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About blithe_spirit

  • Birthday February 4


  • Biography
    Studying for a degree in French and Art History
  • Location
  • Interests
    Art history; languages; reading.
  • How did you hear about this site?
    Yahoo search

Profile Information

  • Gender
  • Location
  • Interests
    History, reading, travelling, painting
  • Current Book
    The Game of Kings

blithe_spirit's Achievements


Resident (4/5)

  1. It is strange - I even searched manually through all the threads as I was surprised not to find something on a novel such as this. Still, it was interesting reading other people's opinions of it.
  2. Apologies! I had searched to see if there was already a thread started but could not find one.
  3. This is one of the best novels that I have read in a while. The story tells of two sisters, born in India, who return as children to the family home in Edinburgh during the early part of the twentieth century. Esme, the younger sister has already had a traumatic experience with the death of her baby brother when her parents and older sister, Kitty, were away from home and on their arrival in Edinburgh she proves to be a difficult and wayward child. Following a further frightening experience with a boy at age 16 her parents, along with a family doctor, have her committed to a mental institution where she remains for over sixty one years. When the institution is being closed down it falls to her great niece, Iris, who knew nothing of Esme's existence, to support her as somewhere is found for her to stay. Meanwhile sister Kitty is in an Edinburgh care home suffering from Alzheimer's disease. As the story develops the reader is left to work out where the various clues are leading and much is left to the reader's own imagination. Maggie O'Farrell's terse style of writing lends itself to the stream of consciousness approach that she gives to the narrative. This is a thoroughly enjoyable and well-written novel but with a somewhat disturbing theme.
  4. Yonder see the morning blink: The sun is up, and up must I, To wash and dress and eat and drink And look at things and talk and think And work, and God knows why. Oh often have I washed and dressed And what's to show for all my pain? Let me lie abed and rest: Ten thousand times I've done my best And all's to do again. Yonder see the Morning blink by A. E. Housman
  5. I finished Simon Montefiore's Sashenka early this morning and have now started on Donna Tartt's The Secret History. It's looking good so far.
  6. I have to say that I am one of those who absolutely loved Wolf Hall. Hilary Mantel showed a very human side to her characters, especially Thomas Cromwell, that we do not find in the history books. Her writing style was, I thought, very sharp and kept me engaged in such a way that it did not seem like a 650 page book. My only concern was her continual references to Cromwell as 'he' which resulted in confusion regarding who was actually speaking or being referred to at the time but this only served to keep me on my toes as I read.
  7. I have just finished reading this novel and would agree with this statement. Although no-one would question the author's credentials as a historian his novel reads very much like a first novel. I almost gave up on it when reading the first one hundred pages as I felt that it did not really flow well because Montefiore was trying too hard to set the scene with too much detail, especially with his repetitive English references such as 'the English Shop', Huntly and Palmers biscuits and Pears soap. However, I persisted and became quite absorbed in the events even if they were related rather clumsily. Sashenka's transition from schoolgirl to Bolshevik was not quite as convincing as it might have been although I did feel that the description of St Petersburg society as it would have been in 1916 was well done. When the story moved to Moscow, 1939, Montefiore seemed to get into his stride and his knowledge of the history of the period helped create a very convincing impression of life under Stalin. The tension that Sashenka had to endure between being a good Soviet wife, a devoted mother and a passionate woman enabled me to relate to her during this period of her life in a society where one never knew who could be trusted - not even those closest to one. I read this part of the book in a single session, unable to put it down as the story advanced at a very fast pace indeed. When the story moved forward to the new Russia of the mid-1990s with its vast divisions between rich and poor I felt Montefiore demonstrated very well that in some ways the Russian people had come in a full circle but somehow, without trying to give anything away, I thought the ending was a little too neat - again showing Montefiore's inexperience as a novelist. St Petersburg, 1916, was very reminiscent of Tolstoy's descriptions while the tram scene in Moscow reminded one very much of that in Dr Zhivago but I would probably add that we were also reminded of the Da Vinci Code during the last part of the story as Katinka attempts to make sense of Stalin’s archives.. As a historical novel it was very ambitious in its scope and Montefiore did achieve what he set out to do which was "to write about how an ordinary family coped with the triumphs and tragedies of twentieth-century Russian history". If, as a reader, I were to fault this novel it would be that there was a great deal of irrelevant detail, much of which could have been omitted, but overall it was a gripping account of an intriguing but disturbing period in Russia's history and I hope that we might in the future have more fiction from Simon Montefiore.
  8. Had some time to kill in town this morning so I bought: Sepulchre by Kate Mosse The Good Husband of Zebra Drive by Alexander McCall Smith
  9. I am on holiday for the next three weeks and today I finally managed to get to the 'Glasgow Boys' exhibition at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery- an afternoon well-spent.
  10. Just came across this: MAN BOOKER 2010 LONGLIST Peter Carey, Parrot and Olivier in America Emma Donoghue, Room Helen Dunmore, The Betrayal Damon Galgut, In a Strange Room Howard Jacobson, The Finkler Question Andrea Levy, The Long Song Tom McCarthy, C David Mitchell, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet Lisa Moore, February Paul Murray, Skippy Dies Rose Tremain, Trespass Christos Tsiolkas, The Slap Alan Warner, The Stars in the Bright Sky
  11. Currently reading 'Sashenka' by Simon Montefiore. The author is better known as a historian and this is his first novel. I almost gave up on it at the start but am now about two-thirds of the way through and unable to put it down.
  12. I've watched you now a full half-hour, Self-poised upon that yellow flower; And, little Butterfly! indeed I know not if you sleep or feed. How motionless! - not frozen seas More motionless! and then What joy awaits you, when the breeze Hath found you out among the trees, And calls you forth again! This plot of orchard-ground is ours; My trees they are, my Sister's flowers; Here rest your wing when they are weary; Here lodge as in a sanctuary! Come often to us, fear no wrong; Sit near us on the bough! We'll talk of sunshine and of song, And summer days, when we were young; Sweet childish days, that were as long As twenty days are now. To a Butterfly by William Wordsworth
  13. I just bought from Waterstones: Sylvia Plath:Poems selected by Ted Hughes and borrowed from the library: The Secret History by Donna Tartt
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