Tuesday, 26 January 2016

26 Books: A Book That Was Made Into A Movie

This would have number three: 'A Book That Was Made into a Movie.

Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin
(read March 2015)

I've never seen the film, although I have vaguely heard of it and knew that it was renowned to be one of those creepy-edge-of-your-seat-I'm-not-sure-I-really-want-to-watch-this films. I think this is the beset position to be in when reading books made into films; books are (of course) highly superior to films, and if you see the film first, it spoils it. So, not having seen the film, and not knowing the plot, I chose this for my 'book that was made into a movie.'

I'm not a big horror reader. Not because I get easily spooked and get nightmares; more because I don't often see the point. Why would you want to scare yourself? It's like gratuitous violence - if there's a point in it, that's fine, but I don't want to be exposed to violence for violence's sake. I suppose that was my attitude to horror as well. But, I stepped out of my comfort zone and went for this one.

I'm glad I did. Levin is a good storyteller. It's not high prose, or remarkable, but it is compelling, with good strong characters and a forceful plot. Some reviews I have read claim that this book 'isn't really that scary.' I disagree; a sense of menace permeates the novel from the very beginning...

Rosemary Woodhouse is a typical sixties housewife. Everything her husband does is his business and she doesn't question it much. She is there to cook Guy's dinner, reassure him when his failing acting career gets him down, and look good to please him. At the start of the novel, they move into Bramford, a place renowned for murders, witchcraft and general nastiness, but the flat is so desirable they ignore all this. The first creepy occurrence is when the recovering drug addict taken in by their neighbours, Minnie and Roman Castevet, commits suicide, much to Rosemary's shock. Events continue with Guy becoming more friendly with the Castevets, to Rosemary's slight bewilderment, and Guy's sudden change of heart in wanting a child. He has a huge breakthrough in his career when his rival goes blind out of the blue. Slightly weird, but enough to ignore. After all, what her husband does is his business.

There's a horrible scene where Rosemary, sedated by drink (or is it the strange dessert that Minnie made her eat...?) is, to put it bluntly, raped by Guy. But rape? No, of course not, not in the sixties by your own husband! What a suggestion! 'I didn't want to miss Baby Night!' Guy says in his defence.

Throughout her pregnancy, things get weirder. Her mentor dies. She is persuaded not to use a conventional doctor. Her new doctor wants to see her at least once a week, and prescribes a strange Tannin root tea. Minnie and Roman become more and more involved. Rosemary is incapacitated by pain. Her mentor dies. Guy throws away a book that had been a present from him. Guy gets bigger roles. She becomes suspicious of the Castevets' motives. But when she voices her fears, she is told she is crazy. Pre-netal, rather than post-natal, psychosis, or something of the sort. She has no one to turn to...

It's creepy, no doubt about it. And you know what the end is long before you get there. But it is, in a strange way, enjoyable. It's not something I would go back to again, but it was a good read and I didn't want to put it down. Maybe I could try the film now...


Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin
(read March 2015)

I don't generally read biography, so when this was suggested as our next book club read I set out with not much enthusiasm, alleviated a bit by the fact that I like reading Dickens. It was (mostly) wonderful! I thought CT got the right balance of telling a story and laying out the REAMS of information that she clearly had about this man. I have visions of her writing with boxes marked with the years of his life piled
about her, each stuffed with letters, train tickets, party guest lists and play bills, knowing that she had to put all that information in without slowing down the narrative. And mostly she does, though I did develop the trick of skimming when I got to yet another drunken rowdy play-acting party by most of mid-Victorian Britain's literary and social crusading people were. Dickens knew EVERYONE, and so of of them seemed to like him, or at least find him fascinating. Even his family, whom he was impossibly awful to, in the cruellest self-deluding way, tended to make excuses for him.

Not really a man, more of a monster, totally taken up with his own ongoing invention of himself as a madly energetic putter-to-rights of the world, pushing ever onwards without looking either to right or left with all his next projects at once, and at the same time running from..? Presumably from the spectres of much that he was writing about, the work house, the debtors prison, family rejection.

So I don't think I'm going to start reading biography as a choice, but if one of Claire Tomalin's others is given me, I will be pleased rather than sigh.


Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Book Review: Gut by Giulia Enders

Let's get this blog going with a few more posts... or at least try, until life catches up with us all.

I had been recommended this book by family therapist, my psychiatrist and then my father as well as GoodReads and Amazon about a million times (how did they know?) so I thought I'd better do that.

'A publishing sensation that... sets out to free toilet talk from its taboo' (The Times)

Well, I guess it does that. It's a... weird book. I'm not quite sure how else to describe it. To begin with you feel slightly giggly, but then it is actually interesting. Don't get me wrong: it's not really deep science. Oh no, people, this is popular science. I suppose it's the equivalent of my A2 Biology with more information on very, very specifics. But that doesn't make it uninteresting to read. 

Giulia Enders had done brilliantly because of this book - it's been something of a viral sensation! I'm not sure how she managed that (good marketing?) because a lot of books just slip through the net, and this book, though good, was not amazing. 

There were a few things that interested me particularly (they would interest me, and I'd probably be told off by anyone I know). 

If you have any ongoing pain, then it is actually better to consume vegetable than animal fats; so drinking milk, which, incidentally, 90% of the world are not intolerant to, is much worse than olive oil. Milk and other animal dairy products are really not that good for you.
What is called lactose intolerance is not actually an intolerance or allergy, but a deficiency. "Every human being has the genes to needed to digest lactose" apart from a very few cases. The genes just become slightly less useful as we grow older, and with no practice (in many Asian countries, lactose is not a normal constituent of a traditional diet) means they will experience more of this deficiency. Lactose 'intolerance' doesn't mean you cannot consume lactose, it just means that you can have a limited amount: experiment!

The next thing I found particularly interesting was the whole thing about being fat being a genetic thing. This is generally scoffed at, mocking people who struggle with their weight. But in this book there are three very convincing theories about how bacteriacan make us fat. So maybe we need to slightly more open minded.

The third thing of interest was to do with IBS and the use of antibiotics; unfortunately a course of
antibiotics can upset your gut flora permanently. This is pretty depressing from my point of view. It also alarmed me that in Germany most people are put on antibiotics on average twice a year! That is just unreal!

Okay, instead of saying the interesting bits of the book, I should also talk about how it is written. There are some rather odd diagrams, which aren't really that useful, and a few even stranger illustrations. Although not useful, they were good fun. 

Guilia Enders' list of references was very extensive, so it's obvious she's worked very hard with researching in this book (stupid thing stay to say: every writer puts everything into a book). It's well written, very readable, easy to understand, enough anecdotes to be fun without patronising... It's good.

But remember: it's popular science, so don't expect anything life challenging!


Sunday, 17 January 2016

Summing Up Sunday: 17th January 2016

These are the cool new fire cones that J's mum got for us as Christmas present that makes the flames go blue! How cool!

Quiet week. Took photos of the sheep for their pedigrees:
Shrew in the middle

Greedy Teasel!

Bit grumpy looking Cappuccino.

And the only photo at all we managed to get of Amy.

So, there've been lots of bits and bobs going in throughout the week - some good, some bad - so I will just leave you my current favourite song (I haven't even heard the original), and I hope you'll agree with me that this is beautiful. (If you don't agree, don't mention tit)

Happy Sunday everyone! Not much more to say, sorry about that. An uninspired, gloomy, horrible January week. April is not the cruelest month; I've always thought it's January. Let the next week be better.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

26 Books: A Book You Own But Haven't Read

So, we totally failed at our 26 books in 2015. We didn't do a single post. Absolutely pitiful. HOWEVER, we did actually (between us) read one book from each category, so here we are going to present them this year. These are the 26 books from specified categories that we read last year. Better late than never, eh?

This would have been number one: 'A Book You Haven't Read' in 2015 books for last week.

'Sea of Poppies' By Amitav Gosh (J)

Sea of Poppies is the first of Amitrav Ghosh's trilogy on mid 19th century India and the opium trade, and probably the best. I was excited by it, most of all by his lovely use of language(s). I know, and thoroughly enjoy that English is contributed to by many many other languages, and perhaps because I have a colonial background myself, I particularly enjoy the relatively recent imports from Hindi, Cantonese and other ex-Empire languages. Ghosh adds to this by having his characters use many words and phrases in their languages of origin. Sometimes I guess this is to show that they wouldn't have been speaking English, and often I think it is just for the joy of different sounds and possible meanings.

He also imparts a lot of history, big and small scale, as his characters move from their villages of origin into the big world, down mighty rivers, across oceans, and meeting up in later generations and far from home. So now when I meet someone from Mauritius I have a sense of the multiple cultural and linguistic inputs there have been to that little island.

This makes it sound a bit like a textbook, which it most definitely is not. The characters are alive, believable, often wild and always vivid. 

Read it, and go on to read the others!


'The Tiny Wife' by Andrew Kaufman (E):

(read May 2015)

This is a novella (?) that has been languishing on my Kindle shelves for a while, and I couldn't remember anything about it. To be honest, I didn't expect much.

Actually, 'The Tiny Wife' was a revelation to me.

I have always disliked short stories. There it is, out there. It's a genre that I enjoy to write, but reading them has never been enjoyable. They generally feel unsatisfactory, an inferior form to novels, drama and poetry, not enough depth, not enough character development. Yet, I selfishly write them because I enjoy the writing process. A form that is more enjoyable for the writer than the reader: a narcissistic pleasure.

Oh, how wrong I was. This was different. This, was fantastic. I think, technically, it is a novella - but it still not novel length, and I actually enjoyed it. Thoroughly enjoyed it in fact. Completely different than any short story (novella?) I have read before.

It is wonderfully bizarre. Crazily, exuberantly bizarre. The opening is fairly innocuous. It opens with a bank robbery; not for money - the robber asks for each person to present him with their most treasured possession. The first man gives him a wad of notes, but the robber knows he is lying. Treasured possession, money? No, there is something more than money in his life. The items they give him are various: photos of family, heirlooms, items that have been with them at significant life events. These are the things they give up.

Then it gets weird. Each person who was at the robbery starts to experience something completely unbelievable in their lives: a baby that shits money, a lion tattoo coming to life and stalking, being turned into chocolate, shrinking bit by bit each day.

Brilliant, engrossing book. Loved it from start to finish. I have had another Andrew Kauffman languishing away on my Kindle shelves for a couple of years ('The Waterproof Bible') but I've never got round to reading it. Well, that will change.

As has my opinion on short stories. Done well, they can be excellent. Thank you for challenging my prejudices, Kauffman.


Sunday, 3 January 2016

Summing up Sunday 3rd January 2016

That was a bit of a gap: sorry to all our multitudinous followers :)

We have been doing Christmas and New Year (nough said).

E and J went to Lyme Regis on Weds 30th Dec, substituting for the traditional New Year's Day visit which hasn't happened for a few years.
It was wet and windy:

and then today we scanned our ewes:


Look! That's a baby lamb. 
Very exciting.

Tune in for another picture of this lamb when it's fluffy in March:))