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Lady Fancifull "Tinkerbell"
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Revlon ColorBurst Lip Butter, Peach Parfait 2.55 g
Revlon ColorBurst Lip Butter, Peach Parfait 2.55 g
Price: £6.41

2.0 out of 5 stars Like the colour, not happy with sensation and some of the contents, 28 Jan. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I was delighted to have a chance to try this, a different brand from what I normally use. And the colour (Peach Parfait) looked lovely. BUT within an hour I was cleaning it off as the sensation from something in it was not pleasant.

Now, I don't suffer from dry lips, and suspect this is because I avoid lip balms with any petrochemical based content (Vaseline) This is because it rather dries the lips, you then need to apply more lip balm to relieve the sensation, it dries the lips, you apply more, and so it goes. IF my lips feel dry, because of cold, wind, etc, I just use either something with no mineral content and a beeswax base, or even more simply a drop of two of a vegetable carrier oil - jojoba, argan, coconut, macadamia seem particularly effective choices for me. This absorbs quickly, without any residual feeling of stickiness, and doesn't leave the lips feeling dry later.

So.......having applied this with my normal lipbrush, there was a feeling of tackiness which I don't have with my normal lipstick. Now admittedly, that needs reapplication, whereas the Revlon felt as if something was like some film over my lips, preventing absorption (whatever it is which makes the lipstick last longer I guess) Not only did I not like the sticky feel, but there was a curious menthol/slight numbing sensation. I was aware of my lips, not in a nice way, but almost like the tail end of having had dental work, and a local injection, so that sensation is simultaneously dull but you are aware of rubberiness.

I don't think of myself having particularly sensitive skin, though it has to be said I choose skin products which have as little novel chemistry within them as possible. And whatever natural ingredients are listed within this, are all products I use/have used without any problems. So, it's something else. And as the list of contents are all sorts of things I don't recognise, it could be any one of them, or purely the combination. Verdict: LOOKS nice, FEELS unpleasant


Womens Jacquard Rib Thermal Underwear Set, Long Sleeve Vest & Long Pants, Charcoal, 14-16
Womens Jacquard Rib Thermal Underwear Set, Long Sleeve Vest & Long Pants, Charcoal, 14-16
Offered by one-stop-eshop
Price: £11.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect for the all-weather walker, 27 Jan. 2015
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As a dedicated year-round wild water swimmer, and also winter walker, I'm not sure why it took me so long to wake up to the snuggle of thermals (Vanity probably) But though these won't have you (well didn't have me!) feeling like some sort of (avoids Amazon's indecency filters!) socks goddess, I did feel warm. And that's exactly what I wanted after braving the icy waters. Kept me toasty before, and kept me toasty afterwards till I could get home and get into more flattering garb.

These wash well, and I'm probably going to invest in a second pair. I got the charcoal, as most of my sports wear and the like is black, so they all wash together with no fear of colours running

For some reason, the photo of the charcoal doesn't show the jacquard rib design which is there in the white and pink versions, but it IS there on the garment itself


Philips HP3621 200w InfraCare Lamp
Philips HP3621 200w InfraCare Lamp
Price: £35.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Not just for chronic pain - size and price make this a good stand-by for acute presentations, 25 Jan. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I'm grateful not to have any chronic musculo-skeletal issues, but was delighted to be offered the chance to try this, as there are always odd occasions when either through prolonged poor posture (dreaded sitting too long at the PC) or occasional bad usage (negotiating heavy suitcases in wretched underground and train stations with only stair access at points - grr) something gets pulled and suddenly you move like someone a century older. I'm not at all a fan of pain killers. Having something like this as a standby is excellent. And considerably less expensive than a visit to the physio, if it's something which seems as if it's heading naturally in the direction of healing.

I did have occasion to try this right now, following a bad week of just too long at the PC for hours on end, and a bit of ache in the glutes and lumbar area.

The fact that the infra-red face can be nicely angled, meant that it was absolutely possible to lie down on my side, positioning the lamp on a dining chair, and direct the warmth quite precisely, And effectively.

I would suggest this small, moderately priced lamp is probably going to be a far better option than the big beast one capable of doing the whole back - unless of course someone has chronic pain and needs some daily pain relief. This littl'un stores nicely away till needed. Hopefully not often

Being a little picky, a small refinement might have been a dial timer - the sort you get on low-tech non digital things like rice steamers etc, which switch themselves off through this. I had this, many years ago, on a very low-end infra-red lamp I'd bought for some injury related reason or other. Recommended use is no more than 15 mins per session, and the lovely warmth is conducive to drifting off.

The guidance has a couple of contradictions - do not look directly at the infra-red lamp whilst in use (for obvious reasons) but also suggests this can be used on the face (weird!) if you needed to improve the circulation. Frankly, even with eyes closed there would be a lot of light penetrating the eyelids. I suppose shades could be worn. If I want to improve circulation on my face an exfoliation and a bit of self-facial massage whilst applying moisturiser seems a far better option. Especially as the heat is likely to dry the skin

But my glutes and lumbar liked this!


The Herring Seller's Apprentice
The Herring Seller's Apprentice
Price: £1.79

5.0 out of 5 stars Crime fic with a gleeful giggle, not with graphic gore, 24 Jan. 2015
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This wonderfully witty first outing in a series by L.C. Tyler certainly falls into the sub-category of crime fiction now described as `cosy'. I loudly and publicly chortled, whinnied, snickered, giggled and less ostentatiously grinned through this clever, playful, good humoured outing. Though set firmly in the modern era - emails do get a mention - our central character/investigators could quite happily have been travelled back to the 50s.

Ethelred Tressider is a crime writer. Actually, this rather old-fashioned, donnish and endearing individual is 3 writers (with different pen-names) Although he dreamed of being a Booker-winning lit-ficcy type of scribe he happened to write a first novel, featuring a rather plodding but meticulous detective, 2 years away from retirement, which was a fairly runaway success. (sounds a bit familiar?) Twelve novels later his detective has miraculously aged 6 months and acquired an interest in gloomy Norman Church Architecture. Tressider has also started another series, historical crime, (sounds familiar?) set in the time of Richard II, and also (sounds very familiar?) a third, female identity as a doctors-and-nurses romance writer. His no-doubt lantern jawed doctor specialises in oral and maxillofacial surgery.

Ethelred has an opinionated, overweight literary agent with a remarkably bad dress-sense, and an obsessive predilection for low-end chocolate bars. Size and availability matter far more than quality. Elsie is probably the best and most clear sighted chum that Ethelred will ever have. Though she does also keep her beady eyes upon her twelve and a half percent.

When a murder is committed close to Ethelred's home in more ways than one - not only location, but also, the victim is his dead wife, Ethelred is of course one immediate suspect. But rather in the manner of some of those other `cosy writers' (Ngaio Marsh sprung most to my mind, because of the wit in Tyler's writing) the obvious is not the only route. Whilst Ethelred is rather keen to uncover what is going on, it is Ethel (who is the author of some of the chapters) who is most keen - principally because she thought Geraldine, the ex-wife, was a total Bitch. For some reason Ethelred is less keen to have Elsie along as his `herring-seller's apprentice' The title of the book comes from the fact that a crime-writer's major tool-of-the-trade is the liberal use of the red-herring

Full of sassy, witty, sideways pokes of fun at writers, the writing and publishing industry, writer's blocks, crime fiction in particular - including several delicious little forays into well-known writer/book pastiches, this wonderfully light touch outing introduces an investigative pair who will no doubt continue their affectionate, exasperating, bickering relationship in the unmasking of other crimes. Though (whispers) the apprentice, Elsie, on this showing is probably the more efficient investigator of the two.

Tyler himself has also now launched into the first of a second series - set in historical times A Cruel Necessity (A John Grey Historical Mystery) Look out in a few years' time for the love lives of dentists to make an outing!

....and I've immediately downloaded the next in the adventures of Elsie and Ethelred Ten Little Herrings. I do hope the others will make it to Kindle!


A Fifty-Year Silence: Love, War, and a Ruined House in France
A Fifty-Year Silence: Love, War, and a Ruined House in France
by Miranda Richmond Mouillot
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.34

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For the love of France, and of Family, 20 Jan. 2015
Simply, I loved this book, though it took me quite some time to realise that.

Miranda Richmond Mouillot, an American woman whose maternal grandparents were Jews living in France at the time of the Second World War, was driven to discover the truth about the effects of that devastating time on her grandparents, individually, and on their relationship

Her grandparents had a seemingly rather unusual story : they met, at some point in the 40s, as two very different people, trying to make sense of themselves in a time and place without sense. Anna was a doctor, specialising in lung medicine. Armand did not have such a clear vocation, although later he was an interpreter at the Nuremburg trials (he spoke German as well as French) More specifically he was one of the interpreters and translators involved in translating Goering's spoken testimony.

At some earlier point, as part of a group of Jews trying to stay a step ahead of the Nazi occupation of France, the two met. Actually, they seem to have met, lost contact and made contact on a few occasions. It is assumed that they fell in love. They certainly married and had two children. And at some point bought a house in Alba-la-Romaine. However, something hidden, not addressed by either, some family secret, happened in that marriage, and after a very short period Anna left France with her children, and the two never spoke to each other again, though certainly Anna's daughter, Miranda's mother, and Miranda herself, stayed in contact with both of them. Armand moved to Switzerland. Armand particularly would neither speak to, nor about, Anna. Mention of her threw him into cold rages

Miranda needed to understand what had happened in her family, but for more than purely individual reasons.

The book is her quest, through visits and conversations with her beloved grandmother and her more distant, erratic grandfather, to get to the narrative of those lives - and the lives of others, in that time. Through her own experience as the grandchild of European Jews, she shows how the dark events of those times still continue a presence handed down to later generations.

The book is fascinating as a piece of investigation, but is much more than that. There is the objective truth which might be provided by records and the like, and then there are the personal stories, the memories which overlay the stories, and indeed may come to feel more real than what may be indicated by records. There is something also, mysterious, some sort of `collective unconscious'. For example, Miranda's potent, overwhelming response to the sight of the dilapidated, decaying, neglected house her grandparents had bought half a century earlier - her sense of coming home.

I'm not revealing any of the rather complex personal stories which Miranda found, as answers to her quest, as that is the reader's journey to make. There is also much that she failed to discover, and the failures, the not-knowns, became in the end as potent as what was known, in terms of what the whole process of finding precise causes and effects to her family mystery. Indeed the mystery of that time, goes wider than purely the narrative , or attempt at a narrative, of one particular family; so much of what happened in Europe at that time still seems beyond any rational comprehension

Mouillot writes very well - and, at times, but not too often, she writes beautifully, arrestingly. And what I mean by that, is that the reader is along for the journey, and from time to time the author will make a comment which stops the reader in their tracks, and makes them think - often a statement which needs to be reflected on, and sometimes a passage of description of the landscape, the country, the people, which rather grabs the reader by the heart and takes them inside the experience she wishes to help us feel.

As I progressed deeper onwards through the book, I found myself, often, with tears pouring down my face, because something of the heart of the experience of `another' - other lives, had struck me. And I did not always rationally know where those tears had come from. In the end, I discovered pages and pages of highlighted text, where Mouillot had made me pause, pause, pause again and understand something of experiences of another time and place, filtered down the generations.

This is a very tender book, soulful and authentic, and took me to many more reflective places than I initially expected. Recommended without reservations

I received this as an ARC from the publishers
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 28, 2015 12:12 PM GMT


Nine Coaches Waiting (Mary Stewart Modern Classic)
Nine Coaches Waiting (Mary Stewart Modern Classic)
Price: £4.31

5.0 out of 5 stars Shades of Jane Eyre, deep and deliciously on the French/Swiss border, circa 1950s, 20 Jan. 2015
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Now I am not, in the general run of things, a reader of the Romance genre. Not unless there is a lot more going on than just the simple story of boy/girl meets boy/girl, there is some sort of problem, there may also be some sort of rival boy/girl and the main couple will/will not surmount the obstacle and live happily ever after/die a horrible death.

In fact, it has to be said I infinitely (in literature!) prefer the tragic end/star crossed lovers scenario than the Hollywood, sunset, hearts, flowers, wedding bells wrap. Unless skilfully done, with lots more going on (yes, that's you, Jane Austen, incomparable writer of fine romance and much more) the genre leads to a sugar overload which might predispose regular readers to diabetes.

So, it is no wonder that I never encountered Mary Stewart, as she does belong firmly on the Romance shelf - and, but, and, but I would therefore never have ventured there - till my interest was piqued by a book blogger who likes the same sort of lit-ficcy stuff I do, and for very similar reasons. She was praising Stewart to the skies. So I asked her to recommend one. And this is it.

Now, for sure this sits firmly within the genre, in that there is a man and a woman who will meet, there are problems ahead, there is indeed some possible rival and there will be/or not some resolution of satisfaction or dissatisfaction for our central characters (and no, I shan't tell, you'll have to read the book if you really want to know) Suffice it to be said though that Mary Stewart, now having some of her work re-issued in the `Modern Classic' category, was a prolific writer of Gothic romance-thrillers. Oh, and 'Gothic' is not used in the twenty first century sense to mean that you are going to be unpleasantly surprised to find a job lot of vampires werewolves zombies and ghosts have somehow got trapped within the pages. Think, more, the idea of dark secrets, high drama, possibly an isolated setting, or the idea of all this in the mind of our doughty probably female protagonist. She writes with a history which happily acknowledges `Gothic' in the sense of Austen's Northanger Abbey, or, even more pertinently for THIS book, Jane Eyre, rather than Hammer Horror Central Casting. The Gothic is very real and very human.

I was hooked from page one to page-the-end. There is indeed a dark thriller, we have men tall, dark, handsome, charismatic and probably not to be trusted. It is the 1950s. Our central character , Linda Martin. (shades of Jane Eyre, which even she acknowledges, as she is a well-read young woman) is an orphan, whose parents died when she was young. She spent the second half of her childhood in an orphanage, and then, as a young assistant in a dreary school. Chance comes Linda's way to become a governess (hello Jane!) to a little boy, scion of a family with a dark past and a probably darker future, deep in the French countryside. The family have a slightly different version of Mr Rochester on board. For reasons which are perfectly intelligent Linda, who is half-French (French mother, English father) and who lived in France until her parents' death pretends that she speaks very little French and understands even less - the employer was strict in their requirement for an ENGLISH governess as they wanted the boy spoken to only in English - though there may be other reasons for this. Linda's hiding of her perfect French and her French ancestry gives rise to a lot of intentional humour for the reader. Linda is a most attractive heroine, given to self-mockery, and is someone who rather enjoys winding up the bad-tempered people she meets with deliberate mangling of `Franglais' to annoy.

There are apposite little quotes, often from Shakespeare, as sub-chapter headings - our heroine/narrator, as stated earlier, is a reader.

Stewart is a wonderful writer - and particularly, a wonderful evoker of landscape. As I did some exploration into her life and works, I was utterly unsurprised to find she was a passionate gardener. Anyone who can so beautifully and evocatively describe plants, trees, skies, light and the scents, sights and sounds of the natural world is someone who has spent loving time within that world.

And, just like Miss Austen and Miss Bronte, Miss Stewart comes from a time when what is undoubtedly sex and desire is rendered much more potent for the fact it is not laid out for us. She is much more interested in exploring the subtle workings of the human psyche, than the rather more prosaic exploration of removed garments and anatomical diagram!

And, suffice it to say I have now downloaded Stewart's My Brother Michael, also highly praised, and will be skulking the Romance shelves of my local library to find more by this fine author.


Lamentation (The Shardlake series Book 6)
Lamentation (The Shardlake series Book 6)
Price: £4.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, 18 Jan. 2015
What is particularly fine about Sansom's Shardlake, is not just that there are complex, credible stories, blending known history with the imagined individuals Sansom so wonderfully delineates, nor just the excellent evocation and fleshing out of time, place and history itself, in a form without dryness - what is known or surmised from research given life and fascinating detail, nor even just the marvellous word-smithery, the satisfying way words, sentences, paragraphs and all the rest are put together.

Instead, it is I suppose the creation of a character, lawyer Matthew Shardlake, who is wonderfully complex, authentic, self aware, honest about his failings - and is totally credible. I love the insecurity and keeping-the-reader-guessing of the Unreliable narrator - but, actually, with what relief I surrendered to an utterly reliable narrator, letting the reader inside his heart and head - it is the WORLD our narrator lives in, which is unreliable, dangerous, not to be trusted.

And what a world it is. It is 1546, Henry VIIIth, monstrous, psychopathic, with ultimate power, is dying. The kingdom is riven with religious and political extremism, with factions vying for power and control, readying themselves for the time when the king dies (itself a treasonous topic to even give voice to). Henry's son, Edward, is still a boy - which faction will win the right to rule as Regent? These were most dangerous times - particularly as Henry flip-flops, as his health declines, in his own faith on the spectrum of reform and tradition. It's a most Orwellian time, with trials for heresy, torture, betrayal and burning for espousing beliefs which may have been acceptable last month, and are so no longer, this.

Shardlake (well, I should probably say, Sansom) drops nuggets of fascination on every page about this period in the dying years of Henry's reign, like the fact that the very clothing people wore could be something which broke the law - there was a class system in terms of who could wear what, fabrics, colours, decoration - you literally were not allowed to dress above your station - or the details of Tudor medical practice.

But, to return to Shardlake. Someone, another reviewer, possibly a blogger, made mention that Shardlake felt like `a friend'. And that it is exactly. A fictional person (I suppose we must admit) but one so real that the reader kind of forgets Sansom wrote the book, as the `I' of Shardlake's narration is so very, very real. And because we care so much for this remarkably honest, perceptive and subtle man, we care for those HE cares for, we see the world through HIS eyes, we trust who HE trusts, and if he is mistaken in his trust it hurts US, we too feel the betrayal. He is a kind of moral touchstone. Weirdly, very very weirdly Shardlake reminds me of Jane Eyre - in that, here we have a person who can look at themselves clear, a person that others see as having fine judgement, a person of intelligence and integrity.

I must admit it took me an age to read this 600 page book, simply because I found my level of anxiety and unease too high to sit with - the painting of that world 5 centuries ago rendered close and very scary indeed.

`Lamentation' the title of the book refers to a very dangerous pamphlet, a kind of religious confessional, written by Henry's last wife, Catherine Parr, which has gone missing. The Queen's faith is a little too radical/reformist compared to what Henry is now professing, as he is beginning to lean towards a more traditionalist, Catholic stance, as regards belief about the Mass. Along with the investigations and schisms in Court, between King's party and Queen's party, Shardlake also has private investigations, particularly the difficult case of a brother and sister, one a religious reformist, one a traditionalist, with a deep enmity between them, and a hidden secret, implacably fighting each other over a will which has been designed to foster their personal enmity. Fiction and fact, private individual and the larger stage of known, powerful, historical men and women, are woven together most skilfully.

Tremendous, absorbing, and very chilling. Particularly when we too could be said to live in `interesting times', where, to quote a well known line from a poem by W.B. Yeats - `the best lack all conviction, whilst the worst are full of passionate intensity' - fervent, implacable ideas of right and wrong, MY right, YOUR wrong, stalk the land.

I finished this caught up in a huge roller-coaster of emotions, feeling both relief and sorrow, and thinking about certain ambiguities. Who knows.

There is also a very useful laying out of historical fact, and also historical conjecture, by Sansom, at the end of the novel

I received this as a review copy from the publishers, Mulholland Press


MĖNAJI Face and Body Scrub 170 ml
MĖNAJI Face and Body Scrub 170 ml
Price: £12.66

5.0 out of 5 stars Is nothing safe from our thieving little fingers?, 16 Jan. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Sorry gentlemen, some of us ladies just can't help appropriating products geared towards you, as well as those geared towards us!

On reading a review from a lady who said the grains in the scrub are quite large, and from gents saying they wouldn't use it on their faces because of fierceness of the exfoliation, I realised immediately this would be a perfect scrub for `rougher bits'- soles of feet, elbows, knees. And also, I guess, anytime other (non sensitive) parts of the body might need a more vigorous exfo.

I'm a big fan of dry skin brushing, and this works really well (body only, not near delicate areas) and then rinsed off. Exfos are not soaps, so don't expect to be working up a lather. Exfoliate, rinse off and then use your shower gel on areas you want to lather up and clean

Although I can't see, from the product list, what exactly would or might be causing the greater pinking/blood rush to the surface of the skin with this, compared to the (home made) exfoliator I use when dry skin brushing, I suspect it may be less the grain size, and possibly more a slightly higher concentration of ingredients.

Fresh smelling, energised and revitalised am I, after the exfo.

I was very pleased with this, for body use, but certainly would always want something gentler for MY face, though you more whiskery people might find this fine and dandy!


The House of Stairs
The House of Stairs
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Barbara Vine slowly, surely, effortlessly turning up the tension knob, 10 Jan. 2015
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"I seemed to see Bell as she was almost the first time I ever saw her, walking into the hall at Thornham to tell us that her husband had shot himself"

From the first chapter of The House of Stairs........and yes, it's a great hookline!

I read this many years ago, and a blogger reminded me of its excellence, hence my re-read, and because I know the outcome/conclusion could settle back and enjoy the journey Vine takes us on.

It was originally published in 1988, and was I think the third book Rendell wrote as `Barbara Vine', where her interest is more in dark and complex psychology and a more literary style of writing than her crime and detective fiction `Ruth Rendell' books. Detectives rarely figure in Vine, but the complex central characters twist and unfold often dark deeds, dark motivations, dark histories

This is firstly a splendid evocation of loose, permissive, vibrant and sexy 60s London.

Elizabeth, the central character and narrator, now a woman on the edge of her 40s, is looking back from the 1980s to that earlier period of her life. She is a writer of beach read historical fiction, fairly famous, fairly well off. However, she hankered to be a more serious writer, due to her love of Henry James, and really also wished to write a biography of James. Echoes of the plot of James' Wings of The Dove are a kind of parallel or subtext to this.

Elizabeth, as a passenger in a taxi spots a woman heading towards a tube station who she has not seen for nearly 20 years. `Bell' Sanger has a murky past, and there is also a relationship from that past of some obsession, on Elizabeth's part, with Bell.

The first person story is told by Elizabeth partly in present time (that is its 80s setting) and partly back to the time when she first encountered Bell, in the 60s, and their lives connected, in a dark and destructive way. The narrator is trying to unravel her own past, her own complicity, her own history, and understand her own damaged life. Much of this damage occurred in `The House of Stairs', a large house in West London, owned by Elizabeth's recently widowed aunt, Cosette, who is wealthy, generous, and middle-aged . Cosette is determined to recapture the youth and romance she never had by filling her house with the trendy, freeloading, experimental bright (and not so bright) bohemian young things of swinging London.

Bell has a dark past which we learn all the way back to childhood. She is extraordinarily beautiful, bearing a strong resemblance to Bronzini's portrait of Lucrezia Panciatichi. She appears to be passive and indifferent to sex, but is passionately determined never to work. In fact, for Bell, a life of drudging poverty is preferable to working. But freeloading, though not in an obvious way, is something she has a skill for.

Elizabeth too has a potentially dark secret - as an inheritor of a degenerative, rare condition, Huntington's chorea, her family `curse' which may or may not lie dormant within her. At the time of the book's earlier setting, predictive genetic testing for the disease was unknown, as was the statistical mapping of its inheritance. As the condition tended to stay dormant till adulthood inheritors might have already had children before they realised what they might have passed on to them. Elizabeth's own body feels like a ticking time bomb; though symptom free, she is not yet old enough to know she is `out of the woods' and free from that inheritance.

So, with her aunt Cosette, desperately seeking to rediscover youth, Elizabeth unknowing whether she will succumb to a terrible condition or not, and Bell, charismatic in some unostentatious way, amorally in search of a way to enable her to suck the money out of anyone she can, and indifferent towards the methods she might use to achieve her ends, Vine assembles a wonderfully drawn collection of individuals from across the classes, painting a portrait of a society moving from the more rigid mores of the 50s to a period of change, shake up and anything goes sex.

And the twists, turns and plot intricacies, though slowly unfurled, are inexorable and keep the reader glued to `just another chapter'


Book of Human Skin
Book of Human Skin
Price: £4.80

5.0 out of 5 stars Gothic, Grand-Guignol, Grisly, Grim and Gorgeous!, 9 Jan. 2015
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Good Heavens! Michelle Lovric has a rich, inventive imagination, steeps herself in research, wears it lightly, and overflows with a kind of earthy vitality that seems to belong to an earlier century and indeed to be more akin to South American literature than English literature. Or it may just be the time and the place she is writing about

The marvellous Book of Human Skin is set in Venice, and also in Peru, or what later became Peru, at the tail end of the eighteenth century, up to and beyond Napoleon's death on St. Helena in 1821

The book is written in 5 voices, each of which is excellently delineated. Two of them are quite definitely of the devil's party, even though one of them is a deranged nun who believes she is due to ascend in beatitude, and 3 are most definitely on the side of the angels

Minguello Fasan, born in 1784 is a vile, sadistic, sneering, puffed up and very funny scion of the house of Fasan. He bears more than a passing resemblance to the monstrously compelling central character of Patrick Susskind's Perfume. Minguello, right from the start has a whiff of brimstone about him, and whether by nature or by nurture is determined to express that fully. He is the second born of the house, and aware of the dislike in which everyone holds him, including his parents, is determined to inherit all his family's substantial riches. And he is a passionate collector of books which are bound in Human Skin.

Marcella Fasan is his younger sister. Born with a congenital weakness, she is nonetheless loved by all, and almost immediately becomes the next target of Minguello's sadism and ire (something happens to his older sibling) Marcella is intelligent, a gifted wielder of the pen and pencil, loyal, loving, resourceful and refuses to accept the role Minguello assigns her (dead through his many designs)

Gianni delle Boccole is bright, devoted to Marcella, but appears a dolt. By circuitous means he learned to read (though most assume him illiterate); he is Marcello's valet. Though he can read, he can barely write, and certainly has a more than usually phonetic grasp of spelling. Initially, his often hugely funny misspellings were a little irritating or contrived, but by the third or fourth of Gianni's tellings of the tale, I was sold on him. And some of the tale is so dark and seamy than the levity of unintentional writos are a relief!

Doctor Santo Aldobrandini is a poor young orphan, with a desperate desire to help and heal, and a large and tender heart, who gets himself, by hook or by crook, apprenticed to learn the craft of physic.

These four start their journey in Venice, a proud, patrician, sophisticated, urbane, cultured - not to mention decadent (according to some) - state, whose fortunes will be changed by Napoleon.

Sor Loreta, the deranged, delusional nun, dreams of becoming a martyr, a saint, and the prioress of Santa Catalina, Arequipa, in modern day Peru

Another way of looking at these five (and there are many other equally ebullient characters who might almost have strayed from Balzac or even Rabelais) might be in the tradition of some of Rossini's operas. And I'm sure this is deliberate, on Lovric's part, as another character, the current prioress of Santa Catalina, is devoted to Rossini's music (not all nuns are quite the dour characters which the outside world thinks they might be)

In this, Marcella and Santo are of course the young lovers (Rosina, Almaviva/Lindoro) (Santo, like Almaviva in The Barber of Seville is expert in disguise in order to gain the enemy stronghold to meet his truly beloved) Gianni, valet, is Figaro, and Minguello the much more wicked version of the merely buffoonish Doctor Bartolo, and the equally sadistic Sor Loreta a notched up version of the prim Berta,

This is a glorious, twisty, turny (utterly credible within its own reality) plot. Characters that make sense in place and time. Humour which is as dark as you like, but, overall, an explosion of intelligence, vivacity, inventiveness and originality.

As you can tell, I like Lovric rather a lot, following my earlier read of her later novel, involving the wonderfully tressed Irish sisters The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters

The 466 page novel is followed by a much soberer and more explanatory 30 page afterword by Lovric, where she lays out the factual aspects of her book, and where she departed from the facts. In essence, all the historical information IS there, but may have been woven in a unique way by Lovric. The dots are in place, she does the joining.

I think I've gone off reading 'wood books' and will stick to the less potentially dangerous Kindled editions. Readers of this will understand my new sensitivities..........


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