What We're Reading

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Neil

My Mother and Other Secrets, by Wendyl Nissen (Allen & Unwin 2021)

A compelling and moving book in which Wendyl Nissen applies a journalistic rigour to an investigation of her family history, and uncovers some extraordinary secrets. From appalling parenting, sad adoptions, loss, grief, and generally poor behaviour! It's a remarkably effecting and honest look at family life and its impact, adoption and its legacy, dementia and its destructive power. It ends with an extremely useful Hints and Tips section, including advice on Advance Directives and Advance Values statements.

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Neil

Dark Star Safari: Overland From Cairo to Cape Town, by Paul Theroux (Penguin 2003)

Paul Theroux returns to Africa 40 years after living in Uganda and Malawi and reports on current conditions there. He both loves and hates Africa, and has a lot to love and hate while travelling overland, mostly by train, through Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and finally South Africa, It's an epic journey, full of delays and complications, but Theroux is nothing if not a capable traveller, and he writes well about local characters, other travellers and the landscape.

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Neil

Crossing the Shadow Line: Travels in South East Asia, by Andrew Eames (Sceptre 1988)

Andrew Eames was under the spell of Joseph Conrad when he set out as a naive graduate to spend 2 years exploring Asia. He had many adventures in Thailand, Laos Malaysia, India, the Timor Sea and the Himalaya. Eames is an intelligent, observant and compassionate traveller, intrepid or foolhardy by turns, and the reader has a sense of his coming of age. The journey changes him, as all good journeys should, and he is honest about himself and other travellers, while also being amusing and thought provoking. Worth seeking out.

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Neil

Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese, by Patrick Leigh Fermor (NYRB Classics 2006, originally published 1958)

This densely informative, digressive, elegantly written travel book and history of the southern tip of Greece, the remote Peloponnese, is deservedly a classic, and typical of Patrick Leigh Fermor's oeuvre. Mani, and its companion Roumeli: Travels in Northern Greece, have been described as 'two of the best ravel books of the century'.

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Neil

no one is talking about this, by Patricia Lockwood (Bloomsbury 2021)

Patricia Lockwood is a poet and memoirist, this is her first, remarkably original novel. It is written in a series of short, fragmentary, disconnected parts, which build to a narrative of sorts, and half way through, an unexpected event leads to a shift in the narrative and the focus of the main character. The internet and social media, called the portal in the novel, play a significant part in the first section.

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Neil

Piranesi, by Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury 2020)

Piranesi is an extraordinary novel, the setting so well conceived and controlled, the story so luminous, the twists and surprises so unsettling and unexpected, it's quite indescribable. To attempt to describe it would be to give too much away, all I can say is that it's an absolute must-read, and that it will take the reader to places they didn't expect at the beginning. I can't recommend this book highly enough, it's an absorbing, immersive mystery, a triumph of storytelling.