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October 2018




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Apr. 27th, 2016


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Reviews Published

100 Book Reviews

Oct. 13th, 2018

Rose Blight

Today I am very annoyed about …

…the BBC’s insistence that you sign in to listen to the iPlayer. This morning, I particularly want to hear Mike Brearley’s views on Eoin Morgan’s captaincy (link on the BBC's cricket page) but I can’t because I will not sign in. Some friends and I were discussing this issue the other day and one person said that she and her husband invented names and facts about themselves to register. And why not? I can see no reason at all why the BBC should know my date of birth and other personal information. Isn’t it bad enough that Google, Apple, Amazon and other giants already know all about you? At the moment I still have the option on the TV iPlayer to ‘continue without signing in’ but who knows how long that will last? I think it’s a monstrous invasion of privacy.

Oct. 2nd, 2018


September books

Battlestar Suburbia, Chris McCrudden
Dandy Gilver and a Most Misleading Habit, Catriona McPherson
The Death of Anton, Alan Melville
Honourable Intentions, Gavin Lyall
One Enchanted Evening, Anton du Beke
Love is Blind, William Boyd
A Colourful Death, Carola Dunn.
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Oct. 1st, 2018


Love is Blind, William Boyd

Curses! When I know I have to review a book I try not to read a review until I’ve written mine. Imagine my chagrin when, sitting peacefully eating lunch and reading Private Eye, I found that the current issue’s victims of ‘What You Didn’t Miss Pt.94’ are William Boyd and Sebastian Faulks. The Eye’s literary pages exist only to condemn. Much is fair game, e.g. celebrity memoirs by people you’ve never heard of but the writers really like to get their blue-pencil-and-knife-wielding claws into an esteemed literary author. (For as long as I’ve been reading the magazine they’ve had it in for Martin Amis.) In this issue (1479), William Boyd’s Love is Blind is linked with Faulks’ Paris Echo, each book having the alleged fault of ‘La Surabondance de Detail’, as a Paris restaurant is amusingly named in the clever pastiche of the books.

I disagree that there can be too much detail (of the kind the writer describes) in a novel. Writers! Don’t, please, tell me ‘she was well dressed’, ‘the garden was full of bright flowers’ or ‘they ate their meal in silence’. The novelist who doesn’t describe what the lady wore, which flowers were in the garden and what the characters ate is in my opinion failing in his or her duty to the reader. There is a lot of detail in Love is Blind, for example about piano tuning, but I found it anything but boring.

The book’s hero, Brodie Moncur, comes from a large motherless family living in a bleak manse. The children (now adult) are dominated by a bullying, drunken father, who nevertheless draws large crowds to hear his hellfire sermons. Brodie is the only one to get away, by working as a piano tuner in Edinburgh (he has perfect pitch). He is sent to Paris to work in the office there and his adventures begin. After an unfair dismissal, he begins working for a virtuoso pianist known as ‘the Irish Liszt’. Unfortunately for him, he falls madly and permanently in love with a Russian woman who lives with the famous pianist and his menacing brother. The group travel Europe, spending much time in Russia until events there lead Brodie and his love Lika to wander Europe, always on the run, never feeling safe. Because of his poor health, Brodie ends up in the Andaman Islands, working for an anthropologist. No spoilers, but the ending is very sad. William Boyd has said that Brodie is ‘an innocent’ and sure enough, time and again I was thinking, ‘silly boy, can’t you see that …?’ Well written, like all Boyd’s books, I thought it was beautiful and enjoyed it.
I read this thanks to NetGalley.

Sep. 30th, 2018


Dorothy Whipple film

I see that today Talking Pictures is showing a film (1945) based on Dorothy Whipple’s novel They Were Sisters. It’s a bleak book, about three marriages. The least fortunate sister has a bullying husband, played in the film by James Mason. I’ve no idea what this film is like but Whipple fans (count me one), may be interested.

Sep. 29th, 2018

Autumn leaves

In the garden: autumn magic

I’ve been out in the freezing cold (frost!) this morning taking photographs and still the light wasn’t quite right. Here are Sedums colouring up nicely.

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Sep. 13th, 2018

Piano playing

Out today: Tchaikovsky, the Man Revealed by John Suchet

When I was young, we had the music of Swan Lake on about eight 78s and I loved it. You could say that Tchaikovsky was then my favourite composer but I hadn’t heard many others and when I turned intellectual in my teens, I dismissed him completely in favour of Bach. As with so many other things, time has mellowed my views and I can enjoy Tchaikovsky again. Swan Lake is still my favourite ballet.

Tchaikovsky the Man Revealed is another lavish production from Classic FM. It was sent to me by Elliott and Thompson (thank you). I haven’t had time to read it yet, but have every reason to expect it to be a readable, enjoyable introduction to the subject. Poor old Tchaikovsky had a sad life and I hope to find that it wasn’t all misery.

Sep. 4th, 2018


In the garden: Small Copper?

Pottering around the garden, I noticed this single, tiny butterfly enjoying the flowers of Verbena bonariensis It’s bright orange and I think it’s a Small Copper.

Sep. 3rd, 2018


August books

Hotel Sacher, Rodica Doehnhert
A Private View , Michael Innes
Love in an English Garden, Victoria Connelly
The Dead Shall be Raised & The Murder of a Quack, George Bellairs
The Skylarks’ War , Hilary McKay
Now We Shall Be Entirely Free, Andrew Miller
The Singing Masons , Francis Vivian
Death of a Busybody, George Bellairs
Quick Curtain, Alan Melville
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Aug. 28th, 2018


New books from Dean Street Press

On October 1st, Dean Street Press are bringing out reprints of the Inspector Knollis mysteries by Francis Vivian. These were published between 1941 and 1956 and have been almost impossible to find since. Vivian is a new author to me. I’ve just read The Singing Masons, which Dean Street kindly sent, and found it rather good. An unpleasant person murdered, plenty of suspects, all connected and all lying and the clue to the whole mystery is with the bees. I certainly learned a lot about bee-keeping! A pity I guessed the murderer but I still enjoyed the book. Knollis is one of those intuitive, theory-making detectives and a lot of the basic police procedural is left to his colleagues. I still don’t feel I know what makes Knollis tick. Perhaps he becomes more human in some of the other books about him.

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