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Reviews Written by
A. Hope "bookcrossing ali" (Birmingham, England)
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The Red Queen
The Red Queen
by Margaret Drabble
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Red Queen, 10 April 2009
This review is from: The Red Queen (Paperback)
The first section of the book is the beautiful haunting story of the Crown Princess married at 10 years old in the 1700's, her tragic life, the deaths of her son, and her "mad" husband.
In the second part of the book we meet Dr Barbara Halliwell, modern academic, mother to a dead son, wife of a "mad" husband, who becomes enchanted by the story of the Korean Princess whilst on a trip to Seoul; and who like the princess loves red, and fears magpies. Barbara's story is just as enthralling as that of the princess, for similar, and different reasons. The similarities between the Princess and Dr Halliwell are obvious. Like the Princess, Barbara is a woman of her time, she has the freedom to travel, while the princess led a cloistered existence. I found this to be an intelligent, and pacy read, loved it.


Star Gazing
Star Gazing
by Linda Gillard
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poignant and Lyrical,, 31 Jan. 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Star Gazing (Paperback)
Star Gazing is a lyrically poignant novel, set in Edinburgh and Skye which I found hugely readable and often very touching. It is the story of a woman, a music lover, widowed, blind from birth, she lives with her writer siter, then one winter night she meets a man on her doorstep.

As with Emotional Geology (Linda Gillard's first novel) the parts of the book set on Skye just make you want to go there to fully expierence what must be a beautiful and completley unspoiled natural enviroment. The central character Marianne is thouroughly realistic and likeable, she's intelligent, vulnerable, and sensitive, but never helpless despite her blindeness. Marianne's love of the natural world is infectious, there were some beautiful descriptions of trees and rain, the sound of rain in the trees has forever been enhanced for me through these lovely descriptions. Kier is a wonderful romantic hero type. The most memorable part of the book for me was when Marianne loses her way in the snow - my heart was in my mouth - and I could just imagine how that would have felt. The subject of blindess is brilliantly tackled - so many things that as a sighted person you take for granted, and so many simple things that for a blind person became laden with difficulties. This is a lovely novel, and I can't wait for more by this author.


No Title Available

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unputdownable story of a Black country GP, 11 Jan. 2009
Jonathan Dakars is the eldest son of a rather ridiculous Black country couple, who favour his younger handsomer brother Harold. Jonathan dreams of a distinguished medical career but upon his fathers sudden death, is forced to take a partnership at a run down general practice, dealing mainly with the poor people of the Black country.

This is in no way a happy story, but it is a brilliant novel, and I loved every page. First published in 1928 it is wiritten in FBY's usual rather flowery style, but is hugely readable and I engaged with the characters instantly. It paints an amazingly clear picture of medicine and general practice in the early twentieth century, before the NHS. The living conditions of the poor in the Black Country of this period are discribed with unflinching honesty - and that alone could make this a very memorable book. However there are so many dramatic twists and turns in the telling of the story of Dr Jonathan Dakers life, over about 600 pages, that it is amazing that this book has ceased to be printed. After I had finished this book, and I couldn't get these characters out of my head. I loved it, but it left me feeling sad.


The Bookshop at 10 Curzon Street: Letters between Nancy Mitford and Heywood Hill 1952-73: Letters Between Nancy Mitford and Heywood Hill 1952-1973
The Bookshop at 10 Curzon Street: Letters between Nancy Mitford and Heywood Hill 1952-73: Letters Between Nancy Mitford and Heywood Hill 1952-1973
by John Saumarez Smith
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Letters from a bygone age, 11 Jan. 2009
These letters from Nancy Mitford to her friend Heywood Hill come to us from a bygone era, from a time when people wrote letters, frequent chatty, gossipy, and sometimes bitchily funny. Heywood Hill, in his now famous shop in London, Nancy in her Parisian apartment, swap stories of people they both knew well, and some of them very famous names. These letters are often hilarious, and provide a wonderful insight into a really lovely friendship that survived several decades. Whenever I think of Nancy Mitford - I suppose like many people I immediately conjour up for myself images of the 1920's 1930's or 40's. But of course Nancy lived untill the 1970's and these letters dated from 1952 - 1973 puts Nancy Mitford and Heywood Hill in a more modern world - and their occaisional horror at it is quite often very funny. For example: From NM Venice 1962 - "All the boys here wear a tiny wireless tucked in among their private parts - you wouldn't believe the din these things give out"
and From HH 1963:
"One of the reasons we took Lucy to Corfu is that her friend Jane Asher is in love with a Beatle and told Lucy she would produce another Beatle for her.....They did turn up but luckily the other Beatle was already mated with a Liverpudlian hairdresser" hilarious!!
I often found the reading of this wonderful book to be rather poignant, as I couldn't help but have a sense of time running out - for people like them (Heywood and Nancy) and their fragile world. Looking at the photograph of Heywood Hill in his bookshop in 1938 - looking very dishy -I wanted to jump into a little time machine and go back to these long ago days at 10 Curzon Street and rub shoulders with all the different people mentioned in the book.
This is a book I will probably buy numerous copies of - to give away as gifts. Simply wonderful.


Love in the Driest Season: A Family Memoir
Love in the Driest Season: A Family Memoir
by Neely Tucker
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars An engrossing family memoir, 12 Sept. 2008
This memoir is an engrossing read, both for it's portrayal of a couple's absolute determination in adopting a child from a country with an unbelievable attitude to adoption, and the background story to Zimbabwe's political turmoil. Neely Tucker - an American journalist also writes about his own job as a foreign correspondent in Africa - and reading of some of his experiences you wonder why anyone would choose this as a career. Just as fascinating is the story of Neely and Vita themselves - he a white man from a Mississippi farming commmunity with all the stereotypical problems that image conjours up - her a black woman eleven years older than him from Detroit. This is a story that shows what can be achieved with belief and determination, and love.


Digging to America
Digging to America
by Anne Tyler
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Digging to America, 12 Sept. 2008
This review is from: Digging to America (Paperback)
Two very different families, unable to have their own babies, each adopt a Korean baby. The night "the girls" arrive at the airport the two families meet, eventually becoming friends. Each year on the anniversary of "arrival day" the two families get together to eat and remember, with the help of some video footage.
Ann Tyler doesn't shy away from asking difficult questions. This is a novel that examines what it is to belong. What does it mean for instance to be an American in this post 9/11 world. Anne Tyler always shows people as they really are - and the people in this lovely novel about love, death belonging and grief are as well written as ever.


No Title Available

5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, 12 Sept. 2008
This novel written in 1942 - is about two middle aged sisters who come to live at North Bromich in their family home with their elderly father. Upon his death they find it difficult to make ends meet. At this point s timely bequest comes their way in the shape of a villa and estate in Italy from a disreputable uncle who died intestate. They are met by Salvatore - their new butler who helps them manage their estate - but whose family once many years before owned the land themselves. Salvatore is a younger handsome man, and quickly makes himself indespensible to Agnes in particular. Ellen the younger sister is unsettled by him, and hears things from another local Englishman which worry her further.


The Magician (Vintage Classics)
The Magician (Vintage Classics)
by W. Somerset Maugham
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth perservering with - it is worth it., 12 Sept. 2008
This is certainly a novel worth persevering with. The beginning is dare I say dull, and Maugham himself criticised it. But then suddenly it develops into a truly gripping read. The awfully sinister Oliver Haddo is a sly practitioner of the occult, who appears to use his skill to ruin the lives of a couple of good and innocent souls. This classic novel becomes unputdownable, atmospheric and chilling. An excellent read.


The Villa in Italy
The Villa in Italy
by Elizabeth Edmondson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gentle Mystery, 12 Sept. 2008
This review is from: The Villa in Italy (Paperback)
This novel really is a feel good read, the setting is lovely and the characters each with their own demons are the kind of characters you come to care about. The story begins in 1957, when each of four strangers recieve instructions to go to a villa in Italy to recieve a bequest, the deceased, a woman none of them has ever heard of. There are plenty of secrets waiting to be revealed at the villa, as they and the reader slowly begin to discover the secrets that each of the four legetees has, and the connexion they have to the mysterious Beatrice Malaspina. This is a novel as relaxing as the villa in which it is set. An enjoyable, gentle mystery, about people facing their demons and trying to put their lives in order.


The Moor (Mary Russell Mystery)
The Moor (Mary Russell Mystery)
by Laurie R. King
Edition: Audio Cassette

4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and engrossing, 16 July 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This - the 4th in the Mary Russell series - is enormously clever as it combines real historical characters with fictional ones - it is this sort of device that brings a touch of realism to these Laurie R King novels. The setting is the moors where Conan Doyle's famous Hound of the Baskervilles was set, with more ghostly sightings and sinister local characters. The Holmes/Russell partnership is as brilliant as ever, they are both tough, and intelligent, and no villain is safe from them. Brilliant stuff.


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