On beauty by Zadie Smith

amy-on-beauty.jpgAll the way up to five stars for the Howards End connection. This is an intricate book about the complicated and messy people in two families. People who are struggling to find where they belong, what true love is, and who they really are. It is emotional, political, thought provoking, and I loved it.

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The spy who came in from the cold by John le Carre

Amy The Spy who came in from the coldI never knew before that this was a novel studied at school, but I can see why. It has the twists and turns, and treachery of an adventure filled spy novel, but it relentlessly dark, bleak even, and so very clever. Alec Leamas, after years of spying in Berlin, wants out, but agrees to one more assignment, which will take him into Communist Germany. It’s about how complicated politics, war, and life itself is; complicated, cruel, seemingly pointless, yet with the glimmer of light – love, kindness and what is deeply right – to strive for. I found it enthralling, powerful, and darkly beautiful.

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Scrublands by Chris Hammer

amy-scrublands.jpgScrublands is Australian rural noir, set in a fictional town in the Riverina. A year ago, a priest shot a number of men dead, and was then shot himself by the local policeman. A journalist, with his own demons, arrives to write a piece about how the town is coping, only to uncover, and become entangled, in layers of secrets. There is a great sense of place; the oppressive heat and bleak landscape mirroring the tension between the townspeople, the police and the news people. The mystery is deep and complex, the characters compelling, and the plight of the small country town in drought, utterly believable.

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On the beach by Nevil Shute

amy-on-the-beach.jpgWhat would you do if you knew the world was to end in just a few months? After a short, nuclear war in the northern hemisphere, the only people left alive are down south, but radiation sickness is slowly heading towards them. Less technical than many Shute novels, this is a fascinating look at what could have happened if war broke out in the sixties, and how people might have dealt with impending death. It’s thoughtful, sweet, amusingly old-fashioned (the female characters!), and ultimately moving.

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The bookshop

Amy The Bookshop Surely an English, period movie about a bookshop is going to be right up my alley. Florence Green, a widow, decides to fulfill a dream and open a bookshop in a small town by the sea, despite no encouragement from her lawyer, banker, or the townspeople. The scenery is lovely, as are the costumes, and Florence and the reclusive Mr Brundish are endearing characters, but I felt that the film didn’t quite live up to its promise. I still enjoyed it, but I can cope with a bleak and sad ending. If you want bookish and happy, stick to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

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Educated by Tara Westover

Amy EducatedEducated is the memoir of a woman brought up in a family that was isolated by their strong religious beliefs, and fear of intervention, which led to them avoiding doctors and school. Living in rural Idaho, there was so much dirt, danger, and ignorance, as well as emotional and physical abuse, as to make this a most uncomfortable read. Eventually, thanks to a thirst for knowledge and understanding, Tara is able to leave, be educated (all the way to Cambridge, Harvard and a PhD) and be freed from abuse. Though not always a pleasant read, it is a moving account of the hardships of ignorance and poverty, and the power of education.

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A New England affair by Steven Carroll

Amy A New England AffairLargely set in Massachusetts, A New England Affair is an imagined version of T.S. Eliot’s relationship with Emily Hale, which began when they were both young Americans in 1913. It’s about a love that never found its moment, though it endured for many years, and the frustrated longing, and soul searching are poignant. It is a call to communicate clearly, live fully, and to see the beauty in the ordinary.

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