Reading this book was like being at a party where there’s loud music in one room and a lot of serious arguing going on in another. You know there are some interesting points being made in the arguing room but all the noise makes your ears ring. When you leave the party you’re not sure what you’ve got in your loot bag. On the whole, you’re glad you went.
The story is about Danny Kelly who wins a scholarship to an elite private boys school in Melbourne because he’s a champion swimmer. From a working class Greek/Scottish background he’s clearly different to the majority of the boys who hail from rich W.A.S.P. families. Continue reading
My name is Jude. Because of Law, Hey and the Obscure, they thought I was a boy.
So begins the story of the magical summer Jude spent on the island of Sark (near Guernsey) when she was 21.
The ‘they’ referred to are the wealthy parents of sixteen year old Pip who hire Jude to live on the island and teach their son. Jude is a graduate but a ridiculous choice to teach the superbrainy Pip anything. Not that it ends up mattering. On her first day Jude meets and is mesmerised by another hired hand, Sofi, from “Poland via Ealing”. Sofi is edgy, beautiful, nineteen. She’s a reasonably good cook but also a breaker of rules and a resentful noticer of the many slights and put-downs inflicted upon her, a working-class girl, by this tiny and class-conscious society. Jude spends most of her time studying Sofi. Pip watches them both. Continue reading
Eva is a mother of twins and the wife of an astronomer called Brian Beaver (and yup, that makes her Eva Beaver).
The twins, Brian Junior and Brianne, leave for university and Eva goes to bed. For a year.
Eva isn’t sure why she’s gone to bed. She tells the doctor she’s been tired for seventeen years ‑ since the birth of the twins. Medical people can’t find anything wrong with her, physically or mentally.
Eva takes the going-to-bed concept to its very limit, she won’t even get up to go the toilet. After failing to persuade anyone to agree to dispose of her bodily waste in freezer bags, she settles on a process of unfurling the crisp white bed sheets to form a white pathway to her ensuite toilet, winding the sheets up and tucking them back into the bed when she’s finished. Continue reading
Jerry Manville is a retired ad-man who has two ex-wives, three kids, an expanding paunch, a red 1972 Lotus and a penchant for YouTube clips in which attractive TV presenters cross their legs. More endearingly, he has a thing for fancy stationery (which he buys to calm himself down).
When Jerry and his first wife Pen got married they renovated their house in North London with their own hands, turning it into a dream home envied by all. Pen stayed in the house after the divorce but later moved into her second husband’s farm house in France (falling in love at first sight with the farmhouse, if not the second husband). Continue reading
To me Love, Nina: Despatches from Family Life (published in the U.S. as Love, Nina: A Nanny Writes Home) sounded as if it might be a collection of ‘hilarious’ letters about the everyday domestic chaos of life with small children. Highlights being, perhaps, lost nappy bags and cold mugs of tea. In TV terms, a sort of Call the Midwife crossed with Outnumbered.
It’s not like that at all.
This is a book of letters written over 5 years by Nina to her sister in Leicestershire. In 1980 Nina left Leicestershire at the age of twenty and without any qualifications to go and work in London as a nanny for Mary-Kay Wilmers (editor of the London Review of Books) and her two sons, Sam, 10 and Will, 9. Her decision to nanny was random: it sounded like it might be a nice life. Being chosen by Mary-Kay was random too; a lot seemed to hinge on which football team she supported. Continue reading