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November 12, 2016

Book Review:   Behind the scenes at the museum (Kate Atkinson)

This is the debut novel of a brilliant writer, who went on to produce the superb ‘Life After Life’ and ‘A God in Ruins’.  Kate Atkinson brings to life the character of the narrator, Ruby Lennox.  We hear her voice in the text from the moment of her conception; the marital bed in a bedroom over the family business in York, a pet shop.  George and Bunty, her parents, have conceived other children, and tragically lost one, a daughter, who at first is not named.  There are many tragedies to follow.

We hear Ruby’s philosophy of life as she battles with parents who fail to provide the love she craves.  Ruby chronicles in some detail the history of her unusual family; the trials and affairs, rumours and innuendo that take in two world wars and many family skirmishes; even a wedding brawl.  We also learn much about the geography and history of Ruby’s home town, the City of York.

Ruby eventually discovers her r...

November 2, 2016

Book Review:   The Importance of Being Seven (Alexander McCall Smith)

Probably my favourite author; at least I have not enjoyed a series of books more than ’44 Scotland Street’.  Being the sixth in the series, ‘The Importance of Being Seven’ continues to reveal the lives of the interesting folk of Scotland Street, Edinburgh.  Little Bertie seems to be forever six, and he can’t wait to be seven.  His impossible mother, Irene, continues to be... well, impossible.  Why can’t he eat chocolate, play rugby, wear a uniform?  Why does he have to wait until he’s eighteen?  If he could, Bertie would divorce his mother.

Mathew and Elspeth are happily married.  In a previous book, Elspeth was forced to resign as a teacher after pinching the ear (quite hard) of the horrid little Olive.  After all, she had been bullying Bertie, with her lies, sly ways, and in particular forcing him to have a blood test.  Playing nurses indeed!  For Elspeth, the realisation that she had ma...

October 9, 2016

Book Review:   The Cypress House (Michael Koryta)

Koryta gives us a story of love, loss and death.  Arlen Wagner travels across America with a young companion in search of work.  He had served in the great war, witnessing death on the battlefields of Europe.  Arlen also had a secret and he vowed never to share that secret.  However, the part of his life that he kept secret had left him with a talent – not a talent of which he was proud – and this enabled him to save his companion’s life, knowing that many of his fellow travellers would perish on the train journey they shared.  Arlen Wagner could see death in the eyes of men who were about to meet their maker:

“He had seen it in men before – a trace of smoke in the eyes and the flash of bone where flesh should be that promises imminent and certain death”.

Not to everyone’s taste, but Koryta is an excellent writer.  He draws the character of Wagner, a man toughened by war and extreme family circumstances, but enable...

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