Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Book Blog :: Reading the Printed Word

I made a decision today to separate out my reading and book reviews and everything else. So I now have a dedicated book blog called Reading the Printed Word. It's available at

Book Review :: Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford

The Pursuit of LoveThe Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this read. I was interested in reading it as I'd just read The Bolter: Edwardian Heartbreak and High Society Scandal in Kenya which, in the further reading section, referred to this novel commenting that Nancy Mitford had based one of her characters on Idina Sackville (the original Bolter).

Set in England and Paris this novel charts the life of Linda, an upper class woman living in the 1920s / 1930s. I've read that much of the early parts of the novel are based on the home life of the Mitfords (so I will be interested in reading a biography / autobiography), whereas the later parts of the novel certainly seem to follow some of the Bolter's story. The narrator for this novel is Linda's cousin who lives with the family in the holidays but is looked after by her aunt because her own mother has abandoned her (again similar to the Bolter).

Linda is a romantic and wants a man and marriage and does get men and marriage which unfortunately are unsuitable. Eventually she makes a better choice...

Like others I found the novel very witty and an easy read. I read it over two train journeys and one night in the bath. It was that type of book. Un-put-down-able in some respects, and especially if you are interested in 1920s / 1930s age of excess. But, like others have commented, the ending is a little sudden and an little weak. My younger brother used to write stories in school, he'd get bored and then say "and then they died" and this novel by Nancy Mitford had something of that. I guess it was the choice she made but also meant there could be no follow-ups.

I'm looking forward to reading some of her other novels like Love in a Cold Climate and Wigs on the Green but at the moment I am interested in knowing more about her family so am reading an autobio by Diana Mitford Moseley (of the meeting Hitler fame).

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

London :: December weekend away

Last weekend my husband and I took a weekend break in London. My friend was celebrating her 30 something birthday and her son (who is my Godson) was celebrating his 1st birthday. I was shocked at how old my friend was. That means in February, when it is my birthday, that I'm closer to 40 than 30! Getting old! I don't feel it. Fortunately my husband is a year younger so as the old saying goes "You are only as old as the man you are feeling" - excellent! I am a year younger always!

We took an early train down with London Midland. My parents-in-law live in the Midlands so we stayed with them overnight Friday and went to a family birthday. the meal at the pub was nice but the entertainment irritated me. I hate and detest the music of Erasure (80s band). The entertainer was actually an excellent singer but I disliked his choice of music (as did all of our table).

Anyway I digress...the train down was long and very busy. I think a few people were Chrimbo shopping in London. Fortunately we got a seat for the 2 and a half hour journey. We arrived in London around 10am and immediately headed to our hotel to dump our bags and possibly to check in early. We were staying in the City of London at the Crowne Plaza. My husband works away during the week, staying at Holiday Inn hotels, so one of the perks is being able to mass loyalty points. So we got one night at the Crowne Plaze for, well, about 4 weeks worth of nights away. Bit of a crap deal but it was a very nice hotel.

We couldn't get into our room but I was able to use the gym area to dry my hair off and straighten it for the party later. We asked for our bags to be kept in storage and headed for a wander before the party at 1pm. We needed to get to the top end of the Northern Line so decided that we'd walk over the Millennium Bridge and wander towards Waterloo. We crossed the bridge and had a look over the city. The weather was cold but sunny so was relatively pleasant. I took a couple of photos as I had my DSLR with me.

:: Towards St. Paul's ::
As we were directly opposite the Tate we decided to call in and see what exhibits we on. In the Turbine Hall (an immense space) they had an interesting photographic exhibition by Tatiana Dean. Basically images were projected onto the wall but the images appeared to be moving. Below are a couple of my favourite examples:

 You can see the sheer size of the images when you look closely at the middle image. A child is stood in front of the image and is dwarfed by it.

From The Tate we wandered along Southbank and saw that there was a Christmas market on so thought we might return to that the next day as it was getting towards midday and we needed to catch the Tube.

My Godson has really grown up. He is gorgeous and will be a real heartbreaker when he grows up. There were about 20 of us in total to celebrate his birthday, including various children. Us and another couple were the only people there without any children. Tried to not let it get to me...

:: Hotel Christmas Tree ::
After the party we returned to the hotel and checked in. We had been upgraded (as happens with loyalty members) to a Club Room although we sadly didn't get access to the Club lounge. The room was amazing. Luxury bedding, fab bathroom, lots of freebies in terms of drinks and lotions and potions. We decided that an anfternoon / pre-party kip was in order and didn't leave until we had to head to Leicester Square / Chinatown for the evening party.

We partied till about midnight. My friend had decided to go to a Chinese restaurant and have a meal and do Karaoke. As it turned out no one wander to sing solos so there was lots of collective singing of tunes, including some Chrismas favourites.

We had a lazy lie-in (with a 2pm checkout) the next day so made the most of some quality time together. We didn't have breakfast at the hotel but decided to leave our bags for collecting before we headed home in the evening. The Hotel lobby had a lovely Chrismtas tree and the head chef had made a festive, edible house:

:: Edible house ::

:: Tuba carolers ::
:: Protest camp, St Paul's ::
We had no clear plans of what we wanted to do but decided to walk towards St Paul's Cathedral and get some breakfast / brunch. At St Paul's a tuba band were playing Christmas carols so we stopped by to listen whilst we ate a sandwich. It felt quite festive. We'd also grabbed a couple of free walking tour leaflets from the tourist office so decided to have a short wander. We passed the Protest camp and walked towards the London Stock Exchange and I spotted and liked this architectural sculpture I saw near Pasternoster Square:

:: Pasternoster Square ::

 We walked on a bit more then decided to catch the Tube to Oxford Street and indulge in a little festive spirit. We hadn't realised that they had closed the street to traffic. There were various festive events on, seemingly sponsored by American Express. It seemed that people were shopping but maybe not quite so much as previous years. After a little shopping we caught the Tube back to the hotel to grab our bags. We headed over the Millennium Bridge again with the aim of grabbing something to eat at the Christmas market.

:: The Wheel & Big Ben ::
:: Big Bratwurst ::
We decided to go for a Bratwurst sausage, very festive and huge. And then we tried a cake which to be honest seemed a lot like pretzel (which we tried in New York and were not impressed by). We decided not to bother with that again.

Our weekend in London was over. We took another crowded train, this time home. Some poor people were standing for over an hour. We had a fun weekend and it was just what the doctor ordered (so to speak). In a couple of weeks it is Christmas so it will be nice to spend some more quality time with my husband as I do miss him when he's away :-(

Monday, December 12, 2011

Book Review :: The Bolter by Frances Osbourne

The Bolter: Idina Sackville - The Woman Who Scandalised 1920s Society and Became White Mischief's Infamous SeductressThe Bolter: Idina Sackville - The Woman Who Scandalised 1920s Society and Became White Mischief's Infamous Seductress by Frances Osborne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really liked this book. My mum recommended I read it, I dismissed the idea but then got hooked on all things "between the wars" and read some reviews, remembered she had the book so started to read.

What a woman Idina was. Scandalising British upper class society with 5 marriages, she certainly led an "interesting" lifestyle. I can't imagine what her parties were like. Descriptions of them being cocaine and morphine induced, guests being greeted by a naked host and bathing in champagne are far beyond my sphere. It was the days of excess - well for those with land and privilege.

After Idina's first marriage and having had two children she disappears off to Kenya with new husband in tow. Sadly her two sons aren't allowed to join her and she doesn't see or contact them for another 15 years. Kenya is possibly the main focus of the story. To be honest I knew next to nothing about The Happy Valley set (I was more familiar with life in the Raj and Indian subcontinent where similarly the English upper class led a life of interesting times, in a similar time frame). It was quite illuminating to understand another aspect of British history. I also knew nothing of The White Mischief storyline and that fact that Joss was one of Idina's husbands. I will be reading The Temptress which describes in more detail some of the characters surrounding Joss and his murder. As the story progressed there were a number of sad incidents, not including her own demise. Quite tragic really.

Overall I suppose I like Idina. I think she had "balls" to break with convention. She might not have been party to women getting the vote, and I don't especially agree with her leaving her children as she did, but the "not giving a damn" attitude is kind of interesting.

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Book Review :: The Group by Mary McCarthy

The GroupThe Group by Mary McCarthy

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I took this book out of the library and thought I would really like it but made it to 100 pages and didn't really enjoy the read. I actually found the text slightly difficult to follow. I'm not sure whether it's the mix of 7 main characters or just the writing style. Maybe it's a book I have to return to at a different time in my life...

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Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Book Review :: Short Stories of F Scott Fitzgerald

The Short Stories of F. Scott FitzgeraldThe Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald by F. Scott Fitzgerald

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read three short stories in the bath tonight. They came from this book but were actually in a small gift sized book which came with the weekend newspaper a while back.

I'm not really a fan of short stories. I don't like that you don't get to engage with the characters. But, these stories did work and were all very good. My favourite was possibly The Cut Glass Bowl.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Books :: Reading - Update

Have added a couple of sections to my Books :: Reading page. I'm participating in a couple of challenges on Goodreads so thought it might be good to document them.

As it's December already...

Blue Christmas Tree :: Ontzy @
I've gone festive for the month. 6 days late but it's St Nicholas' Day today it seems fitting that I get on the Chrimbo band wagon.

Much of my shopping is done (courtesy of everyone's fav online store - you know the one: It's the name of a river...) and I've got a few bits and bobs from elsewhere.

Most of my cards are bought...not quite written or posted but at least they are bought. Well, except for a very important one. My husband's! I want to find a On Our First Christmas as a Married Couple type card but haven't managed it so far. Might have to make one myself via Hallmark, Funkpigeon or Moonpig. Need to make a decision quick as time is ticking away...

Monday, December 05, 2011

Website :: Past Perfect

I was having a casual root around Amazon for some reviews of the film Coco Before Chanel (I've just finished watching the DVD. Very good. Recommend). Following some of the links to what other customers have bought I stumbled across a range of CDs from a company called Past Perfect. I did a search for them on the internet and it's actually a website / company selling a variety of vintage inspired items - from music to more home related items. Haven't checked it out in detail yet so I'm heading there now...

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Book Review :: The Unfortunates by Laurie Graham

The UnfortunatesThe Unfortunates by Laurie Graham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love Laurie Graham as an author - have read many of her books and found them very funny and this was no exception. This is a light-hearted review of the last century but the references to 1920s - -1930s I particularly liked. What I particularly liked was the way the book was written in what I assume is authentic language of the day.

I've got a bit of a thing for the 1920s - 1930s at the moment so this book was perfect for me. It told the story of a woman and her family who were Jewish, living in NYC. She was born pre-war, bit of a rebel, parents sort of practicised Judaism but were a bit lax (but later some members were much more dedicated). They are a wealthy family and so she enjoys the trappings of this wealth, travelling to Paris, the UK, becoming an aviatrix. References are made to various historical events including the sinking of the Titanic and WW1 / WW2 and effect it had on home front in NYC. The story then continued into the 1950s / 1960s / 1970s documenting the ups and downs in the life of the main character.

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