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About Viccie

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    reading, writing, wine, dawdling around
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  1. There seem to have been several retellings of Greek myths and stories recently, Pat Barker's slant is different to most in that her story is not about heros and gods but mainly about the women involved. Most of the tale is told by Breisis, queen of one of the Trojan states, who after her husband and brothers were killed and her city overrun was given to Achilles as a bed slave. It starts pff with her and the other women of the town who have retreated to an inner room for safety, awaiting their fate. For the first time those who have only daughters are pleased to have no sons for they know they Greeks will not allow any Trojan males, no atter how young, to live and at least they will not have to witness thier children being killed in front of them. Breisis, childless, sees her house slave, pregnatn by her husband, cradling her stomach as if she can hide the lump. The Greeks have been known to drive a sword through the stomach of pregnant women just in case theor child is male. Breisis never sees the slave again. The is a brutal story, especially for anyoone brought up on stories of brave Greek heros, they are nearly all little more than thugs, apart from Patroclus, Achilles's friend, and he learnt when young the consequences of violence. Not everyone gets on with Pat Barker's style of writing, it tends to the clipped, but I live it and I found the tale utterly compelling. It's been described by some as "feminist", not always in a complimentary sense, for me it's a story of resilence, of coping with the worst and above all not being sorry for yourself. Highly reccommended for anyone who's interested in the Greek myths though you won't look on Greek heros, or gods, in the same way again.
  2. The House on the Brink - John Gordon
  3. A History of Britain in 21 Women - Jenii Murray
  4. It's 1840 and Cassandra Austen, Jane's devoted sister and executor, is determined to preserve Jane's legacy and her reputation of being a quiet homebody who was content to ruralise and write. Kintbury parsonage, where Cassandra and Jane's friend Eliza lived for many years as vicar's wife is being cleared out by Eliza's daughter after death of her parents. Cassandra arrives,not altogether welcome, determined to find any letters written by Jane that might give the lie to Cassandra's carefully crafted image of Jane as a calm, peaceful woman. Interwoven with Cassandra's search is the story of the two sisters and their intense bond, their familiesand Cassandra's care for the mercurial Jane. There have been plenty of pastiches about the Austen's before, what makes this book exceptional is that Gill Hornby seems to capture Jane's voice absolutely in those letters, they are pithy, witty and frequently very funny and utterly credible. (She's written a biography of Jane so knows her subject well, she also wears her knowledge lightly.) The writing is beautiful, the charecters realistic and strong and altogether the book is completely demightful. If you love Jane Austen this is a must read, and even if you don't I'd recommend it. It's very, very good.
  5. Ann Patchett is a favourite author of mine, one whose new books I'll automatically buy and The Dutch House is up there with the best. The Dutch House is a sprawling, over the top monstrosity of a mansion, adored by it's property developer owner, loathed by his now departed ex wife and home to Danny and his adored elder sister Maeve. Then their father marries a woman who is a wicked stepmother in every sense of the word. This is a terrific family saga told from the point of view of the beguiling Danny, he's book smart but he doesn't know an awful lot about people and always seems to be lagging in understanding behind the women in his life. Maeve acts almost like a surrogate mother, dominating and trying to shape his life -pleasingly she doesn't always succeed - but at the same time she's a wholly sympathetic charecter.There's all the elements of a good fairy story here, the wicked stepmother, privitations; success, happiness, resentment, redemption, the wheel turning full circle and it's beautifully written too. My only grouse is that I read it on Kindle so I don't have the fabulous cover in colour. Highly recommended.
  6. I agree with you completely, this is an astonishing book. I loved it.
  7. I definitely don't read as deeply when I'm reading an ebook. I like their practicality and the freedom that buying books at 99p gives you since you don't feel so oblidged to finish them or have to work out what to do with a turkey like you do with a physical book. E books are nothing like as satisfactory for plots which need flicking back occasionally, have maps or illustrations or the sometime very necessary cast lists. I'd never have a cookery book on Kindle either. I've recently come to audio books and that again is a different experience - the narrator shapes the listener, for good or bad, in their perception of the story. Fr instance I've just been listening to Clare Fuller's Swimming Lessons which was a god story but the narrator gave one of the charecters a whiny cod-Essex voice (she grew up on the south coast so it was especially off) and it was so irritating that I very nearly abandoned it. According to the reviews a lot of people did. I've just read Tata Westover's Educated on Kindle after listening to it last year, and the reading was much more powerful and emotive. Of course this could be because I was already familiar with the narrative.
  8. I'm so sorry to hear this RG. My deepest condolences
  9. This is a novel of two parts- literally as it's a dual time-line story, with one part modern day, the other in the 1830's and figuratively as the historical part is compelling, the present day storyline less so. Rachel is clearing out her dead mother's country cottage and begins to feel that there's a presence - cue the entry of Elizabeth, a housemaid and basket weaver, who lived in the house with her family. I felt that Rachel's story was a little confused, she's grief stricken and probbly suffering from post natal depression too, but I could never get a proper handle on her or who she was or even wether this book was supposed to be a ghost story. It's not bad, just not wildly exciting but frankly that doesn't matter because the part with Elizabeth is so very good. Elizabeth, who is intelligent but limited in her knowledge becuse she's never been anywhere outside her village has her horizons expanded by Mr Moore, a lodger, who is heavily involved in the Chartist movement. Jo Baker keeps strictly to Elizabeth's point of view, as she learns more, so do we, which makes the unfolding of events especially vivid. Jo Baker wrote Longbourne, about the servants in the Bennet household, which was a greatr success, I hadn't realised she's written several others. I'll definitely look them out for she has real skill at writing convincingly about the past.
  10. Three Cheers Secret Seven! - Enid Blyton
  11. I've just re-read this for my book group and it is one of those books that is every bit as good on the second time round. If you haven't already read it I urge you to do so.
  12. City of Stairs - Robert Jackson Bennet
  13. I read this when it first came out and couldn't remember an awful lot about it apart from feeling vaguely that it wasn't one of my favourites. Second reading has cinfirmed that. The beginning iis brilliant but I felt it started to loose its way about half way through as if Anne Tyler wasn't sure herself where she was going. The problem was that Delia wasn't just invisible to her family, she was pretty invisible to me too. It wasn't that she was a nonentity - she made herself a new life and friends with ease and was obviously valued by a lot of people but I couldn't relate to the later Delia at all. Not a bad book, far from it, she's far too good a writer for that but not up there with Baltimore Blues or The Accidental Tourist.
  14. I think my favourite book of the year has to be Trio by Sue Gee which was a re-read for the book group and every bit as good the second time around. Discovery of the year; audio books, especially Timothy West reading Trollope. Not seen a lot of films this year, but I reallyenjoyed Bohemian Rapsody which didn't come to our local cinema untilFebruary. Favourite TV programme. not sure if Spiral counts as a favourite but it was the most absorbing.
  15. 1. Falling - Colin Thurbron ****1/2 2. Burnt Island - Kate Rhodes **** 3. Brooklyn - Colm Toibin (RR for book club) ***** 4. The Seven Wives of Evelyn Hugo - Taylor Jenkins Read ***1/2 5. The Telling - Jo Baker **** 6. Good Omens - Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman **** 7. Educated - Tara Westover (RR for book group) ***** 8. The Confession - Jo Spain *** 9. The Dutch House - Ann Parchet ***** 10. The Silence of the Girls - Pat Barker ****1/2 11. Monsieur Ka - Vesna Goldsworthy **** 12. Melted Into Air - Sandi Toksvig *** 13. The Jupiter <myth - Lindsay Davies **** Audio Books Wolf Hall - Hilary Mantel ***** Swimming Lessons - Claire Fuller *** Miss Austen - Gill Hornby ***** My Sweet Revenge - Jane Fallon *** The Ides of April - Lindsay Davies
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