Thursday, 30 June 2011

Review:- Alice HOFFMAN – “The Ice Queen ”

Year Published: - 2005
Where the book was from:- My own copy (ex-library)
ISBN: - 0 7911 7898 1
Pages: - 211pp
Genre: - General Fiction
Location:- New Jersey / Florida
How I came across it: - Serendipity
Rating: - ***** *****

One sentence summary:- A woman who prefers not to involve herself in the lives of others finds herself becoming a changed person – physically and mentally – after she is struck by lightning.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:- A little girl wishes for something but is devastated when it happens. Ever after she chooses to remain within herself, an icicle for a heart, not involving herself in the doings of others. When she is struck by lightning her whole life changes and against her better judgement she finds herself involved with fellow survivors.

General comments:- A haunting tale of grief, second chances and hidden passions.


Be careful what you wish for. I know that for a fact. Wishes are brutal, unforgiving things. They burn your tongue the moment they’re spoken and you can never taken them back.

To hell with human beings. I’d always felt safer with stories than with flesh and blood.

People hide their truest natures. I understood that; I even applauded it. What sort of world would it be if people bled all over the sidewalks, if they wept under trees, smacked whomever they despised, kissed strangers, revealed themselves? Keep a cloak, that was fine, the thing to do; present a disguise, the outside you, the one you want people to believe.

The truth was, I didn’t want to interfere. Why should it be up to me to touch anyone’s life, guide someone right rather than left, off the road instead of on? Who knows where your advice, interest, love, might lead?

Looking at the box, I realized I couldn’t let go; not even of this. I’d been that way all my life, holding on tight. I couldn’t let go of anything. Except for the things that mattered most.

AUTHOR Notes:- Alice Hoffman (born March 16, 1952) is an American novelist and young-adult and children's writer, best known for her 1996 novel Practical Magic, which was adapted for a 1998 film of the same name. Many of her works fall into the genre of magic realism and contain elements of magic, irony, and non-standard romances and relationships.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Review:- DAVID DICKINSON – “Death in a Scarlet Coat ”

Year Published: - 2011
Where the book was from:- Pensby Library
ISBN: - 978-1-84901-459-5
Pages: - 342pp
Genre: - Historical crime
Location:- English counties, 1909
How I came across it: - Trying to catch up with this series
Rating: - ***** ****

One sentence summary:- Lord Powerscourt investigates the mysterious death of aster of the Hunt, Lord Candlesby, who arrived at the opening hunt of the season as a corpse draped across the back of his horse.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:- When Lord Candlesby arrives at the Hunt meeting dead only three people see the body and to avoid fuss the doctor is pressured into declaring it to be death by natural causes. In practice his death is caused by something far from natural and identifying what killed him is almost as hard as finding out whodunit. The Earl had so many enemies that Powerscourt is spoiled for choice when he is asked to start investigating.

General comments:- I think David Dickinson’s Powerscourt series is among the best historical fiction I have read. Whilst this was not the best of the series – and the culprit slightly predictable – it was nevertheless a most enjoyable read.

I am surprised that I have only read one of the Lord Francis Powerscourt Series since I started this blog – Death on a Holy Mountain. Prior to that I had read
1. Goodnight, Sweet Prince (2002)
3. Death of an Old Master (2004)
4. Death of a Chancellor (2004)
5. Death Called to the Bar (2006)
I therefore want to read -
2. Death and the Jubilee (2002)
6. Death on the Nevskii Prospekt (2006)
8. Death of a Pilgrim (2009)
9. Death of a Wine Merchant (2010)

Youth is always at a premium in the House of Lords. You know, people who can stand up unaided, walk without sticks, eat with their own teeth, that sort of thing.

Then he noticed that Disraeli had written some novels. That put a black mark against him in Richard’s book. Men should not write such things. If they had to be written, surely it was a job for a woman. Far better that they should not be written at all.

After a couple of days Lady Lucy would ask them about the men they had loved, the men they had married, the men they wished they had married, the men they wished they had never seen.

AUTHOR Notes:- see Death on a Holy Mountain

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Review:- Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu – “Uncle Silas ”

Year Published: - 1864
Where the book was from:- My own copy
ISBN: - 978 1 84022 171 8
Pages: - 418pp
Genre: - Victorian Gothic mystery
Location:- Derbyshire
How I came across it: - Reading Victorian literature
Rating: - ***** *****

One sentence summary:- A dramatic and suspenseful account of a young heiress who ends up in the care of her reclusive Uncle Silas, a man once accused of murder.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:-
Young Maud Ruthyn is fascinated by her Uncle Silas but her father will tell nothing about him and forbids his name to be mentioned. Nevertheless, her father is one of the few convinced of his brother’s innocence and it is for his youthful lifestyle that he has been ostracised. Her father employs a terrifying French woman as Maud’s tutor and her life is made Hell for a while. Then circumstances put her in her Uncle’s household and more chilling things happen – deceit, greed and terror but who is doing the deceit is not obvious. Is Uncle Silas the villain or the hero. Only the denouement will make clear..

General comments:- A real page-turner, suspenseful. A tale of entertainment with a rattling good plot and wonderful use of atmosphere and characterisation.


It was winter – that is, about the second week in November – and great gusts were rattling at the windows, and wailing and thundering among our tall trees and ivied chimneys – a very dark night, and a very cheerful fire blazing, a pleasant mixture of good round coal and spluttering dry wood, in a genuine old fireplace, in a sombre old room. (The opening sentence).

There is no dealing with great sorrow as if it were under the control of our wills. It is a terrible phenomenon, whose laws we must study, and to whose conditions we must submit, if we would mitigate it… One of the terrible dislocations of our habits of mind respecting the dead is that our earthly future is robbed of them, and we are thrown exclusively on retrospect. From the long look forward they are removed, and every plan, imagination, and hope henceforth is a silent and empty perspective. But in the past they are all they ever were. Now let me advise all who would comfort people in anew bereavement to talk to them, very freely, all they can, in the way of the dead. They will engage in it with interest, they will talk of their own recollections of the dead, and listen to yours, though they become sometimes pleasant, even laughable. I found it so. It robbed the calamity of something of its supernatural and horrible abruptness….

So till tea-time I had poor Mary Quince, with her gushes of simple prattle and her long fits of vacant silence, for my companion. And such a one who can con over by rote the old friendly gossip about the dead, talk about their ways, and looks, and likings, without much psychological refinement, but with simple admiration and liking that never measured them critically, but always with faith and lo9ve, is in a general about as comfortable a companion as one can find for the common moods of grief.

It was now the stormy equinoctial weather that sounds the wild dirge of autumn, and marches the winter in…

Of course, a young lady of a well-regulated mind cannot possibly care a pin about anyone of the opposite sex until she is well assured that he is beginning, at least, to like her better than all the world beside; but I could not deny to myself that I was rather anxious to know more about Lord Ilbury than I actually did know.

For my part, I really can’t see the advantage of being the weaker sex if we are always to be strong as our masculine neighbours.

AUTHOR Notes:- Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu (28 August 1814 – 7 February 1873) was an Irish writer of Gothic tales and mystery novels. He was the premier ghost story writer of the nineteenth century and had a seminal influence on the development of this genre in the Victorian era.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Review:- Hilary MANTEL – “Fludd”

Year Published: - 1989
Where the book was from:- My own copy
Pages: - 186pp
Genre: - General Fiction, Comedy, Religion, Fantasy
Location:- A fictitious Derbyshire village
How I came across it: - Serendipity
Rating: - ***** **

One sentence summary:- The arrival of a new Roman Catholic curate in the 1950s Derbyshire village of Fetherhoughton causes a variety of mysterious changes, one might almost say miracles, to occur.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:- Father Angwin is a recalcitrant old bugger whose defiance of the Bishop appears to come to an end when he removes a host of statues from the church at the Bishop’s request. In the nearby convent Sister ‘Purpiture’ (i.e., Perpetua) is happily wielding her cane among the schoolchildren and her prodding forefinger among the nuns. Then along comes Fludd…

General comments:- ‘Fludd’ has sat for some years now on my ‘to be read’ shelf (and at times relegated to the ‘to be read’ boxes in the loft). At last I have got around to reading it. I can’t imagine what took me so long. At times hilarious, always mysterious, there is a moral in the tale somewhere. I think it is that love can transcend all, even in the darkest and strangest of universes.


The first event of autumn was the snowfall that blocked the pass that led through the moors to Yorkshire; this was generally accounted a good thing.

…the women liked to stand on their doorsteps. This standing was what they did. Recreational pursuits were for men: football, billiards, keeping hens.

Mother Perpetua would tell the children, with her famous, dangerously sweet smile: “We have no objection to Protestants worshipping God in their own way. But we Catholics prefer to worship Him in his.”

Purpit was a stumpy woman, of middle years – it is not proper to speculate about the exact age of nuns.

When Father Angwin saw the holes…he said to himself…if God knows our ends, why cannot he prevent them… Then he remembered that he did not believe in God…

In considering the life of Christ, there is something that has often made me wonder, did the man who owned the Gadarene swine get compensation?

And if you can accept the preposterous notion of a living creator who gives a bugger about every sparrow that falls, why jib at the rest of it? Why jib at rosaries and relics and fasting and abstinence? Why swallow a camel and strain at a gnat?

Up there (in Netherhoughton) they were still gossiping about the Abdication; not that of Edward VIII, but that of James II.

Christ died to free us from the burden of our sin, but he never, so far as she could see, lifted a finger to free us from our stupidity.

AUTHOR Notes:- Hilary Mantel was born inHadfield, Derbyshire, in 1952 and spent her early years at the same village school as her mother and grandmother. She then went to a Cheshire convent school (which obviously gave her much material for ‘Fludd’), the LSE and Sheffield University. She lived in Africa and the Middle East for ten years and published her first novel ‘Every Day is Mother’s Day’ in 1985. ‘Fludd’ was awarded the Winifred Holtby Prize, the Cheltenham Festival Prize and the Southern Arts Literature Award.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Review:- Margaret ATWOOD – “The Penelopiad”

Year Published: - 2005
Where the book was from:- Mine - Library book sale
ISBN: - 978 1 84195 704 3
Pages: - 200pp
Genre: - Historical Fiction / Mythology
Location:- Greek kingdom of Ithica – circa 12th Century BC
How I came across it: - Serendipity
Rating: - ***** *

One sentence summary:- Penelope, now many centuries dead, speaks from the Underworld to tell her side of the story of the return of Odysseus from the Trojan Wars.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:- According to Greek mythology, Penelope, the wife of Odysseus, spent many years waiting for her husband to return from the Trojan Wars. He was too busy fighting Cyclops, making love to Goddesses, etc. to make his way straight home. His faithful wife, already upset that Odysseus had been lured off to war by the behaviour of her beautiful but wayward cousin Helen, then had to fight off a bunch of greedy and aggressive suitors who claimed Odysseus was dead.
The story is told from the modern day Underworld where Penelope is at last trying to set the record straight.

General comments:- I should have preferred Penelope to have spoken out straight away rather than wait for the modern era to do so. The reference by Penelope to waste-paper baskets when one comes across it on page 17 seems totally anachronistic.
Margaret Atwood is not to my taste and so far as I can recall this is the first of her books I’ve ever managed to finish. Her book sales run into millions so I am probably in the minority!


Now that I am dead I know everything. This is what I wished would happen, but like so many of my wishes it failed to come true., I know only a few factoids that I didn’t know before. Death is much too high a price to pay for the satisfaction of curiosity, needless to say.

The teaching of crafts to girls has fallen out of fashion now, I understand, but luckily it had not in my day. It’s always an advantage to have something to do with your hands. That way, if someone makes an inappropriate remark, you can pretend you haven’t heard it. Then you don’t have to answer.

AUTHOR Notes:- Margaret Eleanor Atwood, CC, O.Ont, FRSC (born November 18, 1939) is a Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, and environmental activist. She is among the most-honoured authors of fiction in recent history; she is a winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award and Prince of Asturias award for Literature, has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize five times, winning once, and has been a finalist for the Governor General's Award seven times, winning twice.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Catching Up

A note of some of the books I have read during the last few months:-

Anthony TROLLOPE – Ralph the Heir (Re-read; first read about 2004) - ***** *** (Comedy, politics and social criticism combine in this 1871 ‘novel of Trollope’s maturity’.)

Anthony TROLLOPE – The Two Clerks (Kindle Edition) ***** (Poorest Trollope I have ever read.)

Anthony TROLLOPE – The Way we Live Now ***** **** (Wonderful social satire from 1874/5)

Jane AUSTEN – Persuasion
***** *** (First time I have read this so far as I can recall. I certainly didn’t read it about six years ago when I had a spell of reading Victorian classics)

David Stuart DAVIES – Short Stories from the Nineteenth Century (978-1-84022-407-8) (Stories by Dickens, Hardy, Trollope, Doyle, Wells, Gaskell, Collins, Stoker, de Maupassant, Chekhov, Gilman, Lamb, O. Henry and Wilde.) Quote from Davies’s introduction – “Human nature with its nobility, its foibles, its reactions to love, death, fear and hate does not change, whether one wears a crinoline or a mini-skirt; and that’s what gives power to these stories.”

Michael D Everett "Victorian London Street Life" ***** *** 1986 0 906 933 05 6 64pp

Jules Verne "Around the world in eighty days" ***** * 1873 978 1 85326 090 2 161pp Re-read for the umpteenth time.

Mrs Henry Wood – East Lynne ***** **** 1860/1 978 0 19 953603 0 645pp

Mary Elizabeth Braddon – The Doctor's Wife ***** *** 1864 978 0 19 954980 1 431p

Michael MacIlwee – The Gangs of Liverpool ***** ** 2006 9781903 854600 262pp

Margaret Oliphant – Hester ***** **** 1883

Margaret Oliphant – Miss Marjoriebanks ***** **** 1866

Charles Dickens – Our Mutual Friend ***** *** 1864/

Charles Dickens – Dombey & Son ***** ***** 1846/8 (The best Dickens I have read –and will undoubtedly be one of my books of the year.)

There are a few more that I have since put in the loft without making a note of them. Once retrieved I shall bring the list up to date and hopefully shall not be so lax in the future. My aim is to return to doing proper reviews, however brief, of each book as it is read.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Review:- Helen EXLEY – “Wisdom for our Times”

Year Published: - 1999
Where the book was from:- Jo’s (a gift from me)
ISBN: - 1-86187-514-2
Pages: - 138pp
Genre: - Non-fiction - Quotations, words of wisdom.
Location:- -
How I came across it: - Serendipity
Rating: - ***** ****

One sentence summary:- A delightful giftbook – each quotation having a beautiful picture accompanying it.

General comments:- It would have got ten stars but for one thing: the illustrations are listed at the back by page number but the pages themselves are not numbered. You therefore have to find an illustration you know and work forwards / backwards to identify any particular picture.

AUTHOR Notes:- Helen Exley has selected and arranged a number of similar gift books. See Our average book, since we began over 3o years ago has sold over 150,000 copies. Four of our titles have sold over a million books and over fifty of our titles have sold over half a million copies. These numbers are important to us, because the whole raison d'etre of our business is to make a change in as many people's lives as we can. "My aim is to help families communicate, to find the words which they can use to express their love for those who are close to them", says Helen Exley. Very often the message of the books is simply, "I love You, and "Thank you for all that you are and have given to me."

Thursday, 16 June 2011

2010 – A Belated Summary

During 2010 I read 125 fiction and 32 non-fiction; a total of 157 books (assuming I didn’t fail to record any). That is an increase of 47 on the year 2009 - perhaps my being laid up after my triple bypass had a little to do with it but even so I am amzed at such a great increase.

My Book of the Year was –
Peter MARREN (author) & Richard MABEY (editor) – “Bugs Britannica”

My Top Ten Fiction of the Year (Not counting books re-read like the Discworld series and Barchester Chronicles):-

David DICKINSON – “Death on the Holy Mountain”
Sam SAVAGE – “Firmin”
Rachel KING – “The Sound of Butterflies”
Elliot PATTISON – “Water Touching Stone”
Terry PRATCHETT - "I Shall Wear Midnight"
Paul ADAM – “Sleeper”
Ann GRANGER – “A Rare Interest in Corpses”
Ariana FRANKLIN – “Mistress of the Art of Death”
Marina LEWYCKA – “A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian”
Richard DOYLE – “Flood”

My Top Ten Non-fiction of the Year

Peter MARREN (author) & Richard MABEY (editor) – “Bugs Britannica”
Matthew HART – “The Irish Game”
David ATTENBOROUGH et al – “Amazing Rare Things”
P J Harris 'The Movers and Shakers of Victorian England'
Fred H Crossley "Cheshire"
Henry Kelsall Aspinall 'Birkenhead and its surroundings'
James McCLINTOCK – “The Stonehenge Companion”
Aubrey MALONE - "Literary Trivia"
Tadg FARRINGTON – “The Average Life of the Average Person”
Wilson, D M & Wilson C J “Edward Wilson’s Nature Notebooks”

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Review:- Wilkie COLLINS – “The Moonstone”

Year Published: - 1868
Where the book was from:- My own copy
ISBN: - 978-1-85326-044-5
Pages: - 438pp
Genre: - Crime
Location:- England
How I came across it: - Reading Victorian literature
Rating: - ***** *****

One sentence summary:- Sometimes described as ‘the first ever modern detective story’ the plot concerns the search by the phlegmatic Sergeant Cuff for a missing diamond – the Moonstone.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:-
The Moonstone is a priceless Indian diamond, stolen from its rightful place in an Indian temple and brought to England where it is given to Rachel Verrinder on her eighteenth birthday. Promptly stolen, the suspects include Rachel’s cousin Franklin Blake, a troupe of Indian jugglers, a housemaid, and even Rachel herself. Sergeant Cuff is called in and with the help of Betteridge the elderly household steward the mystery is finally solved.

General comments:-
Mum always recommended this as a ‘good read’ and yet it is only with my search to understand Victorian literature that I have finally picked it up and read it. I was suitably rewarded. It is an excellent read and the plot transcends time.


There’s a bottom of good sense, Mr Franklin, in our conduct to our mothers, when they first start us on the journey of life. We are all of us more or less unwilling to be brought into the world. And we are all of us right.

What more could I possibly want to make me happy? Remember what Adam wanted when he was alone in the Garden of Eden; and if you don’t blame it on Adam, don’t blame it on me.

On hearing these dreadful words, my daughter Penelope said she didn’t know what prevented her heart from flying straight out of her. I thought privately that it might have been her stays.

The upshot of it was, that Rosanna Spearman had been a thief, and not being of the sort that get up Companies in the City, and rob from thousands, instead of only robbing from one, the law laid hold of her, and the prison and the reformatory followed the lead of the law.

Many men, many opinions, as one of the ancients said before my time.

A young lady’s tongue is a privileged member…

Her mouth and chin were (to quote Mr Franklin) morsels for the gods; and her complexion (on the same undeniable authority) was as warm as the sun itself, with this great advantage over the sun, that it was always in nice order to look at

…when they jumped from their saddles (without waiting to be helped), I declare they bounced on the ground as if they were made of india-rubber. Everything the Miss Ablewhites said began with a large ‘O’; everything they did was done with a bang; and they giggled and screamed, in season and out of season, on the smallest provocation. Bouncers – that’s what I call them.

A drop of tea is to a woman’s tongue what a drop of oil is to a wasting lamp.
People in high life have all the luxuries to themselves – among others, the luxury of indulging their feelings. People in low life have no such privilege. Necessity, which spares our betters, has no pity on us. We learn to put our feelings back into ourselves, and to jog on with our duties as patiently as possible

Let you faith be as your stockings, and your stockings as your faith. Both ever spotless, and both ready to be put on at a moment’s notice!

AUTHOR Notes:- Wilkie Collins (8 January 1824 – 23 September 1889) was a London-born, English novelist, playwright, and author of short stories. He was very popular during the Victorian era and wrote 30 novels, more than 60 short stories, 14 plays, and over 100 non-fiction pieces. His best-known works are The Woman in White, The Moonstone, Armadale and No Name.

Collins predicted the deterrence concept of mutually assured destruction that defined the Cold War nuclear era. Writing at the time of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 he stated, "I begin to believe in only one civilising influence - the discovery one of these days of a destructive agent so terrible that War shall mean annihilation and men's fears will force them to keep the peace."

Monday, 13 June 2011

Review:- Muriel BARBERY – “The Elegance of the Hedgehog”

(Translated Alison Anderson)
Year Published: - 2006 in France as L’élégance du Hérisson
Where the book was from:- A Christmas gift
ISBN: - 978-1-906040-18-5
Pages: - 320pp
Genre: - General Fiction
Location:- Paris
How I came across it: - Read a blog review
Rating: - ***** *****

One sentence summary:- The concierge of a block of wealthy person’s flats lets us in on a little secret – despite her dowdy appearance, peasant background and grumpy manners she’s an autodidact who has found an ideal hiding place. Meanwhile (OK that’s two sentences!) a twelve year old would-be suicide in one of the flats is trying to find a purpose in life.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:- Renée, the fifty plus concierge of a Parisian apartment block, is a widow and appears to the residents as a typical example of her genre – uneducated, miserable and uncultivated. Once her door is closed and the TV is blasting away as her means of convincing them they are right (whilst she hides in her quiet back room) she enjoys her passions of art, culture, literature and the examination of the human condition. Her only friend is a Portuguese immigrant – an aristocrat by nature if not birth - who cleans a couple of the flats and shares tea with her. After many years thus hidden away she finds her mask slipping and begins to make a few mistakes which cause her employers to regard her in a new light. Fortunately a concierge only merits a momentary second thought so the slips are not too much of a problem at first.
In one of the posh flats above Renée, a twelve year old girl, Paloma Josse, has decided that the futility of life merits her ending it on her thirteenth birthday – and setting fire to the flat in the process.

Then the death of one of the privileged residents causes a revolution at number 7 Rue de Grenelle. (Grenelle means wooded area where rabbits live – no coincidence I feel).

General comments:- I defy anyone to read this book without being deeply moved. The skilful portrayal of humans with all their failings and the philosophy suggests there may be redemption to be found in literature, culture and, above all, human relationships. Just may be!
The translator, Alison Anderson, deserves a mention for the skill with which she has captured some of the original concepts without making them seem obviously translated and without losing anything of the


People aim for the stars and they end up like goldfish in a bowl. I wonder if it wouldn’t be simpler just to teach children right from the start that life is absurd.

Olympe takes a breath before reaching the best part of the story – ‘she displayed mildly haemorrhagic urine!’ Dear God, this is good. If she had said, There was blood in her pee, the story would have been over in no time. But Olympe, cloaking her cat doctor’s uniform with emption, has also adopted the terminology,. I have always found great delight in in hearing people speak like this…

And on the way home I thought pity the poor in spirit who know neither the enchantment nor the beauty of language.

I untie the string and tear the paper. It’s a book, a fine edition bound in navy-blue leather of a coarse texture that is very wahi. In Japanese wahi means ‘an understated form of beauty, a quality of refinement masked by rustic simplicity’. I’m not really sure what this means but this binding is most definitely wahi.

As far as I can see, only psychoanalysts can compete with Christians in their love of drawn-out suffering.

I still find it very difficult to believe that florists and hairdressers are not parasites, the former living off nature, which belongs to everyone, the latter performing with an outlandish amount of play-acting and smelly products a task which I can expedite in my own bathroom with a pair of well-shaped scissors.

Fine lingerie is already an interesting name. What else would it be – coarse lingerie? Anyway, what it means, in fact, is sexy lingerie; you won’t find your grandmother’s sturdy old cotton drawers in a place like this.

For the first time in my life I understood the meaning of the word ‘never’. And it’s really awful. You say the word a hundred times a day but you don’t really know what you’re saying until you’re faced with a real ‘never again’.

- Muriel Barbery was born in 1969. Barbery entered the École Normale Supérieure de Fontenay-Saint-Cloud in 1990 and obtained her agrégation in philosophy in 1993. She then taught philosophy at the Université de Bourgogne, in a lycée, and at the Saint-Lô IUFM (teacher training college). L'Élégance du hérisson was her second novel. The first, Une Gourmandise, which appeared in Anderson's English translation as Gourmet Rhapsody in 2009 also briefly featured Renee. L'Élégance du hérisson (translated into English by Alison Anderson as The Elegance of the Hedgehog) topped the French best-seller lists for 30 consecutive weeks and was reprinted 50 times. It has sold over 2 million copies.

Kindles and things...

I haven't posted properly about the books I've read for months. I haven't even laisted the last few months though hopefully that will be remedied when I fiond where I put the lost! Until yesterday virtually all I had been reading was Nineteenth Century novels or non-fiction about the Victorian age. I branched out yesterday and read "The Elegance of the Hedgehog". It has really whetted my appetite for returning to the 21st Century.

Despite loving the feel and look of books I bought a Kindle back in February. Apart from all the known advantages the big one for me is the cheap and easy access to books which are no longer available, even second-hand. For years there have been a few Anthony Trollope books that I've wanted to read but haven't been able to get hold of them. Even the British Library doesn't have lending copies. Some of them could have been downloaded onto my computer but I don't think I could happily read a book on my computer – especially when I spend so much time on it doing other things. And now, at last I can access them all. And the price is ridiculous. I've just paid less than £5.00 for over 90 books.