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October 2016




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Apr. 27th, 2016


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Reviews Published

100 Book Reviews

Oct. 10th, 2016


A suitable C*******s present?

If you ever listen to Classic FM for five minutes, you’re sure to hear a plug for this book. At first I disliked it, because it breaks all callmemadam’s rules of biographical writing. It’s full of ‘I am certain that’, ‘no doubt’, ‘he/she/they would have’ etc. No! The only place for the biographer’s fancy is in a fictionalised life and I’m not keen on those, either. I was also slightly insulted to have explained to me the extent of the Holy Roman Empire and who Goethe was. But come on, be fair. Suchet’s book is not intended to be a work of scholarship; he didn’t even want to write it, asking who needed yet another book about Mozart? Classic FM persuaded him that there was a need for a book written in an accessible style to appeal to CFM listeners, which is what he has produced.

His qualifications are: a great love of Mozart and (I didn’t know this), an Honorary Fellowship from the Royal College of Music. He’s also trawled Mozart scholarship extensively. The result is a readable account of Mozart’s life, with liberal quotes from the many letters written by Mozart’s father Leopold and by Mozart himself. (If anyone is going to be upset by discovering that the revered genius was also a filthy minded potty mouth, they’d better not read this.) You can’t help but be drawn in by the tales of the travels Leopold Mozart undertook with Wolfgang and his sister Nannerl. The gruelling conditions of travel in those days! The terrible illnesses suffered by both children! Could it have shortened Mozart’s life? Probably not, since Nannerl lived to old age.

The book is lavishly produced, with many coloured illustrations. The contemporary pictures of the young Mozart seated at a keyboard with his little legs dangling are strangely touching. Quite rightly, you finish the book in a suitable state of awe and wonder at his astonishing genius, ‘God given’ according to both Leopold and Wolfgang, and a saddening sense of what was lost by his early death. It’s hard to read about the end of his life without a tear. The 225th anniversary of his death falls in December 2016.

I was sent a copy of this book by Elliott and Thompson.

In other news, this is the only book I have finished this month. The sole reason for this is that I never want to get back to A Footman for the Peacock and am only reading it in bed. I must finish it and find something I actually want to read.

Oct. 4th, 2016


New books for October

I read these books courtesy of NetGalley. I’ll start with the best one.
Today Will be Different, Maria Semple

More about the wacky world of middle class Seattle from the author of Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, which I enjoyed. Today Will be Different is a breathless gallop through one day in the life of Eleanor Flood: former graphic artist, surgeon’s wife, older mother. ‘Today I will be my best self, the person I’m capable of being. Today will be different.’ If this day of misadventures is typical, you wonder how she keeps going.

This book is just packed with action and very funny. Eleanor has lived in Seattle for ten years but hasn’t really adjusted. ‘Living too long in New York does that to a girl, gives her the false sense that the world is full of interesting people.’ She loves her husband but lists his faults, one of which is reading in bed and not switching out the light. ‘When he finally does, he’ll sometimes rest his book on me. And these aren’t slim volumes of poetry. They’re Winston Churchill biographies, and Winston Churchill lived a very full life.’ Her son Timby is a worry, with his love of wearing make up and sudden dislike of school. This is absolutely not a linear narrative; the action jumps around apparently randomly, through Eleanor’s consciousness. In this way Maria Semple brilliantly manages to tell a whole life story in a day: from difficult childhood through career and marriage and ongoing attempts to cope with her troubled relationship with the sister whose very existence she now denies.

A tour de force of writing, which I loved.

Published 13th October
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Oct. 2nd, 2016


September Books

Born Scared, Kevin Brooks. Full review I forgot to post last month
Holding, Graham Norton. Review soon
Secrets Can’t be Kept, E R Punshon
The Amazing Adventure of Jane Smith: A Golden Age Mystery, Patricia Wentworth
Today Will be Different, Maria Semple. Review soon *****
Sidney Chambers and the Forgiveness of Sins, James Runcie
Magpie Murders, Anthony Horowitz. Review soon
A Leap of Faith, Trisha Ashley
It Might Lead Anywhere, E R Punshon
A Chelsea Concerto, Frances Faviell
Currently reading:
Mozart, John Suchet
A Peacock for the Footman, Rachel Ferguson
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Sep. 29th, 2016


Coming very soon: Furrowed Middlebrow Books

The brilliant collaboration between Scott of the Furrowed Middlebrow blog and the enterprising Dean Street Press has resulted in nine new issues of out of print books by women authors. They’re available from 3rd October (how can it be so nearly October already?). I actually looked forward to writing this post because I love to be able to recommend a book wholeheartedly. The book in question is the first one I read: A Chelsea Concerto by Frances Faviell. I loved it.
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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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