Notes From a Well-Read Alice – July, 2013

Thanks again to Alice, one of our Home Library service borrowers,  for sharing her reading thoughts and reflections with us : )

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Worth Dying For by Lee Child

Written at such a fast pace I almost felt breathless at the end of it. Full of on-the-spot, life-changing decisions. Nebraska was presented as a dry, desolate place, with a cruel family ruling a small community by fear. An ex-cop, ex-solder who is an expert in unarmed combat comes to town and quietly and heroically proceeds to put things right, with the help of an alcoholic doctor, a terrified hotel owner and a woman who knows the ruling family killed her daughter. A man’s book, but the author does have respect for women.  A violent book, not really my scene, but I must admit I turned the pages quickly to see what was going to happen next, and it was full of surprises.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Hard to believe it’s a first novel, Diane Setterfield’s writing is so polished and professional. A biographer who spends her life in her father’s bookshop receives a request to chronicle the life of ‘the world’s most famous’  author. Now dying, the author wishes to impart the story of her own life. Set in a crumbling, Gothic mansion, the story is about red-headed twins who run riot, with their own language, and extremely strong ties. Their cruelty keeps the reader agog, and the people who surround them are vividly characterised. This is a mystery of haunting conviction.  Being a long-time admirer of Isaac Pitman I found the passages on hieroglyphics particularly fascinating. This is certainly a booklover’s book. Overwhelming.

Bertie Plays the Blues by Alexander McCall Smith 

‘Just magical. An insight into the best of human nature, without over-sentimentality. McCall Smith presents life for us as it should be. A tonic to read. Bertie, an extremely intelligent little boy of six has an over ambitious mother who fills his days with language and music lesson and visits to the psychiatrist. Olive, a six-year-old harridan, tells Bertie that one day he will marry her. He plans to run away.

Scotland Street, where everyone lives, welcomes triplets, Big Lou, the restaurant owner has  date with an Elvis impersonator and Angus the artist and Domineca the anthropologist make wedding plans, when an old flame appears on the scene and Cyril, Angus’ golden-toothed dog, views events and ankles with endearing reflections. After reading many books with hardly a chuckle I wallowed in the jests in this humane novel. I also learnt about Stendal Syndrome, the rituals of Masonry, Ebay and many ‘ologies’ so far unheard of. THis book was written in 2011, but McCall Smith remains essentially unaffected by the need to keep up with today’s changing values. Absolutely delightful.

Kal by Judy Nunn 

In1892 in Austria, two girls climb up through the snow to work at a resort where many wealthy Europeans and Americans holiday. On their way, they stop for a few words with two Italian men working on the blasting of a tunnel through the Alps. The brothers see a headline about a gold strike in Australia. They end up in Kalgoorlie, with its harsh beginnings and kaleidoscopic mix of humanity from different parts of the world. Judy Nunn’s narration is spellbinding. The horrors of World War 1 include descriptions of the 11th Battalion, where men from Kalgoorlie, who once fought each other as boys, now stand side-by-side facing heartbreaking conflicts. The saga continues, threaded with a tender love story, feuds and family loyalties, making this a worthy tribute to Australian history.

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Notes from a Well-Read Alice – May 2013

Notes from a well-read Alice logo

Alice is one of our home library borrowers who generously shares her thoughts and reviews with us!  Thankyou, Alice, and happy reading! : )

The Summer Garden by Pauline Simons

‘What joy. A long, riveting saga. From Russia to America -covering several wars- Vietnam included. From childhood to old age- both comedy and tragedy. Torture, explicit sex and the horrors of war are dealt with, but the story is so strong it overrides scenes that would normally cause offense.  Family values are revered and I found it brilliant.’

The Return Journey by Maeve Binchy

‘A good read. I don’t normally choose short stories, even though I know from experience how much re-writing and editing is required (had a writing spate in the 70’s- even sold a few!) but still prefer the flow of a full length novel. Maeve Binchy’s stories are beautifully bound together by her warm portrayal of human nature.’

Cross by James Patterson

‘Psychopathic horror is not on my agenda.’

The Dark Mountain by Catherine Jinks

‘Dark indeed. Only about twenty pages of its 470 give light relief. I found the portrayal of convict flogging too horrific, but I devoured the book and learnt so much. I couldn’t help comparing what I knew of Victorian London from my grandparents to early life in the Southern Highlands. Two extremes. I know now why I never choose an ‘A’ rated book over an orange- dotted one, I prefer to chuckle off to sleep rather than shudder. There were, nevertheless, unforgettable beautiful phrases and passages in this book. Enthralling to the end.’

Campo Santo by W G Sebald

‘This man is praised as a noted writer so I felt inadequate in that I did not appreciate him. I did not even finish the book! To me, he was stolid, a sort of diarist without the light touch of Samuel Pepys. Somewhat like a literary travel writer who goes off at a tangent. Even so, I am pleased I had the opportunity to read what all the fuss was about.’

Alice

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