Hello all and Happy Halloween. 🎃💀👻💀😺🎃👻💀🎃😼🎃💀😼👻
I hope you have all had a brilliant month. Life has been hectic here. We opened Lucia Di Lammermoor last week which is full of blood and guts and perfect for this time of year. We are opening the Britten War Requiem in a couple of weeks. Benjamin Britten was a pacifist but wrote The War Requiem for the consecration of Coventry Cathedral which was badly bombed in WW2. The libretto is traditional Latin texts and poems by Wilfred Owen. It’s going to be amazing.
Family wise, my children have finally gotten used to our new au pair. This is the first time we have had an au pair and it has changed our lives. The girls seem really settled and have even picked up some Italian which is all good! She is coming Trick or Treating with us this evening. We are taking a vampire and an evil cat 👿 with us . I am sure there will be tantrums a plenty.
Anyway….onto the books……..
The combo of two young kids and a full time job means that ‘me’ time is a rare, beautiful and very appreciated thing. I genuinely feel that I have achieved something when I have the time to shave both armpits in the shower. yes, you read that correctly…more often than not my armpit hair is different lengths due to the constant interruption of shower time with the arrival of a small person who needs a wee. So you can imagine my smug satisfaction that I have smashed my Goodreads challenge. Yay to Goodreads, I may have armpit hair of differing lengths but I have read a shit ton of books.
Carry On Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse. 3⭐️.
- P.G. Wodehouse 15th October.
- Description: Short stories, funny, farce.
These marvellous stories introduce us to Jeeves, whose first ever duty is to cure Bertie’s raging hangover (‘If you would drink this, sir… it is a little preparation of my own invention. It is the Worcester Sauce that gives it its colour. The raw egg makes it nutritious. The red pepper gives it its bite. Gentlemen have told me they have found it extremely invigorating after a late evening.’)
And from that moment, one of the funniest, sharpest and most touching partnerships in English literature never looks back…
Well this is my first foray into Jeeves and Wooster and I don’t think it will be my last. I have learnt tons of new vocal which I shall try to use on a daily basis…eftsoons, topping and rummy. Each story is around 20 pages long so it is a book which is easy to pick up and put down. This is proper comfort reading. Nothing bad happens and all ends well. Utterly topping what ho!
I would also like to point out the cover…do Wooster’s hands look ridiculously feminine or is that just me??
Only Dull People are Brilliant at Breakfast and Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime by Oscar Wilde. 5⭐️
- Oscar Wilde 16th October.
Both these books are from Penguin’s Little Black Classics series. Only £1 each and are a completely perfect way to dip into classic authors . Particularly brilliant if like me, the thought of reading a 400 page classic is a little daunting. Only Dull People is a fab book of Wilde’s quotes. I particularly liked this one:
She talks more and says less than anybody I ever met. She is made to be a public speaker.
Arthur Savile reminded me of Dorian Grey. In this book, Wilde parodies the Gothic genre. Wilde is so witty and this is a great introduction into his writing style.
The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy. 2⭐️
- Ariel Levy 17th October.
- Description: memoir, miscarriage, feminism?????
Argh. I didn’t love this. In fact, I often felt so frustrated by Ariel and her white privilege that I wanted to throw the book across the room. Like Ariel, I also miscarried my baby at 5 months. I found writing about it incredibly cathartic and it was an exercise that I really benefited from. I suspect Ariel had the same experience when writing her memoir. My issue is that usually a memoir has an important message to impart and to be honest, I’m not sure this did. This is where my frustration lies. Unfortunately Ariel, there are no rules you can live your life by. Life can throw you a curve ball. Sometimes its shit but that’s life. I would like to say that her writing is beautiful. I adored her vocabulary, I just struggles with her as a person. Sorry Ariel!!!
The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier. 1⭐️.
- Tracy Chevalier 19th October
- Book description: medieval, like a Mills and Boon, MAIDENHEAD.
From the bestselling author of Girl with a Pearl Earring comes a historical tale of love, sex and revenge.
Keen to demonstrate his new-found favour with the King, rising nobleman Jean Le Viste commissions six tapestries to adorn the walls of his château. He expects soldiers and bloody battlefields. But artist Nicolas des Innocents instead designs a seductive world of women, unicorns and flowers, using as his muses Le Viste’s wife Geneviève and ripe young daughter Claude. In Belgium, as his designs spring to life
under the weavers’ fingers, Nicolas is inspired once more – by the master weaver’s daughter Aliénor and her mother Christine. They too will be captured in his threads.
This was like a medieval Mills and Boon. Some utterly hilarious quotes ‘The sight of her tongue made me hard. I wanted to plough her.’ 🧐
‘Come closer my dear and see my plums. Squeeze them.’ 🍌🍒 (why isn’t there an emoji for plums?) 😂🤣😆 Also she used the word ‘maidenhead’ A LOT.
This book was given to me by a friend who described it as ‘life changing.’ Really????? Really???? I don’t think I can be friends with this woman anymore. 😱😱 Anyway I couldn’t take it seriously so it wasn’t for me. Sorry to all Chevalier fans.
The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse. 3⭐️.
- Kate Mosse 20th October.
- Description: France, WW1, grief.
A haunting ghost story from the French mountains.
The Great War took much more than lives. It robbed a generation of friends, lovers and futures. In Freddie Watson’s case, it took his beloved brother and, at times, his peace of mind. Unable to cope with his grief, Freddie has spent much of the time since in a sanatorium.
In the winter of 1928, still seeking resolution, Freddie is travelling through the French Pyrenees – another region that has seen too much bloodshed over the years. During a snowstorm, his car spins off the mountain road. Shaken, he stumbles into the woods, emerging by a tiny village. There he meets Fabrissa, a beautiful local woman, also mourning a lost generation. Over the course of one night, Fabrissa and Freddie share their stories of remembrance and loss. By the time dawn breaks, he will have stumbled across a tragic mystery that goes back through the centuries.
By turns thrilling, poignant and haunting, this is a story of two lives touched by war and transformed by courage.
This book has been sitting on my shelf for years and it’s one of those little gems I didn’t know was there.
In work we are rehearsing the Britten War Requiem and with Remembrance Day fast approaching, The Winter Ghosts was a very poignant and atmospheric read. This book is beautifully researched and hauntingly sad. Freddie, loses his brother in the Great War and Mosse’s descriptions of grief, particularly in relation to men were very moving.
A Patchwork Planet by Anne Tyler. 3⭐️
- Anne Tyler 25th October.
- Description: black sheep, elderly, likeable protagonist.
Barnaby Gaitlin has less in life than he once had. His ex-wife Natalie left him and their native Baltimore several years ago, taking their baby daughter Opal with her. He acquired an unalterably fixed position as the black sheep of the family. And this family isn’t one where black sheep are tolerated. The Gaitlins are rich and worthy, supposedly guided by their own special angel to do the right thing…
This was a solid 3 star from me. It wasn’t a crazy exciting, roller coaster of a read but I still enjoyed it. This was a character driven novel and I really enjoyed Tyler’s writing of the wonderful Barnaby and his horrible family. Tyler is a wonderful writer and I found her sections about the elderly so very moving:
The jars they can’t unscrew, the needles they can’t thread, the large print that’s not quite large enough, even with a magnifying glass. The spectre of the nursing home lurking constantly in the background, so it’s, “Please don’t tell my children I asked for help with this will you?” and, “When the social worker comes, make like you’re my son, so she won’t think I live alone.”
If you love beautifully observed and well written characters, pick up an Anne Tyler.
Hunger by Roxane Gay. 4⭐️
- Roxane Gay 28th October.
- Description: memoir, rape trigger, obesity.
‘I ate and ate and ate in the hopes that if I made myself big, my body would be safe. I buried the girl I was because she ran into all kinds of trouble. I tried to erase every memory of her, but she is still there, somewhere. . . . I was trapped in my body, one that I barely recognized or understood, but at least I was safe.’
New York Times bestselling author Roxane Gay has written with intimacy and sensitivity about food and bodies, using her own emotional and psychological struggles as a means of exploring our shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health. As a woman who describes her own body as “wildly undisciplined,” Roxane understands the tension between desire and denial, between self-comfort and self-care. In Hunger, she casts an insightful and critical eye on her childhood, teens, and twenties-including the devastating act of violence that acted as a turning point in her young life-and brings readers into the present and the realities, pains, and joys of her daily life.
With the bracing candor, vulnerability, and authority that have made her one of the most admired voices of her generation, Roxane explores what it means to be overweight in a time when the bigger you are, the less you are seen. Hunger is a deeply personal memoir from one of our finest writers, and tells a story that hasn’t yet been told but needs to be.
Thank you Roxane. Unlike Ariel Levy, this is a brilliant memoir. Roxane has something important to say, and she says it in a brave and courageous way. This book isn’t to garner sympathy, indeed, I don’t feel Roxane is someone who mopes about her life feeling sorry for herself. In her own words, she has been through something that countless of other women have experienced. I don’t believe this memoir has been written to highlight rape. Gay writes to explain what how this awful, horrific experience has created the relationship she has with her body. It is a heartbreaking, truthful read and one that has made me think deeply.
I am not brave or heroic. I am not strong. I am not special. I am one woman who has experienced something countless women have experienced. I am a victim who survived. It could have been worse, so much worse. That’s what matters and is even more a travesty here, that having this kind of story is utterly common.
Normal People by Sally Rooney. 4⭐️
- Description: Bildungsroman, Ireland, realistic relationships.
Connell and Marianne grow up in the same small town in rural Ireland. The similarities end there; they are from very different worlds. When they both earn places at Trinity College in Dublin, a connection that has grown between them lasts long into the following years.
This is an exquisite love story about how a person can change another person’s life – a simple yet profound realisation that unfolds beautifully over the course of the novel. It tells us how difficult it is to talk about how we feel and it tells us – blazingly – about cycles of domination, legitimacy and privilege. Alternating menace with overwhelming tenderness, Sally Rooney’s second novel breathes fiction with new life.
Not a Birthday Read but a book club read and our choice when the Booker Long List was released. Absolutely gutted that this didn’t make the short list. Sally Rooney is definitely one to watch.
Its no secret that I HATE and LOATHE romantic fiction. I have been married for 7 years but with my husband for 17. I do not want to read books that make me nostalgic for the heady, days of our romantic love. I want to read books that make me feel better about how oftentimes, relationships are sodding hard work. I want my female characters, to be likeable women. Not ridiculous man mad idiots with their own inner goddess (I HATED 50 Shades). This is why I love Rooney. Her characters are not always likeable and the relationships are frequently complicated but that is life isn’t it??? Her books are realistic and her characters are brilliantly well observed. Love her!
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