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One From the Archive: Christmas with Carol Ann Duffy

Last Christmas, I read the majority of Carol Ann Duffy’s annual Christmas poems, all of which I very much enjoyed.  To get us in the mood for the current festive season, I thought that I would amalgamate my short reviews of them all into one post.

Another Night Before Christmas (2010) 9780330523936
This extended poem, about a young girl’s longing to find out whether Santa is real, is just as lovely as ever.  The artwork here is gorgeous; minimalist and lovely.  A delightful volume.

The Christmas Truce (2011)
9781447206408This was the first of Duffy’s Christmas poems which I read after finding a lovely little copy for fifty pence in a Notting Hill bookshop, and it evokes one of my favourite historic Christmas stories, that of the 1914 truce between German and English soldiers in the trenches, when they played the famous football match and sang carols.  There is such humanity and sensitivity packed into these pages, and it is a true delight to settle down with each winter.

Wenceslas (2012) 9781447212027
A beautifully illustrated and rather sumptuous poem; perfect for making one think of Christmas past, and the true message of the season – good will to all men.

Bethlehem (2013)
9781447226123Alice Stevenson’s art is lovely and fitting, particularly with regard to scenery and still lives, and Duffy is on form with the originality of her wordplay throughout.  I particularly enjoyed the use of sibilants, and think that this would be a great volume to read aloud: ‘The moon rose; the shepherd’s sprawled, / shawled, / a rough ring on sparse grass, passing / a leather flask’, for instance.  On the whole, it is a really sweet poem which promotes a nice message, but I think it would have been better had it been extended slightly.  Still, it is a lovely contemplative Christmas read.

Dorothy Wordsworth’s Christmas Birthday (2014)
9781447271505I put off reading Dorothy Wordsworth’s Christmas Birthday when it was first released as Carol Ann Duffy’s annual Christmas poem, but couldn’t resist ordering a secondhand copy to read over Christmas 2016.  It’s not that festive, but it is a lovely little volume.  The art style is gorgeous, and I loved the use of just a few colours, an effective and evocative choice on the part of the illustrator.  The poem itself was sweet; not my favourite Duffy, but a simple and vivid story nonetheless.  It is not as playful as a lot of her other work; the vocabulary used is not unusual, and was even a little simplistic in places.  Still, I feel that I will probably indefinitely reread this once a year as the festive season rolls around.

The King of Christmas (2016)
9781509834570I love the fact that The King of Christmas is based upon tradition from the Middle Ages, in which a Lord of Misrule could be appointed to take charge if the original ruler was in need of a break, or some light relief.  The art here is very appealing, and Duffy’s rhyme scheme and wordplay worked perfectly.  Thoughtful and mischievous, The King of Christmas evokes winters past in rather a magical way.  It is a perfect addition to the set.

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A Month of Favourites: ‘The World’s Wife’ by Carol Ann Duffy

‘The World’s Wife’ by Carol Ann Duffy

I was so excited when I opened this most beautiful of books on Christmas morning.  The entirety is so well presented, from its beautiful silver-foiled cover, to the fact that it comes complete with a contents page.

The blurb of The World’s Wife is so enticing: ‘That saying?  “Behind every famous man…?”  From Mrs Midas to Queen Kong, from Elvis’ twin sister to Pygmalion’s bride, they’re all here, in The World’s Wife.  Witty and thought-provoking, this tongue-in-cheek, no-holds-barred look at the real movers and shakers across history, myth and legend…  the wives of the great, the good, the not so good, and the legendary are given a voice in Carol Ann Duffy’s sparkling and inventive collection’.

Each and every poem within the book’s pages is so clever.  Duffy tells tales which we all know, and which form great parts of our human consciousness, from the perspectives of the women who appear within them.  ‘Little Red Cap’ is narrated by Red Riding Hood, and ‘Queen Herod’ from the viewpoint of Herod’s wife, who states that it was her idea to ‘kill each mother’s son’ so that no man would be able to make her baby daughter cry, for example.

The World’s Wife is absolutely beautiful in terms of the writing within each poem, and each syllable has clearly been so carefully thought out.  Duffy has a marvellous way with words, able to craft such vivid images in just a single line or two.

(From ‘Thetis):
‘I was wind, I was gas,
I was all hot air, trailed
clouds for hair.
I scrawled my name with a hurricane
when out of the blue
roared a fighter plane’

I love the different techniques which have been used throughout.  This causes each and every poem to stand out within the collection.  Each voice which has been crafted is distinctive.  In The World’s Wife, Duffy has demonstrated that she is the creme de la creme of contemporary poetry.

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Christmas, the Carol Ann Duffy Way

Last Christmas, I read the majority of Carol Ann Duffy’s annual Christmas poems, all of which I very much enjoyed.  To get us in the mood for the current festive season, I thought that I would amalgamate my short reviews of them all into one post.

Another Night Before Christmas (2010) 9780330523936
This extended poem, about a young girl’s longing to find out whether Santa is real, is just as lovely as ever.  The artwork here is gorgeous; minimalist and lovely.  A delightful volume.

The Christmas Truce (2011)
9781447206408This was the first of Duffy’s Christmas poems which I read after finding a lovely little copy for fifty pence in a Notting Hill bookshop, and it evokes one of my favourite historic Christmas stories, that of the 1914 truce between German and English soldiers in the trenches, when they played the famous football match and sang carols.  There is such humanity and sensitivity packed into these pages, and it is a true delight to settle down with each winter.

Wenceslas (2012) 9781447212027
A beautifully illustrated and rather sumptuous poem; perfect for making one think of Christmas past, and the true message of the season – good will to all men.

Bethlehem (2013)
9781447226123Alice Stevenson’s art is lovely and fitting, particularly with regard to scenery and still lives, and Duffy is on form with the originality of her wordplay throughout.  I particularly enjoyed the use of sibilants, and think that this would be a great volume to read aloud: ‘The moon rose; the shepherd’s sprawled, / shawled, / a rough ring on sparse grass, passing / a leather flask’, for instance.  On the whole, it is a really sweet poem which promotes a nice message, but I think it would have been better had it been extended slightly.  Still, it is a lovely contemplative Christmas read.

Dorothy Wordsworth’s Christmas Birthday (2014)
9781447271505I put off reading Dorothy Wordsworth’s Christmas Birthday when it was first released as Carol Ann Duffy’s annual Christmas poem, but couldn’t resist ordering a secondhand copy to read over Christmas 2016.  It’s not that festive, but it is a lovely little volume.  The art style is gorgeous, and I loved the use of just a few colours, an effective and evocative choice on the part of the illustrator.  The poem itself was sweet; not my favourite Duffy, but a simple and vivid story nonetheless.  It is not as playful as a lot of her other work; the vocabulary used is not unusual, and was even a little simplistic in places.  Still, I feel that I will probably indefinitely reread this once a year as the festive season rolls around.

The King of Christmas (2016)
9781509834570I love the fact that The King of Christmas is based upon tradition from the Middle Ages, in which a Lord of Misrule could be appointed to take charge if the original ruler was in need of a break, or some light relief.  The art here is very appealing, and Duffy’s rhyme scheme and wordplay worked perfectly.  Thoughtful and mischievous, The King of Christmas evokes winters past in rather a magical way.  It is a perfect addition to the set.

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Mini Reviews: ‘The Combined Maze’, ‘Fair Exchange’, and ‘Selling Manhattan’

The Combined Maze by May Sinclair *****
9781144584120The scenes within The Combined Maze, which is incidentally one of Agatha Christie’s favourite books, are deftly set, and Sinclair’s prose is measured and clear.  A palpable tension is steadily and marvellously built within the novel, which presents a fascinating study of unconventional married life and parenthood.  Relevant to the modern world, The Combined Maze deals in part with postnatal depression, financial struggles, and adultery, amongst other topics of interest.  The character constructs are fascinating, and the denouement is incredibly realistic.  May Sinclair astounds me; she is unwaveringly aware of people, and all of the tiny yet significant details which shape and affect them.  The Combined Maze is novel which could certainly do with a resurgence!

 

Fair Exchange by Michele Roberts ***
I very much enjoyed Roberts’ Daughters of the House, and adored the short story collection 9781860497643entitled Playing Sardines, so when I spotted Fair Exchange on the shelves of an Oxfam Bookshop, I had no doubts about it coming home with me.  I had interest in its story from the first, and it proved the perfect tome to take on a train trip to Edinburgh.  Everything about Fair Exchange was so well-realised at first, and the story, with its inclusion of Mary Wollstonecraft as a character, was very interesting.  Then, a few little niggles began to creep in.  The scenery was nicely evoked, but it did not feel as realistic as it is in a lot of her work, not as prevalent.  I was willing to set aside a couple of character discrepancies and the sometimes jolting structure of the piece, but that final, awful twist ruined the book somewhat for me.

 

Selling Manhattan by Carol Ann Duffy ***
9781509824984Ordinarily I love Duffy’s work, but <i>Selling Manhattan</i> just didn’t grab me.  It is her second collection, and one can see that her voice, which later becomes so original and startling, is beginning to emerge.  There simply wasn’t the level of engagement here which I am so used to in Duffy’s work.  There is much playing around with the form, but it feels more of an experimental collection than one of her best.

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One From the Archive: ‘The World’s Wife’ by Carol Ann Duffy *****

‘The World’s Wife’ by Carol Ann Duffy

I was so excited when I opened this most beautiful of books on Christmas morning.  The entirety is so well presented, from its beautiful silver-foiled cover, to the fact that it comes complete with a contents page.

The blurb of The World’s Wife is so enticing: ‘That saying?  “Behind every famous man…?”  From Mrs Midas to Queen Kong, from Elvis’ twin sister to Pygmalion’s bride, they’re all here, in The World’s Wife.  Witty and thought-provoking, this tongue-in-cheek, no-holds-barred look at the real movers and shakers across history, myth and legend…  the wives of the great, the good, the not so good, and the legendary are given a voice in Carol Ann Duffy’s sparkling and inventive collection’.

Each and every poem within the book’s pages is so clever.  Duffy tells tales which we all know, and which form great parts of our human consciousness, from the perspectives of the women who appear within them.  ‘Little Red Cap’ is narrated by Red Riding Hood, and ‘Queen Herod’ from the viewpoint of Herod’s wife, who states that it was her idea to ‘kill each mother’s son’ so that no man would be able to make her baby daughter cry, for example.

The World’s Wife is absolutely beautiful in terms of the writing within each poem, and each syllable has clearly been so carefully thought out.  Duffy has a marvellous way with words, able to craft such vivid images in just a single line or two.

(From ‘Thetis):
‘I was wind, I was gas,
I was all hot air, trailed
clouds for hair.
I scrawled my name with a hurricane
when out of the blue
roared a fighter plane’

I love the different techniques which have been used throughout.  This causes each and every poem to stand out within the collection.  Each voice which has been crafted is distinctive.  In The World’s Wife, Duffy has demonstrated that she is the creme de la creme of contemporary poetry.

Purchase from The Book Depository

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Flash Reviews: ‘Moranifesto’, ‘Cities I’ve Never Lived In’, and ‘Rapture’

Time for some more mini reviews!

 

Moranifesto by Caitlin Moran **** 9780091949051
I think Caitlin Moran is excellent, and have very much enjoyed all of her other books. I was a little surprised, then, when I saw that Moranifesto had such harsh criticism from those I know who also like her, and/or her sense of humour. I read many comments about how the material was old, and not at all relevant to today. Yes, all of the newspaper articles have been previously published – surely that is the point? It would be almost impossible to publish a book like this where everything was current, and that book would then surely be out of date in six months, or a year’s time. Catch-22.

I do read books like this from time to time; David Mitchell’s Thinking About It Only Makes It Worse… is a very enjoyable case in point. I see no issue with reading ‘out of date’ articles, particularly when, like Moran’s, they are amusing, and still relevant to a lot of the things which are going on in the world at the moment. They offer new slants, and new perspectives, and therefore make ‘old news’ seem fresher.

There were a good few laugh-out-loud moments for me here, and reading Moranifesto has reestablished that Moran is incredibly talented at what she does. I wasn’t disappointed with this, and eagerly look forward to her next release.

 

9781555977313Cities I’ve Never Lived In by Sara Majka *****
My parents very kindly found this for me in the wondrous Strand bookstore in New York, and I was so very excited to begin! This is Majka’s debut short story collection, and it is nothing short of brilliant. I was drawn in immediately. Nothing is predictable here, and elements surprise throughout. I adored the way in which each of the narrators and protagonists were so different; they each sprang to life incredibly quickly.

Cities I’ve Never Lived In is a collection about people; about displacement and disappointment. Its themes are large and well wrought – hurt, heartbreak, and loneliness prevail, but there is also a wonderful sense of hope at times too. The interconnectedness and the more mysterious touches were original, and Majka’s writing masterful. I can’t wait to get my hands on what she releases next.

 

Rapture by Carol Ann Duffy ***** 9780330433914
I purchased this as part of 2016’s Oxfam Scorching Summer Reads campaign. Duffy is one of my favourite poets, and this was a collection which I hadn’t yet had the pleasure to read. And a pleasure it is. Rapture is a series of interconnected poems about a single relationship, and the themes which Duffy encompasses are wide and surprising. A rich story weaves its way through.

As ever, her turns of phrase are beautiful, and I adored her use of nature imagery, and the way in which this was woven into the couple’s story. The poems here almost sing. They are wonderful and hopeful; sometimes bleak; always buoyant, and utterly mesmerising.

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‘Feminine Gospels’ by Carol Ann Duffy *****

I have been a fan of Carol Ann Duffy’s for some years now; she is a wonderful poet, whose work always speaks to me.  I was in awe when I read The Bees, and cheering for girl power when making my way through The World’s Wife.  Her Christmas books are an absolute delight, and she has even introduced one of my favourite novels, Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway, in the Vintage Classics edition.  When I therefore found two of her poetry books whilst in an Oxfam bookshop, preparing for their Scorching Summer Reads project, I snapped them up immediately.  I loved Rapture, but the second volume, Feminine Gospels, was something else entirely.

Firstly, I must say that I absolutely love what Feminine Gospels has set out to do: ‘Exploring issues of sexuality, beauty and biology, Carol Ann Duffy’s poems tell tall stories as though they are unconditional truths, spinning modern myths from images of women as bodies – blood, bones and skin – and corpses, as writers and workers, shoppers and slimmers, as fairytale royals or girls next door’.  Its style and focus was reminiscent of The World’s Wife for me.
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Feminine Gospels marks the first time in which I have read any of Duffy’s longer poems; some of those collected here are almost of Tennyson length.  Her style lends itself incredibly well to these longer works.  Throughout, Duffy makes some shrewd observations, and poses some fascinating thoughts and questions; in ‘The Long Queen’, for instance, she asks: ‘What was she queen of?  Women, girls, / spinsters and hags, matrons, wet nurses, / witches, widows, wives, mothers of all those’.  She praises difference and diversity – for Duffy, all women matter (as, of course, they should in the real world too).

Duffy’s brand of magical realism is glorious and memorable.  ‘The Map-Woman’ is a powerful and thoughtful poem, about the experiences and places mapped upon a body; ‘Beautiful’ holds a few echoes of ‘The Lady of Shallot’; ‘The Diet’ is about a woman who starves herself so much that she ends up shrinking.  Duffy describes her as ‘Anorexia’s true daughter, a slip / of a girl, a shadow, dwindling away’.  Allow me to share a passage from ‘The Woman Who Shopped’, in which a materialistic lady effectively turns into a department store:

‘… Her ribs
were carpeted red, her lungs glittered with chandeliers
over the singing tills, her gut was the food hall…
She loved her own smell, sweat and Chanel,
loved the crowds jostling and thronging her bones, loved
the credit cards swiping themselves in her blood, her breath

was gift wrapping, the whisper of tissue and string…’

As with all of Duffy’s work which I have read to date, her vocabulary has been carefully selected to create startling imagery, and originality prevails: ‘The sky was unwrapping itself, ripping itself into shreds’ (from ‘The Woman Who Shopped’).  So much emphasis has been placed upon all of the senses, and the generational scope too is nothing short of masterful.

In Feminine Gospels, the woman – in all of her many shapes and forms – has been presented as the oracle.  So much of the poetry here is to do with growth, whether physically or emotionally.  There is much importance here, too; she weaves together the stories of women with history, conflicts, and the family, and all has been masterfully interconnected.  Feminine Gospels is an incredibly powerful book, which every woman should pick up at some point in her life.

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Three Books of Unconventional Love

I would not say that I really like reading about love in all of its many forms – I would never read a romance novel, for example – but love seemed to be a common theme in three very good books which I read in February.  One is a volume of short stories, another a fabulous poetry book, and the last a novella translated from its original French.

‘Love Stories’ by Diana Secker Tesdell (Everyman Pocket Classics)

Love Stories, edited by Diana Secker Tesdell ****
I cannot resist the beautiful Everyman’s Pocket Classics with their lovely striped spines, so when I spotted this in the library, I added it to the already enormous pile of books in my arms.  I thought that it would be a great volume to begin on mine and my boyfriend’s anniversary, and it certainly was.  As with my beloved New York Stories, purchased at The Strand in New York City, the authors collected in this volume are varied, and range from F. Scott Fitzgerald and Guy de Maupassant to Roald Dahl and Margaret Atwood.

Love Stories is wonderfully varied, both in terms of their settings and how the love within each is portrayed.  Some of them were new to me, and others were not, but it was lovely to revisit old favourites alongside fresh tales.

My favourite stories were ‘Winter Dreams’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald, ‘Armande’ by Colette, ‘Mr Botibol’ by Roald Dahl, ‘Immortality’ by Yasunari Kawabata, ‘Here We Are’ by Dorothy Parker, ‘The Stranger’ by Katherine Mansfield, ‘Bluebeard’s Egg’ by Margaret Atwood, ‘A Temporary Matter’ by Jhumpa Lahiri, and ‘May’ by Ali Smith.

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‘Love Poems’ by Carol Ann Duffy (Picador)

Love Poems by Carol Ann Duffy *****
Love Poems was another library book which I could not walk past without picking up.  I adore Carol Ann Duffy’s poems, and am slowly working my way through all of her volumes.  All of the work which is collected in this book comes from other volumes, some of which I have already read, but it is a wonderful idea to collect poetry which has such a central theme together.

Throughout, Duffy’s writing is startling and drips with emotion.  She has the knack of painting incredibly vivid pictures in the mind by using just a handful of elegantly crafted phrases.  I love the different poetical techniques which she uses, from simple rhymes to reimagining Shakespeare’s sonnets.  Gorgeous ideas are woven in – for example, in the poem ‘Deportation’:

“We will tire each other out, making our homes
in one another’s arms.”

Duffy examines every aspect of love: relationships, sex, loss, imagining future families, memories, and adultery, amongst others.  Love Poems is a very short volume, but it is a very beautiful one, and I really want to purchase my own copy now so that I can dip into it whenever I like.

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‘The Library of Unrequited Love’ by Sophie Divry (MacLehose Press)

The Library of Unrequited Love by Sophie Divry ****
I was first alerted to this lovely little novella in one of treepaperbook‘s Youtube videos, and thought that it sounded too lovely and witty to pass up.  I was so pleased to spot a copy when I visited Waterstone’s Piccadilly with my boyfriend.

I love the book’s premise:

“One morning a librarian finds a reader who has been locked in overnight.  She begins to talk to him, a one-way conversation full of sharp insight and quiet outrage…”

I found that it was not really the best of ideas to begin reading The Library of Unrequited Love just before I went to sleep, because it is a continual stream-of-consciousness work, which has been written in just one paragraph.  This rendered it difficult to know where to stop reading.  Everything which I love about contemporary French literature can be found in this slim volume; it is witty, shrewd, clever, slightly sarcastic, and intensely readable.  The unnamed librarian’s narrative voice is captivating, and the novella is so interesting in terms of the social and political history in France, and the musings upon the Dewey Decimal System.  The Library of Unrequited Love is very quirky, and is a treat for bookish people and library goers alike.  I for one cannot wait to see what Sophie Divry comes up with next.

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‘The World’s Wife’ by Carol Ann Duffy *****

‘The World’s Wife’ by Carol Ann Duffy

I was so excited when I opened this most beautiful of books on Christmas morning.  The entirety is so well presented, from its beautiful silver-foiled cover, to the fact that it comes complete with a contents page.

The blurb of The World’s Wife is so enticing: ‘That saying?  “Behind every famous man…?”  From Mrs Midas to Queen Kong, from Elvis’ twin sister to Pygmalion’s bride, they’re all here, in The World’s Wife.  Witty and thought-provoking, this tongue-in-cheek, no-holds-barred look at the real movers and shakers across history, myth and legend…  the wives of the great, the good, the not so good, and the legendary are given a voice in Carol Ann Duffy’s sparkling and inventive collection’.

Each and every poem within the book’s pages is so clever.  Duffy tells tales which we all know, and which form great parts of our human consciousness, from the perspectives of the women who appear within them.  ‘Little Red Cap’ is narrated by Red Riding Hood, and ‘Queen Herod’ from the viewpoint of Herod’s wife, who states that it was her idea to ‘kill each mother’s son’ so that no man would be able to make her baby daughter cry, for example.

The World’s Wife is absolutely beautiful in terms of the writing within each poem, and each syllable has clearly been so carefully thought out.  Duffy has a marvellous way with words, able to craft such vivid images in just a single line or two.

(From ‘Thetis):
‘I was wind, I was gas,
I was all hot air, trailed
clouds for hair.
I scrawled my name with a hurricane
when out of the blue
roared a fighter plane’

I love the different techniques which have been used throughout.  This causes each and every poem to stand out within the collection.  Each voice which has been crafted is distinctive.  In The World’s Wife, Duffy has demonstrated that she is the creme de la creme of contemporary poetry.

Purchase from The Book Depository

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Flash Reviews (20th January 2014)

‘The Charioteer’ by Mary Renault

The Charioteer by Mary Renault ***
Renault is one of the Virago authors whom I have most been looking forward to reading, particularly because April so adores her.  The Charioteer has been recently reissued, and many new reviews can be read in major publications, most of which praise it highly. From the start, I felt that I was reading something ultimately special.  Renault’s writing is absolutely lovely, and her characters and scenes are so very believable.The many years which pass between the chapters is an interesting technique.  Laurie, our protagonist, jumps from being a five-year-old to a seventeen-year-old applying to Oxford, and at the next juncture, he is twenty-three.  Despite all of the lost time between chapters, it does feel as though we get to know him rather well.  The Charioteer, which deals with Laurie’s homosexuality, is a very sad novel at times.  A lot of pain has been woven into his story, manifesting itself both physically and emotionally.  Overall, I found that the story was an interesting one, and Renault certainly addresses some important and topical issues, but my qualm with it was that I could not warm to Laurie.  I also found that I enjoyed the first two chapters far more than the rest of the novel.  Regardless, I would still very much love to read more of Renault’s work.

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‘Before I Die’ by Jenny Downham

Before I Die by Jenny Downham ****
I first read Before I Die when the paperback came out.  I did enjoy it, but found it incredibly chilling, coming as it did just a couple of years after my own grandmother passed away from cancer.  After watching ‘Now Is Good’, a 2012 film which is based upon the book and which stars the lovely Dakota Fanning, a re-read was prompted.

Before I Die tells the story of Tessa from her own perspective.  Four years previously, she was diagnosed with a form of leukaemia, which has become terminal.  Tessa has made a list of all the things which she wants to do before she passes away.  The novel is so very sad, even when you are prepared for what is coming, but Downham handles the topic so sensitively.  Tessa’s narrative voice is incredibly strong.  She is not always the most likeable of characters in terms of her actions, but everything she does is consistent with the shattering news which she has to face.  In this way, Downham has rendered her book rather a gritty read at times.  I liked the way in which she has blended several different stories together, and the way in which she shows how Tessa’s illness affects those around her, as well as herself.  I enjoyed Before I Die far more the second time around, and to everyone who has read and adored John Green’s beautiful The Fault In Our Stars, I say go and read this.

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The Christmas Truce by Carol Ann Duffy ***** (re-read)
Carol Ann Duffy’s Christmas books are absolutely beautiful, both in terms of the words and illustrations.  I first read The Christmas Truce, which tells the lovely story of the British and German soldiers putting down their arms during a First World War Christmas, and spending a peaceful day together, swapping gifts and playing a football match, last year, when I spotted it in the lovely Notting Hill Book and Comic Exchange.  This is a book which I will gladly read every single year, and one which I will never tire of.

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From ‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol’ by Oscar Wilde (1907)

The Ballad of Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde ****
I absolutely adore Oscar Wilde, and this is one of just two works of his which I had not yet read.  The sense of place throughout this poetry collection is stunning, and his writing sublime.  I adore his use of language.  A wealth of subjects have been considered here – Milton, Nelson, Ancient Greece, death, nature, Scandinavian myths and legends, travelling, religion and history just to name a few.  Sadly, I did not quite fall in love with The Ballad of Reading Gaol enough for it to rank amongst my favourites, but it is still lovely.  My favourite poems were ‘The Harlot’s House’ and ‘Les Ballons’, which you can read below.

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Les Ballons

Against these turbid turquoise skies
The light and luminous balloons
Dip and drift like satin moons,
Drift like silken butterflies;

Reel with every windy gust,
Rise and reel like dancing girls,
Float like strange transparent pearls,
Fall and float like silver dust.

Now to the low leaves they cling,
Each with coy fantastic pose,
Each a petal of a rose
Straining at a gossamer string.

Then to the tall trees they climb,
Like thin globes of amethyst,
Wandering opals keeping tryst
With the rubies of the lime.