As part of our Christmas present from Katherine, we had a voucher for afternoon tea at the Fowey Hall Hotel. We had visited once before and came away extremely disgruntled with atrocious service. This time the service was impeccable.The tea was lovely, the weather great, and the setting and views tremendous.As you might expect we were sated and decided we had better work off some of the culinary inputs by steeply descending into Fowey.Some people might regard Fowey as twee. But it is one of my all-time favourites.The harbour and town were busy. Whilst enjoying the views, staring down into the waters we couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw a group of the most enormous jellyfish at least three or four feet long…..
we We were off for another week’s house-hunting in Cheshire, having narrowed our search down to Sandbach and district and, rather than belt up the Motorway, we decided to use the ‘old’ route up through the border country. What a terrific decision. So pleasant driving through the rural and idyllic counties of Monmouth, Hereford and Shropshire then into Cheshire. And always an impressive start to a journey to cross into Wales via either of the Severn bridges….We broke the journey for lunch at All Saints in Hereford. It was a wonderful find. The cafe is incorporated in the fabric of the church in such a way that it greatly adds to the atmosphere and the every day use of the church itself. It is so well done and the food is unusually delicious. More city centre churches should do this as well as this one does, and reap the benefits.Suitably refreshed, we took the opportunity to look round the church itself (another bonus to the church of having the cafe) and it was fascinating. Basically it is Fourteenth Century. There are some wonderful misericords….breathtaking Minton tiles…and a famous, indeed infamous, rude carving in the roof….. ….apparently the current vicar wanted to make some money out of this by publishing postcards etc but he was stopped by the PCC who ruled it out as too inappropriate! Our little tour of the church over, we wandered around the town itself to admire many wonderful buildings…... …we noted how bucolic the city really was….not many city centres after all have offices for a cattle society….
we said hello to Elgar on the cathedral green….. and marvelled at the exterior of one of our great cathedrals…..Resuming, we eventually reached our destination – Holly Cottage near Holmes Chapel, and settled in to farmyard life! The cottage was everything you would want and we had our own little garden..and the owner’s farmhouse was just typical of Black and White Cheshire…After some serious hard work house-hunting the next two days, for F’s birthday on the 19th we went in the evening to ‘The Lost and Found’ in Knutsford. We travelled by train from Holmes Chapel calling at many little stations on the way – every small village in this part of Cheshire seems to have its own station. Remarkable.The restaurant was full of character and we really enjoyed ourselves.On a ‘day off’ we again used the train to go to Liverpool – somewhere I haven’t been for a long time. As soon as you come out of Lime Street station you are confronted with the most marvellous array of public buildings among them St George’s Hall, the Walker Art Gallery, various museums and the Central Library, all worthy of a capital city. Indeed we both had the feeling that we were in somewhere much akin to Barcelona or Lisbon. Who knew that Liverpool was as impressive as this? We were taken aback.Opposite was the Empire Theatre where I once, with my first girlfriend, saw Ken Dodd perform. The show started at 7.30 pm, and by midnight Ken was informing us that the doors were locked and we wouldn’t get out until he had finished! The Empire has the largest two-tier auditorium in Britain and can seat 2,348 people.A lovely park set off all the buildings around here. As we progressed through the city towards the sea the buildings remained impressive. It’s always nice to see the Liver birds…on the Royal Liver Building……And the front of the city facing the sea was busy and stylish…..full of museums which unfortunately we had no time to see….We walked from the pierhead towards the Albert Dock and along the way noted the last sailing ship to operate commercially out of the port, astonishingly working the Irish route until the 1950’s.The Albert Dock itself was lovely, a great conversion, full of people. The flats looked stylish but the shops and restaurants were leaning a wee bit towards tat and greasy food unfortunately. But that didn’t take away from the splendour of the buildings and setting.We moved into town to seek somewhere to eat…and because we couldn’t find my carefully researched rooftop cafe with a view, we ended up in the shopping centre and a rather conventional lunch at John Lewis’s….not to be sniffed at with a glass of wine. The shopping centre was great too…… very clean, modern and sleek and there was a nice ‘grassed’ area for lunch and watching buskers…all in all a memorable visit to a city that has recovered all its old vim and vigour and self-esteem. I almost like it better than the greatest city of them all (Manchester).Another of our trips out was to Tatton Park…..National Trust, although even as members we had to pay a £7 parking charge which seems a bit steep. Still all money goes to a good cause I suppose. Just as when last time we had visited Lymm Hall it was really notable how friendly, helpful and knowledgeable all the guides were. It makes a visit so much more rewarding. But then, as we all know, everybody is friendly in the north west! the entrance hall is rather splendid…..and the spectacular painting ‘The Cheshire Hunt 1839’ almost dominating the hall shows three generations of the Egertons who owned Tatton.The music and drawing room is the most ostentatious room in the house; Tatton’s collection of Gillow furniture is unrivalled. Wilbraham Egerton’s ownership (1777–1853) saw the commission of many pieces especially for the house. Views from many of the rooms were of the 50 acres of gardens and series of lakes for which Tatton is well-known. they descend all the way down to Knutsford town centre. Lewis William Wyatt and Joseph Paxton, architect of Crystal Palace, designed various elements. The Library is a perfectly symmetrical room, in keeping with the formality of the neo-classical style. It houses one of the largest and most important library collections owned by the National Trust with over 8,000 books in this room alone, many still in their original covers and in mint condition. We had a fascinating conversation with the guide in this room who is very knowledgeable about the books and gives one of their 10 minute talks on the library. We will be sure to go. No-one can resist a portrait of any of the Tudors…..All in all time very well spent. We then were able to drive through the grounds past the lakes into Knutsford where we had another wander around this delightful town.Parts of Knutsford seem very Italianate….you could almost be on the side of Lake Garda. They are nearly all the work of Richard Harding Watt (1842-1913) who was a local philanthropist, traveller and idealist with a passion for building, who made his fortune from glove making in Manchester. He worked with four professional architects to transform the townscape of Knutsford with a series of eccentric buildings.Elizabeth Gaskell of course used Knutsford as Cranford and there is a suitable monument to her in the town……We also strolled along the side of Knutsford’s own lake…how pleasant!Our little garden waited for us in the sun at the end of the day…One day we looked again at Tarporley a wonderful small village/town. nice to live here but a bit too expensive for us…..Sunday lunch was at the Bells of Lower Peover. yet another fantastic Cheshire pub….there are many.Whilst there we had a good look at St Oswalds and a little stroll around the lanes….Driving on to Rostherene we were greeted by the vicar in the church and had a very interesting half hour conversation with him. Amusingly on the way out we bumped into presumably his wife who asked ‘Well, did you learn a lot?!’ with eyebrow raised!Amazing how sentimental the Victorians were..there’s nothing like the Victorians!The view from the back of the churchyard to where the vicar directed us was lovely…..the deepest and largest mere in Cheshire. We had a great 10 minutes admiring the scene. Unusual to see a gravestone we would more expect to see where we live near the sea….. A good week both for house-hunting and enjoying Cheshire. We decided to return home the ‘old’ way again. On our way a delightful village green…and I couldn’t resist stopping to take a pic of the roadside verge. How much better it is when less cutting of verges takes place….This time before exiting Cheshire we called in to one of the prettiest villages in Cheshire in the deep south of the county – Malpas.In its centre and at its highest point stood the magnificent church of St Oswalds.Very imposing gateways to the churchyard were set off by some imposing buildings…Inside there are many treasures. This oak chest dates from the second half of the 13th century.The roof is quite exceptional being a fine late C15 camber-beam affair with ornate bosses and angels (restored but none the worse for that) on the corbels. In the Brereton chapel the tomb is that of Sir Randal Brereton and his wife, and is dated 1522. The monument in the Cholmondeley chapel was erected in 1605 and represents Sir Hugh Cholmondeley and his second wife, Mary.The usual little children and followers carved around the tomb itself are cute….Lunch stop this time was in Church Stretton which I hadn’t visited since a sixth-form History trip in the sixties. Spreading over its hillside site it made a good last stop.
As we are about to sell our house prior to moving to Cheshire, its is nice to have a record of our splendid garden coming into its own from the beginning of the year…there are great views from all windows and angles, and something of interest at all times of year.
‘The Flesh of the Orchid’. I must have bought this for the cover, many moons ago! A racy, pacy, totally American, totally unbelievable, thriller from James Hadly Chase which was devoured in no time at all over a couple of night’s bed-time reading. Just the thing for late night reading but, having finished it, the only question was ‘What was that all about then?’ Shallow characters, murders too many to count, chase after chase. Did I really read such rubbish? Well yes and it was quite enjoyable.
Having so enjoyed the first Trollope Palliser novel ‘Can You Forgive Her?’ I just had to read ‘Phinneas Finn’, the follow up. The plot summary by the Trollope Society is as follows……
‘Phineas Finn, a young Irishman just admitted to the bar, was elected to Parliament from Loughshane through the support of his father’s old friend Lord Tulla.
His genial temperament soon won him many highly placed friends in London society, among them Lady Laura Standish. Although Phineas was in a sense committed to marry a childhood sweetheart, Mary Jones, he fell in love with Lady Laura. She, however, had sacrificed her fortune to pay the debts of her brother Lord Chiltern, and valued her position in society above her romantic love for Phineas. She was deeply and intelligently interested in politics and the maintenance of a salon needed money and position, and she found both in the person of Robert Kennedy,a wealthy MP representing a group of Scottish boroughs.
In Lady Laura’s circle of friends, Violet Effingham stood nearest to her, and when Phineas sought to marry her Lady Laura was bitterly angry, not only because she considered that he was being untrue to her, but that she wished Violet to marry Lord Chiltern. Violet did in fact love him, but his violent temper and manner of life did not seem to insure her happiness. When Lord Chiltern learned that Phineas was his rival, he challenged him and a duel was fought in Belgium, with no serious results. Both men were soon sensible of their folly, and shortly after they became reconciled Violet accepted Chiltern.
Phineas, by taking a government post to enable him to pay his way in London, lost his seat in Loughshane, and through the good offices of Lady Laura was offered Loughton, her father’s pocket-borough. His career seemed assured until from a matter of principle he voted against his colleagues on a bill for tenant right in Ireland, and was forced to resign. In the meantime, life with the harsh and priggish Mr. Kennedy had become impossible for the high-spirited Lady Laura. She rejoined her father and eventually, to escape her husband’s demand that she return to him, went into exile at Dresden.
Mme. Max Goesler, a wealthy and charming widow, interested herself in securing another seat for Phineas and, when he refused to allow her to finance the cost of the election, offered to put him in possession of her great fortune by their marriage. This he was too proud to accept and, discouraged by the net result of his years in Parliament, returned to Ireland where he married Mary Jones.’
Trollope’s own views were somewhat surprising to say the least……..”It is all fairly good except the ending, – as to which till I got to it I had made no provision. As I fully intended to bring my hero again into the world, I was wrong to marry him to a simple pretty Irish girl, who could only be felt as an encumbrance on such return. When he did return I had no alternative but to kill the simple pretty Irish girl, which was an unpleasant and awkward necessity.”!! Wow.
Hugely long, hugely enjoyable but as with his other books in the series easily readable as it was written for serialisation. I thought I might read a chapter at a time, like the original Victorian readers, but I found that I wanted more and inevitably read two or three each night. I think Trollope is just an amazing writer. His direct approaches to the reader – in asides in his own voice – are so much like the pieces to camera which film directors seem now to have established as an art form. They must be based on a reading of Trollope, or so I like to think. Characters so strongly drawn you really care about them. It is just incredible that Trollope wrote so much whilst holding down a full-time job. What a man.
‘Einstein’s Riddle’ is….’riddles, paradoxes and conundrums to stretch your mind’. It is divided into sections headed ‘Logic and probability’, ‘When reasoning goes wrong’, ‘The real world’, ‘Motion, infinity and vagueness’, ‘Philosophical conundrums’ and ‘Paradoxical all the way down’. We get involved in the toughest logic problems, lateral thinking puzzles, and tests of mental agility. By turns entertaining and infuriating, I really enjoyed pitting my wits with some superb problems. Exceptionally involving.
The Folio set of Trollope political novels has been sitting on my shelves unread for, what, 15 years. Just to look at the 6 meaty volumes, and even though I am after all retired, it seemed a daunting prospect. However I have read and re-read the Barchester Chronicles by Trollope several times, so I thought let’s give it a go. ‘Can You Forgive Her?’ is the first in the series. Although long (even ardent admirers and critics have said so) , the chapter lengths are such that one can easily get through 2 or 3 just before sleep. That is because, like Dickens, he wrote for serial publication in the first instance.
Here is the plot summary by eminent literary critic Prof John Sutherland…
‘Alice Vavasor is a 24-year old mature woman of character and beauty (with a mere fortune of £400 p.a.). She has two suitors. One is her Byronic cousin, George Vavasor – a ‘wild man’. The other is John Grey, an honest but unexciting ‘worthy man’. Which should Alice accept?
George killed a break-in burglar as a child, and has a Cain-like scar on his handsome face. Alice was earlier engaged to the wild man but jilted him, thinking him (rightly) too wild. He has loosely conceived political ambitions and is a ‘radical’.
Alice, engaged to John as the novel opens, declines to ‘name the day’. It will be the most important day of her life, but also the day on which her ‘freedom’ will end. She, and all her property, will, thereafter, belong to her husband along with that declarative ‘I do’ (the Anglican wedding service, at this period, contained the woman’s promise to ‘obey’).
Alice, after an ill-advised holiday with George in Switzerland, jilts John. But George, in the ensuing long engagement, goes entirely to the bad. His business and political ambitions fail. He is disinherited and brutally assaults his sister, Kate, who has devoted her life (and her own chances of marriage) to advancing his career. He attempts to murder Grey and finally skulks out of England, a ruined man (he is revealed to have had, all the time he was engaged to Alice, a common mistress). John reassumes the fiance’s role.
A parallel plot follows the affairs of Plantagenet Palliser, heir apparent to the Duke of Omnium, and Lady Glencora McCluskie, heiress to a Scottish industrial fortune. Their arranged marriage is doubly threatened. First by childlessness and more seriously by Glencora’s infatuation with the ‘godlike’ Burgo Fitzgerald. Burgo drinks, gambles, and is penniless. But he is ‘beautiful’ and Plantagenet is anything but beautiful. The fact that he is a good man does not outweigh that fact. Burgo sets up an elopement which Plantagenet foils in a dramatic ballroom scene.
On a lower, comic, level Alice’s aunt, Arabella Greenow, also has her two suitors. One is a stolid Norfolk farmer, the other a raffish military man. She chooses the latter ‘because he is better looking’. The narrative examines, from three angles, permutations of marriage for prudence or marriage for passion. Always the woman’s choice. At the end of the novel the three heroines are happily married and Plantagenet has an heir for the duchy of Omnium.’
John Sutherland thinks this novel is all about ‘power’. I think it is, as so often with Trollope, about weak and strong personalities, social position, money problems and ‘will she or won’t she?’ It is also very much about the importance of England itself at this time. Here is John Sutherland again…..
The opening sentence of Can You Forgive Her?, with its relaxed ‘clubman’ tone, conveys the sense of a novelist serenely confident about where power in England resides:
Whether or no, she, whom you are to forgive, if you can, did or did not belong to the Upper Ten Thousand of this our English world, I am not prepared to say with any strength of affirmation.
Ten thousand people in England – the most powerful nation in the world – have the levers of power, prestige, and patronage in their hand. ‘Big People’, Trollope calls them. Trollope was, he felt, not yet a ‘big person’, but not far off it.
It was a matter of authorial pride with Trollope that (unlike, say, his fellow novelist Wilkie Collins), ‘when I sit down to write a novel I do not at all know, and I do not very much care, how it is to end.’ He let his fiction happen, in his famous ‘before breakfast’ early morning stints.’
I have to report that, as I suspected but was unwilling to test for so long, this was just as involving as Barchester. I was gripped with the characters and their development and didn’t mind the lack of plot as such. Really, really, really if you want to know about the tight-knit world of Victorian upper middle-class and high society, Trollope is your man. Great stuff. And I was only a little surprised to hear that lead singer of the Pet Shop Boys, Neil Tennant, wrote the song Can You Forgive Her? in 1992 after reading Trollope’s novel whilst on holiday.
So, whilst Stephen King might poke fun at the book’s length, joking that for modern audiences a more appropriate title might be Can You Possibly Finish It?, I beg to differ. It’s a book I couldn’t put down.
Wanting some lighter reading I picked through our shelves and chose a Fifties copy of George Simenon’s ‘The Blue Room’. I often think it is quite surprising how French (and other) writers are stylistically worlds apart from British authors. Same with films of course. It was a real pleasure to read this short but very satisfying novel so quickly. Just recovering from a hernia operation I hadn’t much else to do….I certainly couldn’t walk anywhere. French authors seem much more capable of getting right inside a character so that you almost become the character yourself and feel what they feel. In this case an adulterer on trial for a murder he did not commit as a result of what the French call ‘une grande passion’ or an intense relationship and affair. The ingredients of the novel were straightforward – a small French village where everyone knows everyone, an illicit affair, an interrogation. The result – something extraordinarily powerful. This book is in translation although you certainly would not know it, and who is to say how good the translation is. But the writing is top quality and expressed with economy. Having said all this I am glad that I have just, by accident, seen on-line the following comments on Simenon by John Banville………
‘He has a Nabokovian ability to convey in words the tactility of things, although the words that he employs and the sentences he makes of them are always humble and plain. He prided himself on his modest vocabulary and the spareness of his language; having finished a book – which he would do in the space of 10 days or so – he would emerge from his study shaking the finished manuscript by the spine, in order, as he joked, to get rid of the last remaining adjectives.’
Wonderful! ( I don’t think he used a single exclamation mark either).
We have quite a large Crime section on our shelves (bigger than in either of our bookshops), and there are quite a few novels which we perhaps haven’t read or have forgotten reading. One such was Nicci French’s ‘The Red Room’. Totally coincidence that I chose The Red Room immediately after The Blue Room! In fact fool that I am I have only just noticed……..Anyhow what an unexpectedly great read this was. In a somewhat different way to Simenon, French also got right inside the head of our protagonist, a female psychologist helping to solve a series of murders whilst trying to get a grip on her own private life. The scenario and plot were utterly believable and all the characters well drawn. A really gripping Crime novel of the first order.
‘How Many Socks Make A Pair?’ is what’s called a book about surprisingly interesting everyday maths. It does fulfil its function. However, Rob Eastaway sometimes explains the maths and sometimes doesn’t – with his ‘you get the idea of this, but I won’t go into it in detail as the maths is a bit complicated’. I found this frustrating as sometimes you get the impression that he is just serving you up one puzzle or conundrum after another. Still, enjoyable on the whole……..
Always nice to have a family get-together and this one to celebrate two birthdays Katherine and David. It was good that Aiisha could explore our new play park in the village which seemed to go down well….and from there an easy transfer to the Amusement Centre in Looe with more rides and the opportunity taken to win two unicorns.The beach was good too with Aiisha dressed for the weather and David apparently fearful..A Birthday cake at home was well received.Next day, a Sunday, we were off to Falmouth for a proper Birthday meal. We parked by Kimberley Gardens with its even better play park……..which even pleased some of the adults…… A nice place to live here with its Edwardian houses….Very big fish in the pond too…Our meal was at the Star and Garter winner of Best Foodie Pub in the South West by Food Magazine. Great views.Post lunch some light exercise on Gyllngvase beach. A nice day all round. On the following day we went to Lydford Gorge in North Devon, lots of steps through woodland, to see the 30m White Lady waterfall We then wandered along the trail (this goes from one NT cafe to another!)…..a beautiful walk…..with the occasional rapids and falls…in parts it is quite narrow with a deep drop and the handrails then prove useful. and at one point there is a ‘money bench’ with inserted coins of all ages and descriptions…….I must admit I am easily impressed sometimes, but all of us were agreed it was a magnificent walk and worth repeating.On the last day we went to the climbing wall at Looe which said it would be open but wasn’t. We took the opportunity then to have a look round the Sardine Factory which tells you all about the history of Looe particularly as a sardine centre, and Katherine told us that it was very similar to the one in L’Escala. Now where am I?Next stop was Victoria services to fill up with lpg and there we found that the Climbing Centre was absolutely terrific and more than made up for our disappointment in Looe. I thought four and a half year old Aiisha was astonishing and totally unfazed. maybe a new long-term hobby for her?
I might, just might, try this climbing business for myself sometime and see if I can allay my fear of heights.
We’ve visited Pencarrow at slightly different times of the year, and it always pays as you see the grounds clad in different clothes as it were. This time it was mid April. Smart Classical house, still lived in by the family. No pics allowed inside.After our guided tour, with a knowledgeable guide, we decided to once more walk the whole perimeter of the grounds. This used to be a formal Italian garden, but now blends in with the rest of the park.Just past these trees was the grotto which we hadn’t visited before….Frances descending to the underworld….Nice views of the house itself on our walk…Magnificent colours at this time of year….I like the so-called Colonel’s garden with its water feature…After the climb uphill we reach the prehistoric fort with its impressive remains and outline clearly visible…You then go down the ‘Cathedral’ walk which is particularly magnificent when the trees are leafless….Then through the glory of Pencarrow the almost mile-long avenue of Rhododendrons and Azaleas…they really are enormous and laden with flowers..I like to examine individual booms as well……You don’t see notices like this in many places….Pencarrow is quite near to us and well-worth the visit. Still, at this time of year it is almost as nice, perhaps better, to be in our own garden which has now come into its own…And when we have enjoyed that our local lanes are full of botanical interest. At the moment crammed with bluebells….and wild garlic……Amongst all the common roadside plants this single orchid stood out…..and in parts there are still clumps of late primroses…..At the village end of our walk we came across some white bluebells (!)….. and some p
I was looking forward very much to reading ‘A Taste For Death’ the novel which P D James herself said she liked best. It’s about number 7 in the extensive Dalgliesh series…….. ‘In the dingy vestry of St. Matthew’s Church, Paddington, two bodies have been found with their throats slashed. One is an alcoholic tramp, whereas the other is Sir Paul Berowne, a baronet and recently resigned Minister of the Crown. Commander Adam Dalgliesh investigates’. The novel has indeed received high praise from many different sources…..”Rings of authenticity … compelling……literary grace of a high order……splendidly suspenseful….etc”. I have to admit I found it none of these things. There was little plot, the pace was absolutely pedestrian. I found it unconvincing and not writtthe height of literary expertise. Of the other Dalgliesh novels I have read, one was terrific, and now two have been very disappointing. The question is shall I try any more ?
The full title of this book is ‘The Secret Barrister : Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken’. A little confusing, but meaning how the legal system we have is broken, not how to break the Law! It all started with a Junior Barrister’s anonymous blog where he discusses how difficult it is to do his job any more, and how much we need to do to remedy our legal system which he demonstrates time and time again is not ‘fit for purpose’. In the book he does this by examining every aspect of the Law, par as he comes across it, illustrating with often real-life cases. To keep things entertaining he sometimes resorts to fictional cases which nevertheless are utterly believable. Basically he demonstrates convincingly (backed up with wonderful research and statistics) that the continual cuts on funding for maintaining our Justice system have not only broken it but got to the stage where ‘Justice’ as we all understand it cannot be guaranteed any more. Believe me this is a frightening thesis. Any of us can come face to face with the Law through no fault of our own and, if we did, we would sure want someone like ‘the secret barrister’ on our side, working his or her guts out for less than the living wage and all because he really and truly believes in ‘Justice’. What is revealed in the book is nothing less than scandalous, and we should all be determined to do something about it.
‘A History of Sandbach and District Etc’ is one of the reprints from its digitised collection of historical books and documents. As such it is not amazing quality, but nevertheless serves a purpose. Tomlinson the author of this 1899 work was obviously a keen amateur historian and lover of Sandbach where he lived. Its slim 50 pages or so gives am impression of Sandbach 100 years before this, and a summary of the history before that of the main buildings. One of the most interesting bits of his research concerns the two Saxon crosses in the Market Square, how they were purloined by a local landowner in Georgian times (as so much was purloined from the Grand Tours….), and subsequently broken into pieces and used as foundation for a house, garden ornament and goodness knows what. It is thanks to the Victorian efforts of someone appointed by the town to research where the crosses were and to the skill of the Architect of Manchester that nearly all the pieces were recovered and reassembled. Quite amazing in many ways.
“The retreat at health-and-wellness resort Tranquillum House promises total transformation. Nine stressed city dwellers are keen to drop their literal and mental baggage, and absorb the meditative ambience while enjoying their hot stone massages. Miles from anywhere, without cars or phones, they have no way to reach the outside world. Just time to think about themselves, and get to know each other. Watching over them is the resort’s director, a woman on a mission. But quite a different one from any the guests might have imagined. For behind the retreat’s glamorous facade lies a dark agenda. These nine perfect strangers have no idea what’s about to hit them…” A fair summary. If you can suspend your disbelief just a little (I don’t usually, but for this I did), then this is a thriller with a twist. Characterisation – good. Setting – you could be there. Plot – exciting. The Australian author Liane Moriarty really gets under her characters skin and writes an entertaining thriller which amuses at the same time. Quite an accomplishment.
‘The Buildings of England : Cheshire’ was a book I had to have if we are to up and move to Cheshire. As I have said the new series of Pevsner guides is superior to the originals and much more up-to-date, as well as being willing to throw in the odd bit of humour and irreverence. I don’t think Pevsner for instance would have written of Thornton-Le-Moors “Seen always against the vast Stanley oil refinery, with it serried rows of tanks, silver pipework and flaming chimneys. Decibel level and stink quotient are high”! If you are at all interested in your built environment and the history of where you live, these books are absolutely indispensable.
‘Friends At Court’ was the book that inspired me to take up the Law……I never did. But the fascination remains. A judge has said ‘No-one has ever caught more precisely or wittily the atmosphere of litigation’, and this certainly comes through. Although very witty at times, at other times you feel you are in the hands of a barrister ( I nearly wrote barista) who is talking about real cases in which he is himself involved. I am sure that much is taken from real life. As this was published in 1956 you might think that it would be very old-fashioned. It isn’t. The law changes slowly. having read this I was looking forward to the other ‘Brothers In Law’ Penguin we have on our shelves, but my wife cautioned it started off well but got very silly indeed. I don’t know whether to read or not. problems, problems.Having liked the P D James Dalgleish novels that I have read I thought I would start at the beginning and read the first couple in a long, long series. However my plans went awry when the first arrived. It was half in French and half in English. I just couldn’t read it. I therefore had to start with the second in the series ‘Cover Her Face’. I have to say that although quite well written, it was a little turgid, and I soon spotted the perpetrator of the murder which in a ‘Who Dunnit’ is not really a good sign. It reads like a second novel. having enjoyed the depth and the literary excellence of later novels it perhaps was a mistake to return to the beginning! I try not to buy books for the sake of it, particularly now that we are retired, but some of the Folio books on our shelves have been sitting for a long time just looking good. I am working my way through them and it is a pleasure to read such well-formed books with often top-quality illustrations. In fact I am sure Folio could do good business selling the illustrations as prints. The covers are good too….this is ‘Dracula’. Now we all think we know the story, but how many of us have truly read this novel? I steer away from anything vaguely relating to Fantasy. I personally regard it as somewhat childish. I did enjoy Fantasy at school, but surely I am past that now. Well this is the book that put paid to that argument. It is Fantasy but it is exceedingly well-written on the whole and, although long, it is gripping. I wanted to get to bed each night to read more. I have to say I really, really enjoyed it. The limited cast of characters are very well-drawn and the atmosphere unsettling. The fact that a lot of the story is told through various people’s journals also adds to the pot. If you haven’t read it now’s the time. Another beautiful Folio, this time ‘Brideshead Revisited’ .Now everyone must have read this or seen the film or seen it on TV but it amply pays a re-read. If you can get yourself this Folio edition it is certainly worth the investment. Background…..Charles Ryder’s cousin warned him against taking rooms on the ground floor of his Oxford college, so when the young Lord Sebastian Flyte is sick through his window, it seems he should have heeded the advice. However, no one is immune to Sebastian’s inimitable charm and soon a relationship develops that will change Charles’s life for ever. Chosen as one of Time magazine’s 100 greatest novels of all time, this is Waugh’s most popular book, combining aching sympathy for the passing of privilege with the best of his razor-sharp wit. You feel the time and place you really do………….