The Annotated Alice – Lewis Carrol

982630Gee the Victorians were weird! We think adults having child friends is very iffy these days but maybe it wasn’t that strange in Victorian times. Carrol wasn’t a pedophile, just a very socially inept man who was more comfortable with children and his siblings. This is the first time I’ve read Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, and I wouldn’t have understood many of the references without reading the annotations. The logic puzzles were fun and I really enjoyed reading the annotations about these and other pieces of philosophy. The Annotated Alice has real value here.

I wouldn’t have realised that Through the Looking Glass is a chess game if I hadn’t of read the introductory essay either (I’ve only ever played chess once or twice). I don’t know if I would’ve enjoyed these books as a child, though I did like time travel via a looking glass (I loved Come Back Lucy – a TV series where a child goes back in time to the same house she is living in but 100 years earlier). Wonderland and Looking Glass are quite violent – there is lots of hitting, shaking, shouting and throwing things. Alice is quite petulant and bossy; a rather spoilt child. But! There are some pieces of nonsense and fun poems that still charm. ‘You are old father William’ is one and the other ‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves…’. I’m in two minds about The Walrus and the Carpenter as it is about trickery. The introduction is worth reading and I had to chuckle at “the Bible and all other great works of fantasy…” Maybe these stories are better read aloud – that’s how they were first told anyway.


Just – William by Richmal Crompton

742811I love the William books! I first discovered them when I bought 3 at a church fete for 20c each when I was a late teen. I flipped through the books and loved the illustrations. When at last I read them – gosh!! I was rolling in the aisles with laughter! Oh dear oh dear oh dear!!!! I’ve loved them ever since and had to buy more of the series. The charm and humour hasn’t been lost over the years and in fact, can be considered as equal to Wodehouse. William has two older siblings who are at the romantic phase and life with William is often fraught with misunderstandings with their prospective partners. And anyone who comes to stay is in danger … In one of the stories, Mrs Brown’s Aunt comes to stay (much to Mr Brown’s chagrin) and she, of hearty constitution, feigns weakness and snores like a steam engine. She ends up being a money spinner for William and his gang because she inadvertently inserts herself into a Show the boys put on. Soon enough, all that the village children want to do is pay a penny to listen to the snoring. Tee tee! Oh me oh my, the outrage when she wakes up! Oh dear! You’ve got to read these for yourself, the stories are a scream!

“The sort of things I want to do they don’t want me to do an’ the sort of things I don’t want to do they want me to do. Mother said to knit. Knit!” The scorn and fury were indescribable. His father looked out of the window. “Thank Heavens, it’s stopped raining! Go out!” William went out. There were quite some interesting things to do outside …”

What Ho! The Best of Wodehouse – P.G. Wodehouse

10184915I haven’t read much of Wodehouse at all, and this isn’t the book to start with. This is for aficionados who are well-versed in the various characters of Wodehouse creation. And tellingly, this collection is built on recommendations from various Wodehouse Societies the world over. I am familiar with Jeeves and Wooster, and Uncle Fred. But not so much with Psmith. At the end of the selection of stories are some autobiographical writings about his time in Hollywood. I found this less entertaining. My favourite story was the misappropriation of Pekingese. The whole song and dance about the so-called missing Pekingese had me laughing aloud. Oh dear oh deary me!! So, I think what I will do is start with the Jeeves and Wooster stories – I did so want to read more of them. In fact, this has been a sort of taster for me. So, what ho! Onward and upward!

Shattered – Dick Francis

2102647Gosh, I love Dick Francis mysteries! I know they can be formulaic, but they are still fun. I read this ages ago but had completely forgotten the story. I could imagine what the main street in Broadway was like as my sister and I had visited a few villages in the Cotswolds in 2014 (real village but we didn’t visit that one). Honey stoned buildings that would still look cheerful in mid-winter with twinkling lights coming through the windows. Like all Frances novels, they are either directly set in the racing industry or the racing industry features heavily in the plot. In this story, the main character is a friend of a jockey who dies early on and the story is the mystery the jockey leaves his friend to solve. His friend goes through the physical wringer but the mystery is solved and he leaves with his girl and new friends.

Aww! But it was exciting too! I had to keep reading to find out what happened. I started reading Dick Francis when I was in my early twenties. I was temping at a local high-school library and the librarian introduced me to Francis. And it’s official – 20 odd years after reading my first one, I still love the stories.

The Inheritor’s Powder by Sandra Hempel

This work is based around a case of arsenic poisoning case in 1833. It was apparently in 16241150all the papers and the populace were fascinated – resulting in packed rooms during the coroner’s and magistrate’s hearings. The blurb on the back of the book sets you up to expect a ‘race to find the definitive test’, because there wasn’t one at the time of the death  of George Bodle. The symptoms of arsenic poisoning were similar to many other ailments at the time and added to this, arsenic was readily available for all sorts of things from poisoning rats to skin treatments. There were many poisonings and attempted poisonings in the 19thc because it was just so easy and you could get away with it. Investigations were begun where there was a lot of speculation and also when circumstantial events occurred suspicion. But Hempel fails to put all this together and instead goes off on tangents that don’t really have anything to do with the story at hand. Perhaps basing it on one event is the problem. The Bodle case is too thin a foundation to hang the  story on – there isn’t tons of information and events to write about. Hemple mentions other arsenic cases and I’m sure there were lots others that could have been used. Perhaps Hempel should have written about the development of the forensic sciences in the 19thc and hung the legal situation and poisoning cases on that. Still – lots of interesting facts.

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