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What I read in September 2019 (Part 1)

Early Riser by Jasper Fforde had been on my list of books to look out for ever since it was published last year. It perhaps wasn’t the best time to request this book from the library, when I was feeling mentally and emotionally exhausted. There is a lot about sleep and dreams in it; ironically in an overheated environment I kept falling asleep over it.

As Jasper Fforde is one of my (many) favourite authors I reread the book carefully before its three weeks’ loan was over. It was much easier to follow the plot the second time round. There were hints at what was going on, but with a large character cast, a complex social system, new uses for existing words and neologisms aplenty, knowing how some of the threads had been tied up helped me make more sense of the beginning. As usual Fforde has created a wealth of literature for the backstory to this novel from which he quotes at the beginning of each chapter. There are also his customary footnotes, which add to the text in an amusing way.

It is fantasy about an alternative reality. The humour is very dark in places. Readers familiar with classical literature, celebrities and books will appreciate this book better than those who are less widely read. Some knowledge of the geography of Wales might also help. I had to research some of the celebrities (i.e. ask hubby!) and probably should check some Greek myths.

Or you could just read it and use a search engine to see whether any of the character names have been recycled! Another good candidate for reading groups to discuss.

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What I read in August 2019 (Part 1)

Thinking on my Feet: The small joy of putting one foot in front of another by Kate Humble

I borrowed another nature book shortlisted for the 2019 Wainwright prize from the library. This is a book which takes a journey through a year. It includes foreign travel, farming in Wales, walking in every place, meetings with people. Kate Humble is very observant and has recorded her thoughts, observations and feelings in an engaging manner. I had my horizons broadened from her travels! The book has a feeling of purpose and hope.

Observant readers will have noticed that What I read in August (Part 2) appeared before this post. I might have noticed sooner had I been keeping my contents list up-to-date!

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Wild flower books

The first book about wild flowers I ever read was the Ladybird book I mentioned previously. The next one I became aware of was a beautiful book of botanical drawings by W. Keble Martin: The Concise British Flora in Colour. Two lovely sisters of the generation whose potential husbands did not return from the First World War showed me a copy. One of them had taught my mother at primary school. They were most enthusiastic about the book, pointing out how much work was involved.

When a book club I joined several years later offered this book I bought my own copy.

Over the years three other wild flower books have arrived in our house. The most attractive of these is Dorling Kindersley’s Eyewitness Handbook: Wild Flowers of Britain and Northwest Europe. It is the book I consult first. The flowers are arranged by family. There is a identification key which starts by separating dicotyledons and monocotyledons. I find this of limited help and usually hunt through the pages.

The second one, which has far more subspecies pictured, is Collins New Generation Guide to the Wild Flowers of Britain and N. Europe. I have to admit that I have only used it as a reference book for identifying flowers. I ought to take the time to read all the background information. The author of this book was Alastair Fitter and David Attenborough was the general editor.

What I like about the third one is that it has an identification section organised by colour and by the size of both the flowers and the plant. I discovered it on my mother’s bookshelf; she allowed me to take it home! The Concise Flowers of Europe by Oleg Polunin also has over 1900 colour photographs. There is also a ruler (similar to those often provided on knitting patterns) so that the size of the flowers can be measured. (However I do not usually encumber myself with books outside.)

Learning about wild flowers has become much easier with digital photography. Instead of following in W. Keble Martin’s footsteps and making detailed drawings, which must have taken hours and hours, it is now possible to take a snap and consult books and/or the internet later. Fortunately there are still people, who make beautiful botanical drawings and paintings.

The naming of flowers in Latin has changed since the books I own were written. Serious botanists have the latest book with all the up-to-date names. An example of the changes is that the daisy family, which includes dandelions and thistles, used to be called Compositae. The modern name is Asteraceae. Twitter (especially #wildflowerhour) can be very educational! I am happy to remain an amateur botanist with out-of-date books.