world according to sam

Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first. Mark Twain

Category: BOOKS

Literally Literary Lovely! Kindle Cover

  One of the loveliest and most thoughtful gifts I received for my FortyTen birthday was a Kindle cover by KleverCase in ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ design. Those that read my blog regularly will know that this is my all-time favourite book and Atticus Finch is my all-time literary love!

Founder of KleverCase, Philip Bradburn is a true Entrepreneur. After starting out as an apprentice bookbinder in 1976, his Eureka moment came with the advent of e-readers and specifically Amazon’s revolutionary Kindle.  KleverCase was born out of his desire to keep old books alive and to produce high quality products using his experience and traditional skills as a bookbinder. You can read more of the history here.

The company upholds true values for craftsmanship and heritage – and an outstanding customer service department (Mo could not have been more helpful.   Loving your work Mo’!).  Each KleverCase is made at Manor Bindery in the New Forest and each one comes with a personal signature of who made it … in my case Lotty – thanks Lotty!

There are so many great gifts for book lovers available on the KleverCase website, even for those who won’t succumb to the Kindle (or any reading vehicle other than the printed tome!).  Check out their leather bound box files that look like library greats to store receipts, bills etc. The designers obviously have a sense of humour! Impress on the beach with Eintsein’s Theory of Relativity or a Penguin Classic in their iconic orange.  Not Another Trashy Novel brought a smile to my face too.  There are diaries, notebooks, phone covers and other gift ideas for those who love the traditional or literary based gifts.

Available from the KleverCase website, Amazon and NotonTheHighStreet 

Still Alice …. The book

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The film of the book, Still Alice by Lisa Genova has just been released, I urge you to read the book before you head off to the cinema. The film has had some great reviews, but it is a missed opportunity not to read the story before you see the characters played out on film by familiar Hollywood faces.  The book is the poignant storytelling of a woman affected by Alzheimer’s. This is particularly resonant  if you have been touched by this terrible disease yourself,   I read this when my own mother was in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s a few years back. Like the fictional Alice, my mother’s was early onset dementia, she was officially diagnosed at 60 but had struggled for many years beforehand.  My mothers decline saw her past crumbling away into an abyss and a mercurial present that was running away from her increasingly each day, leaving her and us confused, frustrated and afraid.  

Still Alice was given as a gift by a friend.  I started the book with a mixture of feelings, I had by this time read some real life accounts, some funny, all tragic and each bringing a sense of familiarity and understanding of this far-reaching problem. My initial concerns that this would be a schmaltzy, saccharine Hallmark Channel style story were allayed early on.   A fictional story, Still Alice is written, uniquely from the Alzheimer’s sufferers perspective. The book plays out her frustrations, fear, denial, anger and the huge memory voids rained down on Alzheimer’s sufferers.  And the impact of that on family.

This is the synopsis from Amazon …..

When Alice finds herself in the rapidly downward spiral of Alzheimer’s Disease she is just fifty years old. A university professor, wife, and mother of three, she still has so much more to do – books to write, places to see, grandchildren to meet. But when she can’t remember how to make her famous Christmas pudding, when she gets lost in her own back yard, when she fails to recognise her actress daughter after a superb performance, she comes up with a desperate plan. But can she see it through? Should she see it through? Losing her yesterdays, living for each day, her short-term memory is hanging on by a couple of frayed threads. But she is still Alice.

On reading the book, it brought to me a better level of understanding of how my mother must have felt in those early days. The days when she would call her sister on the way to work to ask her how she could get to her office, she had forgotten the way. Her repetition of sometimes inappropriate phrases addressed to the general public, that at best were irritating and at worst toe-curlingly embarrassing and offensive, often requiring a hasty apology and retreat. Compulsions and frustrating childlike behaviour and a world that increasingly became self-centred and selfish. Yes, my selfless mother became at times a selfish, truculent child. But overwhelmingly still lovable, lucky us as some are not so lucky and the effects of the disease can leave behind a spiteful or aggressive adult-sized child and someone far removed from the person you once loved and shared a life with.  

The desperate plan that Alice has made for herself in the story is brutal (and frightening) but the book did much to explain how the sufferer is feeling and its conclusion gave me great comfort.   I have a LOT to say about Alzheimer’s but it’s rather a piece waiting to be written still, I will get it done, but in the meantime DO READ THE BOOK! 

“You’re so beautiful,” said Alice. “I’m afraid of looking at you and not knowing who you are.”
“I think that even if you don’t know who I am someday, you’ll still know that I love you.”
“What if I see you, and I don’t know that you’re my daughter, and I don’t know that you love me?”
“Then, I’ll tell you that I do, and you’ll believe me.”
                                                                                                             ― Lisa Genova, Still Alice

Holiday Reads that will make great Christmas Presents …. Part II

So now on to some more current, contemporary reads ….

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THE 100 YEAR OLD MAN WHO CLIMBED OUT THE WINDOW & DISAPPEARED by Jonas Jonasson

A quick read and ideal gift for anyone interested in history, this is a sort of Scandi Forrest Gump, totally implausible but a ripping yarn nevertheless.  The book traces the life of 100 year old Alan Karlsson, as you journey through the old man’s century on Earth you cross paths with Stalin, Franco, Mao Tse Tung and Truman, oh and an elephant.  An offbeat funny book, not really laugh out loud but it has that humour peculiar to the Scandinavians, that sort of Nordic Nuttiness that is a little dour but still funny, death through hypothermia, decapitation and firing squad and told in the voice of Karlsson who is a-political but veers from one Socialist leader to the next tyrant.  So although it’s not a new book it’s definitely a good one for the guys.  As luck would have it the World Cinema choice on our flight home was Hundraåringen som klev ut genom fönstret och försvann (The 100 year old man etc etc ….) now what are the chances of that? The film is fun too but you don’t get the back stories of each of the building group of oddballs that join Karlsson’s travelling troupe but a great Christmas pressie ensemble if you are wanting to give the full 100 Year Old Man …. experience!

 

THE GUERNSEY LITERARY & POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows

(be assured I did not look for two books with the longest titles on purpose)

One of the most charming books I have ever read has to be this one, published in 2008.  This is a novel in letters of a love story emerging between two of the main characters, Juliet Ashton in London and Dawsey Adams on the island of Guernsey.  Dawsey regales Juliet with stories through his letters  of how the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society came about. When German soldiers controlled Guernsey during the occupation of the Channel Islands from 1940 to 1945, the islanders were held to a strict curfew and severely oppressed. They were not even allowed to eat their own livestock and the island became a sort of Nazi holiday camp.  Several islanders thought of a clever scheme that could save a pig from their own livestock for them to enjoy themselves: When one farmer’s pig died, several farmers would pass around its carcass, each reporting the death of their own personal pig to German officials. Farmers could then stow away one of their pigs to slaughter in secrecy and eat with neighbours. When one group of islanders is caught they devise the Literary Society, something akin to a modern-day book club and to uphold the story they continue to meet throughout the occupation while they develop not only  a love for literature but also create a strong bond as friends.  There are some laugh out loud moments, some moments of lump-in-the-throat sadness, this is a book that I could read time and time again and would make for a great gift.

 

 

And the one that got away ….

LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov,

I rarely don’t finish a book, even if I don’t like it I persevere but this was such an uncomfortable read I actually couldn’t finish it.  From the beginning of the book you have an uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach and whilst with most books you want to go on a journey with the central characters, with this there is that awful sense of foreboding that somewhere in his head this paedophile, Humbert Humbert is justifying that this is a pure and natural love and somehow right.  There is no denying that Lolita herself is a little minx but Humbert knows he is wrong but continues to manipulate and impress upon the young girl and her mother, whilst horrifyingly recognising that there will be a time in the not too distant future where the young Lo’ will fall out of favour with him to be replaced by a younger more nubile model.  Somewhere on the internet I found a description that Lolita is a metaphor for the Old World of Europe (Humbert Humbert) and the changing new land of plenty, America (Lolita)  …. that may be but not a comfortable read for me … I am sure I will revisit it at some time but it was my final choice while away and was definitely bringing the mood down.

Read yesterday’s post on my
classics here 

What books do you like to give as gifts … the classics or new releases?

 

 

 

Holiday Reads that will make great Christmas Presents …. Part I

IMG_5609Have had to tinker a little with this post as I left it so long to write that I have had to ‘seasonalise’ it by pretending it’s a Christmas post, rather than my tardiness in writing my review a whole three months after my holiday …. but here goes the very first of my Christmas posts. These are not new reads as I figure the Sunday supplements will have those covered, so I thought you could consider some of these as gift ideas for the bookworms in your life.

Armed with my new Kindle Paperwhite (the original, retro Kindle committed Hari-Kiri the day before my holiday) a speedy set up and download at the airport and I was armed with a couple of good e-books for my 11 hour flight and three weeks away (don’t hate me!).  For the purists out there I would like to assure you that the Kindle is perfect for travel and tripe reading but I would never eschew a real book, to me a book is a thing of beauty that should be savoured. And besides you can’t really ‘gift’ or share ebooks other than in voucher form, if I read a good book I can’t help but buy it for everyone I think its relevant to.

I am a fickle reader and rarely read the same genre or author consecutively and like an eclectic mix up.  On holiday I always like to read a couple of classics that I haven’t read before – sadly my Literature O’Level (yes, I really am THAT old!) all those years ago comprised of books that I didn’t really like and in my opinion were poorly taught –  My syllabus included William Golding’s Lord Of the Flies, (good but the boys descent into savagery was a continual annoyance to me and I was quite sure if there had been some girls to spread some common sense, things may not have escalated to such a devastating effect). Brighton Rock (too dark), Macbeth (again a dark tale of murderous ambition, I was genuinely terrified of Lady M) and finally the only book that I really loved and for years could quote verbatim, The Importance of Being Earnest, (I still have to mutter to myself  A Haaandbaaaag sotto voce, in the manner of  Lady Bracknell whenever anyone mentions handbags!!).

So this year for my yet unread classics I chose WUTHERING HEIGHTS, fuelled largely by my Twitter feed being full of news of Kate Bush’s appearance at the Hammersmith Apollo.  I loved the story, a haunting gothic book of love and passion (and yet no sex).  The book tells the story of  Mr Lockwood renting a house on the isolated English moors where he meets his mysterious landlord and owner of the nearby manor house, Wuthering Heights, the troubled Heathcliff.   Intrigued by the dour property owner, Lockwood asks his housekeeper, Nelly Dean to tell him the story of Heathcliff and he transcribes much of the dismal tale that Mrs Dean tells him. The tone is somewhat melodramatic but the descriptives transport you to the bleak windy moors and conjure up the all consuming passion between Catherine and Heathcliff.  A great gift for the book lover and available from Waterstones in their Cloth Bound Classics collection.

Then on to TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD – Harper Lee

To Kill A Mockingbird, now my new favourite book and literary crush, Atticus Finch, a man of few but wise words, a dry sense of humour and a strong sense of justice who as a widower nobly cares for his two sassy children and defends the rights of the wrongly accused Tom Robinson.  Yes, Mr Atticus Finch has usurped Laurie from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women as my literary beau – oh how I loved Laurie.  From the age of 12 I was ever hopeful that he would move in next door to me and fall madly and passionately in love with me  … until I ‘met’ Atticus Finch that is, perhaps this is my coming of age book (ridiculous that it has taken me until I am nearly 50 to move on from my teenage crush!)  and as you meander through the streets with the quirky Scout and discover the new characters you see where some celebrities have chosen trendy names for their offspring ( Scout, Jem, Boo, Dill and of course, Harper ….).  Anyway, I digress, a fabulous story essentially about good winning over evil, the beautiful descriptives transpose you to the steamy Alabama streets and the underlying racial and social tensions of America’s deep South.  If you want to buy a special gift for someone then try the Folio Society copy at £29.95, a beautiful cloth bound edition, that is definitely going on my Christmas wish list.

And I just found this …. a Christmas tree bauble that is filled with hand-cut and vintage strips of the novel taken from the pages of discarded and damaged vintage books, no longer suitable for selling. I love these sort of little gifts to give to special friends over the Christmas period when visiting, if I don’t have food gifts to take I often pick up things like to keep for those who may appreciate literature or something other than my marinaded olives (recipe to follow in a later post). Also available Dickens’ Christmas Carol and lots of Jane Austen versions of the bauble too.

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And of course the great thing about classics is that you can re-visit the book time and time again which is why they make such a perfect gift for all ages, wonderful to give to a child to start their own little library of classics – that is how I fell in love with Little Women, finding a dog eared, faded copy that had belonged to my mother and aunt –  or a gift to someone older who feels they no longer ‘need’ anything – we all NEED books to enrich our lives and transport us to another time …..

Tomorrow …. The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society, The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared and my opinion of Lolita

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