Sunday, 11 May 2008

Born to Run by Michael Morpurgo

A beautifully written and thought provoking life of a greyhound. Illustrations by Michael Foreman - including the chance to see Best Mate run by flicking the pages.

Best Mate is rescued from drowning, then kidnapped as it is obvious he is speedy and could win races. The dog shows us both the best and worst of human life through the problems he faces in his life. I am not one for reading animal stories in the main - but this is a thoughtful exploration of our relationship to animals, and each other.

Newes from the Dead by Mary Hooper

This is a fictionalized account of the life of Anne Green, a rael historical character, who was hanged for infanticide at Oxford assizes in 1650, didn't die and was restored to life by the doctors who had bought her corpse for dissection. She died much later in 1665.

Mary Hooper has created a world in which we can believe, the sense of place and time, particularly in the attitudes towards women, emphasized in Anne's case as she was only a servant in the big house, making thsi a difficult and dangerous place for a naive and gullible girl like Anne to live.

I read this in one sitting - you are gripped from the begining. You know Anne survives from the title page but you are still entirely gripped by the story and how it unfolds - and are horrified that she may be dissected before the Doctors realise what has happened. Real people play their part and are skillfully woven into the fiction created here. Historical fiction seems to be enjoying a new vogue - enjoy this one as it is one of the best...

The Last Resort Library by Irving Finkel

This was one of those spur of the moment purchases - I had just discovered the joys of the London Review bookshop and was having a lovely mooch around it's well chosen shelves when I saw this book on the counter. The library on the front cover (and the title) were enough to intrigue me - so I picked it up and started to read the prologue -

"The Library is situated" said the short entry in the Guide to British Libraries A-L, "in pleasant rolling countryside not too far from Hereford, and is perhaps most readily accessible by private motor vehicle."

Well, that was me hooked! I leafed through the book and joy of joys it's illustrated - Jenny Kallin's blocky, naive woodcut (?) illustrations are a delight - full of humorous detail and fun. They add enjoyment to the wonderfully eccentric life of a library dedicated to collecting unpublished works - and all the rejection letters that go with them! This is a darkly humorous read - full of the day to day problems that such an odd institution may expect to see.... read it!

Irving Finkel is a curator at the British Museum and one feels he talks with affection and humour - albeit black humour about some of his colleagues......