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slemslempike ([personal profile] slemslempike) wrote2017-07-03 11:16 am

Books March to June

Here We Go Round - Allan, Mabel Esther
Judith Teaches - Allan, Mabel Esther
According to Queeney - Bainbridge, Beryl
Happy Valley - Best, Nicholas
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend - Blvald, Katarina
After You With the Pistol - Bonfiglioli, Kyril
Kick: The True Story - Byrne, Paula
The Shooting Party - Colegate, Isabel
Little Beach Street Bakery - Colgan, Jenny
Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop of Dreams - Colgan, Jenny
Christmas at the Cupcake Cafe - Colgan, Jenny
Operation Sunshine - Colgan, Jenny
The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris - Colgan, Jenny
Meet me at the Cupcake Cafe - Colgan, Jenny
Easily Distracted - Coogan, Steve
Apassionata - Cooper, Jilly
The Holiday - Crompton, Richmal
The Fishing Fleet: Husband-hunting in the Raj - De Courcy, Anne
The Peppered Moth - Drabble, Margaret
The Native Heath - Fair, Elizabeth
Seaview House - Fair, Elizabeth
The Mingham Air - Fair, Elizabeth
Landscape in Sunlight - Fair, Elizabeth
Bramton Wick - Fair, Elizabeth
A Winter Away - Fair, Elizabeth
The Dancing Bear - Faviell, Frances
A Harp in Lowndes Square - Ferguson, Rachel
The Princess Diarist - Fisher, Carrie
Offshore - Fitzgerald, Penelope
Love Plus One - Friday, PA
The Durrells of Corfu - Haag, Michael
Operation Tabarin - Haddelsey, Stephen & Carroll, Alan
To the Poles Without a Beard - Hartley, Catharine
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - Honeyman, Gail
Something in Disguise - Howard, Elizabeth Jane
The Uninvited Guests - Jones, Sadie
Fear of Dying - Jong, Erica
Swimming - Keegan, Nicola
Diplomatic Baggage - Keenan, Brigid
My Not So Perfect Life - Kinsella, Sophie
The Nanny Returns - Kraus, Nicole & McLaughlin, Emma
Dedication - Kraus, Nicole & McLaughlin, Emma
West with the Night - Markham, Beryl
No Wonder I Take a Drink - Marney, Laura
Begin Again - Orange, Ursula
Tom Tiddler's Ground - Orange, Ursula
Travelling to Work 1988-98 - Palin, Michael
Sleeping Tiger - Pilcher, Rosamunde
Another View - Pilcher, Rosamunde
Anatomy of a Misfit - Portes, Andrea
Bonkers - Saunders, Jennifer
Britannia Mews - Sharp, Margery
Forever Geek - Smale, Holly
Mr Rosenbaum's List - Solomons, Natasha
And the Rest is History - Taylor, Jodi
Balancing Act - Trollope, Joanna
If You Ask Me - White, Betty

The ME Allan books were career novels, interesting in seeing how they approach convincing girls to consider either teaching or nursery nursing as a career. The nursery nurse one had a middle class girl taking a job in an impoverished part of the town, so there are plenty of things about some of the children having lice, or not knowing how to behave naicely, and their dreadful parents, but is overall mostly quite good about saying that there needs to be good quality education and care for all children.

Happy Valley was a pretty unpleasant read. I'd seen it reviewed well in several places, and I think I'd assumed it would be fluffy social history about posh British people in Kenya. It was more of an apologia for colonialism, including using racial slurs about sex workers in an offhand fashion, and whining that what were the British supposed to do, NOT exploit the land for farming to provide a home for their wayward spare sons? NOT set up a system where people who already live there are always somewhere between brutalised and patronised? Heavens. The Fishing Fleet was much more what I wanted - largely a fluffy explanation from the point of view of white upper class women (and some men) presented as an interesting sidebar, rather than as divine right, and actually better than I thought it might be about discussing racial bars and divisions. Mostly, though, I enjoyed reading about what people's preoccupations were. "I had about a dozen evening dresses. my favourite was a gorgeous gold colour one with a cowl neck that was backless - you couldn't wear a bra but one was very firm in those days."; "Sir Edwin Lutyens, the architect of New Delhi, once said that if Simla had been built by monkeys, one would have said : 'What clever monkeys! They must be short in case they do it again'" (though actually I rather liked Simla); 'general Greaves, recounting a life of shooting, fishing, horses and dogs, mentioned his wife only once. 'Ranee [his dog] took to her at once, I am glad to say, so there were no complications'. What, one wonders, would have happened had Ranee growled?"

Better yet was Beryl Markham's West With the Night. It covers some of the same period as Happy Valley but paints a very different picture. The parts where she is in or on her plane, searching for friends, dropping off medical supplies, or flying solo across the Atlantic, are much better than the descriptions of Nairobi life. She has several offhand remarks about Africans not being as intelligent as Europeans, and inevitably sides with white men against "natives" in retelling stories, but very interesting. In the introduction to the book they mention that she had been married several times and had a son, these are not mentioned once in her memoir (fair enough) but I would like to read a biography to find out more.

Diplomatic Baggage doesn't quite fit in these but is still white people abroad - Bridget Keenan was the wife of a diplomat, sometimes successfully sometimes not, and has pieced together an account using her old diaries, and very funny. "AW has always suspected that I married him to pay the builder who made [a dilapidated house] habitable. (It's true that I don't know how " wouuld have paid the builder if i hadn't married AW but that is not exactly the same thing)"; "two of them decided to break curfew and go out into the town, as if it were a bit if a lark. I was quite irritated when they came back alive and unscathed."

After You With the Pistol was something I happened across while waiting for a train. I was in Lancaster, and having dispatched the charity shops with more than usual speed, I needed to kill time before my train. Fortunately the Waterstones on the corner of Station Road has some very comfortable chairs, so I settled myself there. There were lots of books piled and apparently abandoned after browsing on the coffee table, and I picked this up and leafed through it. It was amusing, and featured women teaching a man how to be on his guard and fight properly throguh the medium of spying on him, stealing his stuff and punching him when he wasn't expecting it, so I thought I would buy it. At this point it became clear that the man in the other chair in Waterstones had in fact picked it up and put it on the table to buy, so I slunk off slightly embarrassed. And then bought it in e-book and enjoyed it very much. "At the door of her apartment she handed me the key - I cannot bear bossy women who pretend to be able to open a door unaided"; "'Mr ah, Ho,' I began, in the jovial, over-civil way in which one addresses chaps whose skins aren't quite the same colour as one's own."

Kick:The True Story was I think a kindle daily deal, and I read it to add to my Mitfordania. However, I learned a lot about Joe Kennedy, and not very much about Kick and it was a rather stody read through the religious worrying about marriage. Steve Coogan's autobiography was rather dull and disappointing. Jennifer Saunders' was lovely. Reading Michael Palin's diary of the late 80s and 90s was as lovely as ever, but also a reminder of the frequency of bombs and other incidents in the UK at the time, which helped to contextualise the ones that dominated the media recently and are presented somewhat ahistorically. The Durrells of Corfu was very disappointing- most of it is culling quotes from Gerry and to a lesser extent Larry's books and then saying which were real or not. I would like to read Margo's book though, she sounds much more interesting than the dreary caricature of her in Gerry's books.

I prefer Jenny Colgan's earlier, more varied, books to her run of "girl somehow ends up with quaint, bijou shop (preferably food-based) and unexpected makes a success of it... oh, and gets a man", but the description of people cleaning shelves or learning to make chocoalte properly or getting a bank loan are rather soothing so I keep at it, expecially as they are readily available in charity shops.

The Elizabeth Fairs (and Ursula Organges) are more low-priced middlebrow women's novels from Dean Street Press, very gently funny and middle class and I have enjoyed them very much. Especially the ones where there is a fete to be managed, or a single daughter who is troublesome, or an ill-fated journey. I especially liked Begin Again which is about young women recently finished at university (or from doing not very much after school) and how they are starting to go on about their lives.

To the Poles Without a Beard is probably the last Antarctic book I will read for some time. Catherine Hartley is infuriating as she does no proper preparation for her trip to Antarctica and holds people up, but over the book it becomes clear how much she helped other people by being the worst, and not giving up, so I warmed to her much more by the end of the book. She is also much more forthcoming about periods and toileting than other books, which I enjoyed. A really interesting counterpoint to Felicty Aston's books, where she is ultra-prepared and responsible.

Eleanor Oliphant if Completely Fine was EXCELLENT, very funny, very sad, and great writing. Mr Rosenbaum's List is about a Jewish man who was a refugee to Britain in world war two, who is given a list of how to be British on arrival, takes it to heart and adds his own items. He needs to join a golf club to be British, but none will take him, so he builts his own.
spiralsheep: The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity (ish icons Curiosity Cures Boredom)

[personal profile] spiralsheep 2017-07-03 11:43 am (UTC)(link)
I enjoy Jenny Colgan, but in small doses. I couldn't read her recent novels back to back like you did.

Elizabeth Fair sounds worth seeking out. Thank you.

P.S. Unfortunate Rosenbaum typo, lol golf: "He needs to join a gold club to be British"
spiralsheep: Martha laughing (Martha Laughing)

[personal profile] spiralsheep 2017-07-03 11:58 am (UTC)(link)
The first version was funnier tho: ded ov lolz!
spiralsheep: Martha laughing (Martha Laughing)

[personal profile] spiralsheep 2017-07-03 12:02 pm (UTC)(link)
Ah! I just finished one of Ms Colgan's straight chicklit novels and am looking forward to Spandex in the City.

Anything which examines the logistics of village fetes with humour and humanity tends to suit me perfectly. I have an endless nostalgic weakness for that aspect of my childhood, which contemporary life fails to satisfy, lol.
spiralsheep: Martha laughing (Martha Laughing)

[personal profile] spiralsheep 2017-07-03 01:06 pm (UTC)(link)
Also, have you read Colgan's Maggie Adair boarding school novels for adults?

I'm assuming you have but just in case you need another novel for your charity shop trawl.
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[personal profile] yiskah 2017-07-19 05:52 pm (UTC)(link)
I may have mentioned this before but my grandmother features in The Fishing Fleet!
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[personal profile] yiskah 2017-07-20 10:09 am (UTC)(link)
I think she mostly comes up in the engagement chapter - she is Violet Hanson, sent off to India in the wake of her disastrous first marriage to a "homosexual", where she meets my grandfather, "Podge" Gregson.