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The Best of Friends: Two Women, Two Continents, and One Enduring Friendship

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Oddly bleak and unfocussed, the story of two marriages, an older couple and the younger generation whose lives are all turned to chaos when one husband decides to leave one wife. Nicely written but it hops about from person to person and generation to generation - which might be what life is like however art demands something more. Not my favourite Joanna Trollope.
The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club

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I reread this as it seemed like a good read for November the 11th - the novel begins with the death of an aged General in the Bellona Club on Armistice day. Lord Peter Wimsey is called in to acertain the time of death and untangles a net of deception and murder, driven by a squabble over a huge inheritance. Nicely written, with an interesting sideline on bohemian London in the 20s as well as a sympathetic portrayal of a man suffering from what we would now call PTSD. Good solid read.
The Borrowers

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A visit to the Cockington Green miniature village in Canberra has rekindled my memories of Mary Norton's lovely Borrowers series. So I'm re-reading and reacquainting myself with the tiny family of Pod, Homily and of course, Arrietty. My copy of this book has my name and address in my mother's handwriting and "Grade III" written in the front page, so I read it the year I turned 8. Re reading it as an adult brings back all the memories of delight (particularly in the quirky adaptations of the items borrowed from we "human beans") but adds a darker layer as I realise how human and flawed all the characters are and how precarious is the Borrowers' existence. I couldn't help paralleling their lives with those of contemporary human refugees, eking out a precarious existence and always living under the threat of forced emigration... Unlike my 8 year old self I also enjoyed the role of the decanter of Madeira! Highly recommended for children, but also very enjoyable for adults.
The Borrowers Afield

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Continuing my re-read of the Borrowers series. Now all the tiny family of Pod, Homily and Arrietty are tested as they have fled their comfortable home under the kitchen and must survive in the outdoors whilst searching for their previously emigrated relatives. Highlights are Arrietty's delight in the natural world and the introduction of the wild Borrower boy Spiller... Again, highly recommended for children but also enjoyable as an adult.
Brat Farrar

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A family story with a twist - a young man is persuaded to impersonate a missing heir, but is plunged into a darker mystery than he expected. Lovely descriptions of family life amongst a hard-working horse breeding English family contrast with the darker story. Well worth reading.
The Man in the Queue

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An enjoyable read though not the best Inspector Grant novel. The inspector investigates the death of a man, stabbed in the back in a London theatre queue. Some passages in Scotland remind me of John Buchan, but the ending is a bit of a cheat - from memory both Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers mention the problem of the watertight crime in their fiction... Also some of the language is dated and racist. Still if you are a fan of Tey and Grant then it's worth a look - but beginners should start with "Daughter of Time" or "The Franchise Affair".
The Daughter of Time

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The recent confirmation that the bones discovered beneath a Leicester car park are those of Richard III drew me back to Josephine Tey's excellent historical detective novel. Inspector Grant is hospitalised with a spinal injury and in an effort to keep away the "prickles" of boredom takes up the case of why Richard III murdered the Princes in the Tower - only to find that there is no evidence he did so. A fabulously engaging novel that actually draws you in to the process of historical research using original sources (Grant is assisted by a young American historian who does all the digging in the archives). Really enjoyable and will make cynical about popular history AND make you want to join the Richard the Third society and clear his name. Recommended to mystery fans and historians alike!
The Vacillations of Poppy Carew: A Novel

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A pleasant romance - the death of Poppy's father, just as she is breaking up with her long term lover introduces her to a marvellously eccentric funeral company and three potential new lovers... Nicely written, funny and enjoyable.
Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest

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A vast sprawling book but well worth the effort. Wade Davis, and adventurer himself has not only travelled to Tibet, but has brought a huge amount of research to the telling of the story of the first three British attempts to conquer Everest in the context not just of Empire, but of a generation that had experienced the cataclysm of the First World War. There is a slimmer book that could've been edited out of this book, but on balance I enjoyed it's detail and discursiveness. Definitely not a quick read and I had some niggles over the details of the maps and the photographs (many photos are described but not reproduced) but I'd recommend it to Everest tragics, adventurers, and those interested in how history spills over the neat lines we tend to try to corrall it into. I bought this at a lecture (on another topic) given by the author and interestingly enough his talk was vastly engaging and sprawled well over the allotted time - a characteristic of the author I suspect!
A Shilling for Candles

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A very enjoyable murder mystery featuring Josephine Tey's imaginative detective Inspector Alan Grant. The body of a young woman is found drowned in an area notorious for suicides, but nothing is as it seems. Once again the emphasis is on character rather than detection, though the solution is better incorporated into the story than in "The Man in the Queue". Lots of really diverting red herrings too! Recommended for fans of Ms Tey.
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