Archive for March, 2011

The London Train

The London Train by Tessa Hadley

In books read on March 28, 2011

I picked this up as it jumped out of the Orange Prize longlist at me. Not quite sure why it did that as I've never heard of the author before and I don't remember what I read about it or where. All I can remember is something about it being a book of two halves and that they are linked.

I thought it was a great story and one I don't want to say much about as I think all the reviews I've just flicked through (newspaper ones mainly) give away far too much about the characters and the story. I enjoyed coming to it 'cold' with few expectations. Not knowing where/how/why the links would come was good and they didn't come where I thought they were going to though the reviews casually mention them as if they are obvious.

Hadley paints some great character portraits here. There's a class issue underlying some of the relationships which I thought was a bit shakily explored. But on the whole I thought the characters were well drawn and fully fleshed out. And going with the "book of two halves" thing there are really two endings. Neither of which were quite what I expected and mostly I'm glad the author left us at those points.

An author I'll be looking out for again for sure.

This was a kindle eBook.

City Of The Mind

City of the Mind by Penelope Lively

In books read on March 25, 2011

I adored this. One of those books you don't want to finish. I left it lying around for a long time, just reading it a chapter at a time when I wanted something great to savour.

I'm not sure if everyone would think it a great book; mostly I suspect it just hit a nerve with me and everything about it seemed perfect. It was written in 1990 about the changing landscape of London. I went to college in London in 1990 and the book seemed to capture the city just as I see it. The city of my mind.

It's a bit of an odd story in many ways. It's a 1990 tale of an architect, about what he's building, his love life, his daughter. But it also flashes back to look at London in previous times, notably the second world war but other times too. As if time has collapsed in on itself and all the things that have happened in the city are going on together. Somewhat quirky, but I loved it.

One to re-read, for sure.

This was a paperback.

The Senator's Wife

The Senator’s Wife by Sue Miller

In books read on March 25, 2011

I remember picking this up in the bookshop a couple of years ago - it was all over the place as a Richard & Judy choice I think - and putting it back down again without buying it. This time I spotted it going cheap in a book clearance shop and did buy it because I'd really enjoyed reading The Lake Shore Limited a few months ago.

The story is told from two points of view. One of these is the viewpoint of the senator's wife herself, Delia, but the main one is that of Meri, who moves into the house next door to her as a newlywed trying to find her niche in both a new place and her new role of wife. I like the changing viewpoints and the changes in time - much of the "present day" story takes place in the 1990s with sections going back to earlier in Delia's life. I was surprised to read other reviews where people said they didn't like the characters or the writing as I liked both very much. I didn't always like the characters actions but I thought everything fit together well and everything was in character. I guess I like the way Miller incorporates so much everyday ordinariness into the story - the overall story is anything but ordinary but it is built up of regular components.

I can see why this is considered to be a real "book group" book - there is plenty to talk about in the portrayal of the relationships. The only part I thought was lacking was any real fleshing out of Meri's husband Nathan who seemed for the most part to be a generic "ambitious young academic in New England". Maybe that was deliberate.

I won't go into the ending as I don't want to spoil it for anyone. Only that I thought something of the sort was inevitable and I thought it was pretty well signposted and since it wasn't really a surprise to me it didn't really shock me. I'm not sure if it was supposed to.

All in all, a really interesting read, and really very good. I liked it but didn't find it as deep and complicated, or as satisfying, as The Lake Shore Limited. I'll definitely be reading more of Miller's books before too long.

This was a paperback.

A Cotswold Mystery (Thea Osborne Mystery #4)

A Cotswold Mystery (Thea Osborne Mystery #4) by Rebecca Tope

In books read on March 25, 2011

Like the rest of Rebecca Tope's books that I've read this is enjoyable, requires some suspension of belief (like most mysteries do) but not too much, and provides a cast of interesting characters in a location that works well. It's gentle and entertaining, though I did think the conclusion was a bit rushed. I'll no doubt pick up more books in the series in time.

This was a paperback.

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Park IVPark IIIPark IIPark IPark VE-ccentric Block

Flickr Pics 23rd March 2011

on March 23, 2011 by kirsty

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PlantingWormeryFlower Block

Flickr Pics 20th March 2011

on March 20, 2011 by kirsty

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Looking for the Possible Dance

Looking for the Possible Dance by A.L. Kennedy

In books read on March 18, 2011

Short but very readable book. Centred on Margaret, sometimes Maggie, youngish, Scottish, it illuminates various relationships that shape her life. Although much of the book is concerned with the relationship between Margaret and her boyfriend Colin it's the relationship she had with her late father that has shaped her and there are other great examples of interactions between co-workers, strangers on trains and so on.

I enjoyed it very much, in a way it seemed to ramble on without a plot but seemed like a coherent whole by the end of the book.

This was a kindle eBook.

One Across, Two Down

One Across, Two Down by Ruth Rendell

In books read on March 16, 2011

I picked up this Ruth Rendell because of the crossword theme which sounded interesting but actually found that the theme got a bit tedious. What was most interesting about it though was than it's now forty years old and the world has changed a lot in that time. It features one of the characters getting excited about buying her first fridge and washing machine, items I (nearly as old as the book is...) have trouble thinking about living without for very long!

It's not a mystery, it's one of those books where things happen, things go wrong, and I get nervous about how it's all going to work out. Suspense I guess? Even though I didn't particularly care for the main character I didn't really want the world to come crashing down on him. Although I don't think any 21st century detective would let the protagonist get away with the events in the book I do think a 21st century author might have done. It was this aspect of tying up all the loose threads that dated the book as much as any of the domestic appliances or house prices.

Not a bad book though. Glad I read it.

This was a paperback.

The Anatomy of Ghosts

The Anatomy of Ghosts by Andrew Taylor

In books read on March 14, 2011

One day I'll learn not to be put off books about ghosts... I don't like ghost stories but mysteries including ghosts are rarely actual ghost stories. I've liked pretty much everything Andrew Taylor has ever written and have searched out much of his back catalogue. In short I liked this too but not as much as other things. I did feel the book could have done with one of those "casts of characters" lists in addition to the map in the front of the book as I kept losing track of who was who.

This was a paperback.

Body Work (V.I. Warshawski, #14)

Body Work (V.I. Warshawski, #14) by Sara Paretsky

In books read on March 13, 2011

I happily spent the weekend holed up with my old friend VI Warshawski. I'm not going to pretend I can write anything objective about any of the books in this series. VI is aging well, getting beaten up less, still getting involved in things that end up with her taking down big businesses. In many ways it the same old thing as always, but personally I think there is plenty of life in it yet.

This was a hardback.