Book reviews – #Woolfalong Mrs Dalloway’s Party, Kew Gardens and Revolving Lights


June 2016 TBRA non-#20BooksofSummer review today and one I’ve been a bit delayed on by work things. I am still reading, don’t worry! More on current reading later. Here, I complete the #Woolfalong challenge for May and June (all caught up again!) and complete the seventh volume of Dorothy Richardson’s “Pilgrimage” (over half way!) so a nice achievement and they seemed to go together in a modernist / stream of consciousness way, so I saved up the short stories to review, having read them right at the start of the month.

Virginia Woolf – “Mrs Dalloway’s Party” and “Kew Gardens”

(16 May 2015 and May 2015)

I’m reviewing these short stories together, as “Kew Gardens” is a single story, published on its own in a slim and beautiful volume by Kew Gardens publishing, with lovely illustrations and the text on only one side of the page.

“Mrs Dalloway’s Party” is a set of short stories taking in before and after the famous party in a VERY slim volume. It was pulled together by Stella McNichol, who drew the stories into their current order and provides an interesting Introduction (to be read last, of course). The stories are highly perceptive of the currents and undercurrents that arise through intersections of similar and different people at parties, and you do get a strong sense of Woolf herself sitting on a sofa, perhaps, and observing, observing, observing, perceiving what is unsaid as well as what is said.

We have the “paralysing blankness of feeling” when the conversation stutters and you end up staring at the furniture. The description of Sasha Latham walking like a stag through the garden “as if she had been some wild but perfectly controlled creature taking its pleasure by night” is the stand-out passage for me, but misunderstandings, clashes of personality and feeling are all there, and it’s an excellent companion to the novel itself.

“Kew Gardens”, which I won in Ali’s giveaway (thank you, again!) is a garden’s eye view of people passing a flowerbed, all just as (un)important as the snail which is attempting to climb along a leaf. People hint of past visits, past loves, and the gardens go on timelessly. The lovely illustrations in this edition really complement the text, and it’s a very pleasant exercise in writing that gives a lovely little reading experience.

These books count for the May/June section of Heaven-Ali’s #Woolfalong.

Dorothy Richardson – “Revolving Lights”

(October 2015 – from Julie)

Similar in tone and subject to “Deadlock” (and with a less off-putting title, it has to be said!), volume 7 of “Pilgrimage” centres on Miriam’s life in London (complete with nice long walks, my favourite part of the books) and her relationship with Michael Shatov, which has reached that point where both parties want different things, as was inevitably going to happen.

Miriam ponders the differences between men and women – are those differences natural or caused by society and what can we do about it? – and also thinks about and experiences different aspects of religion. This part seemed a little forced to me, although I suppose she is exploring her identity and the underpinnings of her tenets in life. There’s lots of talk of ‘Jewesses’ which reads, both in that word and the discussions, a little jarringly nowadays, and she attends a Quaker meeting, remaining unconvinced, as all she sees there is men and their egos (a strong example of our seeing through Miriam’s eyes and filters). Add to this a distaste for children and realisation of what marriage and family would entail, and you have a young woman mulling over her future and making some decisions – but risking perhaps becoming inflexible and set in her ways.

Miriam is apparently doing some writing for Hypo (criticism not creative writing, as it’s made clear that she’s one of life’s synthesisers and editors (hooray!)) and spends a holiday at his and Alma’s house, which promises to be marvellous, but is rather spoilt by meeting the dreadful novelist, Edna Prout, who is writing a roman a clef. Richardson/Miriam pours scorn on this, surely making this a portrait of someone, thus a roman a clef, but never mind! I did feel that Miss Prout was also a warning of what Miriam could become (see end of last paragraph). She helps Hypo mysteriously to stave off an affair (presumably a romantic one) but this area becomes murky and vaguely worrying.

Not as engaging as the last volume, but I want to read on. I note the next one is really short, and that will be the end of the overarching Volume 3 of 4!

I’ve read Book 5 in #20BooksofSummer but am waiting for something to review it with. I’m currently wading around in Kynaston’s “Modernity Britain”, wallowing in diary entries by the famous to the Mass Observers, with social and economic / political history pulled together seamlessly. Lovely, although a Very Large Volume. I’ve also started Rushdie’s “Two Years …” but haven’t got very far yet (Mr Liz is further on than me with his audiobook reading – oops). At the moment it seems a bit difficult to get into, but I need to give it some time, I think, as I have loved several of his other books.

What are you reading RIGHT NOW? How are your reading challenges going, if you’re doing any?

#20BooksOfSummer Book reviews – Swim Bike Run and All Day Long


20 books of summer 2016

20 books of summer 2016

Two reviews today which go together in the sense that all the first two chaps do all day long IS swim, bike and run! I’m steaming ahead with my #20BooksofSummer reading and really enjoying everything I’ve gone for so far – I must have made good choices! I see I’m working my way up the pile to the left from bottom to top: not sure what that says about my book-pile-making abilities, but there you go.

I’m steaming through these because I know I’ve got a) a big work booking coming up at the end of next week and b) I should have at least one book outside the project to review for the lovely Shiny New Books. I’m taking advantage of the slower work days and lack of review copies to read when and where I can. Yesterday, a heavy shower and more importantly a thunderstorm sent me downstairs with the current read as I get twitchy about my computer in storms, even with surge protection, etc.

Anyway, on to the reviews …

Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee – “Swim Bike Run”

(2 June 2015)

It was nice to see an acknowlegement of the brothers’ ghostwriter for this book, something I always look out for now with sports and celebrity ‘autobiographies’, having worked for a while with some lovely ghostwriters.

This joint autobiography of older brother Alistair, driven, hard and a bad time-keeper and younger, routine-obsessed Jonathan, always striving to catch up, is really well done, with alternating short sections from both, apart from in one chapter where they talk at length about each other. There are also interesting short sections on their cycling, swimming and running training, which I must say differ from other guides I’ve read and work I’ve seen people do, and would not necessarily be recommended for the novice triathlete. Basically, they train all the time, it’s just what they do. They’re out on the hills on their bikes, doing swimming sessions, running in the same pattern they developed when they were at school. They don’t seem to taper (when you cut down on exercise sessions before a big race to conserve energy) and they exist on pies and chips (which is great, no problem with that in principle: most of my running training is supported by the good old hot cross bun).

Alistair is less centred and careful and gets injured more, seeing that as part of the process. I took a good mantra on injury from him, which is helping me cope with being less prepared than I’d want to be for my big run, having had an accident at Easter and only now being back at the same stage: “I’ve done everything I can, considering I was injured”. I’m going to add that to Murakami’s “I am a machine” for chanting (silently) as I run.

It’s quite startlingly acerbic – OK, rude – in places as the lads talk about each other’s failings, and you do wonder just how supportive their relationship is. But it’s a good read, and the parts describing the detail of their London 2012 Olympic triathlon were moving. A good book to read in the run-up to Rio 2016!

This was Book Number 3 in my #20BooksofSummer project

This book will suit … people who like sports biographies; people who like triathlons as long as they’re prepared to take the training advice with a pinch of salt and remember they’re human beings.

Joanna Biggs – “All Day Long: A Portrait of Britain at Work”

(From Ali (her review) June 2015)

A fascinating set of interviews with workers – paid and otherwise – around Britain. You can’t go wrong with a book that mentions gypsy tart on the first page (this is a special Kentish pudding that no one outside the county has ever heard of; the introduction is set in a charity shop in Dover). The scene is set, the limitations of having to chose just a few jobs from the hundreds there are, and the fact that many of the interviews failed are covered, and then we’re off through various people’s authentic voices, from a sex worker to a stay-at-home mum, an Irish fishmonger to a Scottish crofter and all points between, including all sorts of people, born here, moved here, different ethnicities, ages and genders.

Although the interviewees were picked fairly randomly and through chance encounters and links, parallels do appear, and are pleasing: the crofter who keeps himself going by doing several different jobs and the member of the landed gentry who constantly diversifies; the ballet shoe maker and the ballerina who will only use shoes made by a certain maker.

It’s all cleverly pulled together in the final chapter about school children’s aspirations, and its’ a great portraits of work traditions and ‘innovations’ (from workfare to warnings for not smiling), and the ways in which people pull together to help and support each other, whether that’s the prostitutes’ union or the cleaners and interns who work against unfair practices. Fascinating and detailed and really honours and respects all of the interviewees, whatever their differences. I wish I’d been the transcriber for this book!

This was Book Number 4 in my #20BooksofSummer project

This book would suit … Anyone who likes a bit of social history / oral history or is interested in the modern way of life in the UK. This could have been paired with David Kynaston’s book but I won’t have finished that one for a while!

20booksofsummer2016I’ve been on a roll and have actually completed the Arnaldur IndriĆ°ason that will be Book Number 5 – that’s down to the thunderstorm yesterday! I’m also reading the marvellous Kynaston tome and am up to about February 1958 in that marvellous mix of social and political, oral and economic history from so many different sources. And I took a little time out of the Project to start the next Dorothy Richardson, as I didn’t want to leave her behind to languish. Not the best, not the worst volume so far.

How are you doing with your reading challenges? Have you read any of these? Are they weird choices? (I didn’t get many comments on my last update so I’m wondering if my new blog readers are flummoxed by my obsession with non-fiction …)

#20booksofsummer book reviews – Books and Alphabetical


June 2016 TBRTwo books, one about books, one about the alphabet – you can’t get more booky or a more appropriate start for me for my #20BooksofSummer project, can you? I greatly enjoyed both of these, plunging in as soon as June started (I’ve actually finished another book, too, already this month) and reading one upstairs and one downstairs as I do. So here goes with Book 1 and Book 2 of the challenge.

Charlie Hill – “Books”

(acquired via BookCrossing 24 May 2015)

A hilarious – I did actually laugh out loud and read a bit out to Mr Liz – satire on the publishing and writing industry. Set pleasingly in Birmingham (I know at least three people who know the author, although I seem to have managed never to have met him), the south of the city is portrayed just as well as in his earlier “The Space Between Us“. Professionally sourly angry independent bookshop owner Richard Anger and buttoned-up neurologist Lauren Furrows team up to investigate the mysterious deaths of people reading the mediocre novels of sub-Nick Hornby (he carefully states) lad lit author Gary Sayles, the empty figure at the heart of the novel. Meanwhile, a contemporary art duo who are just as heavily satirised (there are many targets in this book) have selected Gary for their latest installation and project, which will apparently change the face of art forever.

Will the coming set piece at a launch with a difference cause murder and mayhem? Who is going to end up using whom? Will Lauren ever relax and sink into the world of literature? Will Richard stop writing work at the other end of the spectrum – the unreadable end?

There’s a lot of bile and vitriol packed in here, and some serious score-settling, but it’s well done and very good fun.

This was Book Number 1 in my #20BooksOfSummer project

This book would suit … lovers of Birmingham, lovers of literature, lovers of satire on modern life with an open mind as there is a fair amount of swearing and deviance and a bit of violence.

Michael Rosen – “Alphabetical”

(2 April 2015 – Fopp in London)

A history of the alphabet which tracks the progress of the letter shape, name and sound and some random facts and fun for each letter of the alphabet, and then adds an essay on something inspired by the letter, whether that’s acronyms under L for LSD or created languages under K for Korean. The piece of disappeared letters was the best, I think, and I liked Rosen’s relaxed writing style and acceptance of difference and language change, as well as his autobiographical asides.

But it does feel a bit disparate – more so than David Sacks’ book on the same topic from 2003 (which is, thankfully, mentioned in the bibliography). It could have done with illustrations of the letter shape changes and the tenses of the pieces about their history were weirdly all over the place. An entertaining and warm book.

The book’s main useful, practical point for me was to teach me “Righty tighty / Lefty loosey” which aided me greatly when sorting out something on the lawnmower today.

This was Book Number 2 in my #20BooksOfSummer project

This book would suit … Michael Rosen fans, alphabet and essay lovers

I’ve currently started the David Kynaston social history of 1957-62 – hooray – and am still reading about people’s working days. Fun times! How are others getting on with the project?

Book reivews – Deadlock and Night and Day


May 2016I have a very interesting pair of books here, and what to me is a fascinating comparison. Dorothy Richardson’s “Deadlock” was published as part of her “Pilgrimage” series in 1921, and Virginia Woolf’s “Night and Day” was her second published novel, coming out in 1919. You’d expect to find similarities between novels with female central characters published so close together by two giants of modernist literature … but I found the differences more strong in a way, or maybe just as strong. Woolf certainly comes across as much less experimental than Richardson here, and although their themes are similar, this difference really struck me.

Dorothy Richardson – “Deadlock”

We’re up to the sixth volume of Pilgrimage now, and I admitted in my reviews of the last two volumes that I was getting a bit stuck and downcast. The title didn’t help my feelings of dread much, either! But actually I enjoyed this one – positively enjoyed it. You could tell what was going on and there was what couldn’t exactly be termed a story, but could be called a narrative arc (although the most concrete actual event, an accident, has happened between the last book and this one!). You also pretty well know where you are physically at all times.

Miriam meets Mr Shatov, a Russian staying at the boarding house, and they quickly find each other interesting and spar and discuss literature and philosophy. Miriam introduces Mr Shatov to the British Library and the works of Emerson (this will be important later on) and embarks upon a translation with him (from the Russian, via the French) which gives some lovely passages about the art and process of translation, which I wasn’t expecting. There are also some very modern-sounding rants about factory-style poor-quality translations done by banks of foreigners undercutting the prices of good translations by professionals!

There’s a good description of Miriam trying lager for the first time (yes, it’s even funny!) and her new assertiveness and willingness to strike out on her own leads to trouble at the dentists’, as she finally rallies against the extra jobs they ask her to do – this is also symptomatic of her somewhat awkward journey through life. We do wonder what will become of her.

So, a much more readable and enjoyable book which still needs to take its place in the series but does provide a lot of interest and discussion (I don’t mind wodges of discussion when I know where it’s taking place, it turns out!) and I am looking forward to the next volume.

Oh, and here’s Karen from Kaggsysbookishramblings’ thoughts on the book – her review.

Virginia Woolf – “Night and Day”

(ebook, bought April 2016)

This was an odd reading experience for me, as I had to keep reminding myself I was reading Woolf. Yes, it has themes of women, marriage, and a room of one’s own, but the form of the book itself and the chapters and paragraphs is very conventional, almost reading like something by Arnold Bennett or someone else the Modernists eventually fought against. Although I did have a couple of palate cleansers between the Richardson and this one, they did chime with each other, and I found it fascinating that the so-called modernist stream of consciousness writer was writing so much more prosaically than her less well-known sister in literature.

That’s not to say I didn’t like, enjoy and happily read it. I do like traditional novels, perhaps more than experimental ones, and I loved the story of five young people in London trying to work out their ideas on life, love, marriage and work. we meet Katharine Hilbery, only daughter of a gently satirised literary family whose only real wish is to escape the endless task of writing a biography of her grandfather with her butterfly-minded mother and to study maths and astronomy. She’s pretty certain she won’t find anyone to share this interest with, but she’s lucky enough to have a room where she can hide her papers. We also meet her supposed lover, William Rodney, a boggle-eyed mediocre poet; all HE wants is to have someone to mould and teach, but he fancies himself in love with the distant and rather absent-minded Katharine. She’s admired in her turn by the self-educated Ralph Denham, who lives in an ugly house with a pet raven and writes articles about medieval history: he can be almost as po-faced as William when he sets out endless rules for friendships and dreams more than he thinks clearly. I loved the independent Mary Datchet, who indeed has very much a room of her own, although being in a good and central location, this room is often overtaken by learned societies or just friends who think they can knock on the door at any time.

Mary is reminiscent, of course, of Miriam, earning her living and working out her choice between career and love. Will she end up subsumed into suffrage or another cause, or break free, and does she really mind? Everyone in the book has choices to make: art or maths; history or law; love or marriage; love or career; adult woman or unformed maiden, and while the couples walk around London – which is a rather marvellous character in itself, with the characters’ long walks and Tube journeys around it reminiscent of both “Pilgrimage” and Iris Murdoch’s London novels – advanced theories of love and marriage are put forward for discussion.

There’s a great deal of humour and affection in the novel, not things you’d generally associate with Woolf’s more muscular writing, I feel, but making the book very readable.

There are interior monologues, but not what you’d call stream of consciousness passages; even so, we get a good idea of what’s going on in the characters’ heads, using this more traditional method. And, of course, the characters go to the British Museum and even read Emerson, drawing those threads between my readings of the two novels ever closer together.

I’m really glad I read these books so close together, because my reading of them both has been made more interesting. And I’ve now finished the section of #Woolfalong that looked at the early and late novels, even if I read the later one before the earlier one!

Currently reading … NOTHING! Nothing on the currently reading pile so far! I’ve cleared the decks for #20BooksofSummer, so presumably I’ll be starting one of those at bedtime, although I do have a couple of slim volumes of Woolf short stories to read for this section of the #Woolfalong …


Book reviews – An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth and Edith Sitwell


May 2016Two biographical works today – one an autobiography and one a biography; one a male astronaut and one a female poet. Chris Hadfield’s book has an openly didactic purpose, to teach us the life lessons he has learnt through his training and work as an astronaut, and Green’s book has a different purpose, to reclaim the reputation of a rather lost poet. I’ve been reading like anything to try to gain a clean sheet to start #20BooksofSummer on Wednesday, so hopefully you’ll read a few reviews over the next two days …

Chris Hadfield – “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth”

(3 June 2015 – The Works)

The autobiography of the famous Canadian (OK – did you realise he was Canadian?) astronaut, including life tips gained from his very rigorous training and equally rigorous way of life. These include gems for the less flippant such as always be prepared, even to extremes (he once taught himself to play Rocket Man on the guitar IN CASE Elton John realised he played the guitar and invited him up on stage. He didn’t), preparing for the worst, sweating the small stuff and taking pleasure in the effort not the outcome.

But even though his children apparently call him The Colonel, it’s not all barking instructions. It’s amusing and self-deprecating, although the aforementioned rigour does come in, apparently gained from his own upbringing and carried through into his own raising of his family (he does appear to be wistful about some of this).

I loved the details of his space training and life – including why jam is tricky on the International Space Station, what to do when you’re exercising, and general life in space, and it was also interesting to learn that it was one of his sons who was behind a lot of his social media phenomenon. Being fairly honest-sounding, admitting his mistakes, giving lots of interesting details and being well-written, this was a pretty compelling and quick read.

This book will suit … people interested in self-help through learning life lessons, people interested in space exploration

Richard Greene – “Edith Sitwell”

(2 April 2015 – Fopp in central London)

I bought this book, along with Michael Rosen’s Alphabet one, on a trip to London where I claimed I wasn’t going to buy any books. But how could I resist this one, as I’ve been collecting stuff about the Sitwell family for years?

This is a very good biography which pays as much attention to the development, inspiration, reception and technique of Sitwell’s poetry as it does to her chaotic and argumentative life, seeing to restore her lost position as one of the best twentieth century British poets. He traces her development to Walt Whitman and other American poets and suggests that the lack of anyone else writing like her, as well as post-war fashions in poetry, have dragged her reputation down as no one really knows what to make of her.

Greene keeps very competent control of the skeins and ribbons of Sitwell’s family, retainers, associates, friendship circles, feuds and enmities, keeping us clear on who is who, too. He retains a clear affection for his subject while not drifting into the hagiographical: he is clear-sighted about her profligacy, slip into alcoholism and increasing bad temper, while seeking explanations but not excuses. He’s also very funny on occasion.

He’s very good on the reviewers of her book and the context of poetry and literary criticism, and hopefully this will indeed do something to restore her reputation. The book is beautifully referenced, and a real work of bibliographical art.

This book will suit … any Sitwellaholics who might be out there. Anyone else?

I’m currently finishing Virginia Woolf’s rather un-Woolf-like “Night And Day” in my slightly delayed reading for Ali’s #Woolfalong. It was published almost contemporaneously with Dorothy Richardson’s “Deadlock”, and I’m drawing lots of interesting parallels as I go.


Book review – Attila the Stockbroker – Arguments Yard


Attila the Stockbroker argument's yard

Atilla the Stockbroker with Arguments Yard

Just one review today because I want to make sure I tell the author about it and spread the word, and I don’t want it all mixed up with another book. This is not a review copy, however: I did buy the book myself, with money AND a random Birchfield Harriers pen I gave Attila when his pen conked out half way through signing my copy.

I have retained fond memories of the gig I attended with my (still) good friend Sarah at university in the (ahem) 90s. When we realised his tour would be passing through the Kitchen Garden Cafe in Kings Heath, it was a no-brainer. Such a good gig. He hadn’t changed! But of course he must have – we realised to our slight horror that we are now WAY older than he was when he stood in front of us about 3 miles and a lifetime away! If you get the chance to see him, go. He’s done so many gigs that he’s super-professional, and is such a good DIY punk ranting poet and singer that every song and every word is personal and his rapport with the audience amazing. But let’s review the book – with some photos of then and now …

Attila the Stockbroker – “Arguments Yard”

(21 April 2016 – bought from the author)

Liz and Sarah, Selly Oak, back in the day (let's say)

Liz and Sarah, Selly Oak, back in the day (let’s say)

Attila is a real proper DIY poet and musician – he’s been self-publishing his books and music for years, booking all his own gigs, doing everything himself. He put this book out with Cherry Red so he could get the distribution, but he’s been independent of the music business and mainstream media for years. Of course, as a self-employed person who’s done all her own marketing and found all her own customers, I found a lot to relate to in this, and I found the details of how things changed from noting down phone numbers and producing flyers to harnessing the powers of the Web and modern technology fascinating.

But that’s not the whole story, of course. It’s an autobiography, and takes a fairly standard format, apart from some concurrent chapters at the end which deal with his beloved football club, and the loss of his mother to Alzheimer’s (a particularly moving chapter, of course, simply consisting of a poem, which brought many stiff upper lips and blinking away of things in the eye during his performance). There are lots of great and often hilarious details of gigs gone wrong, gigs gone right, trips and performances. Lots of old friends make an appearance: Billy Bragg, Pill Jupitus, John Otway, The Men They Couldn’t Hang (hooray – wish I’d worn my Tshirt to the show, now, although I did wear my “this is what a feminist looks like” one instead).

Attila says slightly belligerently early on that we’re to expect to find this written as he speaks, and so it was – but I found it extremely well written and very well edited, too, so no problems there – in fact fewer than in many other books I read! There were some great photos, too, to go with the stories and personalities.

Liz and Sarah 2016

Liz and Sarah 2016 at the gig

Although Attila (who was, in fact, a stockbroker[‘s clerk] for a brief period of time) is a self-confessed shouty man with bad table manners, and there are some yucky bits, it’s essentially a kind, decent, community spirited and benign book, the work of a man who cares about his family and his fellow men, can admit his mistakes and can change his mind. However, he’s not a cuddly figure of the woolly Left by any means – he has a strong call to action: leave the hand-knitted muesli and copies of the Guardian and get out and do something is the message, and he’s still giving no shrift to Thatcher and supporting the legacy of the miners.

Sorry, went a bit political there. But this is a political book – as well as a blinking good read.

You can buy the book direct from the Attila the Stockbroker website, and as he says there, at all of his gigs, from the Cherry Red, Waterstones and Guardian websites and many branches of Waterstones and independent bookshops.


Book reviews – Flight Behaviour and Roy Jenkins


May 2016Nothing connecting these two this time – I didn’t even finish them both! One of them is tipped for the top 10 of 2016, the other was eagerly anticipated but ultimately disappointing. One is being pressed on everyone I know (Mr Liz is reading it on audiobook at the moment) and the other will be Bookcrossed away out of the house … I think you can guess which is which!

Barbara Kingsolver – “Flight Behaviour”

(21 May 2015)

Yes – I’m under a year behind (just). You can see this one on the TBR photo above – it was third on the shelf but the first fiction read so off it came.

Opening with a memorable scene of the novel’s heroine, Dellarobia Turnbow, struggling up an Appalachian hillside in unsuitable footwear, ready to throw away what little she has, this is a wonderful and unputdownable novel. Although it does have an intention to educate people about global warming and the plight of migratory species, as with her other books with a message, it’s never didactic or preachy, and the information comes organically rather than being bolted on.

The community, overcome by a huge and seemingly miraculous flock of butterflies, the scientists who come to study them, Dellarobia and her dreadful wool entrepreneur mother-in-law (I loved the details of her business acumen), enchanting but never sickly sweet children and naughty best friend are all drawn absolutely beautifully and completely believeable. Dellarobia’s friendship with lepidopterist Ovid, and through him with knowledge and learning, is wonderful.

As with her other books, and a feature of other favourites of mine like Larry McMurtry, Kingsolver’s deceptively plain and easy style makes the book read like it’s happening in front of your eyes: it’s real. She’s so technically adept, without showing the workings: there are so many delicious doublings and echoings in the structure, colours, events and descriptions. The sense of place is astounding, too.

Although I know a fair bit about global warning and migratory insects, there is always something to learn. I was particularly struck by the lack of choices available to the very poor – even though I keep myself informed, this was really brought home to me reading this book. It was also excellent on the perils of handing anything on in a small community: things have a habit of coming back to haunt you, whether that’s the dress your rival wore on prom night 12 years ago or something a lot more shocking.

I loved this book. It’s the kind of book that makes you a) want to immediately purchase and consume all the other books by the author that you haven’t yet read, and b) thrust it at everyone who hasn’t yet read it. Mr Liz is only part way through the audio book – read by Kingsolver herself (not available from Audible – bah – but he got the CDs out of the city library) but reports that he loves it and it’s extremely well-narrated.

This book will suit … anyone who likes a good read, who is interested in the world and human relationships. That’s everyone, right?

John Campbell – “Roy Jenkins” (DNF)

(28 March 2015, Oxfam, Macclesfield)

The last of the Macclesfield haul, and I’d been looking forward to Roy as he made his way up the TBR.

Alas, although I love a political biography and this is acclaimed as a good one, and I wanted to learn about the founding of the SDP, I could not get past my growing dislike of the man. I don’t mind unlikeable characters in fiction, but living in the world of one for a long book of non-fiction is A Bit Much. Even though he read Iris Murdoch’s novels and met her once.

The private school-educated children, the plummy vowels, the posh friends, the country house, the wine and the multitudinous affairs, all from a socialist born and bred chap from the Welsh Valleys really put me off, and I got half way and gave up.

I’m currently reading Attila the Stockbroker’s rather marvellous and very funny autobiography and, in a TBR twist that will get my non-fiction ratio up again, a very interesting biography of Edith Sitwell. I do have some more Pilgrimage to face once one of those is finished, and I want to read Woolf’s “Night and Day”, or at least start it before the month is out, so I can do the (very slim volumes of) short stories next month.

What are you all up to? I’m caught up with the blogs I read now, thank goodness, having some good conversations there, and hoping for some here. Have you got half way through someone’s life before giving up on them (in book form, of course!)?

Oh – I have a Book Confession, too, I forgot: I bought Salman Rushdie’s “Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights” because Mr Liz wanted to read it and I thought it would be nice to do another readalong. So that’s sitting on top of the Pile at the moment. I really haven’t acquired that many books recently, though, have I!

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