Tuesday 29 June 2021

Book Review: Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson

Meet Me at the Museum Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a pick for my in personbook group. Probably one I would not have picked up, BUT.
I've read it describe in what could be construed to be saccharin terms - ' a gem of a novel' ' a charmer' and yes those do apply, BUT.
The book is written by a Brit in her 70s who had never written a book before , BUT. ( you can see there is a pattern here!)

It is an epistolary novel, a series of letters written between two grandparents with grown up children - Tina, a farmer's wife, best near Bury St Edmonds in Suffolk, who is mourning the loss of her best friend and Anders from Denmark who works as a curator in the Silkeborge Museum, who is recently widowed. Their correspondence is something of an accident. Tina and her friend had always talked about going to see the Tollund Man, immortalised in the poem by Seamus Heaney because according to this storyline been among the group of school girls to whom the Danish archeologist Prof Glob who excavated Tollund Man had dedicated his book on the subject entitled The Bog People. In her grief Tina writes to him, but he is long since dead and Anders replies instead. There begins a totally rivetting 18 month corrrespondence between the two.
Through their letters they unwind and take increasingly openly about their different lives, their loss, their marriages, their children. They philosophise about the choices which took them to where they find themselves in their lives and as they do so their letters move from the formal opener of 'Dear Mrs Hopgood' to 'My dear Tina', from the friendly but respectful closure of 'Best wishes' to 'All my love'.

Youngson creates to distinct voices - Anders is very matter of fact, analytical, his English style of writing echoing his hestitancy in life but as the correspondence continues his confidence with English reflects his rise in confidence in his life. Tina is concerened about decisions and choices she made which led to her marriage, to her living and working on a farm, and about what she has missed out on. The reader gets quite an insight into the life of a farmer's wife. Youngson's uses a great metaphor for second chances which she gives her characters provides a framwork for their discussion of whether the fruits of life have been overlooked as result of decisions, keeping the peace etc. Their correspondence helps them both, and they each provide encouragement and enthusiasm for the other's thoughts, feelings and dileemas. They way she tells the story and develops here characters through their written voice is excellent.

It is a delightful book. It is very well crafted. I did pick up on the ending a little before we got here, but that did not in any way detract from it. I loved the way she ended the book *****SPOILER ALERT ***** in a way that says to me she is a confident writer, secure in the strength of her story, the strength of her character development through their distinctive voices, and so not needing to supply prescribed Hollywood ending.

The book was shortlisted for the Costa Best First Novel in 2018 and won the Paul Torday Prize for Debut Fiction by writers over sixty ( I never knew this even existed!) and I would say deservedly so. Most definitely recomended.

Thursday 17 June 2021

Book Review: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

I read this for my in person book group. I must admit it would not have been my choice as I am never good at reading humour. However I listened to the audio of this and thoroughly enjoyed it. A very short and light read. Lots of culturally appropriate intertextual references from "Danger Will Robinson" to "When Harry met Sally" and "Casablanca" as Prof Don Tillman navigates his way through the world in search for a life partner. A lighthearted romcom with a man with Asperger's as he searches for "the one" to meet all his criteria only to find The One who doesn't but meets the most important one he didn't list in his "Wife Project" questionaire namely understanding and acceptance of him for who is is. One to read between two heavy weights to put a smile on your face and warmth in your heart.

Monday 14 June 2021

Book Review: The Color Purple by Alica Walker

I listened to the author herself narrate this book, it was excellent. Very befitting what is probably one of the best book ever written in my opinion. I had not re-read it since it fist came out, but so so pleased I did. It still tugs hard at my heart, I love its structure, its voices, its characters and its storyline. Just perfection.

No wonder it won both the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for Fiction. I remind myself that at the time it was controversial, written in the 'folk speak' of Celie in her letters first to God and then to her 'lost' sister Nettie, it was the first time an African American woman had won the Pulitzer. It has been filmed by Steven Spielberg albeit without the essential relationship between Celie and Shug (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088939/) , and made into a stage muscial ( https://www.theatricalrights.co.uk/sh...)

Back in 2007 for its 25th anniversary The Guardian wrote this review of book and author (https://www.theguardian.com/books/200...).

Although I have not read the book In Search of the Color Purple: The Story of Alice Walker’s Masterpiece by Salamishah Tillet, there is an interesting article by Tillet on the Legacy of The Color Purple (https://newrepublic.com/article/16116... ) who "offers up a history... on how sexism within the Black community - and the white establishment's preference to frame racial injustice in terms of concerns facing Black men - stood between The Color Purple and recognition as "an American Masterpiece"". In this reader's humble opinion, it always was and still is. A highly recommended reread.