Edward Enfield – “Freewheeling Through Ireland”

(22 January 2012)

Sigh … it’s going to take me a while to work through January’s books, and here we are in August! Having enjoyed Enfield’s book on cycling in Greece, I was pleased to find this one about Ireland; in fact, Harry’s dad (for this is who he is) has now written quite a few travel books. Two separate trips but joined together nicely with reminiscences of other, less successful, visits to the country, and full of his self-effacing humour, firm opinions and great evocative descriptions of people, places and the art of travel, leavened with chunks of history and the inspired use of rather elderly guidebooks. Read mainly while riding on a static bike at the gym (sometimes with the Olympics cycling on the TV in the background!).

Eleanor Graham  “The Children Who Lived in a Barn” (Persephone)

(25 December 2011 – from Ali)

A charming book, half-remembered as I read it, so I must have absorbed the Puffin edition as a younger reader, about five siblings whose parents disappear. Set in the 1930s, a more innocent time, although obviously with more freedom, too, we see what happens when the village pulls together, in various ways, to support them when they move into a local barn. Sue struggles with the housework, her 11 year old brother does all the DIY, and the twins and youngest girl cause all sorts of mischief. I love it because it tells you exactly how they go about doing things, something reminiscent of the Swallows and Amazons books and very satisfying (not that I will ever feel the need to construct a haybox or cook a rabbit), and for the emotional sincerity. As other reviewers have mentioned, the part of the plot involving the parents is a little clunky, but it really doesn’t matter, as the book does what it sets out to do, and there are some great scenes and character development, as well as the excellently portrayed sibling relationships. A great read.

Cooper Thompson – “Losing My Voice and Finding Another”

(23 August 2012 – Library Thing Early Reviewers programme)

Fascinating book about moving to Germany at the age of 53 and learning a new language and culture. An interesting man in himself, with an interesting and non-traditional background, Thompson seems to be really honest about his feelings and emotions around language learning and culture shock, both good and bad, although we could have perhaps done without the vasectomy story … I would imagine this would be a very useful read for anyone transferring country and learning a new language, as well as for language teachers of all kinds, especially those working with adults.