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Kiss – Jaqueline Wilson

Children’s books are often the ones I return to again and again. They have a purity of story which adult fiction doesn’t. I hadn’t read any Jaqueline Wilson before but on the advice of Zed I read this and was not disappointed.

Sylvie loves Carl and wants to marry him, Carl loves glass and Sylvie but does not want to marry her because he loves Paul, who does not reciprocate to put it mildly… Paul fancies Miranda who is trying to turn ‘ickle Sylvie into a bad girl and it all comes to a head when Car is inadvertently outed and is made to suffer for his honesty.

It’s quite rare that a coming of age story has the main character keeping her innocence and Sylvie is drawn remarkably well, having that not quite child but definably not yet woman thing that young teenage has. She gains in wisdom but still keeps her essentially artless nature intact. Carl was also well drawn – I felt she caught the dilemma of being a sensitive young man in a macho environment in a realistic way. I felt Paul and Miranda were more crude, the latter especially being too much of the cliché of the spoilt little rich girl for me to find quite credible (also she’s a bint).

Nonetheless, a fine portrait of the trials of youth (I thank god I am not that age any more!) and coming to terms with the complexity of the outer, and perhaps more crucially for one’s sanity, the inner world.
Plus Wilson wears almost as many rings as I do which naturally disposes me to like her work!

The Making of Home – Judith Flanders

I find Flanders occasionally preachy when talking about the Victorians but there is no denying she writes extremely well and has that enviable trick of keeping many threads going simultaneously and making it seem effortless. It is a very easy to read work summarising some serious scholarship covering both historical and anthropological ideas of ‘home’.

She distinguishes between nations where house and home are distinguished and not (Germanic and Latin respectively) and the evolution of the concept of home. Among the distinctions are the more public nature of life in Romance lands. She also covers how the growth of wage labour created more of a distinction between pubic and private spheres (not altogether new to me as I have read Engels but I assume it is useful for those who eschew Marxism). What I found more interesting was the evolution of the layouts of houses, the really riveting chapter for me was about changing ideas of privacy and how corridors aided the growth of what we would understand by it (made sense having visited Marian’s cousins in the country. Their home does not have corridors and if you have to traverse different rooms to get to your destination you are not going to be fussy about it!). I was less interested in the origins of different things within the home, it seemed rather patchy and has been covered better by other writers imho.

Nonetheless I would say it is well worth a look as there is still a lot of interesting meat there.

Never Mind the Balkans – here’s Romania Mike Ormsby

Found this in the airport bookshop ( published by his Missis) before heading Ukwards and bought it in the hope that it might enlighten me a little more about this country.

It’s an entertaining series of vignettes written by a long term resident of that enchantingly maddening city which is Bucharest. and he deals with potentially difficult topics (nepotism, animal cruelty, the brain drain, the failure to move on from Communism) with few words and a light touch which nonetheless is illuminating about the country at this moment in time.


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February 2017


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