Book review – Ellen Glasgow – “Barren Ground” and some book confessions #20BooksOfSummer @ViragoBooks

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I approached my first Virago of this summer with a little trepidation, given that it was a bit of a hefty tome and by an author whose last book I had a bit of a problem with (read the review of “Virginia” here) but actually it was really readable and I steamed through it with relative ease, enjoying both the what-happened-next aspect and the detail and descriptions. Phew.

I also accidentally fell into The Works as I was leaving next door’s Holland & Barratt (vitamin pills and running recovery bars) and came out with three paperback novels for a fiver. My Cornish friends will know why I couldn’t turn at least one of them down …

But first to my first All Virago / All August read.

Ellen Glasgow – “Barren Ground”

(25 December 2017 – Not So Secret Santa from my Virago Group santa, Lisa)

As mentioned above, while more books by this author had been firmly on my wishlist, I was a bit intimidated by it, esp as I’ve sort of Fallen Behind a bit with 20 Books of Summer. No need to worry, though, as I plunged into the world of the strong Dorinda Oakley, seduced and abandoned, who re-forms herself in New York then returns to take over the family farm in Virginia. What a story, and I loved how it was written by Glasgow in her early 50s, the age Dorinda has reached by the end of the book.

It’s very powerful on how people get trapped by the land and their circumstances, needing a big injection of innovation and cash if they want to haul themselves out of the desperate struggle to keep going. Hard work isn’t enough, as Dorinda’s parents find: some luck and open-mindedness, plus cash, are needed, and hardly anyone gets this. It’s a small community where Dorinda and Jason’s names will be linked forever: will she be able to perform a final act of charity? A few pretty dresses have to come at the expense of a new cow, everyone knows everyone’s business and the broomsedge, pine and life-everlasting will take over lost fields, one by one.

The innovative and compassionate are praised but don’t always do well; and a bad character doesn’t condemn you as much as weakness and fear (Jason’s problem is that he’s neither good nor bad enough). Dorinda is ripe to fall in love with the first man who comes along, and her love is described in aching detail – but so is her rebuttal of love and reliance on land and hard work that comes afterwards. The scenes in New York are a bit reminiscent of “Pilgrimage”‘s dentistry sections, but the whole book, with its strong sense of predestination, its chorus of rural dialect and brooding landscapes reminded me of Hardy – and I was happy to be vindicated on this when Paul Binding pointed out in the introduction that Glasgow met Hardy and was very influenced by him. There’s a good level of detail on exactly how Dorinda improves the farm, which will always attract me to a book.

As to the problem I had with “Virginia”, well, the black characters are a little infantilised and you have to read with gritted teeth, reminding yourself this was people’s attitude in the 1920s. However, it’s not nearly as bad, and we have characters such as Fluvanna who is pretty well Dorinda’s equal in the running of the house – really, her wife, and definitely most constant companion.

These two quotations sum the book up for me:

She could never be broken while the vein of iron held in her soul. (p. 141)

and

At twenty, seeking happiness, she had been more unhappy … than other women; but at fifty, she knew that she was far happier. The difference was that at twenty her happiness had depended upon love, and at fifty it depended on nothing but herself and the land. (p. 365)

An enthralling book with a heroine the equal of a Bathsheba Everdene and more highly recommended than you would think at first glance.

This was Book 1 in All Virago / All August

This was Book 12 in #20BooksOfSummer


I’m currently reading Angela Thirkell’s “Summer Half” which is a delightful school-set romp I’m highly enjoying. Reading that, I’m not sure why I thought I needed some light relief, as what is more fluffy than an Thirkell, but I picked these up anyway …

Tracey Corbett’s “The Summer Theatre by the Sea” is set in Cornwall and features a picture of the famous Minack Theatre on the front cover. My friend Pam works there, so how exciting! Laura Kemp’s “The Year of Surprising Acts of Kindness” is about a Welsh village that gets rejuvenated by a mystery benefactor, and Clara Christensen’s “Hygge and Kisses” is about finding happiness in Denmark. All very much part of trends that are going on at the moment but I’m sure I’ll have a tired and delicate moment these will fill nicely.

What are you reading? Have you bought any new books yet this month?

Book review – Peter Ginna (ed.) – “What Editors Do” #20BooksOfSummer #amreading @KOKEdit @DoctorSyntax

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I’ve been a bit absent on this blog this week – sorry! I finished this book ages ago and have been absorbed in Henry II (you’ll have to wait for my review of “King of the North Wind” until it’s out on Shiny New Books, and no, I haven’t quite written it yet. Or finished the book). I’ve had a lot of work on this week and just don’t seem to have got round to writing this review, especially as it’s quite a special book.

Being Book 9, you can see the white spine, well, well over half way up the pile you can see in the pic. So I’ve probably got fewer pages to read before the end of the challenge than I’ve read already (right?).

You see, I basically bought it because it had a chapter by a friend of mine in it. Whoo hoo! But I read it all because it was fascinating, engaging and useful. Hooray!

Peter Ginna (ed.) – “What Editors Do”

(15 October 2017)

The book’s subtitle – “The Art, Craft, and Business of Book Editing” very aptly sums it up. Oh, and it’s beautifully edited itself, too. After an excellent introduction giving us useful definitions (trade, mass market and scholarly publishing, for example) and the three phases of editing (acquisition, text development and publication), Ginna shares that he is optimistic about the profession, which sets the scene for a fascinating and engaging read. We then have a series of wonderful chapters covering the bigger themes of acquisition, the editing process, publication, categories and varieties of careers in book editing. Although I am an editor, I only cover the text development side of things (and then narrower categories within that, as I tend towards line and copy-editing and proofreading rather than developmental editing) so it was a revelation and great learning experience for me to find out more about how the publishing industry works as a whole.

All of the chapters are fascinating in their different ways, and the chapters aren’t too long and are full of personal experience and honesty (with lots of people admitting all sorts of mistakes along the way, with Matt Weiland even outlining a Terrible Error he made with someone’s book, which is very refreshing but very like the edibuddies I’ve come to know during my career), so it’s engaging and attractive to read all the way through and never dips or drags.

The book is full of great, down-to-earth advice. Some things appear more than once, so are obviously hugely important, the two main ones I noticed being never buy a book you don’t love and there’s a lot of emphasis on making sure the writer’s voice and intent shine through in everything you edit which I think would reassure writers.

The categories or genres section is full of really interesting case studies – especially the one on developing and editing the different kids of children’s books by Nancy Siscoe. I was pleased to read that Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” (which I reviewed here) was the best memoir that Jonathan Karp has edited, and I enjoyed Betsy Lerner’s experience of being edited herself (I wrote about my experience of that over on my work blog here).

I enjoyed Carol Fisher Saller’s piece on the nuts and bolts of copyediting (I read her book a while ago and loved it), especially her comparison of different ways in which different style guides expect editors to format abbreviations, etc. and her discussion of “the mistaken belief that there is a single ‘correct’ way to render a piece of writing” (p. 110). This is something I’ve encountered with some of my own clients and I’ll be quoting from the piece when I write an article for my work blog on this topic: it was great to see it treated here.

Katharine O’Moore-Klopf’s chapter on making a career as a freelance editor, which is of course is super, is what I bought the book for and how I knew about it, but I stayed to read all the chapters and the whole thing was a complete delight.

I would recommend this book to all editors, writers and people generally interested in the process of how books get from ideas to the printed (or electronic) page. The chapters I’ve singled out are by no means the only stand-out ones: it’s of a very good quality and level of interest throughout.

This was Book #9 in my 20BooksOfSummer challenge.


I’m currently finishing off “King of the North Wind”, and very good it is, too (I’m learning an awful lot about this not-well-known king) and I’ve just started on Prajwal Parajuly’s “Land Where I Flee”, which promised to be a very good and entertaining culture-clash story about returning to one’s roots. What are you reading? How are you doing with your 20 Books of Summer or other challenges?

 

Book review – Christopher McDougall – “Born to Run” plus #BookConfessions #20BooksOfSummer #amreading

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I turned to this book with excitement as I haven’t read a running book in a while and this is supposed to be one of the classics. Bought in Penzance in October 2017 (get me with my being caught up!), it represents Book 8 in my #20BooksOfSummer project, which feels like some progress (I’m already reading Book 9, and Books 10-12 are two novels and a running/travel book so that all feels doable by the end of the month). I did acquire some books this week: I had a slightly unexpected dentist appointment (my old dentist had a habit of rescheduling so my March-September appointments have slipped, thank goodness for their text reminders) and popped into Oxfam books to see if I could find a nice novel, came out with … well, you’ll see below.

Christopher McDougall – “Born to Run”

(02 October 2017, Penzance charity shop)

Far from being the polemic about shoeless running from the start through to the end that I was expecting, this is a very engaging narrative non-fiction book. He spends most of it in shoes, actually, although he is, as expected, in careful pursuit of the elusive Tarahumara people of Mexico, the best ultra-runners in the world. He tracks them down with the help of a strange and elusive feral man who turns out to have been so inspired by supporting them through a US race that he gave everything up and built his own shack in the mountains – hardly the most suitable chap to set up a race or even manage to meet, but McDougall seems to manage to gel with him and find a charm in him, as he does in (almost) everyone).

McDougall weaves in a lot of history and information about the sport of long-distance running, especially in the US (claiming it peaks in national crises), and I loved how other runners I’ve read about earlier get woven into the narrative, too, from Deana Castor‘s Coach Vigil through Dean Karnazes (McDougall is not a fan, it’s safe to say) to Scott Jurek, who he has a lot of time for and spends a lot of time with. I’d already read about Jurek’s run with the Tarahumara so it was lovely to have this triangulated from an outsider’s point of view, backing up the impression of him as an all-round nice guy, fitting in nicely with Coach Vigil’s emphasis on being a good person as well as a good runner.

I also very much liked the (non-sexist, non-creepy) celebration of some of the amazing women of ultra-running, very much strong and equal to the men, with higher proportions finishing ultras than men have, interestingly (this might just be in the US, although I know some super tough female ultra runners here, too!). An oddball set of characters, including one woman, is assembled for the first Tarahumara/US race on Mexican paths, and I really liked the mutual respect the two groups show each other in this section, exciting as it is, but also very human.

The stuff on barefoot running and humans being born to run is all backed up scientifically and almost made me throw out my shoes (I have one leg longer than the other, so I feel I fall into the small percentage of people that McDougall admits do need support and orthotics!) – I will certainly work on foot and ankle strengthening, though. I can see how it makes people espouse that and he’s careful not to be too stary-eyed and pushy about it and to advocate taking care (and the barefoot runner in the race does suffer somewhat, so it’s not all shown as being easy).

It’s an exciting book, full of risk and danger, but not too gung-ho: McDougall is honest about his own short-comings as a runner and all he has to learn, and indeed his mis-steps in the process of studying the Tarahumara. I can see why this book is considered a classic and heartily recommend it.

This was Book #8 in my 20BooksOfSummer challenge.


So I didn’t exactly pick up a light novel in Oxfam! Here we have Simon Garfield’s “On the Map: Why the World Looks the Way it Does” which I was sure I had, but no. I do like books about maps. Harold Nicolson’s “Journey to Java” is a real find, one of his travel books, obviously, and one I’ve been after for a while. John Carter and Nicholas Barker’s “A.B.C. For Book Collectors” is a 1990s edition of a classic I pored over when I was a special collections library assistant: it covers all the ways book sellers describe second-hand books, the parts of a book etc., but is also very sparkling and witty in the way it does it. I can’t wait to read this again, with its updates.

I’m currently reading Peter Ginna’s “What Editors Do”, which, even without having a chapter by an edibuddy of mine, is absolutely fascinating: just because I’m an editor myself doesn’t mean I know how it all works in a big publishing house or how people do acquiring and developmental editing. A real pleasure to read.

Have you any confessions to make?

Amit Katwala – “The Athletic Brain” and some book confessions #20BooksOfSummer #amreading

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I’ve managed to read the second book in my #20BooksOfSummer challenge, even though I’m slightly frantically alternating challenge books and other stuff I need to read and review for Shiny and NetGalley. A little bit of acquiring has gone on, too (oops, not oops) with two books from different publishers coming in for Shiny review and one being bought yesterday at a talk and book signing (rude not to, right?). But first let’s have a look at this book, enticingly subtitled “How Neuroscience is Revolutionising Sport and Can Help You Perform Better”, superimposed on a graphic of a running track. Oh – you’ll notice from the date that I’m JUST keeping to a year’s gap between acquisition and reading. I’m going to say that there will be a jump forward in that, because I know how “good” I usually am in the late summer, autumn, but we’ll have to see, won’t we …

Amit Katwala – “The Athletic Brain”

(12 June 2017)

I apparently ordered this one because someone mentioned it in the Runners’ Bookshelf Facebook group I’m in (although I can’t now find that mention of it). It’s written in an informal and accessible style and is obviously a work that has grown out of a great interest of the author’s; it’s just a bit of a shame that, for me, it overlapped a bit too much with other books I’ve read fairly recently, most notably Matthew Syed’s “Bounce”. He credits that very book in the bibliography and notes, so I’m in no way suggesting anything nefarious, it’s just that something must have been in the water and lots of similar research came out and got mulled over and informed these two books and probably others.

So the talking about training versus talent, and flow and the unconscious, automatic responses and movements that come with hours of practice was all stuff I kind of knew about already – however, nicely done and with good reference to a wide variety of both academic sources and interviews Katwala has done as a sports journalist. As well as the important sections on the role of brain research on visual acuity and the ability to make decisions rapidly through a variety of tools, and the way in which sports clubs of various kinds are using these techniques to train their athletes to do better, there’s also quite a lot about scouting, risk-taking and brain injuries, which, while important and interesting, make the book feel a little disjointed. But again, the research and synthesis is done really well.

I particularly like the author’s handiness with an analogue: for example, and there are lots of examples, the allocation of neural resources is described as being

on the general principle of ‘use it or lose it’, like overlapping games of cricket in a crowded public park.

and w meet some interesting and different people during the book, like the snowboarder, Billy Morgan.

Notwithstanding the running track on the front cover, there’s not that much for the runner here, as visual acuity and fast decision-making are more important in team sports or ones with an opponent. For our rugby, football and tennis playing friends, the most important things seem to be keep flexible, train your peripheral vision and have a go at focusing your attention more on, for example, the hoop in basketball before you shoot for the goal. The main bit about runners, apart from some interesting stuff about VO2 max capacity in twin studies and grit in general is about resilience and keeping going, with a suggestion that you train when tired (for example doing your long run after a day at work). I know that I used that tactic during my winter training for my last marathon and it worked well, so was pleased about that.

So, the author seems really nice and enthusiastic and has done a good work of research. I only felt a bit “meh” about this book because I’d read “Bounce” first. If I’d read them the other way around, I would have felt the other way around about them.

This was Book #2 in my 20BooksOfSummer challenge.


New in, first off my Shiny books. “Sacred Britannia”, by Miranda Aldhouse-Green and sent by Thames & Hudson, is about the clash and mixture of religions in Roman Britain. Sally Bayley’s “Girl With Dove” from William Collins has been popping up all over and was sent kindly along with another book, however I don’t feel I’m the best reviewer, so I’ve sent it along to one of the Shiny editors. And “King of the North Wind” by Claudia Gold is about Henry II. What do you know about him? Nor me – but I’m looking forward to finding out. Some beautiful books here and out in June and July so reviews coming relatively soon.

I was lucky enough to attend a talk and book signing by Blind Dave Heeley, the Black Country marathoner, ultrarunner, triathlete and all-round amazing and entertaining chap. I shared my story with him where I’ve seen him at so many races and cheered him on as he’s stormed past me that when I encountered him at the Road Relays earlier in the year, I assumed I knew him and greeted him with an “Orright, Dave,” as I ushered him down the funnel in my role as Official in Training. He said to give him a shove next time so he knows I know him. OK! Anyway, book purchased, massive guide dog patted, and here’s another good read (and his co-writer is listed on the front cover!).

I’ve just started reading “The Life and Times of Benjamin Zepahaniah” which is SO GOOD. I’m going to be reviewing it here and for Shiny, as it’s one of those books I think I will have a personal and a more academic reaction to. Oh, but it’s good. So entertainingly and honestly written. The first words? “I hate autobiographies” …

 

Book review Jane Austen – “Teenage Writings” plus something in the post and a Dull But Necessary thing #amreading #bookconfessions #20BooksofSummer

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A bumper post today full of fun … well, and a Dull But Necessary Thing. Shall we get that over with first? Some of my lovely readers receive my reviews and other blog posts by email because they’ve signed up for it. And although it has a double opt-in and you have an unsubscribe message on every email, I had to put it on my GDPR Compliance and Privacy Policy statement, so if you want to read that, pop to the link and otherwise I’ll never mention it again. There’s more to my statement than just this blog, because I run a business and have customers, but I thought I ought to mention it. Now to the review and Acquisition.

Jane Austen – “Teenage Writings”

(06 June 2017 – from Kaggsy)

Kaggsy at The Ramblings kindly sent me this nice Oxford World’s Classics edition of Austen’s Juvenalia – I think she reviewed it for Shiny New Books but am not sure, although I half remember seeing her blog about it. Anyway, here we have those three volumes of Austen’s early, unpublished works that were circulated among friends and family, and the reading experience is a little patchy, I have to say – they were obviously packed full of in-jokes that now need explaining, and some of the very youthful stuff is a bit silly – but it’s still an insight into how she developed her craft and her ability to keep people amused and spellbound. I prefer the later pieces where she doesn’t rely so much on drunkenness and very weird punctuation and opens out into more of herself. “The Three Sisters”, though it does have drunkenness, is very funny especially on what one should expect from a husband, and Lesley-Castle has some sharp and funny comments about friendship, especially epistolary forms where you’ve long tired of the person but keep writing jolly letters to them.

The asterisks marking notes are a bit intrusive – the notes are great but of course cater to the greatest need. I wonder if just putting the notes under their page numbers but leaving off the asterisks and letting the reader decide what to look up might have worked a bit better. Of course, there are introductions, notes on the text, bibliographies, etc. enough to satisfy the most demanding reader. A necessary and good collection that will appeal to a wide range of people.

Now another book in, this time “The Maiden Dinosaur” by Janet McNeill, which I won in a competition (which I have to admit I entered slightly by accident. And look, not only the book but a lovely postcard AND a Seamus Heaney bookmark, all from the lovely Cathy at 746 Books (here’s her review in case the pic whets your appetite: you know this will have got behind all those books from Tuesday unless I alter my book choosing pattern!). Thanks, Cathy!

I owe you and NetGalley a review of Dan Hancox’ “Inner City Pressure” which is a simply wonderful book situating the music genre grime in its sociopolitical context in a way that’s much more readable than I’m making that sound. That’ll come on Sunday, I think. I’ve just opened Paul Theroux’ “Deep South” and am actually enjoying it so far (phew).

Oh, and talking of Cathy from 746 Books, I’m going to be doing her 20 Books of Summer challenge again this year, starting from 1 June. Cathy’s posted a teaser here but the proper sign-up post will come out on 1 June and that’s when I’ll be announcing my Pile. I know I have eight Viragoes and Persephones to add for my August reading but will see where I am in the TBR before I make up the rest of the pile. I’m looking forward to the camaraderie and linkiness, though.


Does one more book break the camel’s back or not? Have you had anything exciting in or won any competitions recently? Are you doing 20 Books of Summer this year?

Shiny new review, Chase E. Robinson “Islamic Civilization in Thirty Lives” and, well, shiny new books! @shinynewbooks #bookconfessions

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I’ve got another review up on Shiny New Books, Chase F. Robinson in “Islamic Civilization in Thirty Lives” has written an accessible introduction to the lives of some of the founding figures and important people in the first 1,000 years of Islamic culture and civilisation, with lovely illustrations and a good solid academic framework without being hard to read. Read more here and thank you to Thames & Hudson for sending me a copy of the book in return for an honest review.

I’ve got another full review to publish tomorrow so I’ll add to this by sharing my wondrous Foyle’s bounty from yesterday. I gathered together all the book tokens in the house, including some half-used ones with very odd amounts on, and as the TBR was sort of getting under control and I’d seen loads of things I wanted to buy last time I was in the shop, had a bit of a splurge. But look what I got!

From the bottom upwards …

Simon Napier-Bell – “Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay: The Dodgy Business of Popular Music” – Napier-Bell is a legendary rock manager and this is full of anecdotes and naughtiness. In the sale for 75% off but also exactly the kind of book I enjoy.

Benjamin Zephaniah – “The Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah” – I heard about this being out the other day and had to get it, after all, he’s local and I love his novels and poetry. This is BRAND NEW (shocking for me) but had £5 off the hardback price.

Garth Cartwright – “Going for a Song: A Chronicle of the UK Record Shop” – one I’d identified as needing to be bought the other day.

Vybarr Cregan-Reid – “Footnotes: How Running Makes us Human” – this one has been on my radar for a while and read by a few running friends, and I couldn’t not have ONE running book on the list. It’s an investigation of why we run and get so much out of it.

Clair Wills – “Lovers and Strangers: An Immigrant History of Post-War Britain” – a fascinating and important subject and right up to date, but also one of those lovely new Penguin non-fiction books. As is (its partner in the Buy One Get One Half Price deal) …

Harriet Harman – “A Woman’s Work” – had to be bought and will form an interesting contrast / companion to Jess Phillips’ autobiography.

Dave Randall – “Sound System: The Political Power of Music” – a Left Book Club publication which was also 75% off in the sale, finding the ways in which music has been a force for social change as well as a way to keep people in their place. I’ve just been reading a fascinating history of grime music which situates it very much in its socio-political context, so this seems a good buy.

Alan Hollinghurst – “The Sparsholt Affair” – quite a left-field one here, but I dimly remembered the author saying he’d been influenced by Iris Murdoch and this does look like a very Murdochian plot, with a group of friends from university staying in touch down the years. The only fiction book in the pile!

Neil Gaiman – “Norse Mythology” – his retelling, I have been feeling faintly guilty about not having bought this since I bought that other book on Norse mythology in December, so redressed that. These two were also Buy One Get One Half Price and yes, I chose the black cover for this one – more practical than the white.

… and finally, I was in town to meet up with the lovely Claire from the LibraryThing Virago Group, who was up here for a conference. She kindly passed me a Virago Green of Enid Bagnold’s “The Loved and Envied” as an extra acquisition for the day.


Have you read any of these? Which of them should I put first in the (back end of the) TBR?

Book reviews – Georgette Heyer – “April Lady” and Diana Wynne Jones – “Charmed Life”, a #1977club fail and a confession

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Gosh, that’s a long title isn’t it! Two old favourites and multiple re-reads to review today, one of which was for Kaggsy and Simon‘s 1977 club and the other of which is an appropriate title for the month it’s read in, quite by accident (they’re small books, so shorter reviews), an epic fail on a re-read (I was warned! Kaggsy in fact warned me!) and a super acquisition from a lovely friend.

Let’s get going, then …

Georgette Heyer – “April Lady”

(03 June 2017 – Oxfam books)

From 1957, this is slightly later period Heyer, which surprised me when I read it, as there’s such a slew of cant and argot and jargon that slightly obfuscated the plot that I thought it was a less mature one.

It’s also interesting in that I think it might be the only (if not, it’s one of a very few) of her novels where the hero and heroine are already married at the start of the action. However, although they both married for love, Lady Nell Cardross believes her Earl married her for convenience, and still has Another, and the Earl believes she married him for his money. All very sortable-outable were it not for their respective brother and half-sister, both pretty silly, who get Nell involved in all sorts of plots and businesses, so there’s not time or bandwith to manage it. A very short but enjoyable read with all the London atmosphere and detail you’d want and an interesting ending. Although she’s slight, she writes well and I always recommend a Heyer for a comfort read.

Diana Wynne Jones – “Charmed Life”

(1980s – soon to be replaced. An Unfortunate Incident with a long-gone cat in the 1990s which I thought had been cleaned up has left a lasting stain (no odour) on a few of my children’s books, which I’m going to have to spend vast amounts of time and money tracking down and rebuying. So be it!)

This book was published in 1977 and represents my contribution to the 1977 Club (unfortunately, Bruce Chatwin’s “In Patagonia”, which I also have, was too substantial to fit into a very busy reading week, and see below for the other candidate).

A boy who is an orphan and doesn’t think very much of himself, overshadowed by his remaining family and domineering ward, finds out he has something to do with magic. There’s a powerful enchanter whose name must NOT be mentioned, a turrety castle with magical shape-shifting grounds and all sorts of spells designed to annoy other youngsters. Hmm … yet written in 1977, you say?

I’ve spent a lot of time and energy trying to persuade Harry Potter fans to embrace the (in my eyes) superior Diana Wynne Jones books. Her Chronicles of Chrestomanci are well written, funny, engaging and short! This one was a re-read and I hadn’t read it for ages. I remembered some details, like the magic book of matches that has something to do with our hero, Eric “Cat” Chant and the violin that’s turned into a cat, but had completely forgotten the brilliant Janet Chant, brought in effectively from our world as a rapid replacement at a pivotal moment, more used to wearing trousers than Cat’s original sister’s fancy Edwardian style clothes and very down to earth. Love her!

One interesting feature I had forgotten is the magic garden which allows people to slip through into different worlds – this contains things from “the dawn of all the words” and includes a magic doorway which is like a rough stone lintel – reminding anyone of bits from C.S. Lewis’s “The Magician’s Nephew” and “The Last Battle”?

A DNF

I had originally picked Angela Carter’s “The Passion of New Eve” to re-read for the 1977 Club. I loved it (I thought). I’d read it a few times in my younger, brand-new-feminist years and loved the themes of gender identity and gender reassignment. Then I saw Kaggsy hadn’t been keen and asked why. “The unremitting rapes”. Oh, right. Well, I didn’t even get to the unremitting rapes; I gave up in the sado-masochistic manky rat-infested flat in post-apocalyptic New York. I hated the way black people were portrayed, I wasn’t keen on the wish-fulfilment acts of violent Women roaming the streets, and it was just pretty horrible. Sorry, Angela Carter, I’m going to leave you there.

A lovely book confession

I’m still not entirely sure how this happened, but my lovely friend Cari got hold of a print and e copy of this book by the amazing runner, Deena Kastor, and then happened upon her at a race expo in Washington DC and a book event in New York, and somehow she has ended up with a copy she’s read and a signed bookplate to keep and I’ve ended up with the hard copy book signed to me by Deena! Thank you so much Cari! I’ve just discovered Wendy from Taking the Long Way Home’s Book Club and this is her April book, so I’m hoping to fit it in after this weekend (I do have that Readathon I’m doing the last weekend in the month but I fear that’s going to be a Tardis of books shoehorned into not enough time!) and I’ve also requested her May book via NetGalley.


Phew, that’s a lot of stuff, hope you’re still with me! I’m currently reading Christopher Booker’s “The Seven Basic Plots” (which is going to take me some time) and “The Lido” by Libby Page, which comes out today and has had a lot of chatter and which is ABSOLUTELY LOVELY so far (I sat down to read it at breakfast and tore myself away at 33%) – it’s the story of two women who have got a bit lost in life battling to save a Lido, and is set in Brixton and Brockwell, beautifully realised). I really hope it lives up to this first third. I also need to start “Running the Smoke” which is 26 tales of running the London Marathon, a must-read as I go down to spectate for the first time in years, and support my lovely friend Bernice, running her first marathon.

What are you reading? Have you had a booky pinch point this year yet where there are just TOO MANY BOOKS to read in one week?

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