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!

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No Place to Lay One’s Head – Francoise Frenkel

A heartrending account of the hardships and misery of being a women of Jewish 34805076ancestry in France during the Nazi occupation. Frenkel writes beautifully and speaks directly to the reader, telling of her stress, anxiety and hardships. Not just of her own but of the many others caught in the same trap, endlessly trying to find a way to avoid deportation to the death camps. Moving from place to place, from one location to another, an endless beating of the moth against the light. Frenkel was in her 50s during the occupation so she had less energy at her disposal than many younger people. Yet she had determination whereas many younger women were completely undone when their children were forcibly taken from them to be placed in orphanages. Frenkel was married but doesn’t mention her husband, who was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau and killed there. There is an undercurrent of grief that is palpable. It is unlikely she knew his fate at the time of writing but I bet she had strong suspicions. I was spellbound by this account and very saddened. But also heartened by the many kindnesses that were shown to her.

Australia never took any Jewish refugees from Europe – I think there was an outright refusal (this is to be verified). Just as today, the Australian government refuses outright to take on its fair share of the worlds displaced and stateless people. Reading this account made me sad and I feel even sadder for those stuck on Manus and Nauru than I did before.

Maeve’s Times – Maeve Binchy

21276030Oh I love Maeve Binchy! Her writing is just gorgeous, so frank and friendly. Many people have said that reading Maeve is like sitting down to a nice cuppa with a friend and having a chat. I really enjoyed this collection of journalism. There are some pieces that made me laugh out loud, especially that piece about cooking with veal! Tee hee!! I also chortled at the piece about Portillo. His series Great British Railway Journeys is showing in Melbourne at the moment and I am really enjoying watching it. He does mention his political career sometimes so that is how I know who he is. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have had the faintest. I was a young teen in the mid 80s and I remember Thatcherism and the miners strike. I also remember the wedding of Charles and Di. It was a big deal for us at the time – my little sister and I were allowed to stay up late to watch the event which was shown live in Australia. This collection evoked so many memories for me. Just lovely.

Cost by Roxana Robinson

This novel could have been great if not for the disjointedness of the father’s musings on6149512 his medical career as a well respected neurosurgeon and the second son’s descent into heroin abuse. These did not marry well into the story and sit apart from the narrative. Even with the main character’s struggles with the superciliousness of her father, her grief over her second and favourite son and her struggles as a visual artist, it wasn’t enough to save it. The descriptions of the holiday house in Maine is lovely and the passages about the adults and their problems with their multifarious roles in life (the child, the lover, the spouse, the parent) have some wonderful moments. But on the whole, I think this novel needed some more work and thought put into it.

The General in His Labyrinth – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

602387I read this while undergoing radiotherapy. I chose this to read when I was unpacking a large plastic crate of books. It brought back lovely memories of book buying trips in second-hand bookshops in London and Brooklyn. Anyway, I didn’t know at the time that it was about the last weeks of Simon Bolivar’s life. He was ill and dying – maybe not the best choice of reading matter at the time. But that didn’t really matter because the writing is so wonderful. Bolivar was travelling to the coast of Venezuela to leave the continent. I think the aim was to return to France. The government was reluctant to issue him a passport to leave the country and at the time of his last travels, he wasn’t the hero any longer. The silences as his company went by are sad but beautifully depicted. I love the varying descriptions of the suffocating heat – you could just feel it. The dialogue between the characters is wonderful and the descriptions of the travel, lodgings, food and other experiences are beautifully evocative. Marquez is a master and this is a loving tribute to a hero of Sth America.

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