30 May 2011

Paris in July

In a month or sos time I will be joining in on my first bloggy theme month; Paris in July, courtesy of lovely ladies Karen at Book Bath and Tamara at Thyme for Tea, who is lucky enough to actually be spending July in the marvellous country itself **jealous**

I'm such a francophile its rather sickening really, so this will be the puurrfect chance to indulge in all things Frenchie and get the summer off to an oh-so-chic start!  The event will run from the 1st - 31st July 2011 and will basically involve diving headfirst into anything French; be it a book, film or indeed a big fat chocolate gâteau and reporting back on your success to the blogosphere.  I myself intend to rekindle my love for a few old French films and get stuck into to some of those Folios (the French version of a Penguin book I suppose) that sit languishing on my shelf and that I am always too lazy to pick up and read.  The ladies themselves have given us some interesting ideas:

- Reading a French book - fiction or non-fiction

- Watching a French movie

- Listening to French music

- Cooking French food

- Experiencing French art, architecture or travel (lucky Tamara!)

- Or anything else French inspired you can think of...

Weirdly enough I'm a big fan of banlieu-style French rap so perhaps I could get down with it and dust down a few of my old CDs.  If any of you have a passion for all things French then do head over to these ladies' websites and see what this great event is all about.  A list of participants can be found on Book Bath.

28 May 2011

Daughter of Fortune

There is absolutely no good reason why this is the first Isabel Allende book I have ever picked up. The blurbs on the back and the countless positive reviews I have heard from family, friends and bloggers should surely have been enough?! My only explanation is that, out of the two Allende novels I own, one; La casa de los espíritus (The House of the Spirits) is in Spanish (and although I am always far too lazy to pick it up I can't bring myself to buy the English since I can technically read it in the original language!) and the second, Daughter of Fortune, which I have finally got round to reading has been bizarrely neglected due to the off-putting 'Not for resale' sticker from The Times on the back and the fact that as a result I see this newspaper freebie in every single charity shop I step in.

What a fool I am, and what a wonderful book this turned out to be, although in fairness I expected no less. Like many novels, this is a grand love story that, despite the typical 19th century male figures bounding around, is notable for its admirable, strong female characters. Above all we grow to know and love a young woman called Eliza, our unlikely heroine. Abandoned on the doorstep of a family in the port town of Valparaiso, Eliza is found by Rose Sommers, a young, vibrant single woman and sister to one of the wealthiest men in town. The first half of the book is devoted to the cloister-like environment Eliza's adopted family wall up around her, her life enriched by the formal tutelage she receives from Rose and the more practical facts of life imparted on her by her 'Mama Fresia', the household cook who becomes like a second Mother to the young girl. 

However, the catalyst for the adventure that Eliza is soon to embark on soon arrives in the form of Joaquin Andieta, an employee of the Sommers who she quickly falls hopelessly in love with. True to the real life history of towns throughout South America such as Valparaiso in the 1840s/50s, a discovery made by a carpenter working in the American river in California led to thousands rushing up North to pan for gold and seek out their fortunes. In Allende's tale Andieta ends up as one of these men and Eliza, blinded by love and deaf to the warnings of her Indian protectress promptly stows away on a boat bound for San Francisco to find him. 

This is a story set on a grand scale, with our main protagonist travelling the length of an entire continent to find her man. However, it is precisely because of this grand scale, with the fascinating characters worthy of such a setting that I felt that this book could have either been much longer or, alternatively, the first half of the book that explore Eliza's background and home in Chile much shorter. For instance, I really didn't need to read as much about Jacob Todd, the English gentleman who arrives in Chile intent on selling as many Bibles as possible, as I eventually ended up having to, because although he is present for one or two key moments in the second half of the novel I found him a rather inconsequential character.  I would have much rather have continued on Eliza's journey towards discovery and develop her relationship with the fascinating Chinese physician Tao Chi'en, who becomes an unlikely companion and close friend throughout this entire adventure.

History is another secret passion of mine and I have to say that, prior to reading this novel, where Allende has clearly gone into a great deal of depth on the subject, I knew very little about the California Gold Rush and the huge number of different cultures that were thrown together in the hastily built town of San Francisco, which clearly became a true melting pot of races and innumerable vices. 

I picked this book up about a year ago and unfortunately lost my way during one of the chapters where we are taken back to Tao Chi'en's life in China that should have been extremely interesting had it not jarred a little  with the progression of Eliza's story. I am however glad I gave this another go, and even happier that I was ignorant of this book's status as an Oprah book club choice which may have put me off further as I hate to follow the crowd and prefer to discover books in my own time and am weary of the recommendations of TV presenters and the like.  This is essentially a tale of self-discovery and a deep exploration of feminine sexuality, something that every young woman I'm sure can connect with.  She is a heroine in the truest sense of the word and a gutsy character given the time this book is set in. Any of us who have experienced the joys of being in love can also appreciate the lengths a woman will go to in a moment of passion to rediscover that feeling and I felt very close to and protective of Eliza as a result.  

My only complaint is that I needed more...this book trickled off towards the end for me and I've been left wondering what the next ten chapters could have been if only Allende had carried on writing...

**N.B. I'm quite sensitive to books in translation and this rendering into English of Allende's original Spanish is excellent. Bravo Margaret Peden.**

23 May 2011

Passage to India

Ah hah! No, before you all collapse with shock I have not managed to slip in E.M Forster's classic in between working, reading Isabel Allende and....well, more working and sleeping. However, myself and the bf have finally bought our tickets to Delhi for September, where we intend to spend a bit of time in and around the capital before doing the classic Indian railway journey all the way up into the mountains and to Darjeeling, where I intend to do lots of walking, tea drinking and dumpling eating (apparently a popular dish is something called momo which looks yummy.)

Despite the fact that I've lived in a couple of interesting places I have surprisingly never set foot out of Europe and I am SO excited. India has always appealed...I have such a wealth of smells, colours and noises in my minds eye that I just can't wait to lap it up.  Not only would I like some hints and tips from any of you who are lucky enough to have been, I would also like some recommendations for reading leading up to and during my stay.  I've had Salman Rushdie suggested to me, I also have A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry waiting on my shelf that I'm particularly excited about.

Any suggestions?

21 May 2011

Childhood favourites

A busy and marginally stressful week has meant that I simply haven't had the energy or desire to do anything other than a) curl up under the duvet or b) gorge myself on chinese food and rosé wine...the perfect antidote.  Nevertheless, I have managed to delve into Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende, a book I have started before in the past and am now struggling to figure out why I ever stopped, and also make a fair few cheeky online purchases, including wonderful copies of The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass by Phillip Pullman to match the first book of the Northern Lights Trilogy I managed to snap up at a local charity shop a few months ago...

The lovely book man also came to work again, as he does every month. Usually to bring bargainous cookery and children's books. A few weeks ago I couldn't believe my luck when he brought in a brand spanking new set of Roald Dahl's complete works for next to nothing which I quickly put my name down for to give to our beautiful little niece.  Now, yes she is only 8 months old and hardly ready to start her avid reading career, however, I know her parents read to her every night and I think that every child should own works such as Roald Dahl, the Beatrix Potters and the Mr Men books to lose themselves in when the time comes for them to pick them up.  They were so nice that I'm kicking myself for not buying a second set for me and the bf. 

Buying kids books and thinking about what this little girl has to look forward to in the future got me thinking about my own childhood favourites, and my Dad was on hand to help me remember some of them.  Among your classic Roald Dahl's, Enid Blytons and the obvious picture books still popular today like the wonderful The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle there was one story in particular that both myself and my parents absolutely loved, helped along by the brilliant illustrations; a book called Alistair's Elephant by Marilyn Sadler and Roger Bollen.  Alistair is a terribly sensible boy who goes to the zoo every Saturday (the cheapest day for children) but his neat routine is thrown into turmoil one day when an elephant decides to follow him home and stare at him through his bedroom window...

This book is hilarious, mainly because (as I seem to remember)  all the characters are quite funny looking, particularly the massive elephant, who I think was ever so slightly cross-eyed.  If you have young children, or indeed if you happen to be walking past the children's section in the library and you fancy a read yourself (its fairly rare and possibly even out of print now so a library may be the best bet) this is definitely worth it. It is one of the beloved books of my childhood and I may just have a root around in the loft to see if my parents have kept any others next time I go home and see what other treasures I can unearth...

17 May 2011

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

The rapid change in weather back to the drab and drizzly Manchester norm put me in the mood for a cosy, comfortable read last week and this utterly heart-warming debut (debut!? I can't believe it!) was just the ticket...

So off we trot we to Edgecombe St Mary...our quintessentially British village, where the tea is brewed to perfection and a beautiful rose bush in your front garden is an absolute must. Retired and widowed, Major Ernest Pettigrew leads a comfortable, if somewhat solitary life in the old family home with the occasional venture out into the world to enjoy a spot of golf or shooting with his frightfully English neighbours. However, Ernest's brother has just died, and we are thrust into his little world at a time when things aren't quite as neat, tidy and calm as they would ordinarily be.

This event acts as a catalyst for the unexpected events ahead. Petty family squabbles over possessions mark a twist in Ernest's life as he grows ever closer to the village shopkeeper, Mrs Ali, a friendship that throws up all manner of questions regarding the integrity of family and friends whose foibles and particularities we once shrugged off but that are now given a somewhat sharper edge...

This book is such a comfortable (again I can't help but use that adjective) read and, as a result, an impressive debut novel. As a twenty five year old woman I could become friends and sympathise with a retired and often rather fusty seeming Major, whose interest in tweedy and traditional pastimes and ways of behaving were such a world a way from my own that I felt all the more passionate about his story because of it. I was delighted to discover Simonson's feelings about the star of her book on her website, a passion for the old man she has created that is so strong that it transfers right over to the reader:

'While it was often a struggle to write this first novel, it was never hard to spend time in the company of Major Pettigrew. From the first time he opened the door to his home, Rose Lodge, he has always seemed to live and be real - and my biggest challenge has been not to let him down by failing to tell his story. I hope you enjoy meeting him too.'

Books can sometimes become a little too 'comfy' and can therefore run the risk of becoming a little trite and staid, particularly when we are made to delve into the depths of English village life and run the risk of bumping into some of its stereotypically flowery, fussy characters. However, a risk is what we take with this book as our lovely story is usurped by irritating, cripplingly shallow sons and their American girlfriends..or indeed, the villagers en masse, whose casual racism, racism they barely notice themselves, I'm sure we have all seen all too often.  This unnerving, realistic edge transforms this book into a real page-turner and I was so, so very sad to finish it. (And a whole bag of Tetleys down by the end!)

Cuppa anyone?

In other exciting news, the lovely Cheryl McKenzie of The Write Game has been kind enough (and has made me blush in the process!!) to award Literary Relish a Stylish Blogger Award! You really are too kind .. Newbie that I am it has made me ever so happy to be able to share some of my thoughts on books and other titbits with so many talented bloggers and writers out there and I hope to improve the site much much more and make more connections with interesting people.

Please everyone do check out C.Lee McKenzie. A teacher and author of young adult fiction, it is a pleasure to connect with both her and any of you publishing your own work...

*Apologies for getting all gushy, I am feeling rather enthusiastic this evening!*

15 May 2011

A little snippet

Although I love reading these little nuggets of what other bloggers are reading/have received in the post lately, I tend to avoid doing them myself as I end up feeling like I'm being a little lazy.  However, Simon at Stuck in a Book started this one (and it has been travelling all over the book blogging world since then) and I thought it a particularly clever way for me to take a look at the bookshelf, take stock and evaluate where I am with my own reading at the moment.  So here goes:

1. The book I'm currently reading.

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson. - This book has been an absolute joy to read and a bit of light-hearted relief.  A pleasantly romantic and quintessentially British tale that reveals all of the highs and lows of life in an English village, I look forward to reviewing this debut novel with relish.

2. The last book I finished.

At the moment I tend to review books I've read almost as soon as I've finished them and An artist of the floating world ,by the wonderful and timeless author Kazuo Ishiguro, was no exception.  You can see my review of this thought-provoking book here.

3. The next book I want to read.

I couldn't say with any certainty which book I will pick up next as it tends to be a bit of a spur-of-the-moment type thing and my moods book-wise change like the wind, but The Paris Wife by Paula McLain is definately on my shortlist (although I'm slightly concerned that the bf will nab this before I get the chance to pick it up.)  Charting the life of Ernest Hemingway's enigmatic wife Haldey Richardson, this should make for some good reading .. although I have to say I've never read much Hemingway myself.. (his books always seem like 'boys books' to me...do you think I'm right to feel that way?)

4. The last book I bought.

My weekly charity bookshop smash and grab resulted in some great finds as usual (I think charity shops can vary depending on where you are, and South Manchester is fairly good - though not as cheap as other places..) I managed to bag a copy of The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts by Louise de Bernières, a read I found far superior to Captain Corelli.  I also picked up On Chesil Beach...I do find McEwan a bit hit and miss and I wonder how I'll fare with this one..but I thought I should at least give it a go. Finally I bought a funny looking book by Angeles Mastretta called Mexican Bolero. Although I have to be in the mood for it, I often find novels from that part of the world both hilarious and obscure at the same time and this book looked to have some fantastic characters within it.

5. The last book I was given.  

Technically books that were given to me for Christmas should probably fall into this category and they were plentiful. Amongst a fantastic vintage book on Troubadours, rekindling a passion I had for that period in history during my university days, and a lovely copy of The English Patient which I reviewed back in February, I received a practically brand new copy of Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut, a satirical novel charting the adventures of a chap named Billy Pilgrim and centering on the fire-bombing of Dresden during World War II.  A classic I previously knew nothing about and that is now sitting proudly atop the TBR pile... 

13 May 2011

Writing, Reading, Dreaming...

I recently stumbled across a wonderful article on the Guardian website that inspired me to think about my own reading habits, what they are now and what they used to be, particularly since I've only recently made tentative steps into the blogosphere and consequently bumped up my own reading a fair bit. 

I have a fairly high maintenance office job and work long hours. In the week I often don't get home until at least 7:30 pm,  by the time I have eaten and sat down to relax more often than not it can be almost 9 o'clock.  As a result, apart from the short stint on the bus on my way into the city in the morning I do the majority of my weekday reading in bed, turning it into a bit of a haven for me.  Robert McCrum talks about the world of the bed almost as a kind of twilight zone between this world and the dream-world, where your mind is free to wander and maybe, just maybe, writers and readers can be struck by their most inspired thoughts and feelings.  

During a period of illness earlier on in the year I wrote a couple of posts early in the morning sitting in bed and I must admit that I was rather pleased with the result.  I attributed it at the time to either the complete absence of the trivial rubbish that tends to build up in your head through your day + a little touch of inspiration from my subconscious mind. As for reading, well, it could almost be the warm up to dreaming....Like having a big bubble bath; for me it is my way to relax and therefore goes hand in hand with books (which is why many of them end up with a nice damp finish.)

I force time into my day where I sit down and open a book, one day I strive to have a life that is all about reading and writing ... and perhaps a bit of eating and wine drinking of course...

10 May 2011

An artist of the floating world

As I imagine is the case with many readers, my introduction to Kazuo Ishiguro came in the form of the wonderful Remains of the day, a heartwarming book I read during a tough time in my life and consequently, took much comfort from and was very sad to finish, having become so very attached to the wonderful characters, so masterfully created and so very British, something that some may find hard to believe when they read the name of the author.

Ishiguro was born in Japan and grew up in England, a fact that accounts for the, I feel, rather English sounding 'voice' in both of these books. Although An artist of the floating world is indeed set in post-war Japan, we are told this story in a manner I would expect from Ishiguro and one that is worlds away from the likes of Haruki Murakami, whose mixture of very particular magical realism makes him feel decidedly Eastern and 'exotic' to a simple Northern lass like myself.

Moving from these musings on questions of style to those of substance....This is the story of retired artist, Masuji Ono, living in a a city that is clearly worlds apart from the one which he inhabited in his heyday.  He seems a thoughtful and peaceful man, yet it seems that in reality he is an isolated member of a forgotten generation, an unreliable narrator who constantly alludes to 'past actions' that he feels a sense of responsibility for. What are these 'actions'? Telling the truth I'd be happy if someone could enlighten me...

This is a nicely painted (excuse the pun) story, and I do harbor a secret affection for Japanese culture and traditions which makes it hard not to like this book. There is no real beginning, middle and end, we simply amble along after Ono as he attempts to find his place in a world ravaged by a terrible war yet ready for change, ambling along after his grown daughters and lively grandson.

Since undertaking some further reading into the idea for this novel, I've since discovered lengthy descriptions of what exactly Ono's past actions as an 'artist of the floating world' are supposed to be, tied closely in with Japanese militarism, that make him so keen to absolve himself in the present.  How such detailed conclusions have been made I have no idea. I believe we as readers are supposed to be kept in the dark somewhat .. this is not a 'slap you in the face story', it retains a bit of mystique that certainly kept me hooked throughout.

The world is changing rapidly and I had a great deal of sympathy for this old man, however little he reveals of himself and whatever his past actions. I did find myself needing another two hundred pages to reveal this past of his but no matter.  Poor Ono is sitting in the shadow of a couple of great 'classics' of literature (I am also thinking of the offering recently intruded upon by Keira Knightly that I haven't read yet ..) and that cannot be helped.  This book is worth a read, any of Ishiguro's literature is, and we must except this for what it is; a tale that happily 'floats' along and fulfills its purpose; to provoke and tease and leave us wondering what really did happen...

8 May 2011

Satori in Paris

A little bit of light refreshment was understandably needed following the epic war drama I had just battled through, and this is where the achingly cool and undeniably handsome Jack Kerouac has come in. (Ladies, please see photo inset and be very impressed.)

Most of you will be familiar French-Canadian Kerouac, often lauded as the father of the post WWII Beat Generation, and this short snippet of his life, hurtling around Northern France in search of ancestors is a real reflection of that particular style. It is short, snappy, cool and poetic.

I was pretty sure this was one for the TBR pile, but as I picked it up at the bf's insistence I realised that I had read this gem before, albeit it during rather headier days of my own, perhaps the reason for my forgetting. After a quick type into Wikipedia it seems that 'Satori' is a Zen Buddhist term for enlightenment, an area of spirituality that many of you may know came hand in hand with this generation of writers' interests and something often reflected in their prose. As the title suggests, Kerouac experiences his Satori at the hands of a simple taxi driver in Paris, yet is nevertheless keen to point out several poignant moments throughout his whirlwind trip in search of his ancestry that may have occasioned a further moment of enlightenment for him.  This is not a straightforward short story and the idea, I feel, is to simply enjoy the rhythm of his language (French included) the characters he meets and the atmosphere he creates.  My personal interest in all matters etymological also gave this book an extra je ne sais quoi.  It does take a few pages to become accustomed to his odd turn of phrase but, once you've 'got it', its well worth hanging in for the ride. This is an amusing little book, full of personality and excitement that left me wanting more.  Beyond that, the only way to really understand this story is to read it for yourselves:

'This cowardly Breton (me) watered down by two centuries in Canada and America, nobody's fault but my own, this Kerouac who would be laughed at in Prince of Wales Land because he cant even hunt, or fish, or fight a beef for his fathers, this boastful, this prune, this rage and rake and rack of lacks, 'this trunk of humours' as Shakespeare said of Falstaff, this false staff not even a prophet let alone a knight, this fear-of-death tumor, with tumescences in the bathroom, this runaway slave of football fields, this strikeout artist and base thief, this yeller in Paris salons and mum in Breton fogs, this farceur jokester at art galleries of New York and whimperer at police stations and over longdistance telephones, this prude, this yellowbellied aide-de-camp with portfolio full of port and folios, this pinner of flowers and mocker at thorns, this very Hurracan like the gasworks of Manchester and Birmingham both, this ham, this tester of men's patience and ladies' panties, this boneyard of decay eating rusty horse shoes hoping to win a game from...This, in short, scared and humbled dumbhead loudmouth with-the-shits descendant of man.'
p. 71

5 May 2011


When I saw this sitting on the shelf in our local Cancer Research shop (every single book is £1.50 regardless of edition/condition, etc - marvellous!) I felt that familiar pang of guilt that has become a common feeling when browsing bookshelves and spying all those volumes I have always had the best intentions of picking up and yet it takes me literally years to do so. The words 'modern classic' seem to have been liberally bounded around this book and I think it is this, along with the main theme, which has always made me shy away.  It is possible that I was worried, following all of the hype and everybody I knew telling me that I simply must read it, that I would be disappointed. Perhaps I am also occasionally reluctant to follow the hype.

I must admit that these feeling were compounded by the thought of 500 + pages of WWI. It's tough, it's heavy and somehow I couldn't possibly imagine how an author could expand the story of one soldier very much beyond the trenches and the battlefields......how wrong that assumption was. At the beginning of the novel we meet an impetuous young man; Stephen Wraysford, visiting a factory in Amiens in Northern France on behalf of his employer and living with the factory owner René Azaire, his wife, Isabelle and René's two young children.

I was pleasantly surprised at the intensely passionate, romantic start to this novel as Stephen becomes more drawn to the mistress of the house; tension that rapidly transforms into a full blown affair. The fact that this would not be a book with just one 'setting' so to speak and that there would be some memorable female characters was a simply brilliant discovery and made this a much more well-rounded book, rather than (as I feared) an extended version of the wonderful, harrowing, yet hard-going war poetry I studied in my final years of English Literature at school. 

The novel is split into seven sections, spanning almost seventy decades. After experiencing the sumptuous (and rather racy in parts!) first section of the novel, charting Stephen's great love (and losses) we jump directly into the trenches and meet an anxious, slightly older, young officer, leading his men into almost certain death. I can't think of anything that would make Faulks' vivid descriptions of life in the trenches and in the battlefield any more perfect. There is, as expected, blood, guts and gore, but it is never made distasteful by being overly melodramatic.  We are left with the solid impression that this is the here and now, this is reality, our much loved characters are essentially slabs of living flesh and 'meat' and all social rules and conventions have been utterly abandoned in this singular environment; a world that has nowadays almost completely disappeared from living memory. 

I found Stephen to be quite a cold character that I found difficult to completely connect with and I think that stopped this being a 'great' book for me and left it at a 'very good' one. It is always difficult when you don't completely understand the main protagonist, although I accept that these comments are unfair as I also took this to be a very realistic description of an ordinary man and his natural reaction to extraordinary circumstances.  Certain characters however stole the show for me and led me to physically wince in horror as the majority of them are literally blown to pieces before our very eyes.  Two particular favourites were Jack Firebrace, one of the miners (a position that I, incidentally, wasn't really aware of and which was particularly interesting) digging long claustrophobic tunnels under no-mans land to blow up the enemy, and his Captain, Michael Weir, who becomes close to Stephen and, through this friendship, afforded some glimpses of softness and compassion in our main character. Jack Firebrace I imagined as a kind of smart 'Baldrick' character, a simple, brave soldier, working hard and dreaming of home.  Captain Weir, on the other hand, is a slightly more complicated and vulnerable man who provided some of the most poignant scenes in the book; one being a trip home in the middle of the war to see his parents and the complete sense of detachment and bitterness he feels as he contemplates the ignorant life they are living apart from the horrors of war. 

Our story never again explores the pre-war Stephen; whose former life and loves make poignant yet fleeting background appearances during the war years. Instead we are thrust backwards and forwards between the battlefield and the life of his granddaughter, living in England in 1978. I wasn't keen on this section of the book at first. The dramatic alteration in dialogue and subject matter seemed disjointed and, the granddaughter, Elizabeth Benson, superficial at first.  However I soon embraced the character as a necessary part of the whole, not only did these sections provide a welcome break from the heavy plotline of the War, Elizabeth's meeting (which left me feeling very sad indeed) with war veterans and the continuation of her life holding onto the knowledge and memories that her grandfather left behind leaves us with an incredibly poignant and important message. The final few sentences contains some beautiful imagery and I felt incredibly satisfied upon closing the book. 

Birdsong hasn't changed my life, but it is without a doubt a very important book and, at the risk of sounding like everyone else, you simply must read it.  It is vivid and visceral; a true epic and classic of its time, but the only problem is that I read it far too quickly.  The entire topic and setting fills you with nervous energy and I really feel (it took me a week to read this) that it should have taken me longer.  Happily it is a book to read again and again as there is so much more to discover, so many sentences to savor, and perhaps forget, and then pick up and savor all over again.....

Sebatian Faulks speaks about his novel on the BBC World Service Book Club and, as many of you will know, in his recent programme Faulks on Fiction, The Hero.

2 May 2011

Do you look after your books?

The bf and a mutual friend of ours decided to make the most of our final holiday day (after a bit of a wasted weekend of partying and being hungover) and got out into the hills for some climbing...and photo-taking on my part. This friend I learnt, much to my surprise, is a bit of a fusspot when it comes to keeping his climbing guides pristine (an absolute impossible feat in a dirty English crag as far as I'm concerned.) This got me to thinking about the condition I keep my own books in, something my parents love to joke about - 'Don't lend her a book she'll drop it in the bath!' ...Well .... that did happen once.

I'm not a materialistic person, I have no desperate desire to own very much but I do love my books and sadly, do like to sit on my sofa and ogle the pretty covers deciding what I will read next. However, as physical objects I really could take more care; I read in the bath with wet hands, I take them out and about and stuff them into bags that are far too small, I bend the spine popping them down open whilst I go to make a brew... the list is endless really. Cookery books therefore have an understandably harder life in our household.  I cannot now open my cupcake recipe book without ripping the pages as there is so much icing stuck between the pages and will now have to buy the bf's mother a new copy of Gordon Ramsey's Fastfood before she sees the state I've inadvertently got it into (!)  Yet I don't see this, as some might, as a lack of respect for the books, I see it as really using them and loving them in the way in which it was intended, fulfilling their destiny so to speak. Books are there to be read and that is why myself and the bf have no hesitation in buying second hand, whatever the state the physical object is in, provided their is a fabulous story awaiting inside.....