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  1. Today
  2. what is everyone doing?

    Number 3 in the series, stash-busting
  3. For The Good Times

    I loved Memorial Device - For The Good Times feels like an awkward second novel. Basically we have some lads who are into comics and laughs who've joined the IRA. First they take over a comic shop in Belfast, then they end up on the mainland plotting atrocities. It was good, funny in parts and horrific in others. But basically, I didn't buy the characters and very specifically, I didn't buy Sammy, the main protagonist. The boys seemed to be driven neither by ideology nor by psychopathy. i just don't believe the Ra would have taken on such uncommitted, ill-disciplined jokers. Sure there's some nice scene setting - Belfast and the Ardoyne in the 70s and some wonderful, biting humour. But the politics was done better in Milkman, and the humour was done better in The Fire Starters. For The Good Times does try to break out of the genre of Troubles novels, but in doing that it sort of becomes a parody of itself. There have been worse Troubles novels (mostly by Americans) but this is far from the best. All this is made more disappointing when we know how well David Keenan can write and innovate from Memorial Device. ***00
  4. Doggerland

    The Old Man and The Boy service an off shore wind farm out in the North Sea, way beyond being able to see land. They live on a platform (I imagine Sealand) and their view is just the sea and various generations of decaying turbines. As one turbine dies, they cannibalise its parts to repair others. The Boy is there to replace his father who broke his contract. The Old Man has always been there. They are serviced by a quarterly supply boat whose master runs a black market trading racket. He trades the lagan and jetsam that the Old Man is able to fish up from the seabed in return for the supplies that might stretch the lifespan of the turbines. There is no beginning and no end. The Boy and the Old Man have no past life; they have no future. There is no boundary to the wind farm and the sea. There is no hint of anyone who might benefit from the wind farm. The Boy and the Old Man are suspicious of each other. With just one another for company - and the creaks and grand and bangs of the plant as it is ravaged by the sea - they try to live independent lives despite being mutually dependent on one another. They care for each other and they hate each other. Bizarrely, this reminded me of the vast cattle stations in Australia, remote and isolated, farmers living in grinding poverty to supply a wealthy nation that they seldom see with their meat. And inevitably - probably intentionally - it reminded me of The Old Man and The Sea. Almost nothing happens, just the battle between man and nature that nature always wins. And then, there were also shades of the final scenes of The Truman Show as Truman sails for a shoreline he doesn't even believe exists. The book is short, the writing is spare and stylised. But despite the bleakness, there is a warmth in the writing that keeps the reader engaged. Through the boredom and drudgery and backbiting we see genuine affection that the odd couple feel for one another. We see that some of the mutual suspicion and prying might have come from good hearts. The novel is interleaved with occasional fragments from a past when Doggerland was dry land, inhabited by people who could never have imagined the horror of the grey, windswept sea. It is never clear whether these snippets were long ago and the sea is the present day, or whether the land is the present day and the sea is the future we all face. Either way, it has made me feel that we all owe a greater gratitude to those who endure hardship to support the comfortable lives that many of us lead. Doggerland is a short novel, but one that leaves a deep impression. ****0
  5. Yesterday
  6. Currently Reading

    About to start The Playmaker by Thomas Keneally
  7. The Ladder of Years

    I bought this book 8 or 9 years ago, but didn't start it because I'd just finished another of Anne Tyler's books and I liked to space them out. I didn't mean it to be quite so long - but I have finally read it! I had read the "Missing Person" report that acts as a prologue to the story before I put it away. The descriptions of Delia are vague and confused - it is clear that none of her family ever actually looked at her. At that time I was pretty sure that my family would be similarly pushed to describe me, so that may be why it stayed at the bottom of the TBR pile for so long. Anne Tyler has been one of my favourite authors for years, but I did find it a bit hard to re-connect with her way of writing about family relationships. I was a bit worried that I had 'gone off' her. But no! Once Delia makes her unintentional break for freedom I quickly became fully engaged. For someone of her background, married young to her doctor father's partner, never leaving the family home and only ever working as her father, and then her husband's clerical assistant she shows remarkable initiative and fortitude in finding herself accommodation, a job, a new wardrobe and a completely different way of relating to the world. The characters she meets and connects with are very typical of Tyler, and give a warm friendly picture of very small-town America in the '90s. A couple of family members trace her, but she feels no desire to return to Baltimore, and so more than a year passes. She changes her job, and becomes housekeeper and childminder to a man separated from his wife and becomes involved with their wider family. Then she gets an invitation to her daughter's wedding. She tells her employer that she will be away for a day or two, but the wedding doesn't exactly go according to plan, and she is drawn back into being the mother who fixes everything. In the meantime she is getting phone calls from her employer and his son asking when she is going 'home' to them... So, after a bit of a rocky start with this book, Anne Tyler is back as one of my favourite authors
  8. what is everyone doing?

    Thank you Momac, I think that you are right. My shoulder pain is easing off as I'm using my left arm to pick up and hold the book. I only have forty or so pages to go so very nearly finished. I'm glad that you are enjoying your new shower, my father loves ours.
  9. Do you like being read to?

    I've always loved being read to and my mother indulged my far longer than she really wanted to. I'd loved to be read to now, but nobody will. It would seem by the following article that reading aloud is good for both reader and listener. Why reading aloud is a vital bridge to literacy What do the members think?
  10. I had the same problem at the end and felt that the strong hand of a good editor would have helped. That being said, I really enjoyed reading it and recommended it to a friend who loves time travel. Were I to have read it for a class or something, I would have had to prepare charts and such. As it was, I got along pretty well most of the time and just didn't worry about trying to tie all of it together. Even the main character has trouble holding it all together. In fact, one of the things I liked the best about this book is that his actual personality almost gets swallowed up by the people he inhabits and their memories and feelings clog his brain.
  11. what is everyone doing?

    Like both of your crochet items but think I like the one with more white stitching for during the year but the red one would be nice around Christmas time. glad your shoulder is improving, maybe once book is finished pain will vanish? I like our new shower, very roomy, much more so than when showering in the bathtub when I used a bath stool and now I don't have to put the stool in and take it out as there is a nice seat at one end, can sit there and shampoo my hair - very convenient. Good for Dave not having to climb over the side of the bath. All it takes is money.🙄 on the subject of robins, Meg, the British robin is so much prettier than our American robin, which looks like a larger bird, in our bird book it shows only the American robin which probably goes further south during the cold weather.
  12. Last week
  13. I read The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith, and posted a review, back in 2008 but, like many threads from back then, it was wiped out in one of the Crashes we experienced around that time.I can only recall the barest details, so I hope that others who have read this book will come along and fill in more details and correct anything that i have misremembered. Jimmy Blacksmith was half Australian Aboriginal and half white European. Because of his light skin he had greater access to European life than most, and came under the care of a Methodist minister and under his influence developed hopes of a future as a farmer married to a white girl. He did marry a white girl, but the realisation that his children would only be 1/2 aboriginal, and his grandchildren 1/8 , and that he was not really accepted by either race led to embitterment and a final horrific act of violence. A grim, but worthwhile, read, and I was so sad for Jimmy, who was swept away by the strength of his despair. I understand that this story was based on the life of a real person.
  14. what is everyone doing?

    Momac, we had a walk in shower fitted a couple of years ago because of my father and it's brilliant. My sore shoulder is gradually easing off and I'm still reading the book. This is what I made yesterday. The side by side comparison. I like the clourway better on the rhs but made a better job of the actual crochet on the lhs. Ah, who would be a crafter? lol
  15. what is everyone doing?

    British robins are very hardy little creatures - they are about in all sorts of weather, including snow. That's why we have so many of them on our Christmas cards - usually in snowy scenes, even though Christmas snow is a rarity, especially down here in the south-east. So pleased for you, and for Conlan, that he was able to give you a hug - all the more special since such demonstrations are rare. My autistic grandson has become a regular visitor since the New Year. He is now at an FE college, but has no classes on a Wednesday, so he has to have a different routine for that day. His mother was taking him swimming during the autumn, but he didn't want to do that when the January term started so, in order to get him out of the house and away from the games console it was suggested that he walk down and visit his old Granny. So, he turns up at some time every wednesday morning (unless it is raining). If I have a little job for him, he does that, then I get us a a cup of tea and a couple of biscuits. We sit and chat until his tea is finished, then he returns home. It takes 30-45 minutes usually. Until these visits I didn't have much chance to spend undisturbed time, or hold any kind of a conversation, with him, so it has been very interesting to see how his social skills have developed as he has grown.
  16. what is everyone doing?

    Hope your aches and pains disappear soon Meg, and that your mobile phone woes get fixed. Madeleine, hubby saw our first Spring robins today. Must be really a really temperate climate where you live for them to stay around all year. Had lovely visits from our Yellowknife family this week including our two granddaughters who are at university in Toronto. Neil picked them up so they could have a bit of a holiday with Mum, Dad and Conlan. Speaking of Conlan who is our autistic grandson I was so glad to get a hug from him, he is not usually demonstrative. And all this was happening while our upstairs bathtub was being removed and replaced by a walk in shower, very convenient and has a little bench seat at one end and frosted glass doors. Much more convenient for us oldsters.
  17. Review of four Soldiers by hubert Mingarelli, translated Sam Taylor Four Soldiers is set during the Russian Civil War in 1919, somewhere on the front near Romanian and as the title tells us, there are four soldiers as part of a company of the Red Army who have been ordered to the woods on the borders with Romania waiting for orders to decamp. There is the narrator from Kirov (well the city now known as Kirov), the intelligent Pavel who has made plans for the their hut for sleeping so that they are protected, Uzbek soldier Kyabine, a guy who really shouldn't gamble his tobacco in games of Dice as he doesn't win (a thought while reading is how can you lose so many games of Dice, which would be a game of chance?). Kyabine reminds me of lenny from Of Mice & Men, he is a very strong, diligent hardworker but not clever and then there is the quiet sifra who can put a gun together with his eyes closed. Threre is a guardedness to them when forced to take on a fifth soldier to their hut by the Lieutenant, a young teenager enlisted from the Lake Ladoga area but after they realise he isn't going any where, there is a paternal protectiveness towards the new recruit. the conditions are hard but with the help of each of the four working together in the base, they have made the best of what they can. For example, at there hut they have used tins to protect from rain and when they had been in retreat from the Polish front, they got a tarp for protection. The narrative is minimalist and Taylor's translation is similar to his superb translation of David foenkinos' Charlotte. There is a really good restraint to it and it works really well in this to create the feeling that as well as the reader, the soldiers in the sense of them waiting for orders but wanting to take it easy. As the song goes, the waiting is the hardest part. . another quote was from the war series generation war, the line being about after a while fighting for your friends and i got the real sense that the four soldiers main purpose now is not the cause of socialism, socialism never being mentioned, but they have stuck it out for each other, to be there for them. I thought this was a superb novel and finished it in one day (it is also only 150 pages. * * * * *
  18. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Good-Me-Bad-Richard-thriller/dp/0718182928 I'm not sure I would have picked this up in a bookshop but it came up as a daily deal on Audible. Written in first person narrative we are constantly in the head of Annie/Milly. Her thoughts and the voice of her mother are the soundtrack to this book. But it is so much more than just the inner thoughts of a traumatised teenager. Ali Land carefully spreads a story before us, finds space for time and place and lets slip little clues along the way (perhaps a little too obvious at times). Fills the story with strong instant characters. This is a very good debut novel. A great holiday novel where you have time to just immerse yourself in the story in one sitting. I was painting doors etc while reading it and the time just flew by.
  19. Nicholas Nickleby

    Recently finished reading this on audio. An amazing performance by David Horovitch managing to come up with a different voice for all the many characters. As for the story I found it a bit slow to begin with but as the story progressed I came to enjoy it and liked most of the characters. I thought Mr & Madame Mantalini fairly redundant characters. They did nothing for the story apart perhaps to show the kind of work Ralph Nickleby did. But that was demonstrated in other parts of the book. The book was also too similar to Oliver Twist in the school/workhouse situation and the fact of Nicholas being befriended by the Cheeryble brothers while Oliver was befriended by Mr Brownlow. Perhaps a case of publishers pushing for something similar to the successful Oliver. The Cheeryble brothers were a brilliant invention, a pity more successful businessmen/women didn't treat their employees so well. The world would be a better place.
  20. what is everyone doing?

    Spoke too soon about the aches and pains - usually they are at their worst the following morning, but this time they gradually got worse throughout the following day. OK now. I am still having problems with the mobile phone. Yesterday it only worked between 8am and 4pm. It is working now, but wasn't at 09:30.
  21. Any Human Heart

    Not sure if that was Bill's original intention, but I've always considered it one of the more important functions of BGO. Wiliam Boyd is one of my favourite authors.
  22. Any Human Heart

    I have been joined to a Book Club, more or less against my will, about a month ago and got assigned March! It's really a supper club for book nerds, so I had to host a pretty substantial gathering a week after I got back from Istanbul. It was, miraculously, a big success. The book I picked was Any Human Heart. Boyd is not anywhere near as well known here as he is in the U.K., so I thought I was safe. And I was. One woman had read it, but no one else. They all loved it, although it was mixed about whether they loved LMS, which surprised me, since I do, even though he's not a real person and all. One woman asked me how I had heard about the book and I mentioned that I belonged to an online book discussion group. They were flabbergasted that such a thing existed and one guy said it was like "porn for English majors." That seemed a bit much and besides, I was a History major. But I just want you all to know that I have 10 new Boyd converts in the U.S. And I'm not sure I would ever have read what is one of my favorite books if it weren't for BGO.
  23. Educated

    I am always surprised when I hear stories from someone who is about my age about parents not valuing education for their girls. I was the 6th generation of women in my mother's family to go to college and so I never got any of that. My mother's family always seemed very much like the March family in Little Women, including not wanting the girls to be "silly" about boys. But, I, too, was fascinated. Her childhood was almost like being brought up in a very small, closely-related cult. I think most families have their oddities and the children don't really understand that until they leave home. But this family goes WAY beyond oddities.
  24. Book Chain

    Cold Mountain - Charles Frazier
  25. what is everyone doing?

    We have robins here all year round. It's still a bit chilly, especially at night so I'm not going to put any new plants/bulbs/seeds out for a while yet. Hope your aches ease up soon Meg! Glad your back is OK though.
  26. Book Chain

    Love in a Cold Climate - Nancy Mitford
  27. Educated

    I listened to this on audio and was completely riveted by it. I have to admit to sharing some fellow feeling with her - I had a (relatively ) normal upbringing, but my father didn't believe it was necessary for girls to go to school. My 4 elder brother went to boarding school from age 9 and were at day schools before but I was educated at home until I was 11. Then, never having been among groups of children, having no sisters so no idea of what girls talked about, and no experience of school I was sent to boarding school. My experices were nothing like so extreme as Tara Westover's but I know absolutely that feeling of being apart and not understanding what's going on around you. That apart i would have been completely absorbed by this book anyway, highly recommended.
  28. what is everyone doing?

    My back may not have suffered after my brief gardening session yesterday, but my hamstrings and glutes are now protesting. I was OK this morning, but have been getting stiffer all day. Hope a night's rest helps, as there is plenty more to do tomorrow.
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