First, I have included some images from a pretty bizarre book from my childhood - The sea urchin.
Published in 1963, I loved this book and the other one we had from the series, called The lost koala. I don’t own that one but I have bought a third called The Jolly Swagman in recent years.
I was a bit frightened of the picture of the doll-girl caught in the fishing net when I was little, the other doll-girl talking to the banksia man was disturbing too. I thought banksia men were bad – I had read all about that in Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, after all .
Funnily enough, I had this book propped up next to the computer to remind myself to scan the picture and S said “ oh, there’s the scary dolly book” so she obviously remembered it as being a bit unusual, too.
Two books finished this week – Orwell's Down and out in Paris and London was the first.
I had to read it over a long period because the grinding poverty of Orwell and the people he lived with in these cities was quite harrowing. The difference was – in Paris he was employed as a plongeur , basically a dishwashing slave, in a big hotel and then a restaurant, working 17 hours a day, six days a week. His staple diet was cheap wine and bread. Then back in England he lived in homeless shelters where the staple diet was bread, marg and cups of tea. I was completely fascinated by this book, written in the 1930s, and Orwell's intelligent social commentary. It made the family in Angela’s ashes look affluent.
The other book was The lady and the unicorn by Tracy Chevalier. I realize now I have read all TCs novels except The Virgin blue. This was definitely the weakest, I've pretty much loved all the others. The plot: in medieval France a rich man commissions an artist to create a series of paintings that will be woven as tapestries to decorate his walls. I was annoyed by the hot-pants artist, the floozy teenage daughter of the patron, and his martyred wife. I liked the weavers of the unicorn tapestries and description of their lives in Brussels, though. The medieval details were terrific. So many of the characters were underdrawn and others were built up as main characters then promptly disappeared only to re-appear at the end. (Beatrice? hello? if you’ve read this you’ll know who I mean…) So, disappointed in this one, unfortunately.
Still waiting on Elizabeth George. Have started and discarded a few things ( if I’m not engaged after 50 pages I stop reading) but finally settled on Alan Garner's The Weirdstone of Brisingamen last night. I haven't read this since I was about 11 and am loving it again already - can't remember any of it so it is very exciting.