May 2022 Reads


The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood 

The plot is well known, and considering the erosion of women’s rights in the USA, reality draws some worryingly similar parallels to the novel. However, I could not get into it. First, the lack of quotation marks makes deciphering what is and isn’t dialogue a chore, and it kept pulling me out of the story. Second, the prose is so flowery and bloated that I kept zoning out. Offred is standing by the wall and looking at the hanging corpses. She describes them. Then likens them to dolls. Then a child’s drawing, and snowmen… and now I’ve jolted back out of the scene because I’ve completely forgotten why Offred is even standing there. There’s probably a story hidden somewhere, but the writing style wouldn’t allow me to find it.


The Anglo-Saxons: A History of the Beginnings of England – Marc Morris – (narrated by Roy McMillan)

I read lots of history books about this period. My husband has asked me if I learn anything new from them. The answer is: yes. As Morris states, when most people think of the Saxon period, we think of King Alfred burning cakes and King Harold getting an arrow in his eye. Their history spans a few hundred years, and Morris attempts to give us as detailed a view as is possible within one book and does a good job. Each chapter progresses through the period and focuses on a central character. One example is Dunstan. From his point of view, the reader gets a detailed account of Christianity during the period of his lifetime. Many books have been written about the Anglo-Saxons, and many hone in on specific periods or kings. But if you’re looking for a decent all-around story of the history of the Saxons, then this is an excellent place to start.

Mad Blood Stirring – Simon Mayo (narrated by Rhashan Stone)

This novel has intrigued me for a while. A historical fiction based in Dartmoor Prison, which is a known landmark to me as I have been on Dartmoor more times than I can count. What made me hesitate was the author. Simon Mayo is a well known Radio DJ, and this was my first encounter with his written work. 

1815. There is peace between England and America. The American POWs in Dartmoor Prison wait in purgatory to return home. Dartmoor Prison bears witness to the first black production of Romeo and Juliet, and the play is at the heart of the novel. The plot of Shakespeare’s well known tragedy, and its characters, echo within the storyline. I really enjoyed it. I liked the clever, subtle touches, such as the scene between the Captain and King Dick, which are written as if for a screenplay.

Silverview – John le Carré (narrated by Toby Jones)

City boy Julien quits the London rat race. With a tidy sum in the bank, he opens a bookshop in a seaside village (to me, this is the most unbelievable part of the plot. Seaside villages are entirely made of 1 part eateries, 1 part charity shops, and 1 part hairdressers). In steps Edward, an eccentric man with a vaster backstory than he’s implying.

It’s a good read. However, and this may be because it was his last book, it doesn’t feel polished. The ending feels too clean-cut, and the romance shoehorned in. Toby Jones does an excellent job of narrating and gives the story more life than I would have likely found if I’d read it myself. Julian was incredibly dense, especially when Edward told him to covertly hand a letter to someone when he was next in London. I’ve watched enough episodes of Spooks to recognise espionage work.

Diddly Squat – Jeremy Clarkson (narrated by the author)

Diddly Squat is Clarkson’s Sunday Times articles he wrote about farming bunged into a short book. If you saw the TV series on Amazon, you’ll know what to expect. If you didn’t, then you’re better off watching that. This is more of an accompaniment. Clarkson is Marmite. If you’re a fan, it’ll appeal to you and if not, then best steer clear. My dad is a sheep farmer. I grew up in rural Cornwall and had friends and families who were farmers. After getting my eye-rolling exercises watching the sanitised version of the countryside in the form of the BBC’s Countryfile, it was refreshing to watch Clarkson show the reality of farming life. And I commend him for doing that. It’s hard work and not financially rewarding if you’re a small farmer. But many farmers find it rewarding in ways where it is not monetary. From my perspective, it was a good laugh to listen to Clarkson’s trials and tribulations (and triumphs) because I can relate to them. 

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