Monthly Archives: October 2009

The Year of the Flood – Margaret Atwood


I’m a keen Margaret Atwood fan so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this week. Being slightly more organised that normal, I re-read Oryx and Crake (although I think The Year of the Flood can be read without having first read Oryx and Crake).

The way Atwood uses language is breath taking – it must be the poet in her. The name of the companies are fabulous, i.e  HelthWyzer and the genetic splices (lion and lamb, raccoon and skunk).

It is much easier to feel sympathy for the characters in this novel. Let’s face it – Snowman and Crake were very unpleasant.

Adam One, the kindly leader of the God’s Gardeners – a religion devoted to the melding of science, religion, and nature – has long predicted a disaster. Now it has occurred, obliterating most human life. Two women remain: Ren, a young dancer locked away in a high-end sex club, and Toby, a former God’s Gardener, who barricades herself inside a luxurious spa. Have others survived? Ren’s bio-artist friend Amanda? Zeb, her eco-fighter stepfather? Her onetime lover, Jimmy? Or the murderous Painballers? Not to mention the CorpSeCorps, the shadowy policing force of the ruling powers… As Adam One and his beleaguered followers regroup, Ren and Toby emerge into an altered world, where nothing – including the animal life – is predictable.

 Atwood has created a (scarily) realistic world where commerce reigns supreme. I think it is very easy to see how we get from here (where we are now) to there. This novel is a bit more hopeful than Oryx and Crake or perhaps I should say less bleak. The survivors might just be able to stay alive and start a new civilization although I’m a bit worried about the torch bearers at the end.

In all honesty I do have to say that I liked her earlier works better.

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Filed under Recommended, Serious

Breathing Lessons – Anne Tyler


I’ve been making an effort to get books from the library and this is one I found while browsing (I was looking for Sarah Waters). It one the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

I liked this one – Maggie is so annoying. She interferes with the best of intentions and then just makes every thing worse. The characters are fabulous and the situations so believable. Ms Tyler works on a small canvas – not many characters and people don’t move far from their hometown. A bit like Austen’s ‘three or four families in a country village’.

Here is the blurb …

Maggie and Ira Moran have been married for twenty-eight years–and it shows: in their quarrels, in their routines, in their ability to tolerate with affection each other’s eccentricities. Maggie, a kooky, lovable meddler and an irrepressible optimist, wants nothing more than to fix her son’s broken marriage. Ira is infuriatingly practical, a man “who should have married Ann Landers.” And what begins as a day trip to a funeral becomes an adventure in the unexpected. As Maggie and Ira navigate the riotous twists and turns, they intersect with an assorted cast of eccentrics–and rediscover the magic of the road called life and the joy of having somebody next to you to share the ride . . . bumps and all.
This is a novel for people (like me) who don’t need a lot of action, but like to see the plot slowly unfold and reveal more and more about the characters.
Here are some other sites that might be of interest.


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Sixty Lights – Gail Jones


My book club chose this book because the author is Western Australian and it was reviewed as being one of the ‘must reads’.

It had a lovely visual quality and the writing was simple, but eloquent.

Here is the publisher’s blurb …

‘Photography has without doubt made her a seer; she is a woman of the future, someone leaning into time, beyond others, precarious, unafraid to fall…’

This is the story of Lucy Strange, a photographer, while the art is in its infancy, in the 1870s, who exists in an extraordinarily heightened state of seeing and imagining. Her tale is told in sixty illuminated parts – using candlelight, flames, lightning, gas-lamps, mirrors, magic lanterns and, most mysteriously, lit faces and bodies. In a contracted, almost modernist form, SIXTY LIGHTS tracks Lucy’s life from her childhood in Australia, to her stormy adolescence in England and India and finally to her death in London at the age of twenty-three. It is a life abbreviated, but not a life diminished: she is a remarkable character, forthright, gifted, passionate and canny. SIXTY LIGHTS plays powerfully with Victorian tropes and texts – orphans, inheritances, Great Expectations – setting them against the technological revolution in seeing that is inspired by photography. Written with astute imagistic precision, the story is deeply layered, fluctuating between past, present and future. This is an impressive UK debut from a prize-winning Australian author.

There are sixty chapters – hence the title Sixty Lights – each chapter is like a photograph or still life – little snippets from Lucy’s life, which together make a compelling and interesting story.

I’ll definitely be looking for more of her work.

Here are some other reviews …

Here is an interview with Gail Jones

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Love Letters – Katie Fforde


I’ve been a Katie Fforde fan for a long time. When I hear about a new novel I pre-order it so I can get it quickly. They are very formulaic (and there is something comforting in that) and easy to read.

Here’s the information from Katie Fforde’s website …

With bookshop where she works about to close, Laura Horsley, in a moment of uncharacteristic recklessness, finds herself agreeing to help organise a literary festival deep in the heart of the English countryside. But her initial excitement is rapidly followed by a mounting sense of panic when reality sinks in and she realises just how much work is involved – especially when an innocent mistake leads the festival committee to believe that Laura is a personal friend of the author at the top of their wish-list. Laura might have been secretly infatuated with the infamous Dermot Flynn ever since she studied him at university, but travelling to Ireland to persuade the notorious recluse to come out of hiding is another matter.

Determined to rise to the challenge, she sets off to meet her literary hero. But all too soon she’s confronted with more than she bargained for – Dermot the man is maddening, temperamental and up to his ears in a nasty case of writer’s block. But he’s also infuriatingly attractive – and, apparently, out to add Laura to his list of conquests …

I was a bit disappointed with this one. I was also disappointed with Marian Keyes latest novel, so it might be me rather than these novels.

I didn’t feel much sympathy for Laura – in fact I thought she was a bit pathetic. I also thought everything was a bit too contrived.

Here are some other reviews …

I thought this next review was great … particularly about the dull as dishwater heroines.


Filed under Fiction - Light

The Bronte’s Went to Woolworths – Rachel Ferguson


I bought this book based on a few blog entries. I’m not quite sure what I was expecting. It was a fun, light and entertaining novel, but just a bit strange. This novel is about imagination and group flights of imagination and family ties. It has a definite upper-middle class English feel to it.

This novel was first published in 1931 and has been re-released as part of the Bloomsbury Group of lost classics.

This is the Amazon description…

As growing up in pre-war London looms large in the lives of the Carne sisters, Deirdre, Katrine and young Sheil still share an insatiable appetite for the fantastic. Eldest sister Deirdre is a journalist, Katrine a fledgling actress and young Sheil is still with her governess; together they live a life unchecked by their mother in their bohemian town house. Irrepressibly imaginative, the sisters cannot resist making up stories as they have done since childhood; from their talking nursery toys, Ironface the Doll and Dion Saffyn the pierrot, to their fulsomely-imagined friendship with real high-court Judge Toddington who, since Mrs Carne did jury duty, they affectionately called Toddy. However, when Deirdre meets Toddy’s real-life wife at a charity bazaar, the sisters are forced to confront the subject of their imaginings. Will the sisters cast off the fantasies of childhood forever? Will Toddy and his wife, Lady Mildred, accept these charmingly eccentric girls? And when fancy and reality collide, who can tell whether Ironface can really talk, whether Judge Toddington truly wears lavender silk pyjamas or whether the Brontes did indeed go to Woolworths? The Brontes Went to Woolworths is part of The Bloomsbury Group, a new library of books from the early twentieth-century chosen by readers for readers.

Here are some other reviews …


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Filed under Fiction - Light, Recommended

New Aquisitions

This is my latest collection of new books.


Her Fearful Symmetry Audrey Niffenegger

Ballet ShoesNoel Streatfeild

The Brontes Ingham

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall Anne Bronte

The Year of the Flood Margaret Atwood

And some more from the second hand book store.


The Longest Journey E. M. Forster

A Wreath of Roses Elizabeth Taylor

Brideshead Revisited Evelyn Waugh

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The Brightest Star in the Sky – Marian Keyes


I’m a keen Marian Keyes fan. I’ve read them all – they’re one of my guilty pleasures. 

While on holiday (here) I read in the paper that she had a new book out, so I popped down to the local Book Store and picked up (what I think might have been their only copy) a copy.

This novel is what I’ve come to expect from Marian Keyes – a humourous look at relationships with something serious thrown in as well.

Here is the blurb from the back …

At 66, Star Street in Dublin, someone is watching over the lives of the people living in its flats. But no one is aware of it – yet . . .

One of them is ready to take the plunge and fall in love; another is torn between two very different lovers. For some, secrets they want to stay buried will come to light and for others, the unveiling of those secrets will have tragic consequences.

Fate is on its way to Star Street, bringing with it love and tragedy, friendship and heartbreak, and the power to change their lives in the most unexpected of ways.

It’s a quick read, but I didn’t really enjoy it. I liked the fact that there were several ‘leading’ characters, but I didn’t feel particularly sympathetic to any of them. In my opinion it was lacking Keyes usual wit and I feel she is trying too hard to write about ‘serious’ subjects. I’m not sure to whom I would recommend this book – it’s not for people who like light bright and sparkling, but it’s also not for people who like books with a bit of edge.


Filed under Fiction - Light