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SandDune Reads in 2017 - Part 3

This is a continuation of the topic SandDune Reads in 2017 - Part 2.

75 Books Challenge for 2017

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1SandDune
Edited: Apr 10, 4:47am Top

Welcome everyone to my third thread of 2017, and to my sixth year doing the 75 Book Challenge. I'm a 56 year old accountant and, after spending most of my career in the City of London, I'm now the Finance Manager of a local charity which provides support to children and adults with learning disabilities. I've recently returned to full-time work after a number of years working part-time, so unfortunately I don't have as much time for LT as I used to. I live about thirty miles north of London with my husband (aka Mr SandDune), who is Assistant Principal at a local secondary school, and our 17 year old son (aka J), who attends the same school. There's also our 5 year old Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Daisy, and 13 year old cat Sweep, who have an uneasy relationship in which Sweep permanently has the upper hand. I'm originally from Wales rather than England, so I do have an interest in all things Welsh (although I can't speak the language - at least only a few words) and I tend to get huffy if people call me English rather than Welsh! I read mainly literary fiction, classics, science-fiction and fantasy and tend to avoid horror, detective fiction, chick-lit and thrillers. I belong to a RL book group which has been going since 2000, and I also try to keep up with some of the challenges going on on LT, with varying degrees of success.

All my family are avid readers, although Mr SandDune doesn't get time to read as much as he would like. J has inherited a love of reading science-fiction and fantasy from me and a love of reading history from Mr SandDune so our books are increasingly shared. I read hardbacks, paperbacks, on kindle and listen to audio books particularly when driving or walking the dog. Apart from reading I love travelling, eating out, and going to the theatre. Over the last few years I've been doing a part-time English Literature degree with the Open University, and this year I'm on my final course: English Literature from Shakespeare to Austen.

For this year's illustrations I've gone back to a general theme of dogs in art. This month's picture is by Andrea Mantegna (1431- 1506) and is a detail from the Camera degli Sposi in Mantua.



2SandDune
Edited: Apr 10, 4:11am Top

Reading Plans for 2017:

Real Life Reading Group:
I usually do read most of my RL Reading Group choices unless I can't make the meeting date.

February: My Struggle: A Death in the FamilyKarl Ove Knausgard
March: All of these People: A Memoir Fergal Keane
April: The House by the Dvina Eugenie Fraser
May: The Miniaturist Jessie Burton
June: Nutshell: A Novel Ian McEwan
July:
August: no meeting
September:
October:
November:
December:

Open University Reading:
These are for my OU course English Literature from Shakespeare to Austen. There's some poetry as well but that's provided in the course text books:

Persausion Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen
Gullivers Travels Jonathan Swift
The Confessions Jean-Jaques Rousseau
Tartuffe Moliere
TheTurkish Embassy Letters Lady Montagu Wortley
The Country Wife William Wycherley
Arabian Nights Entertainments

British Author Challenge:
Last year I managed four books out of a total of twelve. I hope to do better this year.

January: Elizabeth Bowen The Last September
February: Mary Stewart The Crystal Cave
March: Nell Dunn Up the Junction
April: Bruce Chatwin
May: Maria Edgeworth Castle Rackrent
June: Georgette Heyer
July: D.E. Stevenson
August: Winifred Holtby
September: Cynan Jones The Dig
October: Jo Walton
November: Carol Ann Duffy
December: Neil Gaiman

Booker Prize Shortlist:
My RL Reading Group is meeting to discuss the 2016 Booker Shortlist in March. I've already read Hot Milk so five more to go:

The Sellout Paul Beatty
All that Man Is David Szalay
Eileen Ottessa Moshfegh
Do not Say We Have Nothing Madeleine Thien
His Bloody Project Graeme MacRae Burnet

ANZAC Bingo 2x12
I doubt very much if I'll get around to reading more than a handful of these but I've enjoyed planning out titles to meet the challenge:

1: Read a book about conflict or war The Narrow Road to the Deep North Richard Flanagan
2: Read a book with more than 500 pgs The Luminaries Eleanor Catton
3: Read an Aussie crime novel True History of the Kelly Gang Peter Carey
4: Read a book using word play in the title Tirra Lirra by the River Jessica Anderson
5: Read a book about exploration or a journey The Hut Builder Laurence Fearnley
6: Read a book that's been longlisted for the International DUBLIN Literary Award The World Without Us Mireille Juchau
7: Read a book that's part of a series Plumb Maurice Gee
8: Read a memoir/biography (can be fiction) To the Island Janet Frame
9: Read a book written under a pen name The Getting of Wisdom Henry Handel Richardson
10: Read a book with a musical plot The Chimes Anna Smaill
11: Read a book with water featured in title/cover Mister Pip Loyd Jones
12: Read a book with an immigrant protagonist The Secret River Kate Grenville

3SandDune
Edited: Jun 13, 8:21am Top

Books Read in 2017:
1. Autumn Ali Smith ****1/2
2. Gulliver's Travels Jonathan Swift ****
3. The Country Wife William Wycherley ***1/2
4. His Bloody Project Graeme MacRae Burnet ****1/2
5. Talking to the Dead Harry Bingham****
6. Tartuffe Molière **1/2
7. All That Man Is David Szalay ***
8. Just William Richmal Crompton *****
9. My Struggle: A Death in the Family ****
10. The Crystal Cave Mary Stewart ***
11. The Last September Elizabeth Bowen ****
12. Eileen Otessa Moshfegh ***1/2
13. The Sellout Paul Beatty ***
14. All of these People: A Memoir Fergal Keane ***
15. Sourcery Terry Pratchett ***1/2
16. 1984 George Orwell *****
17. Do Not Say We Have Nothing Madeleine Thien ***
18. Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen *****
19. Persausion Jane Austen *****
20. The House by the Dvina: A Russian Childhood **1/2
21. Evelina Frances Burney ***1/2
22. The Long Tomorrow Leigh Brackett ***
23. Underground Airlines Ben Winters ***
24. Austenland Shannon Hale **
25. Dzur Steven Brust ****
26. The Miniaturist Jessie Burton ***1/2
27. One Good Turn Kate Atkinson ****
28. Can't we Talk About Something More Pleasant Roz Chast ***1/2
29. Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All Jonas Jonasson***
30. When Will There be Good News Kate Atkinson ****1/2
31. The Trees Ali Shaw ***
32. Nutshell Ian McEwan ***1/2
33. Started Early, Took My Dog Kate Atkinson ****
34. Bodies of Light Sarah Moss ****
35. The Outrun Amy Liptrot *****
36. The Last Days of New Paris China Miéville ****
37. Un Lun Dun China Mieville ****1/2
38. Iorich Steven Brust ****
39. The Old Ways Robert MacFarlane ***
40. Disobedience Naomi Alderman ****

5SandDune
Edited: Apr 10, 4:59am Top

This is where I am currently: at my sister's villa outside Paphos in Cyprus. Everyone else has gone out: J and Mr SandDune have gone out on a long walk with my brother-in-law, and my sister has gone to play bridge so I am just enjoying the sunshine.



I am currently being eyed up by one of my sister's cats to see if I have anything edible. I say my sister's cats - actually they are feral and don't belong to her at all - but her patio is clearly a favourite sunbathing spot for them. Apparently there are four in total, a mother (ginger unusually), two of her year old kittens and another cat, although usually we only see the mother and a tabby kitten. The mother is sociable enough to stroke, but the kitten is not, although it is comfortable with us being pretty close.

6susanj67
Apr 10, 4:50am Top

Happy new thread, Rhian! Your holiday spot looks lovely.

7scaifea
Apr 10, 6:22am Top

Happy new thread, Rhian!

8SandDune
Apr 10, 7:56am Top

>6 susanj67: >7 scaifea: Oh it is hard work at the moment. I have to make such difficult decisions. Shall I sit in the sun for a little bit or shall I sit in the chair under the olive tree. How do I cope!

9alcottacre
Apr 10, 7:58am Top

Happy Monday, Rhian!

10SandDune
Edited: Apr 10, 11:39am Top

Here is the mother cat:

11katiekrug
Apr 10, 9:05am Top

Happy new thread, Rhian!

Your holiday spot looks gorgeous. And the mother cat looks a bit like my cat, Leonard, only Leonard is a bit creamier, but he has darker ginger-y patches and those same pale blue eyes.

12Caroline_McElwee
Apr 10, 9:30am Top

Enjoy your holiday Rhian. Happy new thread.

A green eyed cat, lovely. Such a delicate ginger colour she is.

13Crazymamie
Apr 10, 10:21am Top

Happy new one, Rhian! What a lovely decision to have to make - I would choose under the olive tree. And the mother cat is a gorgeous shade of ginger; I like how she is summing you up.

14kidzdoc
Apr 10, 11:21am Top

Happy new thread, Rhian! Your day and location sound perfect I look forward to more photos, descriptions, and mentions of the books you'll read.

15SandDune
Apr 10, 11:38am Top

Here is the (grown-up) kitten that we see most often.

16SandDune
Apr 10, 11:45am Top

>11 katiekrug: >12 Caroline_McElwee: >13 Crazymamie: >14 kidzdoc: Welcome everyone! I've spent three days being very lazy indeed. Tomorrow we are being a bit more active and are going to northern Cyprus for a couple of nights. Which is either marked as the 'Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus' or 'Area occupied by Turkish forces since 1974' depending on which map we are looking at.

17SandDune
Edited: Apr 10, 12:21pm Top



Look what I have found in our bedroom at my sister's house! My very own copies of The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and Stig of the Dump from when I was small. Two of my all-time favourite books. These copies have probably gone through at least four of my sister's five children, and are now in use for the grandchildren.

18FAMeulstee
Apr 10, 1:24pm Top

Happy new thread, Rhian, enjoy your vacation. I hope you have decided where to sit ;-)

19thornton37814
Apr 10, 1:35pm Top

Love the cat and kitten pics! I also love the "vintage" book covers!

20Oberon
Apr 10, 2:51pm Top

>5 SandDune: So sorry to hear of your suffering! Looks fantastic - enjoy.

21lunacat
Apr 10, 3:00pm Top

Your holiday looks wonderful! Enjoy the rest, the relaxation, and the feline companions.

22BLBera
Apr 10, 3:08pm Top

Happy new thread, Rhian. Lovely photos. I love the books; I have very few of my childhood books. I was the oldest and my younger siblings were hard on them.

23lauralkeet
Apr 10, 3:52pm Top

Ooh, a warm & sunny holiday! How nice. I love the cats, too. We always enjoy meeting up with local cats & dogs when we travel. It helps us cope a little bit better with missing our own furry friends.

24rosalita
Apr 10, 5:22pm Top

Your vacation sounds wonderfully relaxing! Enjoy every bit of it, even the kitties. :-)

25karenmarie
Apr 10, 5:24pm Top

Hi Rhian! Happy new thread and happy vacation.

I love the pictures of the feral kitties and the view from the patio.

I have a few books that I bought through Scholastic Book Services when I was in elementary school, but wish I had more of them. It must be nice to see your old friends.

26PaulCranswick
Apr 10, 5:28pm Top

Happy new thread, Rhian.

>17 SandDune: Great find. I loved Stig of the Dump as a kid too.

Hope you continue to enjoy Cyprus. xx

27ronincats
Apr 10, 5:55pm Top

Happy New Thread, and happy about finding the books, and sounds like you are having a lovely vacation!

28SandDune
Apr 11, 3:12pm Top

Today we crossed over into Northern Cyprus: one of the strangest border crossings I have come across. The Greek side of the island acts very much as if the Turkish part does not exist, so no signposts at all as to where the border crossing might actually be! We had to assume that the road going straight ahead in the last Greek Cypriot town that we came to, and that had no signpost at all pointing in that direction, probably eventually went to the North. And then it's a pretty long way between leaving the Greek part and entering the Turkish part as you have to go through the buffer zone.

We will be staying in Kyrenia (or Girne in Turkish) for two nights and then heading back to my sister's.

29jnwelch
Apr 11, 5:46pm Top

Happy New Thread, Rhian, and I'm glad you're having such a great vacation. When I was a young guy, we wanted to go to Cyprus, but there was too much Greek-Turkish tension at the time. The U.S. Embassy told us we could go there, but they couldn't promise they could get us back out. That scared us off.

30lunacat
Apr 11, 6:34pm Top

My boyfriend's father remembers his time in the Army in Cyprus very fondly, but also with some less fond moments as he was shot in the head during his time there! Off duty, and sat in a bar one evening. I've never asked for the full story. He has been back in the last 10 years and says it is amazingly different.

I hope you have a lovely time in the north. I'll be interested to hear your impressions of the differences between the two sides.

31alcottacre
Apr 11, 6:39pm Top

>17 SandDune: I have never heard of either of those books. I feel deprived.

32Kassilem
Apr 11, 11:41pm Top

Cyprus! That looks warm and sunny. I hope you enjoy!

33SandDune
Edited: Apr 12, 3:05am Top

This is where we went on the way to Kyrenia yesterday: St Hilarion Castle which is perched up on a crag outside the city. It's very difficult to do it justice in a photo. It's a very large castle, but because of its location and the way it's spread out it's not possible to get more than a very small amount of it in shot at any one time.





34Caroline_McElwee
Apr 12, 6:23am Top

That looks lovely Rhian.

35lunacat
Apr 12, 6:42am Top

Wow, that looks amazing. What fabulous views.

36SandDune
Apr 12, 2:53pm Top

>18 FAMeulstee: >19 thornton37814: >20 Oberon: >21 lunacat: >23 lauralkeet: >24 rosalita: >25 karenmarie: >26 PaulCranswick: >27 ronincats: >32 Kassilem: >34 Caroline_McElwee: >35 lunacat: It isn't as warm and sunny as it should be unfortunately as the weather is apparently cold for the time of year. Yesterday and today were warm if you were in a sheltered spot and the sun was out, but there was a cold wind. It's fine for sightseeing, but certainly not hot enough for lying by the pool.

>30 lunacat: Wow, he was lucky to survive that. I looked up that nearly 400 British servicemen were killed in Cyprus before it became independent, followed by several thousand more Greek and Turkish Cypriots in 1974.There are clearly still major issues between the two sides.

The Turkish side definitely feels more 'foreign' than the rest of Cyprus does, probably mainly because there aren't such overwhelming amounts of British tourists. Everyone still drives on the left though, and while the Turkish Lira is the official currency everyone seems to take Euros, and pounds as well for that matter. It clearly hasn't seen the amount of development that southern Cyprus has seen, which in my opinion is a good thing: I can't help feeling that Cyprus as a whole would have benefited from much stronger planning regulations. One difference is that we were woken up at 6.00am this morning by the call to prayer from the mosque next door!

37BLBera
Apr 12, 9:02pm Top

Wow! Love the photos, Rhian.

When we drove to Gibraltar from Spain, we had a similar experience. We could actually see the rock, but there were no signs in Spain.

38lunacat
Apr 13, 4:30am Top

Yeah, he'd have been out there around 1959 I think? I don't know if he was shot specifically for being a serviceman, or who shot him. I should find out the details more but it's a slightly awkward topic to bring up!

He liked adventure though - he headed out to Israel in 1967 at the start of the Six Day War (I'm not sure why), missed it because his hitchhiking meant he travelled slowly, then decided to live in a Kibbutz for two years. He's not Jewish, just thought it would be interesting!

Fascinated to hear your thoughts on Turkish/Greek Cyprus. Sorry to hear the weather isn't warmer, but then it's often nice to have it a little cooler for sightseeing. Hope you have a wonderful time for your rest of your stay. Is there a big focus on Easter on the Greek side?

39Ameise1
Apr 14, 8:41am Top

Happy vacation and congrats on your shiny new thread. It's more then twenty years ago when I was at Cyprus East coast.

40ChelleBearss
Apr 14, 10:52am Top


Hope you have a great Easter weekend!

41Ameise1
Apr 15, 5:22am Top

Hi Rhian, wishing you a wonderful Easter weekend.


42Familyhistorian
Apr 16, 10:28pm Top

Happy new thread, Rhian. I am enjoying the holiday photos, I hope that you are having a good time in Cyprus.

43SandDune
Apr 20, 3:36pm Top

We're back from Cyprus and J and Mr SandDune and back at school. I thought I'd share this photo of the school that Mr SandDune took today. This isn't exactly his office (his is the next window along) but it's very close.


44FAMeulstee
Apr 20, 3:38pm Top

>43 SandDune: Wow, that is a stunning Wisteria!

45jnwelch
Apr 20, 5:06pm Top

>43 SandDune: Whoa! That is beautiful, Rhian.

46SandDune
Apr 20, 5:24pm Top

>43 SandDune: >44 FAMeulstee: >45 jnwelch: Trouble with wisteria is that it doesn't last very long but it is lovely while it lasts And that one does look so nice against the paler green plants.

47Ameise1
Apr 21, 1:08am Top

>43 SandDune: Beautiful. We have some at our school, too but they aren't blooming yet.

48Familyhistorian
Apr 21, 1:54am Top

Nice picture, Rhian. I love the look of wisteria.

49scaifea
Apr 21, 6:39am Top

>43 SandDune: Gorgeous!

50alcottacre
Apr 21, 6:46am Top

Beautiful pictures all around! Love the pictures of both Cyprus and the wisteria.

Happy Friday, Rhian!

51charl08
Apr 21, 4:29pm Top

Looks like a lovely holiday and a beautiful bit of greenery.

52Caroline_McElwee
Apr 21, 7:03pm Top

I do like wisteria.

Good luck with the final bit of study Rhian.

53Ameise1
Apr 23, 1:59am Top

Happy Sunday, Rhian.

54BLBera
Apr 23, 9:28am Top

Welcome back, Rhian. Great photo.

55SandDune
Apr 23, 2:47pm Top

Apologies to everyone for not getting back to them individually. I've been struggling to finish an essay as well as having a revision class all day Saturday. One may essay to go due in on 27th May, and then my degree course should be complete!

56m.belljackson
Apr 23, 3:41pm Top

> 43 SandDune - Wisteria so beautiful - does it need full sun?

57Familyhistorian
Apr 23, 5:12pm Top

Best of luck with all your course work, Rhian.

58SandDune
Edited: Jun 12, 12:19pm Top

21. Evelina Frances Burney ***1/2



I started reading this as background reading to what Jane Austen herself would have read.

Evelina is a seventeen year old orphan who has been abandoned by her aristocratic father, who claimed that the marriage with her mother had never taken place. Brought up by the retired country clergyman who had raised her mother, Evelina has the chance to experience London society for the first time while visiting friends, and as befits a very inexperienced girl brought up in a very quiet part of the country, she makes many mistakes along the way. But her trip to London is extended when she encounters her grandmother Mme Duval, a rather vulgar (albeit rich) woman who has been living in France for most of her life, and has returned to England to discover her granddaughter.

It took me a little while to get into: Evelina is one of those perfectly good and perfectly beautiful heroines that were particularly popular in the eighteenth century which can be a little wearing. But in the end it did grow on me, particularly the sections with Evelina's rather downmarket relations the Branghtons. I also found it interesting to see the changes in society that took place between the time that Evelina was written and the time Jane Austen was writing: society is clearly on its way to the more subdued and respectable Victorian era by Jane Austen's time.

59SandDune
Edited: Jun 12, 12:21pm Top

22. The Long Tomorrow Leigh Brackett ***



A long lifetime ago a nuclear war devastated the Earth, and the remaining population in the US are reduced to pre-industrial technology. Only the oldest grandparent can remember when there were cars and televisions and electricity on tap. But there is no appetite to rebuild the past - society wants above all to avoid the horrors of civilisation once more descending into nuclear chaos. Settlements are forbidden to grow beyond the size of a very small town and scientific knowledge is prohibited. But two young cousins, Len and Esau, find an old radio and become obsessed with the idea of finding Bartortown, an almost mythical place where the wonders of the past are said to still exist.

This one started reasonably well, but had a very disappointing ending. And for a world that had supposedly been devastated by nuclear war there seemed to be remarkably little problems with radiation!

60cameling
Apr 24, 5:05pm Top

Lovely photos, Rhian. A friend of mine is currently vacationing in Greece and intends to head to Cyprus next week. I'm all envious because all I have to look forward to this week are spreadsheets and reports at the office.

61karenmarie
Edited: May 5, 9:28am Top

Hi Rhian! Just a quick hello - Thank you for sharing all the pictures.

62PaulCranswick
May 6, 2:18pm Top

>55 SandDune: Good luck with that last essay and I am sure that a very good degree awaits.

Have a great weekend.

63sibyx
May 19, 8:52am Top

Your time in Cyprus sounds idyllic - must seem like a dream to you now, back at home.

I had much the same reaction to Evelina when I read it -- including surprise at the liveliness and that I liked it much better than I thought I would.

Does seem a bit odd that Brackett sidestepped the radiation issues!

64SandDune
May 19, 11:45am Top

Apologies to everyone for falling off the face of the world for the last few weeks. Since getting back from Cyprus I have been completely engrossed in writing my final essays for my OU degree. Which are now written and checked and submitted, and which I am very happy to see the back of! When I started this degree I was part-time but being full time for the last eighteen months has made it very hard work and I'm looking forward to having a bit of a rest. And it will give me more time to catch up with LT ...

65drneutron
May 19, 12:37pm Top

Oh, I get having to focus on school! Glad it's done and you're back.

66lunacat
May 19, 3:00pm Top

It's interesting to see you reviewing Evelina, as I've been listening to A History of Britain in 21 Women by Jenni Murray, and Frances Burney is one of those talked about. I'd never heard of her before.

67Caroline_McElwee
May 19, 5:07pm Top

>66 lunacat: oops, that just fell into my basket, thanks for the bullet, ouch!

>64 SandDune: congratulations on submitting your final essays Rhian. I hope you will have a bit of recovery time over the weekend.

68charl08
May 19, 5:59pm Top

That must be a good feeling to have handed them all in! Hope you're enjoying some free time.

69Familyhistorian
May 20, 1:09am Top

>64 SandDune: It must feel wonderful to have those essays done and dusted, Rhian. I can relate. I just finished a diploma program just over a year ago - 21 courses taken part time while working full time - what was I thinking? You think you will have scads of free time once all the courses are over but somehow it gets filled in with other stuff. Enjoy that feeling of being done while you can.

70SandDune
May 20, 3:18am Top

>65 drneutron: >67 Caroline_McElwee: >68 charl08: >69 Familyhistorian: I'm really looking forward to a weekend free of essay writing! We haven't got much on at all for the rest of the month but June will be busier as it's time for J to start looking at universities and we'll be going to open days at Bristol, Leeds and Manchester in June. We can do Bristol in a day, but I need to book some accommodation for the other two: Leeds is on the Friday and Manchester is on the Saturday so we can combine them into one trip. At the moment I thinking that I'll book Thursday and Friday night in Leeds and then go on to Manchester Saturday morning. Leeds is about four hours drive from us and Manchester maybe four and a half, and we'd need to leave at the crack of dawn to get him to his events on time if we left home on the Friday. In September, he wants to go and see Sheffield (my old university) and Edinburgh. Funnily, although Edinburgh is obviously much further away than the others, it's probably the easiest one for him to get to on his own. I've checked the prices of flights from our (very) local airport, and as long as he remembers to book flights well in advance it might well work out cheaper to fly to Edinburgh than get the train to Leeds or Manchester. And we're not ideally placed for travelling by train to anywhere other than London - it usually ends up being a very convoluted journey. It's me that's going to be doing the bulk of the driving around: J is allowed two days off school for university visits, but of course that doesn't apply to Mr SandDune.

71SandDune
May 20, 9:38am Top

>66 lunacat: I'm definitely going to be reading more of Frances Burney, and probably more from that period generally. Some of the course work was looking at what Jane Austen herself would have read, which I found really interesting. Who were the 21 women who were chosen for Jenni Murray's book? One of the books that we looked at was The Turkish Embassy Letters by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and she'd certainly be on my list of interesting women of the past. She was the one who traveled to Istanbul at the beginning of the eighteenth century, and then introduced (or at least tried to introduce) smallpox inoculation.

72lunacat
May 20, 2:39pm Top

>71 SandDune:

The list is:

Boudicca
Elizabeth I
Aphra Behn
Caroline Herschel
Fanny Burney (Frances Burney)
Mary Wollstonecraft
Jane Austen
Mary Somerville
Mary Seacole
Ada Lovelace
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson
Millicent Garrett Fawcett
Emmeline Pankhurst
Ethel Smyth
Constance Markievicz
Gwen John
Nancy Astor
Barbara Castle
Margaret Thatcher
Mary Quant
Nicola Sturgeon

73BLBera
May 20, 2:42pm Top

Congratulations on finishing your essays, Rhian.

Good luck with the college visits. Does J have any preferences right now?

>72 lunacat: Interesting list.

74SandDune
May 20, 5:04pm Top

>72 lunacat: I had to look up a few of those. Millicent Garrett Fawcett and Ethel Smyth didn't ring any bells at all: Constance Markievicz did sound familiar, but I couldn't have said why!

>73 BLBera: At the moment Leeds and Edinburgh are his favourite, but that may well have comething to do with the fact that he visited Leeds in January with a school event, and he liked Edinburgh when we visited a couple of years ago. I think Bristol is probably at the bottom of the list, but that may change. I think he's keen to go to a reasonable size city but London's a little bit too close to home and too familiar.

75drneutron
May 20, 7:59pm Top

Paul C's daughter is at Edinburgh, so he might be able to give you his impression of the school.

76SandDune
May 21, 9:23am Top

>75 drneutron: I think Paul's daughter is at Herriot-Watt University, which is also in Edinburgh but specialises in engineering and business and more technical things. After much agonising J is intending to do History (or History and Politics) so he's looking at the University of Edinburgh - which is obviously in the same place but a different institution.

77drneutron
May 21, 9:26am Top

Ah - hadn't picked up on which school. History and politics sounds good!

78SandDune
May 21, 1:38pm Top

>77 drneutron: Most of the larger U.K. cities have more than one university associated with them.

79humouress
May 21, 2:07pm Top

Hi Rhian. I'm finally getting a chance to drop by (I may get all my initial LT visits done by mid-year). I'm sorry it's taken a while.

Congratulations on finishing your degree course; best of luck for the results. Gosh! Is J 17 already? I was thinking of him still as 12 years old. Doesn't time fly? What gorgeous photos (holiday and school) - you poor, poor things! ;0) Have fun with the university visits (you could mention to J that the advantages of being closer to home include easier access to home cooking and laundry).

80SandDune
May 21, 3:00pm Top

>79 humouress: To be honest the closest option to home would be for him to go to one of the London colleges but he'd want to live in (and to be honest I'd want him to, to get the most out of the experience) and the cost of living in London would be a lot more expensive. Apart from that the nearest would be Cambridge (he'd need exceptional grades - not impossible, but he'd need a lot of luck) or UEA (University of East Anglia) in Norwich, which is very much a campus university - not what he wants. All the ones he's chosen are good universities - they're all in the top 100 in global rankings. The only ones that would be near enough for laundry facilities (apart from Cambridge that is) are a lot further down the list. I think it's a good idea for him to chose somewhere a bit different from where we live and for him to experience living in a city for once, so I'm not pushing for him to look at places nearer to home.

81humouress
May 21, 8:14pm Top

>80 SandDune: I know; the practical should outweigh the emotional. My boys will have choices here, when the time comes, but I'm assuming they'll go to universities overseas. (They'd better not be bringing laundry home if so - but going by their current behaviour, it wouldn't be surprising.)

82jnwelch
May 22, 5:30am Top

Hi, Rhian.

J is 17? I still think of him as 3, (almost) falling asleep in his pudding in Barcelona. :-)

He's at an exciting time of life, trying to figure it all out. Our now-just-fine son was an idiot at that age (bad judgment). But he did know he wanted to code software, and he wasn't such an idiot in that realm.

83FAMeulstee
May 24, 8:07am Top

Congratulations on finishing your essays, Rhian, and good luck on finding the right place for J.

84SandDune
May 25, 2:44am Top

>81 humouress: J did consider studying abroad, albeit briefly. Courses somewhere like the Netherlands are much much cheaper than the U.K., and are frequently in English. It would have the disadvantages though of having to pay a lot more upfront, and everything is uncertain following Brexit, so that idea has been put to one side.

>82 jnwelch: Oh yes - J is 17 and learning to drive! It all seems slightly scary.

>83 FAMeulstee: Hi Anita. He's looking at some sensible choices, I think, so hopefully everything will work out OK.

85SandDune
Edited: May 26, 3:11pm Top

Case Histories Kate Atkinson ****


27. One Good Turn Kate Atkinson ****1/2


30. When will there be Good News Kate Atkinson ****1/2


33. Started Early, Took my Dog Kate Atkinson****



In which I continue my forays into the unknown world of the crime novel ... Well, with Kate Atkinson, it's a pretty literary crime novel, but it's still fairly new territory for me.

In the first of these novels, Jackson Brodie, ex-army, ex-police, runs a private detective agency in Cambridge, not perhaps the natural habitat for a working class boy from the north of England. As the series progresses Jackson's life changes in unexpected ways and the action moves from Cambridge to Edinburgh to Leeds, but, while the detection agency is left far behind, Jackson's life does not get any less eventful. Jackson is haunted by the murder of his sister while she was still a teenager, and actually all the main characters in these books seem to lose relatives at an alarmingly rapid rate and at an alarmingly early age: murder, suicide, accident and illness have all taken their toll. While Jackson is the main character it's the secondary ones that makes the books so successful: a rich Edinburgh housewife hoping soon to become a widow; an amazingly organised sixteen year old orphan, determined to get to the bottom of her employers disappearance; a newly retired senior policewoman who decides that a child will get a better life if she pays her mother to go away.

I very much enjoyed all of these books (the first one I read last year) but it's the two middle books, both set in Edinburgh, that are the most appealing, probably for the richness of these secondary characters.

86SandDune
Edited: May 26, 4:15pm Top

32. Nutshell Ian McEwan ***1/2



A short (novella length really) retelling of the story of Hamlet with the character of Hamlet cast as an unborn foetus. His mother Trudy and her lover Claude drink the days away and plot the murder of Hamlet's father, Claude's brother. Elsinore is a down at heel (but neverless very valuable) Georgian house somewhere in London, so rather than Denmark we have England, a country that is a very poor fourth choice in the narrator's list of ideal places to be born, well behind Norway, Italy and France in the pecking order. As the narrator says:

Instead I'll inherit a less than United Kingdom ruled by an esteeemed elderly queen, where a businessman prince, famed for his good works, his elixirs (cauliflower essence to purify the blood) and unconstitutional meddling, waits restively for the crown.

A beautifully written book, but one that didn't quite grab me as it might have done, perhaps because Hamlet is by no means my favourite Shakespeare play.

87kidzdoc
May 26, 2:54pm Top

Nice review of the Atkinson novels and Nutshell, Rhian. Like you I enjoyed reading McEwan's latest work, but it wasn't as good as I hoped it would be.

Congratulations on finishing the course work for your degree!

Rachael's eldest is in the process of selecting a university as well, per our conversation over tea in London last month. I know that the two of you have met, when we got together in Cambridge two or three years ago, but that was probably the first time, right? She, Fliss and I are planning to spend a half day in Cambridge together next Sunday (not the upcoming one), and I can ask her how it's going for him, or put you in closer touch with her, if you'd like.

88humouress
Edited: May 26, 3:58pm Top

>84 SandDune: 'Overseas' - for us - would include the U.K., Rhian :0)

89SandDune
Edited: May 27, 5:29am Top

31. The Trees Ali Shaw ***



The forest burst full-grown out of the earth, in booming uppercuts of trunks and bludgeoning branches. It rammed through roads and houses alike, shattering bricks and exploiting glass. It sounded like a thousand trains derailing at once, squealing and jarring and bucklings all lost between the thunderclaps of broken concrete and the cacophony of a billion hissing leaves. Up surged the tee trunks, up in a storm of foliage and lashing twigs that spread and spread, and then at a great height, stopped. In the blink of a eye the world was changed.

And so begins The Trees by Ali Shaw. Why the world has suddenly turned to forest is not explained, only its aftermath. The narrative follows Hannah, who initially sees the coming of the trees as an opportunity for humanity to reinvent itself to be more in tune with nature, a view not shared by her teenage son Seb. And as they search the new world for Hannah's brother, a forester who will know how to get along in the new world if anyone does, they are accompanied by the reluctant Adrien, a failed teacher whose marriage is failing as well, and who is frightened of the woods but more frightened of being left behind alone.

I had great hopes for this, but while it's well written, the plot left a little to be desired.

90SandDune
Edited: May 27, 5:26am Top

30. Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All Jonas Jonasson ***



I very much enjoyed the same author's earlier book The hundred-year-old man who climbed out of the Window and Disappeared but this one was a bit of a disappointment. A down on his luck hotel receptionist working in a seedy hotel meets a priest who has recently been thrown out of her parish and together they concoct a scheme to make money out of the very violent (but not very intelligent) Hitman Anders, a long time hotel resident. A scheme that is very profitable indeed until the erstwhile Hitman finds religion, bringing the wrath of most of the Stockholm underworld down on their shoulders...

The book has the quirkiness of the earlier novel but is let down by the fact that none of the main characters are actually very likeable.

91lauralkeet
May 26, 6:30pm Top

I love Atkinson's Jackson Brodie novels. I'm glad you enjoyed them.

92Familyhistorian
May 26, 10:37pm Top

>76 SandDune: Hi Rhian, Edinburgh University is in a nice location. I stayed there for a while in summer as Pollock Halls lets out the rooms when school is out. The two-bed rooms where comfortable and had an ensuite. As I remember breakfast was pretty good. Best of all, it was easy to walk from the university to Princes Street.

93SandDune
May 27, 4:30am Top

>87 kidzdoc: Hi Darryl, I'm trying to do some brief reviews of all the books I've missed out on the over the last few months, but they're going to be pretty short.

To be honest, at the moment we're surrounded by people who are going through the same university application experience, or who went through it last year, so we've probably got as much information as we need, unless someone has specific recent information about a particular university. The application process in the UK is very centralised: a student can apply to five universities on one application form, the universities then make them provisional offers (or don't, as the case may be) requiring them to get specific grades at A level or IB from which the student chooses two (usually their first choice and a fall-back position requiring slightly lower grades). As J's school is pretty academic virtually everyone leaving at 18 will be going to university so there's a lot of assistance provided by the school.

>88 humouress: I suppose that's the problem with the size of Singapore! To be honest, I'm a great believer in students going a little bit further away for their studies. It makes them grow up just that little bit more if they can't br popping home all the time for their parents to sort things out! But the house will seem very quiet without him ...

>91 lauralkeet: I've had them on my wish list for ever - just not got around to them. I'm gradually learning to let go of my reluctance to read anything with a detective in it!

>92 Familyhistorian: University accommodation is so much better than it used to be, although I think the UK has always tended more towards single rather than shared rooms. Certainly, even when I was at university thirty five years ago I had a single room, and so did Mr SandDune. My hall of residence was pretty modern though whereas Mr SandDune's was in an seventeenth century building (he was at Oxford) with a heating system which left a lot to be desired when the weather was cold or damp. He went back there a few years ago for a reunion and stayed overnight and all had changed: the college rooms were all en-suite with a much more toasty central heating system and a lot more creature comforts.

94BLBera
May 28, 10:33am Top

You have some exciting times ahead, Rhian. It will be interesting to see which uni J chooses. Nice reviews. I might have to revisit the Atkinson books one of these days. I think she's done with Brodie. The Trees has a gorgeous cover -- not to judge a book by it...

95SandDune
May 28, 11:38am Top

Had a lovely walk along the river this morning. We caught the train to the next town along and walked back the five miles along the river bank. Daisy wasn't too sure about the train, but had a lovely time running about and in and out of the water. And then she found some very smelly mud to play in, so we had to bath her as soon as we got back.



96humouress
May 28, 1:41pm Top

Hah! Our Jasper loves playing in the rain or sleeping in any mud puddle he can find; after which he's banned from the house until he either dries up or has a bath (not in the rain).

97charl08
May 28, 4:47pm Top

I taught at two of the unis you mention, on one of the courses you mention. If you wanted the perspective of the course (and I appreciate this is only one part of the decision) by all means pm me. But I appreciate what you say re lots of info available - great that J's going to have the chance to visit too.

98SandDune
Edited: May 30, 4:16pm Top

34. Bodies of Light Sarah Moss ****



In mid-Victorian England, Manchester to be precise, Elizabeth embarks on her new life as the wife of the painter Alfred Mobberley, away from the harsh upbringing she has received at the hands of her mother, a woman for whom duty is everything. But as the marriage progresses, it is clear that Elizabeth is very much her mother's daughter, and her own daughters Alethea and May must always take second place to their mother's burning desire to improve the lot of women in general and in particular the prostitutes and slum dwellers of Manchester. It is on Alethea (or Ally) that her mother's ambition falls most heavily: a clever girl, her mother destines her at an early age for medicine, although at the time when that decision was made women were not allowed to qualify as doctors in the UK. As the novel progresses the focus moves more and more from Elizabeth to Ally, as she suffers the weight of her mother's unending expectations ...

This is an excellent book, which as well as dealing with the difficulties faced by women striving to carve themselves out a place in society other than that of wife and mother, shows the psychological problems which the pressure to always be a role model could cause. Highly recommended, and I'll be looking forward to the sequel Signs for Lost Children.

99FAMeulstee
May 28, 5:55pm Top

>95 SandDune: Nice picture of you and Daisy!
So sad humans don't like the smells that some dogs love ;-)

100rosalita
May 28, 6:11pm Top

>85 SandDune: I really like the Jackson Brodie series as well, but I don't have your aversion to detective stories, Rhian, so my perspective is skewed. I'm glad you liked them!

>95 SandDune: It's always nice to get a picture of Daisy and her human. :-)

101Caroline_McElwee
May 28, 7:06pm Top

>98 SandDune: ooo, I have that on my Kindle, I may nudge it up the mountain, Rhian.

Nice to see you and Daisy enjoying your walk.

>99 FAMeulstee: ha, Anita. I like how your brain works.

102kidzdoc
May 28, 7:41pm Top

Nice review of Bodies of Light, Rhian. I loved that book, along with her latest novel, The Tidal Zone.

103SandDune
May 29, 4:11am Top

>94 BLBera: The Trees does have a lovely cover (and is clearly designed by someone who has read the book) but unfortunately I have the kindle version! It's a shame that Atkinson is done with Brodie. I didn't really like where Jackson was left in terms of his life - I really wanted him to find a nice woman to settle down with!

>96 humouress: It's the water that Daisy really loves - she's not really very well designed for swimming, but she puts a lot of effort into it! But along the river there aren't that many places where the bank is low enough for her to easily get out again once she's got in, and she's always very carefull about that. So as it was a hot day she was tempted by some of the marshy (and muddy) areas which are next to the river at certain points.

>97 charl08: I've sent you a PM Charlotte, thank you.

>99 FAMeulstee: I haven't actually got a very good sense of smell, but even I could smell Daisy yesterday!

104sibyx
Edited: May 29, 9:40am Top

I love the premise of The Trees, so sad it doesn't seem to measure up.

Gawd, how I adore Jackson Brodie!

Congrats on completing your essays!

105SandDune
Edited: May 30, 4:14pm Top

28. Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant Roz Chast ***1/2



A graphic novel dealing with the impact of the ageing process on the author's parents. She follows their difficult physical and mental decline as they move from their Brooklyn apartment to residential care and to their eventual death. I know a lot of people love this one, but I think I'd have found it a lot more moving if there'd been a closer relationship between the author and her parents. Seemingly Roz Chast didn't visit her parents for eleven years between 1990 and 2001 while they aged from 78 to 89. She was happy for them to visit her but was 'too busy' to visit them, because of her two children and her job. Like no one ever had children or a job before? Like Connecticut is a million miles from Brooklyn? I can understand if there had been some major estrangement but it just seemed laziness to me. So I started the book with a dislike of the author that I never quite got over, and which I couldn't disentangle from my view of the book.

If anyone wants a very moving account of living with a parent falling into dementia I strongly recommend Where Memories Go: Why Dementia changes everything by Sally Magnusson.

106SandDune
Edited: Jun 12, 12:14pm Top

24.The Miniaturist Jessie Burton ***1/2



In 1686 the young Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to take up her position as the wife of the prosperous merchant Johannes Brandt. This is an arranged marriage, and Johannes seems uninterested in his new wife apart from giving her the gift of a doll's house, not so much a plaything as the means by which girls practise the management of a house before having one of their own to manage. The real management of the household is in the hands of Johannes's sister Marin, who does not seem to welcome Johannes Brandt. This is a house with secrets but no one is about to disclose any of them to Nella. And as she starts to populate her house the pieces that she orders from the minatuirist echo the real life of the household in ways that seem oddly prescient and which cannot be explained.

We read this book for my RL book club, and people fell very much into two camps. Those who focused on the story of Nella and Johannes generally enjoyed it a lot: it is very evocative of seventeenth century Amsterdam (albeit with some rather obvious pandering to twenty-first century sensibilities). Those (like myself) who focused on the question of the mysterious miniaturist were rather less taken with it. That element of the story, which initially seemed crucial to the development of the book, was not satisfactorily dealt with at all and left a lot to be desired.

A reasonable read, but doesn't warrant all the hype that it had.

107BLBera
May 30, 9:37am Top

Hi Rhian - Since you finished your uni course, you are doing a lot of reading. Bodies of Light goes on the list. I think I'll forego The Miniaturist.

Who knows, maybe Atkinson will return to Brodie one day.

108SandDune
May 30, 3:53pm Top

Monday was a holiday here (not Memorial Day like it is in the States, just a holiday) and so me and Mr SandDune trooped up to Cambridge to do some shopping. We have my nephew's wedding later in the summer in Portugal and he wants to buy a wedding outfit - all his smart stuff is going to be way too hot. We had lunch in Yo Sushi which was a treat for me as I am very fond of sushi and can never persuade anyone else to go there. Back when I was working in the City I used to have sushi for lunch a couple of times a week, but there's nowhere local that sells it. At least there's nowhere local that sells the proper freshly prepared stuff, although I suppose all the local supermarkets do sell a sort of sushi, but it's just not the same.

109PawsforThought
May 30, 3:56pm Top

>108 SandDune: I have the same sushi problem! Absolutely love it, and would eat it regularly when I lived in a big city, but here in this small town there's nowhere to eat it (well, nowhere I'd trust).

110charl08
May 30, 4:35pm Top

>106 SandDune: I read something that made me think the reason for the miniaturist being less central was that the character was to be part of a series. I liked the book as it was, but I'd have liked more about that storyline as you say.

111Caroline_McElwee
May 30, 4:43pm Top

>106 SandDune: I agree totally Rhian. I liked it, but wasn't wowed. Though not bad for a debut novel, and I did buy The Muse in a Kindle offer (not yet read).

112SandDune
May 31, 3:14pm Top

>104 sibyx: Definitely love Jackson Brodie too!

>107 BLBera: Oh, I'm not reading them all since I've finished my course. It's just that I've got time for writing the reviews now!

>109 PawsforThought: The problems of small town life!

>110 charl08: >111 Caroline_McElwee: I just got the feeling with the whole miniaturist subplot, that the author had thought up the beginnings of the plot without any idea of where it was going to go, and then couldn't think up a suitable end for it.

113SandDune
Edited: Jun 12, 12:14pm Top

35. The Outrun Amy Liptrot *****



When Amy Liptrot was a teenager she couldn't wait to get away from the remote Scottish islands of Orkney to the bright lights of London. Over ten years later, with her heavy drinking having lost her jobs, boyfriend and more than one flat-share, she returns to Orkney. Having completed a rehab program in London, the last thing she wants is to fall back into her old ways, so Orkney seems a break from her recent past. The Outrun describes both how she fell into addiction, and how she climbed back out of it again on the Orkney. First on her father's farm on the Orkney mainland, and then on the even remoter island of Papa Westray. Papa Westray, a very small island off the small island of Westray (itself an island off the Orkney mainland), is about as remote as it's possible to get in the U.K., but it does have two claims to fame. It's the destination for the shortest scheduled passenger flight in the world (the daily two minute flight from Westray to Papa Westray), and the site of the oldest remains of houses in north-west Europe at the Knap of Howar. On an isolated island with only seventy inhabitants Amy must learn to take pleasure in the natural world.

I loved this book. Partly because Orkney is one of my favourite places, having spent two summer holidays there in the past, and a lot of the places mentioned in the book I have visited and could visualise quite well. And partly because the writer evokes the natural world of Papa Westray wonderfully well. It had taken me a while to get to this book as its basic premise of the battle with addiction did not appeal, but this was also well done. This book is highly recommended. It was the winner of the Wainwright prize in 2016 (for UK nature and travel writing) and was shortlisted for the Wellcome prize, so it clearly has a wider appeal than just among lovers of Orkney such as myself. Highly recommended.

114SandDune
Edited: Jun 4, 3:24pm Top

Yesterday, we'd arranged to meet Darryl for lunch and then to see Brecht's The Life Of Galileo. We had lunch at The Cut bar & restaurant at the Young Vic, which was very good. The play was also very good - an excellent production. I'd studied it when I was doing Twentieth Century Literature in my OU course, but not managed to see a production previously. Seeing Brecht with Darryl is getting to be a habit: last year we saw Brecht's Threepenny Opera together at the National!



115Ameise1
Jun 4, 9:49am Top

Happy Sunday, Rhian. Glad to hear that the Brecht play was a good one. I love Brecht.

116SandDune
Edited: Jun 12, 12:13pm Top

36. The Last Days of New Paris China Miéville ****



Thibaut is a resistance fighter fighting the Nazis in Occupied Paris, but the year is 1950 and the Paris that they fight over is very different from the Paris of our reality. Something happened nine years earlier which caused the occupying Germans to seal off the city, and the remaining German troops inside the perimeter are trapped, just as much as the resistance fighters and the remains of the civilian population. But there are other things trapped in Paris too: the manifestations of surrealist art walk streets that are themselves changed to surreal echoes of their former selves. When Thibaut's companions are killed in an abortive ambush, he attempts to find a way out of the city, but instead encounters Sam, an American, whose reasons for being in Paris at all seem suspect. Together they find that reality is even stranger than they had thought ...

The first thing I have to say about this one is if you don't know anything about surrealist art then you are going to have to work at this book. I don't know anything about surrealist art, and for the first twenty or thirty pages I was completely at a loss. And then I discovered the explanatory notes at the back of the book, and started putting a Pinterest board together of the art works referenced (which are very relevant to an understanding of the plot) and made much better progress. I ended up liking it a lot, but don't be fooled by its small size (168 pages in the main body of the book), this is not a book to be polished off in an afternoon.

117Caroline_McElwee
Edited: Jun 4, 5:21pm Top

>116 SandDune: hm, you may have hit me with a book bullet there Rhian. I do know some about surrealist art, though am no expert. I have just bought Meiville's 'October' (can't find touchstone), a history of the Russian Revolution, and a volume of his short stories.

Good to see you and Mr Sandune enjoying your meet up with Darryl. And that the play was good.

118jnwelch
Jun 4, 8:06pm Top

>114 SandDune: How great, Rhian. Say hi to Darryl for us.

I've liked other China Mieville books, and you've got me curious about The Last Days of New Paris. I do know a fair amount about surrealist art, so that part piques my interest, too.

119rosalita
Jun 4, 8:22pm Top

>116 SandDune: What a great review, Rhian! I've only read one Miéville, The City and The City and it was trippy but I liked it. Is it possible for you to share your Pinterest board publicly for anyone who might find it useful as you did? I'm not sure how Pinterest works, really, even though I have an account.

120SandDune
Edited: Jun 5, 2:56am Top

>117 Caroline_McElwee: Caroline I think The Last Days of New Paris is one that a reader will either love or hate. I'll be interested to see how you get on! I'm sure October will find its way into our house sooner or later with at least two out of three inhabitants obsessed with history!

>118 jnwelch: Knowing about Miéville's interest in surrealism makes sense of a lot of the images in his YA book Un Lun Dun, which I very much enjoyed. I'm now trying to find a good introduction to Surrealist art, as it's a subject I know very little about.

>119 rosalita: Here is the link to the Pinterest Board. I haven't got all the artwork on it yet but certainly most of it from the last two thirds of the book.

http://pin.it/tyTZbQB

121rosalita
Jun 5, 1:20pm Top

Thanks for the link, Rhian! Those are some trippy artworks.

122SandDune
Jun 5, 2:59pm Top

>115 Ameise1: Barbara, I've only seen two Brechts so far (Life of Galileo and The Threepenny Opera) but I'm keen to see more. Next week we're meeting up with Darryl again, to see My Country in Cambridge, which is written by Stella Ann Duffy from interviews conducted around the subject of Brexit. It had very good reviews when it was on in London, so we'll see what Darryl makes of British politics!

123SandDune
Jun 5, 3:19pm Top

We decided to do the same 5 mile walk along the river bank this Sunday as we'd done last week. Surprisingly, the nearer back to town you get, the greener it becomes ...



The river is canalised, so there's the added attraction on a sunny day of watching the narrow boats navigate their way through the locks.

124Caroline_McElwee
Jun 5, 5:20pm Top

>120 SandDune: thanks for the link Rhian, that will be useful. I clicked at the marketplace!

>123 SandDune: very lovely, I'm green.

125Ameise1
Jun 6, 2:34am Top

>122 SandDune: I hope you can see even more plays of Brecht. They all have such a profound meaning.

126BLBera
Jun 6, 5:34pm Top

>116 SandDune: Sounds great. I am tempted, Rhian.

I'm glad the play was good. Hooray for meet ups.

127SandDune
Jun 8, 11:59am Top

>124 Caroline_McElwee: >125 Ameise1: >126 BLBera: Hi Caroline, Barbara, Beth!

I have been not been happy this last day or so. I went down with a mild head cold on Friday, sniffly, but not enough to stop me doing anything, and by Monday it seemed to have almost gone. Then on Tuesday I started coughing, when I woke up on Wednesday morning I felt rough, and by mid-morning I felt so rough that I had to come home from work. I'm still at home today and likely to be tomorrow as well I think. Unfortunately, Mr SandDune was working late last night and today has gone somewhere in the vicinity of Birmingham, so there is no one around to make me tasty and nourishing meals, and cups of tea. Actually J will make cups of tea but he's so busy at the moment that I don't really like to interrupt him.

128Caroline_McElwee
Jun 8, 2:14pm Top

Sorry to hear you are feeling bleh Rhian, hope there is at least a bit of concentration to permit the consumption of a good book or two. Wise to stay at home though.

129lauralkeet
Jun 8, 9:21pm Top

Oh that's no fun, Rhian. I guess you are in bed by now, but I hope you're feeling better when you wake up. I like Caroline's advice to enjoy a good book or two ...

130SandDune
Jun 9, 4:54am Top

>128 Caroline_McElwee: Thanks Caroline - still at home today.

>129 lauralkeet: Actually I was awake for large chunks of the night as my head was so bunged up I was having real problems sleeping. It did mean that I saw some of the election results come in. The result there is certainly a surprise: a few weeks ago the polls were talking about a Conservative majority of anything up to a hundred and now we've got a hung parliament. I can't see Theresa May lasting out the month: the Conservatives can be pretty ruthless at getting rid of leaders they perceive to be a liability, and she will certainly get all the blame for the losses.

And in the other important election of the day Labour came an even closer second, only this time to the Greens, with J (as Labour candidate in his school election) getting 85 votes to the Greens 90. Conservatives did even worse here, only picking up 60 votes and finishing behind the Liberal Democrats.

131Deern
Edited: Jun 9, 6:11am Top

Hi Rhian, I guessed I'd find some politics here and I was right. :)
I don't really get the "hung parliament" issue - in Germany they'd simply form another "great coalition" and that would be it. So, is it Boris next to form a strong and stable leadership?? *scared*

Get better soon!!

Edit: the DUP - seriously?!? That means hard Brexit and hard Ireland border/ back to the bad old times in Northern Ireland, doesn't it?

132PawsforThought
Jun 9, 5:38am Top

>131 Deern: I don't really get it either. In Sweden, if the party with the most votes doesn't have majority they either form a coalition or they have a minority government (and seek temporary coalitions for each issue they discuss/vote on). And no party ever get a majority of the votes because we have a PR system rather than FPTP like in the UK.

If Boris becomes leader the UK if effed. He's a complete clown. His sister, on the other hand, seems incredibly smart and competent - can we switch them?

133SandDune
Jun 9, 8:09am Top

>122 SandDune: >123 SandDune: The electoral system in the UK means that usually either the Conservatives or Labour will get an overall majority. What is happening in the current parliament is that the Conservatives have more seats than any other single party but not an overall majority. The Conservatives have now come to an agreement with the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) which will give them an overall majority, but it's likely to be an informal arrangement rather than a formal coalition, and these sort of arrangements tend not to be too long lasting. We had a formal coalition in 2010 which lasted the full 5 years but that's incredibly rare in the UK. None of the other parties are at all likely to form a coalition with the Conservatives. The LibDems went into coalition with them in 2010 but it virtually destroyed them as a parliamentary party, so they're certainly not likely to do that again in a hurry, and the SNP and Plaid Cymru have much more in common with Labour. Even with the DUP's help it will be difficult for the government to get its legislation through, and a no confidence vote in the government will lead to a new election pretty quickly.

I can't see that Theresa May will last. Whether Boris will become PM is another matter. He was the favourite last time but was pretty much stabbed in the back by Michael Gove, so who knows!

134PawsforThought
Jun 9, 8:22am Top

>133 SandDune: a new election

Oh, hurrah! Another election. That'll make everyone thrilled, won't it? /sarcasm

135SandDune
Jun 10, 4:38am Top

>134 PawsforThought: I was just listening to Radio 4 where all the commentators agreed that the one thing that the Conservative Party was currently in agreement on was that they didn't want a new election. Neither did any of them think that Theresa May would last longer than a year, probably a lot less.

I have grave doubts about this agreement with the DUP (which apparently is not even in existence yet). The Northern Irish issue is going to be one of the most difficult issues in Brexit and is likely to polarise opinion in Northern Ireland where the vote was to stay in the EU. It's going to be hard for the government to present itself as neutral when it's in bed with the DUP. And their social views are very off the scale when it comes to U.K. politics as a whole (anti-abortion; anti LGBT rights) as well as being sympathetic to creationist views and denying the existence of climate change. And they've got some rather dodgy connections with paramilitaries in their past. There are already rumblings. The leader of the Scottish Conservatives (Ruth Davidson), who delivered them their only success story of the night by winning 12 seats in Scotland, is clearly not happy about it. She's engaged to her same sex partner and has already made her concerns known.

136charl08
Jun 10, 5:04am Top

>135 SandDune: Not impressed by the DUP links. I'm intrigued by the Scottish swing to the tories. Wonder if that will last, particularly if we have to go to the polls again.

I loved that J's school voted Green. Maybe there is hope for the environment yet.

137Caroline_McElwee
Jun 10, 5:53am Top

Are you feeling better Rhian?

Glad the Tories got hit where it hurt, but going to bed with the DUP eggh. I suspect the divisions in her own party will be her undoing, sooner rather than later, no matter how much she is using Brexit negotiations as a reason to go on.

138rosalita
Jun 10, 10:11am Top

Hi, Rhian. Thank you so much for providing an inside look at the UK elections. I've never known so many people in the U.S. to be interested in your process, but I think it's a sign of how much Trump has shaken up/woken up people to the fact that politics has consequences.

The DUP sound dreadful, the kind of extremism I kind of thought only existed here in the U.S. And the ties to the paramilitary — I was reading where May repeatedly bashed Corbyn for his ties to the IRA during the campaign, and now she's going to turn around and lie in the same bed, essentially? As if we didn't already know that most politicians are hypocrites.

139PaulCranswick
Jun 11, 8:21pm Top

>130 SandDune: J fell short just as did Jeremy - with honour!

I am also very nervous about the "understanding" with the DUP. I think the Tories would lose another election as I honestly believe that Labour would have won had people actually believed it possible. I liked our manifesto I have to say and I do think that Brexit still has some way to go before it becomes a reality.

Let's face it May didn't lose this election on Brexit - she lost it the day she announced those woeful "social care" initiatives.

I hope they fall on their collective swords as I think the time is ripe to cast them out with their austerity and their arrogance and their lack of care.

140SandDune
Edited: Jun 12, 12:02pm Top

37. Un Lun Dun China Miéville *****



I started to reread this as it struck me that several of the surrealist ideas that are seen in The Last Days of New Paris were familiar from his earlier children's book Un Lun Dun, and I was right, although clearly I hadn't picked up on the fact that they were surrealist at the time. And then I carried on rereading it because I enjoy it so much. This is probably my third reading over a period of ten years or so and it stands up well.

Zanna and Deeba, friends from an ordinary London housing estate, start to notice that the world about them is behaving oddly. Foxes stare at Zanna, strangers announce themselves as being honoured to meet her, and strange fogs appear around her. Eventually, following another of the oddities, a broken umbrella that seems to have a mind of its own, the girls find themselves in another world: not London any more but Un Lun Dun, a parallel city where things are very different. A place where houses are made of discarded household appliances, where rubbish seems to have a mind of its own, and which is full of some very strange inhabitants indeed. Zanna is immediately identified as the Shwazzy, the chosen one, who is to save the inhabitants of UnLundun from the Smog, the poisonous (and sentient) fog which is attacking the city. But the prophecies prove to be just a little bit unreliable, and this quest certainly does not go according to plan...

This is a children's book though, not really YA, (I think I read it first to J when he was seven or eight) and readers need to approach it in that light. Someone expecting the complexity of his adult books might well be disappointed. But it's full of such fun ideas that I love it ... I mean, what's not to love in a book where a character has a pet milk carton called Curdle? If I'd read it as an eight (or ten or twelve) year old it would undoubtably have been one of my favourite books of all time. Highly recommended.

141SandDune
Edited: Jun 12, 12:13pm Top

25.Dzur Steven Brust ****



38. Iorich Steven Brust ***1/2




It's very difficult to find much to say about books which are so far into a fantasy series without huge spoilers for what has gone before, and these are books 10 and 12 in the Vlad Taltos Dragaera series, so a lot has gone before. (I managed to accidentally miss out book 11, which matters less in this series than most). What I can say is that this remains pretty much my favourite fantasy series at the moment. Both books find Vlad Taltos (ex-assasssin and crime boss) back on his home turf of Adrilankha, doing a good turn for his wife (in Dzur) and Aliera (in Iorich). And we finally get to see inside Vlad's favourite restaurant, Vallabar's, which has been mentioned in passing since book 1 but never previously visited.

142alcottacre
Jun 12, 1:12pm Top

>98 SandDune: >133 SandDune: BBs hitting me! Thanks for the recommendations, Rhian!

143SandDune
Jun 12, 2:51pm Top

39. The Old Ways Robert MacFarlane **1/2

Having very much enjoyed the descriptions of nature and landscape in The Outrun I thought I'd try something in the same vein. Unfortunately this didn't grab me in the same way.

Committed walker Robert MacFarlane sets out to walk some of the ancient paths of the world: the Neolithic routes of the Icknield way and the Ridgeway in England; drovers roads in Scotland; pilgrimage routes in Spain and Nepal. Suprisingly, to me at least, there are also sea routes: from the island of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides to the even more remote islands of North Rona and Sula Sgeir ( the existence of both of which had completely passed me by, and I thought I was pretty well informed on Scottish Islands). MacFarlane's model is the poet Edward Thomas, also a great walker, and seemingly a great philosopher on the subject of walking:

To Thomas, paths connected real places. It they also led outwards to metaphysics, backwards to history, and inwards to the self. These traverses — between the conceptual, the spectral and the personal — often occur without signage in his writing, and are among its most characteristic events. ...Walking was a means of personal myth-making, but it also shaped his everyday longings: he thought it only on paths and of them, but also with them


This I think is my main problem with the book. There is far too much philosophising on the meaning of paths and walking, and indeed too many quasi-mystical elements to suit my tastes. Along his route MacFarlane meets many people, mainly artists and poets, who take a somewhat mystical view of the landscapes in which he walks, and who he finds intensely interesting, an example being Miguel Angel Blanco:

'My life' Miguel noted, 'has been united with trees, which I consider as my equals, and in them I have seen my destiny. He once described himself to me as having 'roots' in Fuenfría, of becoming 'part tree' when he was there. Such utterances are as natural to Miguel as offering a cup of tea or commenting on the weather. There is no silliness to him because there is no pomposity. He mentions these matters with none of the ostentation of someone unveiling a carefully nurtured eccentricity. His animism is so unabashed as to exceed naïvety. He is a gentle Green Man and I have been fortunate to know him.


Unfortunately, confronted with someone who feels themselves 'part tree', I am less likely to celebrate their oneness with nature, and more likely to step back slowly and go in search of someone more scientific.

This book has had very good write-ups, but personally I need rather less mysticism and rather more facts. Not for me.

144SandDune
Jun 12, 4:10pm Top

I am feeling much better than last week now but have a persistent cough. I was actually fairly active yesterday doing things around the house, but then got sent home from work because I kept coughing. I'm hoping it'll clear up in a day or so. It's not actually too bad, in the general run of my coughs, but I think I've managed to strain a muscle of something with my coughing so now it's a bit painful.

145Caroline_McElwee
Jun 13, 5:33am Top

Sorry to hear about the cough Rhian. Hope it clears up soon.

>145 Caroline_McElwee: hmm, I have this on Kindle. I suspect I might like this slightly more than you do, but maybe not as much as I expected, based on your review.

146SandDune
Jun 13, 5:49am Top

>145 Caroline_McElwee: I wouldn't let my review put you off. I think I'm very much in an outlier on this one. It has loads of five star reviews - but not my thing.

147SandDune
Edited: Jun 13, 11:15am Top

40. Disobedience Naomi Alderman ****



With Naomi Alderman having won the Bailey's Prize for The Power I thought it was time to read her first novel, Disobedience which has been sitting on my bookshelf for ever. And I'm very glad I did, as it's a very strong first novel giving a insight into the North London Orthodox Jewish community where the novel is largely set.

Rav Krushka, the eminent and respected leader of an Orthodox Jewish community in Hendon, North London, has died. His nephew Dovid is expected to take up the reins, as he has always stood in for the son that Rav Krushka never had, but, lacking in confidence, the thought fills him with horror. Rather than mourning her husband's uncle, Dovid's wife Esti can only think joyfully that Ronit will now return. Ronit, the Rav's daughter, has not been seen in Hendon for some years: rejecting her Orthodox upbringing, indeed rejecting her Jewishness completely, she lives a very different life in New York. And as Etsi so desperately hopes, the death of her father does send Ronit back to Hendon, for reasons that she can't quite explain even to herself. After all, both her parents are dead, she has nothing in common with her old school friends who married young and now stay at home with four or five children, and the most difffcult question of all, what on earth is she going to wear, there being nothing in her wardrobe that would be considered even remotely modest enough for the community in which she grew up.

I marched through Golders Green, passing by the rows of Jewish stores. The little world my people have built here. The kosher butchers' shops frowned at me, asking why I hadn't tried their chopped liver, now only £2.25 a quarter. The recruitment agency smiled widely, inviting me to apply for a job with a Sabbath-observant company, half-day Fridays in the winter. Moishe's salon raised an eyebrow at my hairstyle and wondered if I wouldn't like something, maybe, a bit more like everyone else.

So Ronit returns and faces the life that she had left behind. Hendon is outraged by Ronit, and Ronit is equally appalled as she comes face to face with attitudes that she thought she had left behind for ever. And Ronit must also face events from her past, which are not as buried as she might believe ....

This is a fascinating look at a community that I knew very little about, with well-drawn characters. Recommended.

Edited to add: does that flower on the cover look like a hydrangea to you? Hydrangeas are significant to the story but I've never seen one looking like that.

148Oberon
Jun 13, 11:19am Top

>143 SandDune: Sorry The Old Ways didn't do it for you. I enjoyed it but I wonder if part of my enjoyment was listening to it as an audiobook where the language just rolled along. Some of the mysticism was a bit odd but I read so little of things like it that I thought it was an interesting change of pace.

149SandDune
Jun 14, 11:54am Top

>148 Oberon: I was considering listening to it, but then I was ill and needed something to actually read. That type of book often does work well as an audio book, I find. The pace of the narration makes you slow down and really listen to what's being said.

150karenmarie
Jun 15, 9:24am Top

Hi Rhian!

I'm back from a month in California cleaning out and putting my mom's house on the market. I'm slowly catching up on threads. Mostly drawing lines in the sand, but I did skim the college discussions here. We encouraged daughter to live on campus, too, to get the full experience of college. Good luck!

And I hope the cough goes away soon.

151SandDune
Jun 19, 2:51am Top

>150 karenmarie: Well, the first university visit went well. We visited the University of Bristol on Saturday: that one is at the bottom of J's list, and I don't think he was so blown away by it that it's moved up the list so far, but he seemed to like it well enough. It was interesting to see how the admissions process has changed in the thirty five years or so since I was doing this. I just turned up for my interview, maybe got to see a couple of buildings round the campus, and went home again. These days there's much more of a sales exercise: numerous talks, numerous exhibitions, and numerous students on every street corner to make sure people get to the right place.

152nittnut
Jun 20, 6:50pm Top

Hi Rhian! I hope you're feeling better. I've been lurking and trying to keep up, but not doing a very good job. University visits!! Oh my. So exciting. :)

153sibyx
Yesterday, 7:27am Top

Catching up. Hope your clingy cold has abated. Thank you so much for writing about your recent vote and the potential consequences. You were clearer than the newspapers!

I tried the Vlad series and just couldn't go with it, can't figure that out as there are so many readers here with whom my tastes usually run parallel who love Vlad. Oh well.

Recently finished a book of Mieville's stories but was mainly relieved to be done. More than a few had firm roots in horror, one genre that has no grip on me. Un Lun Dun sounds marvelous, may have to go find it at the library.

154PaulCranswick
Yesterday, 12:48pm Top

>153 sibyx: I also would guess that the Vlad series is a pain in the neck but I wouldn't stake my life on it!

Have a lovely weekend, Rhian and I hope that pesky cold is a thing of the past.

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