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D S Richards (Truro, Cornwall United Kingdom)

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Richmal Crompton: The Woman Behind Just William
Richmal Crompton: The Woman Behind Just William
by Mary Cadogan
Edition: Paperback

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sturdy and workmanlike, 2 Mar. 2006
I read this as part of a theme of reading about inter-war social history. In this context this is a very interesting and thorough appreciation of both author, her era as well as wider English idiosyncracies. I have not read any of the William books but had come across and enjoyed a number of Crompton's other books and articles.
The shape of this biography is very interesting. Cadogan weaves persoanl and literary lives together as warp and weft, giving the book a value and greater texture than if either threads had been treated separately or in some other juxtapositioning. At most twists and turns in Crompton's life example from the oeuvre are used as illustration and context. Only occasionally is this device a bit laboured or over used. Other sources are used too, correspondence, diaries and memories of friends and living relatives.
Cadogan's style is straightforward and easy to read, much of the language mirroring the generosity and self effacing characteristics of its subject. Of particular value the descriptions and attitudes towards Crompton's polio and wonderful humane relationships with all generations of her family, her attitude to changes in society and her natural conservatism and conventionality. As a result this gentle person, who loved her life and celebrated its simplicity by citing Roast Beef and Eclairs as favourite foods to riding a bicycle through 1930's Bromley with her 'dead' leg at right angles to the pedal leaves a meaningful impression. Yes an era passed, but so of her time.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book for its sense of character and place, it goes well with other things we readily recall from the middle decades of the last century and as a witness to that period the life of this delightful lady cannot be bettered.
Charming but not boring - Enjoy!!

The March: A Novel
The March: A Novel
by E. L. Doctorow
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring and courageous, 27 Feb. 2006
This review is from: The March: A Novel (Paperback)
This is not a book I would have picked up, I read a review of it in a paper I would not normally pick up, I am glad to have read it for the inspiration it has given to read further on these subjects.
At the start I found it difficult to get the measure of the characters, expecting they ought to have been deeply drawn; in the glow of finishing the book I valued this sketchy character and scene shifting differently. Like many of the other devices in the book this is obviously part of Doctorow's craft. The distress and dismembering of society is no where more dreadful than in any civil war, the Generals on both sides had all had the same training but their movitations clearly divided and directed it to different but equally devastating uses.
There are plenty of panaceas and personal descriptions of the American Civil War. My own knowledge limited to a basic time line and visual images of Gone with the Wind lacking enough to analyse which issues were which or where fiction was divided from history. Indeed for anything but the US market a simple map would have been most instructive and helpful at least initially. Read at this level the book is evocative and probably realistic, certainly graphic and sensual. The variety of human relationships that Doctorow draws and their diverse capacities are often both haunting and memorable.
Gradually though I was drawn towards a bigger picture, the nature of man's in humanity and views of more penetrating and wide ranging issues. On more than one occasion I found myself contemplating both Iraq and the recent Balkan wars. Doctorow makes you think about the nature of war and the nature of humanity almost by osmosis, gently prodding the reader to engage in these most serious of issues.
It is rare to feel quite so challenged to read further to try and breach the knowledge gap, but Doctorow has at once made me feel lacking in knowledge but confident in being able to contemplate the difficult issues he signals. So I was inspired and glad that I had read this book and looking at it as a whole would recommend it - and persevere beyond the early part....
Eventually a meaningful and valuable read....
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 25, 2008 7:51 PM BST

Emotional Geology
Emotional Geology
by Linda Gillard
Edition: Paperback

29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eventually a feel good read!, 28 Aug. 2005
This review is from: Emotional Geology (Paperback)
I bought this book after hearing a heated debate about the publisher of this book Transita, Grown books for grown women, on the radio! I wanted to judge for myself I regard myself as a grown woman and this book deserves a far wider readership than this off putting strap-line will attract! Do not be put off! It is a pity that this beautiful novel has been caught up in the categorisation and marketeers posturing currently gripping the book trade.
The writing has a lyrical almost poetic style, indeed some of it is written as poetry. The descriptions brought island Scotland to life, having visited these communities before their depiction here was detailed without being weighed down and a sense of place was well drawn and remained valid throughout. That unique feature of rural life where community is knitted into its landscape is beautifully acknowledged here. A feature often missing in novels about contemporary rural life.
The flashback voice is really well used and some of its juxtapositioning is particularly fine, impressing on the reader the author's very real understanding of some difficult issues particularly in the handling of mental health and its impact on a whole host of relationships within a small community. I was particularly impressed with the 'self absorption' of Rose, the main character. It is an important factor in the understanding of mental ill health and its impact is excellently told.
The cast of characters is short, on the whole they are both plausible and well upholstered. I liked the way that some were developed with depth and others waned as the novel progressed. There are unexpected story lines and some of them are quite resonating and memorable. In addition there are other themes, such as using creativity, in this case quilt making, as a counterpoint to stress that are clearly deliniated, well used and inspiring.
At heart this is undeniably a romantic novel but it has far more to it than that description implies. Yes on one level it fits the publishers 'target audience' but if read carefully and thoroughly it introduces the reader (who could and should be both men and women!) to some difficult and complex issues. I hope there will be more books from this author but perhaps a different publisher. A good read, written with a real sense of place and a understanding of the human state.

Three Elegies For Kosovo (Panther)
Three Elegies For Kosovo (Panther)
by Ismail Kadare
Edition: Paperback

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Passionate about freedom and its place in our world? read on, 31 July 2005
The Balkans and their tattered history formed part of my degree studies twenty years ago. Ten years ago when the most recent Balkan wars hit our conciousness I felt angry at how a complex human issue was degraded and over simplified in the media.
Since then I have read a number of books about the Balkan issues raised by Kadare; none have explained or described them as effectively. This short book can be read as if one of Aesop's fables; much of the language has a dreamy fairy tale magic about it. Or it could be a straight forward history lesson, describing the causes of a complex human conflict. Perhaps one could read it as a philosophical treatise on the essence of freedom and man's response to that freedom. Although the book's most poignant use should possibly be as prayer from the heart of mankind to let understanding become the last resort rather than festering destructive conflict.
However one takes it, the language is sparkling, concentrated and very readable; there are very few untranslated words and no feeling that the translation lets the reader down. While I was reading I found myself contemplating a variety of images of conflict and their effect on my attitudes; I felt profoundly challenged to think more widely. The principles and values Kadare describes are common, almost a currency, to so many human situations and in expressing them so simply and with such beautiful words it is hard not to remember them or be inspired to continue championing them despite current deeply felt fears.
This book should be compulsory reading for anyone, if not all of us, involved in the debate over what constitutes freedom or democracy; especially those who profess to be our leaders. This is a book of great import and should be read more widely!

by Kathleen Jamie
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

117 of 120 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As refreshing as a blowy winter walk by the sea, 20 July 2005
This review is from: Findings (Paperback)
This is a beautiful collection of essays, evocative, poetic, humane and rooted. The reader is cradled by the style, taught to look and to see and above all appreciate a sense of place and context. It can be highly recommended to anyone in need of refreshment from grind or grime.
I bought this book because I felt a deep sense of gratitude for Kathleen Jamie's 'Among Muslims'; she is one of a few writers I buy automatically. This collection has not disappointed. The essays have at their core a passion for Scotland the wild, the home but not romantic or rose-tinted. The issues she raises from within herself are relevant to any human location. The stresses and strains of mans relationship with the environment are described in a context that is clear and meaningful. By the end the essays have shown the reader to see and view the environment with a poignant reality rare in books of any sort. This is an inspiring enviromental appreciation and its gentle understanding of the complex facets involved in these debates is unique; no bullying tone but a clear and deep gratitude for surrounding both natural and man-made. Begging nothing more than an aware, sensitive and achievable response from the reader.
The language is poetic and resonant. My husband has gone blind quite recently and I am often on the look out for books that are visually strong enough for him to enjoy. I read the first chapter to him, its subject, Darkness and Light was beautifully evocative of a place we had visited when he had more sight. Yet we agreed had you not visited these places you would still feel enchanted and drawn towards them.
The 'essay' style of the collection is also attractive. Busy family life can preclude long complicated reads, especially in summer. These essays are related but clearly individual a great asset when perpetual interruptions of, for example, children at home prevent longer studious reads. They would be a wonderful companion on a journey or daily commute or when short time spans are all that is available. Yet the writing is no less challenging for this, I used a dictionary more often than usual! I enjoyed being schooled in bits of Scots dialect and Norse entymology! At times the observations are slightly personal and sympathetically comforting, but this is not autobiography. This weaving of Kathleen Jamie's own experiences into her historical surroundings is engaging on a number of levels and encourages us to look again at simple things close at hand be they urban or rural.
Having read this I left it by my bed. I came home more than once during the month that followed keen to re-read an extract knowing that I had just seen something mentioned in Findings. The writing stays with you, it is clear and beautiful. Having never read poetry I feel inspired to read some of Kathleen Jamie's own poetry, it might be accessible.

At any level an inspiring and beautiful read and I hope that my busy somewhat menial life will continue to be enhanced by her even busier teaching and writing life, one to watch I think!
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 14, 2013 8:53 AM BST

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