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About MisterHobgoblin

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    many cultures : one world
  • Birthday May 29


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  • How did you hear about this site?
    Calliope introduced me

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    Bouncing Australiana

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  1. Agnes Day has been brought by her mother Bea to join in a social experiment - living with a self-sustaining community in the last true wilderness. Bea's partner Glen had designed the program, and as the infant Agnes's health deteriorated in the city, joining up to the program looked like a ray of hope. The New Wilderness is an exercise in world building. The wilderness, its mountains and forests, its deserts and rivers, the coyotes and bears and deer and rabbits... The world feels real, visceral. The passage of time, the passing of the seasons is done so well. However, it's not a happy wor
  2. Antara is a middle class Indian woman. Her husband, Dilip, is an American Indian (no, not one of those) who was sent by his company to Pune despite hardly speaking a word of Hindi and breaking his rotis with two hands. What had been a very happy, westernised relationship is now transformed by the arrival of Antara's senile mother and the imminent arrival of a baby. Antara is less than thrilled by her change in circumstances as she explains to readers in sassy, sarcastic tones. Antara loathes her mother, but she is honour bound to support her. The mother - Tara to her daughter's Un-tara - s
  3. Real Life is a fabulously well crafted capture of a moment in the life of Wallace, a black, gay postgrad working in a biochemistry department of a Midwestern university (presumably Madison-Wisconsin). Wallace hails from Alabama - not desperately poor, but very much an outsider whose sexuality did not sit well with his race in the deep south. He hopes that he might fit in Madison, working in a program that has never taken a black student before. The opening chapter, a party on the lakeside pier, threatens to become The Great Gatsby as Wallace sits in admiration of the sophisticated white st
  4. Tambudzai is an underachiever. Sent to a private school in Rhodesia, studying at the University of Zimbabwe, she land up in Harare unemployed, no plan, drifting between hostels and rooming houses. She seems not to have any great sense of urgency in finding either a job or a more stable form of housing. She quite her job as a copy writer in a fit of pique, and lands up as a school teacher for which she has no qualification. And then she has a breakdown and her life falls into chaos. Is this a metaphor for Zimbabwe - once the breadbasket of Southern Africa with an educated populatio
  5. The worst that could happen by avoiding a book based on a bad review is that you miss out on something that you might have enjoyed. But as long as you read something else that was enjoyable, it's no biggie. We vaunt read everything. But on the other hand, there's much more danger from picking a book based on a good review - think of the time and money you'd lose if the book doesn't work for you. Generally, I know there are some readers whose tastes match mine quite closely and I pay their reviews a lot of attention. I also know there are some readers whose tastes seem
  6. We Germans is a thoughtful novel. It takes the form of a letter from a former German soldier who had fought on the Eastern front in World War II, answering his Scottish grandson Callum's question about what life was like in the War. And interleaved are Callum's reflections, now an adult remembering his deceased grandfather. This is an extremely nuanced narrative point of view. It is unusual to hear a German perspective from World War II, but this clearly is a narration that the reader should assume has been sanitised by the grandfather. So we have a grandfather who is repentant at having s
  7. As You Were is a story about Sinéad Hynes, a youngish woman in the West of Ireland, living with a terminal diagnosis. Her old life was shattered by the diagnosis - on her way home she saw a lone magpie and this divides her live into Before Magpie and After Magpie. Sinéad decides not to tell anyone - least of all her husband and three children. As her condition worsens, Sinéad requires more intensive palliation and is eventually hospitalised. There are also thoughts about the dying process - about how is becomes public property. However much Sinéad wants to keep it a private affair, she can
  8. I embarked upon The Bass Rock with high hopes. I loved All the Birds Singing, so a new Evie Wyld novel should have been right up my alley. Alas, it was not to be. I mean, do you ever get one of those novels that you get half way through and you try to describe what it's about and you can't? This is one of them. There are three (possibly four) narrative threads - a body found on a beach; a woman coming to close up the house of her late Grandmother in North Berwick in modern times; the domestic affairs of that grandmother in the post-war period; and a young girl accused of witchcraft
  9. The Liar's Dictionary brings together two parallel narratives. Mallory is a young gay woman, working as the sole assistant to David Swansby, proprieter of Swansby's (famously incomplete) Dictionary. They are creating a digitised version of the dictionary, updating the definitions for the 21st Century but refusing to add or subtract from the lexicon. They know they can't compete with the OED, Chambers or Collins so they celebrate Swansby's quirkiness. And Mallory works in the same grand building overlooking St James's Park in which the Dictionary was born in the 19th Century. The second nar
  10. Zingers (snack cakes from America) Next up - words that (however loosely) describe the weather. Arctic.
  11. The Wild Laughter is Caoilinn Hughes's follow up to The Orchid and the Wasp which was, for my money, the most complex and beguiling Celtic Tiger novel. This one is a big contrast - where The Orchid and The Wasp was a colourful novel about hope and good fortune set in Dublin and New York, The Wild Laughter is a dowdy novel set in dowdy County Roscommon. Is it just coincidence that this was John McGahern's setting for his loosely autobiographical The Barracks? We have a village. We have a farm. We have Doharty (Hart) Black about to inherit the farm from his mother Nora and his termin
  12. Kate Grenville has a winning formula and she’s jolly well going to stick with it. That formula is to set a story around the early years of the penal colony that has now grown into Sydney; to focus on particular early settlers; their journey to the colony; their work in claiming a life for themselves; and the impact that had on the Indigenous population. Kate Grenville does this very well; her writing is evocative; she creates both the place and the atmosphere of the time. She poses the same difficult questions about the human instinct for survival even at the cost of others – whether that i
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