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Two Reviews: ‘A World Gone Mad’, and ‘What Was Lost’

A World Gone Mad by Astrid Lindgren ****
9781782272311Astrid Lindgren’s wartime diaries, which only became available to the public in 2013, have been translated from the Swedish by Sarah Death.  It is fascinating to view the Second World War from the perspective of a housewife – and later an incredibly writer, publishing her beloved Pippi Longstocking close to the war’s end – in a neutral country; thus far, I have largely read accounts like this one from either Western of Eastern Europe, and a Northern perspective was rather refreshing.

It goes without saying that Lindgren writes incredibly well, and the translation has been handled both competently and admiringly.  Many of the entires are rather short, and not every day is covered, but the whole is perhaps all the more compelling for it.  Lindgren discusses what has happened in the wider world at any given time, as well as closer to home; how rationing does not affect the Swedes, for instance, but all she has read from elsewhere is focused upon the shortages of even basic foodstuffs.  A great amount of emphasis is placed upon Scandinavia, and the effects upon it.  Lindgren’s diaries are a real joy to read.

 

What Was Lost by Catherine O’Flynn **** 9781906994259
O’Flynn has been on my radar for quite some time.  I was undecided about which book of hers I would begin with, and chose this only because my boyfriend had a copy of it (although he doesn’t know where it came from, it must be said).  From the very beginning, I did like Kate’s character; she intrigued me.  I definitely preferred the sections which included her to those with Lisa and Kate, et al.; whilst in retrospect I can see that they were pivotal to the plot, they failed to come to life for me in quite the same way.  What Was Lost is well written and well pieced together; I’m surprised it’s a novel which hasn’t been more hyped up, if I’m honest.

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Five Children’s Books

I am of the mind that many children’s books appeal just as much to adults as to their intended audiences.  Below are five books I would recommend to any child, and to the adult reader yearning to reconnect with their own childhoods.

TheBorrowers_BookCover

‘The Borrowers’ by Mary Norton

1. The Borrowers – Mary Norton
The Borrowers
tells the story of a family of little people – the ‘borrowers’ of the novel’s title – as they face the threats and cruelty of the humans around them. The borrowers are all delightfully endearing in their own ways, and the way in which they use human tools to aid their own lives is just lovely.  If you enjoy The Borrowers, I am pleased to let you know that there are several more books in the series, each just as wonderful and exciting as the first.

2. Charlotte’s Web E.B. White
I read this for the first time a couple of months ago whilst travelling down to London to see the marvellous play version of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’.  Whilst I normally pick something a little more grown up to take with me on journeys, it was the only book on my to-read shelf which was small enough to fit into my satchel along with the many other items I had to transport with me.  Charlotte’s Web is an adorable story, even for an arachnophobe like me.  Wilbur the pig is the most endearing, but every single character, however small their appearance, plays some importance in the grand scheme of things.

3. Pippi Longstocking – Astrid Lindgren
I was trying to shy away from using already popular books in this list, but I couldn’t help putting Pippi Longstocking in.  Pippi – full name Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Ephraim’s Daughter Longstocking, or Pippilotta Viktualia Rullgardina Krusmynta Efraimsdotter Långstrump in Swedish – is one of my absolute favourite protagonists, and the adventures she gets up to are full of wonder and imagination.

The Nix Family from 'The It-Doesn't-Matter Suit' by Sylvia Plath

The Nix Family from ‘The It-Doesn’t-Matter Suit’ by Sylvia Plath

4. The It-Doesn’t-Matter Suit – Sylvia PlathFew people know that Plath wrote children’s books alongside The Bell Jar and her poetry, but she did.  All of her children’s stories are delightful, but The It-Doesn’t-Matter Suit is particularly charming.  It tells the story of young Max Nix, who is searching for the perfect outfit.  Plath’s writing is both simplistic and lovely, and the illustrations throughout are just gorgeous.

5. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – Ian Fleming
Suffice to say, Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is so much better than the film which many of us watched at some point during our childhoods.  The story is simple but well crafted, and there is no creepy child catcher in sight.

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Flash Reviews (3rd August 2013)

Little Vampire on the Farm – Angela Sommer-Bodenburg
I did enjoy this story, but it wasn’t quite as well plotted as The Little Vampire in Love.  I would have liked more to happen, and it was also a little lacking in Little Vampiric activity.  On the whole, I do really like the characters which

Tony in The Little Vampire film

Tony in The Little Vampire film

Sommer-Bodenburg has created, but Tony seemed just a touch too petulant and unkind here.  His grumpiness irked me a little after a time, which was a real shame, as I found him to be a bit of a sweetheart in the aforementioned book (and in the film!).

Karlson Flies Again – Astrid Lindgren
The Karlson series does not feature my favourites of Lindgren’s characters, and nor is it my favourite of her tales.  Despite this, it is rather a fun read nonetheless.  Karlson is an incredibly stubborn protagonist, and has to be ‘the best’ at everything.  I must admit that I do not find him a likeable character at all, but without him, I suppose there would be no possibility of such a story.  He does provide a nice contrast to the rather too good at times Smidge, the book’s other protagonist.  Overall, Karlson Flies Again is nicely written, and it is certainly not a book which is short of adventures.

Hungry Hearts and Other Stories – Anzia Yezierska
I probably would never have heard of Yezierska had she not been on the Virago Modern Classics list which I’m making my way through.  I was quite looking forward to seeing what her writing style would be like, particularly after being so intrigued by the blurb of Hungry Hearts and Other Stories.  Inside its interlinked stories, I found some incredibly interesting musings on time, place and community, and I liked the author’s thoughts and comments about forging a new identity in a foreign country.  Despite this, very few of the characters were easy to identify with, and I felt compassion for none of them, a fact which never endears me to a book.  I was also a little annoyed by some of the grammatical misuse as the story went on.  I know that they were used merely as a tool to set the scene and to highlight both the learning of English and the displacement of Jews in the USA, but the double negatives really began to get on my nerves.  I feel that Yezierska overused them, and thus any power they could have had was lost.  Hungry Hearts and Other Stories is not the best short story collection I’ve ever read by any means, but it was quite interesting nonetheless.

Feather Boy – Nicky Singer
I absolutely adored the CBBC television adaptation of Feather Boy when it was shown during my childhood, and was so excited when I found out that it was based upon a novel.  Reading it, I can see how well adapted the original material was to the screen.  Robert Nobel, otherwise known as ‘Norbert’ by his cruel classmates, is just as endearing and adorable in the book.  I love the way that the story is told from his perspective.   I very much enjoyed the intertwined mysteries woven throughout, and the way in which Robert’s story crossed paths with that of his Elder’s.  The building of their friendship and his growing courage is wonderfully realised.  Feather Boy is so well written, and I am pleased that I am able to add it to my favourites list.