Jan 2015 To Be Read shelfA singleton review today as I’m reading two that really DO go together at the moment and don’t want to lose the reviewing momentum. The book I’m reviewing here isn’t even on the TBR picture, as I borrowed it from my friend Linda, unable to resist the new Marian Keyes. I don’t read much of what gets described as chick-lit, but Keyes is always hilarious and warm with good plots, and I never mind saying I’m a fan. After the review, some talk of a readalong. Having mentioned almost in passing that I had started “The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists”, I’ve been very surprised at how many people have popped up to say they’ve read or want to read it, and some kind of lose readalong has been posited – see below for more info.

Marian Keyes – “The Woman who Stole my Life”

(borrowed from Linda December 2014)

I was initially flummoxed by this not being about the Walsh sisters, although from a little research, it seems that I’ve skipped a couple of Keyes’ more recent books, and not all of them are about the same family. Anyway, I also wasn’t immediately grabbed by the story, which flicks around a bit at the beginning, with half-mentionings and flashbacks. However, Marian Keyes is like a drug — you keep reading, even if you’re not immediately hooked, for the gems of wry humour and hilarious one-liners, and I gradually got held by the characters and plot.

Although these are new characters, we still find the hilarious older generation, scrapping siblings and bizarre friends, complemented in this case by the rather marvellous Jeffrey, son of the heroine, Stella, who has some very odd ways. I enjoyed her vulnerable men, as I always do (they seem real, like the beardy love-interest chap in the Miranda programmes and indeed Carole Matthews’ novels, which is why she’s another chick-lit author I enjoy), and the cast of supporting characters such as Stella’s hilariously serious brother-in-law add depth.

I can’t talk about the plot because that would give it away, but there are twists and turns and whole sections abroad (some of the plot points there were a little fantastic, but we’ll forgive her for that). Some reviews bang on about the sex scenes, but I skimmed those (not very Keyesian) and didn’t find them too disturbing. A good satisfying ending and a fun read.

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists Robert TressellNow for a bit of a possible readalong. I have been kind of sort of hankering after reading Robert Tressell’s “The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists” for years and years – after all, it’s a classic of Socialist writing and political and social commentary, so right up my street. Then I discovered it was published in 1914. Now, there’s not a lot published that year that I’ve fancied reading, and it is, of course, the first year in my Century of Reading project: I’m not currently “allowed” to just buy books randomly for that purpose only, but I had it in mind, then spotted it in Fireside Books in Windermere when we were on our minimoon last year.

I started reading it when it came to the top of the TBR this month, and was first of all struck by the small size of the type and the large thickness of the book – so much so, in fact, that I veered away to Marian Keyes for a bit of light relief before I started. I then gritted my teeth to have a go, and discovered that I found it a relatively attractive and easy read, its group of tradesmen reminding me a bit of Hardy’s country groupings, and the discussion of whether people had the right to vote if they didn’t understand the issues curiously pertinent to today’s pre-election mitherings.

I mentioned that it was going better than expected on Facebook, and was astounded at the number of people who either said they were planning to read it or HAD read it – people from different circles of my acquaintance, and of different backgrounds and reading habits. It’s not universally liked, but it does seem to attract attention and interest, and probably is a good book to read in the run-up to a General Election. So I posited a readalong.

It’s quite relaxed – if you want to talk about the book, do so in the comments, or write your own blog post(s) and post a link in the comments so we can all see them. Read it now or read it later … but it might be nice to have a chat about it.

Note: my reading has become a little derailed by the introduction of a kitten to the narrative. Especially in a didactic book like this, animal characters are usually introduced to make a point or allow a plot development – and I fear the worst. I’ve had a little flick, through the Google Books version of the book online, but couldn’t find anything horrible. But maybe someone who’s read it and remembers it could let me know (not in graphic detail if there is graphic detail) what happens to the poor thing. Yes, I know there’s other horror, there’s an unwell baby and violent impulses bubbling under in the labouring classes – I’m afraid it’s animal stuff that really upsets me, and that’s probably for another discussion.

Anyway, if you’d like to join in, pop a comment below to mark your intention, then feel free to discuss and post links as you go. Happy reading!