Sunday, 14 March 2010

Three short reviews

Happy Mothering Sunday to those who celebrate it on this day, which is *us* in the UK but I'm not sure who else to be honest. I think it's in May in the USA? Anyway, I have a cold so, although I got cards and choccies etc., I'm not otherwise celebrating; a quiet day at home is what I need and no hardship at all.

I have three books to give a quick mention to. These have all been bedtime reads and read slowly and savoured over a month or two, so here we go:

Book Psmith has been reading a lot of books by Miss Read lately and when I saw A Country Christmas in a charity shop I was inspired by her to grab it for my own! I read a few of her early books many years ago and thoroughly enjoyed them, and the first thing I realised when I read the first story, entitled Village Christmas, was that I'd read it before. Funny how these things stick in your mind even after what is easily thirty years. The Fairacre Ghost was a good ghost story, creepy and tragic, and I also really enjoyed the saga of The White Robin, a story about an albino robin that arrives in the village of Fairacre and the reactions of the school children and villagers. This was quite a long story which I'm fairly sure must come from a separate book. Anyway, this was a delightful read. I was going to say 'nostalgic' and it is in a way. But then I realised that, but for a bit of technology, villages and schools such Miss Read's still exist, unchanged, all over the country. Attitudes are a little different maybe but, by and large, these books are not as backward looking as they might at first seem. I now have Miss Read's biography of her early years, A Fortunate Grandchild and Time Remembered from the library. I've just started it and already I'm finding it completely charming.

Dear Enemy by Jean Webster, is a kind of a sequel to Daddy-Long-Legs which I blogged about a few weeks ago. That one dealt with the education of Judy Abbot and was written in letter form. This book is also epistolary but this time deals with Judy's school friend Sallie McBride. Judy and her new husband have given Sallie the job of 'making over' the orphanage where Judy was brought up. It's old fashioned and bleak and there is a lot of work to do. At first Sallie hates the job but gradually we see, through her letters to Judy, that she is coming to love the children and enjoy her task. Her relationship with the Scottish doctor in charge of the orphanage is another matter though; he's dour in nature, never smiles or jokes, and Sallie has her work cut out in becoming his friend. Another delightful read... apart from some rather odd scientific ideas about inherited characteristics they had back then. I didn't think this was quite as charming as Daddy-Long-Legs but I enjoyed it nevertheless.

Friends, Lovers, Chocolate, is book two in Alexander McCall Smith's 'Isabel Dalhousie' series of books. When I first started book one I wasn't at all sure I would take to Isabel. She's a touch superior and a philosopher to boot, which means she thinks things to death:

'The problem with being me, thought Isabel, as she walked along George IV bridge, is that I keep thinking about the problem of being me. Her thoughts went off in all sorts of directions, exploring, probing, even fantasising. She suspected that most other people did not think like this at all.'

It was when I realised that, actually, I do think a bit like that and probably so do many others, that I liked her a lot more. This particular story involves Isabel involving herself in the plight of a man she meets in her niece's deli. He's had a heart transplant and is suffering what is known as cellular memory, where the recipient of the organ finds him or herself with memories or personality traits pertaining to the donor. This man feels that a face he keeps seeing is threatening to the point where he might die if he doesn't find out the cause of the hallucinations. I found this part of the story fascinating and thoroughly enjoyed the mystery element and the further insights into Isabel's life and times. A delightful series which I will definitely continue with. Alexander McCall Smith is rapidly becoming my favourite comfort read author, and maybe already is.


Book Psmith said...

I really do need to read Smith at some point this year. Everybody talks so highly of his books and I am just slacking on reading him. I also have Daddy Long Legs on my tbr list, so I am glad to know there is a follow up. I have not picked up any Miss Read after being pleasantly derailed by Dickens, and now James Herriot but I love knowing she is there waiting for me. I hope you enjoy reading about her early years...I found only one fault...I wanted more:)

Anonymous said...

Happy Mother's Day, Cath! Sorry about the cold, but it sounds like you have some comfort items there with you. :-)

I've started reading Haunted Ground. So far, so good. Take care.

Lahni said...

I love AMS - I think he's my favourite author at the moment - forget the comfort part!! (Although he is very comforting.) I like the Isabel Dalhousie series but I think my fav is the 44 Scotland Street series. Have you read any of those yet?

Hannah Stoneham said...

Happy mothering sunday and get well soon. Your blog is rather lovely and your review of A Counrty Christmas really motivates me to read - thanks for sharing


Danielle said...

Our Mother's Day here in the US is in May--hopefully it will be warmer and sunnier than it has been! Anyway, Happy Mothering Day! Sorry to hear you've been unwell, so a quiet day at home does sound nice. I've yet to read Andrew McCall Smith--I tried the books set in Africa, but I couldn't get into the first one--maybe a timing thing, but the Isabel Dalhousie books do appeal to me. I have the first two to read....whenever they can be squeezed in!

verity said...

I love Miss Read - such a big fan. Such lovely gentle books.

I enjoyed Daddy Long Legs many years ago, and would love to read a follow up, but the library here doesn't have it :( Maybe an Amazon purchase one day.

Hope the cold improves soon.

Cath said...

Book Psmith: Not everyone likes McCall Smith, so I will be interested to see if you do.

I've finished the first book of Miss Read's Early Years and will start the second part tonight, I think this deals with her school and the war years. I loved the first part.

Kay: thanks, feeling a little more human today. I'll be interested to hear what you think of Haunted Ground. I liked it but of the two archaeology mysteries I think I prefer The Crossing Places.

Lahni: I'm not at all sure that AMS is not my favourite author at the moment too. No, I haven't read the 44 Scotland St. books, but have picked the first one up at the library this morning. I wanted the 3rd. Dalhousie book too but they didn't have it.

Hannah: thank you for your kind words - I had a quick look at your blog too and it's beautiful! Will go back later and have a proper read.

Thanks, Danielle! I'm always interested to hear what people who've never read AMS think of him. It seems that people either love him or hate him; it's quite possible not to 'get' his books at all and plenty are bored by them.

Verity: there was only one copy of Dear Enemy in all the Devon libraries so I'm not surprised you can't find any.

The cold is still ongoing but am feeling better today.

GeraniumCat said...

The sequel to Daddy Long Legs sounds fun, I shall see if the library here has it (very much doubt it). I love Isabel Dalhousie, I tend to think things to death too. I'm trawling the library for Miss Read, too - not much there, but I'm reading what there is.

DesLily said...

happy mother's day (late of course)..

you are on a roll even if some of the books are smaller! wow..
and now you get to read even more fantasy! you are signing up for Carl's Once Upon a Time right?.. good girl lol..

Cath said...

GeraniumCat: I think if I trawl every Devon library there is I could probably find most of the Miss Read books, but my town's library only has 4 or 5. I often see them in charity shops though and as long as they're not too expensive I'll probably nab them. I look upon it as my personal contribution to charity. (Well that's my excuse anyway... ;-))

Pat: yeah, I'm having a good reading year so far - I'm reading books 18 and 19 and for me that's pretty good at this stage of the year. I think I'm just enjoying everything at the moment.

Oh yes, I'm so ready to join Carl's challenge now and read some fantasy. I think I have some good ones lined up and a couple that cross over with other challenges. Not sure if I'll get my post up this afternoon; we have our grandson coming for tea, plus I really need to go through my blogroll.

Kailana said...

I need to do some mini-reviews. I haven't really reviewed anything lately!

I hope all is well with you!

Cath said...

Kailana: I quite like doing mini-reviews. These days I can't face writing long reviews of every single book I read... not sure why, never used to be a problem.

Apart from a rotten cold I'm fine thanks. Behind with my blog reading but catching up tomorrow hopefully. I tend to keep up with your doings on Twitter. :-)