Have managed to get through quite a few books in the last week, a mixed bunch, and here are my thoughts.
Losing It - Helen Lederer. I was invited to this launch but could not make it which was a shame as it sounded a bit of a fun bash. I like HL, have seen her on TV and on chat shows and she has an incisive wit and is good fun. Her heroine, Millie, a one time famous face on TV has now hit the buffers with no money, no love life and an earnest daughter studying tribal culture in Papua New Guinea. So when she is asked to be the front woman for a new diet pill she reckons she has nothing to lose (only weight) and she could do with the money. But of course life is never clear cut and along the way we empathise with her panic at trying to shift the weight, sort out her life and achieve some kind of relationship with her daughter.
Great fun and well written I enjoyed it. I seem to remember Diana Dors (remember her?) doing something on telly many moons ago and she turned herself from a large blob into the gorgeous and glam lady we used to know. I wonder if Helen Lederer remembered this as well?
The Year of Taking Chances - Lucy Diamond. My earlier post on Erica James and the lack of attention given to writers of so called 'chicklit' also applies here. Lucy writes well, her books are tightly plotted and have funny and warm characters, all of whom have some traits with which her readers can sympathise. This, her latest, tells the story of Gemma, whose husband has a bad accident at work thus forcing her to take on the family finances and responsibilities for the first time, Caitlin who has come back to live in her mother's house after her death to sort everything out. She has no job and discovers a secret that turns her world upside down. Saffron, who works in PR, finds herself unexpectedly pregnant at the age of 38 and no partner in sight to help her. Through chance circumstances the three women become friends and together help each other to sort out their problems.
Predictable? Yes and we know it will end happily ever after but really that does not matter. We know that in real life solutions are not all solved as they are here but I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, I found it charming and it made me happy. What more could one ask...
The Lovers of Amherst - William Nicholson. My knowledge of Emily Dickinson is nil so I came to this book with no prejudices or ideas and found, initially, that I was enjoying it. The story of Emily's brother, Austin, an upstanding member of his community falling madly in love with a young professor's wife, lends itself to fiction though this book is based on fact. It has two strands, Alice writing a screenplay about this affair, travels to Amherst to research the background and finds herself having an affair with an older man, thus mirroring the love affair of a hundred years earlier. Well written and kept me engaged to start with but after a while it became predictable and I found myself skimming at the end, always a bad sign. It was OK but a trifle contrived in my opinion.
Alone - Bill Curry. Well if I had been feeling happy after reading the Lucy Diamond this one had the opposite effect. This is the story of John Curry. Who I hear you ask? John Curry won the gold medal at the 1976 Olympics with a display of ice skating that had never been seen before. I have always loved watching skating and back in the 60s and 70s the men came on, charged around the ice preparing for a huge leap or a triple salko or a back-flip with double somersault (OK I made that one up) and were awarded huge marks for their daring and athleticism. Then along comes Curry and changes it all with his beautiful and artistic skating. He used to take my breath away.
And what did the papers say after his win? I well remember the headline in a tabloid Would you say he Skated like a Gay? Unbelievable to think of it now but even though it was no longer an offence to be homosexual in the eyes of the law at this time, the attitude towards gay men was pretty vile. Curry ended up living and working in the US for most of his professional career where he found acceptance living in New York and he vanished from the British consciousness.
A tragic life in many ways. Riddled with doubt and insecurity, ill educated but seemingly aristocratic in style and speech, he had a vicious tongue, a foul temper and treated everyone badly. He was a thoroughly dislikeable man and yet he had friends and family who loved him despite this. He led a dangerous sex life, appearing for rehearsals bruised and beaten, did not care about it much and in the end contracted and died of AIDS at the age of 44. He left nothing save a few papers and his passport filled with stamps from the countries he visited all over the world trying to find some kind of inner peace.
Well researched and given a huge amount of co-operation from those who knew him this is a fascinating book. The author urged all readers to check his performances on You Tube and remind ourselves just how good he was and I did. And it was while watching these videos that I spotted moves that seemed familiar to me and to all of us who have watched Torvill and Dean on the ice. Then I remembered that there had been a small paragraph in Alone where we were told that a manager who fell out with John, as per, had gone to work with the then young Chris and Jayne. So nothing new under the sun and good to see that his legacy continues.
A mixed bag then this week, interspersed with some hilarious old Mills & Boon, that I found in a charity shop and read one freezing cold day, wrapped up on the sofa in a blanket and drinking tea and eating chocolate digestives. Bliss.
Onwards and upwards and now to take a look at the rest of the TBR pile which never diminishes....