Thursday, 21 August 2008

Two short reviews

A couple of very short reviews starting with The Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susanna Clarke.

I've been reading this book for what seems like ages so some of it is a bit of a blur. My main impression is that it was a bit patchy in quality. Some of the stories didn't take my fancy at all. On Lickerish Hill was cleverly written in the style of an uneducated woman but it was basically just a retelling of the traditional fairy tale, Rumpelstiltskin, and as such was very much not my thing. Antickes and Frets, a story about Mary Queen of Scots, and John Uskglass and the Cumbrian Charcoal Burner I also found rather unsatisfying.

On the other hand, the title story, The Ladies of Grace Adieu was a good solid tale connected I believe to Susanna Clarke's huge novel, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. Mrs. Mabb a story of a fiancé stolen magically away, Mr. Simonelli or the Fairy Widower and Tom Brightwood or How the Fairy Bridge was Built at Thoresbury were all top notch stories and very enjoyable. I really love the idea of a Regency England where magic actually exists and if this anthology has taught me anything it's that it's high time I made an attempt on Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell: I'm almost sure I'll love it. I think I might line it up for 2009.


Okay well, confession time... I have a guilty pleasure and that guilty pleasure is the poetry of Pam Ayres. It's all to do with my sense of humour, I know that. What she writes is very true to life and very funny and if she's performing her poems on TV I can guarantee to be in fits within moments. I just can't help it. Anyway, I picked up this little volume, With These Hands, in the library and it's an anthology of some of her poetry and monologues which I actually had never read before. The monologues are little gems that concern such 1950s and 60s nostalgia as knitted bathing suits, the joys of suet puddings, holidays in a caravan, gyms and the middle-aged and keeping chickens.

Here's one of my favourite poems from the collection, especially for those of us addicted to The Antiques Roadshow and Bargain Hunt.

I loved an antique dealer
I loved him heart and soul
Although he was bow-fronted
And his legs were cabriole.
His eyes they were cross-banded
And his surface was distressed
But he was nicely moulded
With a sturdy little chest.

But on examination
There were several things he lacked.
I found him dummy-fronted
And I found him spindle-backed.
So I sent him off to auction
And I've had a note from there
To say he's on a pedestal
In Weston-super-Mare.

Love it.

And I'm now off to investigate cds and dvds because I've just discovered that there are loads available by Pam Ayres.


monix said...

I'm a fan, too, Cath. My idea of a really good evening would be dinner with Pam Ayres, Victoria Wood and Julie Walters. You could come along.

DesLily said...

good luck with the Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel book! I got to page 250 (about) and set it was moving so slow I got bored with it .. I keep saying I"ll pick it up again someday, but now is not the time, i'd never finish it before it was time for the RIP challenge lol.. (it's HUGE and small print!)

Nan said...

I'd never heard of her till your post, but I sure liked that poem!

Cath said...

That would be a perfect evening out, M. I shall await my invite with much anticipation.

Hi Pat! I'm okay with slow moving books as long as I know about it beforehand and am prepared for it. So thanks for the warning.

Nan, I really think you would like Pam Ayres' gentle way of writing and self deprecating sense of humour. It's very British and if you could possibly get to 'listen' to her that would be the best thing, imo.

Anonymous said...

Oh, yes. I remember reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. Have fun reading it! I have yet to read The Ladies of Grace Adieu. I might consider reading it one of these days.

Pam Ayres is new to me. Hmmm. I should check out her poetry book as well! Ah, Cath, more books I will add on my to-be-read list! ;p

Cath said...

Hi Orchidus. I'm definitely going to read Jonathan Strange next year. I believe it's over 1000 pages long, so how far I'll get I'm not sure but I certainly want to try. One thing's for sure it won't be a *quick* read...