Thursday, 7 October 2010

Recent reads

Phyllida Law's book of Notes to My Mother-in-law is a very light read, funny and sad in parts as well. It's a one-sided conversation with an elderly woman who we sort-of get to know a bit about, but not the whole picture; a bit like hearing a part-conversation on a bus, or overhearing a phone conversation. It manages however to give a picture of life in the Law household; funny and endearing it seems to have been at that time.

Our Book Club recently read and discussed J G Farrell's Troubles, a story of the start of Ireland's fight for independance. The first part slowly sets the scene. Brendan Archer, a Major recently and barely recovered from shell shock acquired in the trenches of the First World War, arrives at the Majestic Hotel to visit his fiancee Angela, daughter of the owner of the hotel, an Anglo=Irishman called Edward Spencer. Gradually the Major settles into the hotel, which despite its name is far from Majestic in reality. The loss and decay gradually build up to a final conflagration. There are several very fuuny episodes and anecdotes before the devastating ending, so despite the theme of loss, this is not an entirely tragic story. We all enjoyed the novel and our discussion certainly concentrated on the more humourous elements of the story.

Another book I'm finding very engrossing at the moment is Stitching for Victory, by Suzanne Griffiths. Although a scholarly work, part of the authors degree in Textiles, this is a tale of how big a part stich played in the Second World War. From barrage balloons, blackout curtains, and blankets via clothing coupons, to parachutes, sandbags and uniforms, everything that involved the use of textiles in any way is described in this book. Not a book to read through at a sitting, it is fascinating to dip into chapter by chapter and find out how our antecedents coped with life in the Blitz sewing in air-raid shelters or as members of teams repairing barrage balloons, or making fabric coverings for aeroplanes and gliders.

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