Irish Women are ….

Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling Book Cover Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling
Emer McLysaght; Sarah Bree
General Fiction (Adult) , Women's Fiction
Penguin UK - Michael Joseph
03 May 2018

Twenty-something Aisling - that's pronounced Ashling - is the sensible sort.

She wears kitten heels for the sake of her arches.

And a great night out is knowing the immersion heater at home is securely switched off.

In other words, country girl Aisling likes to play it safe in the big city.

But that hasn't helped get her man John to hurry up and pop the question.

Throwing caution to the wind an impatient Aisling tries to encourage him, only for her whole life to come crashing down.

Now no umbrella, electric blanket, nor sensibly sized heel can save her.

What's a complete Aisling to do?

I actually liked this book, even though I am not in general a fan of Irish fiction that is full of a. words that mean nothing to me; and b: humour that is not quite as I understand it.

But I managed to understand, after a few chapters, what an ‘Aisling’ was. No, not just an Irish name – which is very popular, but an Irish girl’s name for a girl from the hicks – the backwoods – who doesn’t understand city ways and doesn’t dress in a smart city manner and generally is a country hick.

But if you like your female characters to be funny and strong and full of life then this is the book for you. If you are not Irish you might struggle over some of the phrases and behaviours and references, but don’t let that put you off. There is a lot here to entertain and learn from.

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Cold Water Swimming

The Lido Book Cover The Lido
Libby Page
swimming, literary fiction, romantic humour
Orion
(19 April 2018)

'THE LIDO is a joyous and uplifting debut - a testament to kindness and friendship and all those values society must hold dear' SARAH WINMAN, author of When God Was a Rabbit and Tin Man

Meet Rosemary, 86, and Kate, 26: dreamers, campaigners, outdoor swimmers...

Rosemary has lived in Brixton all her life, but everything she knows is changing. Only the local lido, where she swims every day, remains a constant reminder of the past and her beloved husband George.

Kate has just moved and feels adrift in a city that is too big for her. She's on the bottom rung of her career as a local journalist, and is determined to make something of it.

So when the lido is threatened with closure, Kate knows this story could be her chance to shine. But for Rosemary, it could be the end of everything. Together they are determined to make a stand, and to prove that the pool is more than just a place to swim - it is the heart of the community.

The Lido is an uplifting novel about the importance of friendship, the value of community, and how
ordinary people can protect the things they love.

'A standout hymn to female friendship and the power of collective action' Stylist

'Feel-good and uplifting, this charming novel is full of heart' Lucy Diamond

'Did I #lovethelido? So much my heart broke a little turning the last page. A stunning debut' Clare Mackintosh

Brrrr…

My grandkids swim in an outdoor pool, I doubt it is heated, but I know their mother sits and watches wrapped in several blankets with a hot drink and a hot water bottle! Me – I like my water 30 degrees at least  – above permitted heat I know but…

So I maybe wouldn’t have joined the petition to keep the Lido open, not for me, but certainly there are lots of people who don’t mind the cold so maybe I would join for them. And for a Community Asset which should be kept of course!

I read a recent article by Libby Page who wrote of friendship. Across age, backgrounds and cultures. And the importance of community assets as meeting places to facilitate these friendships. without somewhere where everyone is welcomed, we are impoverished and the lesser for it.

This novel reminds us of the richness of a locality where feet traverse the soil and encounters with others is the norm.

I really must visit Brixton and the market!

 

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The babies that we never meet

The Idea of You Book Cover The Idea of You
Amanda Prowse
Womens' Literature, Women's Fiction, contemporary fiction
Lake Union Publishing
(21 Mar. 2017)

What if the one thing you want is the only thing you can’t have?

With her fortieth birthday approaching, Lucy Carpenter thinks she finally has it all: a wonderful new husband, Jonah, a successful career and the chance of a precious baby of her own. Life couldn’t be more perfect.

But becoming parents proves much harder to achieve than Lucy and Jonah imagined, and when Jonah’s teenage daughter Camille comes to stay with them, she becomes a constant reminder of what Lucy doesn’t have. Jonah’s love and support are unquestioning, but Lucy’s struggles with work and her own failing dreams begin to take their toll. With Camille’s presence straining the bonds of Lucy’s marriage even further, Lucy suddenly feels herself close to losing everything…

This heart-wrenchingly poignant family drama from bestselling author Amanda Prowse asks the question: in today’s hectic world, what does it mean to be a mother?

We don’t cry enough for the babies we lose (in early pregnancy). I certainly didn’t.

For over 20 years I ignored them and then I went into a church and saw the lists of babies that had died in early childhood and it reminded me of the babies we had lost. And I cried. I felt so sad about those children who had not joined our family.

And this book reminded me of those losses and I cried again not just for me, but for the central characters too. I empathised too much perhaps?

This is a book that starts as a second chance romance and slowly becomes a story about the children we desire through our procreation imperative  which when not fulfilled drives so many into despair and depression.

And yet there is a happy ending that is not the case for all. The author’s own experience gives this story that extra edge that rings of truth telling.

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When it’s really really cold!

Her Frozen Heart Book Cover Her Frozen Heart
Lulu Taylor
psychological, womens' literature
Pan
(30 Nov. 2017)

Caitlyn, there’s something I have to tell you. About Sara.

Caitlyn thinks her marriage to Patrick is a success. For one thing, he is one of the few people not to fall head over heels for her beautiful friend, Sara. Life is lived on his terms, but they are happy.

Aren’t they?

When a devastating accident turns her existence upside down, Caitlyn is forced to reassess everything she thought about her marriage, what she truly knows about Patrick, and his real feelings for her best friend. In the refuge of an old manor house, she begins to discover the truth.

In 1947, the worst winter in decades hits England, cutting off entirely the inhabitants of Kings Harcourt Manor. For Tommy Carter, widowed at the start of war, it is particularly hard: the burden of the family falls on her. She has the solace of her children, and the interesting presence of her brother’s friend, Fred. But there is also Barbara, a mysterious figure from her past who appears to want a piece of Tommy’s future as well.

Loved the way the story moved between the two women in different times, but who were, in the end, linked by the same house.

I had – sort of – known that the winter in the UK in 1947 was bad, but not quite as bad as was shown in this novel.

It must have been dreadful to experience when the UK had not yet recovered from WW2 and there were still shortages of basic foods and heating materials  – the coal had frozen in the mines and the drifts were too high for the miners to get to work or coal to be transported.

An anti-cyclone sat over Scandinavia and there were 6 weeks of snow falling – 55 days in total. The temperature dropped to -21C in Bedfordshire and this was before people had thermal underwear and outdoor clothing that was suitable for this type of weather.

Newspapers were cut to 4 pages.

There were no electric fires (the main alternative to coal in most houses) between 9-12am and 2-4pm.

And no afternoon Greyhound Racing!

Over 20,000 acres of corn was destroyed by the cold.

That said, I personally experienced the winter of 1963 as a schoolgirl in the days before 1. Tights, and 2. Trousers were permitted to be worn.

I walked to school.

3.5 miles each way.

I thought my knees would never stop chapping and warm up!

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Seeing the Sea?

Manhattan Beach Book Cover Manhattan Beach
Jennifer Egan
Contemporary fiction, women's fiction
Corsair; 01 edition
(3 Oct. 2017)

'We're going to see the sea,' Anna whispered.

Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to the house of a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. Anna observes the uniformed servants, the lavishing of toys on the children, and some secret pact between her father and Dexter Styles.

Years later, her father has disappeared and the country is at war. Anna works at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where women are allowed to hold jobs that had always belonged to men. She becomes the first female diver, the most dangerous and exclusive of occupations, repairing the ships that will help America win the war. She is the sole provider for her mother, a farm girl who had a brief and glamorous career as a Ziegfield folly, and her lovely, severely disabled sister. At a night club, she chances to meet Styles, the man she visited with her father before he vanished, and she begins to understand the complexity of her father's life, the reasons he might have been murdered.

Mesmerizing, hauntingly beautiful, with the pace and atmosphere of a noir thriller and a wealth of detail about organized crime, the merchant marine and the clash of classes in New York, Egan's first historical novel is a masterpiece, a deft, startling, intimate exploration of a transformative moment in the lives of women and men, America and the world. Manhattan Beach is a magnificent novel by one of the greatest writers of our time.

Whilst I have read the entire book it has not been a story that has gripped me and made me want to complete it in one sitting.

I have picked it up for Tube journeys on my phone and read as much as the journey has permitted and then left it until the next journey.

And yet I did find parts of it very interesting. For instance, when Anna  learns to dive. Finding out about what diving suits were like during the 1940s and how they worked was fascinating in a technical way. And of course the misogyny of the ship yards came through very strongly.

But this section exemplified what for me was the major problem with the book. The writing style. It lacked humour and tended to be dry rather than fluid.

The book jumped back and forward in time with no introduction, and each time I was lost for a while trying to figure out the year, and what had happened. Especially the section about Merchant ships.

There were a confusing number of names and I lost track of who was who each time it jumped.

For me, this was a novel with a story that should have been, but just wasn’t. Disappointing. Really a 2.5.

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