Tag Archives: reading

Miss Nightingale’s Nurses – Kate Eastham

Ada Houston’s brother, and only surviving family, goes missing on Liverpool Docks. As she strongly suspects he has ended up on a ship to the Crimea, she follows and ends up becoming a nurse, helping the wounded of the Crimean War. Set in the 1850s, through Ada’s journey we find out about the origins of nursing as a profession, and about the Crimean War. It’s a really enjoyable read and I learnt loads from it too.

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breakfast.

In all honesty, I would never have picked this book to read in a million years. It doesn’t have a cover that appeals to me – it slightly makes me judge it and want to run away. I read it because it was chosen for a book club I’m in. And even more interestingly, Kate Eastham IS IN THE BOOK CLUB. No pressure then… I approached it with trepidation, but genuinely enjoyed it. I’m not even just being nice. It’s a really good book. The book club discussion was also really good because Kate was there (BRAVE!) and so we learnt a lot about the process of getting published too. It was a great night at book club!

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theming my picture with some NURSING STUFF

Ada Houston is a great character. She’s strong and quite feisty, without it being over the top. I loved the ending, which I won’t spoil here, but let’s just say that I was dreading one thing happening, and that thing didn’t happen, and I was very happy. Hahaha. She encounters Florence Nightingale briefly, on her way to the front. There she has a lot more to do with Mary Seacole.

I didn’t really know anything about Mary Seacole before reading Miss Nightingale’s Nurses, or much about the Crimean War at all. Coincidentally, my five year old daughter has been learning about Mary Seacole at school, and she saw the cover of Miss Nightingale’s Nurses and asked if the lady on the cover was Mary Seacole! I mean, no clearly not, but she recognised the type of nurses outfit from the Crimean War times. She then went on the tell me some facts about Mary Seacole and Florence Nightingale (like before them, you could just do a job if you decided to, and then afterwards you had to be trained. They made hospitals clean. Florence had a lamp. And they were from 200 THOUSAND years ago. So close). So yeh, this book provided some sort of idyllic, educational moment in my household. Ha!

 

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That chocolate was completely EPIC.

Ada’s adventure allows us to travel right to the front and get fully involved in some Crimean War action. We get to find out about the horror of war for the soldiers, and also for the supporting people like the doctors and nurses. It’s definitely not a sanitised look at the effects of war – there are some quite detailed medical bits in this book! But above all else, it’s a good story and I enjoyed reading it.

This is the first in a series of books that are all generally themed around the history of nursing. The next book is about nursing after the Crimean War, in Liverpool. Where the Nightingale nurses came home and became established in hospitals.  I think this one will be interesting too!

 

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Crudo by Olivia Laing

I was drawn to Crudo when I saw it’s cover, and read the description – it’s about a summer and a marriage and Brexit and the world generally seeming to fall apart, and a forty year old woman struggling with all of this.

I was drawn to the cover, actually I was repulsed by it. It makes me feel physically sick to look at it. I needed to know what this book was like.

Added to that, there are supportive quotes on the back cover of Crudo by both Viv Albertine, and Jilly Cooper. I am totally sold. What a combo.

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From the back of the book:

Kathy is a writer. Kathy is getting married. It’s the summer of 2017 and the whole world is falling apart.

Olivia Laing radically rewires the novel in a brilliant, funny and emphatically raw account of love in the apocalypse. A Goodbye to Berlin for the twenty-first century, Crudo charts in real time what it was like to live and love in the horrifying summer of 2017, from the perspective of a commitment-phobic peripatetic artist who may or may not be Kathy Acker.

From a Tuscan hotel for the super-rich to a Brexit-paralysed UK, Kathy spends the first summer of her forties trying to adjust to marriage. But it’s not only Kathy who’s changing. Political, social and natural landscapes are all in peril. Fascism is on the rise, truth is dead and the planet’s hotting up. Is it really worth learning to love when the end of the world is nigh? And how do you make art, let alone a life, when one rogue tweet could end it all?

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enjoying the park

I enjoyed Crudo, but it’s a little bit strange… It’s written as though it is Kathy Acker writing it, who is a real person, and there are references throughout the text to work by Kathy Acker. I didn’t know who Kathy Acker was before starting to read Crudo (disgraceful, I know). I’ve since done some reading on her, but maybe it would help to know something about her before starting this book. It reminded me of Autumn by Ali Smith – another book anchored around Brexit, with its references to Pauline Boty.

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From her wikipedia introduction:

Kathy Acker (April 18, 1947 – November 30, 1997) was an American experimental novelist, punk poet, playwright, essayist, postmodernist and sex-positive feminist writer. She was influenced by the Black Mountain School poets, the writer William S. Burroughs, the artist and theoretician David Antin, French critical theory, feminist artists Carolee Schneeman and Eleanor Antin, and by philosophy, mysticism, and pornography.

I’m grateful to Crudo for making me aware of Kathy Acker.

But back to the actual book. Kathy is getting married, to a man much older than herself. She didn’t think she ever would, and she doesn’t seem that enthused about the whole thing, but she feels confident in the love between herself and her nearly husband. Also, the world is falling apart. Its the summer of 2017.

Her husband’s sad eyes upset her but also infuriated her, she detested being responsible for anyone else’s happiness. Like can’t you just figure out what you need and get it? Why do you have to keep asking me?

Oh god, so relatable.

 

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Parts of this story are from Olivia Laing’s life, parts are from Kathy Acker’s life and writing, and parts are pure fiction. It’s a strange mix. It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting (and now I can’t even describe what I WAS expecting). The events in the novel are quite small and insignificant – there’s no high drama. It ended up being a quiet novel; though the world events providing the backdrop are high drama and potentially world ending (e.g. the potential for Donald Trump to take us all to our deaths in a nuclear war via a tweet).

Laing wrote it in real time, and the settings and the main events follow what she was doing at the time. It’s interesting to know this now, but I only knew this after I’d finished reading it – I don’t tend to read reviews of books before I read them because I don’t want to have the plot revealed to me.

So overall it’s a bit strange, quite short, interesting in a wider context to do with how it was written and its inspiration, and I would recommend it if it sounds interesting to you at all!

The Music Shop – Rachel Joyce

The Music Shop is a sweet love story about a nice man who runs a music shop, and an unusual German lady.

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Frank, the shop owner, also has a special skill. He can tell exactly what music a person needs to listen to. What they *really* need at that moment in their life. And he’s kind. And he will only sell vinyl. He’s very strict about that. But it’s 1988 and vinyl is on its way out.

Franks’s shop is on a little tucked away street of independent shops called Unity Street. There’s a bakers, a funeral parlour, a tattooist, a florist, and a shop for religious iconography. All struggling to survive against the big chains in town. The cast of characters in Frank’s world are great. The other shop owners, and various regulars in the shop, were all quirky enough to be interesting without being unbelievable.

Enter Ilse, the unusual German lady with a green coat who rocks Franks’s world. Ilse is the only person who Frank can’t decide what music she wants.

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I liked The Music Shop. It’s very sweet and it has a quite sweet ending. But the sweet ending also made me feel really quite sad. It was bittersweet. I can’t explain more without giving the plot away.

I struggled to picture Ilse. Not having a picture of her in my mind – age, shape, anything really – made is tricky for me to connect with her character. But I’m now wondering if that was the point… like Frank couldn’t read her… and neither could I… ooh…

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I really liked Frank and his shop though. The (many) descriptions of music were really enjoyable too. Frank seemed like such a sweetheart and I just felt this even more as his childhood, and his relationship with his mother, is revealed to us as we go through the book.

Overall it was a nice read. As a music fan, I loved all the music references, and music chat. But it’s a sweet love story, easy to read, and has some fab characters.

Crisis – Frank Gardner

James Bond, but he’s nice and a bit boring. I can’t really write a review for this book. It was for book club and loads of others really liked it, and some people didn’t and I just found it a bit meh.

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I love this about book club – being made to read books I wouldn’t normally pick up. Sometimes it leads me to something I love, and other times it’s just not going to work so well. But I like being made to read away from my comfort zone.

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I’ve struggled so much with this review, that it;s taken me five weeks to write it, and I’ve got four books I’ve read since to review waiting. I realise that I *could* just have skipped it, or wrote the other reviews first… but that is not how my brain likes to do things. So here we are. I can get on with the other reviews now!

Books Bought and Read August 2018

Books Bought

Last month I bought one book. ONE book. Then the summer holidays happened and I must have gone a bit mental.

Firstly I bought A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn because I’m excited about a potential trip to the US next year (fingers crossed for me that it works out!).

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Then I bought A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines by Janna Levin. I’ve been after this since I discovered it existed because, well, it’s title is great and I have a few of her non fiction books already. Janna Levin is a theoretical cosmologist. <3<3<3

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Slabs From Paradise by Jason Williamson was next. I just needed to buy nice things to get me through the long days. Jason Williamson is the singer in one of my favourite bands, Sleaford Mods. 

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And if anyone has a copy of one of his other books, Grammar Wanker, I would like it please. I’m so sad I didn’t buy a copy when it came out. 😀

Next I bought Karoo by Steve Tesich, because I remember Bookshambles going on about it. Also, The Portable Dorothy Parker by erm… Dorothy Parker. This one was on my reading list challenge from last year, and recently a friend has been reading some Dorothy Parker and I realised I needed to read some too.

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homemade guacamole = the best food

Next I bought Crudo by Olivia Laing just because I wanted to, alright.

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Around the end of the month I booked some tickets for some of the Manchester Literature Festival’s events. I’m now on a mini mission to read at least one book by everyone I’ll be seeing, so first up is: In Our Mad and Furious City by Guy Gunaratne. This one is also on the Man Booker longlist.

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Miss Nightingale’s Nurses by Kate Eastham is the book club book for the Continental book club in Preston, for October. Excitingly this is a book written by ONE OF THE BOOK CLUB MEMBERS. Total excitement.

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with some NURSE STUFF

I then bought A Drink of One’s Own: Cocktails for Literary Ladies by Laura Becherer and Cameo Marlatt. I’ve had this in my wishlist for a while, then I realised that I’m literally the only person who buys things from my wishlist. It’s just my long term shopping list. And I really want to drink more lovely cocktails. It’s brilliant too. I might need to do a monthly cocktail club where I read a book, and then drink the cocktail dedicated to the author.   
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Finally, I needed the book for another book club I’m in, so I got Out of the Blue by Sophie Cameron.
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So I didn’t do well at not buying books. So much so that I have now imposed a book buying ban. But wait until you see how wrong that went in September…

Books Read

Crisis by Frank Gardner.
Oh dear. I finished one book. PATHETIC. I haven’t even reviewed it yet. PATHETIC.
I hope your book reading in August was more successful than mine!

 

#20booksofsummer – It’s finished!

I attempted the 20 Books of Summer challenge again this year. How did I do? I read 13 books. Not great, but I’m happy enough.

It turns out I only finished one book in August! Get the owl gif out again…

But I read A LOT more. I read two thirds of The Iliad, but my own brain rebels so much against scheduled reading that I just had to stop. I was finding it too much and was trying to force myself to read it each night and that was causing me to just read nothing at all. So I’ve put that on hold. I’m well happy with getting that far though and will probably pick it up again in December.

I also read loads of different books, but just didn’t finish them.

Here’s the original list of books, with ones I’ve read in red. Books I’ve read that weren’t on the original list are added at the bottom. Links to my reviews are next to all the ones I’ve read.

  1. Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi (review)
  2. Still Me – Jojo Moyes (review)
  3. Conclave – Robert Harris (review)
  4. Sarah – J.T. Leroy
  5. Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley – Charlotte Gordon
  6. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman (review)
  7. How Do You Like Me Now? – Holly Bourne
  8. The Pisces – Melissa Broder (review)
  9. How Not to be a Boy – Robert Webb
  10.  Things a Bright Girl Can Do – Sally Nicholls
  11. The Iliad – Homer
  12. Story – Robert McKee (review)
  13. How To Stop Time – Matt Haig (review)
  14. 2666 – Roberto Bolano
  15.  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou
  16. The Dark Dark – Samantha Hunt
  17. Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life – Helen Czerski
  18. The Dark Road to Mercy – Wiley Cash
  19. My Brilliant Friend – Elena Ferrante
  20. The Mother of All Questions – Rebecca Solnit
  21. Everyday Sexism – Laura Bates (review)
  22. A Room of One’s Own – Virginia Woolf (review)
  23. Little Black Book – Otegha Uwagba (review)
  24. Wishful Drinking – Carrie Fisher (review)
  25. Crisis – Frank Gardner (not yet reviewed)

 

Let’s hope I can do a lot better next year! How did you get on with your summer reading?

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge

Oh my frickin’ god, go and buy this book immediately and read it. It’s a brilliant book about race relations in Britain today.

Despite abolition, an Act of Parliament was not going to change the perception overnight of enslaved African people from quasi-animal to human. Less than two hundred years later, that damage is still to be undone.

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The cover is utter genius, but consequently difficult to photograph.

Eddo-Lodge originally wrote a blog post, in 2014, with the same name as the book, and it was this that sparked the process of writing the book. Eddo-Lodge says that since writing the original post, she has seemingly done nothing but talk to people about race.  She doesn’t want the tears or guilt of white people, of course not. But that’s basically why she decided she no longer wanted to talk to white people about race, and I don’t blame her either.

…white privilege is an absence of the negative consequences of racism.

The idea of white privilege forces white people who aren’t actively racist to confront their own complicity in its continuing existence.

The idea that so many people have that they are colour-blind, when it comes to race, is discussed, and I hear this one so often…

I think we placate ourselves with the fallacy of meritocracy by insisting that we just don’t see race. This makes us feel progressive. But this claim to not see race is tantamount to compulsory assimilation. My blackness has been politicised against my will, but I don’t want it wilfully ignored in an effort to instil some sort of precarious, false harmony.

Colour-blindness is a childish, stunted analysis of racism.

Colour-blindness does not accept the legitimacy of structural racism or a history of white racial dominance.

In order to dismantle unjust, racist structures, we must see race. We must see who benefits from their race, who is disproportionately impacted by negative stereotypes about their race, and to who power and privilege is bestowed upon – earned or not – because of their race, their class, and their gender. Seeing race is essential to changing the system.

Yes, my review is going to end up very quote heavy!

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The first thing that has to be mentioned about Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, is its phenomenal cover. It is brilliant and also quite difficult to photograph.

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One of the points made is that black history is not taught very well. I don’t think I was taught any black history at all at school. I was shocked to see a town local to where I grew up making an appearance. I had no idea about its involvement in the slave trade, and I should have known.

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PLF making an appearance

Facts like:

…the election of Britain’s first black Members of Parliament in 1987 – Diane Abbott, Paul Boateng and Bernie Grant.

are surprising for being not just in my lifetime, but in a time I can clearly remember. Similarly, the Stephen Lawrence murder is examined and that all takes place in the 1990s to the 2010s. This is yesterday, not the distant, dim past.

We tell ourselves that racism is about moral values, when instead it is about the survival strategy of systemic power.

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books make the park bearable 

There is a chapter on feminism and why intersectionality is so important. White feminism is discussed and it is explained why this isn’t an insult to individual white people (as the term is often taken) but is a way of exploring the structural issues around white supremacy and its role in feminism. Eddo-Lodge explains it all so much better than I can, so go and read her explanation in the book!

Far from shutting down debate, incorporating the challenges of racism is absolutely essential for a feminist movement that doesn’t leave anyone behind. I’m not sure our most popular versions of feminism are currently up to that task.

There is so much in the book I haven’t  gone into in this review too. There’s a lot on class that is really interesting too.

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As you can imagine, a lot of people have reacted very strongly to the book title, without reading the contents, of course. It is provocative, but the message is not. It’s a sensible, clear, important discussion of race relations in Britain today and I think everyone can benefit from reading it. As a white person, there’s part of the book where Eddo-Lodge explains what white people can do to help (because clearly she is asked this often!).

White support looks like financial or administrative assistance to the groups doing vital work. Or intervening when you are needed in bystander situations. Support looks like white advocacy for anti-racist causes in all-white spaces. White people, you need to talk to other white people about race. Yes, you may be written off as a radical, but you have much less to lose.

and if it needs a reminder:

If all racism was as easy to spot, grasp and denounce as white extremism is, the task of the anti-racist would be simple.