Restoree is the tale of Sara, a girl escaping the drudgery of cThis review and many other reviews and features can be found at www.thebookeaters.co.uk
Restoree is the tale of Sara, a girl escaping the drudgery of country life in order to study in New York, who gets swept up in a mass alien abduction by a race intent on, essentially, restocking their larder. She witnesses all sorts of horrific sights in what amounts to a human abattoir which sends her into deep shock. When she recovers her sense of self, she finds herself on what she knows to be an alien (albeit populated with very human humanoid aliens) world in a skin that is not the one she remembers. She is one of a number of pretty female attendants in a strange asylum whose job it is to care for catatonically insane men. She quickly realises that her charge, a man named Harlan, has been drugged into this state and uses her wits to free him. Harlan was the Regent for the underage Warlord (and also his nephew) of the planet, Lothar, which is frequently attacked by the same aliens who kidnapped Sara- the Mil. What follows is a race to have Harlan restored as Regent in order to save the Warlord and Lothar from the machinations and greed of the usurper before his actions destroy them all.
This was Anne McCaffrey’s first book, first published in 1967, and it is well known amongst McCaffrey fans that she intended the book as a ‘jab’ against the way women were portrayed in 1960s sci-fi.
I have read this, and many other McCaffrey books many many times. My mother first introduced me to Anne McCaffrey when I was around 11 or 12 and Restoree has always been one of my favourites. It has a good premise, is an easy well-paced read, has elements of sci-fi, adventure, romance, horror and definitely fulfils the notion of a book taking you away to somewhere new. For the younger me it was exciting and adventurous; the main character had been almost as bookish as I was and yet she ended up having an incredible adventure and was an active participant in a world- changing event! It was pure escapist fun, and had the added bonus of clearly being an example of a strong independent heroine- Anne McCaffrey had said so.
Which is where it falls down a bit upon rereading as an older and wiser 30-something. McCaffrey may have meant the book to be an indictment on the portrayal on women in science fiction as passive swooning crying bystanders to the action but actually, that’s kind of what Sara is. Yes, she uses her wits to free Harlan from his drugs, she sails and runs with him, she provides valuable information and is a key part of the political manoeuvres that follow, but digging a little deeper, her character is an example of the very thing McCaffrey was trying to protest against and she does actually swoon quite a lot! As the story continues, she becomes increasingly passive and spends a lot of time being reassured, patronised and used as a political tool by the men in the story. The only other female character of note is also conspicuous in her lack of real contribution to the story. Lothar is a society where women are ‘claimed’ and all the important political and military decisions are made by men. Women aren’t even considered for anything outside of traditional occupations, looking pretty and bearing children for the good of Lothar.
So, older me is slightly disappointed. Yes, it’s still adventurous, and yes, I would still dearly have loved there to be a sequel, and yes, it’s still a pretty decent read… but it isn’t what it claims to be.
Younger me gives Restoree an emphatic 5 bites and wants it to remain on record as one of her favourite books, opening the doors to more and more sci-fi reading.
Older me gives Restoree 2.5 bites and despairs ever so slightly at how women were viewed in the 1960s.
I think averages out to 3.75 bites which is a little too specific! So….
I briefly mentioned this book in my last ‘what are weThe original review, and many other reviews and features, can be found at www.thebookeaters.co.uk
I briefly mentioned this book in my last ‘what are we reading’ post at the beginning of February. It is the first in the Amelia Peabody mystery series… I’m now reading the fifth which should give you some indication of how this review is going to pan out! As I previously mentioned, Amelia Peabody is a Victorian era self-proclaimed spinster who has the good fortune to be pretty wealthy. This means she can pick and choose the strict social conventions of the time that she will pay heed to and is considered merely eccentric rather than scandalous; it also means she can up sticks and travel to Egypt to indulge in her fascination of Egyptology. She travels via Rome where she meets Evelyn, a young woman who has been led astray by a nefarious man and is therefore a social outcast and ruined forever and ever. Amelia doesn’t give two figs about this particular social convention and so hires Evelyn to be her companion (not so much for the chaperonage but more for the actual company). When the two ladies get to Egypt they briefly meet the Emerson brothers, Radcliffe and Walter. Walter’s a bit wimpy but dreadfully clever and lovely. Radcliffe (only ever to be known as Emerson) is a full on alpha male who is shouty, and bearded, muscly and grumpy but with a fabulous sense of honour and dedication to his noble cause of archaeology etc. Emerson and Amelia do not have a particularly amiable first meeting which clearly a sign of what’s to come Cue the appearance of the despicable rascal that ruined Evelyn- throw in her cousin who has a dynastic agenda and some mysterious nocturnal disturbances and the ladies hasten to start their Nile trip. During their exploration, Amelia and Evelyn encounter the two brothers again, at their excavation. Emerson is dreadfully unwell and Amelia steps in to nurse him back to health. This is where the story really gets going. Mysterious Mummy appearances, accidents and restless natives lead Amelia to the conclusion that something is definitely fishy about the whole situation and she will not rest until she has got to the bottom of it.
I’ve been a bit wordy in my description of the opening few chapters of Crocodile on the Sandbank, and admittedly this is something that the novel occasionally suffers from. On the whole, however, it is a riotous narrative, casually satirising the adventure novels of the 1930s. Amelia is a fabulous protagonist and you will be cheering for her and her parasol at every turn! She is strong-willed, wonderfully ahead of her time, kind, compassionate, and intelligent. Her fellow heroes are equally well endowed with wonderful qualities although Elizabeth Peters is careful to give them vices and character flaws to balance them out.
The plot is fairly ridiculous but as it is lampooning the 1930s adventure serials, it is fittingly ridiculous. And come to think of it, it is actually a good mystery to try to solve. I don’t think seasoned readers of Agatha Christie would have any trouble discovering the villain but working out all the whys and wherefores is diverting.
Upon finishing I immediately borrowed the next book in the series and am now on my fifth- this sums up my recommendation to you all!
I am going to take a break after this one but not because they have become any less entertaining!
“A desperate mother ventures to deploy Fair means or fThe original review, and many other reviews and features, can be found at www.thebookeaters.co.uk
“A desperate mother ventures to deploy Fair means or foul to net a suitable boy.”
There are many things I enjoy about writing on this blog. As a book lover I enjoy delving further into a story, and really thinking about what makes it work (or not!) I also like being able to think about the books that have influenced me over the years which is what our throwback Thursday feature is designed for.
I first read “A Suitable Boy” when I was at university, travelling across London on the tube, some 9 years after it was originally published. It is an epic of a novel, coming in at 1474 pages in my copy. No real surprise then to say I haven’t read it again since university. Despite this, I can still picture scenes in my head. Images of the foulness of the tanning pits explored by Haresh Khanna; flies buzzing over earth stained red by the expectoration of paan- juice; the joy and colour during the festival of Holi.
The book is set in the fictional city of Brahmpur in 1950’s India. At its heart, this is the story of the search for the suitable boy Mrs Rupa Mehra is trying desperately to find for her daughter Lata. Within the search religion and caste are both important factors for Mrs Mehra. They are a Hindu family, and Mrs Mehra has narrowed her search down to Haresh Khanna the business man, and Amit Chatterji the poet. Lata herself falls in love with Kabir Durrani, fellow student, cricketer and Muslim. Horrified, Mrs Mehra sends her daughter away to Calcutta.
The role of women is interestingly explored. The more modern aspect of Indian society is demonstrated by Lata’s friend Malati who has chosen to do medicine at university, and is able to choose her own relationships. Mrs Mehra reflects the more traditional aspect of Indian society, with Lata torn between a desire to follow her heart setting her own course through life, and duty to her mother. Compare this to the love affair between Maan Kapoor and the courtesan Saeeda Bai which also transcends religious boundaries, and causes scandal and gossip but is not forbidden, and it easy to see the difference in the world of women and men.
Religion is a central theme of the book, and deftly approached by Seth. Land reforms threaten the Khans, and tensions are high following the decision to build a Hindu temple which will sit between Alamgiri Mosque and Mecca. India and its people are trying to define themselves in these changing times, but the wounds of recent conflict are very much present.
There are a lot of characters. Beautifully developed, sometimes difficult to keep track of, although the family trees at the start of the book help. The language is poetic, as you would expect from Seth. Even the 19 parts of the books are described in rhyming couplets on the contents page. There is so much to this book. So much to learn and take from it, but the characters and beauty of the writing will draw you in and keep you reading. And you will be glad you did.
Flora Poste has had an excellent education courtesy oThe origianl review, and many other reviews and features, can be found at www.thebookeaters.co.uk
Flora Poste has had an excellent education courtesy of her travel addicted parents leaving her in boarding schools pretty much every day of her life. When they both die of Spanish flu she finds she has “every art and grace save that of earning her own living.” She can’t abide the idea of working for a living so she decides to take advantage of the fact that “no limits are set, either by society or one’s own conscience, to the amount one may impose on one’s relatives”. She goes to stay with distant relatives at the isolated Cold Comfort Farm. Her relatives there — Aunt Ada Doom, the Starkadders, and their extended family and workers — feel obliged to take her in to atone for an unspecified wrong once done to her father.
But all is not what you might expect at Cold Comfort Farm; Aunt Ada Doom seems to be mad, daughter Judith is fixated on her youngest son (Seth, a smouldering heap of mocking sexuality) her husband Amos is a zealot and there are countless other long-festering emotional problems amongst the rest of the inhabitants.
As Flora is a level-headed, urban woman, she sets herself the task of resolving all this turmoil with modern common sense, regardless of whether they want her help.
But all is not what you might expect with this book either, it may sound like a comedy of manners in the style of Jane Austen mixed with the Bronte’s, but it is in fact, a very clever parody.
Stella Gibbons work, first published in 1932, mercilessly pokes fun at both great works of literature and the modern manners of the day. This Mickey-taking is quite skilfully done; so much so that if it wasn’t for the foreword in the form of a letter, I would probably have thought it was serious attempt at a novel in this vein.
Reading this 84 years after it was written does present a couple of problems however. The first is that as she is parodying a variety of works of great literature, the style of the novel seems quite clumsily stitched together in places; it swings from a light Austen-like voice to brooding Hardy-esque passages.
The second problem with it is that although it was written in 1931 it was set at an indeterminate point in the future, roughly twenty years ahead. This isn’t mentioned either in the foreword or in the blurb on the back. This had the unfortunate effect of catapulting me out of the narrative several times wondering what on earth was going on. At one point I was so confused I wondered if it had actually been written much later; if it was indeed a parody of a parody.
That notwithstanding I enjoyed this book, it was a fairly quick and easy read yet still made me think about the morality of ‘sticking your oar in’. Ms Gibbons also had a real talent for dialogue which helped create a fascinating world.
Agatha Christie is one of my favourite authors. ThereThe original review, and many other reviews and features, can be found at www.thebookeaters.co.uk
Agatha Christie is one of my favourite authors. There is something sublime about snuggling up in my nice cosy bedroom whilst a storm is raging outside and losing myself in one of her murder mysteries. I’d be hard pushed to pick a favourite between Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, and even harder pushed to pick a favourite book.
The Body in the Library was the first Agatha Christie I read, and seemed a perfect choice for my TBT review.
Colonel and Mrs Bantry wake up one day to find a glamorous blonde strangled to death on the hearth rug in their library. Just as puzzled as the police by this, Mrs Bantry calls upon her bff, Miss Marple, to investigate. The girl is swiftly identified as Ruby Keene, a dance hostess at a nearby hotel and Miss Marple and Mrs Bantry head off on a ‘quiet holiday’ to the same hotel. What follows is a fabulous take on a crime staple- a dead body left in an incongruous location.
Initially it seems like a murder mystery taken straight from the game Cluedo- it was the Colonel, in the library with the rope! However, Christie weaves her usual magic and introduces a number of other suspects, dropping clues here and there until you have no idea who the killer is., and yet, the big reveal always makes complete sense.
Ruby Keene was to be adopted by wealthy invalid, Conway Jefferson, and as impeding sole heir of his fortune, Jefferson’s family become suspects. Throw into the mix a tennis coach who is not who he seems, an apparent bumbling man of leisure who was the last to see Ruby alive, and a hot headed film producer, and the suspect list is reassuringly large. It certainly keeps you guessing throughout!
Although the second of the Miss Marple novels, and 15th mystery (The Thirteen Problems is before this), it does actually serve as a good introduction to Miss Marple and her methods. Miss Marple has the mind of a sink, she believes in the good and the evil of humanity, and despite her kind old lady persona, has a razor sharp intuitive mind and frankly brilliant deductive reasoning skills.
I recommend giving this a try. You won’t be disappointed!
A couple of months ago my village had a fête, I love these but the part I love most is the second hand book stall. On this occasion I left with around 20 books.
Amongst this wonderful haul was a book called The Robe. It was a hardback edition with no sleeve and no blurb so I had no idea at all what it was about…
It begins in Rome and the first paragraph draws you in and starts a strand of sympathy that weaves you into the story. We are introduced to the Tribune Marcellus whose footsteps carry us through the rest of the tale. Crucially it also introduces us to his family and the moral code he has been bought up with.
Sent away from Rome to Palestine, the cynical Marcellus has to assist at the crucification of Jesus. Later he wins Christs robe in a drunken dice game and becomes fascinated by the object and it’s former owner. He sets out to learn more about him and his teachings and starts to question his own beliefs and those of the culture around him.
This book has an interesting perspective on the beginnings of Christianity. I’m not Christian and this isn’t preachy but it was a wonderful read and it restored my faith in faith.
It shows that people has the same cares 2000 years ago as we do today, but for me one of the most impressive feats of this book is how the author deals with depression and despair, conditions we sometimes seem are the exclusive provenance of recent generations....more
This book was published over 20 years ago, butThe original review, and many other reviews and features, can be found at http://www.thebookeaters.co.uk
This book was published over 20 years ago, but I read it for the first time this month and have to admit I hadn’t come across the title or the author before.
Cloudstreet is essentially about two families- the Pickleses and the Lambs- who both live in the same huge, ramshackled house in Perth Western Australia.
In a life defined by bad luck Sam Pickles is left the house by his cousin Joel in his will. In an attempt to make some money Sam lets one half of the house out to the Lamb family who have also had their share of misfortune.
A spiritual family, the “Lambs of God” receive their own miracle when their favourite son Fish nearly drowns and is seemingly resurrected. But their belief in God is destroyed when his parents Lester and oriel realise that “not all of Fish Lamb had come back.” Fish is left with a hunger to return to the water, and his family must deal with the aftermath of the tragedy.
The book follows the two families through the Second World War, and into the 1950s and 60s. This book covers such a changing time for the country, and occasionally a critical look at its past that it’s not surprising it is a set text for English literature students in Western Australia.
Historical events are eluded to in Winton’s poetic prose. When talking about the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan he writes: “Somewhere a bicycle rings. Somewhere else there’s a war on. Somewhere else people turn to shadows and powder in an instant and the streets turn to funnels and light the sky with their burning. Somewhere a war is over.” The tenses and perspectives can change within each small, brilliantly titled chapter. To me this feels deliberate and could be a consequence of who the narrator is and where they are, but could also be frustrating at times.
I found it difficult to get into the book initially. The dialect used takes time to adjust to, and the lack of quotation mark around dialogue which was a struggle to start with. But the characters hooked me in and kept me reading. Each is so well developed. Gambler Sam with his missing four and a half fingers; his drunk, promiscuous wife Dolly, and tough, stubborn daughter Rose. And the Lambs. Poor Fish, desperate to be back in the water; his brother Quick who wishes it had been him, not Fish that nearly drowned; and their parents Oriel and Lester, hard working, grieving. I really cared about what happened to them. One of the most interesting characters though is the house itself, with a dark history and movements in the shadows that give this novel an almost gothic quality in places. Ghosts that only Fish can see inhabit the library in the “no-mans land” in the middle of the house.
This is a book of symbolism, of religion and history. It is beautifully crafted and the characters leap off the page. It certainly transcends genres. The end result is like experimental gastronomy. An interesting mix of flavours that seem to compliment each other well, but that won’t be to everyone’s taste.
A dark tale of self-sacrifice and heroism, NevThe original review, and many other reviews and features, can be found at http://www.thebookeaters.co.uk
A dark tale of self-sacrifice and heroism, Neverwhere is the story of Richard Mayhew, a Scotsman in London whose rather ordinary life is turned upside down, inside out, and back to front as a result of a moment of kindness. After rescuing a raggedy injured mysterious girl named Door from mysterious assassins, his dull existence in London Above (the London we know) is erased and he is forced to enter London Below (the London we really really don’t know) to track down Door and search for a way to restore his life. Door, however, has her own problems- namely the brutal massacre of her entire family to avenge…
In Neverwhere’s London Below, Gaiman creates an eerie, more literal, otherworldliness to the London that we know and love/hate*.
(*delete as applicable)
Of course there is an Earl in Earl’s Court, and why wouldn’t there be an Angel called Islington? Shepherds in Shepherd’s Bush? Yep, but you wouldn’t want to meet them! Knightsbridge? I think you’ll find that’s Night’s Bridge and it’s freaking scary!
Richard’s journey through the mysterious underside of London is littered with references to tube stations, notable landmarks and historical references which helps to create a well fleshed out and rounded world. There is a richness to the writing and Gaiman’s imagination creates bizarre alternatives to our London that actually seem really quite plausible and reasonable! Character actions are rooted in human feelings and motivations and you can’t help but see echoes of people you know in the central characters.
Aspects of London Below are creepy, terrifying and slightly nauseating (Yes Mister Croup and Mister Vandemar, I’m referring to you) and the inhabitants- the people who fell through the cracks in London Above- are of such variety and depth that this world is brought to life by Gaiman’s expressive and believable prose. Not gonna lie, I’m pretty sure this is actually a non-fiction biography of Richard Mayhew…
Neverwhere started life as a 1996 BBC series and was my first introduction to Neil Gaiman- Thank you BBC!- but I can safely say that, as with so many books/TV series/films, the book is better than its more visual counterpart. So much better that I hadn’t realised the TV series had come first until checking facts for this review!
I adore Neverwhere. It has captured my heart and soul, and I will admit to spending my infrequent trips on the London Underground creating London Below scenarios in my head. And I’m sorry but I’m not sorry for it!
A few weeks ago whilst waiting for an appointmThe original review, and many other reviews and features, can be found at http://www.thebookeaters.co.uk
A few weeks ago whilst waiting for an appointment in town I looked for some reading material in a charity shop. I noticed a novel by Alan Titchmarsh. I know of him from gardening shows on television. Intrigued I picked it up and read the blurb on the back cover. It read similar to other romance stories, but Alan Titchmarsh … I did not know he wrote stories. From the inside of the back cover, I noted that he had written a few others.
As both a budding writer and a dabbler in plants I thought I’d give the book a whirl. Nothing much to lose (it was only a pound) and I might learn something new. So clutching my purchase I set off for one of the coffee shops and started reading “Mr. MacGregor”.
Right from the start you are pulled into the story, immersed in it. The story is not only about Rob MacGregor and Kathleen, but also about those people who touch their lives. In each encounter with a character, the character comes over as distinct in both character and voice. Alan’s descriptions of situations and people are done with a light touch; just enough to allow you to form your own picture.
After reading the first few chapters I had to attend my meeting and it was with some regret that I closed the book. Over the next few weeks, I only had a few snatched moments to continue reading about the life and adventures of Rob MacGregor. Finally, I could not face it anymore. I had to know. Does Rob get the girl? Does Jock recover? What happens to Bertie Lightfoot and Guy D’Arcy? These were but a few of the questions that were nagging at me.
So disregarding all the other activities clamouring for attention I took a day off. Finally, I could indulge in an absorbing read with no interruptions. Within moments, I was immersed in the world of Rob MacGregor. I could now experience his family, friends, adversaries and the plants that form the backbone of the novel.
Make no mistake Alan Tichmarch is a story craftsman with a deft and light touch who from the start pulls you into the story and takes you on a ride through all the highs and lows of his characters. I have purposely not told you much of the story as I have no wish to destroy any of the fun you will experience when reading Mr. MacGregor for yourself.
As the tagline states: When Rob MacGregor is picked as the new presenter of a struggling gardening programme, he quickly becomes a favourite with everyone. And that’s half his trouble …
Often described as one of Terry Pratchett’s beThe original review, and many other reviews and features, can be found at http://www.thebookeaters.co.uk
Often described as one of Terry Pratchett’s best works, Guards! Guards! is the first of the Discworld novels to centre on the men of the Night Watch. The Night Watch are a ragtag band of men charged with keeping law and order in Ankh-Morpork, although with an official Assassin’s Guild and Thieves Guild, this isn’t exactly a demanding job.
Captain Sam Vimes is the jaded alcoholic leader of the Night Watch which also includes the cynical Sergeant Colon, the reprehensible Corporal Nobbs and the earnest new recruit Constable Carrot. It falls to them to save the city from a new doom- the kind of doom that breathes fire, eats maidens and is generally going to lower house prices in most neighbourhoods (perhaps not The Shades)- and they rise to the challenge admirablyadequately eventually. guardsClick for Amazon or find in your local library
This was my first successful attempt at reading a Terry Pratchett book. When I was younger I tried and tried to get into the Discworld books, especially after playing and enjoying the frankly amazing computer game set in Discworld (coincidentally it was loosely based on this book!), but was never able to get past the first few pages. And honestly, I missed out. Clearly I just wasn’t ready for the subtlety and surrealism that permeates the Discworld.
Guards! Guards! was recommended by fellow Book Eater Kelly and is a fantastic introduction into the Discworld universe despite being 8th in the series. This is partly due to the introduction of the Night Watch as characters, and particularly assisted by the naivety of Constable Carrot, the world’s largest ‘dwarf’… we could be clueless about Mrs Palm and her daughters together!
Delightfully dotty and marvellously madcap, Guards! Guards! weaves several strands of storytelling into an exciting and epic tale of the Unique and Supreme Lodge of the Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon Night’s dragon-fuelled plan to overthrow the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork and replace him with a puppet king so everyone can all stop feeling oppressed.
“And the people next door oppress me all night long. I tell them, I work all day, a man’s got to have some time to learn to play the tuba. That’s oppression, that is. If I’m not under the heel of the oppressor, I don’t know who is.”
It is funny, fast-paced, and filled with an amazing amount of detail. I’m very much looking forward to further exploring the Discworld. Any recommendations for which one next?
When Robert McCammom wrote this back in the miThe original review, and many other reviews and features, can be found at http://www.thebookeaters.co.uk
When Robert McCammom wrote this back in the mid 80’s (it was published in 1987) he was already an established author specialising in writing horror stories that nodded towards the corruption of power. More than once he’d pitted angelic good against devilish evil.
Of course, back in the 1980’s the biggest fear everyone harboured was world war three. The war that would unleash nuclear fury to destroy the world. McCammom took this fear and married it to his already successful themes of demonic evil and magical good to create this epic tale.
After the bombs hit on July 17th the few survivors surface and try to scratch their existence. Not because they want to so much as because their human nature won’t let them just lay down and die. The first half of the book introduces us to hate-filled supernatural being overjoyed at the destruction of the world. Sister, an ex mad bag lady who finds herself on Fifth Avenue where she picks up a huge chunk of melted glass that enclosed huge jewels as it hardened, only realising later that the glass somehow has magical properties. Swan, a child who’s stripper mother has just left her abusive boyfriend, tearing Swan away from the only joy she knows, gardening.
Through the nine hundred odd pages (or over 33 hours if you listen to it on audiobook as I did) you follow these three and a host of supporting characters through their journey through the long nuclear winter. When they meet in front of ‘God’ a final showdown between good and evil will decide whether the world will be washed clean by another disaster or allowed to live.
What Robert McCammom does really well is to create believable characters that you care about. Although on the surface this seems to be about good versus evil he shows the negatives of his good characters and positives of his bad characters. He shows you what motivates them. This skill supports the reader through their long long read!
He also lays enough hints at what might happen to keep you curious, what is this ‘evolution of humankind’ spoken about? How come seeds sprouted where Swan slept? And why is Sisters glass leading her to Swan?
However, there are a few things that I did not like about the book. The beginning was all wrong and almost lost me, I knew the nuclear war was going to happen so spending time watching the President prevaricate about it seemed wasted. As it happens that thread is returned to much later in the story so it was necessary, but I still think the start of the book should have focussed on Swan or Sister. It would have made the president’s dilemma more tense if the reader already cared about some of the characters.
It is overlong, with some sharp editing the book could have been cut down by at least a quarter without losing much of importance. His writing is often overly descriptive too. He is particularly fond of metaphors and although some were good a lot were a little cliched.
I wouldn’t rush out to buy more of his books in a desperate hurry but I may well read him again in the future, I’d like to try something a bit more recent from him next time though to see if his writing has improved and his message become stronger....more
I love independent bookshops, and I picked thiThe original review, and many other reviews and features, can be found at http://www.thebookeaters.co.uk
I love independent bookshops, and I picked this up when one of my local ones was having a sale. Second-hand books were being sold off for 2 for a pound! Well, obviously I couldn’t resist that and dived in to spend a happy half hour browsing. As usual my eyes wandered and I started browsing the books not on the sale shelf too…
The Scapeweed Goat with its bizarre cover picture couldn’t fail to catch my eye. It was first published in 1989 and the blurb quickly persuaded me it was worth a lot more than the princely sum of £1.00 that they were asking for it and soon it was on its way home with me, ready to share itself once more.
The first paragraph reminded me of Cold Mountain – a book that beguiled me with its poetic prose whilst assaulting me with the harshness of life. And in some respects The Scapeweed Goat does that too. However, this story covers the yearning of the human spirit to be looked after. Ironically it examines it through the eyes of a pioneer wishing to live in solitude with his new wife.
Written as a confessional journal of an old man, J tells the story of what happened in wilds of America back in 1899, when his idyllic life with his young wife was disturbed by the arrival of David. David has escaped from a nearby utopian community and is being pursued by guards desperate to get him back, the ramifications of this change J’s life forever.
It is an absorbing narrative and though parts of it are fantastical to our modern minds it is nevertheless utterly believable and authentic.
Frank Schaeffer is a fantastic writer and this should join the ranks of Lord of the Flies and To Kill A Mockingbird as a manuscript offered to our youngsters to stimulate their minds.