The Classics Club


I discovered this book group today. Here are my 20 books.

1. Gone with the Wind

2. North and South

3. Death in Venice

4. Cloud Atlas

5. A Little Boy Lost

6. The Mystery of the Hansom Cab

7. Middlemarch

8. Anna Karenina

9. The Human Machine

10. Wessex Tales

11. A Group of Noble Dames

12. Northanger Abbey

13. Wives and Daughters

14. The Iliad (oh woe is me!)

15. Ivanhoe

16 The Legends of King Arthur and His Knights

17. The Belton Estate

18. Little Dorritt

19. Paradise Lost

20. Brighton Rock

Now if I can fit all these in along with three Theology at University this semester plus three different subjects nexts semester then I will once again revert to childhood and believe in miracles?


A few weeks before Christmas Eldest Daughter informed me that she and her two sons were planning on seeing The Hobbit on Boxing Day when it would be shown for the first time. On Monday a week before Christmas, the tickets went on sale at 5.00 PM, daughter and I were there at 5.10 PM for our tickets. Just as well we were.

Come Boxing Day, we got to the cinema, in plenty of time, to discover that not only The Hobbit but two other movies opened that day.

We joined the queue – the long queue, that seemingly never moving queue! Needless to say, the tickets had sold out and the cinemas were packed.

My two grandsons and I are huge fans of Lord of the Rings. I love the book they love the movies – all three movies. So it was with some excitement, and, it must be admitted, a little trepidation, that we sat down and waited for the movie to begin.

Almost three hours later we walked out, our heads full of dwarves and speculation on what will happen in the next two movies. Yes, for us, Peter Jackson has definitely done it again. The cinematography is once again brilliant. Whereas Lord of the Rings was sombre in places, The Hobbit provides humour. I defy anyone to not laugh at the double takes on the face of Martin Freeman as Bilbo or the antics of James Nesbitt as Bofur. And if Richard Armitage’s Thorin sometimes appears to share his fight choreography with Viggo Mortensen’s Aragorn in Lord of the Rings then who cares. He is still Richard Armitage and still very on the eyes – and an excellent actor!

Will I go and see it again? Definitely. Will I see the next two movies? Another definite.

Incidently, we saw the 2D version. And that is the one I will see again.

Another plus for us was Jackson’s use of familiar music. We know from the music when the elves are about to appear. The beautiful music also alerts us to the entrance of of Elrond and Galadriel. Another tick for Peter Jackson.

Photo from:


imageChristmas is over and the New Year is here. I know everyone else has already beaten a path to their blogs to ring in the New Year. OK. So I have to be different and wait a while!

I discovered just before Christmas that my children have entered a conspiracy to kill me. Payback, they might say, for the miserable childhood I inflicted on them. Although I do vehemently deny sending them out in the snow to sell matchsticks! Or of beating and starving them. No Matter. The fact remains . . .

Now before I go any further, I should tell you that I am a diabetic with out of control sugar levels. With me so far? Also overweight but we won’t mention that here.

I first became aware of their dastardly plot on the Sunday before Christmas when Eldest son and D-I-L gave me a gift basket full of biscuits (cookies) and CHOCOLATES – lots of chocolates.

And loads and loads of lovely food that simply couldn’t go to waste.

Christmas Eve I simply had to eat another dinner of ham and goodies with youngest som who would be working Christmas Day.

And then the Big Day arrived. And another gift basket of, yes, you guessed it, chocolates and biscuits. And a box of chocolates, and tiny Mars bars.

Now I can hear some of saying, so what, give them all to the needy but I am greedy (typo – NEEDY) and it is the gift that counts, blah, blah, blah.

So I did what any sensible person would do, cut off  another hunk of ham from the bone, got out a book and sat and read and ate.

And a Happy New Year to All of You.


A New Year is fast approaching, much too fast for me I must say. 2012. An unbelievable number for someone born back in the good old days of the 19s!

So with the New Year comes another challenge. No! Not resolutions. I never manage to keep them past the 2nd January anyway. So a challenge it is.

2012 will be the year of Australian women writers.

For the full challenge: Australian Women Writers 2012

I am a Dabbler so I will source more than one genre and, for my Challenge level, I think I will go for the Franklin-fantastic (read 10 books, review four). I know this sounds optimistic but what is a challenge without a little optimism?



Bruno Chief of Police


by Martin Walker

“It’s market day in St. Denis, a small town in the Périgord region of south-west France. The locals are on the alert because inspectors are about to make a ‘surprise visit’, hoping to enforce the unpopular and bureaucratic EU hygiene rules. But for Captain Bruno Courrèges, St. Denis’ Chief of Police, this particular market day turns into something far more serious.”

And you can bet your life that the “secret” inspections are far from secret as Bruno and his fellow townsfolk have their own method of determining not only when the inspectors will arrive but who they are well in advance of the visit.

Any sign of them, Marie?’ he asked. ‘They hit the market at St. Alvère yesterday, so they are in the region.’

‘Not last night, Bruno Just the usual guys staying from the museum project and a Spanish truck driver,’ replied Marie, who ran the small hotel by the station. ‘But remember, after last time they were here and found nothing, I heard them talking about renting a car in Périgueux to put you off the scent. Bloody Gestapo!’

Bruno, whose loyalty was to his local community and its mayor rather than to the nominal laws of France, particularly when they were really the laws of Brussels, played a constant cat-and-mouse game with the inspectors from the European Union who were charged with enforcing EU hygiene rules in the markets of France.

Hygiene, thought the locals of St. Denis was all very well but they had been making and selling their cheeses and foie gras for centuries before the EU was ever dreamed of and didn’t take kindly to foreign bureaucrats telling the what they could and couldn’t sell.

The inspectors don’t have an easy time of it in St. Denis when their car tires are slashed and a small boy puts a potato in their car’s exhaust pipe. Mayhem, all round.

Adding to Bruno’s troubles is the fifty year old feud between two old men in the village. And then another old man is murdered. An old Arab into the bargain. And a decorated war hero. Or was he? The mystery deepens as Bruno attempts to solve them murder which quickly deepens into accusations of racial intolerance, demonstrations, small riots and other mysterious goings on, all solved by the devious and unflappable Bruno.

That is, when he isn’t cooking up a storm (which made my mouth water), describing wine as the nectar of the gods, and falling in love.

This reader definitely fell I love with Bruno, St. Denis, and all that delicious food. Oh yes, and with as delightful a set of supporting characters as you could possibly desire in a small French village.

“Bruno had never counted, but he had probably kissed a hundred women and shook hands with at least as many men each morning on market day. First this morning was Fat Jeanne, as the school-boys called her. The French, who are more attuned to the magnificent mysteries of womanhood than most, may be the only people in the world to treasure the concept of jolie laide, the plain or ugly woman who is so comfortable within her own ample skin and so cheerful in her soul that she becomes lovely.”

Oh yes, I definitely like Bruno (and his creator Martin Walker)!

Martin Walker has created a purely delightful character in Bruno. I can’t wait to read more about this creative policeman and his unorthodox approach to keeping the law in a small French village.

Title: Bruno Chief of Police

Author: Martin Walker 2008

Publisher: Quercus

ISBN: 978 1 84724 977 7

popeye never told you

popeye never told you

by Rodney Hall

Popeye is, of course, Popeye Doyle who eats his spinach is as strong as strong.

The Popeye in this case is a memoir of the author’s early childhood in England during the Second World War. The story is told from the little boy’s point of view with spelling and punctuation to match.  The breathless tone of a five year old narrating his day to day existence is extremely well written and comes across with a veracity that make you feel like you are in the room with him. The war is almost incidental, an afterthought in Rodney’s story that almost, but not quite, belays the danger and anxiety that beset the small boy.  But it is always in the background and provides the narrative for the way Rodney and his Mother, brother Michael and sister Diana lived. So, although we have an account of a long-gone childhood in England, we also have the Hall family hiding under the piano during a bombing raid, a trip to the theatre interrupted by an air raid, an incendiary bomb scoring a direct hit on the shed in the garden and setting it alight, barrage balloons, American soldier, rationing and billeting.

“Mike heaves the window down to slam it shut, and Di comes running across the carpet just in time to see the whole town change into black chimneys and glass flashes and this one WOW! comes so close i duck and the windows rattle and i see weird rooms over there like bright toilets and rooms with cupboards and enormous shadows flicker on the wallpaper, but im not afraid because Mikes here and im going to be a sailor anyway! and a puff of smoke drifts past in front of everything but i press my nose against the mesh,

‘BKHHHURR!’ i shout back at the explosion,

and the din is terrific with the air raid sirens wailing as well,”

So begins Rodney’s tale at age five. What follows is a mad rush to close the blackout curtains, push the sofa over towards the piano to create a shelter where they huddle until the raid is over and the all clear sounds.

The voice Hall uses is a little disconcerting to begin with but once you begin to get into the book, it ceases to annoy and becomes enchanting. The breathless excitement of a small boy recounting his story sweeps you along until the reader no longer notices the punctuation and writing style. What unfolds instead is an little boy facing life’s challenges that are far more daunting than an air-raid: beginning school, making friends, handling bullies, a first attempt at stealing and the guilty feelings and terror that are a consequent of the act of daring do, the excitement of first tasting an orange at Christmas, and the many adventures around his immediate environment that can delight and terrorise a small boy.

Rodney and his older brother Mike and sister Di have a large amount of freedom to wander at will as they explore their town and the surrounding countryside. They find forbidden adventure in an abandoned flour mill knowing full well they shouldn’t be in there as they demonstrate the complete lack of danger that is apparent in young children. That the rusty old staircases in the silo could collapse as they play their war games simply doesn’t occur to them.

“are we allowed? i ask,

‘shut up and stay in the shadow of the all’ Mike whispers ‘so no one can see you!’

but im already squashed right up close to it and squatting under the TRESPASSERS WILL BE PROSECUTED sign,

‘whats prosecuted, Mike?’

‘chased and caught’ he says,

and the terror jumps out at me, like theres big men in hats all rushing to to catch us,’

Who can ever forget the terror and bravery of a forbidden childhood  undertaking?

And yet, when caught outside while bombers fly over, their sense of danger is apparent. even when Rodney argues with Mike and wishes a bomb would fall on his bossy big brother!

Hall’s extended family includes  Gran.

and Gran tells me the big picture in her room is an oil painting but i reckon its a few cows flopping in the shade under a knobby tree.”


“so Gran complains about money all the time but when she wants us kids to run errands or when she wants us to give her kisses she bribes us with pennies and sometimes threepences and she gives the best hugs because of the way she catches hold of you to squeeze you against her and her cheeks are soft and puffy and i like kissing them and i can smell cooking smells…”

Gran may be an irascible old lady to the rest of the family but Rodney has her worked out.

But for the young Rodney, a place called ‘Kangaroo Valley’ holds all the mystery and mythology a young boy can dream of. Rodney’s dreams encompass a time and place to go to to escape the war, it offers a dream destination for a small boy feeling miffed with his family and harbouring a desire and intention to run away from home.

(Rodney’s description of what he imagines Kangaroo Valley to be like has a particular resonance with me as I do, in fact, live near there and have know  it well.)

Popeye never told you is a story of childhood innocence – not that Rodney and his compatriots were innocent little darlings by any means. It was a time when childhood innocence could watch a stricken bomber go overhead in a crash drive and marvel at the the sight but with a total unawareness of the consequent destruction. It was a time when you could revile the enemy at large but the enemy closer to you, and  with a greater impact on you, was that of twin bullies you encountered on a day to day basis.

It was a time when adults told you what they thought you should be told but not what you wanted to hear and wanted to know. For instance, why was Uncle Ralph handed a white feather by a strange lady?

Author: Rodney Hall
Title: Popeye Never Told You: Childhood Memories of the War
Publisher: Pier 9, (Murdoch Books)  2010
ISBN: 9781741967593



Dry Bones That Dream by Peter Robinson

I first met Chief Inspector Banks when a friend recommended I read a book by Peter Robinson. I don’t always agree with someone’s recommendation but from my first encounter with Alan Banks in Gallows View I was hooked. He is my kind of detective. Gentle (mostly), thoughtful, intelligent but with flaws. The thing about Banks is that he tries.

Although, as his old nemesis Detective Superintendent Burgess says:

“Still the bloody pinko, huh? Still the limp-wristed, knee-jerking liberal?”

A tad unfair to Banks who doesn’t approve of the bully boy tactics employed by Burgess to get what he wants from a suspect.

Dry Bones That Dream is the seventh novel in the Chief Inspector Banks series. Peter Robinson presents us with another lovely murder with a twist. And, a twist in the end which certainly took me by surprise. I didn’t see it coming, which for me, is the mark of a cracking good mystery.

Robinson’s, Inspector Banks series might be considered slightly formulaic at times but the original formula is an entertaining great read so why mess with something that works wonderfully?

He provides enough variations on the theme to keep even this hard-nosed reader guessing. Although the reader benefits from the back story of the earlier books involving Banks, and his cohorts Detective Superintendent Gristhorpe, DC Susan Gay, and Sergeant Hatchley, each book can be read and enjoyed as a stand alone.

Chief Inspector Banks is a man now on the wrong side of forty. He smokes too much, he knows, but he hasn’t yet got the motivation to give it up. Married to an increasingly independent Sandra and father of two, Banks senses his marriage is in trouble as he and Sandra lead ever increasingly separate lives. His job keeps him away from home for long hours. A career move from the dens of London to the dales of Yorkshire was meant to be for the better. Somehow, you get the feeling it just isn’t going to work out that way. And teenage children have a habit of leaving home. In doing so they leave Mum and Dad more and more isolated from each other.

Things aren’t helped when Banks experiences an attraction to another woman. When she is brutally attacked, Banks has enough guilt for the whole of Yorkshire. He wants to talk to someone but realises that talking about it to Sandra may not be the wisest thing he could do. So what is a man to do?

“It was 2.47 a.m. when Chief Inspector Alan Banks arrived at the barn and saw the body of Keith Rothwell for the first time. Only hours earlier two masked men had walked the mild-mannered accountant out of his farmhouse and clinically blasted him with a shotgun.”

The execution style murder leads Banks and his team onto many discoveries about just who and what this supposedly mild mannered accountant actually was. or, to be more precise, who was he? Husband and father certainly. A member of a dysfunctional family, certainly. An accountant with a slight preference for cooking the books and making a profit from someone else’s money, definitely. But what else was he?

Did he have a split personality? Was he a Walter Mitty type character? The details of the dodgy accountant will keep you entertained and guessing right to the end.

Dictators and money laundering often go together and in Banks’ world (and that of Peter Robinson). They go very nicely together indeed.

Title: Dry Bones That Dream

Author: Peter Robinson 1995

Publisher: Pan Books


Sun and Shadow

Sun and Shadow by Åke Edwardson 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Reading a book set in the season of winter in Sweden, with a chief protagonist named Winter, led to more than a slight confusion on my part! I kept think, “Yes, I know it is winter, so what?”

“Eric Winter is the youngest Chief Inspector in Sweden; he wears sharp suits, cooks gourmet meals, has a penchant for jazz and is about to become a father.’”

Winter sounds like the typical New Age guy but, like most of us, he has his hang-ups. One is coming to terms with his father and his father’s death. The other is making a commitment to his pregnant girlfriend. To be or not to be. Or in this case, to marry or not to marry, is the question.

When a couple are found murdered in their Gothenburg flat, Winter has to juggle the investigation over worries about prospective fatherhood. I must say Winter, at almost 40 years of age, was slow to work out exactly how he felt about fatherhood and marriage. How would a baby impact on his super-tidy apartment and his super-organised lifestyle?

When his girlfriend, Angela, is threatened by the bad guy, Winter’s anxiety reaches a new level.

Sun and Shadow takes us from Gothenburg to the Costa del Sol and back again. Hence the title as we go from wintery Sweden to the sunny Costa del Sol where Winter meets a lady he likes. Things don’t look good for Angela and their as yet unborn child.

Edwardson gives the reader a vivid hint of corruption and a cop gone bad which makes realises that corruption and bad cops are a universal problem.

Edwardson very cleverly takes his reader from one clue to another and from one possible suspect to the next. I for one got the solution wrong! And I don’t often have to admit to that.

Drugs, underage drinkers, wayward daughters and domestic violence are just a few of the problems tackled in this book.

A wonderful introduction to a Swedish Chief Inspector and to a city that is sure to have a high crime rate with Winter and his team to tackle. At least, I sincerely hope so!

Title: Sun and Shadow

Author: Ake Edwardson

Translated By: Laurie Thompson

Publisher: The Harvill Press



The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo

From the blurb on the back of the book:

“1942: Daniel, a soldier legendary among the Norwegians fighting at the East Front, is killed. Eighteen months later in a Vienna hospital, a wounded soldier becomes involved with a young nurse. The consequences will ripple forward to the end of the century.

1999: Having caused an embarrassment in the line of duty, Harry Hole is lumbered with monitoring neo-Nazi activity; a fairly mundane assignment, until reports of a rare weapon being fired attract his interest. Meanwhile, an ex-soldier has been found with his throat cute. Pursuing both his assignment and his hunches, Harry embarks on an investigation in which he has much to gain and everything to lose.”

The Redbreast is the first book by Jo Nesbo (and the first book by a Norwegian writer) to be read in my quest to read as many different writers as possible this year.

The Redbreast was Winner of the Glass Key, the Riverton Prize and the Norwegian Bookclub Prize for the best ever Norwegian crime novel.

I did have difficulty with the beginning of the book at it switched in time between 1942 and the Eastern Front and 1999. Once I was captivated by Harry Hole and Oslo, however, any annoyance and confusion soon vanished.

Harry Hole is an unlikely hero. An alcoholic, a bit of a loner who believes in doing things his way and thereby ruffling the feathers of his senior officers, Hole has one good thing going for him. he gets results.

The Redbreast, as my first introduction to Jo Nesbo and A Norwegian Police Procedural, was a great read. When Hole put on his skis to investigate a scene, I was hooked.

I also learned that there was an area of history that has been neglected in my education. I did not know that Norwegian and Dutch volunteers joined Germany and fought again Russia in WWII. I was a little taken aback when Australians were placed in the trenches along side the Dutch on the Eastern Front. As I haven’t, at the time of this report, found evidence that suggests any Australians were involved in the fighting I have put it down to either an error in translation of the original Norwegian or a typographical error.

That aside, I was fascinated by the background of the story.

The Redbreast reveals that corrupt police are universal, that alcoholism is an occupational hazard as is divorce! And heavy smoking is universal.

Title: The Redbreast

Author: Jo Nesbo

Translated By: Don Bartlett

Publisher: Harvill Secker, 2006

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂