Friday, 1 August 2014

My Animals and Other Family by Clare Balding / Claudette Colvin by Phillip Hoose / Be My Knife by David Grossman

My Animals and Other Family by Clare Balding
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Clare Balding is on TV a lot at the moment presenting the Commonwealth Games. I hadn’t considered this when I began to listen to her autobiography via Audible a few days ago, but it is certainly an apt time to experience her book. I like Clare as a presenter because she is knowledgeable and comes across as a strong role model - no reliance on simpering or cleavage from her! However, I knew very little about her life before she began presenting mainstream sport. I had no idea she had been such a successful jockey for a time, nor that her family is so steeped in the world of horseracing.

Although this is very much a book about that world, I was pleased that I didn’t need to be a fan in order to understand it. While the result of a privileged upbringing, Clare is very down to earth about her childhood and adolescent experiences. I particularly liked that she doesn’t shirk from revealing actions that show her in a bad light as well as times when she shone. Her dawning awareness of the constant misogyny around her makes for an interesting theme and I am grateful that my teenage weight battles weren’t made such a stark focus as Clare’s were.

At one point Clare mentions that she enjoys listening to audiobooks and I believe this comes through in her narration as, not only is her story well written, but she does a great job of telling it too.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Clare Balding / Biography / Books from England

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward JusticeClaudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip M. Hoose
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another audioSYNC listen, Claudette Colvin by Phillip Hoose is the first of the season to feel as though it is particularly aimed at a teenage audience. That said, the book is a fascinating listen and taught me much about the realities of segregated life in 1950s America. For example, I didn’t previously know the actual origins of the phrase ‘Jim Crow’. I particularly liked the way the side-bar sections were read. These little snapshots of historical information about prominent people and events complimented the main text allowing greater understanding of issues such as the practical logistics of staging the Bus Boycott.

The multi-narrator storytelling is a great device that really brings Claudette’s words to life. Her resolve to help bring about change, together with her disappointment at the lack of support from adult activists in Montgomery made for a poignant tale. The brief words of the author at the end explaining how this book came about were an interesting touch.

For me however, the strongest feeling I am left with after hearing Claudette’s story together with my other recent listen, October Mourning, is one of disappointment in America itself. The country is true melting pot of practically every people, yet only relatively few can really be themselves and thrive.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Phillip M Hoose / Biography and memoir / Books from America

Be My Knife by David Grossman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

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Buy the paperback from Waterstones

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This book is infuriating! Essentially a one-sided book of letters from a thirty-something man to a woman he spies at a reunion, the concept is unusual. Some of the prose is stunning, really profound streams of consciousness. However, these brief passages are hidden in the depths of so much arrogant, egotistical whining that it became a real slog to finish the book. I've seen effusive five star reviews for Be My Knife so obviously others have got into the writing in a way that I was unable to do. Still, having finally got to the decidedly bizarre ending, I am relieved to stop!

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by David Grossman / Contemporary fiction / Books from Israel

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