Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Two quick reviews

I'm currently rereading Howards End is on the Landing by Susan Hill. I'm doing this mainly because I loved it so much the first time around but back then I whizzed through it without stopping. This time I'm reading it much more slowly, enjoying it more, and also jotting down recommended books as I go. A bit of a crazy thing to do really. I have a tbr pile the size of Mount Everest and hardly need to be making lists of books I haven't read, don't own, and will thus have to buy or borrow from the library if I do decide to read them. Like I said: mad.

Anyway, this is meant to be a bookblog and I haven't reviewed many books lately so here're a couple of quickie reviews of what I've read recently. First up - A Wild Life by Dick Pitman.

Dick Pitman left England in 1977 on a whim to go and work in what was then Rhodesia and is now, of course, Zimbabwe. He began by touring the national parks writing articles about them for papers and magazines. Completely seduced and bewitched by the wildlife and country he then went on to work for the country's national parks as a sort of PR man... getting the parks into the newspapers and so on. Resigning from there a few years later he went on to give more practical help with projects such as returning the black rhino and the cheetah to various parks in his capacity as a pilot or as someone who was fast becoming an expert on African wildlife.

This book turned out to be quite a little gem. Dick Pitman recalls his experiences in Zimbabwe with a great deal of self-deprecation and humour. His love of Africa shines off the page as he describes the area around the Zambesi river, the Matusadona, Lake Kariba, Mana Pools, and the Mavuradonha. Some of what he has to relate is rather sad - the failure of some of the plans to reintroduce animals when they are hunted and killed soon after release for instance. There is also a great deal of bureaucracy and fraud to be overcome as governmental changes come in and the country begins to slide towards bankrupty under the leadership of Mugabe. Throughout it all the author keeps faith with Zimbabwe and stays on, giving the reader a unique insight into this troubled country. Loved it to bits.

Next up: Our Spoons Came from Woolworths by Barbara Comyns.

Sophia and Charles fall in love in the 1930s and marry rather too quickly. His family are vehemently against the marriage and turn up on the doorstep to berate Sophia. And this is not Sophia's only problem. She has a job which keeps them both while Charles paints... not very successfully because he never sells anything. Then Sophie falls pregnant. Charles is appalled as he doesn't want to be a father and although Sophie wants the baby she knows she will lose her job and they will have no money to live. After the baby is born Charles relents a little but is still hardly the keenest of fathers. Sophie manages to get work modelling for artists but Charles refuses to try and find work himself. Things come to head when Sophia discovers that Charles has been looking into homes for children whose parents don't want them. Enraged and worried for her son's safety Sophie embarks on an affair...

Gosh. Well, this is a story that Sophie relates to her friend, after the event, so we know right at the beginning that it has a happy outcome. Otherwise it would be overwhelmingly sad to be honest. Not that life isn't sometimes tragic but some of the events in the story are really hard to take. It's beautifully written in the first person so we get to know Sophie very well. She's a fighter and a person who never gives up, never complains about her lot, just relates it all in a very matter of fact way which in a way makes it all the more horrifying. Her selfish and immature husband needed a jolly good smack to be honest and at one point in the book I silently cheered. This is very much a book of its time. Before there was any NHS the scenes in the hospital as Sophie gives birth will make any woman shudder. And these days there would be benefits to help women like Sophie and her son and rightly so. An excellent read, quite sad but ultimately uplifting and recommended if you enjoy Virago Modern Classics.


Margaret @ BooksPlease said...

I don't think you're crazy - I whizzed through Susan Hill's book too and have been thinking of rereading it, sometime too.

DesLily said...

lol I feel the same about my tbr "mountain" lol...

it does sound like you enjoyed both books and that's great! I am trying very hard not to add to my tbr but we both know how that goes!

I just started Wilke Collins Moonstone and the first 80 pgs are quite good.. I do like his writing better than Dickens .. I think it's because his writing seems more for the common folk , if that makes any sense. anyway...
glad you liked these two books! RIP is only 3 weeks away!!!!

Alyce said...

A Wild Life looks like on that I would really like.

Cath said...

Margaret: I'm glad it's not just me! And I can heartily recommend a reread.

Pat: I'd like to read something by Wilkie Collins for RIP but am not sure what to choose. I think the only one I own is No Name but am not sure if that's suitable.

Alyce: A Wild Life was very enjoyable. If you like books about African wildlife and the difficulties concervationists face then I would say it's a 'must read'.

DesLily said...

I keep an eye out for a hb copy of no name..that's one I haven't read.. actually I've only read Woman in White and now Moonstone of name is on my wish list but the paperbacks print is killing me with Moonstone. The size was bigger than a mass market so thought I could handle it.. I can but only a few pages at a time I can't even read a few chapters at a time!.. but I will muddle thru this because I like the book! lol

gads I have more books that would be for rip than I can deal with! lol So don't know which ones I will actually read.. all that and thumping in the back of my head is to read Dood and 13th tale yet again, but probably won't. If I am still in that mood when rip is over I might read them then lol

Cath said...

Pat: I can't deal with small print anymore either. Have had to give on several paperbacks this year because of it.

I just counted and I have 18 books lined up on the shelf for RIP. LOL. If I manage 6 of those I'll be lucky! Definitely going to read The Little Stranger though. And probably Drood. Also fancy a reread of Great Expectations. Like you said... I have more than I can possibly deal with!

Anonymous said...

Two books that sound interesting from your reviews here.
I, too, have mountains of unread books, but, there is always another, is there not? and off we go to find them. No, you are not alone.

Cath said...

lifeonthecutoff: You're so right - there is always another book. And I'm always surprised by that as I tend to think I've heard of most books but that couldn't be further from the truth! LOL. I have to say that these days I do check the library catalogue first before I rush off to Amazon.

Susan said...

I have to read Books on the Landing when I find it, it sounds interesting. I always come away with books to read, too. My TBR mountain hasn't collapsed under the weight yet, but it is teetering! and RIP is coming up fast! I laughed at your comment that you have 18 books piled up for it, I have about that many too!!

I can't say much about your book reviews because I haven't read either, and with my TBR pile, I'm trying to add only what I know I want to read. Still, they both sound interesting. Just reading about the husband makes me want to slap him too!

Cath said...

Susan: You're so right about adding only the books you know you'll read to your tbr pile. I'm being very strict with myself over that at the moment. The library helps me with the other books that I'm not sure of. Not to mention free downloads to my Kindle.

Howards End is on the Landing is your kind of thing - trust me. LOL.

I know! 18 books! How daft can you get? Still, it means we both have a lot of choice and ought to be able to find something to suit our mood as we go along.

fiction-books said...

Hi Cath,

Don't even talk about TBR piles ....Sometimes I wish that we did live in a much smaller place, then I really would have to be strict with myself!!!

I do like to sit and look at the shelves full of books though, it's kind of comforting, especially as I haven't read any of them (I always pass books on as soon as they are read), so much choice!!!

I haven't tended to read many of the classics, but funnily enough, we had a whole box full of them donated into the charity shop earlier this week, and whilst in the throes of valuing them all, I did find myself getting engrossed in all the different synopses, so that may be another reading path for me to follow.

I love the sound of your Virago Classic, although I should think that parts of it were quite sad. Charles sounds like a really nasty piece of work, definitely a good advert for female emancipation, if you were married to him!!!

I have actually added this one to my reading list, so thanks for the recommendation and introducing me to a whole new genre with an intriguing first book.


Jen ( said...

I also have a mountain and now I have another book to add to it! Thanks. :)

Our Spoons Came from Woolworths sounds incredibly depressing. I think I might have to skip that one.

Cath said...

Yvonne: I know *exactly* what you mean about a shelf full of books being comforting. Looking at mine of the various shelves puts a big smile on my face.

By and large I think classics are worth reading but I like to mix them up with my ordinary reading. There's a lot I haven't read too. Thomas Hardy, George Eliot to name but two and loads I would like to reread or read more of, Dickens and Wilkie Collins for instance.

The Virago classic was very good, quite sad with a happy ending, and very quick to read. It's in my charity shop box so if you would like it let me know.

I'll be doing a post of my charity shop buys from Friday later today.

Jen: Thanks for visiting. If you ever read A Wild Life I hope you like it as much as me.