Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Back from holiday and Triple Tuesday

Today I am featured on Kim’s blog Reading Matters as part of her Triple Tuesday feature! So pop over there if you would like to see what I have choosen.
We have just got back from Edinburgh where we supported my brother who completed his first ever Marathon in extreme heat. More to follow and we hope everyone is having a great day.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation by George Washington

A Charming little book reportedly written by George Washington, (yes, that George Washington) when he was just 14 years old.

The book is laid out as a list of 110 rules for decent behaviour in polite society. This may sound a bit dull but each rule is very short and easy to digest and most of them are perfectly relevant, even today. For example; 56: "Associate yourself with men of good quality, if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company" and 89; "Speak not evil of the absent, for it is unjust"
Of course some of the rules aren't useful anymore, and some are just beyond my understanding, such as 55: "Eat not in the streets nor in the house out of season". Some of them are quite funny such as Rule 7 "Put not off your clothes in the presence of others, nor go out your chamber half dressed"

My personal favourite is 44: "When a man does all he can though it succeeds not well blame not him that did it"

It's a shame that we don't all carry around a little copy and adopt its ideas, i'm certain modern society would benefit from a few old fashioned rules of behaviour.

Well worth a read

Overall rating 4/5


Tuesday, 15 May 2012

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

I cannot think of this book without thinking of Dame Maggie Smith’s Oscar winning performance of the main character Miss Brodie. Throughout the book I had her voice exclaiming ‘I am in my prime’ ringing in my head in that accent of hers.
But back to the book. On the face of it this book has quite a funny plotline. Miss Jean Brodie is a teacher in a posh school in Edinburgh who is in ‘her prime’, she decides to use her prime and influence on a group of girls she takes under her wing to make them into the ‘crème de la crème’. Her rather bonkers teaching methods are detailed in the book and most of her lessons seem to involve her holiday snaps and detailing her past and present love life while someone looks out for the headmistress.
It’s all quite amusing up to a point and throughout the book there are some really funny lines.
But everything is not quite right with Miss Brodie and it soon transpires that having influence over young girls is one thing but what if the person with that influence was a fascist who also had some rather strange ideas when it came to the paths she has chosen for her girls?
Spark herself is the all knowing narrator throughout and the narrative will quite often jump forwards in time (sometimes mid-sentence) by about twenty years so that even when the narrative is in the present the reader knows what exactly what will happen to Miss Brodie and what became of the girls.
I can see why this is Muriel Spark’s most famous novel and while the story-line is a cracking one, it’s the humour and Spark’s use of narration that ensures I’ll read more from this author.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

The Pearl by John Steinbeck

The Pearl is a retelling of an old folktale which has a strong message about the corruption and evil that springs from wealth and power.
Kino is a poor fisherman with a young family who finds an enormous pearl. He dreams of the many ways he can spend his newfound wealth. Soon his community’s curiosity and good will turn to envy and spite. They try to cheat Kino and when that doesn’t work they resort to violence in an attempt to take the pearl for themselves. Kino is forced to flee the town with trackers hot on his trail.

There is a strong morality theme throughout the entire book, Steinbeck never lets the reader forget that despite the outward promise of riches and happiness the pearl only brings misery and pain. The futility of chasing money is spelled out clearly here. The metaphors are as subtle as a slap in the face with a brick but the message is poignant and ageless. It isn’t telling us anything new but at the same time a reminder doesn’t hurt.

It is a far cry from some of Steinbeck’s more popular works and certainly not one of his best but it was an entertaining novella and worth a read as a Steinbeck fan.

Overall rating 3.5/5