Drip Drip

water_droplets_ripple_hd_picture_1_165561How is it that life changes so quickly? That on a normal Monday afternoon while I happily grumble about writing my blog my lovely husband who is feeling unwell is taken to hospital and diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia? And everything changes.

I remembered that two books I’ve read for the Classics Club: War and Peace and Primo Levi’s If This Is A Man both contain the line Drip drip.‘,to signify the passing of time; and this seems to perfectly describe our new lives.  The drip of blood, platelets, chemotherapy, antibiotics.

It seems to have been a strange year for blogging anyway with long absences, I don’t know why, but I certainly didn’t expect it to end like this. I do love the booky community though and all the reading and comments and wonder if now I might stop grumbling and instead just get on with it. . .

And one good thing is that in-between all the dripping David is listening to Northanger Abbey, and is having to listen to me explain The Mysteries of Udolpho and all the references – a captive audience!

If This Is A Man

if this is a manOn December 13th 1943 at the age of 24 Primo Levi, a chemist from Turin was captured by the Fascist militia and giving his status as an ‘Italian citizen of Jewish race’ was taken via the detention camp at Fossoli to Auschwitz. Of the 650 who arrived the children, the old men and most of the women were ‘swallowed up by the night’.  Ninety six men and twenty nine women entered the camps of Monowitz-Buna and Birkenau. The rest were sent to the gas chamber, only 3 made the return journey home. The story of his journey home is told in The Truce.

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Gulliver’s Travels

gullivers travels

What in the world is going on here? I thought Gulliver’s Travels was all about tiny people and giants, but no, Jonathan Swift’s imagination is extraordinary to say the least. Lemuel Gulliver recalls the zaniest adventures as he travels first as a ships surgeon and then as Captain to Lilliput, Brobdingnag, Laputa and to the Houyhnhnms. A companionable chap he narrates it all in a jolly, matter of fact, chatty way, that is bawdy, crude, ridiculous and sometimes very funny.

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Young Anne

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It’s always a treat to pick up a Dorothy Whipple and know that you’re going to be completely immersed in a new family.  In this case it was the Pritchard’s and in particular Anne, the youngest child.  We’re told at the beginning that she’s five and through a sporadic time line (and pots of tea, tomato sandwiches and a good supply of rock cakes) we stay with her into young adulthood.

Young Anne is about characters rather than plot, full of the homely and ordinary but the truthfulness in the detail is told with such a dry wit that it’s never dull. Published in 1927 I thought the family had a decidedly Edwardian feel to them, more so than other Whipple novels I’ve read. Henry Pritchard, Anne’s father, ‘very straight and thin’ his lips always in ‘creases of disapproval’ rules the house with a sombre mood expecting to be obeyed and it’s this atmosphere that pervades Anne’s life. But even here in her first novel, Dorothy Whipple shows the restraint that makes her characters so completely believable.

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Gaudy Night

gaudy nightIt’s 1935 and mystery writer, Harriet Vane alumna of  Shrewsbury College, Oxford, returns for their annual ‘Gaudy Night’ dinner.  But all is not well, poison pen letters and coarse graffiti are disturbing the peace before properly sinister things start to happen. Harriet is asked to stay on and investigate which she does with the help of her friend Lord Peter Wimsey, who arrives like the cavalry.

I read this as my ‘classic from somewhere you’ve lived’ for the Back to the Classics Challenge, so from the beginning it was fun, following the drive from London to Oxford; stopping in High Wycombe for lunch with half a bottle of  wine (!) and then walking around Oxford. As it’s one of those books that names every street it was all very cosy. Added to that the academic setting of a women’s college with debates and discussions around coffee, tea or sherry in the Senior Common Room and it was all I could wish for really. Except . . . Continue reading “Gaudy Night”

The Green Road

The Green Road

Constance and Hannah, Dan and Emmet and their mother Rosaleen are the family from County Clare at the centre of The Green Road.

Split into two parts, the first part concentrates on the characters as individuals, each one given their own episode to tell their story at a particular time, starting with Hannah aged 12 in 1980; until in part two, back in Ireland for Christmas, we see the family together in 2005. Continue reading “The Green Road”

The Beautiful Summer

the beautiful summer
It’s summer in Turin in the 1930’s and 16 year old Ginia is ready for adventure. Parentless, she works in a dressmakers, loves to laugh and dance and lives with her older brother, taking care of him and their apartment.

But then she is befriended by Amelia an artists model, and over the summer becomes involved with her older bohemian set that includes Guido and love!

The cover blurb in my Penguin copy says that ‘It’s the start of a desperate love affair, charged with false hope and overwhelming passion’, which makes it all sound rather melodramatic; when the clever thing about The Beautiful Summer, is that within 100 pages of very little drama Cesare Pavese has us completely believing in the confusion Ginia is going through.

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Heatwave

heatwaveI must admit I bought this on a sunny summers day because it looked so beautiful in the bookshop window. I love Angie Lewin’s artwork and this seemed like a good way of owning a piece!

The story is set over a summer which Pauline is spending at World’s End, her cottage in the countryside somewhere in the middle of England, her daughter Teresa with husband Maurice and their baby are living next door. As the weeks go by Pauline watches with growing disbelief as Maurice becomes increasingly involved in the book he is writing and her daughter’s life starts to mirror her own, mistakes included.

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The Code of the Woosters

woostersWhat ho Bertie!  That aged relation Aunt Dahlia needs Bertie to steal Sir Watkyn Bassett’s cow creamer, there’s a serious rift in the engagement between Gussie Fink-Nottle and Madeline Bassett and Stiffy Byng and the Reverend Harold ‘Stinker’ Pinker have their own plans for Bertie, so with Jeeves at his side it’s off to Totleigh Towers, Totleigh-in-the-Wold, because you can’t let a pal down, it’s the code of the Woosters,

‘I braced myself with the old Wooster grit. Up came the chin, back went the shoulders’

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The Leopard

leopard

It’s 1860 and Fabrizio, Prince of Salina rules over thousands of acres, hundreds of people, his wife and seven children. But when Garibaldi lands in Sicily and is hailed a hero and liberator by the people, it is clear that the old way of life is changing.

Giuseppe Tomasi Di Lampedusa is writing about his great grandfather, by following the prince to his death in 1883 we get a glimpse of a Sicilian nobleman at a moment of crisis and the degeneration of his family until almost collapse in 1910.  Continue reading “The Leopard”