The Return of the Soldier – Rebecca West

Chris Baldry returns from the front to the three women who love him. His wife, Kitty, with her cold, moonlight beauty, and his devoted cousin Jenny wait in their exquisite home on the crest of the Harrow-weald. Margaret Allington, his first and long-forgotten love, is nearby in the dreary suburb of Wealdstone. But Chris is shell-shocked and can only remember the Margaret he loved fifteen years before, when he was a young man and she an inn-keeper’s daughter. His cousin he remembers only as a childhood playmate; his wife he remembers not at all. The women have a choice – to leave him where he wishes to be, or to ‘cure’ him. It is Margaret who reveals a love so great that she can make the final sacrifice

Noticing that nibbled apple on the cover, I gravitated to not only to the Virago logo but more importantly to the author’s name.  Having read some of West’s non-fiction pieces, mainly to do with religion and politics, her fiction promised to be a worthwhile read.

I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I hoped, although there were some aspects of the work that interested me.  Thankfully being one hundred and thirty-eight pages long (or short depending on your point of view), I was able to finish it before my patience was thoroughly worn out but it did take some effort to get to the end of this one, even with that in mind.

The story is focused on exploring the emotional impact of the three women, none of whom I really connected with.  Margaret is by far the most likeable character, whilst Kitty and Jenny came across as unbelievably snobby and at times ridiculously hysterical.  It was this overly dramatic nature that made me care little, despite appreciating the situation they were in. Continue reading “The Return of the Soldier – Rebecca West”

Left Foot Forward – Garry Nelson

The sheer amount of dull football autobiographies on the market is staggering, and most are beyond bland and utterly predictable.  Nelson’s effort is different as he never attained the millions or star status, and the book is much the better for that.

A journeyman professional, Nelson played for lower league teams throughout his career but is appreciative of his position in sport, and the wider context of life. He’s aware that he is living a dream many never come close to achieving.

Told in a diary format over a whole year (the 94/95 season), the author finds himself in a precarious position, at the tail end of his career. He isn’t expected to be a first team start, his contract runs out at the end of the year, injuries are a worry, and younger players are challenging for his position.

The fans applauding  the neat one-two, the snap shot going close from twenty-odd yards, don’t stop to consider the man who on a bad night, thinking his first-class career is almost at its end, lies awake at night worrying about his mortgage.

As carpools are set up to get to training and to save the player’s petrol costs , the weighing up of the risks of declaring themselves fit too early after an injury is an all too real and worrying problem, and the wider problems of the sport are discussed, this is a fascinating look back at a sport which has changed so much off the pitch whilst remaining relatively unchanged on it. Continue reading “Left Foot Forward – Garry Nelson”

Jermy & Westerman

It’s always a shame to  have to report a bookshop closing its doors for the last time but sadly its happened again, this time to my favourite second hand bookshop in Nottingham, Jermy & Westerman which ceased to be the last weekend.

I wonder if my continued support would have helped, had I not been abroad for the last year and a half, which in turn fuels my need to support the remaining bookshops when I have some spare Sterling. A noble excuse for being  a book junkie but the mutual enablement is pitched perfectly.

Despite being a small book space with only two floors and a few rooms there were always plenty of  good books on offer over a variety of subjects.  In fact being a regular I noticed there was a regular turn over of stock, to cater to the needs of the obsessive. Continue reading “Jermy & Westerman”

Your Universe

Here is a totally unexpected and wonderfully touching word gift from the missus, this Father’s Day. I also got a card with a top pun as well!

Lost in invisible cities

The universe is overwhelmingly made up of things that cannot be seen. In fact, the stars, planets and galaxies that can be detected make up only 4 percent of the universe, according to astronomers. The other 96 percent is made up of substances that cannot be seen or easily comprehended – but how can it be possible when one father-to-be’s universe revealed his 100 percent to us?

It’s his first father’s day! I know that some people won’t consider that you are already a father when the baby is not yet born but I do.

Today, I want to honor and thank the man who gave his entire universe to me and the people (and dogs) that I love. To my best friend, my husband, and father of my baby, thank you for giving all that you can for me and our baby (fur babies: Rambo, Rexie, Claire, Hurley, and Sawyer)…

View original post 208 more words

An Anniversary, a Birthday, and a Huge Surprise!

Recently Crissy and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary, and before I made my way to Manila on the afternoon of the 28th Jan, a bunch of 99 red roses were duly delivered to the Philippine Airlines offices, to make a statement.

Travelling to Manila is always an ordeal, standing for an indeterminate amount of time under the beating midday sun, with little to no shade.  This time made more interesting by the two pickpockets, who assumed that I had no idea what they were doing.  I had to suppress a snigger every time they checked a box off of my mental checklist of Robber Form; shuffle surreptitiously near target, separate, distract, engage in conversation to show no threat, etc.

Leaving these two inept thieves behind, I got on a van which took the scenic route to Mall of Asia.  The highlight of the journey being when the driver attempted to thread our van through the eye of a needle, that being a concrete wall and speeding articulated lorry, it was pretty fun actually!

Its been a great year, reflecting on the adventures as I made my way around MOA, I thought of the build up to the ceremony a year to the day, then the wedding itself and the people who attended. The adventures had since.  I also had time to read a bit of book as well.

Heading to posh casino Solaire (chosen partly because it has a free bus to and from Mall of Asia, we are by nature frugal people) later that day, we get to our buffet restaurant early and took advantage of the photo ops whilst it was quiet. Continue reading “An Anniversary, a Birthday, and a Huge Surprise!”

A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth (Part Two)

This is a remarkable book, and big, so big in fact, that I am taking up a second post for all my remaining remarks. Starting with a quote that I really love:

“She paused by the science shelves, not because she understood much science, but, rather because she did not. Whenever she opened a scientific book and saw whole paragraphs of incomprehensible words and symbols, she felt a sense of wonder at the great territories of learning that lay beyond her – the sum of so many noble and purposive attempts to make objective sense of the world.”

There are a whole slew of characters to meet in A Suitable Boy, yet I didn’t feel confused with them at any point.  Partly this is due to my reading a little each day, retaining the thread of who is who, but the four family trees provided, and side characters who are easily associated with certain characters or places helped, and I was rarely troubled placing a character  who was returning after 200 pages in the wilderness.

Seth is a big fan of poetry and his playful rhyming couplets are seen throughout, most noticably describing each chapter, and then through the incessant creations of the Chatterji family.  There are also myriad references to various Indian mythological works which encourages a deeper reading into Indian mythology.  Sprinkled throughout are bits of the local language which was a nice touch, especially when I started to recognise what was being referred to, or which familial names were used to denote relationships.

The plot is unhurried and slowly expands to include all of life and society, it really allows the world to be shown in richness and depth.  Whether the reader thinks this much detail is relevant or not, it is certainly worth the exploration and gives the book a much more authentic feel.

There is plenty of conflict, whether it be class, religious and political divides, or generational.  Everybody has a prejudice of some sort, whether conscious of it or not.  Seth explores all sides of these, offering plenty of insight which has the capacity to bring out both sympathy or revulsion at various times. Continue reading “A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth (Part Two)”

A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth (Part One)

Vikram Seth’s novel is, at its core, a love story: the tale of Lata – and her mother’s – attempts to find her a suitable husband, through love or through exacting maternal appraisal. At the same time, it is the story of India, newly independent and struggling through a time of crisis as a sixth of the world’s population faces its first great general election and the chance to map its own destiny.

When faced with a wall of paper such as this (1474 pages), a choice inevitably presents itself.  Will it be worth the time and effort taken to read this, or would it be more productive to read a few shorter books in the same time span? Luckily choosing this Indian epic was the right option, and the time spent savouring this novel was well worth it.

When reading, I loved how it harked back in style to works of earlier ages. It was easy to draw comparisons with the Russian epics, and War and Peace in particular, as well as Moby Dick for the sheer level of detail that the reader never realised they wanted to know.

Although the story takes place in less than two years, and with its vast array of characters, it is very much in the spirit of those classics, treating the reader to a glimpse of life in post independence India. With the upheaval of the partition with Pakistan as a backdrop, social and religious tensions are explored but at the heart of the story its the family spirit, and myriad connections that gives the book its flow. An India, and a young generation trying to find its own way. Continue reading “A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth (Part One)”