slemslempike: (nemi: argh)
[personal profile] slemslempike
A Chelsea Concerto Faviell, Frances
You Gotta Get Bigger Dreams Cumming, Alan
Why Not Me Kaling, Mindy
The Three Body Problem Liu, Cixin
Women of the Aftermath Smith, Helen Zenna
What Would Beyonce Do Omielan, Luisa
Notes to my Mother-in-Law & How Many Camels are there in Holland? Law, Phyllida
The Honourable Schoolboy Le Carre, John
Choristers' Cake Mayne, William
Cathedral Wednesday Mayne, William
Words and Music Mayne, William
Juniors of the Chalet School Bruce, Katherine
Smiley's People Le Carre, John
Augustus Carp Esq, by himself Bashford, Henry Howarth
We Need New Names Bulawayo, NoViolet

I was expecting A chelsea Concerto to be a novel, so I was a bit put off at first when it turned out to be memoir about her time living in Chelsea in the second world war. Lots of detail about working with Belgian refugees, translating, and the difficulties they both faced and caused.

The Alan Cumming book is mostly photos he's taken and snippets of text, so would probably have been better read not on my black and white Nook. And aw, Mindy Kaling! Great fun and really interesting. I especially liked the part about kissing her co-stars.

I don't know nearly enough maths to appreciate reading The Three Body Problem, but quietly enjoyed the communism stuff until it finished.

AHHHH Women of the Aftermath was as good as I wanted it to be! I read it in one sitting at the British Library so that was a relief. The protagonist of Not So Quiet, Helen, has come back from the war and is living with her husband who has very severe disabilities, and is furious about everything, and dealing with his mother who will insist on coming round and treating him as a damaged hero when he's just as disgusted by the war as Helen. He is quite vile to Helen, who leaves him. In revenge, he shoots himself and leaves a letter so that she will be raked over the coals at his inquest. She starts a life of zombie-like dissolution - nightclubs, being a mistress, being a paid dancer-escort, which a reviewer I read online said was melodramatic and hysterical, but I thought was very good about what it might be like in a form of PTSD to try and cope again afterwards.

I loved Luisa Omielan's stand-up show Am I Right Ladies? (which I saw with [livejournal.com profile] felinitykat and [livejournal.com profile] terriem, it featured a passionate Adele singalong and one of the funniest mimes I've ever seen of a woman's when a man is (consensually) masturbating very near her face). Her earlier show was What Would Beyonce Do? and is about her depression, and I'd wished I could see it for a while. I'm not sure if the book is the same ground as the stand-up show, but there's lots there about being a young woman, especially a working class one, and not feeling good enough or successful enough, and trying to retain enough control over her career not to be pushed into a small box.

Notes to my Mother-in-Law & How Many Camels Are There in Holland is a slim tome even both of them together. The first is the notes that Phyllida wrote to communicate with her deaf mother-in-law, so you get lots of quite funny one-sided conversations, as well as longer bits where I assume she was writing for her to read later, not right at the time. The second is diaryish entries about living with and looking after her mother when she had dementia. In between all these bits are snippets of acting jobs, raising her children (Emma Thompson!) and it's rather sweet.

More Le Carre, as I wanted to read his memoir but thought there might be significant spoilers I'd rather avoid. I liked both The Honourable Schoolboy and Smiley's People as I have all the others, but shared George's almost disappointment that Karla comes across at the end. After all this time, the murky mastermind only human.

[livejournal.com profile] callmemadam mentioned in one of her book reviews that Words and Music had litle in the way of plot, but you learned a lot about the timetabling of the school day. This sounded right up my alley, so after finding that my local library system had all the choir school books in the stack, I ordered them up. It's a long time since I read A Swarm in May, but the atmosphere of the books felt very familiar still. I liked the stubbornness of the juniors, and found it hard to remember that the Seniors were no more than 12/13 (and what happens if your voice breaks early? do you have to leave straight away or can you stay for lessons? I'd probably prefer to leave, you'd be so left out with everyone else organised around singing).

Juniors of the Chalet School was just right. I found myself quite moved by Grizel unhappy at being in Le Petit Chalet but trying to do her stern best, and even at the end not seeing how her martinet approach is counter-productive. I really enjoyed it happening at the same time as Princess and remembering what's going on elsewhere in the timeline - though I haven't read a proper Tyrolean era book for such a long time. (Is this the Chalet School's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead?)I feel the urge to reread Jo Returns next time I'm with my books.

The cover quote calls Augustus Carp the funniest unknown novel in English, and indeed I had never heard of it before. It owes quite a lot to Diary of a Nobody with narrator oblivious to how he comes across, but there's no warmth like with Pooter. It's an autobiography that glosses over his failures (appearance, uneducated) while hyping up his apparent moral superiority, dealing with his father who adores him (and channels his "morality" to help him) and is prone to immense rages at even the smallest slight - as shown by his progression from churchwarden at St James the Less, to St James the Lesser, to St James the Least, as he falls out with every vicar in turn.

I saw NoViolet Bulawayo's name in a column in an an airplane magazine of writers to watch out for, and I carefully ripped that bit out and tucked it into my bag, where so many pieces of paper go to die without being acted upon. Then when I was in Barnes and Nobles in the autumn I was browsing hungrily through the clearance books, and found a stack of We Need New Names. I finally got around to reading it (have been reading far more e-books) and it is so, so good. Darling (and her friends including Bastard and Godknows) are children in Zimbabwe, probably from the sounds of it in a ruralish town. The collapse of the country means they have moved frommore comfortable houses and lives into a shanty town, where NGO workers come in trucks and give out plastic tat while taking photos without asking the children first, or at all. Then in the second half of the book Darling has moved to America to live with her aunt, and learns about being in America, where her aunt wants to be so thin, her uncle is stopped all the time, and they work all the time so they can send money back home because everyone in Zimbabwe thinks that they must be so rich in America. Very highly recommended.
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