Review catch up May 2016


Elizabeth von Arnim by J. Burlinson – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Weeks have passed, visits made, eye zapped, cataract operation,  sprained ankle and many books listened to but no blog produced. As a result I am making this a review catch up.

Books on audio (in no particular order)

Elizabeth and her German Garden by Elizabeth von Arnim narrated by Nadia May.

First published in 1898 this is a witty and insightful account of the author’s life in Pomerania at her husband’s rural castle. She fills her time planning her much loved garden and playing with her three baby daughters. She calls her husband The Man of Wrath and draws some ironic and vivid pictures of the comings and goings of her home. Her husband considers her to be eccentric!

Her feminist views are delivered with a delightful lightness of touch. After her German husband’s death she returned to England and became Countess Russell. Wonderful book and one I would take to the desert island! I would like to have a printed version with illustrations and botanical information.

Troubles by J.G.Farrell narrated by Sean Barrett, first published in 1970. This fairly short novel concerns the story of an army officer who, after WW1, goes to Ireland to marry a fiancée he barely knows. Her family own a once grand and fashionable hotel in County Wexford which is now dilapidated and failing. Funny and melancholy by turns this novel demonstrates the shocking events which took place during The Troubles.

The Living and the Dead in Winsford by Hakan Nesser narrated in a Swedish accent by Jennifer Vuletic. Set in Sweden and Exmoor this gloomy psychological thriller is a page turner. Well written and well read.

The Balkan Trilogy: Great Fortune, Spoilt City and Friends and Heroes by Olivia Manning narrated by Harriet Walter. Published in 1960. These three novels have become a classic account of the creeping occupation of the Balkans by the Nazis. Newly married Guy and Harriet Pringle arrive in Bucharest, Romania in the baking hot summer of 1939. Guy immediately immerses himself in the academic life of the University and simultaneously the couple are drawn into the colourful social and political life in the city. This is a vivid and intelligent series of novels about love, war and people who don’t belong. Also made into a tv series called Fortunes of War with Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh. This was a re-read and even better than the first time. Harriet Walters’ interpretation is perfect.

Black Water Rising by Attica Locke narrated by Jeff Harding. Set in Houston in 1981 this is a political thriller featuring struggling lawyer Jay Porter and covering city and corporate corruption, black power and family obligation. Good to find a new writer.

As well as a lot of listening I also attended the Cambridge Literary Festival. We were lucky enough to attend two sessions in the Cambridge Union and one in the Fitzwilliam Museum.

Was pleased to surprise g/s by going to hear poet and rapper, Akala, talk, rap and read his poetry in his Hip Hop Shakespeare presentation. The session started with a quotation quiz on which quote was from a rapper and which from Shakespeare. Clever and dazzling. Link to video.

The other two sessions were an inconclusive debate on whether Labour is too left wing to be elected and Claire Harman talking about her interesting book on Charlotte Brontë, Charlotte Bronte: A Life.

Whew, that about wraps it up for now.

One of my favourite occupations is daydreaming about which book I would take if I were stranded on a desert island. As I have said earlier, for now I think it would be Elizabeth’s German Garden, so that I could conjure up tulips, roses, pine trees and the frozen Baltic Sea.

If you could choose one book to take to your desert island, which would it be (you would also be allowed the Bible and the Complete Works of Shakespeare)? I would love to hear your choices.

This entry was posted in Audio books, Cheltenham, Family, Literature, Reviews, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Review catch up May 2016

  1. Sarah says:

    I just read Elizabeth Von Arnim’s ‘The Enchanted April’ and it was wonderful. I’ve already got a copy of ‘Elizabeth and her German garden’ in the wings, and from your review it sounds like that’ll be just as divine!

  2. Thanks, Sarah. Elizabeth and her German Garden is even better than Enchanted April so I hope you enjoy it.

  3. Liz Dexter says:

    Am I allowed the Complete Works of Iris Murdoch on my desert island? If not, then probably “A Suitable Boy” by Vikram Seth.

  4. Hmm! I think the complete works of Iris Murdoch is a bit of a stretch unless you can get them all into one volume. Like the idea of A Suitable Boy. Good choice,s, Liz. Knowing how much you that must have been a difficult decision.

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