Christmas with Dull People

A quick Christmas read, courtesy of one of my Christmas gifts from Mr H. I’d never read any Saki until this collection of four festive short stories that document bad behaviour during an Edwardian holiday period.

I knew the name Saki, and that the author was a satirist and short story specialist. I’ve now learnt that his real name was Hector Hugh Munro, that he was influenced by Oscar Wilde, Lewis Carroll and Rudyard Kipling, and was an influence on A. A. Milne, Noël Coward and P. G. Wodehouse. Despite being officially too old for service, he enlisted during the First World War and was killed on the Western front in 1916.

The front fly leaf to this slim collection states, “These stories present Saki at his inimitable, satirical best as he addresses the most perilous aspects of the holiday period: visiting dull relatives, tolerating Christmas Eve merriment, receiving unwanted gifts, and writing ecstatic thank-you notes.”

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Birds: Paintings of 100 British Birds

I’ve been saving up Moir’s art book, Birds, for when I had time to sit and absorb his watercolours.

This is a restful book. In the foreword, Chris Packham captures in words what it is that I respond to in Jim Moir’s bird paintings.

… Jim doesn’t just see birds, he looks at them, so intensely that he understands them. Not just anatomically or behaviourally – he knows how they feel.

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And Away…

I love Bob Mortimer. I always have. In the Reeves and Mortimer partnership, he’s the unassumingly funny shy bloke to Vic’s bombastically funny shy bloke. Bob’s sound. I’m prepared to watch anything that Bob’s on, because he’s silly like Terry Jones was silly, and wriggles with the giggles of it all in the same way. The man’s a delight.

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Japanese Fairy Tales

Yei Theodora Ozaki’s translated compendium of Japanese fairy tales is a charming read. Published in 1903 and now out of copyright, I got mine from the Kindle store a while ago for free. It’s also available to download or read for free on Project Gutenberg.

In her introduction, Ozaki explains that she wanted to bring the world of Japanese fairy tales to a western audience and her selection of twenty-two stories is based on Sadanami Sanjin/Sazanami Iwaya’s Meiji era collection for children, with a few tales from other sources. Ozaki rewrote the stories into English with a younger audience in mind. While some are gentle in tone, the fact that they are for children is no guarantee that violence and brutality won’t make an appearance. Some of the stories are quite shocking and upsetting in their cruelty. I suppose an argument can be made that nature and the world are cruel and brutal things, and these stories are reflections of that. I don’t think it’s a collection that I would put in front of a child today, despite knowing what I was like as a child and how much I loved spooky stories.

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Saving Lucia

When I plucked Saving Lucia from my To Read pile, I wasn’t expecting another time travelling novel that takes imagination and rethinks reality. I also wasn’t expecting such a slim book to be so dense with ideas and feelings.

The Lucia of the title of Anna Vaught’s book is the daughter of James Joyce, incarcerated in St Andrew’s Hospital for Mental Diseases in Northampton in 1953. One of her fellow residents is the Honourable Violet Gibson, daughter of a Lord Chancellor of Ireland and famous for her attempted assassination attempt on Benito Mussolini. Violet makes it the work of her last few years to save Lucia from the pain of life in a psychiatric institution.

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This Time Tomorrow

I reserved This Time Tomorrow at the library back in August and it came up for collection last week. It crossed my radar thanks to Jeanne’s review at Necromancy Never Pays and how she described the character development and story arc.

It’s a time travel story, but a very specific form of time travel, where the traveller always goes back to the same moment in their past before returning to their present. A sort of revisiting the action embedded and refracted in memory to see it from a different angle and see if a change might be made. It made for a nice fit with the last book I read and the thoughts that presented on memory.

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The Sense of an Ending

The Sense of an Ending concerns Tony Webster, retired, divorced, father of one, grandfather of two. It also concerns his school friend Adrian Finn, who died by suicide aged twenty-two. And his first girlfriend Veronica, her mum, his school friends Colin and Alex, and the ways they are connected through the past they shared.

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