Monday, December 23, 2013

Five Go Off In A Caravan - Enid Blyton

This is the Hundred-and-eleventh in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

The premise is far fetched. Parents allowing children to go off on a holiday in two horse drawn caravans. Sending postcards each day to say all is well. Nothing to keep them safe except moral decency and a very loyal Timmy. Engrossing!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Five Go To Smuggler's Top - Enid Blyton

This is the Hundred-and-tenth in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

One of the curiosities of memory is that I recognise the cover of this particular edition from my childhood. It has a familiarity that invokes a sense of the book and the long ago time when I first read it. Checking the publication date confirms my memory. Paperbacks were such a great invention!

While secret passages are to be expected this book takes them to a new, inspirational level! There is also a darker side to the villains in this book that moves it a notch beyond the previous books in the series.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Five Run Away Together - Enid Blyton

This is the Hundred-and-ninth in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

I like the way the characters have developed over the first three books, not dramatically but they are not static or one dimensional either. Which is just as well as all is not smooth sailing in the household and drastic action is required.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Five Go Adventuring Again - Enid Blyton

This is the Hundred-and-eighth in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

All good children's books involve a school and this adventure starts at a school, but soon the story returns to the Cornish home of Georgina George and involves secret ways and spies and I can't really give away any more of the story. Needless to say there is adventuring and heroics by one particular member of the famous five, a hairy hero!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Five on a Treasure Island - Enid Blyton

This is the Hundred-and-seventh in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

I've started reading the Famous Five again and the first thing that struck me was how easily Enid Blyton creates characters, builds tension and draws the reader along - even for an adult reader such as myself. I do have a remnant memory of the story, as this series was one of my favourites as a child but I hadn't expected the story to work so well for me as an adult.

I am also struck by some of the underlying cultural themes that are really strong but oblivious to me when I read them many years ago. For instance the prickly character of Georgina and her desire to do boy things.  I wonder how she resonated with head strong girls at the time of writing? The role her mother plays in the family dominated by the scientist husband. Their attitude towards the domestic staff. Interesting.

And of course the descriptions of the Cornish coast and countryside, intrinsic to the story and which informed my view of England. When I visited Cornwall a couple of years ago I was not disappointed.

There are so many elements that go into what appears on the surface to be just another book about children having adventures. I can't imaging not having this and the rest of the series on my bookshelf.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Long shelf life - by popular acclaim

There are over 50 books on my bookshelf by a single author - Enid Blyton.

What surprises me about this vast collection is that none of them are remnants from my own childhood or from my latter collection of children's books - though I read them all in the day. They are all the product of my own children, voracious and early readers, discovering them and being addicted to them and wanting to have them on the shelf ready for another read. Many are accessible from a young age while some still appeal to the older reader. However they all have something in common, they are gripping and reward multiple readings.

I know Enid Blyton is sometimes out of favour with critics and educators, but she had a gift for writing and the evidence is on my shelf. Her books persist in publication because they are popular and that popularity hasn't waned, at least in my house.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

The Ring of Solomon - Jonathan Stroud

This is the Hundred-and-sixth in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

As with all good characters the author gets attached and can't let go. In this case a late addition to the Bartimaeus 'trilogy' is a prequel. Worthy effort and finds a place on the shelf.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Ptolemy's Gate - Jonathan Stroud

This is the Hundred-and-fifth in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

This conclusion to the trilogy (but not the end of the sequence) draws the main protagonists towards an inevitable but ultimately surprising climax. These books have a real sense of movement over the life of the series as the characters grow and develop. Nice.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

The Golem's Eye - Jonathan Stroud

This is the Hundred-and-fourth in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

When I started reading this book for the first time I found a point, early on, where I was losing interest. You might know that feeling - the story has promised enough to get you into it but then seems to flag and you know if you put it down somewhere you might never come back to it. I got that feeling but persisted another chapter and suddenly it took off! I think this is a good example of the decline of editorship, that expert guidance that demands an author go back and rewrite until the novel meets the exacting standard of the editor. However that takes time as well as expertise and time is money. In any case this is an excellent second novel in the sequence.

Monday, December 02, 2013

The Amulet of Samarkand - Jonathan Stroud

This is the Hundred-and-third in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

It must be difficult to craft an original story using the makings of ancient literature and mythology. Often attempted and in this case with some success. One of the measures of success for such writings is the degree to which the reader finds the treatment 'fresh' despite the familiar making. Rather like cooking a stew that is notable despite being restricted to much the same ingredients as any other stew. Perhaps a new spice or a different texture or some variation in the cooking method. Familiar to the palette but not bland.

However it is achieved, this is rather good stew.

Rushing towards the cliff

I find that the year at work, like the seasons, has a certain rhythm.

At this time of the year I am looking back and looking forward. This is the time of the year when the current planning cycle is heading into its endgame, but not yet concluded, while planning for the coming year is going full steam ahead. I can be so preoccupied in looking forward that I raise my eyes from the 2014 calendar and realise with some surprise and a little relief that it is still December of 2013.

It is also a time of the year where external deadlines - financial, holiday and planning - tend to create a narrowing of the funnel, a pinch point in the garden hose of life. You know intellectually that at some point the pressure will lift as the deadlines pass. In some ways this time of the year has the sense of rushing towards a cliff over which we will all fall and we just need to be as prepared as we can before the final inevitable unavoidable exhilarating descent. A bit like life, except that we pick ourselves up at the foot of the cliff and slowly gather speed towards the next cliff and do it all again.

Gosh I look forward to the Christmas break at this time of the year.