To Bed With Grand Music

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To Bed With Grand Music is the second Persephone book I have read. Having discovered the wonder of Persephone through the blogging world I have become slightly addicted to slowly devouring the catalogue and attempting to decide what book to purchase/read next. To be fair purchase is more my weakness as it takes me forever to get round to reading anything on my bookcase, but the thought is always there. To Bed With Grand Music appealed to me in this instance as it is set during the Second World War and follows the life of a woman left behind whilst her husband moves abroad in a ‘safe’ job; I do love a good wartime story.

The novel begins in the bedroom of Deborah Robertson, who is saying a prolonged goodbye to her husband, Graham, before he ventures off to Cario to undertake his duty to King and Country, leaving Deborah and their young son in a sleepy village. The couple are acutely aware that they might not see one another for years and Deborah fears her husband’s fidelity, but Graham reassures her that whilst he might not be completely faithful, it will be fine as long as he doesn’t fall in love with anyone else. And so Deborah and Timmy wave him off and settle into a life of quiet solitude. At least until Deborah decides this life of domesticity is too dull.

It is in London, whilst catching up with a somewhat promiscuous old school friend that Deborah’s life takes a turn and whilst the first one night stand leaves her sickened and cold, it is not long before Deborah falls in to a life of affairs, parties and lust. Admittedly the first affair, with American soldier Joe, shows signs of genuine love and feelings, as both admit they are missing their spouses, but this does not last long. Deborah then jumps from man to man, party to party and in need of more illicit goods to maintain her glamorous (false) lifestyle, leaving Graham, Timmy and her life in the country far behind her.

To Bed With Grand Music was a lovely, cosy read. Although I started it before school began and then took a short hiatus before finishing it, I found it easy to become re-engrossed in the narrative and wartime Britain. It was an interesting and shocking novel in terms of Deborah’s behaviour and attitude towards men; I’m not sure why I am surprised considering I live in the twenty-first century, but I think it was just unexpected of a woman living in the 1940s. I don’t know why I was so naive, as I always feel that wartime adds an element of romance to any story, the not knowing what will happen next, when the next air raid might be or how long one might live always adds a carefree feeling of ‘live for the moment’ so of course people are going to live by the rule. Maybe it is the fact that Deborah is a woman. Literature and history almost stereotype men as incapable of fidelity in certain situations, but for a woman to be as promiscuous seems a juxtaposition of the popular cultural perception of the loving wife. Not that I agree with this cultural stereotype, but this is a common view. This carefree attitude to love is not the only way Deborah breaks with female conventions; as the novel progresses her feelings towards her son grow colder and harsher. Although she is eager to show Timmy off to the men in her life, it is clear that she is more interested in the idea of this rather than the reality. She soon comes to view Timmy as a burden, an embarrassment who cries during air raids and fails to live up to the high expectations set by his mother. Her attitude towards her only child reminded me of the attitudes shown by Linda in Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love and the female protagonist in Evelyn Waugh’s A Handful of Dust, both are women who reject their children and show little or no maternal instinct. All three novels are written during a similar time period, perhaps suggesting that some writers were keen to cause controversy by highlighting the fact not all women are nurturing and motherly.

I loved the ending of To Bed With Grand Music as it seemed to arrive full circle, leading the reader to wonder if Deborah, now she has completed her ‘education’, is preparing to pass her new found knowledge on to another naive, young newly wed. Laski’s writing style was so comforting and easy to fall in to that I will certainly be looking forward to another read from her books on the Persephone Catalogue, in fact I added a few to my birthday list and I am hoping to open a few dove grey book shaped parcels when my birthday arrives next week.

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Chains

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Chains follows the life of Isabel, a young, black slave girl in 1700s America. Tensions are running high between the Americans and the British, with the former wanting their independence, something Isabel also craves. Believing she is a free girl on the death of her mistress she is distraught to discover that she is nothing more than an object to be passed from one owner to the next. Arriving in New York with the Locktons, her new and cruel owners, Isabel is soon swept up in a world of rebellion, fighting and freedom.

I started reading Chains in preparation for teaching to one of my top sets. I did pick it up when I was on holiday, but swiftly put it down as I couldn’t focus on school work. I felt as though I was reading it for ages as the start of school was a tad manic, but I finally finished it during the week and have finally gotten round to writing this post. American history is not something I know a great deal about; occasionally I read American literature and I have studied it at numerous points throughout my education, but it is not something I eagerly sort out. This is possibly one of the first books I have read set during this time period and it was certainly an interesting read and so far I have enjoyed teaching it in class and I think the students are enjoying it as well.

Isabel is quite an endearing protagonist and her trials and struggles are often heart wrenching and always unfair. Anderson creates empathy for her from the very beginning and this is maintained throughout, so the reader is always engaged and intrigued by her story. Just when you feel Isabel is getting somewhere something terrible comes around to knock her back down again, and yet she never gives up her determination and hope. So much so that we are left on a cliffhanger at the end of Chains and the story is very much set up for the next in the story. It is always fun to teach a novel that is the first in a series, especially as then I can spend a few months looking to see who has moved on to the next book. Overall it was a good read, but I am glad to return to adult books for a while.

Blogging BFFs

Now I might be slightly ignorant here or misinterpreting what BFF means, but I am assuming this means the blogs I tend to visit most often. I have a handful of blogs I read all the time and I have lots of blogs I visit when I spot links on other blogs and Twitter. The blogs I visit most often are:

The Bookworm Chronicles
Fleur in her World
Dot Scribbles
The Book Jotter
Adam’s Bibliomania

and so many more. I love reading other blogs and although I don’t always have the time to comment/like posts, I do continue to read them and add more and more new books and authors to my TBR pile.

Third day of Good Books Good Wine’s meme

Bedtime Reading

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It is 430 on a Sunday after a night out and it is taking all my self control not to climb into bed right now and writing about my bedtime ritual is not going to help.

Do I have a bedtime reading ritual? I think I half do. Since moving to my flat back in February I have probably begun reading more in bed as my TV is in the living room and not my room. I quite like this arrangement as it means I read more in bed and only have the iPad to distract me with TV programmes I actually want to watch, as opposed to crap I just put on. I went through a stage of trying to read for a least half an hour before I went to sleep, but now I just read however much I want/feel like, something which works well for a busy work schedule.

All this talk of bed and books is making me sleepy again, so roll on bedtime!

Second post following Good Books Good Wine’s meme

‘Fessing Up…

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In an attempt to stop myself disappearing entirely for the rest of the month I have decided to take part in this meme on Good Books Good Wine’s blog. And so the first part of the challenge…

15 Book Related Confessions

1. Something my family know only too well…I have no book self control! I can’t walk past a bookshop without going in and I often end up buying something, adding to the mountain of books I have stored up for a hibernation.

2. I’m very reluctant to lend my books to ANYBODY and yes I include close friends and family in this…what if they ruined my beautiful book.

3. My family and friends seem to think I have a strong aversion to folding the pages down in books, so on the rare occasions I lend them a book they are always so careful to find and use bookmarks. I DON’T have a strong hatred of folded pages, in fact I do it myself; I just don’t want to tell them in case they fold too much.

4. I like all books in a series to match, even if it means buying the same book more than once.

5. I have a tendency to take out library books, leave them on my bedroom floor for a few weeks and then return them unread. Yes, it is not the wisest thing, but I like to think I’m conning the government into believing my local library is incredible well used and valuable (which it is)

6. I try to be good and read a book before seeing the film/TV show and this often works.

7. Saying that I have bought many books based solely on having seen the film/TV show, so maybe this doesn’t work as well as I like to think.

8. I find it incredibly difficult to read more than one book at a time.

9. I tend to read the books I want and not ones that I feel I should have read, unless we are talking about nineteenth century novels, then I’m a book snob.

10. I love listening to audiobooks as I drive and when I’m going to sleep…I fear this may one day lead to a terrible accident.

11. I feel it is my mission in life to force books and reading on everyone I meet.

12. I try so hard to read poetry, but I find I don’t unless I’m teaching it. Perhaps it should be a resolution soon.

13. I like to read EVERYWHERE! The bath poses some difficulty, especially as one poor book once fell in, this was about five years ago, but I am still haunted by the memory. Thanks to the Kindle and electric toothbrushes I have mastered the art of reading and cleaning my teeth.

14. If I go to an independent bookshop I feel as though I have to buy something to help defeat the giants of Waterstones and Amazon, and yes I still buy books from the giants as well.

15. I have about 80 unread books (bookcase and kindle). I know this, I’m aware of this and yet I can’t stop buying more and more books.

Kensuke’s Kingdom

I feel as though I have been absent from the blogging world for weeks and even though it hasn’t been that long, it has been a while since my last post which can only mean one thing…school has started again! The past week and a half have been a whirlwind of new classes, planning and remembering how to talk in front of a group of teenagers. Sadly this has left me very little time for reading and even less time for reading books unrelated to school. To Bed with Grand Music has been placed on the desk to finish when I have a moment. Instead I have been juggling three books for school, one of which, Kensuke’s Kingdom, I have just finished.

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Michael’s family have always loved sailing, but when two unexpected redundancies left them with no income and no ties, they decided to pool their money and spend some time travelling around the world. An ideal dream, until Michael (and his dog Stella) mysteriously disappear the night before his 12th birthday. Thrown overboard in the dead of the night, he fears for his life, but when he wakes up he is on a beautiful desert island. Worried about how he will fend for himself, Michael isn’t sure he will survive for long, however soon a secret island occupant starts leaving food for him and Stella. Michael soon meets Kensuke and a touching friendship develops.

I am teaching this to a particularly weak class, and it was met with groans of ‘we did this in primary school’ curse you primary school! However it is a new read for me and I doubt they really remember it, so I am sticking with my guns, it just means I need to be more inventive when teaching it. I personally enjoyed the story. There were moments when I was scared, especially for more Stella the dog, and moments when I was touched. I loved the back story of how Kensuke came to live on this deserted island and found his reasons for staying particularly poignant. Sometimes the unknown can be scary and I imagine that as we get older we lose that fearless can do attitude of youth. The postscript offered a lovely ‘what if’ moment of reflection that I won’t spoil.

A short and sweet post, hopefully soon I will be back into a school routine and have more reading time. For now it is on to the next school book: Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson.

August Round Up

So August has drawn to a close and on the eve of my return to work I thought I would blog about the books I have read this summer and the things I have been busy doing whilst enjoying my first summer holiday as a teacher. It has gone by quite quickly, but I am very much looking forward to the challenges of a new school year, as is my bank balance. And if I start mourning for those lazy summer days of pottering around in the sunshine, well I have a holiday in the sunshine booked for the October half term.

What have I been busy reading this summer?

Game of Thrones by George R.R.Martin

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

An array of Agatha Christie

Jane and Prudence by Barbara Pym

I have also read an extra Agatha Christie I have not blogged about and Scarlet by Cathy Cassidy, which I am going to teach to my Year 8s. I took part in The Classics Club Spin Number Three and this time I have landed on another Dickens – The Mystery of Edwin Drood, which I intend to pick up once school is up and running properly.

Now I haven’t spent all summer holidays just reading; I enjoyed a week in Devon and some time back home, as well as various adventures with my friends. One of my biggest projects has been to make the flat look a tad more homely. I moved in back in February and my housemate and I have not find the time to make it look as beautiful as we like. Therefore I have spent a lot of the summer painting furniture and my proudest achievement is undoubtedly my new dining room table; a £25 eBay bargain.

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Overall a relaxing and enjoyable summer holidays! Now it is off to bed for an early night ready for the craziness to begin!