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What I read in March 2017

I decided to reread some books from my bookshelf. Most people are familiar with CS Lewis’ imaginary land of Narnia since The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was made into a film. Lewis’ science fiction trilogy is less well-known.

Science fiction trilogy

Science fiction trilogy

I decided to read it having read The Shadow Doctor in which the hero, Ransom is mentioned. Ransom is a philologist, a student of words and languages. This is necessary for the plot (unless a device such as Douglas Adams’ babel fish is used).

Although I have long been a fan of Lewis’ writing, I felt that one of the reasons his science fiction books did not gain the same popularity as, for example, the works of his friend JRR Tolkien was the language used. There were words, which I should have looked up in a dictionary.

The books are imaginative and the struggle between good and evil is a constant theme in these stories. The evil at times begins in subtle ways and draws people in to a point where it is extremely hard to escape.

I have read this series before, but the details of the stories had not remained with me. Out of the Silent Planet begins in an ordinary way and suddenly has echoes of HG Wells. Perelandra is a satisfactory sequel and has some of the best descriptive passages. That Hideous Strength is in some ways a grown-up parallel to The Last Battle in the Narnia series.

My copies were printed before the revolution in the printing industry. I had forgotten the typos. I am sure a professor of English would not have used metal for mettle – perhaps he dictated to a secretary and the editor missed it. There were a couple of other errors, where spaces in the wrong place left real words, but no sense. The number of errors was about usual for books of that time (and better than many newer books I have read recently).

It would be interesting to learn what was going on in Lewis’ life as he wrote this series. The human interest increased in the final book. Perhaps he had met the lady he married late in life by this time.

Another book I read in March was by an author, who also wrote children’s books. Tove Jansson was well-known for The Moomins. I found a copy of a novel she wrote in a second-hand book sale. It is called “fair play” and was translated from Swedish in a delightful style by Thomas Teal and published by Sort of Books. Although it was published in Swedish in 1989, it was not until 2007 that it appeared in English.

It is a gentle novel about two unconventional women, who are a writer and an artist. Their conversations are totally convincing. A book to enjoy.

I recently read Holloway by Robert Macfarlane and others. It may need a post to itself as it is part of an interesting story about how blogging and social media are enriching my life.

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What else I read in February 2017

I bought another book in February – The Shadow Doctor by Adrian Plass.

The day it arrived (hand-delivered by the lady, who manages a local bookshop) I was struggling with my health. I needed a book to read, while I rested. This book seemed to be just “what the doctor ordered” if you will excuse the pun. In other words the act of losing myself in a story and considering the way that the characters in the book interacted with one another for the greater good, was just what I needed.

It is not a comfortable read in some ways. Adrian Plass has a knack of making people look at things from a different angle. While he has a reputation for writing humorous books, this perhaps does not come into that category. Some of the early reviews of this newly published book give the impression that it was not what the readers expected.

One of my favourite books by Adrian Plass is An Alien at St Wilfred’s. There we learn that Hartley (whom some might describe as inadequate) is the most important person in the Church of England. The Shadow Doctor helps us to understand, who the most important person in the world is.

Not all the background to the Shadow Doctor’s modus operandi is explained. That is not a problem to me. It allows me to fill in details from my own imagination or to take on trust that only the important elements of the story need to be told.

It is a book I shall almost certainly read again one day.

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What I read in February 2017

This post coincides with World Book Day UK and is the next in my regular series about books I have read.

In February 2017 I have read and enjoyed four books, three novels and one children’s book – dare I say classic? The novels were all well-written with keen observation of human nature and the dynamics of interpersonal relationships. (The children’s book had a lovely example of generosity.)

I bought a second hand copy of The Queen’s Fool by Philippa Gregory from the ongoing used book sale at the local parish church. Although this is not the first in the series of books about the Tudor court, I found it easy to read as a stand-alone story. It opens in the reign of Edward I and continues through to the end of the reign of Queen Mary. The storyteller is a fictitious character – the Queen’s Fool. This is a mass-market paperback and a real page-turner.

Following on from Winnie-the Pooh I read The House at Pooh Corner from the same volume. I did not possess a copy of this as a child, although I did read a library copy. The stories are less familiar to me than those in the first book, but equally delightful.


I bought a copy of Trying to Fly by Annie Try. I reviewed her earlier novel, Losing Face last year. Trying to Fly is well-written and easy to read. The story drew me in from the first page. It has a similar flavour to the Evie Adams books by Mel Menzies, but in this case it is not the therapist, who investigates the mystery. I read it in a single day at a time when it was not easy for me to get out – an important concept in the book. The strap line is Haunting Memories arouse a dormant mystery. The mystery is intriguing and the plot is well-constructed. I am looking forward to the next book from Annie Try, due to be published in September.


I also bought a copy of the third in the Tales from Goswell series by Katharine Swartz. Her earlier books The Vicar’s Wife and The Lost Garden are also mentioned on this blog, which incidentally now has 600 posts. The Second Bride is written in the same style as the two earlier books with chapters alternating between two parallel stories set in different centuries.  With rather small print and around 350 pages I finished reading it the day after I bought it! There are questions for book groups at the end. The Tales from Goswell series seems to be going from strength to strength. The stories in this latest book involve the tensions of blended families and have unexpected twists and turns.