Books

Very Good, Jeeves – P.G. Wodehouse

There comes a time where only Jeeves and Wooster will do. You need to know very little about these two apart from Bertie Wooster’s schemes will fail and it is Jeeves who will silently pick up the pieces and put everything back together in the correct way.

In this book which contains 11 short stories which are linked by the fact they refer back to previous events, but they contain enough background to be able to understand the current story. They are a great introduction to Jeeves and Wooster and Wodehouse writing as well as the characters of Bingo Little, Tuppy Glossop, Bobby Wickham and the various aunts who are the scourge of a family according to Bertie.

There is some wonderful observations dispensed by Bertie at the pen of Wodehouse which I think is what makes these books so enjoyable, light and humourous;

on describing Tuppy’s new love…..”be an upstanding light-heavy-weight of some thirty summers, with a commanding eye and a square chin…I don’t know why it is , but women who have anything to do with Opera, even if they’re only studying for it, always appear to run to surplus poundage.”

on encountering a policeman….”when a sudden bright light shone upon me from below and a voice spoke. “Ho!” it said. It was a policeman. Apart from the fact of his having a lantern, I knew it was a policeman because he had said ‘Ho!’….evidently policeman are taught this as part of their training. And after all, it’s not a bad way of opening conversation in the sort of circs in which they generally have to chat with people.”

There are lots of little snippets like these two throughout the book and they form part of the stories as the book bounces lightly on in the adventures of Wooster and the Very Good, Jeeves.

A one for Jeeves and Wooster fans, and for those who want to put their toe into the Wodehouse water and see whether it is for them.

I so wish I had not got rid of all my copies of Jeeves and Wooster novels (yes I really did!) as they are just a joy to read. I have only kept to Jeeves and Wooster mainly because of the excellent programme with Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie which led me to the books when I was in my late teens, early twenties. I need to branch out a bit more and did so last year with a Psmith novel which crossed over with Blandings, so it is back to Blandings I must go. 

Jottings · Witterings

I have been to the……..

Do you remember after those long school holidays – one of the first things upon returning to school was having to write about what you had done in the holiday.

Something stuck in my mind about this when I returned to work after my summer break and someone asked what had I got up to….

Well I have been to the Garage – it was MOT and service time = £s.

I have been to the Optician. It was well over 4 years since my last check up and I knew that everything was not as clear as it could have been so it was probably time for another visit. Yes there was a change and new lenses in new frames means everything is a bit clearer. Apparently my right eye was working hard to catch up with the left eye in balancing my vision. Or some such. Two frames later, one with reactive lenses to save chopping and changing sun glasses and some rather blingy type and I am good to go. But just like the garage it was a bit = £s

I have been to the dentist. Not a plesant experience but neither is losing part of ones tooth the day before you go away. I have to confess, it did not hurt at all but left a rather rough edge to my filling. But it came away at 1200 and by 1430 I was in the chair having it temporary filled. In between I successfully ate some delicious fish and chips so it wasn’t that bad. I have since been back to get it correctly filled. And the irony was it was not the tooth that I had been scheduled to have filled in a couple of weeks time.

Of course no break would be without me having been to the bookshop. A whole post was devoted to that = £s. I even managed to make it to the Library too!

Armed with books (not that I needed any) I have also been to the spa. Five days escaping from the outside world, where I can get up when I want, sleep when I want, have tea and cake, have someone cook my dinner, no washing up and treatments to soothe and relax. Some very knotty shoulders were unknotted and I felt quite content. But you always have to come home…….

And so here we are… I have had my slippers out already as the temperature has dropped. I have drunk some hot chocolate to warm the bones (I am not convinced about this Indian Summer). I am back on the diet to lose those holiday pounds, back doing my swimming and getting some good times, although having to build back up to it is a bit of a faff. And of course the ‘C’ word is suddenly everywhere. Catalogues have arrived at work (first day back actually!) and the tins of sweets are in the supermarket ready for purchase. And of course I have got to organise the works do.

Then of course you know we are on that spiral down to ‘C’ as The Great British Bake Off is back; Downton Abbey is on its way and of course we are glittered up with Strictly. Here is to the next few months.

The reading has taken a slow start to September as it inevitably does when I go back to work, but no matter as I have plenty of reviews to be catching up with and blogs to be reading.

What have you all been up to?

Books

Home to Roost – Tessa Hainsworth

I had my doubts as to whether Tessa Hainsworth could actually get a third book out of her exploits as the local postie in a Cornish village and its surrounding areas. She has and actually she has done it with the wonderful style and descriptive quality of her previous two.

Known as the Posh Postie, Tessa is very much part of the village now and the locals although they know she has been there a mere three years, she is certainly more like one of them than some of the more recent folk from up country (anyone from anywhere apart from Cornwall).

In this book, Tessa’s closet friend Annie has certainly embraced life in a Cornish village since moving from London, but it looks like she might have to move again away from Tessa and start a whole new life. There are some new residents and neighbours for Tessa to get to know, Kate and  Leon who are wanting to escape the rat race and retire (despite being in their forties much to Tessa’s chagrin). It looks like there will be more friendly faces and more people to get involved in the local community. Suddenly Tessa realises that perhaps not everyone can settle into life down there and get as involved and dirty in some cases with what is going on. They are trying to find a paradise that only exists in their minds and not embracing what is actually out there to experience. It is at this point that Tessa really does feel like she belongs.

Trees that are in danger of collapsing but have rooks in cause problem for a local couple, the cry of the peacock is a nuisance but it seems someone wants rid of the noise completely, blossoming love between locals shows that it is never too late to find love. It can sometimes be the knowledge of a postie to bring these people together – knowing what their likes and dislikes are. The locals look out for each other, their parents did and now they are, but sometimes it becomes too much and it has to have intervention from an outsider which brought a few tears to my eye when they were trying to help one resident. Through all these comings and goings, Tessa tries to keep delivering the mail throughout all seasons and all weathers which it seems Cornwall has an abundance of, She is even starting to think like a local and predict from nature exactly what the weather is going to do.

But Tessa is not shy in explaining that it is not all a bed of roses, changing your lifestyle completely, they do struggle as a family to make ends meet and are always looking for ways to make extra money. Or simply using the barter principle of sharing produce and baked goods in return for something that they don’t have. When Tessa thinks renting her house out for the summer could be a viable option, the rental agency promptly give a shopping list of what would be required to succeed. Perhaps there could be a less expensive and more friendlier option?

Through a year, throughout the seasons, Tessa shares her love of the landscape, the weather and the animals and birds of the area and the importance of actually appreciating these seemingly small things in life to give you a much richer existence. This is a book which brings the reality of downsizing from city to country to the forefront and if you only want to dream about doing such a thing then this and her other novels are for you.

If I had a dream ideal life it would be to live in a village which was community minded and be part of it. Experiencing it whilst fitting in work as Tessa does in her books as the bit you have to do – and it does not feel like work. I am sure these books have been ‘fictionalised’ and no matter if they have. They create a world you wished you lived in and were part of just as Gervase Phinn does with his Dale series of novels. 

I will be intrigued to see if there is another book but if there is not then no matter – they are reads you could come back to when you needed that lift. 

What does intrigue me fellow reader is the fact that this book is found in the travel section of my local Waterstones? To me it should be in the autobiography section surely?

Books

The Land of Decoration – Grace McCleen

What child has not wished for snow so they did not have to go to school the next day?

For Judith that wish comes true. But it is not so she can go and play in it. It is for a much darker reason, she wants to avoid the school bullies who seem to have targeted her.

But the bullying comes away from the school playground and infiltrates right into Judith’s life. It affects her home now as well.

You see Judith could be seen to be different. She is not. Her family has chosen to follow a devout religion which does not have celebrations at Christmas or Birthdays, where Armageddon is not far away and those that have sinned will be brought to justice. These are the people who preached door to door and that many of the locals avoid by crossing the street, and hiding when the door knocked.

This brought Judith into isolation with only her father for company at home. Her mother having died having Judith we discover as we read. Judith seeks solace in her own land – one she created and one she could control.

So when she made it snow in her land and then the very next day it snowed in the world she thought she had gained the power to change everything, A voice was even telling her so.

But having power is not always a good thing as Judith finds out. Can she really control the world from her land of sweet wrappers, pipe cleaners, paper and other bits of rubbish?

This is a powerful novel which has stayed with me long after I have read it. The religious aspect was fascinating, the way that this lonely girl was portrayed by the author was at times emotional and others rather challenging. It felt like Judith was trying to be an adult without having first been a child. It was the new teacher at school who seemed to break the restricted and constructed life that Judith was perhaps living, and Judith’s bullying ran in parallel to what her father suffered when the strike at the factory started; it was bullying but in a different form for him. The ending was very different for both of them.

It is a well constructed novel, the short chapters kept me focused on what was going on and there was never a time where you had to take stock of where you had got to and revisit something you had just read. It never actually mentions the religion that Judith and her father are part of. It never mentions the location they are living in. The work that went on in the local factory before the strike. It has just suggestions of everything, leaving the reader to choose exactly, who, what when, where and why. A very clever twist to this novel that I think is the main reason it has stayed with me.

Upon reflection this is a novel which is unusual, it does not tie up all the loose ends, which some may want from a novel and it perhaps raises more questions than give answers to. If you like a neat ending, then perhaps this is not the book for you. If you want something different, told in the voice of a child then perhaps tackle this novel and see how you feel once you have read it.

This was my book club’s choice for September. It was not a book I would have picked up if I am honest, in fact I think by just getting a feel from it on reviews etc, I would have avoided it. I am so glad now I have read it. Not being from an overtly religious family I related to the strict religious code from an outsiders point of view – being on the receiving end of the door knocking.

I was fascinated by the childhood creation of the land Judith had created, it brought back memories of myself as a child and a whole lot of Lego. It sadly brought back being bullied and also that fervent wish whether it be through praying from some sort of miracle that something would happen just to make everything alright again.

I look forward to hearing what everyone else thinks at my book club and this is a book I would recommend quite easily. It proves that sometimes you need to take a chance on books and test yourself.

Books

I Should Be So Lucky – Judy Astley

You could say Viola is an unlucky person?

Unlucky with her men.

Her first husband, Marco and father of her daughter, Rachel is gay.

Her second husband, Rhys was famous for five seconds in his past but carried on living on those few moments of fame until he left the house one day after an argument and proceeded to have a fatal argument in his car with a wall.

Unlucky with her family.

Being the baby sister, to Kate and Miles they have rather condemned her choices in life. When she decides to move out of the family home after seeking sanctuary there when Rhys died and go back to the house she knows and loves they all seemingly gang up on her for abandoning their mother and telling her she will fail. Is there something they are hiding from her? And why do they not want her to get on with her life?

Perhaps Viola’s luck just needs to change that is all.

One night, when she is driving home, the car goes wrong and ends up in the middle of a roundabout right where a man with a shovel is digging a hole. It looks like Viola’s luck is not going to change? But then Viola suddenly decides that she might need to take charge of her life and change her luck no matter what anyone else thinks.

Escapism read, which although perhaps could be said to be predictable there is great satisfaction when some characters get their comeuppance or for those whose luck does change for the better. Written well as the characters got under my skin which is always the sign of a good read in my opinion.

Thank you to the publisher for sending me this novel to read, I have never read any Judy Astley before and it was the right read I needed at the time of picking it up.

I also have In The Summertime by this author on the to read pile from the publisher, so it will be interesting to see how the books compare and whether they follow a formulaic pattern or have a uniqueness to them. 

Books

August Roundup

Yes it is round up time again. Please bear with me reader as I have got through a lot of books in August. Weren’t holidays just made for reading?

Where you can start with this mammoth month of reading? I think there is something for everyone here. Let’s start with crime and if you are going to start with crime then you need to start with Agatha Christie – At Bertram’s Hotel where I stayed for a couple of days. I was surprised by this book, mainly because the Geraldine McEwen TV adaptation was so way off the mark, that I was reading something that was new. But the Joan Hickson version (which I recently re-watched) was right on the mark and even quoted lines from the book. Another one to tick off my Christie reading list.

Cosy reading can be found with the delightful Daisy Dalrymple in Carola Dun – Styx and Stones*. I cannot believe I have got to book 7 but I flew through this book really quickly and I have to say that it was one of the best so far. Daisy and the author have settled into their relationship well. Talking of author’s really getting along with their characters, then I think delightful is a word I would describe Flavia de Luce in Alan Bradley – A Red Herring Without Mustard*. I had not picked up one of these for a while and I realised once I got going with this book how wonderful not just Flavia is but her perfectly annoying perfect sisters and the way she shows up all their idiosyncrasies makes me smile. The rest of the time Flavia is just stumbling over bodies and helping solve cases – oh and being 11 that is quite an achievement.

With all that cosiness of murder I needed something perhaps a bit more meaty. The book you could say that is in contrast to them is Louise Levene – Ghastly Business. It was not quite murder it was more about the people who are there to clear up afterwards and find the answers. Those answers were found in the mortuary and with autopsies, and it was Dora Strang who I met in this book. Excellent read.

So crime is sort of covered, but the key thing to all those crime novels I have read in August is that none of them are set in the present, I have skittered about all over decades, and so in some ways they have fulfilled the wonderful love of history that I have. But for historical fiction this month I have to go back centuries not decades to Philippa Gregory – The Red Queen and there was plenty of murders then too! I am loving this series of books and was very impressed by the adaptation on the television and especially the portrayal of the Red Queen.

Coming a bit further forward from the fifteenth century to the nineteenth century and I went to see how it all worked below stairs  with Jo Baker – Longbourn. This book is very recently published and I was part of the blog tour too. If you don’t know where Longbourn is or who resides there then you have clearly not read Pride and Prejudice (which I haven’t- which is whole other story). This is the story of the servants given a voice by the author who looked after those dratted Bennet girls. We have a fascination with everything below stairs and this taps into that but also into the world of Austen. I wonder if Austen ever considered those servants when writing her eponymous work?

Holidays are a great time for having fun and visiting places that you have not been before? Perhaps you want to jet off to somewhere warm and then stay in a villa, deep in the Italian countryside. I did with Rosanna Ley – The Villa*. Except in this story this was not a holiday but a legacy that the main character had to fulfil. But then if you cannot go abroad perhaps something a bit closer to home would be ideal. Especially with the weather we have been having of late. Good idea – then come with Carole Matthews – A Cottage by the Sea*. This is an author I have seen on the shelf in the bookshop and some blogs and never bothered to pick up and read. I now have a back list as long as my arm to get through.

Perhaps all you can afford is a day trip to the seaside. Well perhaps pick a good day and then make sure you grab something to eat whilst you are there. I recommend visiting Abby Clements – Vivien’s Heavenly Ice Cream Shop*. I am not a fan of ice cream generally – unless it comes with a cone and a flake so this opened my taste buds to something very different. Now if you cannot shake that holiday mood off and feel that you could live where you have visited then perhaps you need to read Tessa Hainsworth – Home to Roost* where she just does that. Takes her 2 week holiday in Cornwall and makes it a permanent 52 week residence. This is the third novel/travelogue/biography (not sure where it should be pigeon holed genre wise) that she has written and perhaps satisfies all those that want to have a go but not brave enough?

When you are on holiday perhaps like me you want something fairly easy to read. I think this is where Judy Astley – I Should Be So Lucky* comes in. A pleasant diversion and ideal when you want to rest the old brain cells for a while or two. Plus you might discover a new author just like I did with this book. Not a new author was Sarah Rayner – The Two Week Wait and I had had this on my shelf for a while and as I was trying to read some of my older books on there, I picked this up because I enjoyed her previous one. This was very different and actually it was a book I picked up because of the author not the topic. I would not have picked it up otherwise.

I do re-read books but not very often and those I have read again have been childhood favourites or ones that I have never blogged about before. This was the case with P.G.Wodehouse – Very Good, Jeeves* I know I must have read it before and I have watched the TV programme countless times, but sometimes there is just a need for something so frivolous as Bertie Wooster and you have to indulge and I did. I so wish I had never given my copies of those books away, I think I nearly had all the Jeeves and Wooster books too? The whim of youth.

Reading less recently published books has become more a thing with me as my reading (and blogging) goes on through the months and years. I think I have missed out on many authors and want to right that wrong, if it is a wrong, perhaps it is just an oversight. I did that with two books in August – Barbara Pym – Jane and Prudence*. A simple village tale in some ways and I have always loved those and Mary Stewart – Touch Not the Cat*. A mystery tale featuring a big house and I have always loved those too! I have decided that you come to certain authors at certain points in your life and they just work, they just fit and you know that it was at that time you needed to be reading their work. So it matters not a jot if you come late to the party, at least you got there.

Then there is Grace McCleen – The Land of Decoration* which I cannot put into any sort of category. It was my book club choice for September and was a book I had avoided because I thought “nah, just not for me”. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, was quite moved by it and it made me think quite a lot too. It will be interesting to see how our group likes or does not like the book.

So this reading rate will certainly dip in September as work starts again and the days are filled with that. It will take a while to get into a reading pattern, so it might be the right time to tackle some less taxing books, but then again I have so many to choose from that I simply cannot make my mind up what to read first in September…….

*Book review yet to appear on this blog.