Death By Books

I live surrounded by books. The photo above is of my bedside table, just to give an idea of what I’m currently reading – plus I also have a ridiculous number on my ipad. Quite often I have books piled on the bed-head as well. One morning my kids will come in and find me buried by the books, only my feet visible. There are worse ways to go.

On rebuilding last year most of our things were stored in the little house. Now we’re planning to demolish it and build a granny flat for my Mum. So, in we go and clear the place out. The little house is comprised of two rooms, a hallway and a bathroom, all of which are full. We literary have to take a box out before we can take a step forward, take out what we can reach, a few more steps forward… it’s been a great chance to declutter. The skip we’ve hired is rapidly filling (which is a tad embarrassing, considering we decluttered when we built last year. Apparently.) As we pull out the flotsam and jetsam of our lives we bring out some books. Boxes and boxes of them. Like an archeological dig, the deeper we go, the more interesting the discoveries. Books we’d forgotten about. Books we remember but haven’t seen in so long. Old friends greeting each other after too much time apart.

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Truly Madly Guilty – Liane Moriarty

A medieval scholar
Writing writing writing

I stumbled into reading this book. My first introduction to Moriarty was hearing my husband laugh as he read Big Little Lies. When our kids were younger he had been head of the local school’s P&C. A school very much like the one Moriarty describes. With much the same parents.
Truly Madly Guilty has moved from the school grounds to tree-lined suburbia. Essentially the story revolves around three married couples. Everyday, ordinary couples – and as always with the everyday, they carry their secrets and failings, believing no one else can see them. As the opening epitaph states: Music is the silence between the notes (Debussy). The novel revolves around what is said, and not said – and when the little things aren’t spoken about, they grow to assume profound significance.
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From A Paris Balcony by Ernest Dimnet – A Review

writing pictures0003From A Paris Balcony


How could I resist such a title? I’m not sure where I bought this book; wherever I go I frequent second hand bookshops, stalls at markets, op-shops; anywhere that offers something interesting to browse. The unadorned cover called to me, and I paid all of $1.00.

From A Paris Balcony – what a delightful phrase. How could I not be intrigued?

True to his word, Ernest Dimnet did indeed observe Paris from a balcony. The balcony in question was at the Hôtel Belgiojoso. This can still be seen in the Montparnasse area of Paris, and Dimnet describes the place as “graceful and yet robust, classical but imaginative, mellow in its comparative youth”.

Who could not be enchanted by such a place or writing style: “When September comes, and the early Parisian autumn begins to strew the shrubbery with the ivory balls of the symphorine…”

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What did you say?
I said: Fantômas.
And what does that mean?
Nothing… Everything!
But what is it?
Nobody…. And yet, yes, it is somebody!
And what does the somebody do?
Spreads terror!


So opens the classic French crime novel, Fantômas.

Reading Fantômas, I often forgot the novel was written in 1911 (and translated from the French in 1915). Fantômas is not a gothic villain but a modern serial killer, who shows neither remorse nor mercy for his victims (not even for his son). Violent in his methods, Fantômas is adept at psychological manipulation, and takes delight in his crimes. He is a sadistic sociopath easily recognised in the modern world of crime writing.

Yet as the New York Times then wrote, One episode simply melts away as the next takes over.Juve cleverly pursues him in speeding trains, down dark alleys, through glittering Parisian salons, obsessed with bringing the demon mastermind to justice”. James Joyce described the series simply as “Enfantômastic!” Continue Reading →

The Day Of The Triffids – John Wyndham

writing pictures0003When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off by sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere. I felt that from the moment I woke… The way I came to miss the end of the world-well, the end of the world I had known for close on thirty years-was sheer accident: like a lot of survival, when you come to think of it.

From the opening sentence the reader knows they have entered a world which has quite literally changed overnight. Like other great dystopian novels such as 1984, this is not an alien world but our own, so familiar yet different, and it is this contrast which is so important to the effectiveness of the The Day Of The Triffids.

John Wyndham (John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris) published The Day Of The Triffids in 1951 to critical acclaim. A post-apocalyptic novel, it follows the rapid disintegration of society following a world-wide meteor shower which blinded all who saw it. With most of mankind now sightless, the world falls rapidly into decay, hastened by a subsequent unknown plague which rapidly kills those who are infected. All the while there is the ever lurking presence of the triffids, carnivorous plants with the ability to move, to kill – and to learn. Continue Reading →

Leave It To Psmith

Discovering The World Of P.G. Wodehouse



Those mortals who have not read Wodehouse have missed a unique English writer. To define him as a comic genius belittles his mastery of language and of character.

Indeed, Wodehouse remains in a class of his own. His books are set in world not so much long vanished, but as never existed: an England unsullied by war, where trains run on time to old village towns unchanged with the centuries, delightful and absent-minded earls live in grand country estates with sweeping vistas hiding secretaries to be feared, domestic staff hatching plots, where love is always in the air, and one has a crisp fiver in the pocket. In every idyll a devil always lurks, yet however complex the plots, they always finish with all in balance, the demons resolved, and glorious summer shining over an English countryside in full bloom.

Wodehouse wastes not a word, each landing on the page with an effortless beauty balancing all Wodehouse writes. His skill was honed by a lifetime of writing. As he once said in an interview, “I know I was writing stories when I was five. I don’t know what I did before that. Just loafed, I suppose.” In publishing almost a hundred novels (as well as plays and musicals), he created the immortal Jeeves, the world of Blandings, and the likes of Psmith, Ukridge, Uncle Fred, Mr Mulliner and the Empress of Blandings. Continue Reading →