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A Blogging Good Read - April

Thursday 7 April 2016

It's Blogging Good Read time again! This month I've been joined by Gwen from Shutters & Letters and Kezzie from Kezzie AG. Huge thanks to them both for jumping in at short notice! Yes, I am very forgetful and didn't remember to actually organise participants in time. I'm trying to improve. On that note, if you want to join in (new or experienced, all BGR folk are welcome!), please let me know.

Anyway, what did we read this month?

My choice was 84 Charing Cross Roadby Helene Hanff:

 Janet mentioned this book in her 2015 book review post and I immediately whacked it on my to-read list. I love epistolary books. It doesn't matter if they're fiction or non fiction. Put a series of letters/telegrams/emails/diary entries in front of me and I'm a happy reader. Not only is this a book of letters, it's a book of letters about BOOKS. Could there be anything better?

It's an incredibly charming, easy to read book, consisting of a series of letters between Helene Hanff, an author living in New York, and the members of staff at Marks & Co antiquarian bookshop at 84 Charing Cross Road. They span twenty years or so and even though it's not a long book, the letters beautifully capture the relationships and personalities, whims and all, of everyone concerned. Most importantly, they all love books. I could listen to people rhapsodising about old editions and favourite authors all day, so this is like a little slice of bookish heaven to me.

What did Gwen think?

It's an unusual book, this. I often find letter- formed stories hard to read, so I listened to it as an audio book, which worked well. The upside of the letters is that, as far as we are aware, they are all real and the correspondents slowly come to life as the years go past. The downside? I can't help thinking they are edited. There are considerably more from Hanff to the bookshop than the other way around, and unfortunately I found the London characters much more interesting. Hanff comes across, despite her generosity to the staff in sending food parcels, as somewhat of a diva, and I often found myself rolling my eyes at her. It's a pleasant enough tale but unfortunately not quite up there with The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society, which I couldn't help but compare it to.

How about Kezzie?

I absolutely adore fiction written using the narrative technique of letters between characters and I think that 84 Charing Cross road was the first of this kind I ever read. There is so much opportunity to imagine the world and moments and occurences that are unwritten between the missives. This book is utterly gorgeous seeing Frank Doel and Helene Hanff start off so formally and relax into an easy familiarity. Hanff has a great sense of humour in her writing- eccentric and witty. I became a part of the affection which all at Marks & Co hold Helen in, through her generosity in sending the employees at Marks and Co and subsidiary characters food during the rationing. The book is one which attaches you emotionally quite early on and I spent this second reading of the book (it's been at least a decade since I last read it) willing Helene to go to England to meet Frank and co. The ending (no spoilers) made me react emotionally. I knew it was coming but still, that didn't change anything! This is a brilliant book which you can read in an hour or so- brilliant!

Kezzie picked The World According to Annaby Jostein Gaarder:

I chose this because I've enjoyed several other Jostein Gaarder books immensely. They are generally very thought-provoking, beautiful description, a new perspective on the world, compelling, excellent characterisation and potentially some other-worldly element. 

In this book, Anna is on the cusp of her 16th birthday and is taken to a doctor because she has dreams in which she is in other places and times and other people. At this time, she dreams she is Nova, possibly her own grandaughter in a barren world where global warming and animal extinction have reached a critical point. It is a cautionary tale in ensuring we do not pillage the earth to the detriment of our future generations. I like the message of it, everyone making a tiny difference or trying to make a big difference in order to effect change, but I found the narrative irritatingly disjoined between Nova's time and Anna's time. I also felt it lacked explanation WHY the events occur and I felt like the book finished far too abruptly. It felt a bit too preachy too, edven though I strongly concur with the message of the book to do something NOW about irrevocably changing our world through not trying to to take care. I'm glad I read the book, but in this case, I think it would be better read by a younger audience as it lacked the development I'm used to in Gaarder's writing.

I hadn't read any of Gaarder's books before this one. It came with a recommendation from Kezzie that although she hadn't read it yet, he was one of her favourite authors so she was expecting it to be a good read. Now we have fairly similar taste in books for the most part so I was fully anticipating liking it but I actually took violently against it. Sorry Kezzie! (although reading the above review, it wasn't a complete success for you either...)

It's just so preachy. So very, very preachy. Like being trapped in a corner at a party by the local bore who wants to tell you all about how not cycling to work means you're personally killing all the polar bears. On top of the preachiness, it wasn't very well written or even that interesting or well-executed a plot. I'm sure he is a talented author but this can't possibly be his best work.

What did Gwen think?

I was really looking forward to reading this - having never quite got around to picking up any of his other classics I was excited to see what the fuss was about. Oh, how disappointed I was. Gaarder's premise was interesting, but there was no explanation of how Anna received her messages, and the characterisation was, in my humble opinion, dire (particularly Anna's psychiatrist, who was a cartoon). I also found myself rolling my eyes at how far fetched and inaccurate some of his assumptions of climate change are. I'm not the biggest fan of YA, as done badly it can read like it was written by a YA, and sadly this fell into that category. Not for me at all.

Gwen chose Jamaica Innby Daphne Du Maurier:

I read Rebecca years ago and enjoyed it, so I was intrigued by how different Jamaica Inn was - while the rather Gothic tension was familiar, that was the end of the similarities. Jamaica Inn isn't the most challenging book I've ever read - the plot is surprisingly simple - and at times I found myself wondering why it is so lauded. It's slow. Nothing much happens until the last few chapters. The "twist" isn't really that surprising... But it is incredibly atmospheric, something that I find a lot of more modern novels lack. I suspect I would have enjoyed it more if I'd been curled up next to a log fire with the wind and rain outside, but it was a good pick anyway.

What did Kezzie think of it?

Wow, this was exciting!!! Such excellent description created a truly dark and disturbing backdrop. Mary is an intrepid, brave and loyal hero, stuck at the mercy of her wicked Uncle Joss at the Sinister Jamaica Inn on the Launceston Road in Cornwall. Smuggling and other such nefarious activities are ride and it is up to Mary to find a way to escape and free her much beleaguered and downtrodden Aunty. Mary's suspicions of who she can trust and who might help her are intriguing and as I have a suspicious mind, I realised who she must definitely not trust correctly immediately. It was certainly a compelling page-turner. Joss is rather a caricature of the evil tyrant, but that doesn't make him any less scary. I certainly want to read more Du Maurier after this. I feel her handling of the landscape, characters and storyline was accomplished and the suspense and tension was excellent. Thanks for making me finally read something by this author!

This was my first taste of Du Maurier. Overall impressions are favourable, methinks. As Gwen has mentioned in her review, it's not the most challenging novel in terms of plot but by heck, the atmosphere and sense of place will take some beating. If you're on board with a bit of Cornish gloomy melodrama (and frankly I am), this is the book for you. Smugglers and albino vicars and shady characters up to no good on the moors: it's got them all!

It is all underpinned with a very real sense of everyday menace though and the plight that Mary finds herself in must have been commonplace back then - if you were left penniless and had to go to whichever relatives would take you in, that's not exactly the guarantee of a secure, trouble-free future. I found myself really rather worried about if and how she'd escape the sinister relatives in the end, so despite the melodrama, it still had me hooked!

Thanks again to Kezzie and Gwen.

Next month for Blogging Good Read we'll be reading Crooked Heartby Lissa Evans, The Turning Pointby Freya North and The Hare With Amber Eyesby Edmund de Waal.

A Knitting Update

Wednesday 30 March 2016

I finally finished The Neverending Weasley  Jumper. Oh my word, that took a long, long time. It was meant to be easy. In terms of knitting complexity I suppose it was - it's basically stocking stitch. I picked up a few new techniques about finishing off sections and doing necklines and so on but ultimately it wasn't hard. It just took soooooooooooo long to finish.

Then as is usual with me, I got complete post-craft ennui and hated it. I can't get over the feeling that it's too big and too shapeless and too rubbish. Catherine said she loved it and it's the perfect Sunday cosy jumper but ach, I wish I had made it a size or two down. It was meant to be oversized but maybe not quite that much?

I then had a prolonged rest. My current problem is that I don't have the right wool for all the projects I want to start and I can't find things that I want to do that suit the wool I do have. So I set to with a random pretty shade of wool and vague thoughts of attempting some sort of lacy, holey type pattern - Ravelry provided me with a link to this and away I went.

(If I were less honest I would skate over the fact that I was going to make handwarmers but they ended up so big I had to turn it into a snood. Ho hum. This is what happens when you don't know the size of wool you're using and pick any random pair of needles.)

End result: a cute snood!

I'm still super novicey at knitting so I'm taking every project as a chance to learn something new. In this one I managed k2tog and skp and how to do a yarn over properly. Woo! It was very pleasing to knit up as well - anything would seem fun after approx 6 months of chuffing stocking stitch but this was genuinely very soothing to make.

Up idea! I need to investigate some patterns for all the wool I seem to have collected. Eventually I want to give circular and cable needles a try but they both scare the bejesus out of me at the moment, so give it time.

A Blogging Good Read - March

Wednesday 9 March 2016

Hello everyone. Joining me for Blogging Good Read this month are my pal Lee who you can find on Twitter here and Becks who's on Twitter here. She hasn't blogged for aaaaages. Bring it back, I miss it!

What books did we read?

Lee went for 44 Scotland Streetby Alexander McCall Smith:

I first picked up this book as a real fan of Alexander McCall Smith's work. This is largely due to the style of his writing and the ease with which I found myself immersed in his worlds. This book was no exception, in fact it became my favourite of all the series that he has written, and when I was asked to participate in BGR, I thought it provided the perfect opportunity to revisit it.

This book is the first in the Scotland Street series, based on the lives of a group of residents based in an Edinburgh building. The story revolves around their interactions with one another, and those they engage with outside of the building. The characters are what totally make this book for me, they are such a wonderfully diverse group. I really enjoy how the author presents a fully rounded, fleshed out story for each and every one of them. He lets the reader see them, flaws and all, with humour and affection, so even the seemingly less likeable characters feel fully rounded and believable and you understand their behaviour, even if you don't agree with it.

I also really enjoy the book's depiction of Edinburgh, the city I've adopted as my home. I think it captures the spirit of the city and its residents beautifully, with a real warmth shown by the author that mirrors my own. I am happy to say I thoroughly enjoyed re-reading this book, and now plan to use it as the perfect excuse to continue on with the whole of the series (some re-reads/some first time reads.)

Ahhh, this was like revisiting an old friend. Lee tipped me off to the existence of these books years ago (we even went to see a performance of this at Fringe once, high up in an attic in a decrepit Edinburgh building). I glommed all the ones that had been published at the time, then eagerly hunted for the others as they turned up in the library. It's been a few years since I picked one up though and this was a really nice return into a world that's very pleasant to dip back into. I think the fact this story was originally serialised means it's got quite a different vibe to a traditionally written story - the chapters are shorter and the plot unfolds in a subtly different way to a more standard book - but the overall impression is really soothing and fun.

My thoughts on the characters always swither a bit over time but poor Bertie always breaks my heart. I know things change as the series goes on but he's so downtrodden and angry about it here that I want to climb into the book and slap his awful mother. Grrrrr. She's only just worse than Awful Bruce. I defy anyone to read it and not want to hit both of them with a(n organic, ethically sourced) kipper.

Did Becks enjoy it?

I have to confess, I didn’t read this book for the review but that’s only because I’ve been a fan of the 44 Scotland Street series for years now. Having missed out on The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency I came a little late to the McCall Smith phenomenon and this was my first introduction to him. I fell in love immediately. I love books that are focused on people and this is all about the lives of the various residents of 44 Scotland Street. Pat, Bruce, Domenica Macdonald, Angus, Matthew and the absolutely brilliant Bertie. If you read this book and feel bad for Bertie and his overbearing mother, then don’t worry, Bertie can stick up for himself as you will discover as the series unfolds!

Easy to read, mostly due to the fact that the chapters are incredibly short (this book was originally published as a serial in The Scotsman) and mostly a heartwarming read. If you’re looking for a great series of books to read, you can’t go wrong with this one.

Becks picked Gulliver's Travelsby Jonathan Swift:

Over the past couple of times I have taken part in Alex’s BGR I seem to have developed a reputation for picking truly heinous books. This time I was determined to make it better. Fail.

I’m always looking for ways to expand my reading and for the past few years have tried to make more effort to read Classics and non-fiction, as well as my normal fare. Somehow, and I can’t really understand how, I’d got it into my head that Gulliver’s Travels was a children’s Classic. I can kind of see what happened – I knew that there was something about a man stumbling across a village of tiny people and they think he’s a giant and tie him up – you know, I just assumed. I settled down to read what I thought would be a nice easy children’s read and was instead confronted by an almost insurmountable wall of text and a storyline that just confused the hell out of me. I spent my time battling through it (and trust me, ‘battling’ is the appropriate word here) feeling as if there was a much bigger meaning just hovering out of my brain’s reach that I just somehow wasn’t getting. And because I didn’t get the bigger picture I was left basically reading a book where some guy gets on a boat, gets shipwrecked, ends up on an island as a giant, escapes, goes back on a boat, gets abandoned on an island as a little miniature person, escapes…

There was definitely a point being made about politics in this book. But because I wasn’t quite grasping what that point was – mostly because I’m not an expert on the political atmosphere in the 1700s when this book was written. I can only apologise for inflicting this book on two other people.

What did Lee think?

When I first found out this book had been selected I was really pleased, as it is one of those books that has always been on the 'to read' list, but which I have never found/made the time to do so. Unfortunately, however, this book turned out to be one I really struggled to enjoy. I found it very hard to settle into the world and language of this book. After three attempts at reading this book, all of which ended in failure past the first few chapters, I turned to the David Hyde Pierce narrated audio book. Here, I must admit, the tale was made more bearable due to his marvellous delivery. Despite this, the book still felt like a slog and I must confess had it not been for BGR I do not think I would of persevered with it.

I was surprised to discover that Gulliver's visit to Liliput is just actually the first in a number of travels that Gulliver makes throughout this book, but my overriding feeling, unfortunately, was that I wished he'd only made the one!

As for me, I don't think I'm being dramatic when I say that this was the sloggiest slog I have ever had to slog through for Blogging Good Read. I'd never read it before but I associated it in my mind with things like Lorna Doone and Treasure Island - classics that might be a lot more dense than modern children's literature but were still entertaining to read. Well, guess who was WRONG there?

I just didn't get it. I think it was political satire or some sort of allegory about the failings of human nature. If I'd been reading it in the early 1700s when it was written then I'd probably have been chuckling about the clever in-jokes but as a modern reader, it didn't work on that level at all for me. So what you're left with is a man getting on a ship and having a horrible time in a weird, foreign land, then doing it again. And again. And again. STOP GETTING IN BOATS YOU FOOL.

I chose Murder Must Advertiseby Dorothy L. Sayers:

The usual BGR dilemma struck here. This isn't technically my favourite of the Wimsey novels (that's Busman's Honeymoon FYI) but I can't recommend the concluding book of a romance arc as what might be people's introduction to an author because you have to read the earlier ones first or it doesn't work. Murder Must Advertise is my favourite of the more standalone Wimsey novels and I think it's a really good blend of Sayers' mixture of solid detective fiction plotting, brilliant characterisation and erudite prose. Much as I love Sayers, I struggle with the bellringing one and the Scottish dialect one. Murder Must Advertise is a lot more accessible and a lot more fun.

Lord Peter Wimsey goes undercover at an advertising agency to investigate the death of one of their members of staff. There's a subplot about drug smuggling and some glorious evening romps along with the Bright Young Things at their parties and it all adds up to a very satisfying and extremely entertaining detective novel.

Sayers worked in advertising and you can really tell - the office scenes are so vivid, funny and full of subtle details. Even though it was written and set in the 1930s, in some ways not a lot has changed and I really love that element of recognising the usual office characters and habits, even though so much time has passed.

What did Becks think?

This book was a much welcomed break from Gulliver’s Travels and I gobbled it up like the light tasty treat that it is. Crime is not my usual fare but when it’s served up with a dollop of 1930s fluff then it’s not hard to swallow. (I don’t know where the food metaphors are coming from.)

This was easy to read, with characters that you can’t help but love and actually does a pretty good job at keeping you guessing until the end. I’m a sucker for anything that has a bit of Bright Young People in it and this has these guys in in spades. I’m pretty sure I would have made an excellent member of the De Momerie crowd featured in the book. I hadn’t read any other books of Sayers but she is definitely on the list now of ones to look out for.

How about Lee?

Now this was a book I can say I liked, but not loved. I was impressed with the use of language, and I thought the author's style was wonderful throughout. However, I struggled to engage with the book at first. As the story developed though, I felt it built up a quicker pace, and I found myself much more involved from this point. One of the big plus points for me was that the book provided an interesting and electic mixture of characters. The asscioated inner office politics and rivalaries. I very much enjoyed the author's descriptions of the 'Bright Young Things' pack and their inclusion to the story. This helped to depict the era clearly in the mind.

Before reading this book, I was not previously familiar with the Lord Peter Wimsey series, other than having heard of them from this blog's author. The character of Wimsey himself was introduced under an alias in this book, which provided the first of many interesting plot twists and turns occuring throughout. I would be intrigued enought to try another book in the series, but I cannot say it would be top of the 'to read' list.

TL:DR: we all hated Gulliver.

Thanks for joining in again guys! 

I'll be back next month and the books we'll be reading are Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier, The World According to Annaby Jostein Gaarder and 84 Charing Cross Roadby Helene Hanff.

(More) New Glasses

Tuesday 23 February 2016

My glasses addiction is getting nearly as bad as my shoe habit. I only used to have two pairs. For years and years, that was it, then at last count I somehow had eleven. How did that happen? And I'm still on the hunt for the elusive perfect green pair. Luckily Glasses Direct keep enabling me. Previously I've known exactly what I wanted from there and just ordered it but this time I was tempted by ALL THE THINGS. What's a girl to do but give the free home trial a go?

Yup, I mainly went for Scout glasses - they have such a nice colourful range that I always gravitate towards them when I'm browsing. The home trial option is super speedy and has the added bonus that you can do a mini specs parade in the office and get the team to help you decide which make you look most beautiful, rather than standing in an opticians and squinting blindly at the mirror. Score.

Alas my face was not playing ball when I tried to take trial pics of all the specs so you'll have to take my word for it that I looked extremely beautiful in all of them (naturally!). In summary, working from top to bottom in the above pic:

- Lush!
- Too big and chunky for my face.
- Ok but not a wow.
- Ace!

So I'd narrowed it down to red specs and Stormtrooper specs:

It was a hard choice but I went for...


Emily by Scout, to be exact. They are super duper lightweight (so light that you put them on and think "huh, these don't feel like there's anything on my face") with a lovely matt effect finish. It always takes me ages to get used to new glasses when they're a different shape and I battled for ages with not thinking I suited bigger frames but I was smitten with these straight away. All hail the big frames!

And while Glasses Direct were kind enough to send me this pair for review, because they're lovely like that, I do spend my own hard-earned cash with them as well. When their offers are that good, you kinda have to! I treated myself to a nice blue-framed pair of Scout Firework glasses and this Festival pair with a sunglasses tint on the lenses just before my January holiday. Total cost £55. Is it any wonder I've ended up with so many pairs?!


A Treat For The Eyes

Sunday 14 February 2016

Huzzah. Tis Valentine's Day, aka time to rejoice over the sexiness of sexy men. Previous lustfests can be found here.

Topping my personal list this year are these two absolute beauts.

And posh boys with cats.

I much prefer Speccy Hemworth to Thor, don't you?

Soz, it's pretty much all actors this year. Have I been watching a lot of Netflix? Yes, yes I have. Suits is great btw.

If you don't like Stanley Tucci then I'm afraid there's something wrong with you.

As if Jurgen Klopp came to where I work on one of my days off. AS IF. (The volunteers were most impressed with how charming he was).

Oh Neville. You grew up fiiiiiine.

I have not one but TWO new favourite skinny wretches this year. Basically obsessed with The Flash and Tattoo Fixers right now.

I'm still extremely fond of a fit ginge.

And Matt Damon, specially as Jason Bourne.

Finally, the eternal loveliness that is Mr Cavill. I wish he'd bulk down a bit but you can't have everything. He is still very pretty.

Bonus: these two. Because ermagerd, The Man From U.N.C.L.E has some serious repressed sex appeal going on.

A Blogging Good Read - February

Monday 8 February 2016

Lack of internet has meant a brief hiatus over here - bet you didn't notice! All sorted now though and normal service can resume with the first Blogging Good Read of the year. Char and Lucy are back for more reading and reviewing.

I went for an old favourite - I Capture The Castleby Dodie Smith:

As you probably know if you've read more than about two BGR posts, my book tastes lean largely towards novels set in country houses. No surprise that I love I Capture The Castle then, is it? I'm just surprised I haven't chosen it already!

 The Mortmain family are rather down on their luck - a castle might be a romantic place to live but when your entire family income rests upon the shoulders of an author with writer's block, life isn't exactly full of luxuries. The Mortmain's social circle expands when a rich American family inherit the local hall and move in. The two sisters naturally see the American men as their way out of poverty (in a romantic way, obvs) and their pursuit unfolds, complete with an infamous fur coat incident.

The story is narrated by Cassandra, the younger of the two Mortmain sisters, and as with all first-person narratives, if you don't warm to her voice then you're probably going to struggle with the book a bit. I love her and I adore the book. It doesn't tread the path you expect and it doesn't end on the obvious note either. The fact that the girls basically have no money and no real prospects to escape comes across as a rather grim reality (albeit in picturesque surroundings) rather than just being a plot point. The book is still a joy though. Read it.

(I'm also going to recommend the 2003 film, mainly for young Henry Cavill.)

Did Lucy like it?

This book has become something of a cult classic recently but I must admit that when I read it some years ago I was not enamoured, though on paper a book about a young woman living a secluded life in a tumbledown castle with her eccentric family should be right up my street.

But I just didn’t get the hype. I found the characters quite fickle and self-serving and not likeable at all, and I find the way Cassandra addresses the reader directly quite jarring (I never used to like the straight-to-camera bits on Blossom or Clarissa either). I would have liked to have chance to read this again now to see if I still felt this way or if I’d missed some nuance the first time round and not really understood it, but unfortunately life got in the way and I didn’t have the time. It will be interesting to see what the others say about it and if they can convince me of a re-read!

What did Char think?

I'm ashamed to admit that I only read this book for the first time in March 2015. Since then I've listened to the Radio 4 dramatisation, and then read it again and thoroughly enjoyed it a second time around, too. I love Cassandra's way with words as she makes the castle come alive in her descriptions. Obviously, I like the other characters as well, but Cassandra stands out to me with her wry wit and her outlook on life. Definitely a book I'll keep coming back to.

Char picked Swallows and Amazonsby Arthur Ransome:

When my Mum was young, she lived in the Scottish Highlands and had access to an island and their own rowing boat. She used to tell me of this and I was always super jealous. Not many islands in the Midlands! I think this is the reason that I went through a childhood phase of reading as many island-y adventure books as I could get my hands on. I loved Enid Blyton's The Secret Island and Swallows and Amazons was up there - a book I read so many times. 

It's probably been fifteen years since my last read, but picking it up again made me remember how much I enjoyed it. I did this time around as well, although this time the parents' comment from the end of the book rather resonated with me. In response to the children saying they are planning to come back to the island every year, forever, their parents tell them that this is what everyone thinks when they are young. A poignant reminder that things move on?

I love this book so much. Ok, so I'm not entirely captivated by all the sailing malarkey (boats are decidedly not my thing) but it's easy enough to skip over those parts and just enjoy the rest of this rollicking good yarn. As Char has already mentioned, it's very like The Secret Island in tone and that's probably my favourite Blyton book, so it's a good sign.

Rereading it this time, I was struck by just how ace the parents are. The infamous telegram from their father at the beginning of the book has always really amused me but this time round I really appreciated how their mum lets them get on with their adventures. Obviously you'd never actually do this with your kids in real life (well maybe they did in the 50s, who knows?) but as a fictional scenario it works so perfectly and the conversations she has with them are utterly charming and adorable. In fact, all of the grownups are great. I'd completely forgotten the whole Captain Flint/Uncle Jim misunderstanding, apology and then the wonderful Battle of Houseboat Bay. Like the whole book, it's marvellous.

Did Lucy like it?

This was the only one of the three that I’ve not already read and -confession time- I haven’t managed to get very far through it, even though it was on my to-read list anyway. I gather it’s a bit “Blyton on a Boat”, telling of the adventures of four siblings who go off on a camping trip on an island by themselves, getting into all sorts of scrapes. It took me a little while to get into the linguistic style, and I really struggled through the first few chapters which were very heavy on the sailing terminology, but I’m actually starting to really enjoy it now and yearn for a simple life of camp fires, minnows, and vivid imagination!

Lucy chose The Readerby Bernard Schlink:

I’m a bit of a BGR veteran now and whenever I have to pick a book, I always try to go with one that has really affected me and remained in my consciousness long after I turned the final page. The Reader by Bernard Schlink certainly fulfils this condition, but I’m struggling to review it without giving away the entire plot. 

Our protagonist is Michael, a fifteen year old boy who meets an older woman by chance, and embarks on an illicit affair, in which he reads great works of literature and philosophy out loud to her in between bouts of passion, until one day she disappears. The first half of the book is the kind of writing I love, effortlessly simple and poetic, and dealing with the minutiae of the everyday.

Years later, Michael comes across Hanna once more, as a law student observing a Holocaust trial in which she is one of the defendants. Suddenly the pace of the book increases, or certainly the pace of my reading did, as we find out more details about Hanna’s alleged crimes, the possible motivation for her actions, and the reasons behind her plea. I devoured the last few chapters and was left reeling, mind racing with questions about culpability, shame, hindsight, and Hanna’s own question to the judge and jury: “What would you have done?”

Did Char enjoy it?

I hadn't heard of this book before so was intrigued. When the library finally managed to track it down for me, I got stuck in and was surprised at how easy I found it to immerse myself in the story. In a weird way the relationship between Hanna and Michael was probably the section I liked the most, although I thought it was clear from Michael's account that we as the reader are supposed to dislike Hanna. Yet, his obsession continues to haunt him, even though he thinks he will never see her again.

As for the reveal of the secret (I don't want to provide any spoilers!) I totally sympathised with Michael and the tough decision he had to make. I think he made the wrong choice, but can see his reasoning.

This is the point where I hold my hands up and admit I didn't read The Reader. Shame. On. Me.

I loved the film - does that count? No? Ach.  I did have every intention of reading it, I promise. The library let me down with the copy I'd reserved and then I forgot to buy one and oh dear, I am rubbish.

However, I've already read all three of the books for next month's edition! Woo me. If you want to join in with the chat and comments, we'll be reading 44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith, Gulliver's Travelsby Jonathan Swift and Murder Must Advertiseby Dorothy L. Sayers. 

Thanks Char and Lucy for taking part this month. You rock.