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
Read by Kim A: Corporate lawyer waked up from an accident with amnesia and injuries. Rediscovering who he was and realising his wife is a bitch, and his career has gone stale and stagnant. Only in the last 10% of the book was character turning his life around though (the blurb seemed to indicate this would be a greater proportion of the story).
For if the devil's in the detail, I'm the devil's ghost-writer, typing cautionary tales in font so small they're rendered invisible. You can barely see them and when you do it's too late.
I have been wanting to read this book for a little while. This is one of those books that I knew I would love even before I started reading it. When I finished it I was mad at myself that I hadn't read it sooner.
Frank is a lawyer whose job it is to write terms and conditions for all kinds of contracts. Frank gets into a car crash and after the crash gets amnesia. This book shows you just how Frank deals with his amnesia and all the many terms and conditions of his life.
I really liked Frank right from the start of the book. I just loved his sense of humor. Frank is as clueless about his life as readers are in the beginning. I felt bad for him that he couldn't remember anything and because it seemed like something had happened that no one was telling him about. Once he started to remember everything that had happened I liked him even more.
I felt this book had great secondary characters as well. Whether I loved or hated a character, I still found myself wanting to read about them. I especially loved Doug and Malcolm, but maybe that is because they were the nicest to Frank.
I don't want to spoil anything for anyone wanting to read this but I wasn't really shocked with what was revealed when Frank started remembering everything. It was a bit predictable (but that didn't stop me from enjoying it). I was very pleased with where Frank ended up at the end. I didn't want the book to end but since it had to end, that was a really good ending.
There's a particular sub-type of English male you see in quite a few books and movies. It's the man who apologizes when somebody else bumps into him, who always lets other people have their way, who never complains. Frank Shaw is one of those men; he describes himself as the "great capitulator."
As we begin reading, though, Frank doesn't even know that much about himself, because he's been in a terrible car accident, suffered a traumatic brain injury and doesn't remember anything. The slim, sophisticated woman, Alice, who says she's his wife, and the fat, smug man, Oscar, who says he's Frank's older brother--well, neither one rings a bell. But Oscar not only has amnesia, he has synesthesia, where the sight of people and certain objects triggers sounds, colors, smells and strong emotions.
That nasty, rancid green smell around Oscar. What's that about? When Frank is recovering at home and Alice is back to work at her corporate striver's position at a human resources consultancy firm, what does it mean that the sight of a box of books titled Executive X, written by Alice, enrages him, or that finding a jar with a preserved pinkie floating inside of it fills him with elation?
Soon enough, though Frank still can't remember the day of his car accident and has some other big holes in his memory, he's able to return to work at the family law firm, where Oscar is the managing partner. Frank writes contracts for a living. His particular specialty is writing the fine print that nobody ever reads--which is a good thing for their clients, because Frank's fine print, or Terms & Conditions, stitch up the client's customer but good. No matter how comforting that insurance policy may sound to the covered person, Frank's Ts & Cs will make sure the insurance company makes its profits.
It's not that Frank no longer appreciates a cleverly-written set of Ts & Cs, but as he sees Oscar taking on a new client whose business repulses Frank, and as shards of memories begin to pierce the fog of amnesia, he questions everything he's been told about his life, his state of mind before the accident and what really happened.
As Frank pieces together the individual memories that return to him, and finds a few sympathetic characters to talk to, he sees that the Terms & Conditions of his own life are at least as good at stitching him up as anything he could have written. Can an expert crafter of Ts &Cs become just as skilled at destroying them?
This is a darkly comic, clever story of how the great capitulator type can be transformed by the clean, clear taste and smell of anger and outrage. Robert Glancy uses fine-print footnotes to tell important bits of the story. Sometimes there are footnotes upon footnotes, until you're reading what looks to me like about 6-point type. One chapter, titled Terms & Conditions of Sex, consists of a half-line-long sentence and three pages of footnotes.
But this isn't just an entertaining book with a clever gimmick. It's funny, touching, and sometimes discomforting in its evocation of just how soul-deadening a corporate paper-pushing job can be. In just 250 pages, but with plenty of gusto, Glancy thoroughly skewers the amorality of modern corporate life and the greedy grubbers for money and power. Frank's tortuous and poignant path to recovery leads him to rediscover things about himself and others that he'd lost long before his accident.
Glancy is a new voice in fiction with an inventive, engaging and lively writing style. I'll be keeping an eye out for his next book.
Note: Thanks to the publisher, Bloomsbury USA, and Amazon's Vine program for providing an advance reviewing copy. Terms & Conditions is scheduled to be published in the US on April 22, 2014.