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By Simply Books, Dec 11 2017 09:58AM

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout is really a wonderful book. Drawn In simple, unfussy, prose this a warm and intimate portrait of both a marriage and a community. Olive Kitteridge is someone who might be best described as ‘a difficult woman’ – married to the personable and easy-going (if unambitious) owner of the local pharmacy. As the (now retired) teacher of maths at the local high school Olive knows (and is known by) generations of children in her small community on the shoreline of Maine, New England. The novel is written as a sequence of self-contained stories exploring the lives of the townspeople (young and old) – woven through these stories is a connection (sometimes slight, other times more significant) with Olive. There’s a deceptive simplicity to the language – but writing this good (and this compelling) is a rare thing and we should treasure it!


With Christmas just around the corner I thought I’d highlight a couple of this year’s quirky stocking fillers! First off… The Secret Life of Cows by Rosamund Young is a delightful book about cows and how they live. The author and her family have been running their farm for over fifty years – she knows every one of her cattle by name and carries their monkey puzzle of a family tree ion her head! Turns out cows are as varied as people. They be highly intelligent or slow to understand, vain, considerate, proud, shy or inventive – this is an affectionate look at a hitherto secret world. Intriguing…you’ll never feel the same about a herd of cows again!


Becoming British has never been more complicated. Aside from meeting the various legal, financial and residential requirements applicants for British citizenship have (since 2005) been required to pass an official UK citizenship test – and it’s not as easy as you think! The ‘Call Yourself British’ Quiz Book is a compilation of 500 multiple-choice questions based on the UK Citizenship test to help measure just how British you jolly well are. Perfect for post-Christmas dinner entertainment. So for starters…Who is/was Richard Arkwright, Sake Dean Mahomet, John Petts and David Weir? What are the contents of the 1689 Bill of Rights? And why do British people keep pets (according to the Home Office!)?


And for the children….Oliver Jeffers new book Here We Are – Notes For Living On Planet Earth is a stunning picture book exploring what makes our planet and how we live in it. A visual treat and a wonderful book to share with any child.


By Simply Books, Nov 15 2017 08:00AM

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead tells the story of one woman's perilous journey of escape from slavery in pre-Civil War America. Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia, an existence made even more hellish as her status as an outcast among her fellow Africans. Approaching womanhood - where ever greater pain and danger threatens - she encounters Caesar, a slave recently arrived from Virginia. Caesar tells her about the 'underground railway' and she takes the momentous decision to accompany him on his journey North. A harrowing, engrossing story - and a very timely examination of the dark side of American history.

By Simply Books, Oct 10 2017 07:00AM

Hannah Kent's debut novel Burial Rites - a book inspired by events surrounding the celebrated trial and execution of a young woman in late nineteenth century Iceland - was an award-winning international best seller. She has a wonderful talent for taking fragments of historical facts and breathing life into them through her fiction.


For her new book, The Good People, we are in rural Ireland 1825. As with her first book the author takes inspiration from true events - in this case of a trial of 'an old woman of very advanced age' of willful infanticide. This is one of several recorded cases of death and injury suffered as a consequence of trying to 'put the fairy' out of a child that has come to seen as a 'changeling' from the 'fairy world' of 'good people'. Mourning the death of her husband and daughter Nora hears rumours that her four year-old son Michael can no longer speak or walk - people are saying he's a 'changeling', bringing bad luck to the valley. In desperation Nora seeks a cure from the local 'keener' or 'handy woman' and is soon set on a course which will bring her into conflict with the Catholic Church and her own community.


Hannah Kent has a keen ear for the lilt and intonation of the villagers' conversation and gives us a fascinating and compelling picture of a community torn between on the one hand the folklore of a traditional belief in 'the fairy world', and on the other the authority of the Priest and the Church. Beautifully written book - a book to immerse yourself in!

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