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gertrude

December 2017

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Apr. 27th, 2016

gertrude

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Reviews Published

100 Book Reviews

Dec. 10th, 2017

crime

A Maigret Christmas and Other Stories, Georges Simenon



I received this from NetGalley and, Woe, the ‘other stories’ weren’t included. I was quite unreasonably disappointed by this because I’d enjoyed A Maigret Christmas so much. The events take place on one Christmas day and Maigret solves the whole case from his apartment, getting his research done by phone and nipping over the road to the opposite apartment block where a crime may possibly have been committed. I’ve never been a huge Simenon fan but I do love all the detail about French domestic life and manners, which a French readership would presumably take for granted.

I’m fascinated by Madame Maigret, the perfect wife who keeps a spotless flat and is forever shopping and cooking. Maigret even goes home for lunch when he can; very French or, perhaps, very French in the past. The odd (to us) formality of French bourgeois life is very evident. It’s interesting to find that the good Madame goes out early on Christmas morning to buy croissants for her husband’s breakfast and that local shops will be open even on a public holiday. It's this kind of detail which I found sadly lacking from the recent TV series starring Rowan Atkinson. But then, even though I only ever saw one episode at a friend’s house, Rupert Davies is my Maigret and Maigret is definitely black and white.

Dec. 9th, 2017

crime

Mistletoe and Murder, Robin Stevens



This is the fifth book in the Murder Most Unladylike Mystery series, starring the Wells and Wong Detective Agency . I’ve had the book for a while but saved it up for December reading. The girls are spending Christmas in Cambridge with Daisy’s great aunt, a formidable don at St Lucy’s College. Daisy’s brother Bertie is a student at Maudlin. The name is explained in the introduction and incidentally teaches young readers how to pronounce Magdalen College, Oxford.

Daisy and Hazel jump in as usual when there’s a murder at Maudlin. They are supposedly being chaperoned by a St Lucy’s student, Amanda, but she leaves them alone (her doings are suspicious), so they do pretty well what they like i.e. not what young ladies should be doing. It’s all rather grim just on Christmas but the young detectives and their detecting rivals Arcady and George can’t rest until the mystery is solved. Things get quite hair raising.

I like the way the girls’ characters develop in these books, especially Hazel’s. She may not be as pretty or as daring as Daisy, but she’s maturing faster. The book touches on some important issues. Hazel notices the austerity and poverty of St Lucy’s compared with Maudlin (just like in A Room of One’s Own) and, although she would love to study in beautiful Cambridge, she’s annoyed that she wouldn’t be able to take a degree and can see that clever women like Amanda are treated much worse than less clever men. There’s also the race issue. Hazel is Hong Kong Chinese and would like to be as English as possible. Meeting George for the first time, she finds that he and his brother are Indian, although born in London. There’s also a Chinese student at Maudlin. Hazel realises that however much they all try to fit in, they will always be seen as different, which is distressing for her.

I didn’t enjoy this book as much as the ones which are set in school at Deepdean, but it’s still a good read. The events are very unlikely, but it is a book for young readers, after all.
reading

A Good Heart is Hard to Find, Trisha Ashley



I was slightly disappointed to find that this was not a new book by Trisha Ashley but an old one reissued with a new title. Luckily, it wasn’t one I’d read before. Cass is a writer of successful, terrifying horror stories. She’s perhaps been influenced by the terrible treatment she received as a child from her obviously insane father. The silly woman has been stuck for twenty years in a relationship with a married man. Max won’t leave his invalid wife (or her money) and refuses to have children. Now, he’s in California and the scales are starting to fall from Cass’s deluded eyes. When tall, dark, eccentrically dressed Cass meets tall, dark saturnine Dante and immediately fights with him, it’s clear how the story will end. Trisha Ashley is always entertaining and it’s fun following events to their inevitable conclusion. I did think the religious ravings of her father were made funnier than they would have been in fact; from another author, this would have been a tale of abuse and damage. I think Trisha Ashley’s books have improved since this one was published (as Singled Out) in 2003. I read it courtesy of NetGalley and it’s out on 25th January 2018.

Dec. 4th, 2017

gertrude

November books



Agatha Raisin and I Smell the Blood of an Englishman M C Beaton
Conclave, Robert Harris
The Fortune Hunter, Daisy Goodwin
The Designer, Marius Gabriel
Winter Holiday, Arthur Ransome
Nibs and the New World, Grace James 1953
Swan Feather, Lorna Hill
A City of Bells, Elizabeth Goudge
Henrietta’s House, Elizabeth Goudge
Murder is Easy, Agatha Christie
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle
The Oaken Heart, the story of an English Village at war, Margery Allingham
thoughts, longCollapse )

Dec. 1st, 2017

knitting2

Seasonal



It’s the first day of meteorological winter, apparently. The weather is suitably cold and the bird bath frozen solid. A cock pheasant has been patrolling the garden this morning, adding some brilliant colour to the wintry scene. Melissa Harrison’s lovely anthology Winter is back by my bedside and it’s now decent, IMO, to mention Christmas. My Jacquie Lawson advent calendar has been activated.

I’ve dug out the Christmas display china and some of it is in the dishwasher right now. No decorations for me for quite a while but I may put up the advent candles on Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent.

Word of the day from The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities is ‘obstrigillation, the action of opposing or resisting; an act of defiance … a word dating from the early 1600s in English … its roots lie in a Latin word, strigare meaning to come to a halt.’

I don’t know why winter makes me think of medieval scenes, but it always does.



This picture from here.

Nov. 9th, 2017

reading

October books



Murder at Fenwold, Christopher Bush
Dancing Death, Christopher Bush
A Matter of Loyalty , Anselm Audley and Elizabeth Edmondson
An Almost Perfect Christmas, Nina Stibbe
Paradise Lodge, Nina Stibbe
The Key of Rose Cottage, Margaret Baker
Holiday Summer, Decie Merwin
On the Bright Side The New Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 85
Dear Mrs Bird, A J Pearce
The Lie Tree, Frances Hardinge
The Little Teashop of Lost and Found, Trisha Ashley
thoughtsCollapse )

Nov. 6th, 2017

Alan

Film Watch: Their Finest/ Our Kind of Traitor



Yesterday evening I saw Their Finest. Watching this DVD was like being in a cinema and not in a good way. It started with what seemed like hours of trailers for other films and even an advertisement (for Maltesers, since you ask). I began to think the wrong disc had been put in the box. Nor was I impressed by the cover blurb. ‘Bill Nighy is brilliantly funny’. Bill Nighy is Bill Nighy and amusing, rather than hilarious. (Even so, I’d watch him in anything.) Has Jeremy Irons so dropped out of public consciousness that he needs a film credit to remind people who he is? Tsk.

The film is based on the novel Their Finest Hour and a Half by Lissa Evans. I wrote about it enthusiastically here and I think her Crooked Heart is even better. I can’t understand the change of title. Surely the point is that the propaganda film the characters are making lasts for an hour and a half? And their finest what? It’s like WIA’s ridiculous BBC job title ‘Head of Better’; completely meaningless. What’s more, I note that Penguin have reissued the book with a film tie-in cover and the new title.

These days, film makers can do the 1940s standing on their heads: costumes, smoky atmosphere, wartime background and bomb damage were all excellent except that they let ‘train station’ slip through. Nobody said that in 1940 and I don’t say it now. Would it kill people to hear an outdated expression in a period film? This all sounds very grumpy but I did enjoy the film, which was funny and touching, if rather slight. I enjoyed the few clips from Harry Enfield-style ‘informationals’, films produced by the Ministry of Information. Gemma Arterton made the heroine Caitlin very sympathetic and believable.

Verdict: some really splendid knitwear on show but the book is better.
the other filmCollapse )

Oct. 18th, 2017

wordle

Word of the day, 18th October: nappishness

nappishness (n.) sleepiness; a tendency to nap

My stop on the blog tour! Hop off the bus and read on.
Ever heard of nappishness? It first appeared in print in Hermann Melville’s Moby-Dick in 1851.
Moby-Dick is also credited with introducing a fairly niche set of words into the English language, including cetology, the study of whales, and plum-puddinger, naval slang for a voyage short enough to carry fresh fruit and other spoilable provisions. Among the more useful terms Moby-Dick introduced to the language, however, is nappishness - another word for sleepiness, or an inclination to nap.’
I like it! I also like naps and the book this quote is taken from.



‘THE CABINET OF LINGUISTIC CURIOSITIES
A Yearbook of Forgotten Words
PAUL ANTHONY JONES
Publication date: 19 October 2017
£14.99 hardback/ebook Elliott & Thompson’

There’s an uncommon word for every day of the year. Did you know, for instance, that muggle, J K Rowling’s name for people without magical powers, is actually an old word for a fish’s tail (26 June)? Or that if you are equally clumsy with both hands (the opposite of ambidextrous), you are ambilaevus (3 September)? I’ve a mind to refer to this book constantly and bring out a mystifying word (on the given day), just to fox people.

From the publishers:
‘Paul Anthony Jones runs @HaggardHawks twitter feed, blog and YouTube channel, revealing daily word facts to 39,000 addicted followers, such as Jack Monroe, Rufus Sewell, Simon Blackwell, Robert Macfarlane, Sara Pascoe, Allegra Stratton and David Baddiel.’

Oct. 16th, 2017

countrygirl

The Great Storm?



‘Lindsey said, ‘Speaking of being bored – what weather! It’s just as hot as summer.’
‘Jim didn’t like it much when we saw him in the morning', Tamzin said.
‘Not like it? Do they have to have it rough for fishing?’
‘He said it wouldn’t last. Said it was the kind of calm that hatched a hurricane.’
‘What, here?’ Lindsey said disbelievingly.
From Storm Ahead by Monica Edwards.

Here in Dorset today it’s not that hot and there is total cloud cover but it feels eerie. It’s very dark, with a horrid yellowish light in the sky and not a puff of air. My weather app. tells me that we can expect wind strength 40+ this afternoon and I dread it. By way of battening down the hatches, I’ve put a lot of pots inside the greenhouse to stop them blowing away and have my Kindle and iPad fully charged so that I can still read if there’s a power cut. Last time we had a storm, some bins (weighted with bricks!) flew round or over the house and landed in a garden over the road. A complete pane of my greenhouse glass landed on the ground, unbroken. Eek. Stay safe, everyone.

More stormy books here

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