Category Archives: 4

Redhead by the Side of the Road – Anne Tyler

Redhead by the Side of the Road – Anne Tyler

I like Anne Tyler. I have read a number of her novels. This one is quite short, more of a novella.

Here’s the blurb …

Micah Mortimer isn’t the most polished person you’ll ever meet. His numerous sisters and in-laws regard him oddly but very fondly, but he has his ways and means of navigating the world. He measures out his days running errands for work – his TECH HERMIT sign cheerily displayed on the roof of his car – maintaining an impeccable cleaning regime and going for runs (7:15, every morning). He is content with the steady balance of his life.

But then the order of things starts to tilt. His woman friend Cassia (he refuses to call anyone in her late thirties a ‘girlfriend’) tells him she’s facing eviction because of a cat. And when a teenager shows up at Micah’s door claiming to be his son, Micah is confronted with another surprise he seems poorly equipped to handle.

Redhead by the Side of the Road is an intimate look into the heart and mind of a man who sometimes finds those around him just out of reach – and a love story about the differences that make us all unique.

This had all of the hall marks of an Anne Tyler novel – A Baltimore setting, a close look at an ordinary person. Micah is a very orderly man – he has a daily cleaning roster and he drives very carefully – and life has taken a bit of a toll on him. He left college early to start up a tech company, but couldn’t work with the investor, and several relationships have failed (and the one with Cass is looking doomed). He is a good man trying to do the right thing, he just doesn’t know sometimes what the right thing to do is.

A review.

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These Old Shades – Georgette Heyer

These Old Shades – Georgette Heyer

This is the third novel in my read all Heyer’s romance novels in publication order. First was The Black Moth and second Powder and Patch.

This one is still set in the Georgian era – think powdered wigs, high heels, and lots of silk brocade. It has some characters from The Black Moth (the evil Duke of Andover is reformed – somewhat, and he is now the Duke of Avon, so maybe not the same character?).

Here’s the blurb …

The Duke is known for his coldness of manner, his remarkable omniscience, and his debauched lifestyle. Late one evening, he is accosted by a young person dressed in ragged boy’s clothing running away from a brutal rustic guardian. The Duke buys “Leon” and makes the child his page.

Reading the novels in order highlights Heyer’s growth as an author. In my opinion this ‘sequel’ is better than The Black Moth.

I think modern readers will struggle with the age difference (20 plus years) and the fact the heroine is the hero’s ward.

It’s witty, well-researched, and there is a bit of intrigue. A very entertaining read.

A review.

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Kind of Sort of Maybe … but Probably Not – Imbi Neeme

Kind of Sort of Maybe … But Probably Not – Imbi Neeme

I bought this from a lovely book store while I was in Melbourne. I wanted a novel to read on the plane.

Here`s the blurb …

A charming, nostalgic, quirky, uplifting novel of people young and old finding their tribe, gaining courage to be themselves and perhaps falling in love, too.

Librarian Phoebe Cotton lives with misophonia. The sound of other people crunching an apple, slurping their tea or snapping chewing gum fills her with a rage that she buries deep within.

Mortified by her ‘Not Quite Right’ brain, she hides away inside 6 Salmon Street, the family home that her formidable grandmother Dorothy has abandoned for a more convivial life at the Western Retreat Retirement Village. But when Phoebe begins receiving mysterious postcards in the mail, she slowly, but surely, finds herself being pulled back out into the world and towards Monty, the sweet postal clerk.

Across town, Suze, a university student with a high distinction in study avoidance, is clinging to the hope that the neglectful J might actually be her boyfriend. When J’s attention turns to Ky, it sets Suze on a path that leads her to 6 Salmon Street and Phoebe Cotton.

Together with Suze and Monty, Phoebe goes on a mission to solve the mystery of the postcards but ends up finding much, much more, including acceptance, strength and love.

This was enjoyable, well-written and interesting. And the characters (the ones you are meant to like) were great. I particularly liked larger than life Charlie. I found it to be uplifting, with all our various quirks we can still find friends, and happiness.

A review.

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Audrey’s Gone AWOL – Annie De Monchaux

Audrey’s Gone AWOL – Annie de Monchaux

I read about this in the Open Book newsletter – and it seemed like the perfect novel to take on holiday.

Here’s the blurb …

It’s never too late to reinvent your life

Audrey Lamont has happily devoted herself to family life for the best part of 40 years, but lately she’s become aware that she lost herself somewhere between ‘I do’ and the weekly shop.  
Worse, her academic husband Simon has found time for romance – just not with Audrey.
Feeling invisible to everyone, even herself, she flees to her aunt’s home in rural France.  
While waiting for her sudden absence to spark a change of heart in Simon, Audrey finds solace in the charms of the French countryside and the company of her aged aunt and a cast of eccentric Bretons.  
But soon Audrey discovers going AWOL might do more than save her marriage, it might change her life …
 

Audrey’s Gone AWOL is a funny and beautifully observed story about losing yourself, finding yourself, and discovering joy.

I enjoyed it. A book about a mature heroine re-discovering her life after raising a family. And she goes to France and meets a cast of quirky characters (I want it to be made into a film so I can see Lilou’s outfits.). It is easy to read, well-written and has things to say about being a wife and mother (and the differences between how older women are viewed In France and Australia).

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North Woods – Daniel Mason

North Woods – Daniel Mason

I kept seeing this novel everywhere and I finally decided to buy a copy.

Here’s the blurb …

When a pair of young lovers abscond from a Puritan colony, little do they know that their humble cabin in the woods will become the home of an extraordinary succession of human and inhuman characters alike. An English soldier, destined for glory, abandons the battlefields of the New World to devote himself to apples. A pair of spinster twins navigate war and famine, envy and desire. A crime reporter unearths a mass grave – only to discover that the ancient trees refuse to give up their secrets. A lovelorn painter, a sinister conman, a stalking panther, a lusty as each inhabitant confronts the wonder and mystery around them, they begin to realize that the dark, raucous, beautiful past is very much alive.

In his transcendent fourth novel, Pulitzer Prize finalist Daniel Mason delivers a magisterial and highly inventive tale brimming with love and madness, humor and hope. Following the cycles of history, nature and even language, North Woods shows the myriad, magical ways in which we’re connected to our environment, to history and to each other. It is not just an unforgettable novel about buried secrets and inevitable fates, but a way of looking at the world.

This novel has an interesting premise and structure. First, it’s about a place. We meet all of the people who live in this place over time. From the very first white settlers to sometime in the near future. Second, all of the various accounts are told in different ways; a written history for posterity, ballads, almanacs, medical notes, letters to a friend, etc. I found it compelling (maybe not the ballads), but all of the other sections were well-written and moved the story along. It is also a bit mystical – there’s hauntings. It also has an environmental message; we see the forest slowly destroyed by various pests and diseases, and then global warming is the last nail in the coffin for several trees.

A review.

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Spook Street – Mick Herron

Spook Street – Mick Herron

I listened to this one in preparation for the next TV series.

Here’s the blurb …

What happens when an old spook loses his mind? Does the Service have a retirement home for those who know too many secrets but don’t remember they’re secret? Or does someone take care of the senile spy for good? These are the questions River Cartwright must ask when his grandfather, a Cold War–era operative, starts to forget to wear pants and begins to suspect everyone in his life has been sent by the Service to watch him.

But River has other things to worry about. A bomb goes off in the middle of a busy shopping center and kills forty innocent civilians. The agents of Slough House have to figure out who is behind this act of terror before the situation escalates

Something happens very early in the novel, which made me think I might be done with the Slow Horses novels, but I pushed on, and it was fine. High body count, but would you expect anything else?

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Women Food and God – Geneen Roth

Women Food and God – Geneen Roth

As someone who has issues with food and weight, I was interested in reading this one. I read Conquering Fat Logic by Nadja Hermann last year and I found it very liberating. I realised I was in charge of my weight – no excuses.

Here’s the blurb…

Roth began exploring emotional eating in her bestseller When Food Is Love. Now, two decades later, here is her masterwork: WOMEN FOOD AND GOD.

The way you eat is inseparable from your core beliefs about being alive. No matter how sophisticated or wise or enlightened you believe you are, how you eat tells all. The world is on your plate. When you begin to understand what prompts you to use food as a way to numb or distract yourself, the process takes you deeper into realms of spirit and to the bright center of your own life. Rather than getting rid of or instantly changing your conflicted relationship with food, Women Food and God is about welcoming what is already here, and contacting the part of yourself that is already whole—divinity itself.

This book covers emotional eating (my big downfall), why we do it and how we can stop it. I found it confronting and enlightening.

A review.

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A Needle in the Right Hand of God – R Howard Block

A Needle in the Right Hand of God – R Howard Block

I am going to Bayeux this year – I was meant to go in 2020, but that wasn’t to be, so this is the year. I am very keen to see the Bayeux Tapestry (and yes I know it’s not a tapestry).

This is the latest of several books on the tapestry that I have read.

Here’s the blurb …

The Bayeux Tapestry is the world’s most famous textile–an exquisite 230-foot-long embroidered panorama depicting the events surrounding the Norman Conquest of 1066. It is also one of history’s most mysterious and compelling works of art. This haunting stitched account of the battle that redrew the map of medieval Europe has inspired dreams of theft, waves of nationalism, visions of limitless power, and esthetic rapture. In his fascinating new book, Yale professor R. Howard Bloch reveals the history, the hidden meaning, the deep beauty, and the enduring allure of this astonishing piece of cloth.

Bloch opens with a gripping account of the event that inspired the Tapestry: the swift, bloody Battle of Hastings, in which the Norman bastard William defeated the Anglo-Saxon king, Harold, and laid claim to England under his new title, William the Conqueror. But to truly understand the connection between battle and embroidery, one must retrace the web of international intrigue and scandal that climaxed at Hastings. Bloch demonstrates how, with astonishing intimacy and immediacy, the artisans who fashioned this work of textile art brought to life a moment that changed the course of British culture and history.

Every age has cherished the Tapestry for different reasons and read new meaning into its enigmatic words and images. French nationalists in the mid-nineteenth century, fired by Tapestry’s evocation of military glory, unearthed the lost French epic “The Song of Roland,” which Norman troops sang as they marched to victory in 1066. As the Nazis tightened their grip on Europe, Hitler
sent a team to France to study the Tapestry, decode its Nordic elements, and, at the end of the war, with Paris under siege, bring the precious cloth to Berlin. The richest horde of buried Anglo-Saxon treasure, the matchless beauty of Byzantine silk, Aesop’s strange fable “The Swallow and the Linseed,” the colony that Anglo-Saxon nobles founded in the Middle East following their defeat at Hastings–all are brilliantly woven into Bloch’s riveting narrative.

Seamlessly integrating Norman, Anglo-Saxon, Viking, and Byzantine elements, the Bayeux Tapestry ranks with Chartres and the Tower of London as a crowning achievement of medieval Europe. And yet, more than a work of art, the Tapestry served as the suture that bound up the wounds of 1066.

Enhanced by a stunning full-color insert that includes reproductions of the complete Tapestry, A Needle in the Right Hand of God will stand with The Professor and the Madman and How the Irish Saved Civilization as a triumph of popular history.

This book covers European history around the time of the conquest, prior to the conquest and up to the First Crusade. The author has a theory that the First Crusade is the second Norman Conquest and that the tapestry looks forward to the Crusade. He writes about the ‘tapestry maker’ and what might have been the sources for the design and motifs. I need to read it with images of the tapestry, so I can gain a better understanding. This had a wider view than the previous books I had read; The Story of the Bayeux Tapestry – Musgrove and Lewis, and The Bayeux Tapestry Carolina Hicks.

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The Other Bridget – Rachael Johns

The Other Bridget – Rachael Johns

This is my first novel by Rachael Johns. I haven’t read anything else because I thought she wrote outback or bush romance, which is not my thing. However, the blurb for this one appealed to me.

Here is the blurb …

A feelgood romantic comedy by Australia’s bestselling romance writer, ideal for fans of Emily Henry and Marian Keyes.

Named after a famous fictional character, librarian Bridget Jones was raised on a remote cattle station, with only her mother’s romance novels for company. Now living alone in Fremantle, Bridget is a hopeless romantic. She also believes that anyone who doesn’t like reading just hasn’t met the right book yet, and that connecting books to their readers is her superpower. If only her love life was that easy.

When handsome Italian barista Fabio progresses from flirting with love hearts on her coffee foam to joining the book club she runs at her library, Bridget prays her romance ‘curse’ won’t ruin things. But it’s the attention of her cranky neighbour Sully that seems to be the major obstacle in her life. Why is he going to so much effort to get under her skin?

With the help of her close friends and the colourful characters who frequent her library, Bridget decides to put both men to the test by finding just the right books to capture their very different hearts. She soon discovers that not all romances start with a meet-cute, but they might just end in happily ever after…

Written by Australia’s most beloved romance writer, The Other Bridget is a delightfully uplifting book about books, and a gorgeous celebration of the power and pleasure of romance novels throughout the ages.

There is so much to like about this novel. It is set in Fremantle (it is always nice to read about local places), it’s about reading and working in a library. There are a lot of book recommendations that I wish I had made a note of as I was reading (or if there was a book list at the end of the book along with the book club questions). It’s the classic ‘enemy to lovers’ trope (think Pride and Prejudice), which is one of my favourites. That and ‘friends to lovers’ (think Emma). It is witty, but with some depth.

A review.

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If on a Winter’s night a Traveller – Italo Calvino

If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller – Italo Calvino

I read about this in Once Upon a Prime by Sarah Hart and reserved it from the library (it was a bit of a sprint to finish it before it had to be returned).

It has an interesting construction – story within story within story, and I was intrigued by each one, only to have them break off (which was the point I think).

Here is the blurb …

Italo Calvino’s masterpiece combines a love story and a detective story into an exhilarating allegory of reading, in which the reader of the book becomes the book’s central character.

Based on a witty analogy between the reader’s desire to finish the story and the lover’s desire to consummate his or her passion, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller is the tale of two bemused readers whose attempts to reach the end of the same book, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino, of course, are constantly and comically frustrated. In between chasing missing chapters of the book, the hapless readers tangle with an international conspiracy, a rogue translator, an elusive novelist, a disintegrating publishing house, and several oppressive governments. The result is a literary labyrinth of storylines that interrupt one another—an Arabian Nights of the postmodern age.

Because the story is lots of disjoint stories it is quite hard to know where you are when you pick up the book again after a pause. Not a good book to read when you have a spare five minutes.

I found each of the stories to be quite gripping, even the titles are good, and put together they make a good opening paragraph for another story.

This novel is for readers (and writers), it’s about the joy of reading, the frustration of the story being interrupted and finding other readers with whom to discuss your reading. Plus it puts reading and literature at the heart of a global conspiracy.

A review.

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