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Search tags: 20th-century-england
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review 2018-06-26 18:57
A love story you won't soon forget
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer,Annie Barrows

I struck gold because I didn't think I'd fall so deeply in love with a book so quickly after finishing up The American Way of Death Revisited but then along cameThe Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows & Mary Ann Shaffer. GUYS. This book was a joy to read from start to finish. I gobbled it up in 2 days and then felt absolutely bereft when it was over. If you enjoyed 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff (this is the reason I picked it up) then you will love this book too. Told in letters and telegrams this is the story of a group of people living in a small town in the Channel Islands called Guernsey and their interactions with a Londoner (and writer) named Juliet. Juliet had made her name (except it was actually not her name but a pen name) writing a popular humor column during WWII but at its close (and the beginning of our story) we find her in a bit of a writing rut and looking for her next challenge. This is when she receives a letter from a man in Guernsey who has found a book about Charles Lamb with her name written inside the front cover. This is the beginning of her interest in the place, its people, and its creation of a literary society which saw them through the war and their occupation by German soldiers. While it starts with correspondence between Juliet and Dawsey (the man with the book) it soon blossoms into back-and-forth communication with the other members of the Society (and a few Islanders hellbent on its dissolution). A common thread runs through much of their remembrances of the occupation and the start of the Society and it seems to center around Elizabeth McKenna who while not an Islander came to play a pivotal role in so many of their lives. There were quite a few "WHOA" and "THAT explains it!" moments while reading this book (as well as quite a few tears I ain't gonna lie). I think it's impossible not to fall in love with this book and its characters. 10/10 and absolutely gutted there won't be more books written by Shaffer in the future.

 

PS Someone informed me they adapted this for film and I AM LIVING FOR IT. (Lily James is one of my faves so ya'll know I'm gonna be watching this at my earliest convenience.)

 

What's Up Next: Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan

 

What I'm Currently Reading: I don't even know anymore

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2017-03-29 01:20
I would have been a runaway
Terms & Conditions: Life in Girls' Boarding-Schools, 1939-1979 (Slightly Foxed Editions) - Ysenda Maxtone-Graham

Terms & Conditions: Life in Girls' Boarding Schools, 1939-1979 by Ysenda Maxtone Graham is exactly what I was looking for this week. As the title suggests, this is a non-fiction book about what it was like to attend a boarding school for girls from the years of 1939-79 (in the United Kingdom obviously). The author conducted numerous interviews of women who attended these school who recalled startlingly vivid memories (both ill and pleasant) of their time there. From what it was like to be separated from family at a young age (some incredibly young) to the traumatic recollections of the horrible food they were forced to eat to what really went on when a bunch of hormonal girls were kept sequestered without any boys in sight this is a book that is both informative and interesting. (It's also super funny.) I've read some fanciful stories about what it's like to live in a boarding school but never true accounts from the girls themselves about what actually went on behind those austere facades. (Seriously a ton of them were in manor houses and castles which makes me super jealous.) There are many similarities between the institutions and also some gargantuan differences. For instance, some of the places (Cheltenham for instance) were strict, highly academic, and the girls that left there were more likely to continue into higher education. Others were more practically minded (or obsessed with horses and sports) and the girls that left there were generally encouraged to go to secretarial college and then look for a husband almost immediately after entering the workforce. It's an eye-opening read about what it was like for these upper-crust girls who were sent away by their families and then suppressed by these same people into wanting less for themselves. I highly recommend this not only because it's extremely well-written and researched but also because it's so fascinating comparing it to the way young women of today are educated and their expectations after leaving school. 10/10

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2016-11-19 00:58
Connecting through letters
84, Charing Cross Road (includes The Duchess of Bloomsbury) - Helene Hanff

If you haven't read 84, Charing Cross Road then you MUST GO READ IT IMMEDIATELY. I had never even heard of this book or this author until I read the review of it in SF where my interest was piqued. The book consists of letters sent between Helene who lived in New York and a man named Frank Doel who worked at an antiquarian bookstore called Marks and Co in London. The first letter was sent by Helene in 1949 and their correspondence continued for 20 years. Eventually, other coworkers from the store would start writing letters to Helene and she would develop a friendship with Frank's wife and daughters. I was so moved by these letters. They were real and beautiful. Helene is hilarious and crotchety. Frank comes across as uptight and somewhat aloof (until Helene breaks him of that). The second half of this book which was not a part of the original print...well I don't want to spoil it for you. Let's just say that it was extraordinarily easy for me to see myself in Helene's place. This is a woman that wrote from the heart and it's like...gosh. Ya'll I can't find the words to describe just how much I loved this book. I want to start right back at the beginning and I just closed the back cover. This has high rereadability. (Google tells me that isn't a real word but I refuse to believe that.) Go forth, readers. You won't regret it. 11/10

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2016-10-05 00:40
Masterpost: The Grantchester Mysteries (Books 1-5)
Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death - James Runcie
Sidney Chambers and the Problem of Evil - James Runcie
Sidney Chambers and the Perils of the Night - James Runcie
Sidney Chambers and The Forgiveness of Sins - James Runcie
Sidney Chambers and The Dangers of Temptation (Grantchester) - James Runcie

I kept seeing advertisements for a series on the BBC called Grantchester which is all about a vicar who is a part-time detective. After watching the first season, I knew that I needed to read the books that inspired the show. I waited until I made my way through all the ones that are currently out so I could do a masterpost with my review of the series as a whole. Let's do this!

 

Word on the street (Wikipedia) is that the author, James Runcie, only has one more book planned for this series so this is a great time to get caught up before its release. Each book includes several mysteries other than the one which gives the book its title. It follows Sidney Chambers right after the end of WWII when he has recently become the vicar of Grantchester. Right from the start the reader is made aware that Sidney is not your typical man of the cloth. For one thing, he enjoys whiskey at the pub with his friend Geordie who is a police detective. For another he is massive fan of jazz and sees nothing wrong with going to a boozy club on his day off to enjoy the sultry songs (and the singers). He is also struggling between two opposing sides of his personality because Sidney is a part-time sleuth. The theme running throughout all of the books is this push-and-pull between what Sidney believes is his duty to his flock and his yearning to be where the action is. He justifies his actions as a detective by saying that as a clergyman it is his duty to involved in the lives of his parishioners. It's a shaky argument which pretty much everyone points out to him. Runcie makes some considerable leaps through time between some of the stories so be prepared for that. I found it somewhat jarring because I'm used to mystery series such as Agatha Christie's where the characters can feel like they're living in a bubble. If I had to complain about anything from this series it would probably be that the tone borders on being sanctimonious at times which I felt didn't track with how I viewed the character and so it didn't fit as the tone for the narrative. However, if you want to get outside of your head and sit back with a mystery on a cold night this winter then I recommend you give Runcie's Grantchester Mysteries a shot.

 

The books in the series:

  1. Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death
  2.  
  3. Sidney Chambers and The Perils of the Night
  4.  
  5. Sidney Chambers and The Problem of Evil
  6.  
  7. Sidney Chambers and The Forgiveness of Sins
  8.  
  9. Sidney Chambers and The Dangers of Temptation
Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2016-08-23 23:12
Aspidistra sounds like the name of an alien
Keep the Aspidistra Flying - George Orwell

Since it's been awhile since I read a classic, I thought I'd give Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell a shot. It kept cropping up on my radar and the name alone had me quite intrigued. I went into this blind...even to the extent that I didn't look to see what the heck an Aspidistra was. (I know now though and saw it mentioned fleetingly in Harry Potter so it's definitely super British-y.) For someone who is a huge fan of 1984, this book fell pretty flat. The book follows a man by the name of Gordon Comstock who fancies himself a poet but in reality is little more than a poor bookshop assistant. Right off the bat, I felt that Gordon had 0% likability and his actions made no sense to me whatsoever. At one point, I decided to look up what other people thought of this book because it has a decent rating on Goodreads. Everyone seemed to think that this was a profound story about the struggle against commercialism and "the Man". What I see is the story of a man who is self-destructive, self-absorbed, and annoying. He is constantly picking apart everyone and everything around him in terms of its inherent value to society (there's a really long bit about advertising on different food products which was bizarre). Bottom line: this one wasn't a winner for me. I won't completely discount Mr. Orwell though. I'm sure I'll give him another shot in the future. :-) Also, I'm sorry that this is the second negative review in a row. Sometimes that's just the way the cookie crumbles. 1/10

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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