writereaderly

writing of readerly reviews of writings

Month: November, 2012

Review: Kenneth Grahame’s “The Wind in the Willows”

kenneth grahame wind in the willowsThis one was yet another distraction from the particularly fat book I’m trundling on through, and I am ashamed to admit that it was the first time I’d read it. I’ve seen the classic cartoon version a few times, and had the irritating experience of trying to mould the book to match the adaptation I already knew. But I was glad I read it: our benevolent dictator Ratty takes blossoming Mole under his tweeded wing and teaches him all a gentleanimal needs to know in Edwardian England, especially by contrast with Toady’s undignified adventures. The writing is quite lovely, as are the evocations and descriptions of the vanishing countryside and riverside; there are some powerful chapters which are not Toad related (and were therefore culled from the cartoon version); and I was buoyed up by the great dignity of the British petit bourgeoisie. Recommended.

Where it came from: Opshop
Time and manner of reading: A few reads evening and day, bothered that it took so long to get to the ending I knew was coming
Where it went: The W-T family
Reminds me of: Edwardian queers I’ve been wandering through (Forster, etc.)
Who I’d recommend it to: It’s a lovely book – young and old alike
Also reading: Rabbit #4; How to Read a Poem by Edward Hirsch; Selected Essays by George Orwell; The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon; Kalila and Dimna by Ramsey Woods; Old Wives´ Tales by Margaret Chamberlain

Review: Isobelle Carmody’s “Obernewtyn (The Obernewtyn Chronicles, Book 1)”

isobelle carmody obernewtynI needed a solid, quick read to get me realigned, and here was this one on the Christmas present pile. I’d adored this series as a teenager, and even recommended for someone’s teen girl over dinner last week; I’d been thinking I’d like to finally read it all the way through (since Carmody has *nearly* finished the series in the intervening decades since my adolescence). The plot of this one: Telepathically powered Elspeth is led to her fate at bleak Obernewtyn, a mountain fast peopled by meanies, goodies, and the mysterious but inevitable love interest with haunting eyes. This rereading was pretty satisfying, although the writing was boxier than I remembered and I didn’t love it quite so much (which I guess is as it should be at my Advanced Age). I did, however, keep finding the texture of my thoughts returning to it in the days since the reading, and strongly suspect I’ll be hunting up the next books in the series in the coming weeks. Solid.

Where it came from: Second-hand bookshop
Time and manner of reading: Two generally engrossed reads in one day
Where it went: LDC for Xmas
Reminds me of: That particularly delightful hold of formulaic fantasy
Who I’d recommend it to: Those ready for a multi-book experience…
Also reading: Rabbit #4; How to Read a Poem by Edward Hirsch; Selected Essays by George Orwell; The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon; Kalila and Dimna by Ramsey Woods; Old Wives´ Tales by Margaret Chamberlain

Review: Beatrix Potter’s “The Story of a Fierce Bad Rabbit”

And in the second of the chefly entertainments… a Beatrix Potter which neither of us had even heard of, telling the naff story of a mean rabbit who steals carrots from cute bunnies and therefore gets shot tailless. We suspected that a less-famous relative had written this one and was in dire need of income from the BP brand. Skippable.

Where it came from: KS’s Bookshelf
Time and manner of reading: Also out loud to entertain the chef
Where it went: Home
Reminds me of: Famous writers need editors more than non-famous ones
Who I’d recommend it to: Kidlets
Also reading: Rabbit #4; How to Read a Poem by Edward Hirsch; Selected Essays by George Orwell; The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon; Kalila and Dimna by Ramsey Woods

Review: Beatrix Potter’s “The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck”

It must be over 25 years since I’ve read this one, and goodness me, Jemima *is* hard done by. She’s monumentally stupid but such a clucky duck. The sandy whiskered gentleman with a bushy tail is just so charming. The dogs eat all her eggs in the high-action rescue. And of her next and last batch of egg-babies, still only four survive. Poor Jemima. But the illustrations and nostalgia value remain high, what with the quirky quaintsomeness of it all, and I’d happily snaffle a Beatrix Potter set for friends’ kidlets. Farm retro ahoy.

Where it came from: KS’s Bookshelf
Time and manner of reading: Out loud to entertain the chef
Where it went: Home
Reminds me of: All the stuff you *don’t* get when you read kids’ books as a kid
Who I’d recommend it to: Kidlets
Also reading: Rabbit #4; How to Read a Poem by Edward Hirsch; Selected Essays by George Orwell; The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon; Kalila and Dimna by Ramsey Woods

Review: Kornei Chukovsky’s “The Stolen Sun”

kornei chukovsky the stolen sunA children’s book originally published in the USSR in the ’60s, this one was jointly spotted on a book-shopping expedition and sneakily added to my gift pile in time for Christmas (thanks! xx). It has splendid illustrations of a slightly retarded-looking bear rescuing the sun from the mean old crocodile (in Russia?), and is in entertainingly translated verse: e.g., Mrs Bear, hunting for her three cubs, laments,

“Oh, my Eddy, Teddy and Pronto!
Where, o where have you gone to!” 

Nice, very nice. Gorgeous book, fearsome illustrations, highly recommended.

Where it came from: Christmas gift
Time and manner of reading: Read to me out loud in bed, barely out of its wrapping paper
Where it went:
Children’s book shelf
Reminds me of/that: —
Who I’d recommend it to:
Fellow kids’ book fans lucky enough to find a copy
Also reading: Rabbit #4; How to Read a Poem by Edward Hirsch;The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon;Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling; The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler

Review: Sándor Márai’s “Embers”

In the twilight of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, two close male friends meet after an absence of 41 years to revisit the demise yet ultimate endurance of their friendship. Essentially a beautifully crafted monologue against a minutely detailed social backdrop, this brief novel delves into the ageing soul of the General, and sets out an exquisite anatomisation of love, betrayal and the desire for revenge. Profound, moving, and so very gloriously written – abundant kudos go to the translator Carol Brown Janeway – this book is a melancholy joy. I had previously read Márai’s La mujer justa (Az igazi, published in English as Portraits of a Marriage) and found it skilful but horrifyingly bleak; I’m so delighted to have finally read his writing in English. Splendid.

Where it came from: KS’s Bookshelf
Time and manner of reading: Two or three most pleasurable, snuck-in-around-the-main-game reads
Where it went: Home
Reminds me of: Oh, the beauty of immaculate writing
Who I’d recommend it to: Readers who want to explore another’s soul
Also reading: Rabbit #4; How to Read a Poem by Edward Hirsch; Selected Essays by George Orwell; The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon; Kalila and Dimna by Ramsey Woods

Review: Anna Funder’s “All That I Am”

A great book. Very elderly Dr Ruth Becker, ageing in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, reflects back on her pre-WWII years, and her resistance work with Dora Fabian, Ernst Toller, Hans Wesseman (her then-husband) and others. A novel based on the real Ruth, Funder again researches thoroughly and writes beautifully, the tale of politics, love and betrayal that has Dora at its heart. May we all cross paths with such women in our lives. A splendid novel, no wonder Funder raked the pool clean of prizes this year: do read it.

Where it came from: AJ’s Bookshelf
Time and manner of reading: Various sound and satisfied reads
Where it went: Home (eventually)
Reminds me of: The loneliness of political persecutees, and their fabulous strength
Who I’d recommend it to: Anyone in need of a damned good book
Also reading: Rabbit #4; How to Read a Poem by Edward Hirsch; Selected Essays by George Orwell; The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon; Kalila and Dimna by Ramsey Woods; Embers by Sándor Márai