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Geoffrey Gudgion

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Stories for Homes
Stories for Homes
Price: 4.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A literary feast, 28 Dec 2013
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This review is from: Stories for Homes (Kindle Edition)
In these dyspeptic days after Christmas, here is one feast that won't fatten; a collection of short stories around the theme of 'homes', a chocolate box that allows you to indulge without guilt. Some will make you laugh, others cry, and some will have you rummaging around in the box in the hope that there's another one by that author. Feast away - it's all in aid of Shelter but worth buying just for itself.


Mistress of the Sea
Mistress of the Sea
by Jenny Barden
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good adventure yarn, well told., 1 Sep 2013
This review is from: Mistress of the Sea (Paperback)
This gets 5* from me for the way the main character grows from a spoilt, petulant young woman into a plausible heroine, and for the thoroughness of the historical context. The scene-setting is also excellent; you can smell the tropics, taste the salt. It is unusual for putting a woman, and a commoner to boot, at the centre of the plot in a very masculine age. A good adventure yarn, well told.


Deer Island
Deer Island
by Neil Ansell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 11.60

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerfully written, 31 July 2013
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This review is from: Deer Island (Hardcover)
I started Deer Island thinking I'd just read for thirty minutes before bed. I put it down in the early hours, when it was nearly finished and all hopes of a full night's sleep were gone, and I'm still trying to define its appeal. The quality of the writing certainly has something to do with it; the prose is clean and bare, yet wonderfully descriptive, but there is something more than style.

I'm also trying to define the book. It doesn't fit easily with convenient labels. 'Memoir' is probably the closest fit, since it structured as personal recollections. Ansell has lived and worked with the destitute, has himself been a squatter, and has wandered the wild places of the earth. This slim book could also be seen as a series of vignettes; of poverty, of lifestyles, of places, all of which are articulated with sharp clarity.

I think I was hooked by the way he writes with such respect, even love, for the kind of people most of us hurry past in the street; the alcoholics and homeless beggars, Ansell's friends and companions during his years serving with the Simon Community. There are also descriptive passages of intense beauty; it's worth buying the book just for the paragraphs where he emerges from a freezing rainstorm in the Kalahari desert to see a scimitar-horned gemsbok standing under an extraordinary, purple sunset. His descriptions of Jura, the 'Deer Island' of the title, could inspire me to shoulder a backpack and start walking North.

I'm left with the impression of a man whose life is richer for carrying so little with him, 'Memories,' he says, 'are the only things we truly own, and even they slip from our grasp if we don't handle them with care'.


Ninepins
Ninepins
by Rosy Thornton
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.83

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful, 26 July 2013
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This review is from: Ninepins (Paperback)
Atmospheric, gently paced but with totally believable and engaging characters, and with a powerful sense of place. A delightful read. Recommended.


Strandloper (Harvill Panther)
Strandloper (Harvill Panther)
by Alan Garner
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.19

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Numinous, 21 May 2013
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Alan Garner's Thursbitch was such a delight that I opened Strandloper with rare excitement. I was not disappointed. Garner writes with brilliant, bare precision, even if he can demand much of his readers.

As the cover tells us, the essence of the plot is the true story of William Buckley, a Cheshire bricklayer who was unjustly deported to Australia in 1801, escaped, and lived for 31 years with the Aborigines. Garner weaves together Cheshire folklore and Aboriginal spiritualism in separate melodies that blend to create a single harmony. This beautiful and moving tale is not always an easy read; old Cheshire dialect is as obscure as Aboriginal words and the reader sometimes has to look for meaning in the context rather than the words themselves. In a way, it is like looking at a landscape through a stained glass window; there are layers of beauty that reward the eye that is willing to concentrate.

Garner says, in The Voice That Thunders, that a writer has to have a sense of the numinous. That single word probably sums up Strandloper.

Numinous.


Ragnarok: the End of the Gods (Myths)
Ragnarok: the End of the Gods (Myths)
Price: 4.63

4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully told, 21 May 2013
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The Norse myth of Ragnarok retold in exquisite prose. Byatt uses the device of a precocious, 20th century child-reader, so the book is laced with the child's thoughts and observations. There is also a useful commentary on the nature of myth.

My overall impression is of writing that flows like prose-poetry. Byatt has made this mighty, complicated, challenging myth digestible for the modern reader.


The Keeper
The Keeper
by Natasha Mostert
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent and absorbing, 30 April 2013
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This review is from: The Keeper (Paperback)
A well-written, intelligent tale about the physical and spiritual world of martial arts. It sits in the hinterland between fantasy and reality, and held me to the last page.


Magic: An Anthology of the Esoteric and Arcane
Magic: An Anthology of the Esoteric and Arcane
by Audrey Niffenegger
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Good anthology, 27 Nov 2012
An excellent collection, ranging from the bizarre to the downright threatening. Inevitably, within an anthology, some stories stick in the mind more than others. I particularly liked 'The Wrong Fairy' by Audrey Niffenegger (author of The Time Traveller's Wife), and 'Mailer Daemon' by Sophia McDougall, both of which were very well crafted and required minimal suspension of disbelief. Don't be put off by the ghoulish cover; there's quality writing inside.


The Mathematics of Love
The Mathematics of Love
by Emma Darwin
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.38

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written, 23 Oct 2012
I `discovered' this book by accident, while browsing the author tables at the Historical Novel Society conference in London. I was intrigued by the blurb; I have an instinctive interest in debut novels, even though this one has been out for several years, and my work-in-progress is also set in two time periods. Enough hooks there for me to buy a copy, and it proved to be an intelligent, beautifully written book that kept me reading late into the night. I found myself re-reading some passages purely to appreciate the prose.

Both main characters are finely drawn. The book opens in 1819 as the Peterloo massacre is witnessed by a crippled officer, a survivor of the Napoleonic wars. The story of his wartime traumas, and of his lost and secret love, is interwoven with the story of a rebellious, teenage girl in 1976. She has been parked with an uncle in the crumbling mansion that was once the officer's home. Both characters are written in the first person, a technically challenging approach that works well in this book. Ms Darwin has also managed to write very convincingly from a male as well as female point of view.

There are one or two minor implausibilities that somehow added to my enjoyment of the book. The officer is much more explicit in his memoirs than, I suspect, any Regency gentleman would be, even in private, and the 1976 teenager is wonderfully articulate for a girl of her background. The character of Lucy is probably more fiercely independent and liberal than any Regency lady would be allowed to be, given the restrictions of that era, but her character is delightful for those traits and by the end of the book I was perhaps a little in love with her myself.

However, some of the interactions in the 20th century sections would today be given the label of `abuse', even though they are written with immense tenderness through the eyes of a willing `victim'. That conflict was the only discomfort that remained as I finished a thoroughly satisfying read.

I shall certainly look out for more of Emma Darwin's work.


The Tapestry of Love
The Tapestry of Love
by Rosy Thornton
Edition: Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tapestry of Love, 22 Mar 2011
This review is from: The Tapestry of Love (Paperback)
Tapestry of Love is a delight to read. It is gentle, charming, and beautifully written. Unlike some books, where I find myself having to re-read sections after my attention has wandered, I re-read whole chunks of Tapestry of Love purely to appreciate the beauty of the prose. The plot lines are simple - divorced woman builds new life in rural France - but the characters are finely drawn, engaging, and so believable that I feel that I know them as friends. I've never visited the mountains of the Cevennes, either, but I feel I've followed the sheep to their summer pastures, or glimpsed the wild boar in the woods. The ideal bed-time read; I turned out the light feeling calm and enriched.


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