Books I've read

Sandra's book montage

The Catcher in the Rye
The Great Gatsby
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Romeo and Juliet
Lord of the Flies
Little Women
A Tale of Two Cities
Memoirs of a Geisha
The Lovely Bones
The Secret Life of Bees
Under the Tuscan Sun
The Da Vinci Code
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
The Hobbit
The Golden Compass
Pride and Prejudice
The Time Traveler's Wife
Jane Eyre
The Notebook

Sandra's favorite books »

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Books update

I've been doing a lot of the preparatory reading for the MA so not as many novels as I would like but here is a quick update on what I have been reading:

I have to confess that Charlotte Bronte is my least favourite of the sisters.  Whilst I appreciate that she wrote this book under extremely trying circumstances: Shirley had not been a success and more importantly she had recently watched Anne, Emily & Branwell die, I found Villette to be depressing and boring in the main.  I thought the characters were OK but I never really warmed to any of them.  Lucy Snowe is admirable for making her own living and being willing to find her fortune in another country but I didn't ever warm to her or care enough about whether she & M. Paul lived happily ever after or not.  One of the things I really dislike in Jane Eyre is the co-incidences and here they also play a part.  They are just not believable!!  On the whole the book is OK but I would definitely steer someone towards Anne or Emily if they want to read something of the Brontes.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect with The Picture of Dorian Gray.  I knew it was about decadence & possibly evil but wasn't sure if it would be comic or horror.  It wasn't, infact, either of those things.  I would have said that it was a moral tale because of the ending but the introduction states that Wilde didn't want it to be read that way.  I'm sure you know the basis of the story.  A man sells his soul so that a portrait of him grows old whilst he retains his beauty.  You can argue that this is a tract that supports the aesthetic movement in which Wilde was a big player ('Art for Art's Sake/Money for God's sake' as the 10CC lyric goes - I think) but I have huge problems with the idea that anything is produced purely for art's sake when it's then published to make money for the author.  Anyway, I found the book interesting - it's certainly amoral and I hope, like me, you want to give Dorian a good shake by the end of it but it's worth a read.

I also read a much lighter book: The Man of My Dreams by Curtis Sittenfeld but I will be writing a review of that for (they did give me the book to review).  It should be there in the next few days if you want to take a look - & yes, I enjoyed the novel.

I have just started reading The Ladies' Paradise by Zola.  I read Germinal as part of the Nineteenth Century Novel module I studied with the OU.  I was absolutely dreading reading it as it's about mining, and a miners' strike, in Northern France but it was actually one of my favourite novels on the course.  I think Zola writes incredibly realistic characters and interesting story lines.  The Ladies' Paradise is about a department store in Paris and one of the shop assistants' attempts to evade seduction by the owner.  As I'm reading about the Great Exhibition of 1851 on and off with my general prep books it fits nicely into the ideas of conspicuous consumption in the second half of the 19th Century.

In the original listing for the core MA course Mary Poppins was one of the texts and as, like many of you I'm sure, I'd only ever seen the film I was looking forward to reading the book.  It's almost a selection of short stories and whilst Mary is very similar to the Julie Andrews version in that she is vain and very strong-willed there is a level of surrealism that is definitely missing from from Disney (there's a surprise).  A couple of things come immediately to mind: a night at the zoo in which the animals are the visitors and humans in cages are the exhibits for feeding time and a 'lady' who runs a sweet shop who tends to chew on her own peppermint flavoured fingers occassionally. The back of the book suggests this is suitable for 8+ and, the above withstanding, I think it is.  I enjoyed it and was sorry it has been taken off the reading list.  Did you know this is just the first in a series of Mary Poppins books?  I'd like to read more but need to persuade T that it isn't quite as weird as I had suggested to him.  If you have 8 year olds, you have the perfect excuse! 

Next time I update I'll try to have some newer books to talk about.

Right back to T.S. Eliot now, I have 'Rhapsody on a Windy Night' open at the moment.  'Every street lamp that I pass/Beats like a fatalistic drum' - ring any bells?  Who says that Eliot is elitist?

Thanks for reading. 

Monday, 22 August 2011

A Cultural Afternoon

I had the most lovely afternoon on Friday.  I went up to London (how enjoyable that sounds particularly compared to what was a daily grind of commuting!) to have a delicious fish & chip lunch with a friend and then set off for cultural edification.

If you have read any of my earlier entries you might have seen that on the T S Eliot Summer School we visited St Magnus Martyr, one of the two churches mentioned in 'The Wasteland'.  The other is St Mary Woolnoth which stands just around the corner from Cornhill, where Eliot worked for Lloyds Bank, in Lombard Street.  As the first part of the afternoon plan entailed walking to St Paul's via Cornhill it seemed silly not to take this opportunity to take a look.  Apparently this is Nicholas Hawksmoor's only church in the City.  I think it looks a bit odd really but it's lucky to have a handsome plot - the umbrella you can see on the front left of the picture is a coffee stand.  I had a quick peek inside, it's much plainer than St Magnus Martyr but rather nice in its simplicity.  On the wall there is a plaque to Edward Lloyd, proprietor of a coffee shop and founder of Lloyds of London.  There is also an odd piece of sculpture at the front of the church which recounts the lines from 'The Wasteland':

A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.
Flowed up the hill and down King William Street,
To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours
With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine.

Doesn't it just celebrate working in an office!!!

I enjoyed my walk down to St Paul's.  The weather was sunny but not too hot or humid and the crowds pretty OK until I got to the cathedral where there were lots and lot of people visiting and taking pictures (hurrah for the British economy!).  I would have gone in but I'm trying to be strict with my budget and St Pauls & Westminster Abbey are, I feel, ridiculously expensive.  I contented myself with taking lots of pictures from outside and then going down into the shop.  I was able to buy a couple of postcards and a bar of chocolate for T (one of those big ones with St Paul's on the outside) so I did do a little bit for the maintenance.  It looked as if they had a nice restaurant/cafe in the crypt and the shop was very good so perhaps we can save our pennies and visit properly.  By the way if you want to go and pray you can, of course, enter for free.

Then across Paternoster Square, which I thought was quite nice & provided lots of cafes for visitors and into the tube.

I had planned to visit The Museum of London as I've never been there but I have been able to access more materials for the core course of the MA and a visit to the Victoria & Albert Museum was required before Week 2 and studying commodities and culture.  The V & A has brilliant British Galleries and on the 4th floor one of the rooms celebrates the Great Exhibition of 1851 (the photograph to the left shows an illustration of the Greek/Turkish stand within the Crystal Palace).  I had a list of questions to consider in respect of the manufacture of some of the exhibits which are now in the V&A and so I would have a good look and then sit and write the answers on my i-pad.  I felt like I was on a school trip and I'm sure the few people who were also wandering through the galleries were wondering what I was doing (particularly one little girl who tried very hard to see what I was writing).  By the way I asked one of the staff members about taking photographs and he seemed very relaxed about it!  Although it's only one room it's very interesting, from the items that were entered for medals to the souvenirs such as the Great Exhibition wallpaper and the picallili (?) lids.  The V&A, and other South Kensington museums, were founded on the profits of the Great Exhibition so it's very appropriate to have an exhibition there and of course, this year is the 160th anniversary.  (There is also an exhibition about the 1951 Festival of Britain down at the South Bank that is worth seeing).  I was able to answer my questions, have a look in the shop and take time for a drink and rather nice scone in the V&A cafe and still be home for 7p.m.  A really good afternoon.

I shall leave it there as I need to listen to a radio programme about Emily Dickinson.  I'll update on reading very shortly.  Thank you, as always, for reading.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Come On You Reds!

(Please be assured this entry is about cute, furry things as well as football).

Liver Bird above office door in Dale Street, Liverpool

I've had a great week.  First of all I found out that I had passed my final module for my degree in Literature and now had a first class BA (Hons) in Literature - very exciting!  Also Kings sent me the information to select my modules for the MA and have confirmed my place there so I must step up my reading for the course!

I went to spend a few days with my parents.  The picture and title of the entry should provide some clues as to their general location. 

I arrived on Thursday, courtesy of first class on the train (not quite up to BA standards but still lovely and quiet and on time!!)

On Friday we went into Liverpool to see the new museum that had only opened a couple of weeks before.  Not all of the floors were open yet but there was still absolutely loads to see.  It was really busy (great for the museum) and so would be good to go back later in the year.  There is a lot on links between Liverpool & China, the music and writers from the city and also the social history of the city.  There is a little on football, the Beatles and slavery but each of those topics is covered elsewhere.  I really enjoyed looking around but it got very hot and so after having a look through the amazing windows (which you can see in this picture and views from in the pictures below) we went down to the cafe for something to eat.  I have to say my goats cheese and tomato quiche was very tasty and, for a museum, an absolute bargain and it was lovely to sit with the sun coming in through full length windows.  So pretty much full marks to the museum & I look forward to going again.

View of the Liver building & ferry terminal from the museum

View towards the Albert Dock from the museum

After that we headed to the shopping at Liverpool One which still seems to be holding up well despite all the economic problems.  I did some shopping and some looking around, including in the Liverpool FC store which was full of scarves and mugs for the friendly match the next day (more to follow). 

On Saturday morning we went to Formby to see the red squirrels.  Although it is very rare to see red squirrels now in England there used to be 350 here but, tragically, two years ago squirrel pox (spread by grey squirrels) devastated their numbers and now there are only 120.  I had received an e-mail from the Red Squirrel Survival Trust on my way up to say that the pox was in Ainsdale (which is just up the coast) so I really hope they can develop a vaccine in time to save the squirrels!  Please try and help if you can - if you have only ever seen greys, the reds are our native squirrel and about a million times cuter. 

I really wanted to take a picture of one of the Formby squirrels for you but even though last time we were there they were running about everywhere and taking food from people's hands, this time we saw perhaps one or two in the distance and they were far too well camouflaged for photographs.  At least we saw one and heard noises in the trees to suggest they were there.  I suppose with fewer squirrels and the same amount of trees (they love the pine cones in Formby) there is less need to perform for the humans to get something to eat.  Never mind, I hope next time I go there will be higher numbers (please, please create the vaccine) and so we can see some more of these beautiful animals.

In the afternoon Dad & I went to one of my favourite places on earth, Anfield, to watch Liverpool play Valencia in a friendly (although I'm not sure Valencia had realised that this wasn't the Champions League).  After ensuring I was on the computer, ready to buy a ticket at 7.45 a.m. on the day they went on sale we had pretty good seats.  Just behind the 'posh' padded seats of the directors' box and nearly on the half-way line.  Some of the injured players were sitting just to the right and one row ahead of us and we had a great view of the pitch.  I like friendlies and testimonials, no stress at all, and so it was great to sit in the warmth with  a nice wall to rest my arms upon (the back of the directors box).  Liverpool won 2-0 which was good preparation for the start of the season so well worth the trouble to get the tickets (there was a good crowd, particularly for holiday season but the early bird gets the best seats).  We had hoped to see my brother as we were all in the Main Stand but the directors' box blocked access between our seats and his.

Sunday saw us off to Chester to use the vouchers I gave my mother for Christmas five years ago!!!  We had a delicious lunch in the Brasserie inside the Grosvenor Hotel which is lovely and posh.  I really enjoyed my lunch and we had time for a very quick look in the shops.  I had read that Chester was suffering because of the recession but it looked fine from what we saw and the main streets looked to be full of shoppers. I'm delighted to say Mum has one voucher left so hopefully we can put that towards afternoon tea sometime in the future!

We had covered a lot of miles by this point so I'm sure Mum & Dad were glad I went back to London on Monday so they could get back to their own lives.  I had a great few days and we were really lucky with the weather.  Although the forecast was for heavy rain for the weekend, it was kind enough to only intrude when we were in the car and as you can see from the photos we actually had blue skies.  There is loads to see in this part of the country and its far better value than London so if you're thinking of a weekend break give it a whirl (that's my bit for North West tourism!).

I'm sure this is enough for now so thanks for reading and see you soon!