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More Books

Every now and then I like to post some short reviews of books I’ve enjoyed; there’s no particular theme, I generally just love books and read just about everything. So here are a handful of books that I’ve enjoyed recently.

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?; Jeanette Winterson’s first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit was an award winning first novel when it was published 1985, pretty much everyone knows that it was semi-autobiographical but now Jeanette Wintersone has gone back and written the real story. And what everyone assumed was exaggerated for effect actually turn out to be true or actually they put a more cheery gloss than what was the lonely reality.

Stories of  a mother who refused to enter Marks and Spencer announcing that ‘The Jews Killed Christ’ manage to evoke laughter,disbelief and sadness all at the same time. Never self-pitying but often painfully honest, the book still manages to be amazingly easy to read. I suspect it would make a great Boxing Day tonic to the sometimes cloying sentimentality of Christmas TV.

And now for something completely different

The Queen’s Agent: Francis Walsingham at the Court of Elizabeth I; Francis Walsingham is often credited with creating the English secret service and the first great English spymaster.  To be honest, there are few good books about him and I don’t think there is one which places him so well in the period.

Elizabethan England was a fragile place; full tumult and change, the divide between Protestant and Catholic, the tensions between a fierce loyalty to both crown and faith are brought to life without ever coming down in favour of either side.

For a scholarly book, it is fascinating and entertaining;  reminding me of John Julius Norwich’s Byzantium histories in style; both learned and witty…certainly worth a read.

Peter Hamilton is famous for writing tomes; books that you could build a house with but he is also an accomplished writer of short stories; Manhattan in Reverse is his second collection of short stories covering a variety of settings from an alternate  19th century Oxford to the more familiar setting of his Commonwealth novels.

It includes a new Paula Myo story which gives the book its title which is why many people will pick it up but bizarrely it omits his  award-winning short story ‘The Suspect Genome’ which features Greg Mandel from his early trilogy. Still, it’s a nice collection of his short stories and proves that he doesn’t actually need 1000+ pages to tell a good story and that he can demonstrate some kind of restraint!

So there you go; three very different books for you to try!

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