I have given this book five stars not because I think it's a good book - I think it's absolutely shocking - but because I got so much fun out of readi...moreI have given this book five stars not because I think it's a good book - I think it's absolutely shocking - but because I got so much fun out of reading it. I enjoy EJO's books and collect them assiduously, but I have no idea what she was thinking when she came up with what must surely be the world's least plausible and most convoluted plot for a children's book. By the time children have finished the story of Hazel, or is she Hilda? or maybe Violet? they must wonder whether anything their parents have ever told them about their own lives is true. As for the soon-to-be-ordained minister who hears a story of what amounts to child abduction and does not immediately report the situation to the authorities or at least the parents involved ... I known things were different a century ago but I find myself absolutely flummoxed at his response to the situation.
Read, enjoy, marvel at the plot, but do not expect a book that can be taken at all seriously. (less)
I'm not sure whether the Uniting Church comes out of this book as sane and sensible or hypocritical. We're the church that supports public education a...moreI'm not sure whether the Uniting Church comes out of this book as sane and sensible or hypocritical. We're the church that supports public education and recognises the very poor pedagogy of the Access Ministries curriculum (sane and sensible) but we're also the church that gives Access Ministries $60,000 per annum and is connected to Haileybury, a school whose students are so privileged that they can't be imprisoned (hypocritical).
I'm in the same philosophical place as Maddox (church-going Christian who believes that education should be compulsory, free and secular) so obviously I found this a worthwhile read. I learned the most in Maddox' discussion of the new 'themelic' Christian schools. As a UCA minister I know all about the privileged 'schools with pools' that the Uniting Church inherited from the uniting denominations, but I knew very little about the new, low-fee, 'bible- based', 'Christ-centred' schools. Having read this book I am aghast that these schools receive public funding and are recognised by the government. I don't believe 'schools with pools' should receive public money because after years of bequests and with the fees paid by parents they are immensely privileged, but I've never questioned that they are 'good' schools that teach children well. But the new themelic schools just sound like bad schools. Teaching creationism in science isn't a matter of 'religious freedom'! And schools that receive public funding have absolutely no reason for not following public laws in matters like anti-discrimination.
One argument consistently made for giving public money to private schools is that the parents of private school children pay their taxes too. Well, I pay taxes and have no children at all, and I am horrified and appalled that any of my money might be going to support homophobic, creationist, bible-based schools. If Maddox is right in everything she writes the educational system in Australia is in a lot of trouble. (less)
This is a lovely, gentle romance; almost a 'Georgette Heyer' set in Scotland. I can understand why of all Bruce's "Colmskirk" stories this was the one...moreThis is a lovely, gentle romance; almost a 'Georgette Heyer' set in Scotland. I can understand why of all Bruce's "Colmskirk" stories this was the one most reprinted. The bits of Scots might be a little hard for some to understand, but not for anyone who had read Robert Louis Stevenson or Sir Walter Scott (who actually appears in this book with his family).
One thing I particularly like about Bruce's historical works (and it's an aspect where she improves on Heyer, who was a good modernist and couldn't understand religion) is that she recognises the role that the church played in people's lives, and is able to introduce religion as a normal part of it. And she gets it right. For example:
... “It must be most gratifying to you, Mistress Crawford, ma’am,” innocently remarked the old minister of Colmskirk, “that your niece should be making a name for herself in the capital as a sweet singer of Israel, and that she has given us all so much pleasure, this night; most gratifying indeed!”
Mistress Crawford flounced in her chair.
“As to that, sir, ‘twas by no wish of ours that Jonet left her sheltered home for the glare of publicity; ‘twas her own choice, and we cannot think it seemly for a young gentlewoman, though we are not near enough of kin to assert any control. But as to her being as you imply an Israelite, I can assure you there’s not a drop of Jewish blood anywhere in our connection.”
“Why, ma’am,” replied the old man mildly, “I did but liken Miss Jentie to King David of old. And after all, was not Christ himself a Jew?”
The lady reddened, and turned her shoulder on him abruptly as she greeted a friend who had come up on the other side.
“There’s whiles, Mistress Miller,” she remarked confidentially, “when if the minister was not the minister, I’d be inclined to class him as a man of light and irreverent speech. Does it not say in the Book itself, ‘a place for everything and everything in its place’? I never can mind chapter and verse, but I’m thinking you’ll find it somewhere in Ecclesiastes. ‘Tis a shocking thing to me, and verging on blasphemy, when the Holy Scripture is introduced into a place of amusement.”
But Mistress Miller was even more shocked at the aspersion on their minister.
“I'd have you remember, ma’am,” she snapped, “that it all depends on who makes the introduction. There's some whose minds are so soaked in the Holy Book that its words just tumble out of their mouths.”
Mistress Crawford felt her most dignified course was to ignore the rebuke …
After reading this I'm determined to visit Largs in Ayrshire, the original of 'Colmskirk'.
The second of the printed Target novelisations that I've read - and I can understand their popularity, especially given that the books provided a chan...moreThe second of the printed Target novelisations that I've read - and I can understand their popularity, especially given that the books provided a chance to revisit episodes on those far-off days before videos and DVDs. Well-written, adapted by the author of the television episodes, with no budget or special effects' limitations, this is a very good children's book.
It does have a little more romance than the television programme: 'Barbara looked across at Ian, stretched out a hand and held his. A dozen unsaid words hung between them in the understanding of the moment. Modern people though they were, they had stepped into a world of chivalry and barbarism and Ian had not failed her. She had needed him and he had come for her. She knew, whatever the age, whatever the place, whatever the circumstances, he would measure up to her every expectation. She leant across her horse, put her arm around his neck and kissed him softly on the lips. She sat back again, her heart beating a little faster, a slight tinge of pink at her cheeks, holding his eyes with hers ...' - That never happened on the telly!(less)
This is a wonderful book, almost unputdownable (I read it in two days). Semi-autobiographical (the author is a British playwright from an Iraqi-Jewish...moreThis is a wonderful book, almost unputdownable (I read it in two days). Semi-autobiographical (the author is a British playwright from an Iraqi-Jewish background) this book travels through many of the books that I think every English-speaking girl and woman should read. And a few that I'd never thought of reading, but now may have to: Jilly Cooper's Riders; Shirley Conrad's Lace; and Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls.
The most enjoyable part of this book is how much Ellis herself enjoys the books she reads. Even those that she's outgrown or had misread are loved. As I read each chapter I wanted to immediately race off to revisit the books about which Ellis was writing, and I'm definitely going to have an orgy of rereading sometime soon.
I do resonate with Ellis' somewhat plaintive question, though: where are the happy fictional spinsters? (p. 219)(less)
Interesting history of the intersection of Doctor Who and its fandom. I'm not sure that I would have fitted in the hard-core group of fans for most of...moreInteresting history of the intersection of Doctor Who and its fandom. I'm not sure that I would have fitted in the hard-core group of fans for most of Who's history, but it's fascinating to read about them. And good to know that there have always, ALWAYS, been people for whom Doctor Who is now rubbish because it's no longer the show of their youth.(less)
I love this series. It may be best TV tie-in ever; books that would actually work as stand-alone mysteries, but which are so much more fun when read a...moreI love this series. It may be best TV tie-in ever; books that would actually work as stand-alone mysteries, but which are so much more fun when read as written by 'Richard Castle'. (I particularly liked the Firefly references in this one.)(less)
Enjoyable, but marred a little for me by Marsh's anti-gay prejudice. For a woman who worked in the theatre her dislike of characters who she presents...moreEnjoyable, but marred a little for me by Marsh's anti-gay prejudice. For a woman who worked in the theatre her dislike of characters who she presents as unpleasant queers is difficult to understand. (less)
Definitely the best of the series, this book begins with two German Jewish children arriving in England on the Kindertransport and making their way to...moreDefinitely the best of the series, this book begins with two German Jewish children arriving in England on the Kindertransport and making their way to the Farm School. I first read this when I was about ten and one scene from this book has stayed with me so vividly that I was surprised to realise that I only read it rather than seeing it on television or in a film:
"And the next day, a dreadful one, Hans and Johanna, returning with their governess from a walk, had come suddenly across a crowd in the road. Some were young Nazis, some were ordinary people, and in the middle a dozen or so men were on their knees, scrubbing the path. Hans was just asking what on earth they were doing, scrubbing the muddy path in their ordinary indoor suits, when one of them looked up, and they saw it was their father - their sleek, dignified father, his hair hanging over his face, his glasses awry, scrubbing that path. A red-faced young Nazi gave him a kick as they passed, and Johanna remember hearing Hans scream, and trying to force her way through the crowd to kick the Nazi, scratch him, bite him, do him any injury he could. But the governess had seized her and dragged her, protesting, away and indoors." (p. 30)
Like Exile for Annis, to which this is a sequel, Cherry Tree Perch is a fascinating piece of social history as well as an interesting children's story...moreLike Exile for Annis, to which this is a sequel, Cherry Tree Perch is a fascinating piece of social history as well as an interesting children's story. Again, the element that shocked me most from my twenty-first century perspective was people's attitudes to Kenneth, the "idiot". Kitty describes him as "like some rather precious pet" (p. 126) and no matter how important pets are it seems a strange way for her to describe her older brother. Once again everyone works hard and does brilliantly, and the villain of the piece is an untidy spinster who doesn't finish things.(less)
This was originally published in 1938, and it's a fascinating piece of social history.
The Farm School, to which Annis is 'exiled', is a self-sufficien...moreThis was originally published in 1938, and it's a fascinating piece of social history.
The Farm School, to which Annis is 'exiled', is a self-sufficient co-educational alternative school - it reminds me a little of A.S.Neill's Summerhill. He said: "I am only just realising the absolute freedom of my scheme of Education. I see that all outside compulsion is wrong, that inner compulsion is the only value. And if Mary or David wants to laze about, lazing about is the one thing necessary for their personalities at the moment. Every moment of a healthy child's life is a working moment. A child has no time to sit down and laze. Lazing is abnormal, it is a recovery, and therefore it is necessary when it exists." At the end of this book Annis describes life at the Farm School: "I think it makes better people. It's more like being grown-up, in a way. You haven't got any tram-lines, you can choose what sort of person you'll be, up to a point. You've got to be making up your mind all the time what to do, instead of just obeying rules." Elder's school is an ideal world in which children work hard at everything they do without compulsion because working hard fulfils them. They then go on to win scholarships to the Royal Music School and to Oxford and Cambridge colleges with no difficulty at all!
A couple of other interesting bits if social history. Elder does not like spinsters! Her ideal women get married, have children, and continue to work in their professions. Staying unmarried while working is decidedly second-best. In many ways she strikes me as the anti-Oxenham: "[Annis] had watched a folk-dancing demonstration on Hampstead Heath not long ago, performed by the most astonishing set of freaks she had ever seen. She remembered her mother's comments on it - "Hideous! A lot of elderly spinsters and a sprinkling of weedy young men, and they all dressed up most unsuitably in white, and tied belled garters below their knees and leaped! Most ungainly. The worst sort of cranks!"
Then there's her description of Kenneth, the "idiot", with Annis saying to herself "He's just like a nice savage, or one of those big chimpanzees at the Zoo" and "She felt like a white man being investigated by a friendly savage". Cutting-edge acceptance in 1938' apparently!(less)
A carefully detailed philosophical argument that concludes that, despite the title, there is actually nothing intrinsically wrong with homosexuality....moreA carefully detailed philosophical argument that concludes that, despite the title, there is actually nothing intrinsically wrong with homosexuality. I'm not sure that this book will change anyone's mind, but it definitely provides the philosophical language with which to challenge the common arguments made to 'prove' that homosexuality is immoral. My concern is that I believe that for many people opposition to homosexuality has less to do with reasoned argument than with a gut-reaction of disgust, usually to anal sex, and reasoned counter-arguments aren't going to change that.(less)