Category Archives: Miscellaneous

The Corinthian – Georgette Heyer

Cover of The Corinthian
The Corinthian – Georgette Heyer

I love a good (well-written) regency romance and nobody does it better than Georgette Heyer. Her impressive research is displayed in descriptions of clothes, places and daily life (and someone what less successfully in regency slang).

Here’s the blurb …

The only question which hangs over the life of Sir Richard Wyndham, notable whip, dandy and Corinthian, is one of marriage. On the eve of making the most momentous decision of his life, while he is contemplating a loveless marriage with a woman his friends have compared to a cold poultice, he is on his way home, a little worse for drink, and finds a perfect opportunity for escape by her boring destiny. 

He discovers a beautiful young fugitive climbing out of a window by means of knotted sheets, dressed in boy’s clothing lovely Penelope Creed is fleeing from London. She is a brilliant London heiress with and lavish life, and a proposed marriage to her repulsive fish-lipped cousin, a man she loathed. She has a shimmering dream of a love she had known once–and lost. Discovered by Sir Wyndham, he can’t allow her to travel to the countryside all alone, so he offers himself as her protector.

And with her in flight across a landscape of excitement was a man like no other she had known– handsome, sophisticated, but cynical. They had met by accident, been drawn together by danger. And now only his masked emotions and the shifting impulses of her own wild young heart would tell what their destiny would be…. When their stagecoach overturns, they find themselves embroiled with thieves, at the center of a murder investigation, and finally, in love. (less)

This is one of my favourites – beautiful heroine, handsome hero, action, danger and a bit of comedy thrown in. All in all a fun, easy read.

Here is the wikipedia page on The Corinthian.

And this is an interesting blog post about the novel and what was happening in Heyer’s life at the time.

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Heart: A History – Sandeep Jauhar

Heart A History – Sandeep Jauhar

A friend lent me this book said I would like it, but I wasn’t convinced. However, I was pleasantly surprised. I did like it – very much (apart from some of the experiments – sharing a vascular system with a dog?) and I learnt interesting things.

Here’s the blurb …


The spark of life, fount of emotion, house of the soul – the heart lies at the centre of every facet of our existence. It’s so bound up in our deepest feelings that it can even suffer such distress from emotional trauma as to physically change shape.

Practising cardiologist Sandeep Jauhar beautifully weaves his own experiences with the defining discoveries of the past to tell the story of our most vital organ. We see Daniel Hale Williams perform the first open heart surgery and Wilson Greatbatch invent the pacemaker – by accident. Amid gripping scenes from the operating theatre, Jauhar tells the moving tale of his family’s own history of heart problems and, looking to the future, he outlines why the way we choose to live will be more important than any device we invent.

Definitely worth reading if you like social history and have a bit of an interest in science.

Another review and another.

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2018 – A Recap

My top three reads of 2018

This year I read 35 novels, which seems less than normal. I suspect there has been to much looking at pretty pictures on Instagram and Pinterest.

My top three were

  • Less – Andrew Sean Greer (and I have The Story of a Marriage in my TBR pile).
  • Circe – Madeline Miller
  • Golden Hill – Francis Spufford

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Lethal White – Robert Galbraith

Lethal White – Robert Galbraith

I read the first of these and thought I would read more, but 2 and 3 passed my by. I enjoyed this one, but it is too long. Too much extraneous information.

Here’s the blurb …

“I seen a kid killed…He strangled it, up by the horse.”

When Billy, a troubled young man, comes to private eye Cormoran Strike’s office to ask for his help investigating a crime he thinks he witnessed as a child, Strike is left deeply unsettled. While Billy is obviously mentally distressed, and cannot remember many concrete details, there is something sincere about him and his story. But before Strike can question him further, Billy bolts from his office in a panic.

Trying to get to the bottom of Billy’s story, Strike and Robin Ellacott—once his assistant, now a partner in the agency—set off on a twisting trail that leads them through the backstreets of London, into a secretive inner sanctum within Parliament, and to a beautiful but sinister manor house deep in the countryside.

And during this labyrinthine investigation, Strike’s own life is far from straightforward: his newfound fame as a private eye means he can no longer operate behind the scenes as he once did. Plus, his relationship with his former assistant is more fraught than it ever has been—Robin is now invaluable to Strike in the business, but their personal relationship is much, much trickier than that.

I still like the relationship between Robin and Strike (although it has turned a bit romantic) and I didn’t guess the villain (which in my books is a good thing).

Another review …

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/sep/17/lethal-white-robert-galbraith-review-jk-rowling

 

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Pachinko – Min Jee Lee

Pachinko -Min Jee Lee

Here is the blurb …

Pachinko follows one Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them all. Deserted by her lover, Sunja is saved when a young tubercular minister offers to marry and bring her to Japan.

So begins a sweeping saga of an exceptional family in exile from its homeland and caught in the indifferent arc of history. Through desperate struggles and hard-won triumphs, its members are bound together by deep roots as they face enduring questions of faith, family, and identity.

I know lots of people loved this, but I found it to be interminable. I enjoyed learning about Korea and Japan (and Koreans living in Japan), but it felt like a very long high school essay.

Another review …

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/mar/15/pachinko-min-jin-lee-review

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Dangerous Liaisons – Pierre Choderlos De Laclos

Dangerous Liaisons – Pierre Choderlos de Laclos

The theme for my historical fiction group is classic french literature, so we started this year with Dangerous Liaisons by Laclos. I was quite keen to read this having see this film when it was fisrt released at the cinema and then again recently in preparation of reading the novel.

Here is the blurb …

The complex moral ambiguities of seduction and revenge make “Dangerous Liaisons” (1782) one of the most scandalous and controversial novels in European literature. Its prime movers, the Viscount de Valmont and the Marchioness de Merteuil — gifted, wealthy, and bored — form an unholy alliance and turn seduction into a game. And they play this game with such wit and style that it is impossible not to admire them, until they discover mysterious rules that they cannot understand. In the ensuing battle there can be no winners, and the innocent suffer with the guilty.

The Marchioness de Merteuil and the Viscount de Valmont are creations without precedent. They are the first [in European literature] whose acts are determined by an ideology. —André Malraux
One of the two greatest French novels. —André Gide
What really keeps “Dangerous Liaisons” potent after two hundred years is not so much its depiction of sex as its catalog of corruptions, including but not limited to the corruption of language by polite cant and the corruption of morals by manners. It implicates a whole society so founded on falsehood that a single act of emotional truth is tantamount to an act of subversion. —Luc Sante
In many respects, Laclos is the perfect author: he wrote, at around the age of 40, one piece of fiction, which was not merely a masterpiece, but the supreme example of its genre, the epistolary novel; and then he troubled the public no further. —Christopher Hampton

It is a long novel so don’t do what I did and leave it to the last week and not finish it in time!

It is epistolary and written in four parts – the third part dragged for me. This novel is suprisingly modern – it was published in 1782 – and very salacious. It was designed to highlight the depravity of the french aristocracy. Valmont and de Merteuil were amoral, bored and making life interesting by seducing and ruining people.

The writing is extraordinary, each writers’ letters have a distinct style from the naive teenager Cecile to scheming, cynical Valmont.

More reviews …

Book Review | ‘Dangerous Liaisons’ – Choderlos De Laclos

Book Review – Les Liaisons Dangereuses, by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos

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2015 – In Review

Some of my favourite reads for 2015

Some of my favourite reads for 2015

Last year I reviewed 27 books – I have about 6 left to write – still much lower than 2014’s 44. I have had less time this – with more maths students and a bit too much busy work (that’s my inability to say no!).

My favourite novel for the year was Mr Wigg or The Dressmaker – unusual to have two Australian authors as my favourites.

I don’t have any big goals for the year – unless it is to read the books in my pile (that could take me the whole year).

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The Dressmaker – Rosalie Ham

The Dressmaker - Rosalie Ham

The Dressmaker – Rosalie Ham

 

Obviously I had to read this when I learnt that it was to be adapted (and with Kate Winslet). I have already read Summer at Mount Hope  and There Should be More Dancing . I didn’t enjoy The Summer at Mount Hope, but I have recently re-read it and I was quite taken the second time around.

Here is the blurb …

A darkly satirical novel of love, revenge, and 1950s haute couture—soon to be a major motion picture starring Kate Winslet and Liam Hemsworth

After twenty years spent mastering the art of dressmaking at couture houses in Paris, Tilly Dunnage returns to the small Australian town she was banished from as a child. She plans only to check on her ailing mother and leave. But Tilly decides to stay, and though she is still an outcast, her lush, exquisite dresses prove irresistible to the prim women of Dungatar. Through her fashion business, her friendship with Sergeant Farrat—the town’s only policeman, who harbors an unusual passion for fabrics—and a budding romance with Teddy, the local football star whose family is almost as reviled as hers, she finds a measure of grudging acceptance. But as her dresses begin to arouse competition and envy in town, causing old resentments to surface, it becomes clear that Tilly’s mind is set on a darker design: exacting revenge on those who wronged her, in the most spectacular fashion.

This was funny, moving and terribly sad by turns. It is a very visual novel with fabulous descriptions of Dungatar, it’s inhabitants and the frocks (reading about the frocks is particularly delightful). It is gothic – the characters almost caricatures -Mr Almanac the twisted (literally) chemist who refers to almost everyone as a sinner, Prudence Dimm, the bitter, vengeful school teacher, etc. There are very few likeable characters! But it is funny (in a dark way) and it skewers small town pretensions while highlighting the lack of power of vulnerable citizens.

More reviews …

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/16/books/review/the-dressmaker-by-rosalie-ham.html?_r=0

https://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/books/2015/08/21/book-review-the-dressmaker-rosalie-ham/a3WMu6yQYgfvLHh8j8xA5H/story.html

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Mr Wigg – Inga Simpson

Mr Wigg - Inga Simpson

Mr Wigg – Inga Simpson

This novel was recommended to me by someone at my Victorian book group – the same person recommended Olive Kitteridge. As I really enjoyed Olive Kitteridge, I was keen to read this one.

Here is the blurb …

A novel that celebrates the small things in life by a fresh Australian voice.
It’s the summer of 1971, not far from the stone-fruit capital of New South Wales, where Mr Wigg lives on what is left of his family farm. Mrs Wigg has been gone a few years now and he thinks about her every day. He misses his daughter, too, and wonders when he’ll see her again.
He spends his time working in the orchard, cooking and preserving his produce and, when it’s on, watching the cricket. It’s a full life. Things are changing though, with Australia and England playing a one-day match, and his new neighbours planting grapes for wine. His son is on at him to move into town but Mr Wigg has his fruit trees and his chooks to look after. His grandchildren visit often: to cook, eat and hear his stories. And there’s a special project he has to finish …
It’s a lot of work for an old man with shaking hands, but he’ll give it a go, as he always has.

This is a charming novel – quirky and simple. It is an easy read – not a lot happens. Mr Wigg works in his orchard (he tells himself and his grand children a beautiful story about an orchard), he bakes with his grandchildren, helps his neighbours and works on his sculpture. Along the way you learn that things haven’t always been lovely – there was the year when everything went wrong. His son has had to move and Mr Wigg seems distant/estranged from his daughter. The reasons for this are revealed slowly and I am sure it is a tale common to many farming families. However, this novel is mostly about taking each day as it comes and taking pleasure in the simple things – fresh peaches, homemade icecream, spending time with your grandchildren and working on something creative.

Another review …

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/entertainment/arts/inga-simpson-opens-a-window-on-the-past-in-evocative-work-mr-wigg/story-fniv7r7y-1226673212160

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2014 Review

Some books read in 2014

Some books read in 2014

I reviewed 44 books last year, which must mean I read at least 44 books because I don’t write reviews for all of the books I read.

My favourite reads were The Good Luck of Right Now and The Collected Works of A J Fikry and I feel most smug about finishing The Women in White and The Moonstone (both enormous Victorian novels).

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