The classic children’s book Heidi by Johanna Spyri is a delightful story which I re-read recently. I was given this gorgeous Puffin in Bloom edition for Christmas (see picture). I couldn’t remember anything about Heidi as I had last read it more than twenty years ago. So it was great to revisit this story as an adult.
If you’re not familiar with this classic, it’s a simple story about a little girl named Heidi who goes to live with her grandfather, Uncle Alp, in the Swiss Alps. There she lives a peaceful existence, frolicking around the mountainside with Peter the goat-herd and all the goats. Then her Aunt comes and takes Heidi to go and be a companion to a sick girl named Clara in a town far away and Heidi must endure life away from her beloved mountains.
Here are some thoughts I had when re-reading Heidi:
Gosh, I would like a pet goat.
They sure do drink a lot of milk and eat a lot of cheese in this book.
I really want to go to the Swiss Alps, cavort around like Heidi and pick flowers.
This is such a sweet book.
I’m not sure I could sleep on a bed of hay like Heidi with all my allergies.
Peter is such a cranky boy with a lot of anger management issues.
Mountain air, milk and cheese appear to be the cure for everything.
How would anyone with lactose intolerance survive in this book?
I don’t think anyone ate any vegetables in this story.
I feel like drinking some milk.
It was fun to read this classic again and be drawn into a simpler time.
Verdict: A sweet book about a sweet girl set in a beautiful place.
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell is one of my all-time favourite classics. I also love the BBC period drama from a while ago starring the dreamy Richard Armitage. I don’t think I have told you before how much I love these BBC adaptations of classics. Anyway… Set around 1851, North and South has often been referred to as Pride and Prejudice with a social conscience. It is a love story at its core but also explores the differences between the agricultural South of England and the industrialised North and the lives of factory workers.
North and South tells the story of Margaret Hale, the daughter of a parson, who enjoyed a genteel upbringing in the southern England countryside. When her father leaves the Church over a crisis of conscience, the family moves to the northern mill town of Milton in the north. A place far different from the rural South. Milton is a town in the throes of the industrial revolution.
At first Margaret hates the ugliness and dirtiness of Milton. But over time she sees the suffering and poverty of the cotton mill workers and becomes passionately involved in their struggles.
She meets John Thornton, the owner of Marlborough Mills and a student of her father’s. He is a newly made man who Margaret first looks down on and then opposes due to his treatment of his workers. Despite their clashes and differences, there is also a spark of another kind between the two. Continue reading →
Force of Nature is the just released second novel from Jane Harper, author of the hugely popular bestseller The Dry. The two books are linked by the same main character, Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk, but this book takes place six months later and in a completely new setting.
I previously wrote a review about The Dry which I enjoyed but thought was a bit over hyped. I came to reading Force of Nature without big expectations as sometimes second books from an author suffer the dreaded second book syndrome (i.e. are a bit disappointing). Well, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by Force of Nature. It had an interesting premise that kept me intrigued and guessing all the way to the end. In some ways I liked it even better than The Dry.
Force of Nature is set in the rugged bushland of the fictional Giralang Ranges east of Melbourne. A group of five women go on a team building hike through the bush. But on the last day of the hike, only four women walk out. One of their group, Alice Russell, is missing. As a large search begins for the missing woman, Aaron and his partner Carmen become involved in the search for Alice’s whereabouts. It turns out Alice was secretly helping Aaron and Carmen investigate money laundering at BaileyTennants, the boutique accounting firm where all the women worked. And now she has disappeared before they can get their hands on some important documents.
Is Alice dead or just missing? Did she disappear on purpose or did one of the four women in her group have something to do with it? As Aaron and Carmen investigate, the story flashes back through multiple viewpoints to what happened day by day on the team building walk. I’ll leave it there so as not to give anything away. Continue reading →
I’ve been a big fan of author Jojo Moyes ever since stumbling across Me Before You years ago. This was before the movie and before a lot of the huge hype. Me Before You first introduces the loveable Louisa Clark, wearer of quirky vintage clothes and bumblebee yellow and black striped stockings. In this first book she becomes a carer to Will Traynor, a complicated man not coping very well with life as a quadriplegic and they both change each other’s lives. If you haven’t read this first book, definitely give it a go. I don’t want to give anything away if you haven’t read it.
I loved Me Before You, even though it smashed my heart to pieces, and was quite happy for it to be a stand-alone book. But then Jojo Moyes released a sequel called After You. Although I devoured this book it didn’t have quite the same feel as book one. Louisa was far from the happy, positive young woman and with a major character missing in this book, it was a bit of an adjustment. But I liked it well enough in the end.
Which brings me to the newly released third book in the series, Still Me. I rushed out to get this because I love Jojo Moyes writing, but after book two I approached this with some trepidation. I can happily report that this book was a terrific read and the perfect conclusion to the series. The sad, messed-up Louisa from book two is back to her happy-go-lucky self in this book as she arrives in the Upper East Side of New York to work as an assistant to Agnes Gopnik, the younger, Polish second wife of a super wealthy businessman. Continue reading →
I didn’t like this Man Booker Prize winning book at all but I admire it as a piece of experimental literature. LincolnintheBardo by GeorgeSaunders was the strangest book I have ever read. It’s narrative structure irritated and distracted me. I started and stopped this book about ten times and reread a lot of books in between reading this. But finally I got to the end.
Lincoln in the Bardo tells the tale of the death of President Lincoln’s eleven-year-old son Willie and the imagined story of him lingering in a place between life and death. This bardo is inhabited by other spirits who wander restlessly through the graveyard where they were buried arguing with each other and recounting tales of their lives and disappointments.
President Lincoln greatly shakes up this world in between when he comes to the crypt at night to visit his dead son.
This is a highly imaginative book that is told via many different points-of-view. Sometimes it’s a sentence at a time so pages are filled with one line from a character and then a citation of who that character is. Sometimes one little observation about an event is told from ten different people’s perspectives and everyone has a different opinion. It was this manner of narration that drove me crazy because I felt it ruined the flow of writing. It took me three quarters of the book to get used to this style of writing. Continue reading →