My visits to the library are getting more frequent, particularly as bad weather meant I had a bit more reading time! I’ve had a bit of a mixed bag this time, all still non fiction though;
No Way but Gentlenesse by Richard Hines; people of my generation here in the UK may recall a book and TV programme called Kes by Barry Hines, about a boy from a rough background who takes a young kestrel from it’s nest and learns how to train it. Richard Hines is the brother of Barry and he was the inspiration for the book as he took kestrels as a child and taught himself to train them. He also trained the birds that appeared in the TV programme. This is the story of his life, not just about the kestrels, but about the seconday modern school education system which existed at the time and social class struggles (he was from a mining family in the era of the miners strikes) As someone who has effectively done the same job since leaving school at 18 it also fascinates me to read about people who completely change their careers throughout their lives!
In Pursuit of Butterflies by Matthew Oates; This started off delightfully, relating his childhood and how he became interested in butterflies, his gentle humour came through and I enjoyed the first bit. It then became almost like an annual report of the butterfly activity each year, where he found them and when. I got as far as 1976 when I realised it just continued much the same for the rest of the book. I’m afraid I gave up!
The Penguin Lessons by Tom Michell; I loved this book, it’s delightful, easy to read, in fact despite already having two books on the go when I bought it home on the Friday, I had finished it by Sunday!! In the 1970’s Tom worked in Argentina in a boarding school, travelling round South America in his spare time. On holiday in Uruguay he rescued a penguin from an oil slick, cleaned it up, but it then refused to leave him and he ended up smuggling it back to Argentina to the school. This friendly little penguin transformed the lives of the schoolboys, especially one home-sick boy. Amusing and magical story.
The Final Curtsey by Margaret Rhodes; Margaret was cousin to Queen Elizabeth II, she grew up having holidays with her cousins in a world resembling Downton Abbey. She was appointed lady-in-waiting to her aunt, the Queen Mother. This is all her memories about her life, it’s full of personal anecdotes about royal life and life of the landed gentry in general, it is a unique glimpse into another world, I enjoyed it, I just didn’t feel it was written that well, the time-line seems to jump around a bit, as one reviewer says, it’s a bit like a hostess telling lots of amusing anecdotes to dinner guests.
The Last Foundling by Tom Mackenzie; This is a sad but I felt a positive book, Tom was reluctantly given up to the Foundling Hospital as a baby, his mother never gave up hope of being able to get him back, but everything seemed to work against her. She didn’t know of the bullying and harsh regime he was growing up in. He was never told of the birthday presents his mum sent every year. He left the home at 15, ill-equipped socially to cope with the wider world, but after a few misadventures he managed to track down his mother and discover the family he never knew who welcomed him back into their fold. The story is told concurrently of both the mother and Tom. What I loved is that there was no bitterness, either towards the hospital or his mother. The hospital started to change during his stay, but as he argues, they didn’t do it out of malice, they thought that was the best way to treat the children at the time with a firm routine and discipline. His mother had little choice really due to social stigmas of the time. A good book.
Just as a side note, last time I wrote a book post I’d just read Dust gets in my Eyes by Caitlin Docherty which is about her work as a mortician. I think it’s the most commented on book I’ve mentioned here! Anyway, it came in very useful when I had to visit the undertakers this week to plan my mum’s funeral, I knew what to ask and what possible practises were so I had a much better idea of what I did and didn’t want for my mum. I definitely recommend this book!