A Year in Books – January to March

I thought I would give a little update on how I am progressing with the challenge, A Year in Books. As I was displaying some of the books I’ve read for a snap-shot Artie came over to give me his approval.

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It was a slow beginning to the challenge. All I read in January was two books. Since then I have managed to read more frequently, even taking the Kindle with me on the bus to work. Reading while travelling usually tires me, which is why I have only just started up again.

Grief is the Thing with Feathers – Max Porter

This novella featured as part of a short Open University course I took last year. David kindly bought it for me for Christmas. The theme is of grief and survival. After a sudden death of a wife and mother, two son’s and a father are visited by a crow (personified from the Ted Hughes book of poems Crow.) The narrative is quite fractured and erratic. The story just features short scenes of the family in states of ‘coping/or not coping’. Crow is depicted as a wild, untamed creature with bad manners and equally bad language. I think I need to read the story again as a lot of the message was lost on me.

Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?

In Parenthesis – David Jones

David Jones was a survivor of the First World War. I came across his work featured in a documentary on the writers of WW1. In it’s time, In Parenthesis was hailed as a classic, but now sadly seems to have been forgotten. I managed to get a cheapish copy on eBay. The writing can be difficult to understand at times as Jones dips into Welsh and Arthurian legend. The narrative is his own experiences in the British Expeditionary Force and of one attack during the Battle of the Somme, at Mametz Wood. Some of Jones’s writing of trench warfare can only be described as lyrical, even his depictions of disemboweled men and decapitated heads smiling back from the crook of trees like Cheshire Cats is somehow horrifyingly captivating. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in history.

H is for Hawk – Helen Macdonald

Yet another book on grief, though totally different in it’s approach to Max Porter’s book. I think this has been one of my favourite reads so far. I thoroughly enjoyed Macdonald’s description of Mable and how her relationship with this wild bird became cathartic to her wound gaping grief at the loss of her father. The chapters featuring her inspiration, T.H.White made me feel a little uneasy in his behaviour to his Goshawk, though he was writing from a different time period, still doesn’t make the reading any the easier.

Under Milk Wood – Dylan Thomas

One of Thomas’s last works, commissioned for BBC radio. This play for voices is a day in the life of a small Welsh village. An omniscient narrator introduces each character and a second narrator tells more about their hidden thoughts and desires. Each character has their own vignette, though written in prose the language is poetic, sometimes lewd, often humorous and occasionally poignant. I found though that my reading lacked the power of a TV or radio production. Perhaps I would benefit from a second read?

The English Girl – Katherine Webb

I reviewed this book in my Sunday Sevens #24.

The Haunting – Alan Titchmarsh

All I know of Alan Titchmarsh is from his gardening programmes and his Saturday show on Classic FM. When I saw one of his books, The Haunting on the shelf in WHSmith I was curious. The story is a dual narrative, historical drama set in 1816 and 2010 respectively with a hint of ghosts and a splash of romance. The book is an easy read but the narrative won’t tax the mind. The story is a little contrived and could have been better but it is what it is. I enjoyed it enough to buy another of his novels. Folly.

The Red Letter (short) – Kate Riordan

If I had known this was only 30 pages long I wouldn’t have bought it, however the writing was good and I enjoyed it. The characters were from a previous novel by Riordan, The Girl in the Photograph. Though reading the novella I couldn’t remember the original novel. I had to read the blurb to get any recall. Set in the 1930’s the story is of Marjorie who finds out her husband is having an affair. During the too few pages Marjorie awakens and becomes self aware. The novella ends with Marjorie riding on her bike with her future stretched out with many possibilities.

Birdcage Walk – Kate Riordan

If I like a book by an author I usually seek out other works by them, this was the case with Birdcage Walk, Riordan’s first published work, and you can tell it is! It’s very different in style to that of her later works, The Girl in the Photograph and The Shadow Hour. The story is based on a true tale of murder, mystery and a possible miscarriage of justice. Sadly, Riordan spends too long setting up the back story. Both protagonists are rather quarrelsome and two dimensional, and I didn’t bond with either of them. The narrative only improved after the subsequent murder and trial. There wasn’t much evidence of a miscarriage of justice, but that’s up to the reader to decide. The inevitable wasn’t much of a surprise when it finally arrived.

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David has chosen the next book for me to read. Emma Healey’s Elizabeth is Missing, I have no expectations on what to expect within it’s pages.

Have you read any good books lately, any recommendations?

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

 

 

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Shiverpool – Ghost Bus

This weekend we made use of the competition prize I had won during the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic‘s most recent prize draw on Facebook. So David and I wrapped up warmly and made our way to the Suitcase Monument in Hope Street to embark on the Shiverpool Ghost Bus.

Shiverpool bus tour

Shiverpool bus tour

It was a clear, yet windy night, perfect for haunting stories and ghostly apparitions.

When we got to the monument there were already lots of people waiting for the bus which arrived a little late, (typical of the buses in Liverpool!) :p However it was nice to listen to the harmonious bells of both cathedrals, at opposite ends of Hope Street ringing into the dark evening as we stood waiting.

In hindsight perhaps I should have booked a tour on a weekday as town on Saturday became busy with revellers and the roads chocked with traffic.

When the bus finally arrived it was a red double decker and looked impressive.

Shiverpool Ghost Bus

Shiverpool Ghost Bus

Our tour guides for the evening were a duo of ‘brother and ‘sister,’ both lightly joked with the passengers who were all asked to go upstairs on the bus. This was by no mean feat with heels and an ankle length dress which I wore. The staircase was narrow and the steps uneven and in darkness was a bit of a safety hazard! The deck below was commandeered for a hen party from Ireland who held the tour up by 10 minutes!

While the bus waited for the late comers, the tour guides bantered with the passengers, asking where everyone lived. David and I had been the last to go upstairs and ended up seated at the back! We were, on more than one occasion singled out as a couple on a date. Apparently ‘I had made an effort’ on my toilette. Why thank you! 🙂

David and I have been on many ghost tours while holidaying in Edinburgh so the Shiverpool Ghost Bus had a lot to live up to!

The tour took us around the beautiful Georgian Quarter of Liverpool, visiting Rodney and Huskisson Street. The guides spoke of George Huskisson who was the first person to be killed by a steam engine at the Edge Hill trials and unknown to me Huskisson Street was also the home of Florence Maybrick who was charged with the death of James Maybrick, A.K.A. of Jack the Ripper fame.

The 90 minutes or so of the tour flew by and unfortunately the stories the guides narrated were rattled out at such a lightening speed that come to recap the experience, I am finding it hard to recall some of the tales. One such story, as we pulled alongside the leafy Falkner Square was about child murders and witches.

The tour was punctuated by the appearance of ‘ghosts’ who seemingly had come to life as the stories were recounted. The first appeared while we were parked outside St Bride’s Church, off Catherine Street. It was of a young bride to be, who was buried alive in the grave yard. The actor was dressed in white with a veil covering her face. She silently walked around the bus before being scared away by the tour guides. The creepy part of these ‘apparitions’ was looking out of the back window to see them just standing on the pavement silently watching as the bus drove off!

There was however a downside to having other actors joining us along the journey. This was, that while they were terrorising the passengers, as in the case of an angry drunkard tearing through the bus, you didn’t get to hear the story. So I missed a lot of the narrative due to this.

One good thing that came from the tour was a greater appreciation of the city and it’s architecture. Liverpool is indeed beautiful! The bus drove past the Anglican Cathedral, the biggest in the UK, and took us along the waterfront to see the Albert Dock and the Three Graces all lit up!

At one point in the tour we had to get off the bus. We all stood huddled together outside the iconic Royal Liver Building whose clock face is bigger than the Elizabeth Tower clock, ‘Big Ben‘. Here, outside the old insurance building, the guides told us a tale of poison and fraud. The silliest part of the night was when one of the guides got a gentleman to re-enact the symptoms of arsenic poisoning! Chronic diarrhoea and all!!

However let’s not forget that the tour tickets were free and it was something different to do from the usual humdrum routine of a Saturday night. It’s just sad that the stories were really not that engaging, nor scary enough! We have been on better ghost tours!