Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Catching up

I can't believe I haven't posted here since May. But it's true - I haven't. I took an unannounced blog break, partly due to my father dying... we were, sadly, not close, but it was still a shock... and partly because of various other things going on. I also have not been reading as much, though I am back with it now. What I thought I would do is a quick run-down of a few books I've enjoyed over the past three months and then try to get back to normal blogging. Mostly, I have to admit, I've been reading undemanding books so if serious is what you're after... stop reading now. :-)

From Amazon: Fairacre is a village of cottages, a church and the school - and at the heart of the school, its head mistress, Miss Read. Through her discerning eye, we meet the villagers of Fairacre and see their trials and tribulations, from the irascible school cleaner Mrs Pringle, to the young school children, with their scraped knees, hopeful faces and inevitable mischief. Miss Read takes us through the school year, beginning with the Christmas term, when the bitterly cold weather challenges the school's ancient heating system, right through to the hot summer day when school is over for another year. Full of Miss Read's unique, acerbic wit, and wry observations, VILLAGE SCHOOL is an intriguing glimpse into a forgotten world, and has become a true classic. Very enjoyable this little book. It's actually the first of the Fairacre books, easy reading, bed-time type fare, but none the worse for that with a surprising wit and social commentary. The third or fourth book I've read by Miss Read this year, I especially enjoyed her autobiography.

I read these two back to back. Both were actually written by Carole Barrowman who is John Barrowman's sister. He apparently dictated them into an MP3 player and she, a professor of English at a Wisconsin university, created order from chaos. The first book, Anything Goes charts the actor, stage musical performer, and TV personality's life from childhood to around the time he got the part of Captain Jack Harkness in Dr. Who. It's a warts and all story, he's very open about his sexuality (he's openly gay) and experiences, but what also comes over his huge love for his family who still live in the USA - they emigrated from Scotland when he was a child. The second book, I Am What I Am, is less of an autobiography and more of an anecdotal type book. It includes more family stories and much more about his relationship with his life partner, Scott Gill. I have to say, it is also very funny. Several of the stories, one about how he 'saved' a stray cat, put it in his bedroom for safety for the day, and the utter chaos his partner found when he got home from work, literally had me crying with laughter. Pranks the family play on each other and Scott's rampant hypochondria... he got John out of bed one night to tell him he thought he'd got Lime's disease... are also highly amusing. All in all, these two books are a joy for Barrowman fans like myself. Not sure of the appeal for anyone else but there you go: I loved them.

There is also a Barrowman connection with this book. I was following his tweets one night and he mentioned that his partner was reading The Chain of Curiosity by Sandi Toksvig and laughing his head off. I had to investigate of course, checked Amazon and, after reading about it, immediately reserved it at the library. Comedian, Sandi, has apparently been writing a column in The Sunday Telegraph for years, a fact I was totally unaware of. Basically, she writes of life's peculiarities and absurdities, often including facts and figures that are bizarre and ridiculous or stories that are equally crazy. It's easy to read each article in her voice and because she is naturally funny and has a very amusing turn of phrase the book is hysterically funny. If you're feeling a bit down this would be an ideal book to have close to cheer you up. Can't recommend this highly enough.

Saw this in the library and grabbed it because I rather like Anne Perry's regular little historical Christmas crime books and have already read a couple. This one involves Superintendant Runcorn, who I believe also features in Perry's 'Monk' series, spending Christmas on the Welsh island of Anglesey. He's trying to forget a certain Melisande Ewart from a previous investigation, whom he fell in love with, but what do you know? she's there too, engaged to another man. A friend of hers is suddenly murdered and Runcorn is asked to help investigate. All highly unlikely but great fun on a purely surface level and an easy read if you happen to be in the mood.

Am now reading On Royalty by TV journalist, Jeremy Paxman... not because I'm that rivetted by royalty, but because I like Paxman's writing and intelligence. His The English was excellent. This book is a lot more taxing than anything I've read in a while but I'm thoroughly enjoying Paxman's style and sense of humour. About halfway through, so more about that later.


verity said...

i was looking at your blog the other day and realised you hadn't posted for so long - but you've been about on twitter anyway. Very sorry to hear about your Dad.

Miss Read is a particular favourite of mine.And undemanding reading is great - I've been on undemanding reading for several months

DesLily said...

well.. that's something i've never done to have so many short reviews in one post! wow.. I'm glad you are back to reading more regular and back to the blog..if we didn't keep contact I would have worried long ago!! It won't be long and Carl will start RIP..I hope that gets me reading more too.

Cath said...

Verity: thank you. I've always had a very difficult relationship with my father (he didn't bring me up) so it was not easy when he died.

I've only been able to read 'undemanding' for a few months now but am slowly coming out of that. But I do seem to have developed a sudden taste for non-fiction, which is actually *good*.

Cath said...

Pat:...oops meant to add this to the other comment. I find these posts where I do several short reviews very useful sometimes. Helps me to catch up!

I have my books all stacked up for RIP but I didn't realise it was that close. I may miss the start of it as we're in Wales the first week of Sept. Not sure when it starts...

BooksPlease said...

Glad to see you back here, Cath.

Miss Read is a favourite of mine too.

Cath said...

Margaret: thank you, hopefully I can get back to posting regularly now.

Nan said...

I am sorry about your father.

I think Miss Read - Dora Jessie Saint - is still alive. I haven't read anything to the contrary. I believe she was born in 1913. How I adore her work.

I'm awfully glad to see you posting again.

Danielle said...

So sorry to hear about your father. No matter what the circumstances these things are always difficult. I was wondering how you were--hoping you were taking a break over the summer to relax and travel as so many others seem to have been doing. I hope you're feeling better and will be back to regular blogging. And I am All for undemanding reads. I've had a fair amount of those this summer as well!

Cath said...

Nan: Thank you for your kind words.

I must admit I thought Miss Read had died in the late nineties but you're right... she's still alive. 97 I believe - what a wonderful age and life, so much pleasure given to so many.

Danielle: Thank you. No, I've been around, just feeling rather quiet, blogwise, but am ready to start again now.

I seem to be very much in an undemanding mood at the moment. Paxman's book on Royalty is the limit of my ability to think at the moment. Partly due to a nasty summer cold I suspect, but also a lot of family committments. Nice to be back and thank you for missing me.

LizF said...

To echo everyone else, it is nice to have you back and I am sorry to hear about your loss - I don't think it makes it any easier that you weren't close to your dad, it's still a bit of a watershed.
I used to love the Miss Read books and as a matter of fact found some of them in a box fished out the depths of the attic last week.
I've been looking at them, wondering if I should read them again or just donate them on, but I think I might find a place on a shelf for them for the moment and see!
I'm into undemanding reading too at the moment - my version of holiday reading ( regretfully without the holiday !) but it's nice to be able to read something that entertains you has a bit of escapism!

Susan said...

Hi Cath - Oh, I'm so sorry about your father. It's a shock when it happens, no matter the closeness, isn't it? My deepest sympathies to you and your family.

It is good to see you back again. I've missed you! I love your review of the Barrowman autobiographies and hope to read them soon. I haven't read any Miss Read yet.

I'm just glad you have found some books to help you through this time. *hug*

Cath said...

LizF: Thank you. And for your kind words about my father - 'a watershed' is a good way to describe it really.

I read a few Miss Read books when I was a lot younger but back then they were thought of as books only for the elderly so I gave up. A bit silly as they're not at all. There's quite a lot of interest in them, if only to note how certain attitudes have changed out of all recognition.

Hope you're enjoying your undemanding books too. I'm now reading Stephen Fry's autobiography, Moab is my Washpot, and that, like him, is very entertaining.

Hi Susan! It is a shock, in my case sorrow for the relationship I should have had with my father, and didn't. Thank you for your kind words.

The Barrowman autobiographies were just the ticket for reading in May and June when nothing else appealed. I took the 2nd. one to Wales with me for a few days, where he of course lives, so I was in Wales and reading about Wales, which was fun. (Will post some photos later.) When you do get to them I look forward to your thoughts. That 2nd. one will have you in stitches...

Yes, I've found books to suit my mood thank goodness. Non-fiction, oddly enough... am currently reading Stephen Fry's first autobiography in preparion for when his 2nd. one arrives next month. (Pre-ordered)