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Reviews Written by
Jane W-H "wilson-howarth.com" (East Anglia)

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A Street Cafe Named Desire
A Street Cafe Named Desire
Price: £2.28

4.0 out of 5 stars Powerful women, 23 May 2015
This is an easy entertaining read. I loved the multiple images of our male antihero being tugged this way and that by a succession of powerful women: his unfaithful wife, his delinquent daughter, his unfeeling boss, a disapproving police officer and his new partner. The tale is well observed and – like the women in forty-something David’s life – I cared about what happened to this central character, and enjoyed this bit of humane escapism.


Thank You, Madagascar
Thank You, Madagascar
Price: £15.10

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worthy tribute to a great life, 11 April 2015
It takes a lot of very different skills to save endangered wildlife. For conservation to succeed there needs to be good information: about the numbers of individuals which survive, about ideal habitat types, about feeding and breeding behaviours, and about each species' importance to local people. The skills that are needed to accumulate the information that allows scientists to plan a conservation programme demand training and experience in finding any given species, determination, an ability to function in hostile isolated environments and an enormous amount of patience. But this is only the start. Once the status of a species is known there are a whole other set of skills needed to win people over. To make people want to save a species. This stage is about cultural knowledge, communication, politics, advocacy and diplomacy.
What I discovered when I read "Thank you, Madagascar" was that Alison Jolly had all those skills. She was a zoologist but - unusually, perhaps - she was also a people person, a humanitarian. She didn't see people as the enemy of her precious lemurs, but as part of their world. She was ahead of her time in that. This memoir communicates all this but also documents some of the shenanigans that go on in amongst all this - even in the midst of famine and profound human suffering.
Her posthumous diaries are witness to Alison's tremendous range of abilities, and her passion. Reading this book transported me back to the Great Red Island where I delighted in her lemurs, and suffered with her as she struggled to protect them through endless meetings and politicking at local, national and international levels.
This is a worthy monument to the amazing woman who first documented female dominance in primates (and, as it happens, tried to persuade Dreamworks to make King Julian female). Alison's memoir is also wonderfully readable and entertaining.


Writing Genre Fiction: Creating Imaginary Worlds: The 12 Rules
Writing Genre Fiction: Creating Imaginary Worlds: The 12 Rules
Price: £0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Useful advice, 18 Mar. 2015
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Nice clear advice on writing techniques and tips that go beyond writing about imaginary worlds - recommended.


Don't Call Me Lady: The Journey of Lady Alice Seeley Harris
Don't Call Me Lady: The Journey of Lady Alice Seeley Harris
by Judy Pollard Smith
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A woman who changed the world, 18 Mar. 2015
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Other writing by this author attracted my attention to this novel based on the life of Lady Alice Seeley Harris (1870 - 1970), a powerful woman who changed the world a little for the better, despite the huge handicap and impotence women of her age suffered. This is the story of a starry-eyed missionary who was confronted by the great harm perpetrated by colonial Belgium as they strove to supply rubber from the forests of the Congo. She documented the human rights abuses photographically, exposed them and finally brought this to an end. Interestingly although a powerful campaigner for justice at a time when some regarded other races as inferior and unfeeling, she appears to have been a terrible mother and in some ways a flawed character who got sucked up in the publicity she enjoyed from her work.

I enjoyed the book which was rich and atmospheric although there were a few places where Alice's voice acquired a North American accent (but that probably only matters to a few pedantic English readers like me), and I was also puzzled by the reference to killing a tiger in the middle of Africa, although zoological inexactitude doesn't detract from the story. And hell... Joseph Conrad wrote of alligators in Africa so Pollard Smith is in good company.


The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules
The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules
Price: £3.59

2.0 out of 5 stars Great idea for a book - a team of feisty ..., 24 Feb. 2015
Great idea for a book - a team of feisty pensioners out to prove that they're not finished yet, and I liked that they debunked the idea that they'd be better in prison than in a rule-bound retirement home where they were supposed to be in bed by 8pm. And it took some talent to commit a crime then get incarcerated with very little evidence against them.
I wonder, though, if some of the humour and flow of the book might have been lost in translation, as the English version seems a bit clumsy in places. Having said that I notice a couple of recent 3* reviews in Swedish so perhaps this isn't great literature - who cares though. I'm sure it doesn't aspire to be anything but a sweet, entertaining and quite enjoyable story.


River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze
River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze
by Peter Hessler
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.68

3.0 out of 5 stars The journey resonated often with my six years in Nepal – where the better I became at speaking the Nepali language, 15 Jan. 2015
A Chinese friend based in Beijing gave me this book and I wondered, as I read, whether one reason for her choice was to show me how incredibly difficult it is to understand Chinese people. They carry so much from their troubled history and express so little through their inscrutable faces. But this book allows a glimpse at their world through the eyes of an American teacher of English literature who lived in Fuling for two years. He worked hard on his Chinese and on his local friendships and even so felt he knew so little at the end of his two years.
The journey resonated often with my six years in Nepal – where the better I became at speaking the Nepali language, the more I could see what an outsider I was.
Initially I found the author’s American ‘accent’ a little irritating, but like any developing relationship, early irritations often fade and all in all I recommend this book – even to British readers. There is humour, there is insight, there is even wisdom but there is also self-deprecation. I did feel the book was a bit over-long and would have been improved for being shorter. The sub-title suggests more about the liver too than is really delivered. The biggest criticism I have for the book is for the publisher.
Can anyone tell me why publishers of travel books can’t include decent maps? The maps in River Town are especially bad. I assume they’ve been cropped to fit the paperback edition but in doing so they’ve cut through the name of the college where Hessler taught – it appears as
Fulin
Teac
Colle
Not good, I’d suggest HarperCollins!


A Girls' Guide to Travelling Alone: Inspiring true tales from solo women travellers
A Girls' Guide to Travelling Alone: Inspiring true tales from solo women travellers
Price: £2.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Because They're Worth It (for 77p), 22 Nov. 2014
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It is a bold thing for Gemma Thompson to have done - to collect and collate travellers tales from feisty women but this is what she's done. She has succeeded excellently in pulling together an interesting, highly entertaining and inspiring anthology from published and unpublished travellers on both sides of the Atlantic. The theme is of swallowing down fears - or facing up to them - and just going with the experience to see what happens. I particularly liked "Healing" about a trip to Paris by Lizbeth Meredith, Jennifer Barclay's "Swimming with the Fishes" in Greece and Jennifer Purdie's "Wide-eyed in Cape Town".
Buy it for a few pence and enjoy the journeys!


The Memory Book
The Memory Book
Price: £5.88

4.0 out of 5 stars An easy unchallenging read, 22 Nov. 2014
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This review is from: The Memory Book (Kindle Edition)
My overall impression of this book is that it is sweet and enjoyable. It certainly got me thinking about Alzheimer's Disease in a slightly different way and the story line did keep me engaged and wanting to know 'what next'. There were moments too which made me laugh, but this is an unrealistic almost fairy-tale view of dementia and family strife and one that glosses over or avoids the uglier side of the disease. If only it were truer.


Stoner: A Novel (Vintage Classics)
Stoner: A Novel (Vintage Classics)
by John Williams
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Gave up reading as it was so depressing yet not at all insightful, 30 Sept. 2014
I was given Stoner by someone I admire and started reading out of duty even though the blurb didn’t entice me in. The book opens in the monochrome dwelling of a stark joyless monosyllabic family struggling to survive in a bleak colourless landscape in a region that doesn’t interest me. I’m already thinking of abandoning the book by page 12, but then on page 14 there is a subtle change and lightening, and I realised that – quite cleverly – the author has lifted the mood and atmosphere just a little. But this isn’t enough for me; a quarter of the way into the book, I realise it hasn’t made me smile, or note a clever observation or turn of phrase and there isn’t even much dialogue.
Stoner has only two people he might call friends: Masters and Finch. These three literature losers meet each Friday evening to drink beer. When the Americans are sucked into the First World War, Finch decides to join the fight and tries to persuade his two friends sign up too. Masters agrees. Stoner agonises – well we don’t know if he agonises actually – Stoner takes two days to consider if he too will fight, and decides against volunteering. When Masters asks why, Stoner replies, ‘I can’t say.’
Masters is killed in France. We don’t know what Stoner thinks about this, or if he thinks about this.
Still wondering whether to give up on this book, I read the introduction (that’s my usual pattern – I read the extra stuff after reading the book). I was wondering, after all, why this is hailed as a classic of literature. I learned that Stoner had a bitter loveless marriage and knew I didn’t want to read on. Within this introduction, reference is made to one of the rare interviews John Williams ever gave, and in it he is asked if literature should be entertaining, to which Williams responds, ‘Absolutely. My God, to read without joy is stupid.’ I’m a slow attentive reader, which perhaps makes me reluctant to continue reading prose that is not entertaining or amusing, and this comment from Williams himself gives me permission to stop wasting my life in reading his work, as well as the fact that reading it was making me feel depressed.
I suppose Stoner is the antithesis of what I strove for in my novel, ‘Snowfed Waters’. In this, my heroine was also in a sad desolate place. Life had dealt her a bad hand, but she manages to gather the resources to break out of her cycle of self-loathing and eventually turns her life around. In this work I wanted to make people smile and I wanted readers to enjoy the journey of rediscovery and rebirth. Meanwhile, I couldn’t help thinking poor Stoner needed a good slap, and a long course of counselling.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 31, 2014 4:52 PM GMT


Hidden Lies (Paradise Barn Quartet)
Hidden Lies (Paradise Barn Quartet)
by Victor Watson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars East Anglia during the Second World Wat, 18 Sept. 2014
The book opens with a bereft Cassie mistakenly appearing on stage at the beginning of an open air theatre production. She is fleeing from her uncle / guardian’s funeral and from menacing men whom she believes will abduct her. So starts the third of the beautifully written and fast-paced quartet of stories set during the Second World War in a village near Ely in East Anglia. I particularly like Victor Watson’s quirky use of language, one example being during discussions concerning Uncle Peter’s doubtful ‘uncleness’, which really made me smile. As in the other books in this series, the historical detail is meticulously researched but it never gets in the way of the story. The plot is absorbing and it is a very hard book to put down.


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