.

I’m going to offer a double bookring of the 2 books, to allow people to have the chance to read the two together…

SUGUNA RAMANATHAN – Iris Murdoch: Figures of Good

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From library

Another excellent Murdoch read, this one read in bits and pieces up to half way through the day it was due back. This one looks at the Saints in Iris Murdoch’s work: Brendan Craddock in Henry and Cato, then James Arrowby (The Sea, The Sea) through to the different experience of the messiah figure in The Message to the Planet. The change runs from the trappings of religion, through Buddhism and its concepts to an almost invisible, Christ-like but not necesarily Christian, goodness. I particularly enjoyed the assessment of Stuart Cuno (The Good Apprentice) and dear Jenkin (The Book and the Brotherhood) and found more joy and interest in Message To The Planet (and photocopied some of that chapter for Gill, as there’s some stuff that meshes with comments she’s made on that book). Not tied into my research but very good and will again look out for a copy for myself.

ANNE ROWE (ed.) – Iris Murdoch: A Reassessment

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From library

Too fast a read of this one, as it was sadly recalled along with all my other books on Iris Murdoch (I’d had the Chronology out for 3.5 years!) and I had to go through them in a hurry and choose whether to read and note (this one), read for enjoyment only (the next one) or accept I wasn’t likely to read in the near future and they weren’t needed for my research (a couple of others). I will get hold of a copy of this for myself at some time…

An excellent and intriguing set of essays on various aspects of Murdoch’s philosophy and fiction – it was almost like being at a Conference. And, of course, this included the thrill of seeing familiar names as the authors. The Introduction (which furnished me with a great quotation around which to build my theoretical approaches), and Nick Turner and Bran Nichol’s chapters were the most directly useful for my research, but I enjoyed all of this read, with so many different aspects covered.

If you’re interested in my research, there’s more info on my website and in my blog posts I will share its progress as I go along.

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