The Milkman in the Night


Read 26/12/2015-29/12/2015

Rating: 4 stars

Read for The Reader’s Room Winter Scavenger Hunt Challenge

“Cars were driving past them, making sighing and sobbing noises as they drove over snow that had already been kneaded by countless tyres.”

Andrey Kurkov is one of my favourite contemporary writers. This sentence not only poetically describes winter in Kiev, it also stands as a description of the human condition in Ukraine.

This is Ukraine after the Orange Revolution. Viktor Yushchenko is President and Viktor Yanukovych is Prime Minister. Yulia Tymoshenko is waiting in the wings. Corruption is the default position, selective naivety a way to survive. Continue reading




Read 24/12/2015-26/12/2015

Rating: 2 stars

Read for The Reader’s Room Winter Scavenger Hunt Challenge

Herland was a curious read. Perhaps if you’re making a study of feminist literature over the past 100 years it might be something worth reading. As something fun to read, I’d say don’t bother.

Part treatise for Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s vision for a feminist utopia, where for various reasons men no longer exist and women have evolved to reproduce by parthenogenesis, and part Boy’s Own Adventure with a bizarre fixation on the usefulness of garments with many pockets, I was bored by most of it. Continue reading

The Known and Unknown Sea


Read 21/12/2015-23/12/2015

Rating: 3.5 stars

The Known and Unknown Sea is the second novel by Alan Bilton. I read it to fulfil clue 18 of the Winter Scavenger Hunt, which asked us to read a book published by an independent publisher. Cillian Press in based in Manchester, and I was intrigued by the blurb for this book. It was unsettling and made me feel sad, but I’m glad that I read it. It’s the memoir of a man who can only recall events as he experienced them as a child. It is surreal, nightmarish, darkly funny and poignant. Continue reading

The Transformation of England


Read 17/12/2015-21/12/2015

Rating: 4 stars

Read for The Reader’s Room Winter Scavenger Hunt Challenge

This is a collection of essays previously published in journals, conference proceedings and studies of economic history around the world. They are interesting explorations of what made the Industrial Revolution uniquely English, whether it’s fair to compare English activity with that on the European mainland, and how incipient globalisation impacted on knowledge exchange and technological development. Continue reading

Madame Sadayakko: The Geisha who Seduced the West


Read 13/12/2015-17/12/2015

Rating: 4 stars

Read for The Reader’s Room Winter Scavenger Hunt Challenge

Lesley Downer has brought Sada Kawakami to life through the pages of this book. This is a readable, flowing account of her life. Known as Yakko during her geisha career and Sadayakko during her acting career, Sada had been largely forgotten after her death. When she was remembered, it was in disparaging terms.

But Sadayakko was a ground breaking woman. Continue reading

Edge of the Sky


Read 12/12/2015-13/12/2015

Rating: 3 stars

Read for The Reader’s Room Winter Scavenger Hunt Challenge

Reading The Edge of the Sky felt awkward and contrived at times, poetic at others. It also had an overarching sense of self-satisfaction. At first I found my brain was distracted trying to reverse translate the author’s metaphors back into language that I understood more instinctively, but gradually I settled into the rhythm of this new way of describing things. I liked the explanation of how the universe expanded and how the light travelling to us from the early moments of the universe can be interpreted by scientists. I’m still no clearer on space-time, though, and I wasn’t fully engaged with the dark matter metaphors. I think I might be the wrong audience for this book, but I don’t know who the intended audience is. 8 year olds? Aliens with a limited grasp of one example of many human languages? Continue reading

Effi Briest


Read 07/12/2015-12/12/2015

Rating: 5 stars

Read for The Reader’s Room Winter Scavenger Hunt Challenge

I loved this book. I really liked the main character and thought she was drawn very well. In fact, all the characters were well realised, very human and believable. I liked Effi’s youth and self assurance that was actually naivety, and thought the description of her change following the life changing event, that is really only ever hinted at throughout the book, no need for passionate or salacious details, was very well executed. The whole book models the politesse of 19th century society, where nothing is discussed in the open, but everyone understands what is going on under the surface. Continue reading

Snow Crash


Read 01/12/2015-03/12/2015

Rating: 3 stars

Read for The Reader’s Room Winter Scavenger Hunt Challenge, day 1 – an author who shares your birthday.

I really enjoyed Snow Crash. It was a high octane read. It was interesting to read it 23 years after publication, because it felt very relevant. I’m not a huge gamer, but I watch my husband playing various games that echo the Metaverse. A lot of the time it felt as though it should be a graphic novel, or had possibly been influenced by manga/anime, so it was also interesting to read in the afterword that Neal Stephenson had originally been collaborating on a graphic novel which turned into Snow Crash.

All of the characters were engaging, the theories about language, religion and evolution were plausible rather than half baked, and the action was entertaining. My only criticism is that it took half the book for me to feel immersed in the story. If it had been a mini series, I’d have given up before then.

Fighting on the Home Front: The Legacy of Women in World War One


Read 19/11/2015-29/11/2015

Rating: 3 stars

In Fighting on the Home Front, Kate Adie brings an interesting personal touch to the forgotten stories of women who struggled against a patriarchal society for the right to be taken seriously. Adie marries the story of the fight for electoral representation with that of the women who took men’s places in the workplace during the war firmly on men’s terms. Continue reading