Sunday, 27 April 2008

Book challenge update!

I expect that some of you have forgotten that I am even working on the 888 Book Challenge - I had practically forgotten myself!!! So here is a quick run down of some of those books in the challenge that I have now read.

The first one that I want to talk about is Alistair Cooke's biography as written by Nick Clarke. For those of you who have never heard of him, Alistair Cooke had a weekly radio programme called "Letter from America" which was very popular. Anyway, the biography was very interesting, I had expected it to be somewhat dry - a mere listing of facts and figures to do with the man. I wouldn't say it was "unputdownable" as it isn't really that kind of book, but Nick Clarke certainly managed to give a very good impression of the man - one who was quite old fashioned and a stickler for manners, but who also had very little financial awareness and it was only on the part of others in his life that Cooke managed to get paid anything at all for his work, particularly for the Guardian. In an interesting aside, I came across a word that I had never seen before and definitely had to get the dictionary out for it - psephologist - a political scientist who specialises in the study of elections; an electoral analyst or commentator - I bet you don't hear that word much these days!!

The other books that I have read recently are my Australian books (which would make sense as four of them I bought whilst out in Australia and I either read them whilst on holiday or shortly after I came back).

Tony Parson's "Silver in the Sun" has on the back cover - "an authentic Australian story about one man's spirited efforts to transform a whole town" - that much was certainly true, but I did feel that it was rather a formulaic story and would have benefited from a far deeper insight into the lives of the characters in the book; for instance so much in the book seems to be skated over and I just want to know more about the where and why. Having said that, I did enjoy the book as it gave me some idea of what the Australian outback was/is like.

Jojo Moyes' "Silver Bay" is all about a small community that has to deal with a possible new hotel that could affect the local dolphin and whale watching companies due to the environmental effects of jet boats and other water sports. This book was quite moving and is not just about the new hotel as there are other stories woven into this one with a quite unexpected twist at the end of the book and I shall be giving away no secrets - go and read it - I enjoyed it!

The other fiction book from Australia is "Beneath the Southern Cross" written by Judy Nunn - of Home and Away fame no less! (I was recommended Judy Nunn as an Australian author who writes about Australia and was a bit surprised when I recognised her photo on the back page!)Anyway, this is a saga in the true sense of the word as it covers a span of time from 1788 right up to the present day and deals with one family that splits into two and covers much of the issues of what makes Australia Australia. I certainly enjoyed this book very much and would definitely read Judy Nunn's other books if I came across them.

The final Australian book to be covered in this section (as I haven't read any of the others yet) is "Black kettle and full moon: daily life in a vanished Australia" by Geoffrey Blainey. Clearly this one is non-fiction and describes a small section of Australian social history, indeed, the author recognises that he cannot possibly cover everything! Blainey still manages to cover areas like how people lit their homes, what meat they ate and fascinating facts such as the delivery of ice all the way from Boston in America!! While the book contained fascinating sections of history I did think that it was a bit heavy going - it was definitely written by a long-term history professor!! (of the University of Melbourne no less!)

So, that's it so far - I still have plenty more books to read and will be back later to tell you all about those! I still hope to finish the challenge by the end of 2008 as this is what it's all about!

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