Friday, February 17, 2012

friday book reviews: the scary dolly book

I have been laid up with a stupid twisted ankle which has made me very sour and frustrated and unable to walk much. Fortunately, at last it's mending and I can, you know - stand and walk again. I was going to go to the movies today, but after sitting so much for the last couple of days I can't bear the thought of more idleness and will go next week instead.

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.


  1. oh my! talk about parallel booklifes!
    guess what I have?! yes, the lost koala and I think the swagman is around here somewhere.... I just can't get to the bookcases due to boxes of satchels.....
    if you want a really weird book try 'the lonely doll' by dare wright (and didn't she have a strange life)...... there is a it of s+m involving the doll and papa bear..... scarred me for life
    and the weird stone! haven't read it for years but it was a total favourite. love alan garner books ('red shift' still has me flummoxed and 'elidor' has the most frightening scene in it I have ever read.... what's on the other side of the door....? and 'owl service' too..... got them if you want them, let me know!)
    hope the ankle is getting better

  2. Oh The lonely doll sounds weird!
    Love The owl service - have I read Elidor??? can't remember.
    Hope to swing by the Cottage later tomorrow - we're going to an opening in Fitz. and would like to drop in some magnificent home grown tomatoes after.

  3. please visit!
    see if I can find the lonely doll for you to look at!

  4. Oh I just did a google image search for the LD - I am absolutely creeped out by it - would love to see it.

  5. Glad that you are slowly improving. I haven't read Alan Garner in years ....

  6. Ooh er, I have the Sea Urchin book and the Lost Koala book, but not from my childhood. Bought from the oppy because they were weird and weird appeals to me. I have other weird books: "Larry and Snugbomb","Sebastian and the Sausages" and one called "Four Little Kittens" which uses real kittens dressed up (it's quite disturbing).
    Really enjoyed reading "Elidor" to the older children. Read it to them after the screening of the TV series (also really good). Going back to the 1990s here.

  7. Boo for bunged ankles but yay for it getting better.

    I haven't read it for years and have moved away from Tracey Chevalier's style of writing, but I do remember being quite moved by the Virgin Blue, so definitely give it a go.

  8. I'd forgotten all about these weird doll books. I actually don't remember being freaked out by them as a kid but I find them somewhat disturbing now! Have probably watched too many horror movies/tv shows where dolls come alive...

  9. Well, Scary Dolly book & co did not feature in my childhood so no commentary to share from me, other than how very "Thunderbirds" the illustrations appear ... ?

    1. I'd never made that Thunderbirds connection but you're right - must have been the era...

  10. Oooh the scary doll book is wonderful. I love freaky doll set ups. Banksia men - were they meant to teach us something?
    p.s. hope the kidney appointment goes really good.


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