April swim

Donegal – we found a sheltered bay, out of the wind, swam in clear water. There were no waves, so it was very different from our usual swim, very relaxing. It was warm enough to sit on the rocks afterwards and dry off. Extraordinarily beautiful.

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March swim

Went in under clear blue skies but by the time we came out the sea must was rolling in. Cold, but marginally warmer than February.

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The Conviction of Cora Burns -Carolyn Kirby – book review

Who is Cora Burns? Motherless, fatherless, brought up in an institution, deprived of love, Cora hasn’t had a great start in life, but there’s something in her that keeps on going – and she’s smart. She’s not always good, she’s not exactly nice, but there’s something compelling about her, so that you will her on. Maybe it’s the fact that she is capable of self-reflection? You watch her gradually learn about herself and how to school herself as you move through the book.

There’s a lot in here, touched on very lightly. The main thread is the argument between nature and nurture – biology and experience. Cora personifies this, but there are also two men of science, whose voices we hear, who are finding their own ways of looking at this.

There a lot of books with strong, feisty female leads set in the late 19th century,and this book sits on that shelf. Cora, however, takes things just a little further, and you are aware that there is something dangerous in her. The other thing that I was really impressed by was the depiction of poverty, and the depiction of Cora’s complete ignorance about so many things. The odds are really stacked against her. She is given a job as a scullery maid, but even here there are things that are completely out of her experience. She is a very believable mixture of ignorant and smart. There is a lot of casual exploitation, and the contrasting attitude of the “men of science” to the poor is fascinating. There are also moments of kindness, and they offer hope.

I hope this book does well. I really enjoyed reading it. I read it through the Netgalley, so thank you to them.

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Sunshine – Kim Kelly – book review

SunshineSunshine by Kim Kelly

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this through the Pigeonhole, so thank you to them. I loved this book. It’s set in Australia, just after the first world war, when ex-soldiers were given the opportunity to buy land – a mixed blessing in Australia. It touches on the horrors of war, Aboriginal rights, PTSD, but with a light touch: all is integral to the story.

The main characters are 3 ex-soldiers – one of them of Aboriginal descent – and an ex-army nurse (who has experienced as much trauma as the rest of them) – and the Australian landscape. Kim Kelly has the knack of describing a landscape she obviously knows and loves as if she is seeing it for the first time. She captures the beauty of Australia, but also the scariness of that great empty land.

It reminded me of being in the art gallery in Adelaide, and wandering round the landscape paintings. At first, they all look like versions of Europe, and then suddenly it’s as if artists could really see Australia and paint it as it was. Kim does that in words.

If you want a break from winter, read this book. It’s a delight.

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In at the Deep End – Kate Davies – book review

I read this through the Pigeonhole, so it came in staves. It’s a great way of reading – slows me down a bit. It also means I’ll take a chance on a book I might not normally choose – like this one. I’m very glad I did. Kate Davies introduces us to Julia, who is in the process of discovering herself and her sexuality.

First of all, the sex. There is a lot of sex. A lot. However, while there’s a lot on the mechanics of it all, there’s also a whole range of emotional contexts to go with it – bored sex, happy sex, guilty sex, edgy sex. The sex is nuanced, and it feels like an integral part of the plot, and the character development.

If you took the sex out, though, you’d still have a good read. The characters feel real, the situations are believable, and while the first three quarters of the book are very much about the intensity of sexual relationships, they also hint at the other things we need to attend to to be satisfied with life – and towards the end, these are the things that blossom.

Is it a feminist book? I wondered while I read it – I mean, I wondered if you could have a lesbian romance that isn’t feminist. Certainly, in what is a fun read, Kate Davies manages to explore some interesting power dynamics, and look at power imbalances in relationships. The feminism is in realising that you have to rescue yourself. You might open yourself up to other people to achieve that, but you are seeking support, not rescue.
It’s also very funny. Snorty funny. And moving. And has the best therapist ever.
In at the Deep End
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I Owe You One – Sophie Kinsella – book review.

 

When I was a teenager, one of my dearest friends was a big fan of Georgette Heyer. I read a couple of them, and enjoyed them, but for me they lacked something. Dragons, mainly.

What I’m trying to say here is that I think everybody has a “comfort read” – a genre they reach for when times are tough, and they want to escape. For me, it’s fantasy. What can I say? If I’m going to escape, I want to make it into another reality.

So, I wouldn’t normally have picked this up, but…I’ve kind of got hooked on The Pigeonhole.  which is an on-line book club. It’s fab. Don’t tell anyone about it. I have to say, most of the books I’ve read through them have been quite dark psychological thrillers – again, not my usual escape, but I’ve had a great time reading them. And then this came along.

I had a ball.

I mean it. It was great fun. And part way through, I realised that it reminded me of Jane Austen. Fixie is a Fanny Price who grows up and gets real. The bad guy would look good in a red coat, playing billiards with Wickham and chatting up heiresses. The supporting cast are just a shade odder (and funnier) than real life. The plot centres on romance (of course) and…money (as did Auntie Jane’s, when you think about it).

And Sophie Kinsella makes it look effortless. In my experience, melodrama is much easier than humour, like a chocolate fudge cake is easier than a souffle. She really knows what she’s doing.

Next time, she could maybe add some dragons?

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‘GROUNDSWELL’ – Film & NHS Info inc.Upcoming Screenings — John Furse

We are hoping to launch ‘Groundswell: The Grassroots Battle For The NHS And Democracy’ on the internet and DVD after Christmas. This will be the feature-length 78-minute version. Meanwhile we have some more screenings and Q & As coming up in January and February. These events have attracted strong and positive reactions (see Reviews) and […]

via ‘GROUNDSWELL’ – Film & NHS Info inc.Upcoming Screenings — John Furse

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