Monday, 17 July 2017

Review: Judas

Judas Judas by Amos Oz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my first read by Amor Oz, who is (although I didn't realise it at the time) a hugely prolific author. I found it hard to get into, and would probably not have believed you at the start if you told me I ended up giving it a well-deserved four stars! Let me explain.

The year is 1959, winter in Jerusalem. Shmuel, a student, has had his life turned upside down. His father's financial issues mean he cannot support him any longer which coincides with his long-term girlfriend leaving him for her previous boyfriend, the 'taciturn hydrologist,' Nesher Sharshevesky. Dismayed and heartbroken, Shmuel leaves the university behind him; his thesis on 'Jewish Views of Jesus' had come to a block anyway. Drowning in self-pity, his intrigue is piqued by a sign put up, asking for a companion 'with modest conversation skills and an interest in history' to a 'seventy-year-old invalid, an educated and widely cultured man. He is able to take care of himself and seeks company, not assistance.' As Shmuel has been a member of a Socialist group, recently disbanded, he fancies himself a good talker and with bed and board included, this job seems right.

Gershom Wald, the invalid, turns out to want someone to argue and debate with or perhaps, more accurately, to listen to his homilies. From his little attic room, Shmuel puzzles over the arrangement of this house. Gerhsom lives with his ex daughter-in-law Atalia, whose husband's death is never spoken of. Neither is her father's, although Shmuel gathers that at one point that they had all shared the house together.

This book has a slow start, and I struggled to get into it. The language can be quite long-winded at times, as well as repetitive: Shmuel's walking is described as:

'His head was thrust forward as if he were butting the air or forcing his way through obstacles, his body bent forward and his legs hurrying so as not to be left behind...'

multiple times (although paraphrased.) I felt like saying 'enough already! We know how he walks!' But this was a minor thing in relation to the novel in its entirety.

Essentially, there are three strands of plot woven cleverly through the book. On a surface level, there is Shmuel's current circumstances, his gradual intoxication of the unreachable, elusive Atalia, and the uncovering of parts of her world. She is a woman not meant for men, and says so boldly. Previous tenants have come and gone, fallen in love with her, and sent away; Wald warns Shmuel about this, but also recognises its inevitability.

We also learn a lot about Jerusalem in the winter of 1959-60, and the years leading up to it: a fascinating history lesson in Ben Gurion and the setting up of Israel as a state. Knowing very little when I went in, I now want to learn more; I always believe that any well-written novel makes the reader want to read further. Wald and Atalia's late father had completely opposing views: Wald believing that Ben Gurion was right and violence was necessary for Jews to reclaim their homeland, whereas Atalia's father, perhaps naively, was adamant that a peaceful settlement could be arranged. When Atalalia's husband died, silence severed the house. Shmuel's job is to partially alleviate this historic silence.

The third strand is where the title of the novel comes into play: Judas. Through their debates, and through Shmuel's musings and his thesis, Judas is central character, but off-stage. Shmuel, himself atheist, poses the proposition that without Judas Christianity would not exist.

...if there had been no Judas, there might not have been a crucifixion, and had there been no crucifixion there would have been no Christianity.

What a fascinating concept! - and not one that I have ever considered before. Shmuel begins to
believe that Judas Iscariot was in fact the most loyal of Jesus' disciples, believing in him more than he did himself. Did Judas want Jesus to be crucified to prove to the world he was the son of God? Even though Jesus cries that his Father has forsaken him, Judas encourages him to return to Jerusalem. Judas waits for Jesus to saved and when there is no immediate revelation, he hangs himself.

What a thought-provoking, and thoughtful novel. Oz has a lovely turn of phrase, using different words to pose the same old cliches we often hear, such as the chicken/egg scenario:
...question posed by the rabbis of old: how was the first pair of blacksmith's tongs made?

There is so much depth to this novel, and I strongly urge anyone to read it. I'll leave you with one line that has stuck with me:

We [Jews] are all Judas. Even eighty generations later we are all Judas.

Thank you to NetGalley for the opportunity to read this wonderful novel.

View all my reviews

Friday, 7 July 2017

Review: Behind Her Eyes

Behind Her Eyes Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Now, this is Britain's answer to Gone Girl. A fantastic woman-centric thriller with twist after twist. In my opinion, it's a lot better than Girl on the Train. And very different to Gone Girl. So, although it may appeal to readers of those books, be aware that this is something slightly else...

Louise is a single-mum, living in London. Despondent after her divorce, she meets someone in a bar and they feel a certain 'something.' All it is is a kiss. But to Louise, this is major. Her 'man-from-the-bar' has added to her life, the thing that was missing: lust, and excitement.

So, trust her stupid luck that this man turns out to be her new boss at the private psychiatric clinic she works as receptionist. Dismayed, she hides from him on his first day, but realises this can't continue. And it turns out that David is married! Repulsed by the idea, Louise is determined to put him to the back of her mind. But things don't work out quite as planned.

Shortly after, she meets Adele - David's husband. Alarm bells ring. How can she be friends with someone who she's lusting after? But Adele seems so lonely, and so effusive in her offer of friendship
Sarah Pinborough
that Louise can't say no. Bonding together over their gym and spa sessions (David and Adele are rolling in money), the friendship grows deeper. But unfortunately, so does Louise's relationship with David.

It starts with pretty innocent flirting, but quickly he ends up in her bed. Disgusted by herself, what can Louise do with the mess she's got herself into? How can she be sleeping with her friend's husband? And there seems to be a sinister side to David: not only does he appear to be drunk so often, but Adele is afraid of him. Never said aloud, but Louise isn't stupid. Not being allowed your own credit card? Having to make timed phone calls twice a day to check on her? Something isn't right in this marriage.

When her son Adam goes away with his father for a month, Louise is determined to get to the bottom of this. What hold has David got on Adele? Why has he prescribed her so much medication? And at the same time, she finds a revelation of her own; Adele seems to have a solution to her night terrors. But even that is strange. An old notebook written by a teenager, in a book apparently gifted to Adele by David? Nothing adds up. Louise needs to know.

And she's got in far too deep to get out now.

This is a fast, pacy compelling read. Pinborough really knows how to make you keep turning the pages; the twists come thick and fast. It is partly told from Adele's point of view, and partly from Louise's, with occasional flash backs to Adele's time spent at a rehabilitation centre in Scotland after the death by fire of her parents. In this way, the reader feels as though they have reliable narrators. But, still nothing adds up. It's infuriating! - which makes you keep reading.

It's hard to sing the real praises of this book without giving away the final twist. Each time you get to the 'end,' you think you have it worked out. But, the punches keep flying and it's only in the crucial last chapter that you know the whole truth. I won't say anything more than that, you'll have to find out for yourself. But it's a shock to the system. I was mulling over this book for ages, flicking back to see any clues that had been left. It's definitely something that could be read twice.

The one criticism I have of it, is that some of the language is just too melodramatic. To give an example: '... I still felt stabbed in the guts with a shard of my own broken heart.' Thrillers are, by their very nature, dramatic - but this is too much, I almost laughed! With a few edits like this out, this may even have been given a five star review.

Overall - excellent: go out and get a copy!

Thank you to NetGalley for the opportunity to read this brilliant book.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Review: Paper Butterflies

Paper Butterflies by Lisa Heathfield
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

BAM. That's how this book hits you.

From the very first page we are introduced to June, at this point five after her mother has recently drowned, surrounded by her new family - stepmother Kathleen and stepsister Megan. Her dad is still around but works, so Kathleen is the main caregiver, and she follows the stereotypical fairytale step-mum: maliciously, uncomprehendingly cruel. Every time June thinks something is going to change, she's let down. 'Oh, look! She's made me a lovely birthday tea with a nice cake!' But all this is an elaborate way for Kathleen to further her torture of June. Unfortunately it's not exactly a fairytale ending with a prince to ride off into the sunset with, but she does find some escape.

She meets Blister, a boy from a house of seven, and finds her salvation. As much as possible, she spends her time with him and with his welcoming family who are the antithesis of her own. Although she tells Blister a little of what goes on at home, June cannot tell him the full story. And no one else knows. She berates herself later for not telling, but how can a child blame themselves when they are that scared? June is convinced that no one would ever believe her. But, as the years go by, she lets Kathleen know she is not beaten, fighting back by not reacting or small acts of retribution. But it doesn't stop.

One form of abuse that I'd never really considered before is the way Kathleen forces June to eat. To eat and eat beyond satiation... 'She wants me to be fat.' So, June's life at school is even harder, when children tease her and call her names. She feels embarrassed eating in front of Blister's family:

'I know what they must think. I want to tell them. I want them to know that me being a bit overweight isn't my fault. That I don't want to eat everything Kathleen puts in front of me but fear makes me do what she says.'

And that's what keeps her quiet: fear. But what child could speak up for themselves in that situation, however hard June berates herself in retrospect.

This is a painful read. It feels odd to give it four stars, meaning 'I liked it,' because I didn't exactly enjoy reading it. But Heathfield has created an entirely compelling read, with a horrific unexpected climax. The ending, a note from Blister (giving away no spoilers), is beautiful. Throughout, you are really inside June's head, and you feel her embarrassment, her shame and her righteous anger. That's the mark of a good author.

But I would definitely warn people away from this book if they have experienced any form of abuse themselves. I can't speak from experience, but I imagine it might be too hard to read.

Apart from abuse, it is also about the power of friendship, and that's the redeeming quality here. Blister and June's friendship starts as childishly innocent, and gradually morphs into a deeper relationship of love. It's wonderful to watch them blossom despite the world around being so dark.

I devoured this book in a day. (Well, an afternoon and a morning). It's a very fast read. I would recommend it, but with that caveat: not for anyone with personal experience, or for people who are particularly sensitive. This book hurts.

Thank you to NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read this. I really want to go out and get Heathfield's debut novel now, but maybe I'll have to wait until I've got through a few more in my TBR pile...

Excellent. Four stars.

View all my reviews

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Round up for Bout of Books

Whew, made it to the end! So, I didn't manage the challenges on most days :( Disappointed by that. BUT I did manage to read quite a few galleys from NetGalley and some reviews, which is what I really needed/wanted to do. It was a good kick up the butt - I need to keep on top of them!

So, the weekend was my no wi-fi away time at a really nice Safari Tent from Canopy and Stars in Devon. (That's not an affiliate link by the way.) I've never done 'Glamping' before and rather scorned people who do, but this weekend it was pretty necessary - FREEZING. We had a gorgeous log burner (and oven) which heated the tent up, but it rained a lot, so we spent most of the time in playing board games and reading. Which was nice. Pretty views. But it really isn't camping. So, sort of disappointing, but it wasn't my choice, it was a consensus. And camping in the weather we had would've been GRIM, so I guess it worked out.

Anyway, that's not what you're here for - it's books! So, while I was away I read: Ink by Alice Broadway, The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertelli and Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan (which was a Galley my sister in law picked up from me - but a paper one. BLISS.) Haven't had time to write any more reviews which is a shame...

So, half of Friday, Saturday and Sunday:
Books read: 3
Galleys read: 1
Reviews written: 0 :(
Pages read: 1052

Today is a free challenge, so I thought I'd do a collage of all the books everyone in the tent was reading over the weekend for a bit of fun. There were five of us, and I'm sure I missed some books, but this'll do :)

Anyway here comes the GRAND ROUND UP:
Books read: 8 (one I'd already started - War and Peace)
Reviews written: 5
Pages read: 2056

Pretty pleased with that. I would've liked to have seen 7 reviews, but with being away for the weekend it wasn't that likely. And 5 galleys is good progress :) Overall, not a bad week for reading! I have no idea how many pages I'd read in an 'average' week; that sounds like quite a lot, so probably not that much!

I hope everyone else has enjoyed themselves, and thank you to BOUT OF BOOKS for hosting! I may be back in August, depending what's going on that week.

In the meantime, happy reading!

Friday, 12 May 2017

Bout of Books: Day Five

Well, I didn't think I'd manage to do a post today but I'll do a half post as there's still most of the day to come. After finishing Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine,' I immediately started on the next of my NetGalley reads: 'A Tragic Kind of Wonderful' by Eric Lindstrom. And I finished it by accidentally staying up half the night, AND I've managed two reviews (well, a review and a mini review)! All before lunch! Not too shabby, if I say so myself.

I jumped on 'A Tragic Kind of Wonderful' because I'd read Lindstrom's debut novel 'Not If I See You First' which I found suprisingly moving. Her second book is... something else. It's very, very well written but for younger readers, I would perhaps approach it with caution. Or readers with mental health problems. It may hit a little too close to home.

Once I'd started it, I just couldn't stop, and I wish I had actually. I wish I'd drawn it out a little more because it deserved that rather than being swallowed in one gulp. There's just so much packed into this book (it comes out later this month I think) and I feel I, as a reader, did not do it justice. To see my full review click here.

Today, so far:
Books read: one
Galleys read: one
Reviews: two
Pages read: 288

I've decided not to bring my Kindle at all to our wifi free weekend, so no gadgets at all (apart from my camera.) So, back to lovely lovely pages. Although it means I won't have read that many Galley books as I intended to. It just fell on the wrong week. Still, I'm not disappointed in myself and that's what's important.

AND I've managed to squeeze in the challenge for today! Wow, I surprise myself. But I really need to get going now - leaving very soon and there's a small chance I haven't packed...

Rainbow Spine

All Brilliant books you should read (well, the blue one isn't brilliant, but it's still a laugh):
Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher
Finding Cassie Crazy by Jaclyn Moriarty
One by Sarah Crossan
The Archon by Catherine Fisher
The Extraordinary Journal of the Fakir who got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe by Roman Puerolas
Bloomability by Sharon Creech
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan and John Green

I'll be back Sunday! Happy reading everyone!

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Bout of Books: Day Four

Well, I knew I wouldn't have much reading time today and so it's come to past. The first day I've only been reading one book! And no review :( Not doing well...

'Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine' was an enjoyable read. Well, enjoying is always a funny word when it comes to hard books. The first half was plain old enjoyable, but knowing there was a very nasty undercurrent. When everything comes out it's visceral in pain and sheer boldness. And a twist I didn't see coming. It's a brave debut novel. I'll be looking out for more on Gail Honeyman.

Books read: 1
Galleys read: 1
Reviews written: NONE
Pages read: 228

Now, I'm going away from Friday to Sunday to on off-grid, no wi-fi place. So, no more updates and I'll probably be able to read one (short) galley book before my iPad will run out of juice. So, this is my last post until Sunday with the wrap-up! I've enjoyed taking part, although I wish I'd had more time to catch up on what everyone else is reading. I'll probably spend some time reading through what other people have been reading next week, so expect some late comments!

Too late to do today's challenge - and it was a pretty hard one too! I'm sure I'll spend the sleepless parts of tonight thinking about it, but it's certainly an interesting one.

And I'll write a review of 'EO is Completely Fine' when I find the time. Looking forward to being off-grid, reading by candle-light etc, just wish it hadn't coincided with this week. Maybe I won't bring my iPad at all... Just read real paper books. After reading 3 e-books in a row, I'm rather desperate for the feel of pages.

So, I'll do my round-up post on Sunday! Happy reading everyone.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Bout of Books: Day Three

Books read: 1 (One of us is Lying)
Galley books read: 1
Reviews written: 2 :)
Pages Read: 367

Quite a full day's reading today, which is good because I know I'll have hardly any time tomorrow. I finished 'One of Us is Lying' which comes out soon. Right. Put it on order. It's that good. Loved it. You can read my review here or see for yourselves... (Don't worry, no proper spoilers, only things you find out in the first 50-60 pages)

And I wrote another review for a NetGalley book I read a while ago: 'Flight of a Starling.' Review here. So pretty pleased with myself today. Started on 'Eleanor Elephant is Not Fine' which comes out later this month; when I requested it from NetGalley, I didn't realise what a big release this was going to be! So far, very intriguing, but I'm annoyed I won't be able to have much time tomorrow.

How's everyone else doing? Remember, it's not a competition - I'm more proud of actually catching up on reviews than the reading!

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Bout of Books: Day Two

How are all you other readers doing? Come drop me a call if you like - it'd be nice to know I'm not alone (although I can see you all, it's nice to have some interaction.)

So, today's challenge is 'Not a Font.' I thought this would be a fun one, and fairly easy too, but it was really hard to find something that couldn't be considered a font for the title page! Lots of weird and wacky fonts, but at the end of the day, they're still fonts. Here's what I managed to come up with - not great!

Books read: 1 (New Girl by Tracey Chevallier, absolutely amazing)
Galleys read: 1
Reviews written: 1
Pages read: 299

Hope everyone's still going strong!

New Boy by Tracey Chevallier

Everyone knows Othello, right? If you haven’t, go away and read a summary online somewhere.

Are you back?

Okay. Picture this. All the characters are eleven and it’s America in the seventies. Othello’s the new boy on the playground and, worse for him, he’s black. Desdemona is one of the popular girls and generally considered to be the prettiest girl, and she’s ace at holding the ropes for ‘jump-rope.’ Cassio’s the popular guy, the jock, and Emilia is the best at jumping rope in the school. Iago’s not that popular, but he sure has a lot of power. He gets other kids’ lunch money off them, and his sidekick, Rod, who’s not the sharpest tool in the box, is at his beck and call. Brebantio is one of the teachers. Add in a few extras. Oh, and the handkerchief is a pink pencil case with strawberries on it.

You picturing it? Sounds mad, right?

But. It. Works.

Click here to read the full review on GoodReads.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Bout of Books: Day One

Now, I've been perusing around to see how people format this, and it's so variable that I'll have to go with the flow... a tall order for me! I quite like things being planned out.

So, there's a challenge each day, and today is introduce yourself in six words:


Or, a more literal one:

I am twenty six years old. 

Take your pick!

Today was finishing off The Grand Novel: War and Peace. Did you know that the working title was 'All's Well That Ends Well'? I think I like Tolstoy's final choice!
Well, it was easier than I expected until I reached the epilogue, which wasn't a story; it was Tolstoy's opinions on the way that history 'works' and the roles that individuals actually play in it. I have to admit to skimming some of that, but the rest of the book was great and I wasn't too challenged, which was a pleasant surprise. I did struggle somewhat with remembering all the names and who was who, but I made myself a bit of a list and it got easier and easier as the book went on.

So, I conquered Tolstoy! I know that most real readers will have read War and Peace much earlier in their lives, but I feel a sort of sense of achievement.

Tolstoy's own notes!

On the subject of my goals... well, no Galleys read OR reviewed. But hopefully I'll be able to get started on that tomorrow.

Books read: one
Pages read: 352 (although I'm not really worried about pages read)
Galleys read: none
Galleys reviewed: none

See you tomorrow! Off to look at some more blogs! Well done for getting this far :)

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Bout of Books 19

Wow! Is this really the first post of 2017? I believe it is! Well, this little blog never really had much of a life anyway, and it's just slowing wasting away... never mind!

I've decided to take part in 'Bout of Books' this time round. It's something I've thought about before, but never really got round to it/committed to it. I'm still not entirely sure about how it works, but there you go!

It's a week where you push yourself to read a little more than you usually do, and share it with other bloggers and Network it as much as you can! There's no competition between readers, everyone works at their own pace. It's just for fun. (Slightly wondering why I'm doing this, as I read every week anyway, but I think it'll be fun to link up with other people as well.)

There's a schedule for the week, which I don't quite understand, but here it is (it starts on 8th May) -

MONDAY - Introduce yourself insixwords
TUESDAY - Not a Font (??)
WEDNESDAY - Share your selfie
THURSDAY - Character dating profile (?)
FRIDAY - Rainbow book spine
SATURDAY - Seasons of Books

I suppose I will find out in due course what some of these means.

People tend to set their own goals, and my key one is to READ MY GALLEY COPIES. I keep getting galleys from NetGalley and then I get distracted and read something else instead. So this means reading AND reviewing them, which means I'll get slightly less reading time, but it's something I desperately need to catch up on. So, there we are! See what happens!

Slight problem is I'll be away Friday-Saturday-Sunday, so I suppose I'll do scheduled posts for those, and then a round-up post when I get back (I think that's how it works!).

Wish me luck, to anyone who might stumble across this!

Oh, and thank you to the hosts for arranging this, it should be fun. (I think...)

UPDATED TO ADD: things have gone a little awry with a few much busier days than I expected so I'm still left with my last book to finish before reading all the Galleys... and it's War and Peace. I'm about 1000 pages in, but I still think it'll take me 2 days to read that, as you really need to concentrate! So, I'll get less of my galleys read but still up for the challenge!

Monday, 19 December 2016

Secret Santa!

The Broke and the Bookish

So, this year I decided to take part in an online secret santa - for book lovers!

I like Christmas in some ways, but I can also be a bit of a scrooge. I love to give presents, but receiving them is a little more difficult; I expect a lot of people feel the same way. My way of tackling this is to give lots to charity to make up - it really does make you feel good!

I do love planning presents for Christmas, and the idea of doing one for a fellow book-lover somewhere out there really appealed, so I signed up for The Broke and The Bookish’s Secret Santa which has kindly been organised by the amazing Jamie. It's been going for quite a long time and is pretty popular so I was quite lucky to be involved.  We just answer a few questions about our bookish preferences and a bit about ourselves, and then it all goes off into the depths of the internet. So, if all goes well, I'll be getting a present from some stranger come Christmas.

I have sent mine and I really hope that he/she (no letting anything go!) likes my presents - it was great fun to put together. I forget to take a picture of the individual presents but here it is as a
conglomerate of things I was about to send.

I've really enjoyed the book exchange and the mystical nature of TBTBSanta, and I've never done anything like it. I might have gone a bit overboard (I took out three other books before I finished), but I really really hope I haven't underdone it. It's so nerve-wracking when you haven't done something before; I just hope that my receiver is happy. It's his/her first time too so they probably don't know what to expect either. 

Anyway, hello to my Secret Santa Person if you manage to find my blog! I really hope you enjoyed your pressies :)

Thank you so much to Jamie and TBTB :D

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Summing Up Sunday: 6th November

Well, it's seemed like a pretty busy week at 2CC!

J went away with a friend for a couple of days to London, which sounded like great fun. There's a new part to the Tate Modern (the New Tate Modern - imaginative).

Looks amazing outside, huh?

A box of mirrors - you can see J's phone straight opposite. Really cool!

Sam facing Shelob?

The old turbine hall with some sort of sound installation

And inside!

Great food, fancy hotel, good company and kind enough weather. Nice treat for this time of the season. J went to two shows: one about cancer which was a combination of hard and a little cringy/OTT; and Amadeus at the National Theatre. We all love the film, and the actors were amazing. Just found they're doing a live cinema version in February - maybe A and E will get to see it too?

Then, it was A's time for fun and she flew up to see M and wee S in Edinburgh. She's still there 'til Monday, but having a good time in spite of the weather. (She almost lost her watch but miraculously found it - hooray!) They went to 'The Slug' or dynamic earth (we've all been countless times, but it's forever amazing).

See why it's called The Slug?

Unfortunately Edinburgh's high winds meant no fireworks for A&co, but E and J went to Puxton Park at the last minute for a fantastic display. No photos, as it takes away from watching them and, unless you're a professional photographer, they never come out very well anyway. Brilliant display. And a huge bonfire.

Today, J went off to do some apple-juicing at a friend's farmhouse. We still have a lot of apple juice from last year...

And we had our first frost.

How were all your weekends?

Thursday, 3 November 2016

26 Books: A Book that Everyone Else Has Read

(finally another 26 books! Enjoy)

This would have been number 20 in Bringing Up Burns 2015

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
(read April 2015)

Well I probably missed the point. I chose Catch 22 as one of my '26 books to read in 2015' and it was the ' book from my shelves that I haven't read' until I realised I don't have it (where did it go; whose shelves am I familiar with seeing it on?) so I got a very cheap Kindle edition (notable for its typos). I read about a hundred pages, and then decided that my life's too short to waste on something I just didn't want to come back to. Reading is for fun (in some sense, it can be gruelling, but if I don't want to know what happened
next or am annoyed and after a good chunk of the book this hasn't worn off, then STOP!).

A little rant.

Back to the book.

I think I understood that it is highly ironic. Every sentence is tortuous and contradictory. It illustrates the life of members of a USAF bomber group in 1944/5 Italy, and the essential conundrum of their lives, which is that they all don't want to be there, they don't want to continue to risk their lives, they are waiting to serve their time and go home, and the central character is trying to get out of further bombing missions by pretending to be 'crazy' but this doesn't work: If you are willing to fly missions, you are crazy. If you don't want to fly missions you are not crazy because that's common sense. You would get signed off having to fly if you are crazy but to declare yourself crazy is self cancelling (see beginning of sentence). This is Catch 22.

Last year I read Evelyn Waugh's Sword of Honour trilogy. It's about the same period, it has a similarly cynical attitude to war and to WW2 in particular, which is especially interesting because this is the war that is generally given as being sainted, almost a holy war because the Nazis were so evil, and because of the holocaust. What we all miss in that long after the event interpretation, is that this was accidental. WW2 was actually just like most other European wars, about territory and alliances. Yes the Nazis were spectacularly horrible in a way that Western civilIsation needs to continue to learn from, but that wasn't why Britain and the US fought them. So it's interesting to read contemporary accounts that weren't pro-establishment. I found Evelyn Waugh much more interesting (if a little turgid) than Heller's really dated comedy method. It was just tedious!


'The Other Boleyn Girl' by Phillipa Gregory (E):
(read January 2015)

** spoiler alert **
 Now, I really really enjoyed 'The Other Boleyn Girl,' but I feel curiously guilty for doing so.

Let's examine this. I feel like I shouldn't enjoy Gregory's books because you often hear about the plethora of historical inaccuracies that she has, and that she writes the 'worst type of historical fiction.' Almost like soaps or something, but just set in a different era. I have mostly steered clear of her books after reading 'A Respectable Trade,' which I thought was abysmally written, and I really didn't enjoy.

This? Loved it.

There was, as others have criticised, a tendency towards one dimensional characters - but not entirely. Many characters had a singular predominant trait - Anne was ruthless and ambitious, Henry was arrogant and hedonistic, singularly fixated on producing a male heir - but they had other traits too, and their prevailing traits were very understandable. Mary Boleyn herself was not, as others have suggested, presented as an innocent amongst the debauched immorality of the court; she was fickle and inconstant from the start.

It was very compelling. Strange to read a book where you know the outcome, and yet can't put it down because you want to know what happens!

In the interests of looking at this fairly, I decided to try and discover what the actual historical inaccuracies were. This is what I have managed to find by trawling the internet.

1) There is no proof of incest between George and Anne Boleyn, where it is heavily implied in the novel.
There is no proof of George Boleyn's homosexuality. There is no proof as to the paternity of Mary Boleyn's children, although it is speculated that one or more may have been fathered by the king. These, to me, are not an inaccuracies - it is building on something that may have been truth. At the end of the day, this is a novel, not a history book.

Philippa Gregory herself!
2) Mary Boleyn was generally thought to be the eldest of the three siblings. I'm curious as to why Gregory decided to change this, because the dynamic between the three of them would have been significantly different if she had been the elder. This inaccuracy is the most curious to me - why? And the plot does hinge rather on Mary being the youngest. Maybe Gregory should have stuck to the generally perceived facts and we would have had a very different novel.

3) Anne Boleyn takes Henry (Mary's son) on as a ward when his father William Carey dies of sweating sickness, rather than much later as in the novel.

4) Mary Boleyn in the novel is sexually inexperienced before she beds Henry VIII, but it is thought that her time in the French court had her reputation sealed as very promiscuous. This is argued between scholars, so who knows?

5) And, of course, the characterisation of Anne Boleyn herself. She is portrayed as pretty ruthless and cruel in the novel, although not wholly so, whereas many historians believe her to have been a sweet girl. Who knows? This is an alternative perspective, and, truthfully, we will never know what she was like.

To me, these inaccuracies are not enough to take away from the enjoyment of the book. If some say it is trashy historical fiction - so what? I enjoyed it, and would recommend it to anyone who likes historical books. I'd like to read more of Phillipa Gregory, now that I can forgive her for 'A Respectable Trade.'


Sunday, 30 October 2016

Summing Up Sunday 30th October 2016

Beautiful, calm, quiet, relatively Autumn weather.

The trees are as colourful as  they have ever been, and  there's not been anywhere near a frost yet, so that particular belief about what causes leaf colour intensity seems to be wrong.

J went to the Pudding Club in Mickleton,  N Cotswold's,  with good friend Huw,

and on the way back, met A and E at Westonbirt Aboretum. It was probably the most busy day of its year, but the trees were splendid, marvellous, magnificent.