Category Archives: 4

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.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 4, Non-Fiction

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.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 4, Digital, History, Non-Fiction

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.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 4, Fiction, Paper, Romance

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.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 4, Fiction, Paper

I didn’t do the Thing Today – Madeline Dore

I didn’t do the Thing Today – Madeline Dore

I have had a kindle version of this for a while, I do like a book that encourages taking it easy.

Here’s the blurb …

Any given day brings a never-ending list of things to do. There’s the work thing, the catch-up thing, the laundry thing, the creative thing, the exercise thing, the family thing, the thing we don’t want to do, and the thing we’ve been putting off, despite it being the most important thing. Even on days when we get a lot done, the thing left undone can leave us feeling guilty, anxious, or disappointed.

After five years of searching for the secret to productivity, Madeleine Dore discovered there isn’t one. Instead, we’re being set up to fail. I Didn’t Do the Thing Today is the inspiring call to take productivity off its pedestal—by dismantling our comparison to others, aspirational routines, and the unrealistic notions of what can be done in a day, we can finally embrace the joyful messiness and unpredictability of life.

For anyone who has ever felt the pressure to do more, be more, achieve more, this antidote to our doing-obsession is the permission slip we all need to find our own way.

This book is good for anyone who gets a bit obsessed about their to do list, or their routine (I am guilty of that – although I do need a bit of structure in my day). We all only have 24 hours a day and we need to prioritise them to suit ourselves and not the rest of the world.

A review.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 4, Digital, Miscellaneous

The Sun Walks Down – Fiona McFarlane

The Sun Walks Down – Fiona McFarlane

I heard lots of people talking about this book, which (being contrary) put me off, but I did eventually cave in and buy a copy.

Here’s the blurb …

In September 1883, the South Australian town of Fairly huddles under strange, vivid sunsets. Six-year-old Denny Wallace has gone missing during a dust storm, and the whole town is intent on finding him. As they search the desert and mountains for the lost child, the residents of Fairly – newlyweds, landowners, farmers, mothers, artists, Indigenous trackers, cameleers, children, schoolteachers, widows, maids, policemen – explore their own relationships with the complex landscape unsettling history of the Flinders Ranges.

The colonial Australia of The Sun Walks Down is unfamiliar, multicultural, and noisy with opinions, arguments, longings and terrors. It’s haunted by many gods – the sun among them, rising and falling on each day that Denny could be found, or lost forever.

I enjoyed this novel, the writing is beautiful and I enjoyed all of the different character’s perspectives. The descriptions of the landscape and the sky and sun (particularly the sunsets) were lovely and very evocative. The characters are fully-fleshed out, with nuance and subtlety.

A review.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 4, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Paper

The Dressmakers of Auschwitz – Lucy Adlington

The Dressmakers of Auschwitz – Lucy Adlington

I attended a (virtual) talk by Lucy Adlington – it was organised by Selvedge magazine. After that, I was keen to read this book. I found a copy in Busselton (in the local Dymocks). It did take me a while to get to it.

Here’s the blurb …

A powerful chronicle of the women who used their sewing skills to survive the Holocaust, stitching beautiful clothes at an extraordinary fashion workshop created within one of the most notorious WWII death camps. 

At the height of the Holocaust twenty-five young inmates of the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp—mainly Jewish women and girls—were selected to design, cut, and sew beautiful fashions for elite Nazi women in a dedicated salon. It was work that they hoped would spare them from the gas chambers. 

This fashion workshop—called the Upper Tailoring Studio—was established by Hedwig Höss, the camp commandant’s wife, and patronized by the wives of SS guards and officers. Here, the dressmakers produced high-quality garments for SS social functions in Auschwitz, and for ladies from Nazi Berlin’s upper crust. 

Drawing on diverse sources—including interviews with the last surviving seamstress—The Dressmakers of Auschwitz follows the fates of these brave women. Their bonds of family and friendship not only helped them endure persecution, but also to play their part in camp resistance. Weaving the dressmakers’ remarkable experiences within the context of Nazi policies for plunder and exploitation, historian Lucy Adlington exposes the greed, cruelty, and hypocrisy of the Third Reich and offers a fresh look at a little-known chapter of World War II and the Holocaust.

This is an extraordinary story that needs to be told and remembered. Not easy reading, I am not sure how anyone survived it and went on to live productive lives. And their treatment directly after the war was also heart-breaking.

It is well-written and researched, and with the death of the last survivor in 2021, we need books like this to remind us of the past.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 4, History, Non-Fiction, Paper

Once Upon a Prime – Sarah Hart

Once Upon a Prime – Sarah Hart

I saw this book at my local book store and had to read it. In the Venn diagram of maths and literature, I thought I was alone in the intersection.

Here’s the blurb …

We often think of mathematics and literature as polar opposites. But what if, instead, they were fundamentally linked? In this insightful, laugh-out-loud funny book, Once Upon a Prime, Professor Sarah Hart shows us the myriad connections between maths and literature, and how understanding those connections can enhance our enjoyment of both.

Did you know, for instance, that Moby-Dick is full of sophisticated geometry? That James Joyce’s stream-of-consciousness novels are deliberately checkered with mathematical references? That George Eliot was obsessed with statistics? That Jurassic Park is undergirded by fractal patterns? That Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote mathematician characters?

From sonnets to fairytales to experimental French literature, Once Upon a Prime takes us on an unforgettable journey through the books we thought we knew, revealing new layers of beauty and wonder. Professor Hart shows how maths and literature are complementary parts of the same quest, to understand human life and our place in the universe.

It was a great – a lot of food for thought and a list of more books to read.

A review

1 Comment

Filed under 4, Digital, Miscellaneous

Study for Obedience – Sarah Bernstein

Study for Obedience – Sarah Bernstein

I listened to the audible version of this novel (I discovered it because it was short listed for the Booker prize last year (2023)).

Here’s the blurb …

A haunting, compressed masterwork from an extraordinary new voice in Canadian fiction.

A young woman moves from the place of her birth to the remote northern country of her forebears to be housekeeper to her brother, whose wife has recently left him. 

Soon after her arrival, a series of inexplicable events occurs – collective bovine hysteria; the demise of a ewe and her nearly born lamb; a local dog’s phantom pregnancy; a potato blight. She notices that the local suspicion about incomers in general seems to be directed with some intensity at her and she senses a mounting threat that lies ‘just beyond the garden gate.’ And as she feels the hostility growing, pressing at the edges of her brother’s property, she fears that, should the rumblings in the town gather themselves into a more defined shape, who knows what might happen, what one might be capable of doing.

With a sharp, lyrical voice, Sarah Bernstein powerfully explores questions of complicity and power, displacement and inheritance. Study for Obedience is a finely tuned, unsettling novel that confirms Bernstein as one of the most exciting voices of her generation.

I think listening to it was a particularly good idea as it is narrated by a young women in a way that feels like she is telling the story to you. I liked her voice and her thoughts about herself, the world and her place in the world. As the novel progresses, I wondered if I should be taking her words at face value. In the end she might be an unreliable narrator or have a different view of the world than everyone else. I don’t want to give too much away – it’s a short novel, so you can read it yourself if you want to know.

A review.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 4, Audio, Fiction

The Rector’s Daughter – F M Mayor

The Rector’s Daughter – F M Mayor

This has languished in my digital pile since July 2018 and then finally last week I got to it.

Here’s the blurb …

Dedmayne Rectory is quietly decaying, its striped chintz and darkened rooms are a bastion of outmoded Victorian values. Here Mary has spent thirty-five years, devoting herself to her sister, now dead, and to her father, Canon Jocelyn. Although she is pitied by her neighbours for this muted existence, Mary is content. But when she meets Robert Herbert, Mary’s ease is destroyed and years of suppressed emotion surface through her desire for him.

First published in 1924 this novel is an impressive exploration of Mary’s relationship with her father, of her need for Robert and the way in which, through each, she comes to a clearer understanding of love.

This is a beautifully written novel – not a lot happens, but it is about the characters and how they treat one another. It’s about trying to do the right thing and being steadfast, and about putting one foot in front of the other despite disappointments. It is quite sad, Mary’s life was one of sacrifice (quiet desperation – although Mary was happy to look after both her invalid sister and her father) with occasional moments of joy. Why is it some people get everything? And some nothing at all?

Persephone books also publish this novel – here’s their page on it.

A review.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 4, Fiction, Recommended, Serious