‘The dress circle’ and ‘Dog days and Glenn Miller nights’ by Laurie Graham

Two titles by Laurie Graham which I’ve recently read…

Dog days

 

Dog days, Glenn Miller nights

‘They like it if you’re marvellous for your age. If you can’t be that, they want you down Plaistow Crematorium, not hanging about here, taking up bus seats.’ So says Bernie Gibbs, living on her memories on the seventh floor of an East End high-rise. Her diet is mainly chocolate bars and she yearns for action, or at least for the re-opening of the old Imperial Dance Hall, where she used to have good times. One of her ex-husbands, Jimmy Dwyer, turns up from nowhere with a greyhound that needs a temporary home, then disappears again. Seeing Jimmy revives memories of the War, when Birdie and her friends did their bit. She still does her bit today, though the world around her doesn’t make much sense.When the Fruit Bowl Estate boils over in the scorching summer of ’95, Birdie gets all the action she can handle.

This is full of fun, short and so well written.

The dress circle…Dress

Bob and Ba live in happy prosperity. But on a Caribbean holiday to celebrate Bob’s 50th birthday, Ba begins to suspect that all is not well. Her suspicions are confirmed when she discovers that Bob is a cross-dresser.

Charming little book and her writing is superb.

Helena

Request the titles here

What were we reading in 1974?

Dersingham Library has just celebrated its 40th birthday. To remind everyone of what was happening in the world of popular reading, we called in a selection of the hottest reads of 1974. What have you read? What would you try now?

 

JongFear of flying by Erica Jong

Compulsive daydreamer Isadora Wing doesn’t want much – just to be free and to find the perfect, guiltless, zipless sexual encounter.

Pursuing this ideal across two continents, she discovers just how hard it can be to make one’s dreams come true.

Though Isadora fears flying (in all possible senses), she forces herself to keep travelling, risking her marriage and even her life for her own special brand of liberation. This intensely witty and exuberant novel is about how she achieves her freedom and loses her fear.

Request a copy here

 

rats

 

Rats by James Herbert

It was only when the bones of the first devoured victims were discovered that the true nature and power of these swarming black creatures with their razor sharp teeth and the taste for human blood began to be realised by a panic-stricken city.

For millions of years man and rats had been natural enemies. But now for the first time – suddenly, shockingly, horribly – the balance of power had shifted.

Request a copy here

 

AliveAlive by Piers Paul Read

‘Alive‘ tells the true story of a group of plane crash survivors. Weakened by starvation, extreme cold, and by the awful knowledge that the search for them had been called off, the survivors had to eat the flesh of their dead companions to survive.

Request a copy here

 

Carrie

Carrie by Stephen King

Carrie White is no ordinary girl. Carrie White has the gift of telekinesis. To be invited to Prom Night by Tommy Ross is a dream come true for Carrie – the first step towards social acceptance by her high school colleagues. But events will take a decidedly macabre turn on that horrifying and endless night as she is forced to exercise her terrible gift on the town that mocks and loathes her .

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JawsJaws by Peter Benchley

It was just another day in the life of a small Atlantic resort until the terror from the deep came to prey on unwary holiday makers. The first sign of trouble – a warning of what was to come – took the form of a young woman’s body, or what was left of it, washed up on the long, white stretch of beach . . . A summer of terror has begun. Peter Benchley’s JAWS first appeared in 1974. It has sold over twenty million copies around the world, creating a legend that refuses to die – it’s never safe to go back in the water .

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Judy Blume – BlubberBlubber

Blubber is a thick layer of fat that lies under the skin and over the muscles of whales . . . When Linda innocently reads out her class project, everyone finds it funny. Linda can’t help it if she’s fat, but what starts as a joke leads to a sustained and cruel ritual of humiliation. Jill knows she should defend Linda, but at first she’s too scared. When she eventually stands up to the bullies, she becomes their next victim – and what’s worse, Linda is now on their side .

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AscentThe ascent of man by Jacob Bronowski

This book traces our rise, both as a species and as moulders of our own environment and future. Covering invention, from the flint tool to the theory of relativity, it demonstrates man’s ability to understand nature and to control it.

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A commonplace killing by Sian Busby

BusbyInterestingly written by late wife of Robert Peston who died before finishing novel so he finished it for her.

On a damp July morning in 1946, two schoolboys find a woman’s body in a blitzed churchyard in Holloway, north London. The woman is identified as Lillian Frobisher, who lived with her family in a drab, bomb-damaged house a couple of streets away. She had been strangled and left on a pile of rubble with her clothes and handbag apparently in tact. The police assume that Lil must have been the random victim of an ex-serviceman looking for a cheap thrill; but the autopsy finds no evidence of sexual assault.

Quite dark and dreary but I enjoyed it. We’ll written and evocative of the age. Her 5th book, all very different apparently.

Helena

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A hologram for the king by Dave Eggers

HologramI picked this up after reading his latest book, The Circle. This is very different, but I was hooked from the first page.

In a rising Saudi Arabian city, far from weary, recession-scarred America, a struggling businessman pursues a last-ditch attempt to stave off foreclosure, pay his daughter’s college tuition, and finally do something great. Alan feels jet-lagged, old and out of place.

This is a short, poignant tale, full of characters, dialogue and situations that made me smile, and I hope will have the same effect on other readers!

Alison

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Hubble Bubble by Jane Lovering

HB

Holly Grey only took up witchery to keep her friend out of trouble: but now she’s knee-deep in hassle, in the form of apocalyptic weather, armed men, midwifery and a sarcastic Welsh journalist.

Another rollicking read from this author of ‘quirky’ romantic comedies. Thoroughly enjoyable and a very easy,  light read. The characters are fun and I loved the Yorkshire setting; but the slightly grumpy tone of the the book is certainly the best thing about it. One character is rather gullible and is described like this: “Megan has all the self-protective instincts of a toddler. Someone had to watch her back. Given her 36DD chest there were already plenty of volunteers to watch her front.”

Reserve your copy here

Animal, vegetable, miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

animalAnyone familiar with Barbara Kingsolver’s wonderful fiction should pick up a copy of either this or one of her collections of essays. It’s a delight to read something personal of hers and see the thinking which so clearly underpins her fiction.

This book concerns her and her family’s attempts to grow their own food and eat and live seasonally for a year – starting with their momentous decision to move from Tucson, Arizona to somewhere it actually rains.

Beautifully and passionately written, this is a pleasure to read.

Barbara Kingsolver opens her home to us, as she and her family attempt a year of eating only local food, much of it from their own garden. With characteristic warmth, Kingsolver shows us how to put food back at the centre of the political and family agenda. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is part memoir, part journalistic investigation, and is full of original recipes.

Reserve a copy here.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

neverwhereNeil Gailman fans everywhere are excited that his collaboration with Terry Pratchett, Good Omens, is being dramatised for Radio 4- after the enormous success that was Neverwhere’s dramatisation.

If you’ve never read a Neil Gaiman and you wonder what all the fuss about, I think this book is the perfect place to start. We explore a fantastical alternative London in the company of a host of surprising characters, from the Earl of Earl’s court to the Angel Islington. There are terrifying villains (really, terrifying) and sinister goings-on; magic and wonder abounds.

Under the streets of London there’s a world most people could never even dream of. A city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, and pale girls in black velvet.

Richard Mayhew is a young businessman who is about to find out more than he bargained for about this other London. A single act of kindness catapults him out of his safe and predictable life and into a world that is at once eerily familiar and yet utterly bizarre.

There’s a girl named Door, an Angel called Islington, an Earl who holds Court on the carriage of a Tube train, a Beast in a labyrinth, and dangers and delights beyond imagining… And Richard, who only wants to go home, is to find a strange destiny waiting for him below the streets of his native city.

Reserve a copy here

 

Frederica by Georgette Heyer

heyerAnother absolute treat from the queen of Regency romance. Longer then her average book, it’s a chance to lose yourself in her world for a good long time. As ever there are beautiful men and women, some also blessed with brains (and some decidedly not), assemblies, scheming, marriage plots… but this book manages to add into the mix badly-behaved dogs and a disastrous balloon flight.

Vintage Heyer!

Elena

Reserve a copy here.

Perfumes: the A-Z guide by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez

perfumesWhat an unusual book! Someone recommended this to me, and it really is just a collection of reviews of perfumes. But I saw on the jacket a number of rave reviews from other authors & the press, which promised something rather special:

” One of the best books I have ever read… dazzlingly good” India Knight

“I loved it and bought it for all my friends. I have to say that this is certainly my favourite non-fiction book ever and is very likely my favourite book of all time! If I had to take only one book with me onto a desert island for an indefinite time, it would be this one.”  Joanne Harris

“As if a light has been switched on in a murky room” Philip Hensher

And who picked it as their favourite book of 2008? None other than Hilary Mantel.

So I knew I was onto something interesting when I opened it – and oh my, it really is wonderful. It lists almost every possible perfume and gives a 2 word review (eg. “root-beer antiseptic”), stars out of five and  a longer review. these longer reviews are where the real joy of the book begins. Bad perfumes get the most scathing drubbings I have ever read. A. A. Gill has nothing on these writers. Favourites however get the most glorious soaring write-ups, with fabulous comparisons to landscapes, foods &  emotional states to help us poor mortals understand the complexity of the smells the authors can detect.

Interestingly, if you’ve read The Emperor of Scent (a best-selling biography a few years back), one author of this book is  is the subject of it.

Elena

Reserve a copy of Perfumes: the A-Z guide.

 

 

The bones of Paris by Laurie R. King

Bones of paris

A dark detective story set in the world of late 1920s Paris art scene. The bars are full and the theatres fuller. Women are exploring new freedoms and artists are pushing the boundaries.

Private investigator Harris Stuyvesant has been asked to investigate a missing woman and begins to fear the worst. Haunted by past mistakes he is determined not to let another woman down.

This is a gripping crime story with several unpleasant contenders for the role of chief villain. Worth a read.

Elena

Reserve a copy here.

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