May Reads

This month included Mental Health Awareness week which I found quite apt as I feel I have been struggling a bit. I am now 33 weeks pregnant and feel massive. We had a late loss last August and mentally this pregnancy has been tough. The fear and paranoia came back with a vengeance and I have been back on antidepressants for a few months now. I now have about 6 weeks left and I am struggling with all the normal things women struggle with in the last trimester. I know how lucky I am to have a baby on the way and I can’t wait to have her here but I am also at that funny stage of being scared of change……I am a cancerian through and through. I am someone who has to find something to worry about. I am scared how the new baby will affect my marriage and my children. I am also trying to do too much….this is pretty typical of me. I know repainting my house at 33 weeks pregnant is not one of my best ideas but I guess I want to feel I am in control of something when I feel currently like I am out of control.

  • Regeneration by Pat Barker. 4⭐️.
  • Pat Barker born 8th May 1943.

Craiglockhart War Hospital, Scotland, 1917, and army psychiatrist William Rivers is treating shell-shocked soldiers. Under his care are the poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, as well as mute Billy Prior, who is only able to communicate by means of pencil and paper. Rivers’s job is to make the men in his charge healthy enough to fight. Yet the closer he gets to mending his patients’ minds the harder becomes every decision to send them back to the horrors of the front. Pat Barker’s Regeneration is the classic exploration of how the traumas of war brutalised a generation of young men.

Oh my goodness what an amazing novel. Pat Barker did an incredible job researching instances and treatments of PTSD in WW1 soldiers. I have spoken to a lot of people who just choose to read non-fiction but who made an exception to read this brilliant trilogy.

The novel begins with Sassoon’s Soldier’s Declaration:

I have seen and endured the suffering of the troops, and I can no longer be a party to prolong these sufferings for ends which I believe to be evil and unjust.

Sassoon wrote this letter which was printed in the press and read out in the House of Commons in 1917. Although an incredibly decorated and respected soldier, Sassoon was deeply disillusioned with the war- a feeling which probably began with the death of his friend David Cuthbert Thomas. Rather than face court martial, Sassoon was admitted to Craiglockhart hospital where he was treated for shell shock. It is here that he meets a young Wilfred Owen and they are treated by the psychiatrist WHR Rivers. All three of these characters were obviously real people but Barker has introduced many fictional characters to the novel and has weaved them in seamlessly.

The perception of Shell Shock in the novel is particularly moving. The young men who went off to fight for our country had no idea of the horrors they would face. It was to be an adventure. No one would have been mentally prepared for the the conditions, loss of comrades and the fear they dealt with on a daily basis. Even if soldiers had been mentally prepared, treatment and perception of mental illness was still pretty primitive. Indeed the most brutal part of this novel is the electric shock treatment used to regain a soldier’s speech. I was particularly interested and saddened to read how parents reacted to diagnoses of Shell shock in their own sons:

He’d get a damn sight more sympathy from me if he had a bullet up his arse.

The idea of being trapped in your own thoughts and in-turn trapped in the hamster wheel of having to go back out to fight because it was expected of you is terrifying and brutal.

‘You agreed to serve, Siegfried. Nobody’s asking you to change your opinions, or even to keep quiet about them, but you agreed to serve, and if you want the respect of the kind of people you are trying to influencethe Bobbies and the Tommies – you’ve got to be seen to keep your word. They won’t understand if you turn around in the middle of the war and say “I’m sorry, I’ve changed my mind.” To them, that’s just bad form. They’ll say you’re not behaving like a gentleman- and that’s the worst think they can say about anybody.’

I will definitely read the other two books in the trilogy and I urge anyone who loves well-researched novels to pick it up.

  • The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson. 3⭐️.
  • Jon Ronson born 10th May 1967.

What if society wasn’t fundamentally rational, but was motivated by insanity? This thought sets Jon Ronson on an utterly compelling adventure into the world of madness.

Along the way, Jon meets psychopaths, those whose lives have been touched by madness and those whose job it is to diagnose it, including the influential psychologist who developed the Psychopath Test, from whom Jon learns the art of psychopath-spotting. A skill which seemingly reveals that madness could indeed be at the heart of everything . . .

Combining Jon Ronson’s trademark humour, charm and investigative incision, The Psychopath Test is both entertaining and honest, unearthing dangerous truths and asking serious questions about how we define normality in a world where we are increasingly judged by our maddest edges.

I wondered if sometimes the difference between a psychopath in Broadmoor and a psychopath on Wall Street was the luck of being born into a stable, rich family.

This was a pretty quick read and I did enjoy it but it left me questioning…..

1. On the back page Will Self said he ‘laughted like a loon.’ I am mortified to say that I don’t even think I cracked a wry smile!!!!! 😱😱😱😱 God I hate it when books say things like that and you spend the time wondering what is wrong with you!!! I feel like this when I pick up a classic…..so scared that I’m just not going to ‘get it’ and then feel stupid. Anyway I feel a little like the joke is on me and I am probably the only person in the world who wasn’t rolling in the aisles.

2. So many of Ronson’s point were on the money. The fact that there is now a diagnosis for every slightly odd mental health tick is a little worrying. I don’t believe it’s helpful to put everything under a ‘syndrome.’ I mean kids being medicated for bi-polar????? This terrifies me. Extremes of emotion surely come hand in hand with young children. I believe ADD is very real and must be very hard to deal with as a parent but diagnosing a child with bi-polar is just terrifying.

3. The Psychopath Test by Bob Hare is really interesting.

These are the points Hare has used….

Ronson makes the point that the difference between a psychopath in Broadmoor and a psychopath in Wall Street is luck, wealth and a stable family. This really got me thinking and is a really interesting point. The chapter when Ronson meets business man Al Dunlap who believes he has a lot of the ‘traits’ on the PCL-R checklist but views them all as positives in the business world is really thought provoking.

Really interesting read and don’t be put off if you don’t laugh like a loon!

  • The Storyteller by Jodie Picoult. 4⭐️.
  • Jodie Picoult born 19th May 1966.

After a tragic accident which left her deeply scarred, Sage Singer retreated into herself, allowing her guilt to govern her life. When she befriends kindly retired teacher Josef, it seems that life has finally offered her a chance of healing.

But the gentle man Sage thinks she knows is in fact hiding a terrible secret. Josef was an SS officer during the Holocaust and now he wishes to die – and he wants Sage to help him.

As Joseph begins to reveal his past to her, Sage is horrified. 

Does this past give her the right to kill him?A compelling tale about the line between justice and mercy from the internationally bestselling author Jodi Picoult.

Gillian Flynn and Jodie Picoult are my go to authors when I just want a rollicking good read. Nothing too complicated but a story that will keep me turning pages late into the night and I guess that’s what it’s all about no????? Reading a book that you can’t put down. Life is good when you have an enjoyable book on the go.

Since we studied WW2 in school it has been a period in history I read a lot about. I guess I am utterly incredulous how the holocaust, something so horrific happened not that long ago. Since having a family of my own, I read the books and watch the documentaries and films with tears rolling down my cheeks. It’s not often a book makes me cry but this one did. The terror, the brutality that people lived through completely terrifies me and since having my daughters, when I read about children being killed, I see my own girls.

I have to say that my heart sank a little when the love story started to develop. I am not a fan of a love story. I would never choose to read a romance and I often find romantic storylines entwined around the Holocaust in slightly bad taste. I am pleased to say that the love element didn’t ruin the book for me and it didn’t take over the novel.

  • Spring Fever by PG Wodehouse. 4🌟.

When a man needs only two hundred pounds to marry his cook and buy a public house, one would expect his life to be trouble free, but the fifth Earl of Shortlands has to reckon with his haughty daughter, Lady Adela, and Mervyn Spink, his butler, who also happens to be his rival in love. Mike Cardinal offers to sort out the problem by pretending to be Stanwood Cobbold but his way is blocked by Spink and reformed burglar, Augustus Robb. Confused? Let P.G.Wodehouse untangle the complications in this light-hearted comedy which ends happily – for almost everyone.

This was our book club read of the month. I have to say that I find picking books for this group pretty tricky. I try to pick 6 books each month and the group vote on which one they would like to read. There tends to be a mix of classic authors and more modern books. The group is mainly made up of young mums who want to get back into reading. A lot of these women have jobs and young kid so for the majority, a book that is easily accessible is the key. This is fine but it does make the conversation a little dry. I remember the best book club I ever did was 50 Shades of Grey. People (including myself) absolutely loathed it and as a result the chat was entertaining and hilarious. I find with my current group that time is precious so if they dislike a book, they give up and don’t come to the meeting…I completely respect this decision. However, it means the meeting is comprised of people who enjoyed what they read which often means that the conversation isn’t that exciting. Maybe I should just be happy that people are reading but sometimes I just want a strong opinion. Hey ho. Never happy I guess.

So this was the June pick and 4/5 people who turned up ‘likedit. I have to agree. There isn’t much to dislike. I can’t say that it is a novel which will change my life but I found it enjoyable. The one lady who disliked it didn’t like the element of farce and thought the character were a little ridiculous. Again, I couldn’t really disagree. An easy, enjoyable, amusing read.

This month started with a revelation. One night while wading through all the dross on Facebook, I came across a post about downloading audiobooks on a library app. Just Wow!!!! I downloaded Libby, put in my library card number and I have a world of ebooks and audiobooks at my fingertips. I am supporting my library and no longer paying for audible. Proper happy!!!

My first listen was Lust by Roald Dahl. If you haven’t read and short stories by the genius that is Dahl, PLEASE DO! Dahl’s imagination blows my brain. He starts a story and you have no idea where it will go. The stories in this compilation all revolve around sex. I loved each one and found them app hilarious.

The 4:50 From Paddington was a quick listen while I painted the bathroom. There is something so comforting about Agatha Christie isn’t there?!? You always know the baddie will be caught. Love it. Also lovely to hear the late June Whitfield playing Miss Marple.

I haven’t yet finished Smut by Alan Bennett. Bennett also deserves a Birthday wave as he was born on 9th May 1934. Like Dahl, Bennett can do no wrong. I completely adore his writing and he makes me laugh so much. His characters are utterly brilliant and very believable. I went to boarding school in Settle, North Yorkshire which is where Bennett lives. He is one of my hero’s and I adored reading Talking Heads for my A Level set text. If you have never picked up Bennett please do. I promise you will be moved and amused in equal measure.

Until next month. Thanks for reading.

April Reads

  • Hi all. Hope April was a good reading month for you. I have stopped work now and am on baby countdown. Really looking forward to May as we have some nice family time away. We are heading to Mousehole in Cornwall for a week for half term. Think it will be the last time we can all comfortable travel in the car. Definitely not going to be as easy with 3 stroppy kids in the back!!!
    • Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz. 4⭐️.
    • Anthony Horowitz born 5th April 1955.

    Sherlock Holmes is dead. 

    Days after Holmes and his arch-enemy Moriarty fall to their doom at the Reichenbach Falls, Pinkerton agent Frederick Chase arrives from New York. The death of Moriarty has created a poisonous vacuum which has been swiftly filled by a fiendish new criminal mastermind. Ably assisted by Inspector Athelney Jones, a devoted student of Holmes’s methods of investigation and deduction, Chase must hunt down this shadowy figure, a man much feared but seldom seen, a man determined to engulf London in a tide of murder and menace. 

    The game is afoot . . .

    The first book I read this year was The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz and I completely adored it. I still haven’t ventured into any of the work by Conan Doyle (that will come in May or July) but as Horowitz is the only author authorised by the Sherlock Holmes estate to write about the great man, I feel I am well prepared and I feel that when I finally meet Doyle’s Holmes, it will be like meeting an old friend.

    Moriarty didn’t disappoint. Holmes and Watson do not appear and the action centres around American Investigator Frederick Chase, and Holmes obsessed Athelney Jones of Scotland Yard. Jones is a character that appears in Doyle’s novel The Sign of the Four written in 1890. Jones appears as a policeman who comes under criticism by Holmes for his poor attempts at deduction. In Horowitz’s book, Jones appears to have taken Holmes’s criticisms on board to the point of obsession. I don’t want to go into detail about the storyline. I will tell you that after the first 50 pages, I couldn’t put it down. The characters are brilliant and Jones and Chase seem to completely model themselves on Watson and Holmes. I will say that this book is more graphic and brutal than the first and I did miss the detail of Victorian London which was such a big part of House of Silk.

    • The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. 3.5⭐️.
    • Barbara Kingsolver born 8th April 1955.

    An international bestseller and a modern classic, this suspenseful epic of one family’s tragic undoing and their remarkable reconstruction has been read, adored and shared by millions around the world.This new edition for 2017 features a cover design by award-winning fashion designer, Tina Lobondi.

    This story is told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. 

    They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it – from garden seeds to Scripture – is calamitously transformed on African soil.

    This book was published in the UK in 1999 and must have been on my shelf for about 15 years. I have to admit that I approached it with some trepidation….firstly, it’s long, 543 pages. I am always slightly wary of long books. I remember as a child feeling very grown up if I was clutching a book with over 400 pages. In fact I would search out long books over shorter novels. Now as a grown up, long books intimidate me. What if it’s just a bore and I have to spend 3 weeks lingering over a book that others have adored but I just find a bit dull??? I suppose I am an impatient reader. I want to try everything – every sweet in the shop and I haven’t got time to dedicate to a massive tome that I’m just not loving. My second reason for reticence was this book was bought for me by my wonderful sister in law. She and many other good friends and readers whose views I respect gave it really high marks on Goodreads. Would I love it as much? Would I disappoint them if I didn’t adore it?

    So, my verdict……???????? A solid 3.5 stars. I can’t say it changed my life. In fact I frequently felt frustrated because it wasn’t the story I wanted it to be. I kept expecting Kingsolver to elaborate on the women’s revolt against Nathan, the evangelical patriarch. Nathan’s relationship firstly with his family and secondly with the community in South Africa was so interesting and sometimes surprising funny, I just wanted more of it…..

    Yet we sang in church Tata Nzolo! Which means Father in Heaven or Father of Fish Bait depending on how you sing it, and that pretty much summed up my quandary. I could never work out if we were to view religion as a life-insurance policy or a life sentence.

    I enjoyed the story jumping for one Price woman to the other and I loved hearing their different perspectives. On reading reviews, Rachel gets a lot of criticism but for me she was my favourite. I thought that as a character she was just so well observed. Starting the novel as a 15 year old, self-centred teenager, she learns nothing and is changed relatively little by her experiences in the Congo. The arrogance of youth that Kingsolver taps into during her chapters is just fabulous. Words that Rachel uses incorrectly and her observations of her surroundings provide a little light relief which for me was much needed.

    That would be Axelroot all over, To turn up with an extra wife or two claiming that’s how they do it here. Maybe he’s been in Africa so long he has forgotten that we Christians have our own system of marriage, and it is called Monotony.

    I am pleased that I have finally read this book. I enjoyed it but feel it probably could have been about 100 pages shorter. I’m sure this sounds like a silly thing to say but for me I was looking for a plot driven narrative and this was definitely character driven. The idea of an evangelical preacher trying to impose his views on his family and a community which ultimately wasn’t interested was the novel I wanted to read and there wasn’t enough of that for me.

    • Engleby by Sebastian Faulks. 4⭐️.
    • Sebastian Faulks born 20th April 1953.

    Mike Engleby has a secret… 

    This is the story of Mike Engleby, a working-class boy who wins a place at an esteemed English university. But with the disappearance of Jennifer, the undergraduate Engleby admires from afar, the story turns into a mystery of gripping power. Sebastian Faulks’s new novel is a bolt from the blue, unlike anything he has ever written before: contemporary, demotic, heart-wrenching – and funny, in the deepest shade of black.

    Before embarking on this novel I read some reviews. One in particular got me scared….’unreliable narrator‘ and ‘not much happens.’ Uh oh. I have to say that I loathe an unreliable narrator. To trek through a book believing one thing and then to be told that you were wrong at the end is so frustrating. It’s almost like the author is having a laugh at your expense. I want to go on a journey with a book. I want to hold hands with a book for the duration of my reading and not to be told at the end ‘ha! Everything you thought was wrong.’ The comment ‘nothing happens’ also got me slightly worried. I need a book to hook me!

    Anyway, surprisingly I LOVED it. I found it moving, poignant, amusing, dark and interesting. It held my attention throughout although I have to admit that I preferred the second half of the novel. The bullying scenes and Engleby‘s resignation to his fate was excruciating. Faulks writes beautifully and I thought Engleby was a really believable character .

    • A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold. 4⭐️.
    • Columbine shooting 20th April 1999.

    On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked into Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Over the course of minutes, they would kill twelve students and a teacher and wound twenty-four others before taking their own lives. 

    For the last sixteen years, Sue Klebold, Dylan’s mother, has lived with the indescribable grief and shame of that day. How could her child, the promising young man she had loved and raised, be responsible for such horror? And how, as his mother, had she not known something was wrong? Were there subtle signs she had missed? What, if anything, could she have done differently? 

    These are questions that Klebold has grappled with every day since the Columbine tragedy. In A Mother’s Reckoning, she chronicles with unflinching honesty her journey as a mother trying to come to terms with the incomprehensible. In the hope that the insights and understanding she has gained may help other families recognize when a child is in distress, she tells her story in full, drawing upon her personal journals, the videos and writings that Dylan left behind, and on countless interviews with mental health experts. 

    Filled with hard-won wisdom and compassion, A Mother’s Reckoning is a powerful and haunting book that sheds light on one of the most pressing issues of our time. And with fresh wounds from the recent Newtown and Charleston shootings, never has the need for understanding been more urgent. 

    All author profits from the book will be donated to research and to charitable organizations focusing on mental health issues.

    Each time I start trying to put my thoughts down about this book, I delete the line I have just written. It sounds melodramatic but my head is in complete turmoil. I decided to look through other reviews on Goodreads and I have to say I agree with a lot of them even though many are contradictory. I have also watched documentaries to try to help myself make sense of something which seems utterly senseless. I think this is the first point of controversy. Should Sue Klebold try to make sense of such a senseless act? Is she trying to excuse her son’s actions. By writing this book is she disrespecting the memory of the 13 people who died and the 24 people who were injured? If my child had been gunned down in school would I want to read why it might have happened???? Reading why doesn’t change the outcome!! However, if my child, the child I had raised, looked after when ill, wiped away tears when they were sad, laughed at their jokes and supported their dreams did something like this, as a mother, I would look for reasons to try to make sense of it all. I think that is human nature.

    I went completely numb as detailed information about the massacre rained down on us. It was like a documentary so violent and depraved that I would never, ever under ordinary circumstances, have watched it.

    A single fact had emerged, without any ambiguity at all: Dylan had done this thing.

    The event had been planned a long time in advance, and Dylan had participated in the planning. The attack had been carefully times and strategically constructed. Dylan had deliberately killed and injured people. He has derided them as they begged for their lives. He had used racist, hateful language. He had not shown mercy, regret, or conscience. He had shot a teacher. He had killed children in cold blood.

    I was, and will always be, haunted by how those lives ended.

    For Sue Klebold, her husband Tom and her son Byron, I am desperately sad. They are mourning the death of Dylan whilst coming to terms with the fact that he wasn’t the son they thought he was. How do you deal with thoughts like these? I guess the answer is that you don’t. You spend the rest of your life knowing that your son is dead and he is responsible for gunning down innocent people. In writing this book, Sue isn’t trying to excuse the act. At no point do I feel that she tries to get the reader to empathise with her son.

    On reading this memoir, I looked back on my behaviour as a teen. I went to a highly academic girls school in which I never felt comfortable. I wasn’t clever enough. I carved my niche by being the joker and as a result, the teachers thought I was a trouble maker. Looking back on it, I was probably a nightmare to teach but I remember feeling very isolated and misunderstood during my teenage years. I desperately wanted to fit in and if I wasn’t allowed to do things that my friends were able to, I would lie. My behaviour was out of control and I did some things I am ashamed of. As someone who has struggled with depression my whole life, I can say that without a doubt it started at this school. Did my parents notice? I mean they were up at the school frequently, discussing my behaviour with teachers but I don’t think they really saw how depressed I was, partly because no one including myself realised how depressed I was. With depression, you don’t wake up one morning, having had a personality transplant and being in the depths of despair. It is a gradual thing. Sometimes so gradual that you don’t notice it creeping up on you. Your depression becomes part of your personality. Teenage depression must be a nightmare to diagnose. When do you decide that a hormonal outburst isn’t something more sinister? Luckily for me, I was struck down with glandular fever which took me out of school for a few months. I say luckily because I was absent for so long that I had to repeat my year. The thought of doing this at the same bitchy girls school was impossible so I went to another school. This new school was less academic and more arts based. Without a doubt, if I hadn’t changed school I would never now be an opera singer. Incidentally, it was at this school that my depression was diagnosed.

    So what has this got to do with Dylan Klebold? I don’t think I would ever have gotten to the point where I walked into a school with a fire arm BUT I was on a very destructive path. Probably due to sad stories like these, I feel schools are much more aware of mental health. In fact my 5 year old often tells me that she needs some “me time.” 🀣 I laugh but surely this can only be a good thing. I hope that now, 20 years on from this awful massacre, that parents and teachers are more aware of the mental health issues that affect kids. I also hope that nowadays, that individuals feel more proactive to seek help when they feel they are having a mental health issue.

    As a parent, this is a particularly hard book to get your head around. I guess when the unthinkable happens, society looks for reasons and for someone to blame. No one picked up the signs that these boys were so damaged and dangerous so was this whole disaster a dreadful combination of ignorance about mental health issues and the ease by which these boys acquired guns? I don’t think we will ever know the answer but I applaud Sue Klebold for writing this book and making me question the unthinkable.

    • The Five by Hallie Rubenhold. 5⭐️.

    Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane are famous for the same thing, though they never met. They came from Fleet Street, Knightsbridge, Wolverhampton, Sweden and Wales. They wrote ballads, ran coffee houses, lived on country estates, they breathed ink-dust from printing presses and escaped people-traffickers. 

    What they had in common was the year of their murders: 1888. 

    Their murderer was never identified, but the name created for him by the press has become far more famous than any of these five women. 

    Now, in this devastating narrative of five lives, historian Hallie Rubenhold finally sets the record straight, and gives these women back their stories.

    When I look back on the month of April, Jack The Ripper is a name that has come up a lot. At work we opened Jack The Ripper:The Women of Whitechapel, I listened to this great book by Hallie Rubenhold, I bought it for a few friends and I also watched that documentary with Emilia Fox. I have to say, I thought the documentary was pants…..wondering around Whitechapel with your iPad…it was just really pretentious.

    Our production wasn’t about Jack. In fact ‘Jack’ never appeared but was always an ominous presence. The set was coffins hollowed out on the floor. We sang ‘Fourpence a coffin, or tuppence a rope. A penny will buy you a blanket.’ In the 1800s, homeless paupers would save their pennies to sleep in a ‘coffin’ in a doss house. If you didn’t have the money for a coffin you could pay to sit on a bench with a rope stretched in front of you, so you had something to lean on. It was information like this that I swallowed up when reading the book by Hallie Rubenhold.

    The Five isn’t about the Ripper. If you are interested in social history, pick it up now. Rubenhold tells each woman’s story….their falls from grace, living in poverty with children to feed, moving from one abusive relationship to the other and their daily lives on the streets of London. A completely brilliant and desperately sad read.

    That’s all folks. Thanks for reading. See you next month.

    March Reads

    Hi all. I hope everyone is well. I didn’t have very high hopes in terms of reading for March. I started the month with the John Irving which seemed to take FOREVER to read but on finishing, I was obviously inspired to devour another 5 books so I’m pretty happy. I finish work in mid April so I am looking forward to tons of early nights in my bed with a book! Simple pleasures.

    • The Cider House Rules by John Irving. 3⭐️.
    • John Irving born 2nd March 1942.

    ‘The reason Homer Wells kept his name was that he came back to St Cloud’s so many times, after so many failed foster homes, that the orphanage was forced to acknowledge Homer’s intention to make St Cloud’s his home.’ 

    Homer Wells’ odyssey begins among the apple orchards of rural Maine. As the oldest unadopted child at St Cloud’s orphanage, he strikes up a profound and unusual friendship with Wilbur Larch, the orphanage’s founder – a man of rare compassion and an addiction to ether. What he learns from Wilbur takes him from his early apprenticeship in the orphanage surgery, to an adult life running a cider-making factory and a strange relationship with the wife of his closest friend…

    Long books. What are your thoughts on long books? As someone who sets themselves a Goodreads challenge, I admit that I am often guilty of reading shorter books that are about 250-300 pages in length. I am definitely an impatient reader. When it comes to books, I feel a little like a child in a sweet shop….I want to try EVERYTHING, I don’t want to linger too long on one book. At a time in my life when my priorities are my children, feeling like I have achieved something for myself each day is really important to me. Usually this is something as simple as remembering to put my eye cream on. πŸ˜‚πŸ€£. Getting through at least a book a week makes me feel positive and challenged. The challenge of getting through 720 pages of The Cider House Rules in a week was a challenge too far. I felt like I was barely making a dent in it…I’m sad to say it was a little soul destroying and frustrating. Once I hit the 60% mark however, I raced to the finish line and I now feel crazy happy….not least because it has freed up space on my book shelf to fill with new books. πŸ“šπŸ“šπŸ“šπŸ“šπŸ“šπŸ“šπŸ“šπŸ“šπŸ“šπŸ“šπŸ“šπŸ“šπŸ“šπŸ“šπŸ“šπŸ“šπŸ“šπŸ“š

    So did I enjoy it?? Yes but I didn’t love it. It was a little slow and rambling for me. I enjoyed the beginning of the book the most. Dr Larch was a brilliant character and I enjoyed all the stuff about back-Street abortions. I listened to a podcast with John Irving and it makes sense to me that he is so heavily influenced by Charles Dickens. Irving seems obsessed by haunted figures. Scarred, damaged characters – prostitutes, abandoned children, ether addicts…. they all appear in this book. Don’t let this put you off however. In amongst all the damaged souls, Irving manages to inject humour and lightheartedness. Unfortunately, for me however, the enjoyment and the time it took for me to read the book were not directly proportionate.

    • A Stitch in Time by Penelope Lively. 2⭐️.
    • Same Penelope Lively born 17th March 1933.

    Maria is always getting lost in the secret world of her imagination…

    A ghostly mystery and winner of the Whitbread Award,republished in the Collins Modern Classics range.

    Maria likes to be alone with her thoughts. She talks to animals and objects, and generally prefers them to people. But whilst on holiday she begins to hear things that aren’t there – a swing creaking, a dog barking – and when she sees a Victorian embroidered picture, Maria feels a strange connection with the ten-year-old, Harriet, who stitched it.

    But what happened to her? As Maria becomes more lost in Harriet’s world, she grows convinced that something tragic occurred…

    Perfect for fans of ghostly mysteries like β€˜Tom’s Midnight Garden’.

    Last month I attempted to read Milly Molly Mandy to Edie. It was a complete and utter failure. My 5 year old city girl was underwhelmed with quaint country life. She couldn’t believe that Milly Molly Mandy spent her time picking blackberries and running errands. “The most boring book ever” I was told. This got me thinking about how literature has changed. Edie is too young to read A Stitch in Time….the back of the book says it’s recommended for 9 year olds. Having said that, I don’t think she would enjoy it when she gets to 9. I am embarrassed to say that me at 37 found it dull!!!! Looking at reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, the star rating seems high but nearly every review is written by an adult who remembers it from their youth.

    A Stitch in Time won the 1976 Children’s Whitbread Award so at the time it was obviously incredibly popular. Undoubtedly, the writing is lovely and the character of Maria is beautifully drawn. I particularly enjoyed Lively’s description of Maria’s parents who were obviously the dullest of the dull. My issue with the book is that nothing really happened. It is slow but I guess that is because in the 70s, the pace of life was slower. Nowadays, we are spoiled by the internet, social media etc. We are used to things happening immediately, at the touch of a button…..you can even turn your house lights on with your mobile phone! I guess we don’t have to work at things as much. This book made me think how much the Harry Potter phenomenon must have changed literature. I’m not saying I need magic and giants but I need SOMETHING and I know my children definitely do.

    • The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester. 4⭐️.
    • W.C. Minor died 26th March 1920.

    The making of the Oxford English Dictionary was a monumental 50 year task requiring thousands of volunteers. One of the keenest volunteers was a W C Minor who astonished everyone by refusing to come to Oxford to receive his congratulations. In the end, James Murray, the OED’s editor, went to Crowthorne in Berkshire to meet him. What he found was incredible – Minor was a millionaire American civil war surgeon turned lunatic, imprisoned in Broadmoor Asylum for murder and yet who dedicated his entire cell-bound life to work on the English language.

    Wow just wow. I am so pleased I read this book. I first heard it mentioned on the brilliant podcast What Shall I Read Next. It was described as a non fiction account of the making of the Oxford English Dictionary and the story of WC Minor who contributed 12,000 words and definitions but was also a patient of Broadmoor. Does that not sound like the most amazing tale??? I bought it straight away.

    Without a doubt, this is an utterly amazing tale and one I knew nothing about. When you discover a book like this you feel slightly like you have been given a box of treasure! It has never occurred to me how dictionaries came to be and how they were compiled. I remember when I started secondary school we were told we had to invest in a ‘proper’ dictionary (I guess the word ‘proper’ here, means ‘grown-up’ ie no pictures) and a posh calculator. I never did discover what all those buttons on my posh calculator did and I never did take my ‘proper’ dictionary into school because it was hardback and massive. It still sits on my bedroom shelf back at my parent’s home. The very idea that the dictionary came to be thanks to volunteers who would pour over endless books from different time periods, tracing the root of each individual word is mind blowing!!! Can you imagine the time this took?!?!

    Minor’s story is an incredibly sad one. Born in Ceylon in 1934, he served as an army surgeon in the American Civil War. It is thought that Minor’s mental health problem came as a result of being tasked with branding an Irish deserter. After the war, Minor returned to New York city where he was a frequent customer of the prostitutes in the red light district. By 1868, the army had learned of his mental deterioration and he was transferred to an asylum. In 1871, Minor decided to move to London for a change of pace. His paranoia became out of control and in 1872, he fatally shot George Merrett. Merrett was not previously known to Minor who wrongly believed Merrett had broken into his rooms. He was found not guilty by insanity and sent to Broadmoor where he was given access to comfortable rooms and a library. During his incarceration, he read an advert by Dr James Murray for volunteers to help with what would later become the Oxford English Dictionary. Minor became one of the largest contributors of the dictionary. Dr Murray didn’t meet Minor until 1891 and it was only then that he learned about Minor’s background. Sadly, Minor’s condition deteriorated. He started to believe he was being abducted from his cell and forced to abuse children. These delusions reached a peak in 1902 when Minor cut off his own penis. With Murray’s help, Minor was deported back to the US.

    This book not only gave me an insight into how the dictionary was compiled but it also taught me about the relationship between Minor and Murray-an unlikely friendship based on a mutual respect which helped to create the Oxford English Dictionary.

    • The Foundling by Charlotte BrontΓ«. 3⭐️.
    • Charlotte BrontΓ« died 31st March 1855.

    Written when she was seventeen, The Foundling is a classic fairy tale, set in the imagined kingdom of Verdopolis, which will delight fans of Charlotte Bronte’s later work. Edward Sydney is abandoned as a baby but finds a ‘protector’ in Mr Hasleden, a rich local landowner who declares an interest in the child, and claims him as his own. The boy grows up believing Hasleden to be his father, but, after his death, Edward discovers evidence of his real name and the circumstances of his birth. Full of curiosity about his true origins, he decides to set off on a journey to the mythical kingdom of Verdopolis. There, after several adventures, he meets and falls in love with the noble Lady Julia, only to find she is betrothed to another…

    A few months ago I picked up two books by Charlotte BrontΓ« from a library sale. 20p each! Total bargain. They have sat in my cupboard, untouched and undiscovered until last week when after trawling through the MASSIVE tome that was The Cider House Rules, I felt I needed a book under 200 pages. Similar to my discoveries about the Oxford English Dictionary in the Simon Winchester, this book by Charlotte BrontΓ« has opened up the world of ‘juvenilia’ of which I knew absolutely nothing. The term ‘juvenilia’ is usually given to books written by authors in their youth. In 1826, Patrick BrontΓ« gifted his son, Branwell, a set of toy soldiers. Charlotte, Anne and Branwell each picked soldiers and used them to create characters and lands which were used in their stories, plays and poetry.

    So, the story…. it was full of magic, strong men, pathetic women and amazing insults:

    ‘Get up, heap of baseness, and be gone instantly from my presence!’

    ‘Do your worst, driveling dotard.’

    If I had to use one word to describe it I would say melodrama. I don’t want this to take away from the fact that BrontΓ« wrote this at 17! 17! At 17 I was stealing alcohol from my parents drinks cabinet and snogging boys in parks. Reading Brontë’s work is without a doubt humbling and thanks to her ‘driveling dotard’ is now my insult of choice .

    • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. 4⭐️.

    WINNER OF THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2017

    A STORY OF LOVE AFTER DEATH

    ‘A masterpiece’ Zadie Smith
    ‘Extraordinary’ Daily Mail
    ‘Breathtaking’ Observer
    A tour de force’ The Sunday Times

    The extraordinary first novel by the bestselling, Folio Prize-winning, National Book Award-shortlisted George Saunders, about Abraham Lincoln and the death of his eleven year old son, Willie, at the dawn of the Civil War

    The American Civil War rages while President Lincoln’s beloved eleven-year-old son lies gravely ill. In a matter of days, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns to the crypt several times alone to hold his boy’s body.

    From this seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of realism, entering a thrilling, supernatural domain both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself trapped in a transitional realm – called, in Tibetan tradition, the bardo – and as ghosts mingle, squabble, gripe and commiserate, and stony tendrils creep towards the boy, a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie’s soul.

    Unfolding over a single night, Lincoln in the Bardo is written with George Saunders’ inimitable humour, pathos and grace. Here he invents an exhilarating new form, and is confirmed as one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. Deploying a theatrical, kaleidoscopic panoply of voices – living and dead, historical and fictional – Lincoln in the Bardo poses a timeless question: how do we live and love when we know that everything we hold dear must end?

    This is Saunders’s first novel having dedicated himself to the short story genre in the past. The novel is based on fact- during the Civil War Abraham Lincoln’s son, Willie died of typhoid Fever. Lincoln did apparently visit the body of his son twice on the day he was interred. The whole novel takes place during this one evening. The setting of the novel is The Bardo which is the land between the living and the dead. The novel is a strange collection of quotations, some real and some not.

    This was a book club read and I am sad to say that it was pretty unpopular, in fact, a lot of people didn’t finish. I have to admit that my thought are a little confused. The reason is that I read the book in conjunction with listening to the audiobook. Usually, I struggle to concentrate on audiobooks but in this case, it was the audio which spurred me on to finish the book. The audio is epic with 166 voices. Apparently Random House are hoping for a World Record for most voices on an audiobook. The cast includes Don Cheadle, Susan Sarandon, Julianne Moore and David Sedaris. Over 6 months, the speakers recorded their lines in 17 different studios across America. The recordings were then sent to the audio editor Ted Scott who pieced it all together. Lincoln in the Bardo is a book which translates so well to audio. The book almost reads like a script with snippets from characters and quotes from books so to have each one of these voiced by a different actor makes it much more accessible. Listening to it also slows the reading down. I am definitely someone who can rush reading. The one line snippets and sections of the book which highlight the fact that history is an unreliable narrator, I know I would have skimmed and therefore completely missed the point.

    Saunders calls this an experimental novel. At first I thought this was a disclaimer, almost as if Saunders was making an excuse in case it didn’t work out….”sorry if you don’t like it guys, it’s just an experiment.” For me, this was an experiment that paid off.

    The writing is beautiful, poignant and moving. There is one passage in particular that broke me:

    I was in error when I saw him as fixed and stable and thought I would have him forever. He was never fixed, nor stable, but always just a passing, temporary energy-burst. I had reason to know this. Had he not looked this way at birth, that way at four, another way at seven, been made entirely anew at nine? He had never stayed the same. Even instant to instant.

    He came out of nothingness, took form, was loved, was always bound to return to nothingness.

    Only I did not think it would be so soon.

    Or that he would precede us.

    This passage is Lincoln talking about the death of his son. I think this must perfectly describe the loss of a child: almost a magical entity that is not meant for this world….a burst of energy.

    One of the most interesting topics that the novel brought up was that history is an unreliable narrator. We reply on people of the time to relay events but everyone sees things differently. There were a couple of chapters that expressed this beautifully. One, describes the moon on the night of Willie’s death and the other the facial features of Abe Lincoln. The majority of accounts differ which makes the reader question who to trust.

    I would say that it takes a good 60 pages to get into the swing of this book. Once you get used to the method of writing and the world that Saunders creates you will be massively rewarded. I am so pleased I read this book and can honestly say that I have never read anything like it. There are also tons of discussion points which would make it a great book club choice.

    • After the Party by Cressida Connolly. 2.5 ⭐️.

    ‘I always wanted to be friends with both my sisters. Perhaps that was the source, really, of all the troubles of my life…’

    It is the summer of 1938 and Phyllis Forrester has returned to England after years abroad. Moving into her sister’s grand country house, she soon finds herself entangled in a new world of idealistic beliefs and seemingly innocent friendships. Fevered talk of another war infiltrates their small, privileged circle, giving way to a thrilling solution: a great and charismatic leader, who will restore England to its former glory. 

    At a party hosted by her new friends, Phyllis lets down her guard for a single moment, with devastating consequences. Years later, Phyllis, alone and embittered, recounts the dramatic events which led to her imprisonment and changed the course of her life forever.

    This is the first time I have come across a book discussing Sir Oswald Mosley’s party The British Union and the fate of its followers during WW2. Apparently, around 800 of his supporters were imprisoned without trails or access to legal representation under the Defence Regulation Act.

    Connolly said she was inspired after reading a book called Blackshirts on Sea: A Pictorial History of the Mosley Summer Camps 1933-1938 by A. J. There seems to be relatively little fiction written about The National Union of Fascists and how Oswald Mosley came to power and I was definitely excited to discover more about this period of history. Unfortunately this is where my issues with the book lay. I felt there was minimal character development so I struggled to empathise with the characters and the historical detail was so scant I felt utterly frustrated. The book was readable and the writing good but the novel just left me feeling a bit ‘meh.’ I can’t really work out Connolly’s intentions….she managed to write a novel with minimal story and no historical depth.

    Thanks for reading. See you next month.

    March kids reads

    I am writing this on my walk to the tube station. I have turned into one of those utterly annoying people who write on their phones whilst walking!!! God how vexing! I am ashamed of myself. The sun is shining and I’m not wearing a coat. Spring has definitely sprung. This is my last week of working in the day. From next week until the 13th April I just have shows at night. My last show is a matinee of the Merry Widow on the 13th and then I’m done! The baby isn’t due until the beginning of July but lumbering around being pregnant on stage is pretty rank so I decided to take the time off. One of the things I am most excited about is reading to my girls every night….that and a nightly bath!!!

    • Theodor Seuss Geisel. Born 2nd March 1904.

    Dr Seuss is a firm favourite in our house. I am surprised and a little ashamed to say that he is an author who passed me by when I was younger. This month, on my walks to the station, I decided to listen to some podcasts on the authors I’ve read and it turns out that Dr Seuss was a pretty interesting guy. Firstly, we are all saying his name wrong. Apparently the correct pronunciation is Zoice!!! This is totally the kind of stuff I love finding out. From now on, I shall be utterly smug when his name comes up in conversation.

    The Cat in the Hat is probably one of his most famous books and was published in 1957. Cat in the Hat was intended as a children’s primer with 225 words. His editor then bet him he couldn’t write a book with 50 words….Green Eggs and Ham was created

    I think the best podcast I listened to was called Stuff you Should Know. This is an American podcast and the hour was packed with tons of interesting information about Dr Seuss. In recent years the Read Across America project which has always backed Dr Seuss books decided to move away from promoting the author in favour of more racially diverse books. Apparently, last year, a library refused a gift of Dr Seuss books which were sent by Melania Trump. The library said that the books were “steeped in racist propaganda and harmful stereotypes.” Anne Nealy who is a Professor of Children’s Literature at Vanderbilt Universitu said “Theodor Geisel was a product of his time. We should not judge him by today’s standard but we must evaluate the books that we decide to share with children using today’s standards.” Is this political correctness gone a bit mad??? Whatever your views, I think Anne Nealy hits the nail on the head. As a mother who enjoys reading these books to her children, I would agree that they certainly aren’t racially diverse, however my kids and I enjoy them and they encourage my daughter to read.

    • A Stitch in Time by Penelope Lively.
    • Dame Penelope Lively born 17th March 1933.

    Maria is always getting lost in the secret world of her imagination…

    A ghostly mystery and winner of the Whitbread Award,republished in the Collins Modern Classics range.

    Maria likes to be alone with her thoughts. She talks to animals and objects, and generally prefers them to people. But whilst on holiday she begins to hear things that aren’t there – a swing creaking, a dog barking – and when she sees a Victorian embroidered picture, Maria feels a strange connection with the ten-year-old, Harriet, who stitched it.

    But what happened to her? As Maria becomes more lost in Harriet’s world, she grows convinced that something tragic occurred…

    Perfect for fans of ghostly mysteries like β€˜Tom’s Midnight Garden’.

    Last month I attempted to read Milly Molly Mandy to Edie. It was a complete and utter failure. My 5 year old city girl was underwhelmed with quaint country life. She couldn’t believe that Milly Molly Mandy spent her time picking blackberries and running errands. “The most boring book ever” I was told. This got me thinking about how literature has changed. Edie is too young to read A Stitch in Time….the back of the book says it’s recommended for 9 year olds. Having said that, I don’t think she would enjoy it when she gets to 9. I am embarrassed to say that me at 37 found it dull!!!! Looking at reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, the star rating seems high but nearly every review is written by an adult who remembers it from their youth.

    A Stitch in Time won the 1976 Children’s Whitbread Award so at the time it was obviously incredibly popular. Undoubtedly, the writing is lovely and the character of Maria is beautifully drawn. I particularly enjoyed Lively’s description of Maria’s parents who were obviously the dullest of the dull. My issue with the book is that nothing really happened. It is slow but I guess that is because in the 70s, the pace of life was slower. Nowadays, we are spoiled by the internet, social media etc. We are used to things happening immediately, at the touch of a button…..you can even turn your house lights on with your mobile phone! I guess we don’t have to work at things as much. This book made me think how much the Harry Potter phenomenon must have changed literature. I’m not saying I need magic and giants but I need SOMETHING and I know my children definitely do.

    • The Sheep Pig by Dick King Smith.
    • Dick King Smith born 27th March 1922.

    The Sheep-pig is one of Dick King-Smith’s most famous tales. It shot to further fame when the film adaptation, Babe, was released in 1995. 

    ‘Why can’t I learn to be a Sheep-Pig?’

    When Babe, the little orphaned piglet, is won at a fair by Farmer Hogget, he is adopted by Fly, the kind-hearted sheep-dog. Babe is determined to learn everything he can from Fly. He knows he can’t be a sheep-dog. But maybe, just maybe, he might be a sheep-pig.

    ‘An unexpectedly thrilling, funny charmer of a book’ – Guardian
    ‘Dick King-Smith is a huge favourite with children’ – Observer

    ***Winner of the Guardian Fiction Award***

    Dick King-Smith served in the Grenadier Guards during the Second World War, and afterwards spent twenty years as a farmer in Gloucestershire, the country of his birth. Many of his stories are inspired by his farming experiences. He wrote a great number of children’s books, including The Sheep-Pig (winner of the Guardian Award and filmed as Babe), Harry’s Mad, Noah’s Brother, The Queen’s Nose, Martin’s Mice, Ace, The Cuckoo Child and Harriet’s Hare(winner of the Children’s Book Award in 1995). In 2009 he was made an OBE for services to children’s literature. Dick King-Smith died in 2011 at the age of eighty-eight.

    Dick King Smith was born on the 27th March 1922 and The Sheep Pig was published in 1983. πŸ·πŸ‘πŸ·πŸ‘πŸ·πŸ‘πŸ·πŸ‘πŸ·πŸ‘πŸ·πŸ‘ Sadly, I didn’t read any of these books when I was a child so I am really enjoying it now. Edie (6) is also enjoying it although it has thrown up some interesting questions about where we get sausages from. Thankfully, Edie is not in anyway sentimental and sausages remain her food of choice so all is well. πŸ₯“πŸ₯©πŸ–πŸ₯©πŸ₯“πŸ–πŸ₯©πŸ₯“πŸ–πŸ₯©πŸ₯“πŸ–πŸ₯©πŸ₯“πŸ–

    On Saturday I was feeling particularly lazy and decided to put the film on for the girls. I was fully intending to doze all the way through it but I sat there enraged. Was it the the ludicrous Americanised view of English country life? No, I admit, I quite like the artificial American ideal of hazy sunsets, thatched cottages and picture prefect farms. No, what really got my goat (🐐) were the ridiculous amounts of American accents. If you are making a film based on a British book, set in Britain why not use English accents. Pregnant, hormonal, me???

    The Sheep Pig is a really fun book to read aloud and I feel the need to give myself a MASSIVE shout out as my voices are on point. If anyone is looking for someone who can do a great west-country farmer or a ewe with foot-rot then I’m your girl. πŸ™ŒπŸ‘πŸ™ŒπŸ‘πŸ™ŒπŸ‘πŸ™ŒπŸ‘πŸ™ŒπŸ‘πŸ™ŒπŸ‘πŸ™ŒπŸ‘πŸ™Œ. In conclusion, great book for for 6-8 year olds. It’s also worth mentioning that in this copy, there were enough illustrations to keep Edie well entertained.

    Anyway, have a great month.

    Thanks for reading.

    Children’s reads for February.

    Hi all. Spring is in the air and my mood has lifted remarkably. It has been a bit of a slow reading month with the kids as I have been working every night. My husband then takes over reading duty but so far he seems to have read The Dinosaur who Pooped a Planet nearly every night this month. 😳😳😳

    • Milly Molly Mandy by Joyce Lancaster Brisley.
      Joyce Lancaster Brisley born 6th February 1896.

    One of the biggest disappointments in the life of a book nerd is when you excitedly introduce your offspring to a book you loved as a child and they describe it as ‘pants.’ This is exactly what happened this month when I embraced the Mary Poppins in me, made hot chocolate with marshmallows and started to read Milly Molly Mandy. I didn’t get far into Milly Molly Mandy buying eggs for Farver and Muvver before Edie declared that this was ‘the most boring and stupid story’ she had ever heard. To be fair, the stories haven’t stood the test of time. As a child raised in the city, Edie has no appreciation of blackberry picking or laundry drying in the country air. She is a child of iPads and trampoline parks. I don’t really know what I was thinking, trying to introduce her to the quaint and charming world of village life. Sadly, the book has been relegated to the top of the shelf, probably never to be seen again. 😒😒

    • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. Published by Babylit. Story retold by Stephanie Clarkson. Art by Mike Byrne.
    • Charles Dickens born 7th February 1812.

    In Great Expectations: A BabyLit Storybook, preschoolers follow Pip’s story, learning about the value of family and friends, fortune and loss, and love. Easy-to-follow, engaging text combined with original quotes and beautiful artwork create a book to be treasured through childhood and beyond.

    BabyLit(R) primers have become the chic, smart way to introduce babies to the most beloved and readable literature of our time. Gibbs Smith is now presenting a delightful collection of picture books, lovingly designed and crafted for young children. Each book retells a story from the literary canon, bringing a classic to life for an entirely new audience. 

    Stephanie Clarkson began her writing career as a journalist at Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper and continues to write for the British press while dreaming up stories for children. Steph has written everything from pocket money books to gift titles and is the author of Sleeping Cinderella and Other Princess Mix-ups. She lives in Surrey, England.

    Mike Byrne lives in the Surrey countryside with his wife, cat, and two young sons where he spends his days doodling and illustrating children’s books fuelled only by tea and biscuits. Mike is the illustrator of Sproutzilla vs. Christmas and My Colourful Chameleon.

    Another Baby Lit book purchased this month. I want to make it known that I’m not sponsored by this company, I just think they are bloody fantastic. Great Expectations satisfied Edie’s macabre little mind….an old lady, jilted at the altar who never takes off her wedding dress! Miss Havisham was really the only part of the book that really captured her imagination. The rest of our reading session was punctuated with “who mummy?” “Why mummy?” “Why is he called Pit mummy” which basically made me want to give up. Maybe Dickens is a step too far for a 5 year old but I will persevere and in the mean time it looks great on my book shelf.

    • Then again maybe I won’t by Judy Blume.
    • Judy Blume born 12th July 1938.

    Tony Miglione is thirteen, and his family lives in a cramped house in New Jersey. But then his Dad invents something that makes them rich, and they move to a luxury home in Long Island. But being rich brings it’s own problems – Tony’s Grandma feels useless when she doesn’t have to cook any more, and his mum is obsessed with impressing the neighbours, but Tony knows the boy next door isn’t as perfect as he looks. The only upside to his new life is that his neighbour Lisa keeps undressing with the light on. As he tries to adjust to his new life Tony starts to suffer from anxiety attacks and wishes everything would just be normal again.

    Then Again, Maybe I Won’t is a classic coming of age story from the boy’s perspective, from Judy Blume, the author of Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret.

    Oh Judy, Judy, Judy. My first sex education teacher. The woman who taught my 11 year old friends and myself about wet dreams, hard ons, boobs, periods and …..RAPLH!!!! I remember break times at school with my friends, hiding under the stairs with a copy of BIG magazine, Just Seventeen and Forever. It was lucky one of us had an older sister so we could steal these epic bibles of sex education. I remember feeling scared, intrigued, disgusted and clueless. So clueless in fact, that when the tampon lady came to give us the talk I spent at least two occasions walking around with the tampon AND the cardboard applicator inserted…..really painful! You literally couldn’t pay me to go back to those days.

    Reading Judy Blume as an adult and a mother of two girls stirs up as much emotion as was contained in my 13 year old self. Different though. It makes me appreciate the stress my parents must have gone through with me as a teenager. I was a bloody nightmare. Boys, boys, alcohol, boys. My 5 year old daughter is already chatting about boys. I think as punishment for my teenage years, I am destined to have a boy mad daughter….I just thought it would start later than 5!

    I guess having read this book as a mother, and having wisdom and age on my side (😳), I can take some comfort in knowing that everything will be alright (touch wood). You can’t stop kids being interested in sex etc and neither should you. Hopefully, if you bring up your kids well, they will always have some kind of moral compass and not go too far off the rails. In this book, Tony is a great kid. Sure he spies on the next door neighbours daughter and raids the drinks cabinet but on the whole, he comes off a lot better than his incredibly annoying mother. Having listened to this on audio I think I hated Mrs Miglione ten times more because of the reader’s screechy, high and slightly hoarse voice he used for all the women in the book. Mrs Miglione comes off as a weak, social climber, desperate to keep up with the Joneses. I was impressed how money didn’t change Tony. He had a strong sense of fairness and what is right and wrong. As teenagers go, I think he is pretty special.

    I am left pondering what teenage boys today would think about this book. As a mother of 5 and 3 year old daughters, I have no contact with teenagers. Would today’s teens would find Judy Blume a little dull??Due to social media, you tube, tv, computer games etc, I think kids grow up quicker now and are less shockable. I can’t imagine the teenage girls I pass on the school run, reading Forever under the stairs in lunch break.

      A Series of Unfortunate Events. The Bad Beginning. By Lemony Snicket.
    • Lemony Snicket/Daniel Handler born 28th February 1970.

    Dear reader,

    There is nothing to be found in Lemony Snicket’s β€˜A Series of Unfortunate Events’ but misery and despair. You still have time to choose another international best-selling series to read. But if you insist on discovering the unpleasant adventures of the Baudelaire orphans, then proceed with caution…

    Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire are intelligent children. They are charming, and resourceful, and have pleasant facial features. Unfortunately, they are exceptionally unlucky.

    In The Bad Beginning, the siblings encounter a greedy and repulsive villain, itchy clothing, a disastrous fire, a plot to steal their fortune and cold porridge for breakfast.

    In the tradition of great storytellers, from Dickens to Dahl, comes an exquisitely dark comedy that is both literary and irreverent, hilarious and deftly crafted.

    Despite their wretched contents, β€˜A Series of Unfortunate Events’ has sold 60 million copies worldwide and been made into a Hollywood film starring Jim Carrey. And in the future things are poised to get much worse, thanks to the forthcoming Netflix series starring Neil Patrick Harris. You have been warned.

    Are you unlucky enough to own all 13 adventures?

    The Bad Beginning

    The Reptile Room

    The Wide Window

    The Miserable Mill

    The Austere Academy

    The Ersatz Elevator

    The Vile Village

    The Hostile Hospital

    The Carnivorous Carnival

    The Slippery Slope

    The Grim Grotto

    The Penultimate Peril

    The End

    And what about All the Wrong Questions? In this four-book series a 13-year-old Lemony chronicles his dangerous and puzzling apprenticeship in a mysterious organisation that nobody knows anything about:

    β€˜Who Could That Be at This Hour?’

    β€˜When Did you Last See Her?’

    β€˜Shouldn’t You Be in School?’

    β€˜Why is This Night Different from All Other Nights?’

    Lemony Snicket was born before you were and is likely to die before you as well. He was born in a small town where the inhabitants were suspicious and prone to riot. He grew up near the sea and currently lives beneath it. Until recently, he was living somewhere else.

    Brett Helquist was born in Ganado, Arizona, grew up in Orem, Utah, and now lives in New York City. He earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Brigham Young University and has been illustrating ever since. His art has appeared in many publications, including Cricket magazine and The New York Times.

    I pretty much hate being pregnant. I am not one of those women who bloom. I am pukey, acidy and varicose veiny. I can’t believe in this day and age that no one has invented something to speed up the gestation process….I bet Violet Beaudelaire could!!! The one positive is that I give myself permission to take myself off to bed for a couple of hours (when I can) to read. Usually I am accompanied by two little people and my reading is punctuated by the whiney sound of Bing but since having kids, I have mastered the art of blocking out whining…Bing’s included. For those of you who don’t know what Bing is, it’s the most annoying kids show IN THE WORLD!!!

    Last Sunday, I was lucky enough to take myself off to bed and I managed to read the whole book of Lemony Snicket. I honestly don’t think I have achieved this much since my GCSE’s.

    So, Lemony Snicket….still too to old for Edie (5) but I know this is exactly the kind of book she will love. She will love the darkness of it all. Count Olaf is wickedly wicked. I adore a villain who doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a villain. I also think it makes it easier for kids to process and as a result makes it slightly less scary. The deception of a character who appears to be beautiful and kind but spends the whole time having secret, murderous thoughts is WAY more sinister. Nope, with Count Olaf what you see is what you get- from his filthy house and bad porridge all the way to his ideas of theft, treachery and under-age marriage.

    Moving on to the brilliant Beaudelaire’s. These kids don’t whine….and to be fair they have ample reason for a good whinge. But no, when faced with lumpy beds, bad porridge and under-age marriage, they don’t moan, they plot! Love it. I have a particular soft spot for Violet the plucky inventor….great role model for girls.

    As you can probably tell from my inane rambling, I am not a woman who loves an unreliable narrator. This is why this book is such a hit for me. There is nothing unreliable about these books or the characters. We are told right from the start that we will be faced with misery and despair and I applaud Handler’s honesty. Top work!

    Anyway that is all from me this month. Hope you enjoy the start of Spring!!!! X

    January Reads

    Happy New Year all. Hope you all had a restful Christmas and are feeling refreshed for 2019.

    Reading wise, 2019 has gotten off to a blinder. The House of Silk is a definite 5⭐️ read for me. January will also see me re-evaluate my rating system. In the past, 5⭐️ reads were very rare and I think in the past I have often been too harsh. 2019 will see much more positive ratings from me.

    • The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz. 5⭐️.

    ‘Horowitz has captured Holmes Heaven’ (THE TIMES) – THE HOUSE OF SILK was the first official new Sherlock Holmes mystery and a SUNDAY TIMES bestseller.

    THE GAME’S AFOOT . . .

    It is November 1890 and London is gripped by a merciless winter. Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson are enjoying tea by the fire when an agitated gentleman arrives unannounced at 221b Baker Street. He begs Holmes for help, telling the unnerving story of a scar-faced man with piercing eyes who has stalked him in recent weeks. 

    Intrigued, Holmes and Watson find themselves swiftly drawn into a series of puzzling and sinister events, stretching from the gas-lit streets of London to the teeming criminal underworld of Boston and the mysterious ‘House of Silk’ . . .

    Well if this is a sign of things to come in 2019, I am a very happy reader. I loved this book. In fact that was nothing I didn’t like about The House of Silk. As a self-proclaimed book worm I am ashamed to say that I haven’t read any Doyle. I am planning to rectify this ASAP but I acknowledge reading the new version before reading the original author isn’t ideal.

    Anthony Horowitz is certainly qualified to write a mystery novel and according to reviews, he has been respectful of Doyle’s formula: no high action, no love interests, bringing back well loved characters etc. In the author’s blurb at the back of my copy he makes his disdain for the high action in the Robert Downey Jnr film pretty plain. If Horowitz’s novel makes people pick up some Doyle then surely this is a good thing.

    As a Sherlock virgin what did I love??? The neatness of the plot was a big plus for me. Characters were introduced and then reintroduced. Ends were tied up. I didn’t have to keep flipping back through the book to remind myself who people were. I felt safe with Holmes and Watson. I was comforted in the knowledge that that good would conquer evil but the journey was definitely an exciting one . I enjoyed the Victorian setting. It felt like a cosy book, perfect for the winter months.

    • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. 5⭐️.
    • J.D. Salinger born 1st January 1919.

    The Catcher in the Rye is J . D. Salinger’s novel of disaffected youth.

    Holden Caulfield is a seventeen- year-old dropout who has just been kicked out of his fourth school. Navigating his way through the challenges of growing up, Holden dissects the ‘phony’ aspects of society, and the ‘phonies’ themselves: the headmaster whose affability depends on the wealth of the parents, his roommate who scores with girls using sickly-sweet affection.

    Written with the clarity of a boy leaving childhood behind, The Catcher in the Rye explores the world with disarming frankness and a warm, affecting charisma which has made this novel a universally loved classic of twentieth-century literature.

    J. D. Salinger was born in 1919 and died in January 2010. He grew up in New York City, and wrote short stories from an early age, but his breakthrough came in 1948 with the publication in The New Yorker of ‘A Perfect Day for Bananafish’. The Catcher in the Rye was his first and only novel, published in 1951. It remains one of the most translated, taught and reprinted texts, and has sold some 65 million copies. His other works include the novellas Franny and Zooey, For Esme with Love and Squalor, and Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters, published with Seymour – An Introduction.

    When choosing books for our book club I post a selection of 4 or 5 reads from differing genres, authors from different countries etc. I want to offer a wide range of choice. People vote for their choice and the most popular book is the one we read. This means that people have a say and can opt in or out depending on the book chosen.
    I have to admit, that when Catcher was the book picked I was a little disappointed. It’s ‘classic’ status put me off. I had visions of myself trying to plough through a high brow novel whilst cooking chicken nuggets for the kids or desperately trying to read it and keep my eyes open late at night. Sadly, the term ‘classic’ intimidated me. Thanks to A Level English I associate Classics with books that have to be picked apart and analysed. I mean did your teacher ever ask you in English class if you actually enjoyed the book you were studying???
    As with a lot of things in life, I was wrong about Catcher. I LOVED this book. I want to shout it from the rooftops “I loved Catcher. I’m not intimidated. I got it.” I think however, the reason I loved it and ‘got’ it was because I read it at the right time. This is a book which is often read in school. If I had read this at 14,15, 16 I think Catcher would be yet another book, destined for the pile of dull, uninteresting books that are a massive slog. How many great books a ruined by being picked up at the wrong time?
    For me, a mother of 37 this is about a grieving boy. A boy who has been packed off to school, who has tried and failed to fit in and as he becomes more angry and disillusioned, he is failed by those who could and should help. I wanted to mother Holden. I found him utterly endearing. Teenagers are complex creatures. Trying to work out who they are, desperate to be accepted, trying on numerous personalities to find the one that ‘fits.’ I feel that I was like this as a teenager. Trying to be one of the cool, clever kids and never quite fitting in. I was definitely angry. As a teenager however I would not have been able to recognise this fact. As an adult, I can look back on those years with a bit more understanding. Underneath all the bravado, swearing etc, Holden is just a sad, angry, mixed up kid. He is almost too sensitive. The love and protectiveness he feels towards his sister is a prime example of this.

    • In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson. 4⭐️.
    • Erik Larson born 3rd January 1954.

    Berlin,1933. William E. Dodd, a mild-mannered academic from Chicago, has to his own and everyone else’s surprise, become America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany, in a year that proves to be a turning point in history. 
    Dodd and his family, notably his vivacious daughter, Martha, observe at first-hand the many changes – some subtle, some disturbing, and some horrifically violent – that signal Hitler’s consolidation of power. Dodd has little choice but to associate with key figures in the Nazi party, his increasingly concerned cables make little impact on an indifferent U.S. State Department, while Martha is drawn to the Nazis and their vision of a ‘New Germany’ and has a succession of affairs with senior party players, including first chief of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels. 
    But as the year darkens, Dodd and his daughter find their lives transformed and any last illusion they might have about Hitler are shattered by the violence of the ‘Night of the Long Knives’ in the summer of 1934 that established him as supreme dictator. Suffused with the tense atmosphere of the times, and with brilliant portraits of Hitler, Goebbels, Goering and Himmler amongst others, Erik Larson’s new book sheds unique light on events as they unfold, resulting in an unforgettable, addictively readable work of narrative history.

    In my blog I like to list the books in the order of births and deaths during that month. However, this is not necessarily the order in which I read them. Today is 28th January and I am only 200 pages into this book. This is not going to be a quick read for me but it is one I am really enjoying. Having read a lot of books about the Holocaust and Nazi Germany this is a narrative history which we really experience from the witnesses. The novel is really objective in discussing the rise of the Nazi Party. I don’t feel he condemns those involved but rather he gives us a well rounded idea of what it was like to live in Berlin during those terrifying years. For those who are interested in that period of history this is definitely work a read.

      My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout. 3⭐️.
      Elizabeth Strout born January 6th 1956.

    Lucy is recovering from an operation in a New York hospital when she wakes to find her estranged mother sitting by her bed. They have not seen one another in years. As they talk Lucy finds herself recalling her troubled rural childhood and how it was she eventually arrived in the big city, got married and had children. But this unexpected visit leaves her doubting the life she’s made: wondering what is lost and what has yet to be found.

    The first time I discovered Elizabeth Strout was when I watched the TV adaptation of Olive Kitteridge with the brilliant Frances McDormand. I adored the adaptation. The acting was superb. I read the book soon after and I loved it just as much. I think it’s quite a rare thing to like a TV adaptation or film the same amount as a book but this shows just how great McDormand was.

    If you haven’t read any Elizabeth Strout what do you need to know? She writes quiet books about people and relationships. Her novels are set in small town America so are complete with that feeling of claustrophobia, gossip, prides, prejudices and habit that are often associated with settings such as these. Strout’s genius is in her characters. The conversations are just so well written and nuanced that the characters are immediately believable.

    • Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. 3⭐️.
    • Agatha Christie died 12th January 1976.

    Agatha Christie’s most famous murder mystery, reissued with a new cover to tie in with the hugely anticipated 2017 film adaptation.

    Just after midnight, a snowdrift stops the Orient Express in its tracks. The luxurious train is surprisingly full for the time of the year, but by the morning it is one passenger fewer. An American tycoon lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside.

    Isolated and with a killer in their midst, detective Hercule Poirot must identify the murderer – in case he or she decides to strike again.

    I finished this a couple of nights ago having whipped through it in a couple of days. Surprisingly I didn’t love it. I say surprisingly as I really enjoyed And Then There Were None. So what didn’t float my boat (train) about Orient Express????

    I hate to say this and I am sure this will be an unpopular opinion but I disliked each and every character including Poirot . Actually, the word dislike is probably wrong. I disliked Poirot-smug and annoying. The other characters I had no feelings for at all and that is where the problem lies. For me, a good thriller/murder mystery is about the relationships between the characters. Why did they commit the crime. I didn’t feel there was any character development and as a result no suspense. To me, it just seemed like an exercise to show Poirot’s intelligence which made it quite dull. As a reader, you are always confident that Poirot will solve the crime so that isn’t particularly exciting. Sorry Agatha.

    • A Perfectly Good Man by Patrick Gale. 5⭐️.
    • Patrick Gale norm 31st January 1962.

    β€˜Do you need me to pray for you now for a specific reason?’
    β€˜I’m going to die.’
    β€˜We’re all going to die. Does dying frighten you?’
    β€˜I mean I’m going to kill myself.’

    When 20-year-old Lenny Barnes, paralysed in a rugby accident, commits suicide in the presence of Barnaby Johnson, the much-loved priest of a West Cornwall parish, the tragedy’s reverberations open up the fault-lines between Barnaby and his nearest and dearest – the gulfs of unspoken sadness that separate them all. Across this web of relations scuttles Barnaby’s repellent nemesis – a man as wicked as his prey is virtuous.

    Returning us to the rugged Cornish landscape of β€˜Notes from an Exhibition’, Patrick Gale lays bare the lives and the thoughts of a whole community and asks us: what does it mean to be good?

    Everything I have read by Patrick Gale I have loved. Like Elizabeth Strout, he writes about people. The kind of people you know, meet on the street, sit next to in work. People who, on the surface seem ordinary but these authors know that people are never ordinary and each person has a story. Their decision to write about ‘ordinary’ people mean that as a reader, you relate with the characters. You can empathise. Since starting this blog and having to think why I like books, I now know that I don’t need action packed novels. I like books that paint vivid characters with relatable stories. I like to know what makes people tick and Elizabeth Strout and Patrick Gale are authors who perfectly encapsulate this. There was not one character in this novel who I didn’t, on some level, empathise with. Even the unlikeable Modest Carlsson. The section about Dorothy losing so many babies also tugged at my heart strings. On reading a review in the Observer, Julie Myserson says one of Gale’s strengths is his narrative compassion:

    He understands how it feels to be anyone, man, woman, child, young or old.

    Like Strout, Patrick Gale is an author I trust. These are authors who are always going to hook me with beautiful writing, believable settings and incredible well observed characters.

    • Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay. Audiobook read by Roxane Gay.

    Pink is my favourite colour. I used to say my favourite colour was black to be cool, but it is pink – all shades of pink. If I have an accessory, it is probably pink. I read Vogue, and I’m not doing it ironically, though it might seem that way. I once live-tweeted the September issue.’

    In these funny and insightful essays, Roxane Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman (Sweet Valley High) of colour (The Help) while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years (Girls, Django in Chains) and commenting on the state of feminism today (abortion, Chris Brown). The portrait that emerges is not only one of an incredibly insightful woman continually growing to understand herself and our society, but also one of our culture.

    Bad Feminist is a sharp, funny and sincere look at the ways in which the culture we consume becomes who we are, and an inspiring call-to-arms of all the ways we still need to do better.

    In my blog about children’s books I mentioned how, as a child, on long journeys, my parents would play us cassette tapes of stories. My sister and I would gaze out the window listening to brilliant audios of Alice in Wonderland, The Jungle Book etc. I tried this with my 5 year old on our journey back home for Christmas. I downloaded George’s Marvellous Medicine read by Derek Jacobi. She managed to concentrate for about 15 minutes. I tell this story because worryingly, like Edith, I am similar. Audiobooks would definitely not be my medium of choice. I wonder if it’s something to do with living in London, rushing around- my mind is so easily distracted. I am like a horse that needs blinkers. I need to hold a physical book to shut out all the distracting sights around me. This is definitely something I plan to rectify in 2019. I need to learn to quiet my brain and to concentrate.

    This is my second book by the brilliant Roxane Gay and series of essays on feminism, racism, gender and sexuality. I enjoyed it (maybe not so much as had I read it). I like what she has to say. I agree with the vast majority of her views and she gets me thinking about issues that as a white, heterosexual female I often take for granted. I also love the fact that in a book about a serious topic, Gay still manages to carve out humour in her dry, take no prisoners way. The humour stopped me feeling like I was being lectured every time I pressed play. They essay about chess was brilliant!!!!!!!

    Right on to February. Today is the 1st and I am writing this on the tube. I had a very wet walk to the station and am not trying not to let my drenched mac touch the clearly very expensive suit of the man sitting next to me!!!πŸ™„πŸ™„πŸ™„πŸ™„

    Have a great month and thank you for reading.

    January kids reads

    Hi all. Well it seems that the longest month EVER is coming to an end and with it go my nights off. It’s a major flaw in my personality that as an opera singer, I hate working nights. As a mum with young children it’s a bit pants. I see the girls in the morning, send them to school and don’t see them until the next morning. I spend a massive chunk of time feeling guilty and obsessing about the time I am missing and will never get back with my children. The only bonus is come April, I have some time off with them and hope to overdose them with brilliant books!!!

    • Hamilton’s Hats by Martine Oborne and Axel Scheffler.

    Hamilton the Pig is very fond of hats – big hats, small hats, tall hats and suitable-for-every-and-any-occasion sort of hats. Hamilton loves hats so much his mum starts to worry that he’s a very vain little pig. Little does she know that Hamilton’s favourite hats will teach him some very important lessons!

    Hamilton’s Hats by Martine Oborne is a wonderfully funny tale, illustrated by Axel Scheffler, the award-winning creator of The Gruffalo.

    It is definitely the sign of a book addict when you discover books you didn’t even know you owned! I have no idea where and from whom we acquired this book but it was a new read for all of us. The girls really enjoyed it. There is a double page at the end with loads of different hat pictures so we had a fun game of guessing which of us would wear which hat.

    • Lewis Carroll died 14th January 1898.

    I remember car journeys as a child (long before iPads were invented), when my parents would play a cassette tape to help pass the time. I remember staring out of the car window listening to fairy tales, The Jungle Book and Roald Dahl. I tried this with my children on the way back to my parent’s house for Christmas. I downloaded George’s Marvellous Medicine read by Derek Jacobi. I think it held Edie’s attention for all of 15 minutes.

    My sister and I loved our BBC recording of Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass read by the incredible Alan Bennett. Looking Glass has always been my favourite out of the two and Bennett’s dead-pan reading made the nonsense seem even more ridiculous.

    • The Trouble With Mum by Babette Cole.
    • Babette Cole died 15th January 2017.

    The trouble with Mum is that she’s a witch, and just can’t help turning people into toads, and other such embarrassing things. Finally, however, her odd talents find a good use. By the author/illustrator of “Three Cheers for Errol”, “Tarzanna” and “The Hairy Book”.

    Oh the wonderful Babette Cole. I remember reading this book (which was published in 1983) as a child and now I am sharing it with my own children. Surely this is the sign of a good book…a book that stands the test of time. My children laugh at and love the same things that I did (and still do). The illustrations are fabulous. There is loads to look at and spot. The text is large so Edie can start to read it herself. Babette Cole reminds me a little of the Winnie the Witch books by Valerie Thomas in that they both contain the right amount of yuk to keep children entertained.

    • AA Milne born 18th January 1882.

    • Rudyard Kipling died 18th January 1936.

    • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
    • First published on the 28th January 1813.

    BabyLit(R) Storybooks give classics new life for the next generation of early readers.

    In Pride & Prejudice, children are invited into the Regency period to meet the Bennett sisters, Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingley, and other beloved characters from Jane Austen’s classic tale. Elegant balls, surprise proposals, and a visit to Pemberley are just a few events to look forward to in this story about appearances, misunderstandings, and love. Quotes from the original text are woven throughout this retelling, and the imaginative artwork will engage readers of all ages. This is a book to be treasured throughout childhood and beyond.

    I picked up this copy when we went to Jane Austen’s house this summer. We had a brilliant day. The sun was shining, beautiful flowers in the garden, nice pub lunch. The kids had a great time. Edie dressed up as Jane Austen, Ceci wrote with a quill and they did a treasure hunt in the garden…it is definitely worth a visit.

    As a reminder of our lovely day I picked up this book for the girls. This was the beginning of my love affair with Baby Lit. This is a brilliant company that takes classic books and makes them approachable to younger readers. There are the primers for little ones, which introduce them to numbers and shapes. For the older children there are story books which simplify the classics. This copy with story retold by Stephanie Clarkson and art by Annabel Tempest is beautiful and would make a great gift. Edie and Ceci love looking at the girls dresses and in my opinion it’s never too young to introduce children to Mr Darcy.

    Anyway, see you all next month.

    Thanks so much for reading.