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Keepers Of The House
Keepers Of The House
by Lisa St. Aubin De Teran
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.91

4.0 out of 5 stars Keepers of the House, 14 Sep 2014
This review is from: Keepers Of The House (Paperback)
Lisa St Aubin de Teran's semi-autobiographical debut novel 'Keepers of the House' is set in the Venezuelan Andes and centres on a young Englishwoman, Lydia, who arrives in the Andes during the 1950s as the much younger wife of sugar planter, Diego Beltran, who is almost the last of the declining Beltran line. Diego's estate and the large dilapidated hacienda in which they both live, has seen much better days, and by the time Lydia arrives, the preceding years of drought and disease have very much taken their toll. Lydia and Diego try to find ways to make the estate more prosperous, but defeated by the weather and lack of good fortune, their plans soon fall by the wayside and after yet another tragic event, Diego, feeling tired, ill and very dispirited takes to his bed and retreats into himself. Lydia, who from the moment she arrives in the Andes, feels that she belongs there, makes friends with Benito, the old family retainer, who shares with her a myriad of stories and legends from the recent and more distant past. And from Benito's stories, full of violence, bloodshed, rivalries and romance, we learn of the intriguing and tragic past history of the Beltran family.

First published in 1982 and winner of the Somerset Maugham Award for that year, Lisa St Aubin de Teran's debut novel is beautifully written, using a mixture of colourful and vivid language intermingled with sparser prose, which contributes to this story's aura of magical realism. The author, who was married to a Venezuelan and lived and worked on their sugar and avocado estate for several years, has effectively drawn on her own experiences for her first novel, and from the very first pages I was pulled into this unusual and rather captivating story. I have several of the author's novels and non-fiction titles on my bookshelves, but somehow never got around to reading them; however reading 'Keepers of the House' has made me keen to remedy this oversight and I look forward to reading and reviewing those unread titles in the not too distant future.

4 Stars.


Keepers of the House (Bloomsbury Classic Series)
Keepers of the House (Bloomsbury Classic Series)
by Lisa St. Aubin De Teran
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 9.64

4.0 out of 5 stars Keepers of the House, 14 Sep 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Lisa St Aubin de Teran's semi-autobiographical debut novel 'Keepers of the House' is set in the Venezuelan Andes and centres on a young Englishwoman, Lydia, who arrives in the Andes during the 1950s as the much younger wife of sugar planter, Diego Beltran, who is almost the last of the declining Beltran line. Diego's estate and the large dilapidated hacienda in which they both live, has seen much better days, and by the time Lydia arrives, the preceding years of drought and disease have very much taken their toll. Lydia and Diego try to find ways to make the estate more prosperous, but defeated by the weather and lack of good fortune, their plans soon fall by the wayside and after yet another tragic event, Diego, feeling tired, ill and very dispirited takes to his bed and retreats into himself. Lydia, who from the moment she arrives in the Andes, feels that she belongs there, makes friends with Benito, the old family retainer, who shares with her a myriad of stories and legends from the recent and more distant past. And from Benito's stories, full of violence, bloodshed, rivalries and romance, we learn of the intriguing and tragic past history of the Beltran family.

First published in 1982 and winner of the Somerset Maugham Award for that year, Lisa St Aubin de Teran's debut novel is beautifully written, using a mixture of colourful and vivid language intermingled with sparser prose, which contributes to this story's aura of magical realism. The author, who was married to a Venezuelan and lived and worked on their sugar and avocado estate for several years, has effectively drawn on her own experiences for her first novel, and from the very first pages I was pulled into this unusual and rather captivating story. I have several of the author's novels and non-fiction titles on my bookshelves, but somehow never got around to reading them; however reading 'Keepers of the House' has made me keen to remedy this oversight and I look forward to reading and reviewing those unread titles in the not too distant future.

4 Stars.


Pride and Prejudice (Unabridged)
Pride and Prejudice (Unabridged)
Offered by Audible Ltd
Price: 17.25

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful - but if you want the audio version and have a Kindle, do consider the Kindle Whispersync for Voice Combination,, 13 Sep 2014
"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." So begins Jane Austen's wonderful 'Pride and Prejudice' when the arrival of the wealthy Mr Bingley, and his even wealthier friend, Mr Darcy, causes a stir in the village of Longbourn, and particularly in the Bennet household. Mr and Mrs Bennet have five unmarried daughters, no male heir, and their estate is entailed on a pompous clergyman relative, a certain Mr Collins. Mrs Bennet, therefore, is desperate to see at least two of her daughters married - namely the beautiful Jane, and the attractive, independently-minded Elizabeth. Two pretty and intelligent young women; two rich, eligible men - what could go possibly wrong? Just about everything ...

This is a sparklingly witty, beautifully written and cleverly composed story which is a pleasure to read from start to finish. Elizabeth Bennet is a wonderful creation; Darcy is suitably arrogant, difficult and complex; Mrs Bennet is an absolutely awful, but brilliantly conceived character, who could give masterclasses in how to embarrass one's children; Lady Catherine de Bourgh is wonderfully snobbish and horribly condescending; Elizabeth's cousin, Mr Collins, is a toe-curlingly ingratiating character; and the remainder of the cast add greatly to this superb story.

Romantic, amusing and marvellously entertaining this is a novel to read and reread - but one of the main purposes of this review is to talk about the Kindle Whispersync for Voice combination. If you have a Kindle, do consider buying one of the very reasonably priced Kindle versions and you will then be able to download this audio version for just a couple of pounds (at the time of writing), therefore saving yourself a small fortune. You can switch back and forth between reading the Kindle book and listening to the Audible audiobook without ever losing your place.

I bought the Kindle and audio download combination after buying the lovely new paperback version: Pride and Prejudice as a gift for someone, which gave me the urge to reread my own copy - however not wanting to break off from my current read, I decided to try the audio download and listened to it happily whilst travelling/gardening etc. The audio version I downloaded was ably narrated by Lindsay Duncan, who uses a variety of voices for the different protagonists, but there are other versions available (such as: Pride and Prejudice (Unabridged) narrated by Emilia Fox) and although Jane Austen's wonderful writing speaks for itself, Lindsay Duncan's rendition makes each character become even more alive, making this an entertaining and enjoyable listening experience.

5 Stars.


Pride and Prejudice, Annotated (Penguin Classics)
Pride and Prejudice, Annotated (Penguin Classics)
Price: 1.89

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful - but if you have a Kindle, do consider the Kindle Whispersync for Voice Combination, 13 Sep 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." So begins Jane Austen's wonderful 'Pride and Prejudice' when the arrival of the wealthy Mr Bingley, and his even wealthier friend, Mr Darcy, causes a stir in the village of Longbourn, and particularly in the Bennet household. Mr and Mrs Bennet have five unmarried daughters, no male heir, and their estate is entailed on a pompous clergyman relative, a certain Mr Collins. Mrs Bennet, therefore, is desperate to see at least two of her daughters married - namely the beautiful Jane, and the attractive, independently-minded Elizabeth. Two pretty and intelligent young women; two rich, eligible men - what could go possibly wrong? Just about everything ...

This is a sparklingly witty, beautifully written and cleverly composed story which is a pleasure to read from start to finish. Elizabeth Bennet is a wonderful creation; Darcy is suitably arrogant, difficult and complex; Mrs Bennet is an absolutely awful, but brilliantly conceived character, who could give masterclasses in how to embarrass one's children; Lady Catherine de Bourgh is wonderfully snobbish and horribly condescending; Elizabeth's cousin, Mr Collins, is a toe-curlingly ingratiating character; and the remainder of the cast add greatly to this superb story.

Romantic, amusing and marvellously entertaining this is a novel to read and reread - but one of the main purposes of this review is to talk about the Kindle Whispersync for Voice combination. If you buy one of the very reasonably priced Kindle versions, you are now able to download one of the audio versions, such as: Pride and Prejudice (Unabridged) for a couple of pounds (at the time of writing), therefore saving yourself a small fortune. You can switch back and forth between reading the Kindle book and listening to the Audible audiobook without ever losing your place.

I bought the Kindle and audio download combination after buying the lovely new paperback version: Pride and Prejudice as a gift for someone, which gave me the urge to reread my own copy - however not wanting to break off from my current read, I decided to try the audio download and listened to it happily whilst travelling/gardening etc. The audio version I downloaded was ably narrated by Lindsay Duncan, who uses a variety of voices for the different protagonists, but there are other versions available (such as: Pride and Prejudice (Unabridged) narrated by Emilia Fox) and although Jane Austen's wonderful writing speaks for itself, Lindsay Duncan's rendition makes each character become even more alive, making this an entertaining and enjoyable listening experience.

5 Stars.


Mr Mac and Me
Mr Mac and Me
by Esther Freud
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 8.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mr Mac and Me, 11 Sep 2014
This review is from: Mr Mac and Me (Hardcover)
Esther Freud's latest novel takes us to the beautiful Suffolk coast and back in time to 1914 and to the outbreak of the First World War. Thirteen-year-old Thomas Maggs lives in the Blue Anchor public house with his mother and father and his grown-up sister Ann. His other sister, Mary, is in service, and Thomas, a quiet and unassuming boy with a twisted foot, is the youngest of nine children, six of whom have died in infancy. Life is not easy; his father drinks heavily; his mother is overworked, and when Thomas is not at school, he works for the local rope maker in order to earn a few pennies. He leads a fairly uneventful and rather solitary life which follows the slow turn of the seasons, but longing to be away from the land and out on the sea, Thomas escapes from his chores whenever he can and spends time on the jetty, watching the fisherman, sketching the boats, and shyly observing the girls who come down from Scotland to gut and pack the herrings.

Into the Suffolk community arrives architect and artist Charles Rennie Mackinstosh, accompanied by his auburn-haired artist wife, Margaret. With their easels and paints and their absorption in the nature and wildlife around them, Mac and Margaret both soon become a source of interest and fascination to the naive young Thomas, and when they encourage him in his artistic endeavours, Thomas finds himself spending as much time as he can in their company. However, with the outbreak of war and with large numbers of young men being shipped over to Belgium to fight the Germans, followed later by news of the slaughter of the Suffolk regiment, the real tragedy of war begins to cast its shadow over the inhabitants of this coastal community. And when Thomas finds a letter addressed to Herr Rennie Mackintosh from a German friend, he starts to wonder why Mr Mac is spending so much of his time in Suffolk, looking out across the sea.

With some vivid descriptions of the Suffolk coast and of the natural world in and around Southwold, with its lighthouse, its pier with its "wooden legs, creeping into the sea" and where the residents can hear the guns thundering from Flanders, I found this story to be an engaging and involving one. Esther Freud is the daughter of painter Lucian Freud, and I read in an interview with the author in a broadsheet paper, that she slowly came to understand the artistic process through watching her father paint, and this experience is revealed in her descriptions of Thomas as he watches the Mackintoshes at work, and where Thomas himself is gradually able to show "the insides" of his subject. Inspired by the knowledge that Charles Rennie Mackinstosh once stayed in Suffolk, where she now owns a house, Esther Freud has created a thoughtful, unhurried and beautifully written story, rich in details of the visual world of the artist, and one that makes for an enjoyable and rewarding read.

4 Stars.

Also recommended by Esther Freud: The Wild and The Sea House.


Sense and Sensibility (Unabridged)
Sense and Sensibility (Unabridged)
Offered by Audible Ltd
Price: 22.90

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Marvellous - but if you want the audio version and have a Kindle, do consider the Whispersync for Voice Combination, 9 Sep 2014
The Dashwood sisters: calm, sensible Elinor, and impetuous and passionate Marianne, are forced to leave their home, Norland Park, after the death of their father when the family estate is left to their half-brother, John. Elinor is especially reluctant to leave Norland, as she has become rather close to a kind but diffident young man, Edward Ferrars, who is the brother of John's grasping wife, Fanny. With their mother and much younger sister, Margaret, Elinor and Marianne move into a large cottage in the grounds of Barton Park, the home of a kind and generous distant relative, where they meet retired officer and gentleman, the gallant Colonel Brandon, and the dashing, handsome, but unreliable, Mr Willoughby. Later, Elinor is introduced to the seemingly affable Lucy Steele, who does her utmost to ingratiate herself with the Dashwood girls, especially Elinor - however, Lucy has a secret that when revealed is particularly injurious to Elinor, and when Marianne also has her heart broken, Elinor struggles to keep a calm head and cope with the onslaught of emotions that suddenly befall her.

A real pleasure to read, this is a beautifully written, sensitive, yet witty and very entertaining novel, complete with a host of manipulative, deceitful and grasping supporting characters, who contrast well with the sensitive and sensible Elinor and her intimates. I have been reading and re-reading Jane Austen's novels for many years and I cannot remember how many times I have read and enjoyed this story - but one of the main purposes of this review is to talk about the Kindle Whispersync for Voice combination. If you have a Kindle, do consider buying one of the Kindle versions (several of which cost less than fifty pence) and you will then be able to download this audio version for just a couple of pounds (at the time of writing), therefore saving yourself a small fortune. You can switch back and forth between reading the Kindle book and listening to the Audible audiobook without ever losing your place. I bought the Kindle and audio download combination after buying the lovely new paperback version: Sense and Sensibility (Vintage Classics Austen Series) as a gift for someone, which gave me the urge to reread my own copy - however not wanting to break off from my current read, I decided to try the audio download and listened to it happily whilst travelling/gardening etc. Juliet Stevenson's accomplished narration is enjoyable and easy to listen to - she uses a variety of voices for the different protagonists, and although Jane Austen's wonderful writing speaks for itself, Juliet Stevenson's rendition makes each character come even more alive, making this an entertaining and satisfying listening experience.

5 Stars.


Sense and Sensibility (Oxford World's Classics)
Sense and Sensibility (Oxford World's Classics)
Price: 1.88

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Marvellous Read - but if you have a Kindle, do consider the Kindle Whispersync for Voice Combination, 9 Sep 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The Dashwood sisters: calm, sensible Elinor, and impetuous and passionate Marianne, are forced to leave their home, Norland Park, after the death of their father when the family estate is left to their half-brother, John. Elinor is especially reluctant to leave Norland, as she has become rather close to a kind but diffident young man, Edward Ferrars, who is the brother of John's grasping wife, Fanny. With their mother and much younger sister, Margaret, Elinor and Marianne move into a large cottage in the grounds of Barton Park, the home of a kind and generous distant relative, where they meet retired officer and gentleman, the gallant Colonel Brandon, and the dashing, handsome, but unreliable, Mr Willoughby. Later, Elinor is introduced to the seemingly affable Lucy Steele, who does her utmost to ingratiate herself with the Dashwood girls, especially Elinor - however, Lucy has a secret that when revealed is particularly injurious to Elinor, and when Marianne also has her heart broken, Elinor struggles to keep a calm head and cope with the onslaught of emotions that suddenly befall her.

A real pleasure to read, this is a beautifully written, sensitive, yet witty and very entertaining novel, complete with a host of manipulative, deceitful and grasping supporting characters, who contrast well with the sensitive and sensible Elinor and her intimates. I have been reading and re-reading Jane Austen's novels for many years and I cannot remember how many times I have read and enjoyed this story - but one of the main purposes of this review is to talk about the Kindle Whispersync for Voice combination. If you buy one of the Kindle versions, several of which are priced at less than fifty pence, you are now able to download the audio version:Sense and Sensibility (Unabridged) for a couple of pounds (at the time of writing), therefore saving yourself a small fortune. You can switch back and forth between reading the Kindle book and listening to the Audible audiobook without ever losing your place. I bought the Kindle and audio download combination after buying the lovely new paperback version: Sense and Sensibility (Vintage Classics Austen Series) as a gift for someone, which gave me the urge to reread my own copy - however not wanting to break off from my current read, I decided to try the audio download and listened to it happily whilst travelling/gardening etc. Juliet Stevenson's accomplished narration is enjoyable and easy to listen to - she uses a variety of voices for the different protagonists, and although Jane Austen's wonderful writing speaks for itself, Juliet Stevenson's rendition makes each character come even more alive, making this an entertaining and satisfying listening experience.

5 Stars.


If My Father Loved Me
If My Father Loved Me
Price: 3.81

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Undemanding Downtime Read, 8 Sep 2014
Divorcee Sadie, a bookbinder, is the mother of Lola, who is at university, and twelve-year-old Jack, who attends the local comprehensive. She lives in London, she has her own business which she set up with her business partner, Penny, and she has a great network of reliable friends. Her life is not perfect, but it is reasonably good; however, Sadie is having difficulties with Jack, who blames her for the break-up of her marriage and for the fact that he only sees his father (who has remarried and is now the father of twin girls) on certain pre-arranged weekend visits. When she tries to speak to Jack about his unhappiness, he shuts her out, and Sadie, who had a difficult relationship with her father (a retired perfumer and incorrigible ladies man) feels rejected all over again. When her father suddenly dies, Sadie finds herself looking back over her past life and ruminating on her father's selfish neglect of her. Feeling that she cannot move on without finding out why her father didn't love her enough, or if he did, why he found it so difficult to show it, Sadie revisits some of the places and the people from her childhood and adolescent years - but when she discovers things about her father that he had kept from her, does this knowledge help her to come to terms with her past, or indeed, help her to move towards a more optimistic future?

I was given a pile of Rosie Thomas's novels and I am working my way through them, finding some better than others. I feel a bit ambivalent about this one as Sadie is a rather irritating person - it is true that her childhood was not happy, especially as her mother died when she was still young, and her father put his own needs before his daughter's, but her childhood was not a terrible one and Sadie is selfish in her own way too. She says she loves her children deeply and would do nothing to make them feel as insecure as she did whilst she was growing up, yet she leaves her husband, whom she says she loved and was a good husband and father, for a brief, but passionate affair with an unreliable man who, in turn, soon leaves her. (Not a spoiler, we know this from the beginning of the book). She knows that Jack is unhappy and lonely, yet she leaves him alone at home to go out on clandestine supper dates with his teacher, even though she suspects that Jack would feel embarrassed and upset if he knew that she was seeing someone from his school. She insists that Jack should always tell her the truth, but she doesn't feel she has to be honest with him; she knows that she is allowing her past life to detrimentally affect her present life, but she leaves it too long to do anything about it - there is more, but I don't want to reveal too much about the story or sound too critical. On the plus side, Rosie Thomas is a good storyteller and her descriptions of London, the south of France, and of Sadie's home and her book-binding business, were a pleasure to read. Also this was a very easy and undemanding read, so it's one that could work reasonably well for holidays or downtimes, but I can't honestly say that it's a book that I would keep on my bookshelf to revisit in the future.

3 Stars.


If My Father Loved Me
If My Father Loved Me
by Rosie Thomas
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Undemanding Downtime Read, 8 Sep 2014
This review is from: If My Father Loved Me (Paperback)
Divorcee Sadie, a bookbinder, is the mother of Lola, who is at university, and twelve-year-old Jack, who attends the local comprehensive. She lives in London, she has her own business which she set up with her business partner, Penny, and she has a great network of reliable friends. Her life is not perfect, but it is reasonably good; however, Sadie is having difficulties with Jack, who blames her for the break-up of her marriage and for the fact that he only sees his father (who has remarried and is now the father of twin girls) on certain pre-arranged weekend visits. When she tries to speak to Jack about his unhappiness, he shuts her out, and Sadie, who had a difficult relationship with her father (a retired perfumer and incorrigible ladies man) feels rejected all over again. When her father suddenly dies, Sadie finds herself looking back over her past life and ruminating on her father's selfish neglect of her. Feeling that she cannot move on without finding out why her father didn't love her enough, or if he did, why he found it so difficult to show it, Sadie revisits some of the places and the people from her childhood and adolescent years - but when she discovers things about her father that he had kept from her, does this knowledge help her to come to terms with her past, or indeed, help her to move towards a more optimistic future?

I was given a pile of Rosie Thomas's novels and I am working my way through them, finding some better than others. I feel a bit ambivalent about this one as Sadie is a rather irritating person - it is true that her childhood was not happy, especially as her mother died when she was still young, and her father put his own needs before his daughter's, but her childhood was not a terrible one and Sadie is selfish in her own way too. She says she loves her children deeply and would do nothing to make them feel as insecure as she did whilst she was growing up, yet she leaves her husband, whom she says she loved and was a good husband and father, for a brief, but passionate affair with an unreliable man who, in turn, soon leaves her. (Not a spoiler, we know this from the beginning of the book). She knows that Jack is unhappy and lonely, yet she leaves him alone at home to go out on clandestine supper dates with his teacher, even though she suspects that Jack would feel embarrassed and upset if he knew that she was seeing someone from his school. She insists that Jack should always tell her the truth, but she doesn't feel she has to be honest with him; she knows that she is allowing her past life to detrimentally affect her present life, but she leaves it too long to do anything about it - there is more, but I don't want to reveal too much about the story or sound too critical. On the plus side, Rosie Thomas is a good storyteller and her descriptions of London, the south of France, and of Sadie's home and her book-binding business, were a pleasure to read. Also this was a very easy and undemanding read, so it's one that could work reasonably well for holidays or downtimes, but I can't honestly say that it's a book that I would keep on my bookshelf to revisit in the future.

3 Stars.


Emma (Unabridged)
Emma (Unabridged)
Offered by Audible Ltd
Price: 28.50

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful - but if you have a Kindle, do consider buying the Audiobook/Kindle Whispersync Combination and save yourself pounds, 7 Sep 2014
This review is from: Emma (Unabridged) (Audio Download)
"Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition" is the twenty-one-year-old heroine of Jane Austen's wonderful novel: 'Emma' set in the village of Highbury. Having decided to remain unmarried herself, Emma delights in match-making amongst her friends and neighbours, and with one success already under her belt, with the marriage of her governess to an eligible gentleman neighbour, Emma sets out to help things along in the matrimonial field with her new friend, Harriet, and the vicar, Mr Elton, against the advice of her good friend, Mr Knightley. Mr Elton, however, has other ideas and has his mind set on quite a different partner and hence the road to romance does not quite go the way Emma had planned. And then a very suitable and seemingly eligible young man for Emma arrives in Highbury, and is keen to make himself amenable to our heroine, but this young man is hiding a secret, which when finally revealed, shocks Emma and everyone around her....

From an author who really needs no introduction, this witty, beautifully written and deftly composed story is a delight from start to finish. Emma is a marvellous (if sometimes slightly irritating) heroine, and most of the other characters are a delight, including Emma's hypochondriac father and the very garrulous Miss Bates. Wonderfully amusing this is a novel to read and reread - however the main purpose of this review is to talk about the Kindle Whispersync for Voice combination. If you have a Kindle, do consider buying the Kindle version: Emma (which is free of charge) and you will then be able to download this audio version for just a couple of pounds (at the time of writing), therefore saving yourself a small fortune. You can switch back and forth between reading the Kindle book and listening to the Audible audiobook without ever losing your place. I bought the Kindle and audio download combination after buying the lovely new paperback version: Emma for my niece, and found I had the urge to reread my own copy - however not wanting to break off from my current read, I decided to try the audio download and listened to it happily whilst travelling/gardening etc. Juliet Stevenson's accomplished narration is enjoyable and easy to listen to - she uses a variety of voices for the different protagonists, and although Jane Austen's wonderful writing speaks for itself, Juliet Stevenson's rendition makes each character come even more alive, making this an entertaining and satisfying listening experience.

5 Stars.


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