Sunday, October 03, 2010

Recently Read


A further reply has been added below your comment :-)

{Edited to correct several typing errors. It doesn't seem to make any difference whether I am wearing my glasses or not, so I think I need to get my eyes tested again soon.....}

This list does include several books that have actually slowly been read over a period of months, and some that didn't make it into the last list because I hadn't taken photos of them, so do not worry, I have not been reading for 18 hours a day since the last update !

Frost On My Moustache describes how Tim Moore researched and followed in the footsteps of the Victorian aristocrat Lord Dufferin who sailed from Ireland to the Arctic Circle in 1856. The recreation of the voyage part of the book was highly amusing; I did take issue with the author's inability to get his head out of the gutter when he was trying very hard to read into  Lord Dufferin's devotion to his mother some bizarre form of incestuous relationship. If I had been the elderly person allowing a researcher access to treasured family documents and homes, thinking that a serious book was to be written, I would be very sad to think that my family's name was being besmirched in this way.

Santa - A Life  was completely bizarre. It ranged from being utterly engrossing to infuriating me to the point of wanting to throw the book across the room and scream. The author is obviously not a particular churchgoer, and makes the most ludicrous comments, such as when the Italians stole  "rescued"  St Nicholas' relics from  Turkey , that the Saint was "showing" he had converted from Orthodoxy to Catholicism. Puhlease ! Get a grip - and some common sense of historical and theological  issues.
Having said that, there is much of interest in the book about the depictions and history of how traditions about the Saint have arisen.
But would I recommend it ? No, unless you can get it very cheaply indeed, as I did.

I have exactly the same problems with On Being A Jewish Christian. His Grace Bishop Hugh Montefiore has absolutely no valid knowledge of Orthodoxy judging by this book, and he lumps post-Reformation Christians in one group, whereas their individual denominational beliefs vary widely and cannot easily be considered simply as Jewish Versus Christian. There was much of interest in it, however.

Pompeii by Professor Mary Beard was a bit of a slog. A very comprehensive tome about the history, excavation and preservation of Pompeii as well as the day to day minutiae of the life of the inhabitants prior to the great explosion of Vesuvius. It could have benefited from the editorial red pen, which is rather funny coming from me when I love enormous thick books :-)

This was a fascinating insight into how the CIA recruits its "agents" and trains them. I do wonder how she got away with writing this book, though :-)

I have many fond memories of borrowing the "Uncle" books from the library in my childhood, and only ever had one book of my own. I was thrilled to find a copy of the very first book in a thrift shop ! 

The Neil Gaiman book is----- interesting. Full of short stories and poems written over a long period, it covers all sorts of things.  He is also the author of Coraline, so the themes can be quite dark.....

Boomtown is a comfort re-read. I love it, and it always makes me smile.

Mad Dogs And Englishmen by Sir Ranulph Fiennes is an utterly engrossing whistle-stop tour through his family's involvement in English history. And my goodness, were they involved ! His family have lived in the same stately home for 600 years, came over with William the Conqueror and can trace their direct family tree back before Charlegmagne to Charles Martel, who died in AD 741.

Sir Ranulph is an intrepid explorer and ex-SAS soldier. 

Skellig is an interesting young teenage book, which I and  DD3 (now 12) both enjoyed. I won't spoil the plot, but it was quite clever :-)

Ode To A Banker was another thrift shop find. It took me a few false starts to "get into" the style of writing, but I really did enjoy it very much, as I love detective stories in general and historical ones in particular. I am looking out for the rest of the series now !

This brilliant book took me ages to read, purely because of the enormous amount of information it contained about how leisure activities developed in Victorian times to the way we see them now. Just about everything you ever wanted to know about the development of museums, theatres, music halls, exhibitions, art galleries, days out, special events - all here !

I've managed to borrow lots of army/SAS thrillers from the library, as you can see. I enjoyed them all.

These last two Chris Ryan books are written for  teenagers, but I thoroughly enjoyed them and DD3 is working her way through them with equal evidence of enjoyment. Quite scary, though........

The Henrietta Lacks book was so desperately sad. I had heard of Henrietta many years ago, when doing my midwifery training, as the cancer cells from the cervical tumour which killed her were the first ever to outlast the Hayflick limit of cell division and reproduction.  Her cells are still used in medical research to this day, as they have been easily and successfully cultured for over fifty years. This is the story of the woman who has made such an enormous contribution to medical knowledge, and of her family, who struggled to come to terms with knowing that part of their mother is still "alive" to this very day, 59 years after her death..........

Meltdown is a teenage offering by Andy McNab, and is absolutely superb.
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maryb said...

Would love some suggestions for where the editorial red pen should have been used!

Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...


Thank you so much for commenting.

I borrowed the book from the local library a while ago, and would need to borrow it again in order to be able to make more exact chapter and verse comment; I do however specifically recall the section about the painting of walls being far less readable than the rest, and I did find myself desperate to get to the end of that "chunk", which was a shame and did affect my enjoyment of the rest of the book.

I do wish the section on Pompeiian graffiti had been longer, as that was a particular delight :-)

maryb said...

aaah I will look at that again.
Most people really want to know about wall paintings and have incredible theories to 'explain' the design....often largely fantasy, however learned.I was trying to debunk.. and to encourage people to feel confident to look for themselves.
Clearly I could do better! But thaks for the comments, m

Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...

It's impossible to please all of the people all of the time, though :-)

Without the benefit of specific contemporaneous
documentation, I was perfectly happy to accept the paintings "as is", without ascribing any particular theories as to their backgrounds. I do appreciate that you were writing to a wide variety of audiences with very different viewpoints and much greater classical knowledge than my own.

I was particularly interested in the facts of everyday life, and that was portrayed in wonderful detail. The thought of 20,000 people with full bladders and virtually non-existent public toilet facilities did make my jaw drop !

Mimi said...

I really want to read "Henrietta Lacks" I heard an interview with the author and it was fascinating.

Andrew McQuillen said...

I thought the CIA agent's secrets were all revealed by a treasonous white house official?