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Two library books I enjoyed

Photo of the two books reviewed in this post

The two books reviewed here are

The Girl at the Window by Rowan Coleman

and

The Last Wilderness by Neil Ansell

I borrowed both these books at the same time as Your Inner Hedgehog.

The Girl at the Window

The reason I picked The Girl at the Window from the large selection of fiction was that Joanna Cannon had endorsed it. The story was quite different from what I expected, having a supernatural element. The tragedies of earlier times had left their mark on the house mentioned in the strapline: A house full of history is bound to have secrets…

The stories of past and present residents are well told as a mystery is delved into by the protagonist. The research into the work of an archivist was incorporated into the story so well that I felt the author had firsthand experience until I read the Acknowledgements. The end of the story is happier than I expected.

The Last Wilderness

The Last Wilderness: A Journey into Silence was in my favourite section of the nonfiction books. The cover and the ‘Shortlisted for the Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize 2018’ sticker had me hooked. Neil Ansell may be well-known to you if you watch TV, but I hadn’t heard of him. The Last Wilderness describes his visits, during a year in which his health was not good and his hearing was deteriorating from a low starting point, to a remote area of Scotland.

Alongside his descriptions of the terrain and its wildlife he reminisces about parallel experiences in other parts of the world. This is a book which draws the reader into the story. There is adventure, chance meetings and information about wildlife from someone who has spent lots of time alone observing animals and birds. The writing drew me into the story by painting vivid pictures of the scenes and their effect on the author.

The area of Scotland where it is set is one that I have had glimpses of from the road, but not explored on foot due to the difficulty of the terrain. Because the book is autobiographical in nature, the reader knows that the author lived to tell the tale in spite of some mishaps.

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Sentence fragment paint chip verse

This week Linda Kruschke has another challenge from the S section of the poetry dictionary. Do visit her blog to see the full definition, the colours, her poem and the poems of other participants.

And here is my challenge: to use one or more sentence fragments expressively or rhythmically. You might even choose to write your whole poem as a series of sentence fragments, so long as you do it intentionally and not carelessly. You can write a few couplets, a triolet, a little free verse, or a haiku. Whatever form you choose is up to you, but just be sure to include one or more fragments.
The paint chip words and phrases that you have to work with in your poem are cotton candy, endless dunes, fresh-squeezed, sunny-side up, cream of the crop, verdant, and clown nose.

Linda Kruschke

Free verse about an imaginary scenario appealed to me for this week’s challenge.

Carnival time

The band played
Seated on the verdant foreshore.
The fancy dress parade:

Robots. Mermaids.
A unicorn. Pierrot. The Flintstones.
Paddington bear without his coat.

Children with cotton candy:
Noses and mouths sugar pink,
Almost clown-nose red.

Parents hoping for something fresh-
Squeezed hands of toddlers
Lest they vanish in endless dunes.

Back for a quick snack.
Sunny-side up with home-grown tomatoes,
The cream of the crop.

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Three works of fiction

On my first visit to the public library for months I was in a hurry and grabbed two books. It was only when I arrived home that I realised one was a large print edition. My ageing eyes did not complain!

Cover of Mum & Dad. Text over vine leaves and stalks

The book was Mum & Dad by Joanna Trollope. The Mum and Dad in the title are the grandparents. There are three other mums and dads and their teenage children in the family. A change in circumstances for Mum and Dad leads to all sorts of unexpected consequences for all the generations.

It is a sensitively written book, which I enjoyed. It is also available in hardback, paperback and Kindle editions.

The next two books I read were both by Alexander McCall Smith, borrowed from the library on different days. The Unbearable Lightness of Scones is in the 44 Scotland Street series with characters such as 6-year-old Bertie and his friends as well as adults of various ages. There is a wedding, an eventful honeymoon and plenty more to keep the pages turning. There are illustrations too.

Cover of The Unbearable Lightness of Scones. Hot-air balloon, banner with title and a street with houses with 4 storeys.

Your Inner Hedgehog by Alexander McCall Smith is in a newer series – A Professor Dr Igelfeld Adventure. I haven’t read the two earlier books, but that was no disadvantage in reading Your Inner Hedgehog, which was published this year (2021). I found a hardback copy when I returned the previous books. The chapters are numbered in German with delightful illustrations by Iain McIntosh. Some unexpected events arise from the office politics in a German University and when foreign academics visit Oxford University. Romance philology (the study of words of a related group of languages rather than romantic words!) and discussions about grammar make a change from the settings (in Edinburgh and Botswana) of three earlier series by Alexander McCall Smith, which I have dipped into. I learned that der Igel is a hedgehog and Igelfeld in English would be ‘hedgehog field’, in case you are wondering about the title. The genre is literary fiction: it is not as light a read as most other books I have read by Alexander McCall Smith.

Photo of hardback copy of Your inner Hedgehog. The illustration includes a headgehog, a mortar board (graduate headwear) and a building with a tower.
Photo of Your Inner Hedgehog

Your Inner Hedgehog is currently available as a hardback or CD-audio. The paperback edition may be pre-ordered.