Jo's challenge

Members try to read 50 books in 2010. Anyone can participate. Keep track of your progress with your own thread.

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Re: Jo's challenge

Postby Nurse Jo » 20 Jul 2010, 06:40

27.Call the midwife - A true story of the East End in the 1950's by Jennifer Worth. 4stars

This is an account of a community midwife in docklands of London during the 1950's. A world of brothels, slums, bug-infested tenements, women who bore 10 children and 'made do' with two rooms for the whole family. It also shows the indomitable spirit (although maybe this is written with slightly rose tinted glasses as the author looks back on her life) of the east enders - their humour and sense of community. This world has now disappeared, mostly for the better I have to say. Reading this, I now know why some of the East Enders that moved out to Kent and Essex on retirement talk about their childhood with such pleasure*.

The author was based in an Anglican convent - the Sisters were midwives and some hilarious stories are told of the various characters, all adding to the mix. What shines through though is the author's journey from a naive twenty-two year old, very middle class, prone to err on the slightly judgmental side to a woman who deeply cares, understands and nurtures her patients.

Some of the cases are horrific, although very interesting nevertheless. To me as a nurse and also as someone with an interest in social history this is a fascinating book. It is also near the start of the NHS and patients were accessing free healthcare - their gratitude is humbling. Penicillin was being used more often too - the author talks about the miracle injections which saved so many lives. The thing that fascinated me was the description of how the urine was tested for proteinuria - boiled over a bunsen burner. The smell at an ante natal clinic was vividly described and one can just imagine the smell of warmed urine (one I am familiar with) mixing with the body odour to give an unfogettable aroma.

*Large areas of north Kent had large influxes of east enders as the traditional industries closed and the area changed. One housing estate in the conurbation we lived in in Kent was known by the locals as the 'London estate' as so many of them were from the east end.
There is nothing the British like better than a bloke who comes from nowhere, makes it, and then gets clobbered. Melvyn Bragg
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Re: Jo's challenge

Postby Baker » 20 Jul 2010, 08:33

Sounds fascinating: and just the sort of book I am beginning to expect you to read and enjoy. Oh, boy, I can imagine that smell... :-o
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Re: Jo's challenge

Postby Nurse Jo » 16 Aug 2010, 04:26

28. Deadlock by Sara Paretsky. 4+stars

V.I. Warshawski's cousin is dead and V.I Warshawski (aka Vic) wants to know, how, and why, her cousin died. This is a murder mystery/detective novel of high quality. Excellent plot with plenty to keep one interested. I like the m.c very much - feisty, funny and a feminist. There is little to dislike :)

If you are a detective/mystery fan then this is for you without a doubt. It is a rip roaringly good story and I didn't want to put it down. If you want lesfic with romance then this is not going to be your cup of tea. There is no sentimentality in this book at all. Not even a particularly happy ending, although there is a satisfying tying up of plot ends, there is no romance in this at all. If this genre is your thing, then you will love this book.

Thank you for lending this one to me Wildlx . I have to say, you really are the queen of mystery books, you have not disappointed yet with your recommendations :-)
There is nothing the British like better than a bloke who comes from nowhere, makes it, and then gets clobbered. Melvyn Bragg
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Re: Jo's challenge

Postby wildlx » 16 Aug 2010, 08:46

My pleasure, Jo. Yes, V.I. Warshawski is quite a character! And who would have guessed I could be the queen of something ;-).
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Re: Jo's challenge

Postby Baker » 20 Aug 2010, 09:11

Oh, Wild, I'm sure we could call you the "queen of..." a few things if you really wanted us to. ;)
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Re: Jo's challenge

Postby wildlx » 20 Aug 2010, 09:52

Are you offering to make a list ;-)?
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Re: Jo's challenge

Postby Baker » 20 Aug 2010, 13:41

:hh: Don't tempt me! ;)
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Re: Jo's challenge

Postby Nurse Jo » 04 Sep 2010, 08:01

29. Solar by Ian McEwan.
3stars

I read this in lieu of Atonement (no time to go to library or bookshop, and airport bookshop had Solar 1/2 price).

Ok, so there is this ageing lothario (Michael Beard)who happens to be a Nobel prize winning physicist. His best work is definitely behind him and he is losing his touch with the ladies too. So much so that his young trophy wife (wife number 4) is having affairs all over the place. One of these liasions is with a young colleague of Beard's and there is a freak accident as his personal and professional worlds collide.

Following this, Beard sees the chance to reinvigorate his flagging career, make money and be a hero. He decides to save the environment. Things don't quite pan out as he'd anticipated and he learns a little more about himself, and life, in the process.

Beard is not a sympathetically drawn character but he is a recognisable one. I felt he was pitiful yet repellent at the same time. The book's main message is about self-deception and greed. It is quite dark at times but has a deeply black,cynical humour about it.

A good enough read for the plane and beach.
There is nothing the British like better than a bloke who comes from nowhere, makes it, and then gets clobbered. Melvyn Bragg
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Re: Jo's challenge

Postby Nurse Jo » 04 Sep 2010, 08:33

30. Stir fry by Emma Donoghue 4stars

This was on Wildlx's favourite books shelf - how could I not read it? I am pleased I did as I loved it.

Maria has left her provincial life behind and has landed in Dublin, ready to start her university life. Full of excitement, mixed with much trepidation, she begins to looks for digs. She is delighted to find a room in a flat belonging to two women - Ruth and Jael. Maria doesn't twig that Ruth and Jael are a couple, despite the many clues,for some considerable time. Maria is more worried, in that delightful way that 18 years olds have, about herself. She is asking those questions, who am I, where am I going and why don't I have a boyfriend and why does this not bother me? She finds out the answers to all of these questions in time - with a little help from her flatmate friends.

This is superbly written. It is about a young girl coming of age in the late 80's/early 1990's. The era is portrayed perfectly, even down to the descriptions of the Feminist society and their meetings. Donoghue did her first degree at Dublin and would have been there 1987-1990ish and I do wonder how much of the book was autobiographical. For me, I recognised aspects of my 18 year old self in Maria. The questioning and self doubt, mixed with a kind of teenage assurance.

This isn't a dramatic book. It is a gentle, fairly non-traumatic account of a young girl's growing self -awareness. It's not just about sexuality. It's about learning to deal with life and other people. It's funny, poignant and beautifully written.

I recommend it. Thank you Wildlx.
There is nothing the British like better than a bloke who comes from nowhere, makes it, and then gets clobbered. Melvyn Bragg
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Re: Jo's challenge

Postby Nurse Jo » 04 Sep 2010, 09:03

31. Written by Rose Macaulay.
They went to Portugal her exotic and entertaining account of travellers to Portugal ...and what they found there.
2+stars

This was published in 1946.

I had high hopes for this book and it was certainly interesting from an historical perspective. However, the lanuage and tone was from another era. An era where Britannia still ruled the waves and half the globe was pink with the sun never setting on the Empire. This was quite annoying and Macaulay was unthinkingly patronising in the way only upper class English people can be.

Having said all of that this was a gentle meander through the ages ,from the pirate Crusaders, sailors, poets, ambassodorsand clergymen to the port wine pioneers and new wave of romance travellers. The descriptions of Lisbon are fascinating, especially the pre -earthquake ones. It seems the British have been going to Portugal for a very long time and most thought Sintra quite the best place to spend the long hot summers.

The entanglements of diplomats in Portuguese and British affairs was riveting and one learns a lot of European hisoty reading this book. On a personal note, I was brought up in a staunchly protestant household where I had to read George Whitefields sermons in my teens on a Sunday. I was delighted, therefore, to find a chapter about Whitefield's stopover in Lisbon and his fascination with the rituals of the 'evil' Catholic church. I enjoy reading about his reaction to seeing the elaborate Catholic parades and rituals. He isn't rude or hostile but he is shocked.

If you can get past the dated language then this book is an interesting read, when you're in the right frame of mind.


As a footnote - Macaulay had been part of the Bloomsbury group.
There is nothing the British like better than a bloke who comes from nowhere, makes it, and then gets clobbered. Melvyn Bragg
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