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Didier (Ghent, Belgium)
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Le Creuset Stoneware Classic Teapot, 1.3 L - Volcanic
Le Creuset Stoneware Classic Teapot, 1.3 L - Volcanic
Price: £31.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another classic from Le Creuset, 8 Sep 2013
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I actually never drink tea myself but bought this teapot as a birthday present for my wife. She was delighted, but that's no reason to award five stars of course. The stars I gladly award to the teapot itself: it's sturdy, has a nice 'heavy' feel to it, keeps your tea warm for a long time (or so I'm told), and - last but not least - looks splendid (in my personal opinion most of all in this classic Le Creuset volcanic colour). The teapot to end all teapots!


Le Creuset Stoneware Utensil Jar, Small - Volcanic
Le Creuset Stoneware Utensil Jar, Small - Volcanic
Price: £16.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great utensil jar, 8 Sep 2013
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I must admit I have a weak spot for Le Creuset equipment. Granted, it's an expensive brand, but I have yet to be disappointed by a single Le Creuset product and if taken properly care of they will last for years, if not a lifetime. I have three of these utensil jars (in different colours), and they do perfectly what they are meant to do: large enough to hold a whole array of kitchen utensils, heavy enough not to topple over, and they simply look great in those lovely traditional Le Creuset colours. Warmly recommended!


Scanpan Classic 39 x 27 cm Roasting Pan
Scanpan Classic 39 x 27 cm Roasting Pan
Price: £91.95

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top notch!, 8 Sep 2013
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I had been on the look-out for a decent roasting pan for a while endlessly comparing different brands, models and materials when I finally made up my mind to buy this one, and having used it now for a couple of months I haven't yet regretted my decision for a second! This is really a splendid bit of kitchen equipment: large enough for a (big) chicken or a goose, sturdy (if taken care of properly, I sure you'll never need to buy a replacement), works on any kind of burner or stove, and washing up is so easy it becomes a joy (well, almost). Well worth the money!


Persuasion (Oxford World's Classics)
Persuasion (Oxford World's Classics)
by Jane Austen
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.31

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another splendid Austen-novel, 8 Sep 2013
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Apart from Northanger Abbey, Lady Susan, The Watsons, Sanditon: WITH Lady Susan (Oxford World's Classics) I have now read all of Jane Austen's novels in close succession, and together with Emma (Oxford World's Classics) and Pride and Prejudice (Oxford World's Classics) this is the one I have enjoyed the most. I consider myself far too much of an 'Austen-novice' to enter into any discussion whether or not it is one of her 'best', they all have their merits and most of all: does it really matter which is 'best'?

As usual with Austen, the entire plot is built around a limited cast of characters and the beginning of the story is easily summarized: Anne Elliot is one of the three daughters of the impoverished but vain and haughty baronet Sir Walter Elliot of Kellynch Hall. Seven years before the action of the book is set, she broke of her engagement to captain Frederick Wentworth under pressure of her family, as Wentworth had no 'ancestry' nor fortune. Anne however has never ceased loving Wentworth, and then they encounter each other again when he comes back to England at the end of the Napoleonic wars, rich with prize money...

I will not spoilt the (immense) fun of the rest of the story by giving away what happens next and how the story ends for Anne and Frederick, but let me assure you it is a splendid and moving story indeed, with Anne as one of the most endearing characters I have ever met (I found myself rooting for her from page one). A terrific novel!


Emma (Oxford World's Classics)
Emma (Oxford World's Classics)
by Jane Austen
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.35

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 31 Aug 2013
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It's been pointed out to me that I was rather harsh on Fanny Price in my review of Mansfield Park (Oxford World's Classics), and maybe I was. Can I make amends by extolling the virtues of Emma (both the novel and the character)? It's hard to know where to begin, so many and varied are the qualities of this lovely book! This is now my fourth Jane Austen-novel in a row, and to me personally it's probably the one I liked best (though Pride and Prejudice (Oxford World's Classics) is delightful reading too of course, and so is Sense and Sensibility (Oxford World's Classics)).

From page one I was captivated not just by Emma but by all characters, it's amazing how Austen succeeds in making fictional characters come to life: the enchanting but fallible heroine, her father Mr. Woodhouse (at times hilarious), Mr. Knightley, Mrs. Bates, and so on and so forth. They all become very rapidly people you can very well imagine meeting in real life or, stronger still, are convinced to have met in reincarnation. I think that the reason why I like Emma so much is that she is portrayed as very much 'human': apt to make mistakes (all too many one could argue, as another reviewer said I too at times felt like giving Emma a good talking-to) but able to learn from them.

I think this is deservedly a classic, given the fact that it so captivatingly, with just a very limited number of characters and without any grand historical or dramatic events taking place to liven up the plot, draws a timeless portrait of very 'real' people struggling with being in love (or not). My only regret is not having read these novels earlier in life. Have I know become a Janeite? A citizen of the Republic of Pemberley? My wife decidely thinks so ;-)


Mansfield Park (Oxford World's Classics)
Mansfield Park (Oxford World's Classics)
by Jane Austen
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.34

4.0 out of 5 stars Saint Fanny, 24 Aug 2013
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This is now my third Jane Austen-novel in a row, and it's without a doubt the one I have the most ambiguous feelings about. The culprit so to speak is the novel's heroine, Fanny Price. If fictional characters could be canonized, surely she would be first in line? She is (at times annoyingly so) the very embodiment of perfection in womanhood, or at least according to the standards of the early 19th century. Fanny is intelligent (without trying to be 'clever'), demure, empathic, shy, understanding, patient, soft-spoken (if and when she speaks at all), caring, and so on ad nauseam... Even the slightest glimmer of a less than perfect feeling (such as jealousy towards Mary Crawford) is enough to have Fanny scold and castigate herself for such unworthy feelings, there is not a thing she wants for herself or feels worthy of, and when her foster-father Sir Thomas arranges for a fire to be lit in Fanny's room she is close upon swooning with gratitude.

Is it perhaps a shade too much? Can such a woman exist and be credibly portrayed in a work of fiction? Or is much of my feeling in this regard due to the distance in time and morals since this novel was written? I'm not sure, what I do know for a fact is that Fanny did sometimes get on my nerves. Perversely perhaps, I found the 'bad' characters in the book ever so much more to my liking! Aunt Norris is surely the epitome of 'the malicious female relative', the only one I can think of that comes close is Mrs. Proudie in Trollope's Barsetshire-novels (it would be a feast if she and aunt Norris could have had tea together and discuss Fanny), and Mary Crawford herself I felt to be a more interesting character than Fanny, if only because she comes across as more credible if not likeable (at the very least she seems to belong to the human species).

I would have Fanny as my housekeeper any day of the week, but I'm not sure I would have her as a wife (provided she would have me for a husband, which I'm doubtful of, given Fanny's standards). Be that as it may, I would be no means suggest or advise not to read this novel! On the contrary, by all means do so to find out for yourself, and because it is despite the above (or precisely because of the above) a very fascinating novel.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 27, 2013 7:23 AM BST


The Towers of Trebizond (Flamingo)
The Towers of Trebizond (Flamingo)
by Rose Macaulay
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.79

4.0 out of 5 stars A delightful surprise, 18 Aug 2013
I took this book with me on a holiday to Austria, and I must confess it was a strange experience reading about aunt Dot, Laurie and Father Chantry-Pigg travelling around Turkey and the Levant on their camel, through sun-baked plains or lush forests, while I myself had a splendid view of the Austrian Alps in front of me. But I guess one could read this book just about anywhere in the world and yet be instantly transported to the region of the book, so beautiful and evocative are the descriptions of the landscapes, the cities and ruins Laurie visits, and the fishing she and aunt Dot do while camping near a river, or the local inhabitants (lots of men replying 'yok' to their questions), and the fellow-Englishmen they meet.

Though the narrator is Laurie and one gets to know her best, each of the three main characters is exquisitely drawn and (to my Belgian eyes at least) prime examples of that inimitable species, 'the English eccentric'. What would never occur to think or do seems quite normal to them, and the flair with which they go about their travels is often quite hilarious and always heartening. Wouldn't life be so much more fun if more of the same kind of people were around?

The only aspect that was a little lost on me were the sometimes rather lengthy bits on the differences between different kinds of Anglicanism, Roman-Catholicism, etc. (and religion in general), but Im' sure it's different for people born and bred in the U.K., and it really didn't spoil the fun for me either. A warm, funny and yet deep book, heartily recommended!


Sense and Sensibility (Oxford World's Classics)
Sense and Sensibility (Oxford World's Classics)
by Jane Austen
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.44

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply splendid, 18 Aug 2013
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As I pride myself on being an avid reader of English literature and am now close on 50, I felt it simply could not do anymore that I hadn't yet read a single novel by Jane Austen. So I recently resolved to read all of them, in the order that they were published 200 odd years ago (as I did last year with Dickens and the year before with Trollope, yes I like to think I am nothing if not methodical).

Is it any wonder I now blame myself heartily for having waited so long? 'Sense and Sensibility' is of course deservedly a classic, and, as millions before me I guess, I was captivated from page one by the story of Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, Willoughby, Edward Ferrars and Colonel Brandon.

The action may be set 200 years ago, but the story is ultimately about that inexhaustible and timeless topic: love and love's tribulations, and as such it is most probably as captivating today as it was in 1811 when it was first published. I found this splendid story to be a real page-turner, very 'easy-to-read' with a limited cast of characters (but what characters!) and an incomparably fluent style and yet, at the same time, there's ever so much to reflect upon that I wonder not that many, of whom I will become one I hazard, keep on re-reading these novels. But first I am eager to discover what joys Pride and Prejudice (Oxford World's Classics) will bring!


Pride and Prejudice (Oxford World's Classics)
Pride and Prejudice (Oxford World's Classics)
by Jane Austen
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.25

5.0 out of 5 stars A timeless classic, and deservedly so, 17 Aug 2013
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Perhaps I could be found guilty myself of both pride and prejudice in not having read this novel until I was 48, although I pride myself of being an avid reader of English literature? Be that as it may, I recently did finally read this marvellous novel, immediately after having finished Sense and Sensibility (Oxford World's Classics), and, I guess like many before me, found the experience so gratifying that I have resolved to read all novels by Jane Austen.

The story, or so I thought, was known to me, having seen the film adaptation with Keira Knightley (who makes an excellent Elizabeth Bennet in my opinion), but, as so often, the book is ever so much better than the movie. Even knowing how the story would end before I opened the book, I found myself captivated from page one and continually eager to find out what would happen next and, above all, how Austen would develop each character. It is astonishing how she knows to capture and escribe people's feelings and make one relate to them, although they live and interact in a society far removed in time from the present day and governed by morals and rules so different from ours.

Apart from the story itself, I'd like to add that - as with all 'Oxford World's Classics' I have read - this edition comes with helpful notes and a very enlightening introduction. It's been a joy to read 'Pride and Prejudice', a it's a near-certainty that sooner or later I will read it again, but first Mansfield Park (Wordsworth Classics)!


Oxygen
Oxygen
by Andrew Miller
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

5.0 out of 5 stars Marvellous, 17 Aug 2013
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This review is from: Oxygen (Paperback)
Before reading Pure recently, it had been a while since I had last read a novel by Andrew Miller although years ago both Ingenious Pain and Casanova gave me great pleasure. Perhaps that is predominantly due to the fact that I prefer historical novels to fiction set in contemporary times, so it was with both great hope and a measure of hesitation that I began 'Oxygen' (which is set in 1997).

However, I need not have worried! 'Oxygen' is a very engaging, even gripping novel about, well, about ever so much: a sense of failure about one's life (haven't we all had that at certain times?), the possibility of atonement and making amends (equally so: haven't we all yearned for that as well now and then?), love and how quickly it can wither away, unfulfilled dreams and ambitions and how to come to terms with those...

The four main characters in 'Oxygen' have reached turning points in their lives, they are so to speak at (or almost at) the point of no return: Alice Valentine is gravely ill, her son Larry's career and marriage are in ruins, her younger son Alec has always felt himself to be a failure compared to Larry, and the Hungarian-born writer Laszlo Lazar has been living in Paris for years haunted by his memories of the Hungarian revolt in 1956. All of them, their relationships, and the way they try to deal with what life has thrown at them is told in such a simple yet beautiful way that one cannot help but be deeply moved.

This is probably not the perfect book to take with you on a beach holiday in the sun, but there's ever so much to learn, reflect on, and enjoy here that even in those circumstances you'd probably lose all awareness of wherever you are after page one. Heartily recommended!


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