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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!

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.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

by Gail Honeyman

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Believe all the hype! This book was really good!

I wish I had read this earlier, but I have often been disappointed by heavily hyped books on Goodreads. I prefer to wait till the hype has died down.

Eleanor is a very unique creation who makes some very quotable quotes.

The crematorium was a busy place and the parking spaces were needed, I supposed. I’m not sure I’d like to be burned. I think I might like to be fed to zoo animals. It would be both environmentally friendly and a lovely treat for the larger carnivores. Could you request that? I wondered. I made a mental note to write to the WWF in order to find out.

Damaged & lonely, she believes she is coping (with the help of two bottles of vodka on the weekend.) But then two things happen;

* She becomes infatuated with a local musician
*& she meets someone determined to become her friend…

I’d recommend this book for anyone who enjoyed The Rosie Project I just hope that unlike Graeme Simsion, Ms Honeyman resists the urge to write a sequel. You can’t top perfection after all.*

*& ok, the book wasn’t quite perfect – the start was a little slow. But near enough.

Diary of a Provincial Lady

by E.M. Delafield

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I have finished! & I have decided the authentic diary style of quickly jotting things down isn’t for me! (I do enjoy the diary style still, which is like no diary ever written, for example, Desiree or I Capture the Castle)

I read this one as part of a group read with the Women’s Classic Literature Enthusiasts Group on Goodreads. Like others in the group, I had to space the read out (over three weeks – & this is a very short book!) or the tedium of the narrator’s life just drove me mad! I like other readers in this group idea here that this was intentional. The narrator is dizzy, but her literary taste (frequently mentioned in the book) are that of an intelligent woman.

This book came very close to a DNF for me (& a similar book, Mrs Tim of the Regiment was a DNF!) but I had some laugh out loud chuckles around the time of the trip to France.

I’ve just realised I probably enjoyed this part the most because her husband, Robert, wasn’t on the page! I couldn’t stand him. How would it be to look forward all day to some adult, non servant company & have this grump come home.

Ms Delafield wrote a further two books in this series. I won’t be reading them, but I don’t rule out trying some of her other works.

The Ransom of Red Chief

by O. Henry

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I reread my favourite novel (Devil’s Cub)|this year, so I decided it was high time I reread my all time favourite short story.

My tutor read it to our class (I did a Creative Writing course many years ago) & I found the story so fresh & funny! (& the story was over seventy years old, even then) & anyone who has parented a Red Chief will understand the temptation to not want him back!

Convenience Store Woman

by Sayaka Murata

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is another book where the average Goodreads rating was relatively low (3.71 at the time of writing this review) but the book was a 5★ read for me.

This may be partly because I used to work in a supermarket (& sadly that wasn’t the nadir of my working life) We didn’t have inspirational chants or anything like that, but doing mundane tasks well was how I kept feeling of value in this world. To say I don’t miss it, is putting it mildly.

I think my enjoyment may have been enhanced by the translation by Ginny Tapley Takemori Generally any (originally) Japanese language books I have read have seemed detached & a bit stiff, so I thought that must be the writing style. But this book had a warm natural flow

This book is slyly amusing with a good underlying message. That would be we are all different & just because Keiko’s choices wouldn’t be yours that doesn’t make them wrong. That makes them right for her.


My Sister the Serial Killer

by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Mum, it talked! The doll talked!”
“She is not a doll, Korede. She is a baby, your baby sister. You’re a big sister now. And big sisters look after little sisters.”

This book just shows that as readers we are all different. It has a relatively low rating on Goodreads (3.70 at the time of writing) but I loved it.

I was originally attracted by the gorgeous cover art & the hilarious (to me) title.

The humour is very dark – I mean the (spoilt) sister is a serial killer but there are a lot of other themes too – blind loyalty, manipulation, love, making choices.

I loved the cultural touches as well as I have never been to Africa, let alone Nigeria. The author doesn’t spoon-feed her reader at all, so you may need Google. If you don’t like YA writing you may not like the writing style – the author uses the flat American style of YA writing – fortunately that is a style I love. (& yes, I know the writer isn’t American!)

The ending is abrupt but I found it gave me a lot to think about.


Love in a Cold Climate

by Nancy Mitford

Rating: 4 out of 5.

“Oh what a pity it happens to be Davey’s day for getting drunk. I long to tell him, he will be so much interested.”

This was such a problematic read for me!

This should have been a 5★ read for me. The book was very well written, witty & with a far better storyline than The Pursuit of Love which I gave 4. 5★.

I know this was written as a satire but the part I can’t stomach is child molester Boy. He did get his comeuppance though, but it is almost treated as a minor annoyance! I was relieved to read some criticism of Boy near the end of the book It is never something I’m going to find funny. And this book, like The Pursuit of Love, treats death quite casually. Maybe that is to be expected in an author who lived through two world wars.

But I loved many of the characters (especially Cedric – so much fun!) & look forward to Don’t Tell Alfred, the final book in this trilogy.

The Passionate Witch

by Thorne Smith

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Anyone coming to this book because it was the inspiration for the film I Married a Witch, which in turn inspired a favourite programme of my childhood, Bewitched

expecting the sexist but silly fun of the above (as a child I could never understand what Samantha saw in Darrin – what a drip!) will be disappointed. Thorne Smith died aged only 42 before this book was completed and he was a pretty far gone alcoholic by then. Goodness knows what hallucinations he was having while experiencing the d.t.s!

I would be prepared to bet the first 50 pages were all Smith, as I had a few chuckles at the early adventures of the stuffed shirt businessman and tee-totaller T. Wallace Wooly. That changed on page 51 where Wooly was cruel to a horse. I’m just never going to find cruelty to animals funny.

Maybe Smith had sketched out some rough ideas that Norman Matson (the author who completed this book) followed because there was the occasional funny line & I found some of witch Jennifer’s pranks hilarious, especially when Wooly could read people’s thoughts! These parts were inspired!

I enjoyed the b/w illustrations by Herbert Roese.

The example I’ve selected is from Chapter X, the wonderfully named They Let Anyone Live in Miami.


Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea

by Chelsea Handler

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I watch a lot of American (or American based) hosts of late night shows on You Tube. I’m not a big fan of Jimmy Kimmel, but the title of this book made me think I would enjoy Chelsea as a guest host.

Which I did.

Her take no prisoners style of delivery on the show made me a fan, & wish Chelsea would get her own talk show again.

I don’t know if Chelsea’s style works for me so well in print, although I certainly laughed out loud quite a few times.

How they grow grapes in a part of town that is mostly populated by gangs and high-rises is beyond me, but when alcohol is involved, I rarely ask questions.

As a tip, I think would have been a happier person if I hadn’t read Chapter 8. I’m still trying to find a way to bleach it from my brain.