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Thursday, April 15, 2021

A return to Society with Woodsman

I missed out a bookcase in Society so have gone back and read a book from it, just in time for the reopening of the library after the long lockdown. Woodsman by Ben Law is a very idealistic book, You could say he needs to get out more, but he lives outside anyway so maybe it wouldn't help! Ben basically has devoted his life and career to wood and the countryside, and his vision of the future sees us in some sort of dystopian world where coppicing is king and growing trees for your grandchildren is de rigueur. I doubt his vision will be realised but I appreciate the sentiment and admire his life in the woods. 6/10



Saturday, March 13, 2021

Guest review of another library book

In Pursuit of Butterflies: A Fifty-Year AffairIn Pursuit of Butterflies: A Fifty-Year Affair by Matthew Oates
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A very inspirational book about his love of butterflies from the age of 10, intertwined with a small about of autobiographical material (enough to feel you slightly know Matthew anyway). Slightly nerdy, but as a fellow obsessive I can relate to that.

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Friday, February 5, 2021

World War II continued

No Place to Lay One's Head by Fran├žoise Frenkel was an account of a Jewish woman's journey around France before and during the French occupation and continues on my theme of war books concerning non-combatants. Frenkel used to own a bookshop in Berlin in the 1930s and that's where the book starts. It's a slightly unusual book as it was "discovered" decades after it was published shortly after the war and the author has long died and her life post-war is largely a mystery. It's doesn't appear to have had much editing and is slightly amateurish as a result, although this is somewhat endearing I suppose. She doesn't mention she is Jewish until halfway through the book, it's obiously not a big thing in her life until it becomes so because of the Nazis. Anyway, she moves around France trying to find a home and is eventually captured before reaching freedom. Frenkel writes in such a low key way about extraordinary events that it almost makes them seem mudane. 5/10

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

World War II Begins

Millions Like Us: Women's Lives in War and Peace 1939-1949 by Virginia Nicholson was a very timely book as it covers a time of great social change, just as we are currently undergoing for home working (hopefully!). Women's workplace roles were never the same again after 1945, despite the best attempts of men to set the clock back. Likewise when our bosses try and get us back into the office in a few months. The book itself followed quite a few different women over the 6 war years. I lost track of most of them and just read it "as is". It was pretty enjoyable, moving in parts, and unrecognizable in many ways to the world I have ever known. It was a great eye-opener to human nature, and a pleasant change from reading "normal" war books about battles, generals and politicians. Behind the scenes, back at home, "her indoors" was also discovering hitherto untapped resources. 8/10

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

The Return of History

Alfred the Great by Justin Pollard saw me return to the history section after a long gap since my first foray into that area. Alfred the Great is the only English monarch to have that epithet and it's richly deserved for someone who more than anyone else can be designated as the architect of England and the first great statesman of our country. It's an entertaining book, well told, and a popular account of a person where details are inevitably quite sketchy given the timespan and how much has been lost, as well as the paucity of authentic material of proven provenance.

Monday, October 26, 2020


I concluded the Travel section with Coasting: A Private Voyage by Jonathan Raban. It was written during the early 80s and comes from the waffly school of travel writing when the author tends to waffle on about anything in particular, in his case the Falklands, Miners Strike, Thatcher and his childhood. All well and good for but I'd rather he described more about what sounds an interesting journey by sea around Britain (he never does say where he went, when, how lomg it took etc). Raban is essentially a fiction writer so his prose is excellent, but it's not my sort of book. 5/10

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Guest review from GoodReads

Madame BovaryMadame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My God this is a negative book, I bet Gustave Flaubert was real fun at parties. I realise the book is something of a swipe at the bourgeoisie but I don't think there was a single positive character in the book. Everyone is despicable, pathetic, self-interested and nobody comes out with any credit at all.

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