Thursday, November 30, 2006

35. A Proper Woman by Lillian Beckwith

ISBN 0-7126-9538-9 - Century Hutchinson, 1968
Life on a Hebredean Croft in the mid-Twentieth Century is characterized by endless work and few comforts. Anna Matheson is forced, by circumstance, into marriage with Black Fergus McFee, a man she grows to despise for his callous and immoral ways. When vengeful Fergus buys a mare named Solas(gaelic for Solace) he has no idea she and her foal will lead to his undoing.
Written in true Beckwith style, it is the characters as much as the plot that are engaging in "A Proper Woman".

34. Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb

ISBN 0385660189 - Random House, 2005
A compelling insight into life in the city of Harrar, Ethiopia in the 1970s and the plight of Ethiopian refugees in Thatcherite London. The protagonist, Lilly is the daughter of bohemian British parents who are murdered in North Africa leaving her to be raised as a Muslim by the "Great Abdal".
"As is so often the case, true love is doomed. Lilly's suitor, a soulful doctor-turned-political agitator, disappears in the killing madness that swept Ethiopia after Haile Selassie's overthrow in 1974. Triply exiled-from love, from family, and from community-Lilly retreats to the country of her birth, where she recovers all three in the unlikely setting of a London low-income-housing project." View source.
As often is the case, I wish the author had included a glossary of terms and more detailed maps.
"Khat (Catha edulis, family Celastraceae) pronounced "cot" and also known as qat, gat, chat, and miraa, is a flowering plant native to tropical East Africa. Believed to originate in Ethiopia, it is a shrub or small tree growing to 5–8 m tall, with evergreen leaves 5–10 cm long and 1–4 cm broad. Khat has been grown for use as a stimulant for centuries in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. There, chewing khat predates the use of coffee and is used in a similar social context. Its fresh leaves and tops are chewed or, less frequently, dried and consumed as tea, in order to achieve a state of euphoria and stimulation." Source .
Thank you, Marieanna, for lending it to me.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

33. Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot by Peter Brimacombe

ISBN 1-84165-161-3 - Pitkin Guides, Jarrold Publishing, 2005

This colourfully illustrated and informative guide probes into the failed attempt to blow up the British king and parliament in 1605. It provides biographical data on Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators and gives a step-by-step recount of the plot.

32. Lewes Bonfire Night by Jim Etherington

ISBN 1-85770-050-3 - S.B. Publications, 1993 (revised 2001)

This book provides excellent historical background to the November Fifth Celebrations and is written by an insider. Etherington, born in Lewes in 1947, was "brought up in bonfire" & served on the Cliffe society's committee for over twenty years. He traces the evolution of Lewes bonfire from its roots in the Gunpowder Plot through the centuries to present day controversy. In the last chapter, Etherington ponders the intriguing question - Why is Bonfire so big in Lewes when it has all but died out elsewhere in the country?

Monday, November 20, 2006

31. Streets of Fire: A Hymn to Lewes and the Bonfire Celebration by Andy Thomas

ISBN 1-85770-193-3 - S.B.Publications, 1999

I had the pleasure of meeting author Andy Thomas in the Rocket FM studio when he has interviewed along with Rocket Director General, also Andy Thomas by my husband Rupert Lloyd Thomas, pictured here.
Streets of Fire chronologically relates Lewes Bonfire of 1998 as the author's experience unfolds. I read this book both before and after my first Bonfire this year and can draw many parallels. Thomas, like myself, was raised a Catholic in Lewes and attended St. Pancras. We have both, in his words, "moved on". In the early years, anti-Catholic sentiments prevailed throughout Fifth of November commemorations of the Gunpowder Plot. Today, the only remnants of this are the "No Popery" banners and exploding effigy of Pope Paul V perpetuated by the Cliffe Bonfire Society.
Thomas reminisces about feasting on, "Jacket Potatoes, sausages and grated cheese ... the traditional Bonfire fare", (page 24) before bundling up to watch the Grand Procession march down the High Street. Thanks to the hospitality of my sister Helen, I was similarly fortified on the night.
If Lewes on Bonfire Night is the world's biggest party, the morning after is the world's biggest hang-over. You can scarcely believe that the surreal ecounters you had just hours before actually happened. "Returning to Lewes the morning after Bonfire is like trying to piece together the fragments of a lost dream", page 57.
In this book, Andy Thomas attempts the unobtainable - capturing the aura and magic of the celebration. Although he insightfully & creatively reconstructs the atmosphere in text and illustrations, the only way to get a real feel for Lewes Bonfire Celebrations is to experience it first hand.

Friday, November 17, 2006

30. Journey of Tapiola by Robert Nathan

Alfred A Knopf, 1938
Tapiola, a yorkshire terrier, and his friend Richard, a canary, embark on a journey to become heroes. They inadvertantly end up on a garbage barge in New York's harbour. "we are at sea; we are embarked upon an ocean voyage. At this moment we are passing a large lady holding a candle: she seems to be waiting for someone to come home, just as I have often seen Mrs. Sweeney waiting for Mr. Sweeney". They meet Jeremiah, a preacher rat, a kind white cat and other animals as they ultimately decide they would be better off at home.

Friday, November 03, 2006

29. Spinsters in Jeopardy by Ngaio Marsh

ISBN 0-00-616530-3 - Fontana, 1954
This Roderick Alleyn mystery takes place in post World War II France where in infamous team of Mr Oberon and Dr Baradi use a cult as a front for a heroin factory and distribution network. Their own perverse egos are fed by recruiting young women into the fold.
While still in London, Alleyn's wife Agatha Troy receives strange letters form a distant relative - P. E. Garbel who lives near the Chateau de la Chevre d'Argent where Oberon leads his cult. As the plot unravels, Alleyn employes the aid of Raoul Milano who helps bring things to an intense climax during a bizarre ritual.