Howards End is on the Landing

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Read 28/01/2017-30/01/2017

Rating: 3 stars

My husband bought me this memoir about reading for Christmas. I haven’t yet read any of Susan Hill’s novels, so I had no expectations. At the start of the book, Hill is looking for a book on her many bookshelves. As she tracks it down, she discovers that she has possibly 200 books that she hasn’t read. She also rediscovers books that she’d like to re-read. She decides to spend a year not buying new books and repossessing the books she already owns. Continue reading

Notable American Women

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Read 24/01/2017-27/01/2017

Rating: 4 stars

Read for The Reader’s Room Winter Challenge

Recently I watched The Man Who Fell To Earth for the first time. It’s a strange film, I didn’t understand all of it, I found some scenes confusing and uncomfortable, but I enjoyed the shape and colour of it. That’s how I feel about Ben Marcus’s books. They unsettle me in an enjoyable way, and quite often I have no idea what’s going on.

This is the third Ben Marcus book I’ve read. There are definite themes across each work. Dysfunctional relationships, sexual inadequacy, father-son issues, not feeling manly enough, possible misogyny. There are distortions of language, oblique references to the human condition that only dawn on you when you’ve peeled your way through the clingfilm of condensation that Marcus stretches over the narrative.

With Notable American Women, in a Paul Auster kind of way, Ben Marcus presents a book written by Ben Marcus, but it’s a different Ben Marcus. One from a different reality. On the face of it, the book tells the story of a dystopian society. It’s set in America but not the America we know. As I read the book, I came to realise that it was about a dysfunctional family as seen through the filter that Ben uses to process the world. Continue reading

Gumption

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Read 20/01/2017-24/01/2017

Rating: 4 stars

Watch out, because this is a long one. Gumption has fed my brain and I’ve had lots of thoughts as a result. I’ll start with this one: O, Nick Offerman, how I love your drollness.

There are so many great things in this book. I didn’t agree with all of Offerman’s opinions, but I agreed with and enjoyed the majority. He talks sense but he doesn’t preach. He entertains but he doesn’t diminish the seriousness of what he’s saying.

Offerman appears in one of my favourite TV shows of recent years, Parks and Recreation. He plays Ron Swanson, a small c conservative man with a deep love for the outdoors, manual labour and meat. He’s everything I shouldn’t love, but he’s a joy.

Offerman shares many of Ron’s characteristics, except he is more free in the expression of his sense of humour and far less conservative. In this book, Offerman takes a look at the lives of significant figures in American culture and explains why they mean what they do to him. It covers politics, art, slow living, responsibility to the planet, to animals and to other human beings, and provides insights into Offerman’s own philosophy of life. It’s both interesting and funny. Continue reading

Dandelion Wine

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Read 16/01/2017-19/01/2017

Rating: 4 stars

Read for The Reader’s Room Winter Challenge

I read Something Wicked This Way Comes a little over a year ago and really loved it. I bought a bunch of Ray Bradbury books on the back of it, including the first of the Green Town books. I used it to tenuously fulfill the requirements of The Reader’s Room Snakes and Ladders Winter Challenge for square 47: a work of fiction featuring food.

It’s tenuous because food isn’t the focus of Dandelion Wine. Growing up and understanding your place in the world is the theme of the book. But as Bradbury says in the essay that introduces this edition of the book, the dandelion wine of the title is an allegory that flows through the story, representing youth as the summer of life. Continue reading

The Children Act

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Read 15/01/2017

Rating: 3 stars

Fiona is a High Court judge in the Family Division. She has a lovely home, tastefully decorated. Her husband Jack is bored in their marriage and tells Fiona he wants an affair.

So starts The Children Act. I’d only read eight pages, but I didn’t like the characters. I didn’t like McEwan’s writing. There was something weary about it, jaded. As though McEwan, along with his characters, was bored. Continue reading

Thousand Cranes

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Read 12/01/2017-14/01/2017

Rating: 5 stars

Read for The Reader’s Room Winter Challenge

It isn’t often that I read a book and don’t want to review it for fear of shattering its beauty. Thousand Cranes is such a book. I can talk about what I love about it. I can boil the plot down to mundanities. Or I can tell you to read it and find out for yourself what makes it such a compelling book.

From the very first lines I was hooked. Continue reading