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SandDune reads 75 in 2019 - Thread 2

This is a continuation of the topic SandDune reads 75 in 2019 - Thread 1.

75 Books Challenge for 2019

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1SandDune
Edited: Feb 1, 2:50pm Top

Welcome to my second thread of 2019, and to my eighth year doing the 75 Book Challenge. I'm a 57 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 live about thirty miles north of London with my husband (aka Mr SandDune), who is Assistant Principal at a local secondary school, and our 18 year old son (aka J) who is currently doing A levels. There's also our 6 year old Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Daisy, who tends to feature prominently in my threads.

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, but I have been trying (and enjoying) some crime recently. I tend to avoid horror, chick-lit and thrillers. Last year was a difficult year at times, and I did a lot of rereading, but I want to tackle some more challenging reads in 2019. 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. This year I may also participate in the book club at my local Waterstones bookshop, which Mr SandDune has recently joined.

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, and over the last few years I've been gettting more and more interested in politics and environmental issues.

I didn’t do a very good job of keeping my thread up to date in 2018 - hope to do better in 2019.

I like to start each thread with a famous (or not so famous) painting and this year I’ve chosen to have a seasonal theme. So for February we have a cold (and gothic looking) winter garden: ‘Winter Garden’ (1884) by Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890).

3SandDune
Edited: Feb 1, 2:54pm Top

Plans for 2019

RL book club:
We meet monthly apart from January and August.
January - no meeting
February - Every Man for Himself Beryl Bainbridge
March - Home Fire Kamila Shamsie
April - Sing, Unburied, Sing Jesmyn Ward
May - Go, Went, Gone Jenny Erpenbeck
June -
July -
August - no meeting
September -
October -
November -
December -

This year we’ll also be reading the Costa Novel Shortlist in April:

The Silence of the Girls Pat Barker
From a Low and Quiet Sea Donal Ryan
The Italian Teacher Tom Rachmann
Normal People Sally Rooney

I may also take part in the book club at my local Waterstones book shop:

January - The Extra Man Jonathan Ames

This year, I am going to try to read more fiction by African writers, to expand my reading horizons a little. I may well take part in some of the LT group reads, but haven’t quite decided as yet.

Non-Fiction Challenge:
January: The Salt Path, The Trauma Cleaner

American Author Challenge:
January: The Chosen Chaim Potok

This year I’ve got three main goals in life apart from reading. I’ve made progress with each of them already in 2018 and so I’m hopeful that I can take things further in 2019. Firstly, I want to lose weight: I’m two stone down so far and I want to lose another stone and a half. Secondly, I want to improve my fitness. I went from doing virtually no exercise to exercising at least once a week over 2017/ 2018, and I want to increase that to twice weekly in 2019. Last but not least, on an environmental theme I want to decrease the amount of single-use plastic that I use. I’ve made some progress with this, but there’s a lot more progress to be made.

5SandDune
Edited: Feb 6, 5:24pm Top

6katiekrug
Feb 1, 3:01pm Top

Happy new thread, Rhian. Hope you have a great weekend!

7jnwelch
Feb 1, 3:22pm Top

What Katie said, Rhian. Happy New Thread, and enjoy the weekend!

8quondame
Feb 1, 3:51pm Top

Happy new thread!

9johnsimpson
Feb 1, 4:30pm Top

Happy new thread Rhian.

10Caroline_McElwee
Feb 1, 4:33pm Top

>1 SandDune: I love Van Gogh's drawings Rhian.

I'm just coming to the end of The Chosen, and I've really enjoyed it.

11SandDune
Feb 1, 5:23pm Top

We’ve spent the evening watching Wales play France at rugby, a game which Wales eventually won 24-19, after trailing by 16 points earlier in the game. I can’t honestly say it was a great match: Wales did their very best to play as badly as possible in the first half, and then France seemed determined to beat them in the playing badly stakes in the second. Daisy, as usual when rugby is on the TV, retreated to our bedroom and hid behind the bed. She doesn’t like people shouting ...

12SandDune
Feb 1, 5:26pm Top

>6 katiekrug: >7 jnwelch: >8 quondame: >9 johnsimpson: >10 Caroline_McElwee: Welcome Katie, Joe, Susan, John, Caroline.

>10 Caroline_McElwee: I wasn’t familiar with Van Gogh’s drawings particularly, but I was looking for a winter picture which wasn’t snowy, which is harder than it seems at first sight. This one seemed to fit the bill perfectly.

13FAMeulstee
Feb 1, 6:35pm Top

Happy new thread, Rhian, lovely Van Gogh drawing at the top.
And from your previous thread: congratulations on your weight loss.

14drneutron
Feb 1, 6:59pm Top

Happy new thread!

15BLBera
Feb 1, 8:01pm Top

Happy new thread, Rhian. And congrats on the 2 stone loss from your last thread!

16ronincats
Feb 1, 11:11pm Top

Happy New Thread, Rhian. Congratulations on the weight loss! And very sorry to hear about your friend.

17lyzard
Feb 2, 12:14am Top

Happy New Thread, Rhian!

Daisy, as usual when rugby is on the TV, retreated to our bedroom and hid behind the bed. She doesn’t like people shouting ...

Aw, that made me tear up: Kara hated Football Night. :D

18SandDune
Edited: Feb 2, 2:19pm Top

>17 lyzard: Daisy doesn’t like shouting or arguing of any type. I think she interprets us getting excited when watching a rugby match as being angry, and possibly being angry with her. So she hides. I don’t know why she gets so worried - we virtually never shout at her so it’s not as if she’s had bad experiences of us shouting at her in the past. She doesn’t get so anxious about football, probably because we don’t get so excited about it.

>13 FAMeulstee: >15 BLBera: >16 ronincats: I’d like to be losing weight a bit faster - I’m losing a steady pound a week at the moment - but at least it’s going in the right direction.

>14 drneutron: Hi Jim!

19charl08
Feb 2, 5:10am Top

Happy New thread Rhian. I enjoyed not watching the rugby! Congrats on the result: I imagine there are some very sore Welsh heads this morning. Not just the players.

20SandDune
Feb 2, 10:29am Top

Daisy is in disgrace - she ate half of J’s chocolate orange which he left on the coffee table in the sitting room while we were having lunch. I found the suspiciously empty foil on the floor when I came back into the room. I had to phone up the emergency vet to check she hadn’t eaten enough to cause any problems (she hasn’t luckily). It’s actually very unusual for her to steal things like that. She knows things on the coffee table are out of bounds, but obviously the temptation was too great.

21lauralkeet
Feb 2, 12:27pm Top

Uh oh. Naughty Daisy. I'm glad you checked with the vet and that she's not at risk of any complications.

22lkernagh
Feb 2, 2:18pm Top

Happy new thread Rhian!

Going back to the gin discussion on your previous thread, small batch craft distilled gin (and vodka) has become very trendy where I live on the west coast. Small distilleries are popping up to complete with the craft beer pubs, although I think they attract different clients (I am more for craft beer and wine).

Congratulations on the weight loss!

23SandDune
Edited: Feb 6, 5:22pm Top

7. Mrs Gaskell and Me Nell Stevens ***



In 2013 Nell is on the Eurostar heading towards Paris, on her way to visit her American friend Max, a friend with whom she is hopelessly (and unrequitedly) in love. Specifically, she's on her way to tell Max that she can no longer be his friend, that the strain of their purely platonic friendship is too much of a strain for her to cope with. But miracles happen: after months of denying any desire for a relationship Max decides that he too is in love, and the pair embark on a long-distance relationship, first across the English Channel, and then across the Atlantic once Max returns home to Boston. And as her relationship starts, Nell is also starting her PhD in Victorian literature at King's College in London, and struggling to focus. Why, when all the other graduate students are so specific about their subjects should be, is Nell so uncertain about her topic? The one constant that she has is that it should include Mrs Gaskell, the nineteenth century author of novels such as Mary Barton and North and South. And this is what forms the other half of the book, the fictionalised account of Mrs Gaskell's trip to Rome in 1855, and her friendship with the American Charles Elliot Norton who she met there.

I was a little unsettled in this book in not knowing what was true and what not. It's clearly based to some extent on Nell Stevens own life, but I've no idea to what extent. And how much of Mrs Gaskell's life is factual is equally vague. But I did enjoy it, and it's reminded me that I enjoy Mrs Gaskell's books (I've read North and South and Wives and Daughters) and perhaps it's time I read some more.

24SandDune
Edited: Feb 2, 2:37pm Top

>21 lauralkeet: Here she is, fast asleep and snoring. Doesn't look the slightest bit guilty does she?

25alcottacre
Feb 2, 2:45pm Top

Checking in on the new thread, Rhian!

Glad to hear that Daisy is ok, despite the chocolate :)

26Caroline_McElwee
Feb 2, 3:15pm Top

>24 SandDune: haha, no, not a speck of guilt Rhian. I guess J is going to have to be more careful with his chocolate orange in future.

27lyzard
Edited: Feb 2, 4:29pm Top

>18 SandDune:

She hated loud sudden noises, of which there are many when my brother and I watch football, as we both follow aggravating teams that tend to beat themselves. She would glower at us indignantly and, when that didn't work, stalk away muttering to herself. :)

>20 SandDune:, >24 SandDune:

I'm so glad Daisy is okay!---but I have to say it: BAD DOG!! :D

28lauralkeet
Feb 2, 5:53pm Top

>25 alcottacre: not the least bit guilty, but very cute and snuggly.

29scaifea
Feb 3, 9:23am Top

Oh, Daisy. I sympathize with her - chocolate oranges are just too tempting!

30EBT1002
Feb 3, 7:47pm Top

Silly Daisy. I'm also glad you checked with the vet -- chocolate and all that.

Happy New Thread, Rhian!

31SandDune
Feb 5, 2:46pm Top

>25 alcottacre: >26 Caroline_McElwee: >27 lyzard: >28 lauralkeet: >29 scaifea: >30 EBT1002: Well Daisy made up for her bad behaviour at the weekend by being VERY good yesterday when I had to take her into work. (We were having our carpets cleaned). She was very good and sat with me when I was doing my work, and then accompanied me to our weekly managers' meeting, and was very good in that too. It was suggested (only slightly tongue in cheek) that I bring her in weekly as a company therapy dog. She is very good at that sort of thing. She likes everyone, and she will sit still for hours if someone is prepared to stroke her or play with her ears.

Today we had the dishwasher repair man come, so we now have a working dishwasher again. It's years since I've been without a dishwasher. I'm sure that before we had one we didn't spend such a long time washing dishes as we have seemed to do over the last couple of weeks. I was really glad to have it fixed today as we have bookclub here tonight. It's Mr SandDune's choice: Every Man for Himself by Beryl Bainbridge. I finished it this morning while waiting for the dishwasher man, and I've enjoyed it rather more than Mr SandDune did. I'll report back on what everyone else thinks.

32Caroline_McElwee
Feb 5, 3:34pm Top

>31 SandDune: sounds like Daisy would make a very good therapy dog, as long as you can prevent your colleagues feeding her too many naughty treats Rhian.

It's years since I read Every Man For Himself. I remember liking it.

33karenmarie
Feb 5, 6:42pm Top

Happy new thread, Rhian, and congratulations on losing 2 stone. Fantastic.

34lauralkeet
Feb 6, 6:51am Top

Good girl, Daisy. I'm impressed with her office etiquette.

35alcottacre
Feb 6, 7:24am Top

>31 SandDune: Yay for "good" Daisy!

Happy Wednesday, Rhian!

36ChelleBearss
Feb 6, 9:27am Top

Happy new thread!
Congrats on your weight loss! 28lbs in two months is great!

37SandDune
Feb 6, 3:46pm Top

>32 Caroline_McElwee: >34 lauralkeet: >35 alcottacre: Well, Daisy is in disgrace again! J bought himself a new chocolate orange to replace the half that Daisy ate, and left it on the coffee table (which I had given him strict instructions not to do) and well you can guess the rest. This time I caught her just finishing off licking the foil, so was able to tell her off, so hopefully she will remember not to do it in future, and I have told J in no uncertain terms that he MUST NOT LEAVE CHOCOLATE where she can get at it.

This time there wasn't much left, apparently, so she should be fine. It has taken us a little bit by surprise, as food is frequently left on the coffee table, especially by J, and she knows she isn't allowed to eat it, and she never does eat it. Obviously chocolate oranges are just a little bit too tempting!

>33 karenmarie: >36 ChelleBearss: thanks! I haven't done very well this week as I think I eased off a bit on getting my award. I will have to try harder next week.

38SandDune
Edited: Feb 8, 2:46pm Top

8. Every Man For Himself Beryl Bainbridge ***1/2



Morgan is the nephew (at least by marriage) of J.P. Morgan the American financier. In the April of 1912 he's in London, nominally to supervise the shipping of his uncle's art collection to the States, and of course he chooses to return on the new flagship of his uncle's shipping line, the R.M.S Titanic. As a result of his family connections Morgan is a member of the global elite of his day, along with politicians, industry magnates, bankers and aristocrats from both sides of the Atlantic. As becomes clear when he boards the ship, it's a close-knit group of people: Morgan complains "I could pick out fifty or more I've known half my life and Lord knows how many others I've shared a dinner table with in half the capitals of Europe". But Morgan, while he has lived that life for almost as long as he can remember, had a very different start: on his first trip to the U.S. aged 5 he was a passenger in steerage, far from the opulence of the first class salons of the most luxurious ship in the world. And Scurra, one of the few first class passengers who Morgan does not know, is surprisingly able to through some light on his early existence...

Of course, everyone knows what happens to the Titanic, so no spoilers in saying that the ship sinks! But the picture of the decadent and privileged society painted before the ship hits the iceberg is well done. And the depiction of the reactions of the passengers and crew to the disaster is even more successful.

As with other Beryl Bainbridge books I have read, this is superficially a simple read, but leaves the reader with a lot to think about by the end.

39lauralkeet
Feb 7, 7:18am Top

>37 SandDune: oh dear. I hope Daisy continues to restrict her food thievery to chocolate oranges and that she doesn't become an all-out food thief. Our dearly departed lab, Lilly, was a horrendous counter surfer. She snagged a wedge of Gouda once while we were sitting outdoors with friends and couldn't see what she was up to. On another occasion she went after the remains of a dinner guest's beef bourgiuignon while we were all still sitting at the table! Fortunately despite our embarrassment we had a good laugh, both times.

40BLBera
Feb 7, 2:28pm Top

I need to read Bainbridge. I think I would like her.

Daisy! Although, to be fair, chocolate is hard to resist.

41SandDune
Edited: Feb 8, 2:42pm Top

9. The Wall John Lanchester ****



It's cold on the Wall. That's the first thing everybody tells you, and the first thing you notice when you're sent there, and it's the thing you think about all the time you're on it, and it's the thing you remember when you're not there anymore. It's cold on the Wall.

When Kavanagh arrives at the Wall for the start of his two year posting all he can think of is counting down the 730 days until he is free to live out the rest of his life. But there is no escaping the two years on the Wall - all citizens, men and women, must serve their two years as Defenders on the Wall to keep out the Others. It's a succession of twelve hour guard duties, with the concrete and sea and cold, waiting for the attack which might never come. Or then again it just might ... And at times the cold is cold enough to kill...

But it gradually becomes apparent that this is not the far north, it's a vision of the future of Britain. It's a changed Britain, but a very recognisable one. A country where you can still go camping in the Lake District for a holiday, and where people still commute into London by train. But it's a Britain that is totally surrounded by the Wall...

This dystopian vision of the future was more chilling for being more believable than is usually the case with dystopian fiction. Take some of the more extreme views regarding Brexit, and mix in the effect of climate change and mass migration, and you end up with the Wall. Recommended.

42SandDune
Feb 8, 3:41pm Top

>39 lauralkeet: >40 BLBera: While Daisy is a very greedy dog she hasn't previously been noted for stealing food as she is pretty well behaved in the main. She did steal things when she was younger, but more of the chewing variety (my Ugg boots for instance).

All the embarrassing stolen food stories that I can think of come from other dogs (or cats). I remember the Welsh terrier we had when I was a child stealing some fish that an angler had just caught. And our springer spaniel eating someone's tub of freshly picked dewberries when we went fruit picking. And the same springer spaniel finding a dead sheep's head on the beach, and refusing point blank to leave it behind. I was so embarrassed at that (the beach was fairly busy) that after about half an hour trying and failing to get him to leave the horrible thing I gave up and went home, and left the dog to come home in his own sweet time. Which he did about an hour and a half later, extremely smelly and pleased with himself. (I should say, in my defence that I was quite young then and we lived just next to the beach).

43SandDune
Feb 8, 3:52pm Top

>38 SandDune: My aunt (who was born in 1910) always told me that we had two cousins who had been on the Titanic, that they were visiting from the United States and they had waited to return on the Titanic as it was supposed to be unsinkable. I'd love to know whether that was true on not. I've traced quite a bit of my family history, and there were certainly a couple of branches who emigrated to the U.S. but I haven't been able to track down enough information on them to be able to verify the story.

I'd always regarded it as something that was pretty unlikely, but then a couple of years ago I found documentary evidence that proved at least some of another family story from a similar date that she had told me at the same time. That story seemed even more unlikely of the face of it, so you never know.

44PawsforThought
Feb 8, 4:10pm Top

>43 SandDune: Wow, if that story is true that's pretty amazing (and horribly tragic, of course). Do you have any names of the people who emigrated to the US that you could compare to the Titanic passenger list? There's one here.

45SandDune
Edited: Feb 8, 4:41pm Top

>44 PawsforThought: Unfortunately, my most likely guess for the identity of the cousins relates to two sisters who emigrated, and almost certainly later married, and I haven't been able to trace records of their married name so I don't know what surname I am looking for. I've got a very common maiden name, which doesn't help.

The story that I managed to prove relates to the visit of the wife of my grandfather's cousin, who my aunt had said visited from Australia in the early years of the twentieth century. She supposedly had two sons, one of who died on voyage, and when she returned to Australia her husband (who was something to do with gold-mining) would not forgive her for her son's death as he had not wanted her to take the younger boy on the trip as he was known to be delicate. What made both my aunts remember this vividly was that apparently she travelled with a gun in her handbag, and when she arrived at my relatives house she had said that a man had been walking very close behind her on the station platform and that if he came any closer she was intending to shoot him! I can't prove the story about the gun (although I'm inclined to believe it as it seems so unlikely for them to have made it up), but the rest I have found evidence for. I've found the records of the cousin working as a mining engineer in the gold fields of Australia, and Central America. I've found records of the couple in their various travels around the world, starting off with two sons and then the wife travelling alone ending up with just one son. And finally I've found a report in the Australian press documenting the divorce case and the wife's appeal for more alimony.

46PawsforThought
Feb 8, 4:50pm Top

>45 SandDune: Ah, too bad. Names are tricky. Almost all my ancestors have names common as dirt (patronymicons), which is a right pain. Though even the less common ones can be troublesome - my great-great grandma's family had an unusual last name and lived in a smal village so I assumed they'd be easy to find in the church records. Turns out, there were two families with the same last name and the fathers had the same first name! Had to double and triple check every time they popped up in the births and deaths records.

I have an unverifiable family tale that I hope to find proof of at some point, but it's not looking good. A great-great uncle emigrated to Canada and according to family lore later went to Svalbard (goodness knows why) but I can't find any trace of him after he left shore for Canada. And he had a very common name. Sigh.

47humouress
Edited: Feb 9, 5:31am Top

Happy new thread Rhian!

Oh Daisy! I'm glad the chocolate didn't affect her.

Our Jasper is quite bad. He steals the boys' socks - usually their school socks if he can. They've gradually learned not to leave them lying around - for the most part, but often he just takes things for the attention. He'll take tissues out of the bin and though I feel silly scolding him for it, I have to, to get the message through that he's not supposed to do that. And he'll only look hangdog if he's caught, but I don't think it's from any guilt he's feeling, though he knows perfectly well he's in the wrong. He has taken food off the table but rarely - only because there's usually someone around who can stop him. I think his favourite is taking the wettex from the kitchen (where he knows he's not allowed in), sneaking it out to the lawn and then gaily ripping it up. It happened three times in one week at the beginning of the year.

Loving the family ancestors stories. Although my parents and their siblings have a store of tales from when they were young, I've never attempted to go much further back; partly because you can't just google it ;0) My grandfather did put together a family tree with accompanying notes and had it printed as a book for the various members of the extended family and I doubt I could better that.

48SandDune
Feb 9, 9:51am Top

>46 PawsforThought: Welsh names are traditionally patronymic too, but they changed to a surname type arrangement generally between the fifteenth and the eighteenth century. My ancestors were very small tenant farmers living in the back end of beyond, and they seem to have kept the patronymic system really late. But it does make it more difficult.

>47 humouress: Daisy used to have a bit of a thing about socks, but she seems to have grown out of it. She likes to take shoes, and curl up with them on the sofa, but she doesn't usually do anything to them. She just likes to snuggle.

49SandDune
Edited: Feb 9, 10:17am Top

I had a bit of an incident in Waterstones bookshop this morning. The shop was quite busy, and for some reason the queue was going the other way than usual, which I think was confusing people. In front of me was a man with a young toddler, probably 18 months to 2 years, no older. The little boy was bawling away - the father seemed to be handling it as calmly and as well as he could reasonably do, but there's not much you can do when they work themselves into a state at that age - they're too young to reason with. Well anyway, the woman in front of him in the queue was sympathetic and offered to let him go first, which he did. Unfortunately, an older woman thought that she was next in the queue (as I said it was a bit confused) and she got very indignant and said "Well, I didn't say that he could go first" and started having a go at the younger woman. So I said that the younger woman was just doing a good turn as his son was so upset, and then the older woman said that she didn't see why she should have to listen to screaming children and people should learn to control them properly, and just went on and on about "parenting today". So then I said that the younger woman was just being nice and that maybe she should try it sometimes, which didn't improve her mood at all to be honest. I mean nobody does want to listen to screaming children but the poor father was absolutely dealing with it very well, and I really don't see what she expected him to do. Actually, I can guess - give the little boy a good smack would be my assumption based on her general attitude. It's not what I expect in my local bookshop.

50SandDune
Edited: Feb 9, 10:43am Top

I've decided to make a proper challenge out of my thoughts that I would try to read more by African writers. So I've been preparing a long list (see below) which I may add to, and my intention is to read at least one every month.

This has highlighted two things:
- There is much more easily available Nigerian fiction than anything else (except maybe South African, but I haven't emphasised South Africa as I have read more from that country anyway)
- Very little is available on audio, which is a shame. I always think if you're reading something with a slightly different English accent and dialect (for example, Nigerian English) it works better to listen to it rather than read it on the page.

Ethiopia:
The Wife's Tale Aida Edemariam A
Beneath the Lion's Gaze Maaza Mengiste

Ghana:
The Beautyful Ones are Not Yet Born Ayi Kwei Armah
The Hundred Wells of Salaga Ayesha Harruna Attah

Egypt:
The Yacoubian Building Alaa Al Aswany

Kenya:
Dust Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor

Libya:
In the Country of Men Hisham Matar
The Bleeding of the Stone Ibrahim al-Koni

Mali
Segu Maryse Condé

Morocco:
This Blinding Absence of Light Tahar Ben Jelloun

Namibia:
The Scattering Lauri Kubuitsile

Nigeria:
The Bride Price Buchi Emecheta
Second Class Citizen Buchi Emecheta
Under The Udala Trees Chinelo Okparanta A
What It Means What A Man Falls From the Sky Lesley Nneka Arimah
Stay with Me Ayobami Adebayo A
The Palm Wine Drinkard Amos Tutuola
I Do Not Come to You by Chance Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani
Daughters Who Walk This Path Yejide Kilanko
My Sister the Serial Killer Oyinkan Braithwaite A
An Orchestra of Minorities Chigozie Obioma
Welcome to Lagos Chibundu Onuzo A
The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives Lola Shoneyin

Somalia:
Black Mamba Boy Nadifa Mohamed ?
The Orchard of Souls Nadifa Mohamed ?

South Africa:
Born a Crime Trevor Noah A
The Woman Next Door Yewande Omotoso
Waiting for the Barbarians JM Coetzee
Zoo City Lauren Beukes
The Yearning Mohale Mashigo

Sudan:
The Translator Leila Aboulela

Tanzania:
By The Sea Abdulrazak Gurnah

Uganda:
Kintu Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

Zambia:
Patchwork Ellen Banda-Aaku

Zimbabwe:
Nervous Conditions Tsitsi Dangarembga
The Book of Memory Petina Gappah A

51SandDune
Feb 9, 5:10pm Top

10. My Sister, the Serial Killer Oyinkan Braithwaite ***1/2



Korede works as a nurse: she's efficient and conscientious and in line for promotion. She's also very good at cleaning, very useful as her sister Ayoola has dispatched no less than three of her boyfriends in 'self-defence'. And when that happens it's the dependable Korede who is on hand to pick up the pieces, and clean:
'I bet you didn't know that bleach masks the smell of blood. Most people use bleach indiscriminately, assuming it is a catch all product, never taking the time to read the list of ingredients on the back, never taking the time to return to the recently wiped surface to take a closer look. Bleach will disinfect, but it's not great for cleaning residue, so I use it only after I have first scrubbed the bathroom of all traces of life, and death.'

But after dispatching her latest boyfriend Femi, Ayoola pays a visit to the hospital where Korede works. And there she catches the eye of Tade, the doctor with whom Korede has been secretly in love for months. For in contrast to the plain Korede, Ayoola is a great beauty, who men find difficult to resist. But as Ayoola half-heartedly goes out with Tade, where should Korede's loyalty lie, with her clearly murderous sister or her prospective victim ...

This was a fun read, and nothing like as gruesome as its title might suggest. It also had some serious points to make: on family loyalty; on the often troubled relationship between sisters; and the objectification of women.

52lauralkeet
Feb 9, 5:56pm Top

>50 SandDune: your challenge sounds interesting, Rhian. I've read a few of the books on your list, but it's been some time now. I look forward to reading your thoughts as you work your way through the list.

53humouress
Feb 9, 11:16pm Top

>51 SandDune: That book seems to show well, despite its off putting (to me) title. I heard the author on BBC World Service ... I could be tempted.

54SandDune
Feb 10, 11:18am Top

We have been out for Sunday lunch today, as it was J's 19th Birthday this weekend. He had the usual (very) eclectic section of books for his presents, covering Stalin, economics, architecture, Arctic exploration, and something called Jesus before the Gospels, as well as the normal fantasy and science fiction. I'm looking forward to borrowing some of those when he's finished with them.

55humouress
Feb 10, 12:14pm Top

Happy birthday, J!

56SandDune
Feb 10, 1:16pm Top

>52 lauralkeet: I thought that African writers were definitely underrepresented in my reading so I thought I'd try and do something about it.

>53 humouress: I wouldn't let the title of My Sister, the Serial Killer put you off. I really don't read particurly gruesome books, but this one is fine - there is actually very little gore. I would definitely read something else by the same author.

57lkernagh
Feb 10, 2:49pm Top

>49 SandDune: - Yikes to the drama in the bookstore. I know I find it confusing when stores I frequent change up their checkout queues.

Wishing you a wonderful week ahead, Rhian.

58SandDune
Feb 10, 2:55pm Top

>57 lkernagh: I don't think the store had done anything in particular. The queue just always goes one way, and because it's a local shop most people will be regular customers and know to queue in that direction because there's a bit more room. But I'm surprised it was so busy yesterday: there were at least five or six people ahead of me in the queue which isn't normal, unless it's Christmas! But it would have been fine if grumpy woman had stayed at home!

59ChelleBearss
Feb 12, 9:34am Top

Happy new thread!

60Familyhistorian
Feb 13, 7:52pm Top

Happy new thread, Rhian. It's interesting the family lore that can be found out more easily these days. So great that we can prove and disprove those old stories these days.

I can understand the temptation of a chocolate orange very well. Sometimes it is more than the dog that has to be trained!

61Donna828
Feb 13, 9:58pm Top

>50 SandDune: Thank you for doing the research to come up with the list of African books, Rhian. I have added the list to my Favorites in case I go on an African tangent someday. I do want to read more books by international authors. I have Stay With Me on the Kindle so I may start with that one.

Daisy and I are kindred spirits. I probably would have grabbed the chocolate, too! I'm looking forward to a fresh supply of the yummy stuff for Valentine's Day tomorrow.

62vancouverdeb
Feb 13, 10:41pm Top

>50 SandDune: I've read a few from your list, Rhian, that I can recommend, for what it's worth. I think Stay With Me was my favourite of the few I've read. Daughters Who Walk this Path, The Book of Memory and The Woman Next Door were also enjoyable.

63ChelleBearss
Feb 14, 1:46pm Top

Happy Valentine's Day!! ❤️💚💗💙

64SandDune
Edited: Feb 15, 2:48pm Top

>59 ChelleBearss: >63 ChelleBearss: Hi Chelle! We had a very quiet Valentine's Day. To tell the truth I don't really like to go out on Valentine's Day: too much pink food and couples being romantic to order!

>60 Familyhistorian: I am very keen on Terry's Chocolate Oranges myself -orange flavoured chocolate is pretty much my favourite. Apparently, one segment is 2 Slimming World 'syns' so that means I could have 7 segments in one day if I manage not to have any other 'syns' at all. Which I can sometimes do, but not often! I'm looking forward to losing the next pound as that will put me back within the 'healthy' range of B.M.I. for my height.

>62 vancouverdeb: >61 Donna828: Stay with Me and The Woman Next Door are high up the list of books to be read at the moment. Also An Orchestra of Minorities.

65SandDune
Edited: Feb 15, 2:58pm Top

I've had a day at home today. I'm actually quite short of holiday, but after making a stupid error at work the day on Tuesday (nothing that couldn't be easily corrected but just time consuming) and another one on Wednesday, I decided I really needed a day off. I haven't had a day to myself for ages, and I've been really feeling the need for a day on my own. So it was just me and Daisy this morning while I read my book (The Epigenetics Revolution), and then I went for a facial this afternoon. We are going down to see my Mum this weekend, and that might be one of the reasons that I'm feeling a bit stressed - not looking forward to conversations about how much she is or isn't eating!

66katiekrug
Feb 15, 3:03pm Top

A random day off can be so lovely, Rhian. I call them mental health days and take them when I feel particularly stressed.

Good luck with your mum this weekend.

67HanGerg
Feb 15, 5:26pm Top

Oooh, Epigenetics! I have an interest in that! (Although I also find it kind of terrifying) I'll be interested the hear your thoughts on that book when you are finished. And I want to echo others on the "well done" for getting stuck into the African writers, and posting a handy list for those of us who are tempted to follow suite!

68AMQS
Feb 16, 1:27am Top

Hi Rhian! I had some catching up to do. Congratulations on losing two stone - that represents a lot of hard work. I definitely have a counter-surfing dog - he strikes when we least expect it, even though we spend a lot of time surveying for dog-interest! The worst was when he managed to eat an entire 1-pound package of klusky noodles. That was a looooooong night.

I do love a good gin. I recently started following an instagram account called Great British Food. This month they're profiling East Anglia and today they showcased specialty gin distilleries! I would love to try some. If they follow their past habits, they'll be profiling Wales in March:)

That sounds like a really unpleasant encounter at your bookstore, albeit with a silver lining of kindness. I do remember the baby days. Some people seemed unhappy that a baby - and its noise - would even be out in public. Glad to hear it's not the norm.

Happy weekend to you!

69humouress
Edited: Feb 16, 3:23am Top

>48 SandDune: It's cute that Daisy likes to snuggle shoes. Unfortunately, Jasper is a chewer. He managed to get both wettexes (brand name for flat, square sponge we use to wipe down kitchen counters) out of the kitchen. According to my teen, it was not on his watch. If he's to be believed, that means Jasper nosed open the sliding door to the kitchen (which I definitely made sure was shut) to get to them. He left the shreds of one as evidence in the doorway and took the other out to his favourite gnawing spot in the centre of our front lawn. When I went out to yell at him, he very proudly took me there to show me.

So after two days of my ignoring him, I was thinking of letting him know he was forgiven but said teenager accidentally let him into the house and somehow, my socks disappeared. I had thought that my things were sacrosanct after the time he ripped up one of my nice shawls and I got very upset with him. So he's back in my bad books again.

Yay for a day to yourself. I like my quiet times - though the kids are growing so fast and pushing the boundaries of their independence so spending time with them is good, too. When they condescend to spend time with me.

Good luck with your mum. I hope her eating habits improve. (Having said which, I rarely bother with lunch myself, although it has the opposite effect on me; my body goes into hibernation mode and stores fat.)

70karenmarie
Feb 16, 8:35am Top

Hi Rhian!

>65 SandDune: Glad you got time home alone with a book and Daisy and then the luxury of a facial. Sorry about the impending stress about visiting your mum.

71Caroline_McElwee
Feb 16, 1:43pm Top

>65 SandDune: I'm glad you took the time out Rhian, it can only have helped. I hope things go well with your mum this weekend.

72PaulCranswick
Feb 16, 7:33pm Top

I need to lose some weight Rhian and am in awe slightly at your accomplishment.

My clothes don't fit me too nicely at the moment and it makes for self-consciousness.

Have a lovely weekend.

73SandDune
Edited: Feb 17, 9:35am Top

Shopping trip with my Mum this morning. Here’s a brief taster of how it went:
Me: (picking up marmalade) ‘You need some marmalade don’t you? What sort do you want?
Mum: That’s a very large jar ... I’m not sure. (It’s a normal size jar).
Me: They’re all the same size. You’re not going to get a smaller one.
Mum: No, I’ll leave it. I won’t eat all that.
Me: But then you won’t have any marmalade and you eat marmalade every day.
Mum: But I don’t eat very much
Me: I’ll just buy you this one as a present ...

Me: (picking up small bottle of sunflower oil). Have you got any vegetable oil? (She’s currently using one calorie Fry Light).
Mum: Well. I don’t really need any.
Me: But you’re using that Fry Light stuff. That’s what you use if you’re on a diet.
Mum: But the bottles are all very big... I won’t use all that. ( As I said I had a small bottle)
Me: But this is 125 calories per tablespoon and the Fry Light is one calories per spray, and you NEED MORE CALORIES. How about if I take away the Fry Light because I’m on a diet and then it won’t go to waste?
Mum: Well all right then.

Hard work.

74Caroline_McElwee
Feb 17, 8:57am Top

Oh dear, pushing a rock up the hill there Rhian. Not fun. Whereas my dad would have gone through a jar of marmalade like a whippet on steroids bless him.

75humouress
Feb 17, 11:04am Top

>73 SandDune: *sigh*

At least you seem to be winning, at the cost of a lot of effort.

76karenmarie
Feb 17, 11:46am Top

>73 SandDune: Oh my goodness, Rhian. A definite labor of love. It sounds like you had two nice little wins.

My sister's MiL had watched calories and worried about her weight all her adult life and when she was losing weight too quickly with her Parkinson's could still hardly bring herself to eat until she was full or eat things with gobs of calories in them.

77SandDune
Feb 17, 11:52am Top

>66 katiekrug: >70 karenmarie: >71 Caroline_McElwee: I find that time to myself periodically is absolutely essential to recharge my batteries, and I knew I wouldn’t get any at all this weekend. Mr SandDune doesn’t really understand it: he does try to, for my sake, but he doesn’t really get it. Whereas J gets it perfectly - he’s another introvert.

>67 HanGerg: Epigenetics is good so far. Back when I did my degree in Zoology we had to do a first year course in Genetics, which I quite liked (very logical, at least at a basic level), but I don’t think epigenetics had been invented at that point! So it’s all new to me.

78SandDune
Edited: Yesterday, 3:33pm Top

>68 AMQS: The worst thing Daisy ever ate was a packet full of red lentils. That did not do nice things to her digestive system at all! And she did have a period of chewing holes in the wall of our hall when she was a puppy! She started when she found a little hole that she could make bigger, and then she discovered that she could make new holes all by herself. Great fun!

This was the worst thing that she ever actually destroyed though: my Ugg boots. Her teeth went through that sheepskin like a knife through butter - there were bits of fluff everywhere.



I’ve never been to a gin distillery. Maybe I ought to try it. I’ve been to quite a few whisky distilleries (Mr SandDune’s drink of choice) and they are interesting, and quite often in Scotland very scenic as well, but it’s always slightly disappointing at the end when it comes to tasting the whisky as I actually can’t stand the stuff!

79SandDune
Feb 17, 12:37pm Top

>69 humouress: In my experience dogs have absolutely no idea why you’re cross with them, unless you catch them in the act, and quite often not even then! Certainly Daisy doesn’t, but then she’s not the brightest!

Although J is that much older, he’s usually still quite happy to spend time with us. People keep asking if J is coming to Thailand with us, but the likelihood of him missing out on a holiday somewhere interesting is quite remote, even though it’s with his parents.

80SandDune
Feb 17, 1:44pm Top

>74 Caroline_McElwee: >75 humouress: >76 karenmarie: With my Mum it’s not that she’s worried about putting weight on. She’s never been overweight as such, but I think more to do with her metabolism than any dieting. I’ve never even heard her mention anything about watching her weight. But she is obsessed with not wasting food. So in the supermarket she really didn’t want to buy a small pork pie (which she likes) because she might not eat all of it before it went off. But we went out for Sunday lunch today and while she wouldn’t order a pudding of her own (creating waste) she was very happy to finish off mine when I didn’t want all of it (preventing waste). And when she’s staying with us she has a reasonable appetite. But her issue with not wasting food has got to the stage that she won’t buy anything if there’s any chance that some of it will not get eaten.

81lauralkeet
Feb 17, 4:09pm Top

Rhian, you're doing a great job with your mum, although I can imagine how frustrating it is to negotiate situations like the two you shared. Did she live through a depression or rationing? I could see something like that creating her aversion to waste. I was also told once that as people age some behavior traits become stronger or more dominant, so perhaps that is what you're experiencing now. Hang in there ...

Daisy is adorable if somewhat naughty.

82humouress
Feb 17, 9:29pm Top

>78 SandDune: Oh, not Uggs! That scene looks quite familiar.

>79 SandDune: I have suspected Jasper doesn't always know why he's in my bad books (but, you know, it's a mum's prerogative to yell). At the moment, he's not finishing his dinner so I'll try and encourage him to eat (I don't like waste, either). So we had a situation the other day where my husband asked me to get Jasper to eat although I was still ignoring him. But then Jasper didn't even look at me - so I guess he was getting his own back.

Although I'm very sure he knows when he does something he's not allowed to - when he grabs a sock or a wettex, he sneaks it off to the lawn, which is what alerts me if I see him. And if he doesn't get noticed, he'll take me and show me. There was the time, when he was half-grown, that the kids and I were upstairs (with the stargate shut) and Jasper was barking his head off on the stairs. So I went downstairs to find out what was upsetting him, to proudly be shown one of my day curtains ripped up and strewn all over the sitting room.

83Ameise1
Feb 18, 3:29am Top

Sending sunny greetings from Davos.

84AMQS
Edited: Yesterday, 5:54pm Top

Sorry to hear about your mom's health woes. Sometimes those habits really catch hold of us when we're older. Stuff like marmalade though, can be refrigerated and used more. Which I'm sure she knows. It is so hard to take care of parents. Love and best wishes to both of you.

85SandDune
Yesterday, 3:10pm Top

>72 PaulCranswick: I think where I have succeeded Paul, is in finding an eating plan that works well with how we eat as a family, so that I'm not trying to cook separately for everyone. And definitely one that allows some chocolate!

>81 lauralkeet: I can definitely see the personality traits becoming stronger with my mother. She's always had a bit of a thing about waste when going out for a meal. She would never order a pudding in a restaurant, for example, as she would complain that the portions would be too big, and she wouldn't be able to finish it. She always insisted on having some of my Dad's pudding, which drove him around the bend, as he always rather fancied eating it himself! But it seems as if this idea is permeating her shopping as well.

>82 humouress: I'm sure your curtains taste lovely! I think they do grow out of it a bit when they get a little bit older. Daisy certainly chews a lot less now than she did when was a 'teenager'!

>83 Ameise1: Thanks Barbara, nice to have a bit of sun!

86SandDune
Yesterday, 3:26pm Top

>84 AMQS: We did manage to get my Mum to her doctor's appointment yesterday. To be fair, the GP we saw was very helpful and their new medical centre is very snazzy, so maybe it was worth the hassle that we had in getting the appointment in the first place. The GP has prescribed nutritional dessert type things (which are available on prescription) to try and get my Mum's weight up, and she's booked blood tests to check her iron and folic acid and various vitamin levels to see if they have returned to normal, and also a test to look at whether the veins in her feet are working as they should. And she's also referred her to a consultant for her hearing which we've been trying to arrange for ages. Before she broke her hip my Mum actually told me that she'd seen the GP about her hearing and he had said that it was fine. That seemed very unlikely as my Mum's hearing is absolutely not fine, but it turned out that she'd only said that to stop me keeping in about it and she hadn't seen the GP at all!

87SandDune
Yesterday, 3:45pm Top

Anyway we did manage to get some coastal walks in over the weekend so that was nice. This is actually a lovely sandy beach, but the tide was in both days (and the Bristol Channel has the second highest tidal range in the world so it comes in a long way), so no sand to be seen.





And I did find my ideal retirement property. Mr SandDune thinks it would be too windswept, but I can't think of a better location. It's a redevelopment of an iconic Victorian building in my home town, right above the beach:

https://www.acornpropertygroup.org/development/the-links-rest-bay-porthcawl/

88SandDune
Yesterday, 3:58pm Top

Mr SandDune and myself are reading Normal People by Sally Rooney for our Costa Novel challenge. We were listening to it on the journey back from my Mum's yesterday and unaminously agreed that we couldn't cope with it any more about two hours from home. Latest quotes from Mr SandDune (who is trying to finish it on kindle this evening): 'I've got eighteen pages to go and I just can't cope with it any more' and 'It's a bloody awful book'. Every review of it that I have seen of it seems to think it is some sort of masterpiece, minor or otherwise. We're clearly missing something.

89katiekrug
Yesterday, 4:06pm Top

I really didn't like her previous novel, Conversations with Friends, which everyone else seemed to enjoy. I couldn't even finish it.

90AMQS
Yesterday, 5:57pm Top

>87 SandDune: Wow, that's beautiful! Just try to make sure there's a guest room, okay? Now that I've been to Wales, I'm a little obsessed:)

91Caroline_McElwee
Today, 5:26am Top

>87 SandDune: Very nice Rhian. I do enjoy looking at property online!

92humouress
Today, 6:23am Top

>87 SandDune: Ooh, nice. I'll come and visit (looks like there'll be a waiting list).

>91 Caroline_McElwee: So do I (I get a bit wistful/ jealous, but it's easier on the bank balance).

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