Sunday, 18 October 2015

Merry Hall by Beverley Nichols (1898-1983)

The books that I discovered in my father's loft after his death are turning out to be a treasure trove of delights. Before finding the collection I suffered from the delusion that I was reasonably well read. But I have found books by authors about whom I previously knew nothing, or very little, yet who were, or are, very well-known in the post-war years (I am old enough to still refer to WW2 as 'the' War).

Currently I am reading Merry Hall, by Beverley Nichols, which was first published in 1951. What can I tell you about the book and its author? It is a charming and witty book that will delight anyone who is interested in gardens (Nichols is best remembered as a writer of gardening books though his range was extensive) and anyone interested in the social history of an England that has long-vanished - vanished unless you happen to be Prince Charles and live in Highgrove House


Merry Hall is autobiographical writing - the first in a trilogy of books about the discovery, purchase and renovation of a decrepit Georgian country house, which the author claims, perhaps with a touch of literary irony, to have purchased largely on account of a fabulous display of Regale lilies in the kitchen garden. We read about Mr. Gaskin, Mr. Nichols' manservant from 1924 until his death in 1966, and the laconic gardener Oldfield; about the Siamese cats, and Nichols' disparaging friend Bob R..., a member of an eminent and wealthy Jewish family, as well as about the mammoth task of taming the house and garden.Some of the anecdotes are making me laugh out loud. On the down side, I find the personification of Mr. Nichols' cats a bit twee and disingenuous.( But I don't like cats, so perhaps I'm biased).

You may by now have gathered that Mr. Nichols came from the upper crust of English society at a time when a firm class system, now largely declined, was entrenched. Which is to say that everyone knew his place and by and large stuck to it. As a result of his privileged upbringing and an education at Marlborough College (attended more recently by the former Kate Middleton, now the Duchess of Cambridge) and Oxford University Beverley Nichols books are written in a style of English that is grammatically impeccable, a voice that resounds with echoes of upper class speech patterns, and a type of wit that typifies men educated in the very best public schools.( I feel that I can testify to the wit as one of my past and varied employers was a gentleman who was educated at Eton and who carried his minor hereditary title lightly).

You can read more about Beverley Nichols here -  http://www.beverleynichols.com/

 

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Ode To Autumn by John Keats

I looked out over the garden early this morning on an Autumn mist, which put me in mind of one of my favourite poems - To Autumn by John Keats - one of the first poems that I was required to learn in grammar school. In a letter to a friend Keats wrote that the fields of stubble that he saw when walking reminded him of a painting. I think the poem has a melancholy tone, which perhaps is an indication of the personal problems that Keats was experiencing at the time of writing. It was the last poem he wrote because circumstances had forced him to give up the life of a poet to earn a living. Some have read it as an allegory of death. Indeed, one year later the poet died in Rome, at the age of  twenty six. Here it is.


The Corn Harvest by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

To Autumn

by John Keats
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
   Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
   With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the mossed cottage trees,
   And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
      To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
   And still more, later flowers for the bees,
   Until they think warm days will never cease,
      For Summer has o'erbrimmed their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
   Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
   Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind,
Or on a half-reaped furrow sound asleep,
   Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
      Spares the next swath and all its twinèd flowers;
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
   Steady thy laden head across a brook;
   Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
      Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
   Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, -
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
   And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
   Among the river sallows, borne aloft
      Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
   Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
   The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;
      And gathering swallows twitter in the skies

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Holiday Reading

I'm flying off for a holiday in Spain on Thursday. There was a time when on holiday I would stagger to bed after the witching hour loaded with rioja or sangri - but not nowadays I like to be tucked up by ten, cuddling a book. So I've been thinking about what bedtime reading to pack. Last Saturday I bought the first volume of a fairly recent Faye Weldon trilogy to slip into my bag. But I couldn't resist reading it -  so now I need something else.

My opinion of Habits of the House (2012)? Well, I have to say that, though I am normally an avid and enthusiastic reader of Fay Weldon's books, my reaction in this instance is lukewarm. The book is infused with  customary humour and keen observation of human nature but I just couldn't engage with the characters, or care about what happened to them. But I'm willing to concede that the fault may lie with me rather than the writer - she is, after all, a Professor of English Literature at the University of Bath Spa, and was awarded the CBE for her services to literature.

The scenario is in Upstairs, Downstairs mode (Ms. Weldon was a scriptwriter for the immensely popular television serial of that name back in the day). The action takes place in the month leading up to the turn of the 19th century into the 20th and the book is written from a third person omniscient point of view. Despite my reservations about the story line, I am deeply impressed by the author's continuing ability to produce fiction in her late seventies (perhaps there is still hope for me) and may buy the second volume sometime, to satisfy my curiosity - about her writing, rather than the characters.

I also recently  bought a copy of Hostilities Only  by  Brian Lavery. This book is for those interested in Training the Wartime Royal Navy - as I am. It's non-fiction written by an expert in the field and published by the National Maritime Museum. I am using the book to glean background information for the memoir that I am writing about my father. As you may know, in recent years Dad told me a lot about his early life during our daily chats over morning coffee, and edited my drafts. But he sadly passed away three months ago so now I am continuing to write without his input. So what started life as a ghost-written autobiography is necessarily becoming fictionalised life writing to fill some gaps that were left in Dad's narrative. Hostilities Only has proved invaluable so far. But it's not holiday reading - and the print is so small that I'm thinking of buying a magnifying glass.

So, what reading material will I take on holiday? Along with the Spanish phrase book I'm packing Penelope Lively. Which is to say, one of her books. Specifically How it all Began (2011). I am a fan of Ms. Lively's books.If you enjoy life writing I recommend the first in her trilogy of autobiographies Oleander, Jacaranda: A Childhood Perceived, which tells of her early childhood in Cairo. Penelope Lively  has also written lovely children's books, which my own boys read when they were young. Amongst many accolades Ms. Lively is a Booker prizewinning writer  (Moon Tiger in 1987) and in 2014 was awarded the honour of Dame Commander of the British Empire for her services to literature.



Hasta luego. I'll be back soon and hope you will too.

Monday, 14 September 2015

The Hearts and Minds of Men by Fay Weldon

Fay Weldon is my all time favourite contemporary writer. She has been writing novels, short stories, screenplays and more for 5 decades and has been awarded a CBE in the Queen's Honours and Fellowship of the Royal Society of Literature. What I love about Ms. Weldon's books is the characterisation, which is often in the form of an omniscient and dispassionate view (albeit from a feminist perspective) of the motives behind the way that  her characters act and drive forward the plot. Fay Weldon has an educational grounding in psychology, which is evident in this aspect of her writing. Added to this, Miss Weldon is incredibly imaginative.

At the moment I am re-reading The Hearts and Minds of Men, first published in 1987. Ms. Weldon uses an interesting literary technique in this narrative: she writes from a third person omniscient point of view, with the author frequently directly addressing the reader - which creates a chatty conversational impression. A tug of love child is snatched by her father and put on a plane bound for Switzerland. The plane explodes mid air with the loss of all lives except that of the child, Nell, and her escort - who float to earth unharmed, still strapped into their seats, and land in thick mud on a French beach. What happens next? You will need to read the book to find out.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

The Bookseller of Kabul - A Must Read

This book review is for anyone who has been out of circulation/off the planet for the past ten years or so and consequently has not heard of or read The Bookseller of Kabul. I am now on my third reading in ten years and am so enraptured by the book that I have taken time out from a beautiful early autumn afternoon in my garden to tell you about it.

It was written by a Norwegian lady, Asne Seierstad in 2002 and has now been translated into many languages. Ms. Seierstad has received numerous awards for her journalism. She has worked as a foreign correspondent in Russia, China, and reported on the ward in Kosovo for Norwegian television. In 2003 she reported on the war in Iraq from Baghdad.

In 2001 whilst in Kabul she met by chance a bookseller and became so interested in his story that she invited herself to live with his family for three months, only venturing out into the dangerous streets of Kabul wearing a burka to disguise her identity and protect herself from harm. The Bookseller of Kabul is fictionalised life-writing based on her experiences. She writes in her Forward to the narrative that whilst the book is in literary form it is based on real events experienced by herself or what was told to her by people who took part in those events. When she describes thoughts and feelings she is recounting what people told her they thought or felt.

This book gives a unique insight into what life is like for a relatively affluent and well-educated man supporting a family in a patriarchal society in war-torn Afghanistan. Ms.Seierstad writes sympathetically but is open about her anger and frustration at the suppression of women in a traditional Muslim society. I can't recommend this book highly enough as a means of furthering understanding and sympathy for people living in very difficult circumstances. The book has been described by various critics as 'compelling, a triumph, stunning, and remarkable.'

Sunday, 30 August 2015

The Scold's Bridle by Minette Walters

The mark of a good yarn is surely when dust starts to accumulate on the furniture and the dishes start to pile up by the sink. I have just finished reading a whodunnit which had this effect upon me.

The Scold's Bridle by Minette Walters is a murder mystery in which the elderly victim is found naked in her bath, an apparent suicide, wearing a scold's bridle that has been festooned with nettles and daisies. The protagonist in this tale is Sarah, the young and naive village doctor, who at one point has the finger of suspicion pointed in her direction. The book is well written and well characterised, liberally sprinkled with Shakespearean references and quotes. My only criticism is that the physical pain inflicted on people who were forced to wear the particular instrument of punishment featured in the book seemed to be overlooked (though I suppose that drawing attention to this may have turned the book into a horror story, and I wouldn't have carried on reading) .

The Scold's Bridle won the Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger in 1994. Ms. Walters donated the prize money to the establishment of a library project in Zimbabwe. Her publisher donated a similar amount and together they were able to open several bush libraries and stock them with books for children, written in local dialects.

Wikimedia Commons Licence. A scold's bridle aka brank

Minette Walters is an award winning crime writer who since 1992 has published a dozen internationally best selling psychological suspense novels. Several, including  The Scold's Bridle, were translated into disturbing television dramas. Find out more on her website -

Minette Walters


Sunday, 23 August 2015

Britain's Favourite Poems

Running my fingers across my bookshelves I came across a copy of The Nation's Favourite Poems (1996), a publication that was the outcome of a poll conducted by the BBC programme The Bookworm in 1995 to coincide with National Poetry Day. If by Rudyard Kipling was the winner of the poll, gaining twice as many votes as the runner up - to the consternation of critics in some newspapers. However, that is not the subject of this blog.

Griff Rhys Jones writes in the foreward to The Nation's Favourite Poems of an extraordinary occurance that was outside the scope of the competition but coincided with it. It interests me because it centres on a poem that I recently read at the funeral of my father. I found the poem by chance when looking for a suitable eulogy and at the time was unaware of the story behind it. The poem -  'Do not Stand at my Grave and Weep' - was left in an envelope addressed by a soldier on active service in Northern Ireland. It was addressed to his parents and was to be opened in the event of his death. At first it was thought that the soldier himself had written by the poem, but this was not the case. Various claims were made for it but the author remained an unsolved mystery for a while. The poem was eventually attributed to Mary Elizabeth Frye, an American housewife and florist who wrote it in 1932. She never claimed copyright for her poetry, hence the difficulty in establishing authorship of Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep.

Once the poem came to public attention 30,000 requests for copies flooded in to the BBC, and it was subsequently published in The Nation's Favourite Poems. The words of the poem have been a great comfort to me and I hope that it may help others who are missing the presence of a loved one:


Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.



Saturday, 22 August 2015

Neville Shute:Round The Bend

I'm still reading my way through the collection of books that we found in my father's loft when clearing his house. My bedtime reading this week was Round The Bend by Neville Shute.



Round The Bend was written in 1951, shortly after the author emigrated from England to Australia. The themes of the novel include racism and the importance of private enterprise. The background of the narrative is the establishment of an air freight business in the Far East in the years after cessation of WWII hostilities. It is written in the form of a first-person biography by the narrator Tom Cutter, but the central character gradually throughout the course of the narrative becomes Constantine Shaklin, a Russian/Chinese aircraft engineer who unwittingly becomes the centre of a religious cult that is based on the merit of good work, and which transcends existing religions. I found some aspects of the opening chapters quite surprising in so far as terminology used by some of the characters to describe non-Europeans would not be regarded as politically correct in the 21st century.

Certain aspects of the characterisation of Tom Cutter are, in my opinion, unconvincing. He is a working-class character and the voice allocated to him early in the book attempts the reflect this. But as the book progresses the vocabulary that he uses becomes far more extensive and the syntax far more accurate than one might expect from someone with this background  - betraying the Oxford University education of Mr. Shute.

What interested me most was the depiction of air travel across vast distances in  1950's aircraft and the depiction of cultural differences in the Persian Gulf and beyond, where Mr. Cutter's business was operating. Neville Shute Norway (Neville Shute was his pen name) was an aeronautical engineer so the reader interesting in aeronautics will find the details relating to aircraft maintenance and flight accurate and particularly interesting.

Mr. Shute's body of work is extensive. His novel On the Beach was made into a film; and the public library at Alice Springs was named the Neville Shute Memorial Library in honour of his work.

Like his protagonist,  Shaklin, Mr Shute has become something of a cult and has a website dedicated to his work.

Neville Shute Foundation

P.S. 'Round the bend' is an English euphemism for crazy.


Sunday, 16 August 2015

An Impossible Marriage

Occasionally I become aware of yawning gaps in my knowledge. This week, still reading my way through the books that I found in my father's loft, I came across a copy of Pamela Hansford Johnson's An Impossible Marriage, published in 1955 for The Companion Book Club.

I had never before come across the author and was impressed and intrigued by the book to the extent that I delved into the internet. I found to my surprise that Pamela Hansford Johnson once enjoyed what we might nowadays call celebrity status. In fact, her life was so interesting that a biography has recently been written about her - 'Pamela Hansford Johnson: Her Life, Works and Times', by Wendy Pollard.

Ms. Pollard divorced her first husband in 1949 in order to marry the novelist C.P. Snow and eventually became Baroness Snow. The couple are described in the Spectator's leader to a review of Wendy Pollard's biography as Literature's least attractive power couple. I won't go into detail of here, as if you are interested you can find out more by clicking the link to the review.

Pamela Hansford Johnson 1912-1981


I wonder if to some extent Ms. Hansford Johnson drew on personal experience when writing An Impossible Marriage, which gives a fascinating insight into what life was like for middle-class girls and married women in the first half of the twentieth century. The novel's narrator and protagonist lived at a time when the man was the head of the household, and his word was law. He could control whether or not his wife could hold a job outside the home, which of her former friends she was allowed to see, and took little part in raising children of the marriage (young women nowadays can thank the development of the contraceptive pill and likes of Germaine Greer for their emancipation ). The story is of a young girl who marries a man despite lingering reservations and quickly realises that she is not in love. The reader is taken through the stages of the breakdown of the marriage.Yes, the modern reader will find the language dated and euphemistic but, nevertheless, an interesting glimpse at social history.

In addition to 27 novels the writer produced literary criticism and much more. She received numerous literary accolades and a CBE.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Reading My Way Through The Library

If you have read my previous posts you will know that when clearing my father's loft we found a large  collection of books. Some have been donated to Oxfam, some have been dumped in the public recycling skip, two collectables have now been sold, for £27, and as a voracious reader who now has time to spare I'm reading my way through what remains. I'm embarrassed to admit that until I came across a copy of A Room With a View I had never read any E.M.Forster - an oversight that I am now correcting. I've ordered a biography from the public library and will shortly start to read some of his other novels. As you know, several of his books have been made into films, including A Passage to India and Howards End. What I enjoyed most about A Room With a View was the literary irony. In many respects the novel reminded me of Jane Austen, giving a witty glimpse into contemporary society - albeit early 20th Century as opposed to Jane's late 18th century offerings. Like Austen, Forster's writing interests include class division and gender.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Do You Have Collectable Books In Your Attic?

We have been busy clearing  my father's home and found quite a large collection of books in the attic - many of them children's books belonging to myself and my sisters, dating back to the 1960's. Many of the books have now been delivered to the Oxfam shop but I have been busy checking online the value of some of the hardbacks.I've discovered that some of them are collectable - particularly the Biggles books by Captain W.E. Johns, and the Enid Blyton books. I also found a copy of Education in Plato's Republic, published in 1917. It's so rare that I couldn't find it online. So I have been occupying myself preparing a spreadsheet of the books that are in reasonable condition and have posted some of them for sale on Amazon and Ebay. If you still have the books that you loved as a child you might want to think twice before throwing them away.

P.S. I also found a small collection of classics which I am planning to read/re-read. Currently my book at bedtime is A Room With A View by E.M. Forster, which I highly recommend if you haven't yet read it. Wonderfully ironic and witty!

Monday, 22 June 2015

Haiku for my father



 I wrote this haiku on a wet morning, looking out on my garden to the patio where the remaining plants from my father's greenhouse wait to be planted out.

                                
                                                     Father, fond farewell.
                                                     Dark clouds pour pelting raindrops
                                                     Drench weeping fuchsias.






My Dad loved gardens and gardening. At one time he had over 120 different varieties of fuschia and only a few weeks ago, at the age of 91, was growing bedding plants and planting up hanging baskets for family and a handful of old customers. He died unexpectedly on the 14th June 2015 and we are having his funeral on Friday. His last few weeks were wonderful. He went on a short cruise of the Channel Islands with his son-in-law, calling at France to visit Monet's garden; and three days before he died my son took him out for dinner at a favourite pub.

A Collection of Maisie Moore's Poems

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Poetic Cacophony at its best

My stick fingers click with a snicker
And, chuckling, they knuckle the keys;
Light-footed, my steel feelers flicker
And pluck from these keys melodies.

Player Piano by John Updike

Cacophony: A discordant series of harsh sounds that help to convey disorder. Enhanced by the combined effect of the meaning and the difficulty of pronunciation.

Why not try it?

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Poem - When You Are Old by W.B.Yeats

Continuing the love theme that I introduced into my blog earlier this week  -

Maud Gonne
When You Are Old

W. B. Yeats, 1865 - 1939

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.


Yeats was born in Dublin, the son of the well-known Irish painter John Butler Yeats. He initially intended to follow in the footsteps of his father but came to prefer poetry. He became deeply involved in Irish politics, was a strong advocate for independence from England, and at the forefront of the Celtic Revival. The great love of his life was the Irish revolutionary Maud Gonne, equally famous for her intense nationalist politics and her beauty. She was a strong influence on Yeats’ poetry but in 1903 married another man. Yeats eventually married another woman in 1917. The marriage lasted until his death in 1939.
       Yeats was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923.



Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Poem - Woman's Constancy by John Donne

Continuing yesterday's theme of poems dedicated to women, here is one in a different vein. I think it's a good example of 16th-17th cultural perceptions of women. At the time that Donne was writing England was a patriarchal society in which women were regarded as dangerous, irrational and fickle creatures who had to be kept on a tight leash. Hence a woman was the property of her father until she was married off, after which she became the property of her husband. Similar attitudes prevail today in some parts of the world.

This poem is written in sonnet form -very popular at the time. I think it could equally apply to men, though the title is Woman's Constancy.


Now thou hast loved me one whole day,
Portrait of John Donne as a young man circa 1595
Tomorrow when thou leav'st, what wilt thou say?
Wilt thou then antedate some new-made vow?
    Or say that now
We are not just those persons which we were?
Or, that oaths made in reverential fear
Of love, and his wrath, any may forswear?
Or, as true deaths, true marriages untie,
So lovers' contracts, images of those,
Bind but till sleep, death's image, them unloose?
    Or your own end to justify,
For having purposed change, and falsehood, you
Can have no way but falsehood to be true?
Vain lunatic, against these 'scapes I could
    Dispute, and conquer, if I would,
    Which I abstain to do,
For by tomorrow, I may think so too. 
 
 

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Beware of Plagiarism

Plagiarism gets people thrown out of college. Writers sometimes finds themselves in court if they publish the original work of someone else under their own name and it's much easier to detect nowadays - there are a number of online checkers available. Here's a link to one of them 

To try it out simply copy and paste a section of text. The software will perform an internet search for matches.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Books for Book Lovers: The Folio Society - Where Beautiful Books Live

I don't normally promote businesses on my blog but as it's Christmas I'm making an exception for the Folio Society (perhaps in the secret hope that one amongst my family or friends might treat me). If you are a true book-lover it's possible that like me you appreciate a book for it's aesthetic and tactile qualities almost as much as for content. In which case you may want to look at the beautifully bound offerings on the Folio Society website. These books are of enduring quality. Having said that, quality comes at a price. If you would like to give a very special edition of a book as a gift, or perhaps start of library of classics to pass on to the next generation,  this is the first place to look.  Some early editions have become collectors items.

http://www.foliosociety.com/

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Desiderata - Words for Life



 

 

Desiderata - Words for Life
Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.
By Max Ehrmann 1927.
Note - United States Court of Appeals judged that this work was in the public domain in 1976. See Wikipedia for more information

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Writer's Research Resource

Most people who enjoy writing and have ambitions to be published find that they need to research a topic at some point. Which can sometimes be problematic. I'm lucky at the moment because I'm studying with the Open University and have online access to a huge database of books. But my studies end in June and then the resource will no longer be available to me. That's when I may need to turn to http://books.google.com/ an online resource where there are millions of books that you can preview or sometimes read for free. Researchers simply need to type their subject into the search box and a long list of books with appear.  If there isn't a digital copy of the book that you want the site tells you where one can be borrowed or bought. It even comes up with a list of libraries near to your postcode address. Magic.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Candide - an irrepressible optimist



If you would like to read an example, par excellence, of literary irony and parody try Candide by Voltaire, a delicious, fast-moving romp across 18th century Europe and South America.

First published secretly in 1759, the novella  was widely banned because it contained religious blasphemy, political sedition and intellectual hostility hidden under a thin veil of naïveté.

It’s still part of the curriculum in some universities and is said to be taught more often than any other work of French literature.

I find it an absolute delight to read and re-read  the adventures of Voltaire’s irrepressible optimist, Candide.