The 39 Steps

39 steps 7There are three great things here, the first is that I’ve finally read this book (and thoroughly enjoyed it), the second is that I’ve read it in June (when it’s set) and the third is that I’m actually writing a review almost as soon as I’ve finished!

So it’s May and Richard Hannay is in London from South Africa and is bored to tears, he gives himself one more day to find excitement before he gives in and heads back home.

Luck is on his side, waiting for him on his doorstep is a man he’s never seen before but who has been watching him and needs his help.  Scudder, an American, tells Hannay a remarkable story about a conspiracy to assassinate the Greek Premier at a Foreign Office tea party on the 15th of June, he knows too much and is being watched. He stays for a couple of days, reading and smoking and filling Hannay in on more details – about a man with a lisp, another who can hood his eyes like a hawk and Black Stone. But on the 23rd of May Hannay returns to his flat and finds him ‘skewered to the floor’ with a long knife through his heart.  He finds Scudder’s black notebook of evidence and determines to finish the game. Continue reading “The 39 Steps”

Wives and Daughters

wives and daughters‘To begin with the old rigmarole of childhood. In a country there was a shire, and in that shire there was a town, and in that town there was a house, and in that house there was a room, and in that room there was a bed, and in that bed there lay a little girl; wide awake and longing to get up’

The little girl is Molly Gibson and this opening paragraph introduces a book that uses sparkling humour to dissect the deliciously gossipy neighbours of Hollingford, a small town in the middle of England. A small town which sits in deference to Lord and Lady Cumnor of The Towers, in spite of their only arriving in the reign of Queen Anne; when there have been Hamley’s at Hamley Hall since the Romans. So Squire Hamley is keen to tell us!

Written in 1866, we’re told by the narrator that the story begins some 45 years earlier so that with lots of asides about the fashion and manners of the day, there’s a lovely cosy conspiratorial tone.  Continue reading “Wives and Daughters”

Cider With Rosie

cider with rosie

If reading could make you fat then this is the book to do it, every paragraph is so dense and luscious in its descriptions, we’re as enveloped in a world of marmalade colours as the baby Laurie in his mother’s arms.

Written in 1959 Laurie Lee is remembering his childhood in the Slad Valley in Gloucestershire, where in June 1918 at the age of 3 he is set down by the carriers cart at a cottage on a steep bank above a lake; there are frogs in the cellar, rooks in the chimneys and mushrooms on the ceiling.

One of 8 children he lives with his three older sisters all ‘wrapped in a perpetual bloom’, his three brothers, younger sister and their mother in a chaotic, giggling flurry of activity, while their absent father ‘in his pince-nez up on the wall looked down like a ‘scandalized god’.

‘When the kettle boiled and the toast was made, we gathered and had our tea. we grabbed and dodged and passed and snatched, and packed our mouths like pelicans.’ Continue reading “Cider With Rosie”

The Grapes Of Wrath

grapes of wrathFebruary was a hairy time for our family but always with me was The Grapes of Wrath which quite by chance turned out to be the perfect read because it could be read in snatches whenever I got the chance and because ultimately it’s about family and the human spirit. I bought a new copy but it now looks as dogeared as I felt!

Chronicling the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930’s, the Joad family, along with thousands of other tenant farmers are pushed out of their homes in Oklahoma when the land owners find that ‘one man on a tractor can take the place of twelve or fourteen families’, and head to California where there’s always work and it never gets cold and you can reach out anywhere and pick an orange and live in a little white dream house. A hope that keeps them alive. Continue reading “The Grapes Of Wrath”

A Film For May:Cleo From 5 to 7

Icleo from 5-7t’s  5 o’clock in the afternoon in Paris in 1962 and Cléo (Corinne Marchand),a beautiful young singer is waiting for the results of her biopsy, which she is to collect from the hospital at 7 o’clock.

Beginning with a tarot reading that shows the ominous cards in full colour before turning to black and white, the time span is split into chapters counting down the minutes as she goes to a café, rehearses with her band, meets a friend. She is a superficial young women who revels in her beauty, skipping lightly through life, she believes herself to be more alive than others because of it. And yet, in the time that is traditionally meant for lovers to meet, she is having to face her mortality and she’s scared.

Produced and directed by Agnès Varda the Parisian streetscapes were refreshingly real, people walking along look directly at the camera in curiosity and overheard fragments of conversation form a wonderful collage of city life as Cléo walks, takes a bus, a taxi or two. At one point she meets a friend, Dorothée, (Dorothée Blanck) who’s modelling for a  sculpture class. cleo from 5 to 7 Cléo asks her why she isn’t embarrassed about being naked, she says she would be worried the students would see a flaw.  Dorothée says she isn’t embarrassed at all she’s happy with her body not proud of it. I loved that subtle scene that showed the vulnerability of Cleo.

I don’t want to give anything away about the ending, obviously it’s not a thriller, but it was lovely to watch unknowing.  This is 90 highly recommended minutes viewing.