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Three short books from BorrowBox

As well as reading printed books, I have been reading some books on my phone. As I have finished reading seven books and not yet reviewed them, there will be reviews of three books in this post.

The Prophet by Khalil Gibran

Khalil Gibran’s book is written as allegorical poetry and contains much wisdom. The Prophet was about to set sail from a city and before he went he was asked for advice by various groups of people. The Prophet is probably best known for the section about children. This is addressed to parents. I enjoyed this book and was interested to learn a little about the author. There were illustrations, but how they were relevant to the book escaped me at the time. I have since learned that he was also an artist. Really it is a book to return to, but reading it on BorrowBox is a good introduction. It was first published in the USA in 1923.

No-one is too small to make a difference by Greta Thunberg

Greta Thunberg from Sweden is well-known for her activism on climate change. As a schoolgirl she has managed to attract international attention. Her book, No-one is too small to make a difference is a collection of her speeches to various important meetings. As her message is the same, there was a lot of repetition, but it was interesting to read her words and to note which important meetings she had spoken at. Climate change is an important issue and one that should be taken notice of by everyone. Decisions taken by older people will affect today’s children and future generations.

Captain Tom’s Life Lessons by Captain Tom Moore

In 2020 centenarian Captain Tom Moore (1920-2021) captured the hearts of the British public by his sponsored walk around his garden using his zimmer frame. He raised a very large sum of money for National Health Service Charities. As a result he also gained an honorary degree and a knighthood. His book is written as he spoke with Yorkshire phrases, such as ‘When I were a lad’. His life story is interwoven with advice for good-living. While he did not consider himself religious, it was apparent that the faith and morals of his grandparents had influenced his character. It is a heart-warming book.

I recommend these three influential books from very different authors. They are all published by Penguin. Perhaps you have read one or more of them already. If so, what did you think?

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Book review: Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

I borrowed Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race on BorrowBox and read it on my phone. I was keen to read the experience and opinions of someone of different ethnicity from myself. It is just over a month since I finished reading it.

Reni Eddo-Lodge has researched her subject well, providing much historical information, some of which was completely new to me. There were other events from the UK national news, which I had been aware of.

Following the EURO22 football final and the scandalous racial abuse of talented football players, which subsequently occurred on social media, this book seems particularly relevant.

In my life I have not had a lot of opportunity to mix with people of other races, although I try to get to know those I meet socially either in person or (more recently) in Zoom meetings. I certainly know more racially diverse people now than when I wrote an earlier blog post.

I am aware of people’s attitudes to people from different places even within the same country. There can be suspicion. Accents or local dialects may make it hard for people to have conversations. There is room on both sides for learning, but many (dare I say most?) people find it easier to mix with people who look and speak like themselves.

I recommend Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race to anyone, who cares about the state of our nation and/or of other nations where racial tension is an issue.

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Book review: Three trilogies by John Galsworthy

Among the books I recently inherited were three volumes by John Galsworthy, which had been passed down from a grandparent to my parents. These books are family sagas spanning the years from 1886 to the 1930s. John Galsworthy wrote them between 1904 and 1932. The language is somewhat different from modern UK English, especially where colloquialisms are used. Galsworthy lived from 1867 to 1933.

Three green volumes with gold lettering supported by bookends with globes depicting old maps of earth
Book covers have changed since the early 20th century

The Forsyte Saga is the first volume consisting of The Man of Property, In Chancery and To Let, with interludes between each novel.

A Modern Comedy includes The White Monkey, The Silver Spoon and Swan Song , also with interludes between each novel.

End of the Chapter comprises three novels: Maid in Waiting, Flowering Wilderness and Over the River.

I began reading the series on 11 March, interspersing it with other books, and finished it towards the end of June.

This was my second attempt at reading The Forsyte Saga. During my teenage years a TV serialisation was broadcast, but we did not have a TV set at that time. A well-meaning friend of the family sent the first two paperback books as presents for the youngsters in our family. They sat reproachfully on our bookshelf for many years having been opened, but not read beyond the first few pages. I now realise that there was little in the content of relevance to such young people. What readers gain from any book depends to a large extent on the knowledge they already have. Court cases, marital difficulties and having a house built are outside the experience of teenagers. Indeed for many adults these are vicarious experiences.

The Forsyte Saga begins on 15 June 1886 and Over the River ends in the early 1930s. The many changes in attitudes, dress, transport and government are the background to these serious novels with some gentle humour, notably in the choice of some names. There is a strong awareness of the social problems of the times. Although the books are set mainly in London and the Home Counties, there is some travel and descriptions of the wider world. In The Forsyte Saga there is an extensive family tree, which folds out. An extra generation has been added to a similar one in A Modern Comedy.

By the time End of the Chapter is reached the central characters are no longer Forsytes, although they do have some interaction with members of that family. Forsyte is the surname of a family, but Galsworthy also used ‘Forsytes’ to represent all middle class persons with capitalist tendencies. The inheritance of family wealth has a strong influence on characters and events.

The religious views and changes in attitudes during the time span of the series are occasionally touched upon. Apart from one or two clergymen, who seem to act more from a sense of duty, and perhaps compassion for the underprivileged people in their parishes, than from religious conviction, there is little faith among the characters. At the time Christianity was often seen as something to agree or disagree with intellectually. The theory of evolution was used as a major argument against Christianity, not that it should have been in my opinion. There are one or two glimpses of characters, whose appreciation of spiritual matters is a little deeper than that of the majority. Several of the characters display a background knowledge of Bible stories. Church-going and teaching of scripture in schools was usual at the time.

As in any saga there is joy and sorrow. The character and decisions of older generations affect the lives of younger ones.

I found the series fascinating and well worth the trouble of reading three tomes with thin paper and rather unfamiliar language. There are many sentences, which are quotable even without their original context.

These books are available from the usual places and also on Project Gutenberg and Kindle.