Saturday, 20 November 2010


Homecoming by Catrin Collier

My 12-year old bought this for me for my birthday. He was enticed by the cover, read the blurb and decided it was a Mum book.

It's the third in a series, which I didn't realise, though part way through I guessed it must be. The characters were related to each other in such complex ways - two friend married to two brothers, a third friend married to the father of the first, and a fourth friend whose mother is married to the uncle of the second. And they all live in each other's basement or attic flats. I was confused for a while, but now I realise it's part of a trilogy that explains it all!

It's set in the 1950s, and deals with the subject of pregancies, wanted and unwanted. Helen's husband is back from his National Service in Cyprus. While there, he had a brief fling with an officer's widow which has left her pregnant, while Helen can't have children. Two of Helen's friends are also pregnant. As is another girl, the flatmate of the fourth friend, out of wedlock. The plot rattles along at a fair old pace, much of the story being told via dialogue between the various characters. I didn't get much of a sense of place, though the book is set in South Wales. I also found the overuse of dialogue tags quite overbearing after a while - my personal preference is to stick to 'said' most of the time, use other tags sparingly.

The best thing about this book (apart from it being a thoughtful present from my darling!) is the depiction of 1950s attitudes towards pregnancy. The unwanted babies are born in a home for unmarried mothers, and reading about it made me very glad to have been a product of a different, more accepting era.

Monday, 15 November 2010

The Dog with Nine Lives

The Dog With Nine Lives by Della Galton

Lovely heart-warming true story of how Della rescues a dog and her puppies from a beach in Greece, then brings the mother home to England. The dog, Lindy, seems to have more than her fair share of luck and survives all sorts of near-death experiences, from being swept away in a river to cancer.

You definitely need a box of tissues to hand - Della is the queen of writing powerful emotional womag fiction and brings all her experience with her writing this non-fiction.

It's a short book, easily read in one or two evenings, and highly recommended.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Tipping the Velvet

Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters

I'm a fan of Sarah Waters and rate her book Nightwatch as one of my all-time favourites. It took me a long time to get around to Tipping the Velvet though - sounded too raunchy and lesbian for my tastes! But when I came across it in my local WHS and felt desperate for a book I knew would be brilliantly written, I decided to go for it.

Raunchy - yes, lesbian - yes, well-written - yes. Not as good as her other books though, but then it was written earlier and most writers improve over time!

It's 1895. Nancy Astley falls for a variety show star - Kitty Butler whose act is to dress up as a man and sing saucy songs. They meet, and Nan becomes Kitty's dresser and moves to London with her to play the bigger theatres. In time they become lovers, and partners on stage. But Kitty is ashamed of her sexuality and eventually drops Nan to marry her agent. Heartbroken Nan finds comfort in continuing to dress as a boy, and becomes a 'male' prostitute, providing hand & mouth jobs in back alleys. She then gets picked up by a rich sapphist, and spends a year or so as a live-in plaything, until after being caught with the maid she's thrown out. Finally she finds friendship which grows into love with another girl.

The novel is an enjoyable read, and as you'd expect, romps along. It's not without its flaws though - there's a scene near the end where all Nan's ex-lovers just happen to be all attending the same socialist rally, so Nan can meet with all of them and gain closure.

But for fans of Waters or anyone with an open mind and a love of Victorian-set fiction, read it and enjoy!