Granny's Good Reads 

Sonia Lee is one of our most treasured customers and a voracious reader.

April 2019

Gleebooks Bookshop - Friday, March 29, 2019
‘A wonderful, wonderful read’ says Stephen Fry about Take Nothing With You by Patrick Gale. And it is indeed a wonderful read—so wonderful that when I finished it I started again at page 1 for a second read. There is a certain magic about a Patrick Gale novel: he writes so well and his characters are so real that the reader is reluctant to let go of them. Eustace is fifty plus, well off and living in Kensington. Naomi, his best friend, borrows his sitting room two days a week for her cello lessons in return for looking after Joyce his whippet when he goes to visit his mother in her posh nursing home. Naomi cajoles him into putting a dating app on his phone, through which he meets Theo, a captain in the army somewhere in the Middle East and they fall in love via Skype. Theo is about to come to London for two weeks’ leave when Eustace is diagnosed with thyroid cancer and he ends up in a lead-lined room with an MP3 player loaded with cello music by Naomi. The music reminds him of his childhood when he began learning the cello himself. A dreamy, solitary child, he grew up in a houseful of adults in the care home run by his parents, the sort of child who noticed the macramé pot holder in a picture in a girlie mag, not the girls. His life changed when he began cello lessons with glamorous Carla Gold. Through her he met Ebrahim and Louis who taught him, among many other important things, that there are better foods than boiled cabbage and trifle made with canned mandarin segments. He developed a passion for his cello and became good enough to be chosen for a holiday course in Scotland run by legendary Jean Curwen. Here he met Naomi and learned the joy of playing music in a group. The worst comment Jean Curwen  could make on a student  was ‘does not play well with others’. This is an unforgettable novel about a boy on the cusp of adulthood who learns survival and resilience through the nourishing joy of music. And if that isn’t enough, Louis gives him a foolproof recipe for pasta sauce. Carla tells him: ‘Memorize this recipe and you will never lack friends.’

What a versatile writer Tim Flannery is. In a recent New York Review of Books he wrote learnedly about bees. Now he has turned his attention to Europe in Europe: A Natural History. I bought this book after I heard him chatting with Robyn Williams on the Science Show about all the exciting things he discovered, and I was hooked. He takes us back 100 million years when dinosaurs still roamed the earth and Europe was an island archipelago between Asia, North America and Africa. He explores the changes that followed the devastating asteroid strike which destroyed almost all of the species then on the planet. He takes us through millions of years of evolutionary history and the species lost before and after humans first inhabited Europe. The woolly rhino, the cave bear, the giant elk vanished, while elephants, crocodiles and giant sharks have come and gone. Would you believe that once there were hippos basking in the Thames? And woolly rhinos in Scotland? And a giant carnivorous hedgehog in what is now southern Italy? Humans have a propensity to drive species to extinction. If there were two snow leopards left in the world a poacher would come and kill them. However, Europe is now taking a leading role in wildlife restoration, so Europe now has more wolves than North America, including Alaska. Flannery himself would like to see African elephants—under stress in their own country—once again inhabiting European forests. And with advancements in gene editing technology perhaps we’ll see the woolly mammoth once more. 

Don’t miss The Ink Stain, the fourth in the Monsarrat/ Mulrooney series from Tom and Meg Keneally. They keep getting better and better. Governor Darling thinks that his predecessors, Governors Brisbane and Macquarie, were too soft on convicts and especially ticket-of-leave men. He particularly dislikes criticism from the press so when a newspaper editor ends up with a bullet in the brain our detectives get little help from authorities when they are sent to solve the crime. Mrs Mulrooney does a large proportion of the detective work, using her modest wealth for gathering information. Both detectives end up in great peril, but they survive ... and volume 5, called The Valley of the Swells, is already in the pipeline. The Authors’ historical note is illuminating. 

How could I resist a book called Books That Saved My Life? Especially when Michael McGirr says that reading is a gift that has taken him a lifetime to unwrap. Some of his chosen books are ones that I would choose, some not, but I love his reasons for choosing them. It’s his delight in books that I share  and which makes this book one to cherish and reread from time to time for ‘wisdom, solace and pleasure’. Sonia

 
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