A Moveable Feast




“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”

A Moveable Feast was written during the last years of Hemingway’s life. In it he reflects back on his days as a young, unknown writer living in Paris between 1921-1926. His recollections of that time are really brought to life in this excellent memoir. It is a short book but a fine example of his brilliant writing.

I devoured the entire book in one sitting (home ill on the sofa!) and felt totally immersed in Parisian, literary, 1920s life. Hemingway with his cafes, bookshops and booze conjured up romantic imagery of the daily routine of a writer. He may have been poor and hungry (after quitting journalism and having a wife and young baby to support) but he was happy writing in coffee shops and sharing his Paris life with some of the greatest writers, poets and painters in history – James Joyce, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and Pablo Picasso to name just a few.

His anecdotes on Ford Madox Ford interrupting his writing and another about his road trip with Scott Fitzgerald to fetch an abandoned car are particularly entertaining to read.

I adored every word on every page and just wish there had been a hundred pages more.



Inside Charlie’s Chocolate Factory



Wonka book

Charlie and The Chocolate Factory remains one of our best-loved children’s books fifty years after its publication and this book is a glorious full colour treasure that every Charlie fan must own! Lifelong Dahl fanatic, Lucy Mangan, explores the book’s influence on readers, films, theatre, music and of course on chocolate. I loved how she calls it “a whipple-scrumptious fudgemallow delight to do” as that is exactly what it was to read. Especially on a cold, wet January duvet day!

The book opens with an exquisite foreword by Roald’s daughter Sophie Dahl. Her stories of her father feature fairies, bacon with marmalade, and the red tupperware box full of chocolate bars that would only be opened if she’d been good. Lovely memories.

“I am not overly fond of chocolate flavoured foods such as chocolate cake and chocolate ice cream. I prefer my chocolate straight.” (Roald Dahl)

Writing Charlie was initially a difficult process for Dahl, working on it during a tragic time for his family. But through early drafts and manuscripts published here we can see the enthralling storyteller and maverick emerge. Charlie has since become so popular that it has inspired everything from episodes of The Simpsons to Marilyn Manson music videos to Heston Blumenthals’ wacky food creations! It’s characters and catchphrases have permeated popular culture with spin-off merchandise including figurines, lunchboxes and those all important Wonka bars.

Wonka figurine Continue reading

Funny girl



Nick Hornby is my favourite British contemporary author. His novel High Fidelity is my favourite book. So it follows that a newly published work of fiction by the great man is a cause for much excitement from me. I’m happy to say that Funny Girl did not disappoint.

I positively tore through this book. I tried to hold back, savour it, delay the pleasure and all that but the story was too good and the characters too warm to leave them lying around waiting on my bedside table.

Funny Girl is set in the swinging 1960s. It’s about popular culture, work, sex,  fame, the class system, friendship and partnership. If I had to rank it among his other fiction I’d put it at number four between How To Be Good and A Long Way Down. Continue reading

Earth is the loneliest planet of all*

the humas


The Humans is quite simply one of those novels that you wish you had written. Remarkably inventive, heart-warming, very funny and gripping right up to the last page. Matt Haig’s fifth book is really something special.

One Friday night Professor Andrew Martin is found walking naked through the streets of Cambridge. He feels lost amongst his new species. He is repulsed by human food, clothes, their appearance – and even by his wife and teenage son. In fact he hates everyone and everything except his dog, Newton.

But as he sets about the tasks that he has been sent to Earth to complete, he gradually starts to change his mind about the human race. Haig uses this fantastic story to explore what it is to love and be human and all that is weird and wonderful about that. Like looking at our planet through an outer body experience (from outer space). Continue reading

Comedy in a crisis

Man at the helm by Nina Stibbe



I just love this author. A more naturally funny writer you would have to go a long way to find. Her first book Love, Nina, a memoir about her time as a nanny, was an absolute riot and I found that Man At The Helm happily follows suit.

It’s 1970 and 9-year-old Lizzie Vogel is packed off to a small, hostile Leicestershire village with her sister, little brother and their drunken mother following their parents’ divorce.

Their budding-playwright mother is now all alone with her three young children and Debbie Reynolds the Labrador. Increasingly concerned about her bad play-writing and desperate to avoid becoming wards of court, Lizzie and her sister set about finding a man to take the helm. They compile a hilarious list of men they consider to be suitable spouses and contact them by letter to invite them to tea. This sparks a series of romantic mishaps and misunderstandings featuring rascally plumber Charlie Bates, the vicar, Mr Lomax (the Liberal candidate) and the local farmer. This is seriously funny stuff. Stibbe has a wonderful ear for comic dialogue that left me crumpled in fits of laughter and an eye for detail that soundly evokes the mood of a 1970s childhood. Continue reading

Tears and joy from classic comedy genius


This is a lovely, funny, touching novel by the comic genius that brought us Reggie Perrin – David Nobbs. It’s the story of Sally Mottram, an ordinary resident of Potherthwaite, a small fictional Pennine town. A town, like so many now, in a dreadful rut of abandoned buildings and closing businesses. Sally feels strongly that something has to be done to turn around the town’s fortunes but what? and by whom?

A shocking tragedy breaks up this nice little tale of a one-woman crusade quite early on. Something happens that is so devastating that it threatens to shatter Sally’s whole existence. But indeed it is this incident that sparks her into action as she embarks on a mission to bring Potherthwaite back to life, rallying the whole community to save itself.

At times the plot appears to be straying into ITV Monday night drama territory but Nobbs didn’t get where he is today by succumbing to neat, twee, happy endings. Instead, we find amongst the tea rooms and allotments tales of suicide, obesity, guilt and jealousy all smothered in a heavy dollop of ‘keeping up appearances’ small town paranoia. Continue reading

A tale of the unexpected



My friend Jane insisted that I promote this to the top of my reading pile after she devoured it on a trip to Cornwall this summer. And so I did. It didn’t take a lot of persuading as we are both such ardent fans of Flavia de luce and the Buckshaw clan.

The Dead In Their Vaulted Arches is the sixth book (and please not the last!) of this tremendously entertaining series. We pick up where Speaking From Among The Bones left off, waiting for Flavia’s mother to return after being presumed dead in Tibet for the last decade.

A specially commisioned train brings Harriett back to Buckshaw setting off a number of gruesome events and incredible revelations that unlock the sercrets of her past and unravels the details of young Flavia’s destiny. Continue reading