Review: The Lubetkin Legacy by Marina Lewycka

 

Title: The Lubetkin Legacy

Author: Marina Lewycka

Published: May 16th 2016, FigTree

Status: Read May 2019- courtesy Penguin/Netgalley

+++++++

My Thoughts:

I can’t remember why I requested The Lubetkin Legacy for review, I have a feeling it was to satisfy a challenge. Whatever the reason, I’m glad I did, mostly.

The Lubetkin Legacy is a quirky, rather rambling novel which centres on two characters who live in a social housing block of flats in North London named Mandelay Court.

Berthold Sidebottom has lived in the top floor apartment with his mother, for most of his life. Named after the building’s architect, Berthold Lubetkin, with whom his mother claimed to have an affair, he is In his mid fifties, bald, divorced, and an unemployed actor. When his mother, Lily Lukashenko, dies unexpectedly, Berthold is worried that the council will repossess the flat, and so he invites the elderly Ukrainian widow who shared his mother’s hospital room to live with him and pretend to be his mother, until he can arrange for the transfer of possession.

Violet, Kenyan-born, but mostly raised in England, moves into the apartment next door to Berthold. Barely into her twenties, she is excited to start her first job in a city firm, having recently graduated university, but it quickly begins to lose its shine when she learns of her employers shady financial dealings.

The two characters are only loosely connected, Berthold spends a disturbing amount of time lusting after Violet, who is half his age and barely aware of his existence. In fact the connection is so limited, and Violet’s story so disparate, I don’t think it had a place in this novel at all. Berthold, and his mother substitute, Inna, would have been enough to carry the story.

Though to be honest I struggled with Berthold’s character. He is a bit of a sad sack, fairly useless with the practical, prone to randomly spouting Shakespeare, insulting George Clooney, and often behaves like a sex-starved creep. He is a pitiable figure of a man really, but does occasionally provoke some sympathy. I loved Inna though, her eccentric use of the English language (it’s her fourth, maybe fifth, language) is hilarious.

Despite the farcical presentation of this novel, the main themes of the novel are socio-political, taking aim at the UK’s policy of austerity, privatisation of social housing, the introduction of the bedroom tax, the consequences of the employment scheme, the disintegration of community, and on a larger scale, the misuse of tax havens, greed, exploitation, and corruption.

I liked this, mostly. Despite its many flaws, The Lubetkin Legacy is oddly entertaining, and has some important points to make about the failures of social policy.

++++++

Available from Penguin UK I Penguin AU I

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Review: Why Mummy Doesn’t Give a **** by Gill Sims

 

Title: Why Mummy Doesn’t Give a ****

Author: Gill Sims

Published: April 15th 2019, HarperCollins

Status: Read May 2019

++++++

My Thoughts:

I’d been awake for 30 odd hours and was looking for something light to read as I waited for the sleeping tablet to take effect when I spotted Gill Sims latest and thought it would be perfect, having read and enjoyed Why Mummy Drinks and Why Mummy Swears sometime last year.

A spin off of her successful mummy blog/Facebook page ‘Peter and Jane’, described as an ‘honest, sweary, tongue-in-cheek account of a pretty normal, middle-class Scottish family’, Sims’ books are an exaggeration of the mundanity of family life. The books are best read in order, as the family ‘grows’ through each book.

In Why Mummy Doesn’t Give a ****, Ellen’s marriage has collapsed after Simon confessed to sleeping with another woman on a business trip, and Ellen has moved into the cottage of her dreams (except for the damp, the single bathroom, and brambles rather than roses by the door) with their teenagers, Peter who is 13 and Jane who is 15.

I found Why Mummy Doesn’t Give a **** mostly hilarious, even though it doesn’t really bear much relation to my own life.

Ok, so I do have a houseful of teens (2 girls, 2 boys) so I’m familiar with the drama of teenage girls, and the ability of teenage boys to inhale the contents of the fridge within hours of it being filled, and I might have turned of the wifi once or twice in order to get their attention, but I’d never tolerate Jane’s behaviour, or her drinking habits (my kids will want to be much more subtle).

And ok, I may have a piece of furniture or two deliberately placed to hide a stain in the carpet (and a teeny hole in the wall) but I don’t have any dogs, or chickens, I rarely drink, and I still have a husband, so I don’t have to brave the horrors of online dating as a newly single woman in my mid 40’s.

Fair warning, the language is crude (those asterisks in the title barely mask the F-word which is used liberally through the novel), there’s an awkward sex scene, a passing mention of crusty socks, and a lot of drinking, but there are some brief moments of seriousness related to divorce and loss.

Why Mummy Doesn’t Give a **** , like Gill Sims previous novels, was an easy, quick and fun read.

 

++++++

Available from HarperCollins UK, or HarperCollins AU

Or your preferred retailer via Booko

 

Review: Dastardly Deeds by Ilsa Evans

 

Review: Dastardly Deeds (Nell Forrest #4)

Author: Ilsa Evans

Published: March 10th 2016, Momentum

Status: Read June 2016, courtesy Momentum

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

Dastardly Deeds is the fourth book in the Ilsa Evans cosy mystery series featuring columnist, mother, and amateur sleuth, Nell Forrest.

Having endured a busy few years, what with her twenty-five-year marriage imploding, moving house, becoming a grandmother (twice), reconnecting with her estranged father, losing her sister to England, sabotaging a fledgling relationship, and being caught up in more than one murder, Nell is looking forward to escaping it all on a 10-day Mediterranean cruise. Unfortunately her mother, her ex-husband and his new partner, her ex lover, her sister, two of her five daughters, and a murderer decide to follow.

While I missed the quirky town of Majic, the exotic setting of Dastardly Deeds lends a little more colour to the story. The first death occurs in Rome, the second in Turkey, and Nell is convinced she is trapped on a cruise ship with a killer. The twists and turns of the mystery are convincing with plenty of suspects muddying up the waters. Nell really pushes her luck in this installment, very nearly becoming a victim herself. And then just when you think it’s over, there’s another surprise.

My favourite aspect of the Nell Forrest series remains the humour, from the ‘fan’ letters (Nell writes a syndicated newspaper column called Middle Aged Spread) that preface each chapter, to the exasperated snark Nell mumbles under her breath. I also enjoy the barely controlled chaos of her family, who are thoroughly exasperating and loving.

It’s been three years since Dastardly Deeds was released, but I still have hope that Ilsa Evans will revisit the series, I want more.

++++++

 

Available to Purchase from

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Previous Installments

#1 Nefarious Doings I  #2 I’ll-Gotten Gains I #3 Forbidden Fruit

 

 

Review: Making It Up As I Go Along by Marian Keyes

 

Title: Making It Up As I Go Along

Author: Marian Keyes

Published: 11th February 2016, Michael Joseph

Status: Read March 2016, courtesy Penguin

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

I’ve long enjoyed the works of Irish author Marian Keyes, including her Walsh Family series. Making It Up As I Go Along is a collection of essays, blog posts and articles, it’s the type of book you can dip in and out of.

Covering musings and anecdotes on diverse topics, from eyelash extensions to Christmas to Yoga there is something for everyone. Mostly amusing, though sometimes poignant and insightful, this is an easy, entertaining read.

++++++

 

Available to Purchase from

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or your preferred retailer

Review: Bridge Burning and Other Hobbies by Kitty Flanaganh

 

Title: Bridge Burning and Other Hobbies

Author: Kitty Flanagan

Published: March 2018, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read April 2019

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

“Had I told my mother I was writing an autobiography, she’d quite rightly have asked, ‘Why?’ Instead, this is a book of true stories and ill-informed opinions. And I believe it was Paul Simon who once said, ‘Your opinion is not important, it is merely of interest.’ So, while this book is not important, I do hope you will find it of interest. Most of all, I hope you will find it funny because that really is my favourite thing.”

I did find it mildly interesting, Kitty, but mostly I found it funny. I smiled a lot, laughed out loud a few times, and spat out my drink at least once.

Kitty and I are of the same generation, so we share similar childhood experiences and attitudes. I enjoy her self deprecating humour, and her witty observations.

The only thing I thought the book lacked was a handful of photos from Kitty’s childhood.

++++++

 

Available to Purchase from

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or your preferred retailer

Also coming soon by Kitty Flanagan

Review: I Can’t Remember the Title but the Cover is Blue

Title: I Can’t Remember the Title But the Cover is Blue

Author: Elias Greig

Published: Allen & Unwin, November 2018

Status: Read December 18th 2019

My Thoughts:

Monday, 2.50pm

Lady in sun visor: Yes, I’m after a book … I can’t remember the title, but it’s quite unique …

Me: Do you remember what it’s about?

Sun Visor: It’s about a French woman, and she finally tells her story. Do you have that one?

——————————

LOL? Any guesses on the title?

Written as a series of vignettes, in the tradition of Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops by Jen Campbell and The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell, I Can’t Remember the Title But the Cover is Blue, Elias Greig shares the best, worst and downright weirdest customer encounters from his years working as a Sydney bookseller.

I Can’t Remember the Title but the Cover is Blue is a quick and easy read that will make you laugh, cringe, and perhaps even shed a tear (because either you will be grateful you don’t work in retail, or because you do).

Review: The Land Before Avocado by Richard Glover

Title: The Land Before Avocado

Author: Richard Glover

Published: ABC Books, October 2018

Status: Read December 30, 2018

My Thoughts:

Technically I grew up in the 80’s, having been born in the early 1970’s, but so much of what Glover writes evokes memories of my childhood, from the pineapple ‘hedgehog’ cheese and onion appetisers, to the unbelted, smoke filled, weaving, courtesy of the ubiquitous cask wine in the bar fridge, car trips. I laughed aloud often at the nostalgic absurdity of it all.

However, The Land Before Avacado is also a sobering reminder of how far we have come as a culture. The status quo for baby boomers and most of Gen X would be inconceivable to today’s generations who can drink gourmet coffee (with smashed avacado toast) in the comfort of their own home, or by the roadside, any day of the week.

Tongue in cheek aside, many advances are sobering, from the drastic reduction of the road death toll, thanks to the introduction of drink driving and seatbelt laws, to laws protecting the employment status of pregnant women.

Glover also shares facts that will likely shock most readers who are convinced by their Facebook feeds that crime is at an all time high, when, in fact, the commission of serious crimes has more than halved across the board in the last fifty years.

While the nostalgic remembrances in The Land Before Avacado, appeal directly to those over the age of 40, I feel compelled to recommend to this to anyone over the age of twenty, many of whom could benefit from a little perspective.

Oh, and I am so going to cook the Spicy Meat Ring!

Available to Purchase at your preferred retailer

Review: The Nutters by Kate Starmer

 

Title: The Nutters

Author: Kate Starmer

Published: Austin-Macauley Jan 2015

Status: Read from April 07 to 08, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

The Nutters introduces Albert, a former policeman medically retired from the force after being stabbed by a clown, and his wife, Rose, private investigators in the small English village of Little Wobble. Albert, missing the excitement of his days on the force, hoped to catch criminals but instead spends his days looking for missing garden gnomes, cats, and neighbours who aren’t really missing at all.
So the Nutters are eager when they are asked to investigate a case in Upper Wobble where the vicar’s wife is receiving hate mail, threatening to expose her secret, sordid past, and suddenly they have almost more excitement than they can handle.

This cozy mystery offers a cast of lively characters, featuring the Nutter family which includes Albert, Rose, also an agony aunt for the village newspaper, their three almost adult children and a lazy oversize mutt.

There is more than one mystery playing out in The Nutters. The vicar’s wife is being blackmailed, the publican seems to be cheating on his wife, a young woman is assaulted and another is being stalked. The mysteries are solidly plotted, and though the culprits are fairly easily guessed, I was surprised by at least one of the revelations.

Unfortunately my experience of reading The Nutters was marred by several issues with the writing. The sentence structure is often clumsy, tenses are muddled and the grammar is inconsistent. There is far too much ‘tell’ rather than ‘show’ and there are instances of repetition in the narrative.

It’s a shame, because I enjoyed the humour of The Nutters and think the story is genuinely entertaining, but the editing lets it down.

Available to purchase from

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About: The Penguin Leunig: 40th Anniverserary Edition by Michael Leunig

9780143572480

 

Title: The Penguin Leunig: 40th Anniversary Edition

Author: Michael Leunig

Published: Penguin Au November 2014

leunig1

“The 40th anniversary edition of the first collection of cartoons by Michael Leunig. Originally published in 1974, The Penguin Leunig was the very first collection of cartoons from the inimitable Leunig. Since then he has published 25 books and been declared a Living Treasure by the National Trust of Australia. The pieces in this classic compilation are as relevant now as when they first appeared, with Leunig turning his unique eye on life in all its complexities, ironies, absurdities and pathos. This hardback anniversary edition is a beautiful offering of the hilarious and the sublime.”

 leunig2

Available to purchase from

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and all good bookstores.

*****

See also:

Review: Family Matters by Pat McDermott

 

 

Title: Family Matters: Laughter and wisdom from the home front

Author: Pat McDermott

Published: Allen & Unwin October 2014

Status: Read from October 28 to 29, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

There would be few women who have never picked up a copy of The Australian Womens Weekly magazine during their lifetime, I grew up reading its mix of celebrity features, hard luck stories, recipes, and regular columns, my favourite of which was always Pat McDermott’s ‘Family Matters’.

For thirty years McDermott chronicled the chaos of her family life as the wife of the MOTH (Man Of The House aka Dennis) and as the mother of five children, Reagan, Flynn, Patrick, Courtenay and Rowen (aka Ruff Red), and more recently also as a mother in-law and grandmother.

Family Matters is a collection of some of her columns spanning the time from which her children were rambunctious toddlers to grunting teenagers, to adults who left to make their own way in the world, and then came back. Her anecdotes, and confessions, are warm, funny, honest and so easy for me, as a mother of four, to relate to. As it happens, I have a ‘Ruff Red’ of my own!

Family Matters is a wonderful, laugh out loud read for any parent in the trenches or those with fond memories of raising their family. Personally I was left wanting more of Pat’s charm and humour and I hope there will be more collections from her column published in the future.

Available to purchase from

Allen & Unwin Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Bookworld I via Booko

Amazon AU  I Amazon US

and all good bookstores.

awwbadge_2014

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