Monthly Archives: July 2020

Skulduggery Pleasant – Seasons of War

I don’t think we’re done. 😮

With Skulduggery Pleasant, I mean. Seasons of War is the, let me see, thirteenth book, not counting the one without Detective Pleasant. But I am not com-plaining. I’m really not. I like this world with all the double-crossings and the magic and the hastily cut off limbs and the humour and all the rest.

Valkyrie Cain makes friends with the oddest people, as well as unfriends with some you’d not expect. Along with Tanith Low we have a formidable pair of women heroes, in many cases fighting better than the rest.

Omen Darkly is proving himself, and I have hight hopes of him. Even if he didn’t in the end do that thing, you know, which I had been expecting.

I’ve remarked before on how confusing, not to mention convenient, it can be when dead people stop being dead, and when they become your enemies instead of your friends. In Seasons of War we see a lot of the other world, where they also have a copy of every person, and they’re not necessarily the same, like dead, or friend, or foe.

So a lot gets sorted out in this thirteenth book, but some doesn’t. And there is new stuff that will need sorting.

It’s fun. And interesting.

The Great Godden

This is such a beautiful tale about summer holidays. I rarely feel that anyone can describe my early summers, but in Meg Rosoff’s The Great Godden, I could have been there. OK, my summers were more boring, with fewer sex gods turning up and less of the undercurrents.

Or maybe not? Obviously no sex gods, but this novel brought home to me how different the slow, languid summers with nothing but sun, sea and sand appear to the young, and what it must be like for their parents. The ones who still have to cook meals and run everything, let alone as in this case, organise someone’s wedding and sew outfits. On holiday!

We have the 17-something main character and her three younger siblings and their parents, arriving at their summer bolthole, to spend all summer, engaging in their kind of nothings as usual. Tradition matters. (At first I thought I was in New England, but realised soon enough that the family live in London, and were driving to the coast, somewhere. It didn’t feel quite English; more Swedish, or maybe American.)

Anyway, this is marvellous, and I defy any reader not to want to join the family, along with the cousins next door and the lovely dog.

And then the Goddens turn up; gorgeous Kit and surly Hugo. They really stir things up, with everyone in love with Kit (who between you and me is a real piece of work) and turning their backs on Hugo.

Our arty main character observes everything, while also falling for the great Kit. Not much happens? Except, of course it does. You just barely notice.

This is wonderful! I feel as if I’ve been given permission to revisit those careless days when I enjoyed life, with no idea how the adults fared; having to get on with each other, and put meals on the table.

Round Scotland in books

Scottish children’s fiction has been on my mind these last few days. It’s not that it isn’t ‘always’ but I had an idea I had to think about. And there are so many books!

Barbara Henderson must have had too much time on her hands as she sat down to convert fifty tweets into a blog post, listing fifty children’s books set in places all over Scotland.

This is such an interesting list. I know some of the books, know of some of the other books, and have never heard of far too many of them. I could very easily use this compilation as a shopping/library list.

And you, why don’t you give A Tour Around Scotland in 50 Children’s Books a go? While you, and I, wait to be able to travel.

All you need are books.

We have their backs

We did a shoe exchange today. After staring at the two unwanted shoeboxes – with shoes in them – for over three months, the shop they came from opened again. We were slightly aghast at the long queue outside, and wondered if people really were that desperate for outdoor clothing, but it turned out they were all after plants from Dobbies next door.

So we donned our bankrobber masks and went in, brandishing the unwanted shoes, and asking if they would let the Resident IT Consultant in to buy replacements for his by now rather holey walking shoes. They did, and in no time at all he had new ones.

This was quite exciting for me, as it was only my second shop in four months. Although the one earlier in the week which netted slices of fruitloaf was more fun.

Anyway, what I am getting to, however slowly, is bookshops. I saw this photo somewhere a while back, and promptly stole it for use here. It clearly shows how we have all looked at the wrong side of books for decades. This is perfect for handsfree browsing.

The Short Knife

How hard are you willing to work for a carrot?

You couldn’t accuse the characters in Elen Caldecott’s The Short Knife of being lazy. This surprisingly topical historical novel is quite a thing. And by surprising I mean that Elen couldn’t possibly have foreseen the slavery business making the front pages as the publication date for her book grew near.

These slaves are white, and British, and their owners are also white, and more Saxon than British, but everyone has a bad side, whatever their nationality. In AD 454 the Romans have left Britain, and the Saxons have made the move to take over.

Mai and her sister Haf and their dad are poor, but live peacefully (in or near Wales), when their lives are interrupted, and ruined, by a few Saxon men. Much hardship and sadness follow, and the girls can’t be sure what will happen to them.

The story is told from two time perspectives; mostly from autumn AD 454 when the Saxons come, slowly leading up to the second one, where someone is giving birth at the same time as something vague but horrific has happened. So the reader both knows, and does not know.

You see both nationalities with all their faults, and some good sides. Having more than a measly carrot to eat is one of the good things about what might otherwise be considered pretty bad.

You feel you know what is happening, when Elen suddenly switches the truth of what we are seeing. And then again.

This is good writing, and a truly good story.

See you again, Vera

The first of several versions of We’ll Meet Again was recorded in 1939, when the 22-year-old Vera Lynn ‘really does not know where or when a reunion will be possible. British war nostalgia derives from the knowledge of victory. It’s the possibility of defeat that distances the 1939 version from Churchill kitsch and Blitz cosplay and represents something truly worth remembering: resilience in the face of the unknown.’

The above is by Dorian Lynskey in the New Statesman, stating the very obvious, but probably also mostly overlooked, fact, that no one knew how WWII would end. Not when it was happening. And still Vera Lynn sang, keeping up morale.

I’d begun to believe that she would live forever. Hearing the Queen mention Vera in her speech at Easter brought home to me the fact that Her Majesty is younger than the Forces’ Sweetheart. I wonder how that feels; to be so old yourself and then have someone else who is older still and who has sort of matched your every step in the public eye.

In the end Vera Lynn didn’t live forever, but 103 is pretty good going. We’ll meet again, but hopefully not too soon.