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Queen Lucia

by E.F. Benson

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I am a big fan of retro British TV comedies. Two of my all time favourites are The Good Life & Keeping Up Appearances & I would like to think that Margo;

& Hyacinth;

were inspired by the snobby Emmeline ‘Lucia’ Lucas who queens it over the small village of Riseholme. Not carbon copies of course – it is impossible to imagine either of these Grande Dames indulging in the baby talk that Lucia used addressing the main men in her life – & they respond in kind!

“Geordie, come and have ickle talk,” she said. “Me want ‘oo wise man to advise ickle Lucia.”
“What ‘oo want?” asked Georgie, now quite quelled for the moment.
“Lots-things. Here’s pwetty flower for buttonholie…”

Anyone need a bucket?

But, like the above two, Lucia is pretentious – & not nearly as cultured or clever as she thinks she is! Encounters with various frauds fail to humble her. But will renowned singer Olga Bracely see right through her…

This is the funniest book (that wasn’t written by P.G. Wodehouse) that I have read in quite some time! I’m not surprised that Noël Coward was one of his admirers, & I’m glad that the Lucia & Mapp titles have been rescued from obscurity.

I’m actually reading an omnibus edition of the Lucia & Mapp series & I am looking forward to tackling the rest of the titles!

The Nine Tailors

by Dorothy L. Sayers

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A quote from my review of Gaudy Night

This is a book for a patient reader – which is normally the sort of book I hate!

That goes double for this title!

Elizabeth George wrote a really great introduction for this edition. Amongst other points she writes;

While many detective novelists from the Golden Age of mystery kept their plots pared down to the requisite crime, suspects, clues and red herrings, Sayers did not limit herself to so limited a canvas in her work. She saw the crime and its ensuing investigation as merely the framework for a much larger story, the skeleton – if you will- upon which she could hang the muscles organs, blood vessels, and physical features of a much larger tale.

So true!

& I suspect I would have rated this tale much higher if I hadn’t been trying to read it during a relatively busy time for me.

Lesson learned.

The beginning was really captivating. I could follow some of the information about the bell ringing, as there has been some publicity about a young Kiwi who was a bell ringer for King Charles III’s coronation.….

I would doubt that the clip would be listenable outside Aotearoa (NZ) but the picture where Dylan is standing is interesting.

I very much enjoyed the start, the detailed characters (all of whom were easy to tell apart & remember) but the story started to drag for me when Lord Peter went to France I became a little impatient. But Sayers is such a literary writer! The way she chose to abridge some speech in a courtroom was brilliant! A satisfactory if somewhat tragic resolution & I feel a bit foolish that I didn’t guess the solution.

Other than Georgette Heyer‘s works, I’m not currently doing much rereading, but I think I will make an exception for this one, as I have the uneasy feeling I’m being a bit unfair.

William Butler Yeats Reads His Own Work

by W.B. Yeats

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I’m starting here;

as can anything beat hearing a poet recite his own poetry?

First up The Lake Isle of Innisfree Yeats’s voice is wavering with age yet also curiously strong.

A beautiful poem full of longing. 5★ (rating adjusted after hearing the second reading.

Next is The Fiddler of Dooney which seems a bit clearer here

Really loved this poem. A belief that the happy will be rewarded in heaven? 5★

Song of the Old Mother

Short & very moving. Describes aging beautifully. 5★

& there is a second reading of The Lake Isle of Innisfree Much stronger & more passionate. I will bump my rating of the poem up to 5. (see above)

& the reading finishes with a fragment of Coole Park And Ballylee(1931) but what a fragment it is! The reading is magnificent, but I did want to read the whole thing. I found the poem here;
What descriptive powers, what beauty.

You Tube is an absolute treasure trove for me. I am going to look for more authors & poets reading their own work – I know I already discovered Truman Capote there.

& I will want to read more Yeats.

Straight Up

by Ruby Tui

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Hmmmm, interesting

This memoir by Kiwi Rugby Sevens player Ruby Tui & NZ singer Stan Walker’s memoir (Impossible: My Story) employed the same ghostwriter, Margie Thomson. & both books to me feature an amazing theme of the ability to forgive people in their childhoods who have done them both a great wrongs.

Until just before this book was published, most people didn’t know the truth of Ruby’s childhood. I’ll leave it for you to discover in this book – other than at the end there is just the slightest tinge of bitterness when she says;

“…even my Dad’s choice of alcohol above anything else in his life, including me…”

Ruby could have chosen to have her life take a very dark turn – but she didn’t. She worked like a dog to get a university education & discovered rugby gave her a sense of belonging that no other sport did. Even after training and hard, physical work she remained small, but her speed, determination & team spirit made her perfect for rugby sevens & her personality should give her a media career long after she retires from this sport.

The section I found most fascinating was her candid discussion (I don’t think Ruby does any other kind of discussion!) of her own sexuality & her refusal to be put in any kind of box. This will make me look at sexuality in quite a different way & is totally in keeping with Ruby’s wonderful free spirit.

I think Ruby will succeed in what ever she puts her mind to – & I hope that she writes the next installment of her memoirs on her own. The only other Kiwi sport memoir that I have ever enjoyed was Jeremy Coney’s [book:The Playing Mantis|7860428] & I hate cricket even more than I hate rugby! This book is unique among Kiwi sports star memoirs in that Coney wrote it himself.

Part of her motivation for writing this book came from a visit to her local bookshop.

I stood in the sports section, and I searched and searched. I pulled out book after book, but there wasn’t a single biography on a Kiwi female in the whole section. I eventually found an autobiography of Billie Jean King, a famous white American tennis player who did amazing things, but that was it. I pictured a young brown female sportsperson walking in there and seeing herself nowhere, not belonging in the book world. My eyes welled up right there in the bookshop. I have to do this.

I’ll just finish with a You tube clip that shows why Kiwis (even rugby haters like me!) love Ruby Tui.

Ruby is awesome!

The Dancing Bear

by Frances Faviell

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Frances Faviell (real name Olivia Faviell Lucas) together with their young son John joined her senior civil servant husband at his posting in post WW2 Berlin. Shortly afterwards she encountered Frau Altman trying to shift a load too heavy for her to bear. Frances & her driver, the resourceful Stampie take Frau Altman home. Both are tender hearted people & do their best to help the Altman family who are starving & freezing almost to the point of death. (everything, including electricity, is harshly rationed to the Berliners.) This is the start of a very close friendship, that certainly was not without risk for Faviell & Stampie.

I have never thought enough about what happens to the vanquished in an occupied country! One of the daughters of Frau Altman, Ursula, has been raped multiple times by the occupying Russian soldiers & later sells herself for a warm coat. Her mother shuts her eyes to what Ursula & her spoilt brother Fritz do for the family to survive (they both become very resourceful entrepreneurs!) Their sister, beautiful & sweet Lili, is not raped, but dies after an abortion. Faviell believes her lover was Russian.

The starting 27% of the book is an easy 5★ for me, but the narrow focus Ms Faviell takes becomes too narrow for me later on. Also, (& I guess Faviell may not have known this) the Russians were not the only rapists among the allies.,sexual%20assaults%20by%20American%20soldiers

But this was Ms Faviell’s first book. For a first book (& a nonfiction one at that!) the writing shows a lot of skill.

Still well worth reading for the powerful start and I did find Ursula fascinating. I have checked my kindle & I’m delighted to find that I also own A Chelsea Concerto  and one of her novels, Thalia I will be excited to read both.

Thanks to Dean St Press who have unearthed so many of these nearly forgotten books.

Don’t Tell Alfred

by Nancy Mitford

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I very much enjoyed this book – in parts. There were places that Mitford was at her wittiest & I was charmed by secondary character Northey (which is a great name for a girl!)

Adorable as she was, Northey was by no means an easy proposition. She was now in love, for the first time (or so she said, but is it not always the first time, and for that matter, the last?) and complained about it with the squeaks and yelps of a thwarted puppy.

But there were a few significant lulls & there were also parts where this book seemed to suffer from a bad case of Agatha Christieitis. Anyone who reads Christie will know that in her later years she often used her novels as a platform to rail against the modern world (At Bertram’s Hotel is one example.) Ms Mitford was fourteen years younger than Christie but there is the same querulous tone in parts – surprising in one who was only in her mid fifties.

We remember the old world as it had been for a thousand years, so beautiful and diverse, and which, in only thirty years, has crumbled away. When we were young every country still had its own architecture and customs and food. Can you ever forget the first sight of Italy? Those ochre houses, all different, each with such character, with their trompe l’oeil paintings on the stucco? Queer and fascinating and strange, even to a Provencal like me? Now the dreariness! The suburbs of every town uniform all over the world, while perhaps in the very centre a few old monuments sadly survive as though in a glass case.

For the last twenty pages I was very bored and had to push myself to finish – and the ending was extremely abrupt. I have the sense that Ms Mitford had become bored with the characters too, & I was not surprised to find this was the last novel that she wrote. I definitely wouldn’t read this as a standalone & I’m not sure how necessary it is even to complete the series. Really I think this one may be for Mitford completists only.

Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy

by Rumer Godden

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A tale that combines Ms Godden’s wonderful gift for beautiful descriptions of scenery & activities, with the harsh reality of some peoples’ lives.

I’m not a big fan of flashbacks & more than one point of view, Well, so I always say! After reading some books recently that use these techniques (as Godden does) I would say I’m not a fan of them when they are done poorly. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that Ms Godden’s writing choices greatly strengthen this book.

Liz Hawthorne, through a combination of bad luck & bad choices, becomes a prostitute (& is renamed Lise) in post WW2 Paris & then is imprisoned for murder. Whilst in prison she is visited by a compassionate nun, – & sees the direction she wants to take in life after her release.

Oh my word, my heart ached for Lise right through this book! She was a good if gullible person. Does she get a happy ending? That is for you to judge.

This book was published in 1979, & I just assumed it would be one of Godden’s last works. Nope. Looking on Wikipedia, Godden was last published in 1997, the year before her death at 91.

The Lucky Galah

by Tracy Sorensen

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I read this book for three reasons;

🦜It was part of a challenge I was doing in the BLK group.

🦜 It was available at my local library.

🦜 I loved the book cover. [bookcover:The Lucky Galah|33647284] I’ve always had a weakness for the colours pink & grey together & this is such a pretty bird!

The book itself I liked rather than loved for the most part – although I really enjoyed the parts told from the Galah’s POV. And some scenes had a very authentic feel of small town Australia. But I did find the start a bit uninteresting and the ending a bit abrupt.

But many, many thumbs up for such an original premise!


by Vera Caspary

Rating: 4 out of 5.

At the start I thought this book was going to be a 5★ read, I really did.

The scene setting was marvellous. The characters of Laura & her (much) older patron Waldo were interesting. There were some subtle clues about how it was going to play out.

But.. Sigh. One of my bugbears, multiple POV. & Multiple POVs that weren’t handled evenly & made the story very repetitive. Plus there were very few suspects.

But the story threw in a nice twist & I would bet it worked far better as a movie.