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September 2016




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Apr. 27th, 2016


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Reviews Published

100 Book Reviews

Sep. 21st, 2016

life on mars

TV watch: National Treasure

I see the critics have been raving about this new series starring Robbie Coltrane as an ageing, much loved comedian who is accused of rape. I was less impressed. I found it slow (four episodes!) and the music and shots clichéd. What will keep people watching is the big question: did he do it? Because this is no easy, ‘he’s obviously innocent, how will he prove it' story. The more I think about Robbie Coltrane’s performance, the more brilliant it seems. He’s like a giant façade of a man, who reminded me of Archie Rice in The Entertainer: ‘I’m dead behind these eyes.’ After an hour on screen, we still know almost nothing about this man. And there’s enough unsavoury history behind him (his wife must stay with him because she’s a Catholic) to make it just possible that he is guilty.
So it will be interesting to see whether or not we should sympathise with a character who is not very attractive.

Sep. 18th, 2016

life on mars

TV watch: Une Heure de Tranquillité

I watched this delightful little film yesterday evening and enjoyed it so much that I stopped knitting in order to concentrate and try not to look at the subtitles. Michel is a prosperous dentist. Out shopping one pleasant Saturday he finds a rare jazz record he’s been looking for forever and can’t wait to get back to his lovely apartment to play it. Everything conspires against him. His neurotic wife wants to confess something. His son imports a large family of ‘illegals’ into the attic. His guilt-ridden ex-mistress keeps phoning, as does his mother. The cleaner makes a racket. The Polish (only he’s not) builder crashes about then causes a flood which brings a neighbour round to complain. And so on. This clip gives some idea of the farcical chaos which ensues.

Handled differently, this could have been a dark tale about betrayal, identity and middle aged angst but here all is light, sparkling froth. I loved it and have rather fallen for Christian Clavier.

Sep. 17th, 2016


Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

From my garden, that is. The chrysanthemums shown here were bought in Waitrose yesterday; I can’t resist green flowers.
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Sep. 14th, 2016


Today’s Bargain

I see one of today’s Kindle deals is The Pure Gold Baby by Margaret Drabble. I thought it was the best book she’d written for ages and you can read my review here.

Sep. 1st, 2016


August books and new arrivals

The Champagne Queen , Petra Durst-Benning. Out on 20th September.
E F Benson re-read:
Lucia in London
Mapp & Lucia
Lucia’s Progress
Trouble for Lucia
Autumn: An Anthology for the Changing Seasons, ed. Melissa Harrison. Just out.
The Dancing Floor, John Buchan
Trio , Sue Gee
St. Simon Square , Frances Hamilton
The Little Shop of Happy-Ever-After, Jenny Colgan
She Shall have Music , Kitty Barne
The Lark in the Morn , Elfrida Vipont
The Lark on the Wing , Elfrida Vipont
Arsenic for Tea , Robin Stevens
Jolly Foul Play , Robin Stevens
Death in the Dentist’s Chair: A Golden Age Mystery, Molly Thynne. Out 5th September.
The Lake House, Kate Morton
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Aug. 29th, 2016


More Wells and Wong

I read the first book in this series, Murder Most Unladylike before its release in 2014 and reviewed it here. I was very enthusiastic about Daisy Wells, Hazel Wong and their Detective Agency at Deepdean School and wasn’t alone in my appreciation. The book was such a success that four more have followed already, plus two Mini Mysteries. The series is published by Puffin, so the stories are intended for young readers but they can be enjoyed by people of any age, especially if they happen to be aficionados of school stories. I’ve at last partly caught up with the series, having just read the second book, Arsenic for Tea and the fourth, Jolly Foul Play.
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Aug. 23rd, 2016

Girl Guide Stories

Girlsown Interlude

I was nudged into (re)reading these books by various mentions of them elsewhere. I began with Kitty Barne’s She shall have Music, first published in 1938 and illustrated by Ruth Jervis. I’d read it as a child and this is what I remembered: a girl wants to play the piano but can only practise on an old piano in a church hall; a woman called Rosalba offers to give her proper lessons; she’s entered for a music festival and the judge awards her no marks because of the terrible style she’s copied from Rosalba.

I loved it when I borrowed it from the library all those years ago but time has not been kind to this book. From the start, it seemed so like a Noel Streatfeild story (they were related by marriage and discussed their work). Much as I love Ballet Shoes and always will, I’m not an admirer of Streatfeild’s style. The Forrests are a typical ‘poor’ family. Mother has to bring up four children alone (no mention of Pa). They sell their home in Ireland with its contents and move to a rented house in Bristol. Naturally, faithful Biddy leaves her beloved Ireland to come with them and do all the work. It’s a mystery what mother does, apart from a little mending. What she does not do is notice that her youngest daughter, Karen, is extremely musical. It’s left to Biddy and the charwoman at the parish hall to arrange for her to practise what she learns once a week with nice Aunt Anne. They can afford the rent of a large house in the country for the summer holidays but not piano lessons for a gifted child. Karen’s future is entirely arranged for her by the kindness of strangers and her own determination. I find it hard to believe any mother could be so apparently indifferent to what her child gets up to. Even her brother and sisters are more supportive. There is some good stuff about music in the book, but not enough.
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Aug. 20th, 2016


The Little Visitor

Aug. 15th, 2016

Piano playing


Trio is a gentle, elegiac meditation on grief, carved into the bleak, rugged moorland of Northumberland … A book to be read carefully and savoured.’ (Clare Morrall)

Cornflower said she hadn’t ‘read a work of fiction as good as this for quite some time.’ and wrote a review of it which I can’t better. Mrs Miniver’s Daughter was awake all night reading it. Now I’ll join in and say, Read this book! I started it one evening and finished it the next, although I was enjoying it so much I didn’t want it to end. It’s beautifully written and draws the reader in from the start. The descriptions of landscape, weather and wildlife are as good as you'd find in a book dedicated to the subject, yet here it’s just background. I loved the school scenes, almost William Mayne-like in their believability. Above all, I loved the musical theme, including the hymns sung at school, which were strangely touching. If any of the pieces played by the eponymous trio are unfamiliar, you want to hear them now, so as to understand the powerful effect they have on the characters. Music is central to the characters’ lives and as we learn later, love of it is handed down through generations.

I suppose this book would be classed as ‘middlebrow’. Huh. So-called literary authors could learn a lot about the craft of writing from reading this wonderful book. Now I have to seek out everything else Sue Gee has written.
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