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Flash Reviews (18th April 2014)

‘The Happy Foreigner’ by Enid Bagnold (Methuen, 1924)

‘The Happy Foreigner’ by Enid Bagnold ****
The Happy Foreigner is another lovely little Virago, and it is one which I have been most looking forward to, especially since reading Enid Bagnold’s intelligent and adorable novel The Squire in a beautiful Persephone reprint last year.

This novella is set in the aftermath of war, and begins just after ‘The war had stopped’.  The protagonist of the piece is Fanny, who is in Paris when the story opens, and soon finds herself travelling to a rural part of France.  She has travelled to France to ‘drive for the French Army’.  The sense of place and time which Bagnold has crafted feels astonishingly real.  It is a sweeping and beautifully written story, and the descriptions throughout are stunning.  Bagnold is an author who certainly deserves to be read more widely, and from both a social and historical perspective, The Happy Foreigner is a marvellous read.

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‘Monsieur Pamplemousse Hits the Headlines’ by Michael Bond ***
I was endeared to purchasing this when placing an online order with The Works at the start of the year for three reasons: the name of the book’s hero, the fact that it is written by Michael Bond, who created my beloved Paddington Bear, and the fact that it was priced rather cheaply.  I wasn’t sure what to expect from it, but I hoped that it would be both witty and charming, just like the Paddington books.

Monsieur Pamplemousse Hits the Headlines is set in one of my favourite cities, Paris, and Bond certainly builds up the sense of place well.  The main way in which he does so is through the medium of food.  Monsieur Aristide Pamplemousse – who works for ‘Le Guide’, a ‘gastronomic bible’ in France, and who has a trusty companion in the guise of a dog named Pommes Frites – is given a free ticket to a cookery show, Cuisine de Chavignol.  Whilst he is watching the demonstration, Monsieur Chavignol, the host of the show, is poisoned by a cyanide-laden oyster and drops dead.  Monsieur Pamplemousse takes it upon himself to solve the crime.

The book is nicely written, but the mystery was not a stunning one, and nor was it particularly intriguing for the mostpart.  Monsieur Chavignol was portrayed in such a way that one did not really care, nor even seem surprised, that he was targeted by a killer.  Monsieur Pamplemousse Hits the Headlines is the fourth book in the series (something which I did not know when I purchased it), and I do not think that I got the full benefit from the book’s story by reading it before the others.  Parts of it felt a little flat, and at times elements went unexplained, which I can only presume had been outlined in preceding books.  It is not a series which I am overly enamoured with the idea of continuing, sadly.  It is not a bad novel by any means, but it did not hold much interest for me personally.  I did enjoy Bond’s writing, however, so it has received a wholesome three star review.

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Favourite Books from my Childhood: Two

Following on from my first childhood favourites post, here are some more of the treasured books which I adored when I was small.

Noddy

Noddy by Enid Blyton – Even my younger sister, who categorically does not read, enjoyed these books when she was little, so that says a lot about how adorable they are.  The cartoon was a favourite of ours.  There are many books in the series, and I am sure that they are likely to charm adults just as much as children.

The Magic Faraway Tree, Up the Faraway Tree and The Folk of the Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton – It goes without saying that these books are absolutely delightful.  The pleasure and peril within the tales has been wonderfully balanced, and I still absolutely love them now.  The same goes for Blyton’s marvellous Wishing Chair stories.  All of the books are filled with the most wonderful characters which a child could hope to meet.  Favourites of mine are the lovely Silky and the marvellously grumpy Moon Face.

The Famous Five and Secret Seven series by Enid Blyton – Filled with adventure.  A lot of my copies of the Famous Five date from the 1930s and 1940s, and I have had the greatest fun of late re-reading the lovely Secret Seven boxset of books which I received for Christmas.

Paddington Bear

Paddington Bear by Michael Bond – Paddington, that marmalade-loving, macintosh-wearing ball of fluff, is one of the most charming bears in literature.  He is always off having adventures, and each story in the series is written to be treasured.  I don’t think I will ever grow up when there is children’s literature like this in the world.

The Snowman by Raymond Briggs – So delightful, and a story which I happily revisit every Christmas Eve.

Milly-Molly-Mandy Stories by Joyce Lankester Brisley – I was always enchanted by little Millicent-Margaret-Amanda (you can see why she has a nickname, can’t you?) when I was little, and I loved reading about the lovely things she did in her little village.

Babar

Babar by Jean de Brunhoff – My Mum loves these stories just as much as I do.  Babar is the loveliest of elephants, and his family is absolutely adorable.  The illustrations and tales which de Brunhoff has created are an utter delight.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett – This is one of the first films which I ever remember watching, and it has remained my favourite ever since.  I think I have read this book about a dozen times already, and I still find it absolutely enchanting.  You can find my full Secret Garden review here.

Hushabye by John Burningham – I was a little too old for this book when I read it, but I did so to a baby cousin of mine, and was absolutely charmed by the simple, lullaby-esque story and the beautiful watercolour illustrations.  I did love Burningham’s work when I was little myself, and he was lovely to revisit when I was a little older.

Percy the Park Keeper by Nick Butterworth – I absolutely loved these tales and the accompanying cartoon.  A particular favourite of mine was One Snowy Night.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle – To say that I was obsessed with this book when I was small is not an understatement.  I absolutely loved it, and now, quite a few years on, I own a lovely Hungry Caterpillar mug and set of badges.

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