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Bettie's Books

A Stuga On the Cusp of the Orust Riviera, tucked away next to a hobbit hole in the woods.

Memories: From Moscow to the Black Sea by Teffi

Memories: From Moscow to the Black Sea (New York Review Books Classics) - Edythe C. Haber, Robert Chandler, Teffi, Anne Marie Jackson, Irina Steinberg




Description: Teffi was a famous Russian writer in the early 1900's, forced to flee her country. And this is the story of her eventful flight, which is newly translated by Robert and Elizabeth Chandler, Anne Marie Jackson and Irina Steinberg.

Unrest and anxiety in Moscow as the Bolsheviks gather, but a 'reading tour' of Ukraine offers Teffi and other artists a way out. Time to take the train.. Reader Tracy-Ann Oberman

On the train to Kiev, away from the Bolsheviks. And Gooskin the indefatigable organiser gets the author and others out of various scrapes.

Arrival in Kiev, with its sunny days and familiar faces, but a scourge of White Russians is approaching. When will Petlyura get here?

On to Odessa, where the author encounters General Grishin-Almazov, sniffer-outer of local bandits, who 'loved literature and theatre'. And wasn't he once an actor?

Sliding down the map, far from Moscow.. the author ends up in Novorossiisk.. where's that? Then she thinks about places even further afield, as the homeland 'slips away from us'.

The wonderful thing about Radio 4 is the gift of tasting new books and occasionally one comes across a delight that must be owned in the paper; Memories is such a one. The language, terror of fleeing war, and the relevance to contemporary times cannot be overlooked. Heartily recommended.

3* Subtly Worded
5* Memories

The Absentee by Maria Edgeworth,

The Absentee (Penguin Classics) - Maria Edgeworth
bookshelves: radio-4x, spring-2016, published-1811, regency-romp1811-1820, pecuniarilly-challenged
Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from May 06 to 16, 2016



Description: Lady Clonbrony, determined to be accepted by fashionable London society, has sunk her family into debt to the moneylender, Mordecai. She wants her son to make a good marriage, but his affections are not to be bought.

Stars Stephen Rea as Lord Colambre, Anna Healy as Grace Nugent, TP McKenna as Lord Clonbrony Francine Mulrooney as Lady Clonbrony and Ben Onwukwe as Whipp.

Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family

Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family - Thomas Mann, John E. Woods, T.J. Reed



Description: Michael Maloney and Barbara Flynn star in this story of an old Hanseatic merchant family fighting to keep their commercial supremacy in the changing world of 1840s Europe.

Four generations of Buddenbrooks try to sustain their inheritance - a once highly successful trading company in the port of Lübeck on the Baltic Sea - in a world where the old ways no longer seem to work. It's 1848, and the revolutionary tide running through Europe has finally reached Lübeck. Will the old merchant families hold on to power? Of the Buddenbrook children, only Tom remains to learn the business. Toni is in Hamburg married to Herr Grunlich, and Christian has gone to England but would rather be in Valparaiso. J Thomas and Gerda's son Hanno shows no aptitude for business, but may make a great musician.

Lovely to revisit this having just visited the beautiful hanseatic league town of Lübeck.

"An enormous brick-red, boiled ham appeared, strewn with crumbs and served with a sour brown onion sauce, and so many vegetables that the company could have satisfied their appetites from that one dish.

Lebrecht Kroger undertook the carving, and skillfully cut the succulent slices, with his elbows slightly elevated and his two long forefingers laid out along the back of the knife and fork. With the ham went the Frau Consul's celebrated " Russian jam" - a pungent fruit conserve flavoured with spirits."

Not Working: A Novel by Lisa Owens

Not Working: A Novel - Lisa Owens
bookshelves: published-2016, chick-lit, amusing, spring-2016, radio-4, hype-tinted-glasses, debut, feckless-procrastination
Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from April 28 to May 15, 2016




Description: Lisa Owens's comic debut novel tells the story of a life unravelling in minute and spectacular ways, voicing the questions we've all asked ourselves but never dared to say out loud.

Thirtysomething Claire Flannery has quit her job to discover her true vocation, only to realise that she has no idea how to go about finding it. In her muddled but somehow impeccable logic she discovers that, 'the more time you have, the less time you have'. As the weeks stretch into months with nothing to show but an overflowing internet search history and an unintended feud with her mother, Claire finds herself sinking under pressure and wondering where her life fell apart.

Read by Emily Bruni

Fingers in the Sparkle Jar: A Memoir by Chris Packham

Fingers in the Sparkle Jar: A Memoir - Chris Packham, Chris Packham, Random House Audiobooks
bookshelves: spring-2016, published-2016, nonfiction, radio-4, autobiography-memoir
Recommended to Bettie☯ by: Laura
Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from May 06 to 15, 2016




Description: Chris Packham is a naturalist, nature photographer and author, best known for his television work. But in his lyrical and painfully honest new memoir, he reveals the life-events which would eventually shape him and change him forever.

Chris brings to life his childhood in the 1970s, from his bedroom bursting with birds' eggs and jam jars, to his feral adventures. But throughout his story is the search for freedom, meaning and acceptance in a world that didn't understand him.

This unconventional and uncompromising memoir moves back and forth through time, capturing a child's view of the 60s and 70s - the music, the clothes, the cars - alongside recent, more exposing recollections from adulthood.

Episode 1: Chris begins his recollections as an introverted, unusual young boy, isolated by his obsessions and a loner at school.

2/5: Chris continues to remember his difficult childhood, discovers the taste of tadpoles and encounters some bullies.

3/5: Chris decides that animals are easier to trust than people. He makes a nocturnal escape through his bedroom window, finds treasure up a tree and falls in love.

4/5: Chris takes a kestrel from its nest, forming an all-consuming friendship which will eventually teach him hard lessons about love and loss.

5/5: Chris concludes his painfully honest memoir. He is a confirmed outsider - almost overwhelmed - but determined to do things his way, on his terms.

A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe

A Girl Called Jack: 100 Delicious Budget Recipes - Jack Monroe
bookshelves: spring-2016, play-dramatisation, published-2014, radio-4, moral-high-ground, food-glorious-food, autobiography-memoir, epistolatory-diary-blog, those-autumn-years, eng-southend, britain-england
Recommended to Bettie☯ by: Laura
Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from April 26 to 29, 2016



Description: Jack Monroe is an unusual food writer, gaining celebrity from her unique blog about existing on the breadline. During that time, she hit rock bottom but kept fighting to eat well and give her son proper food, rather than live on processed, cheap products. Now successful and no longer on the breadline, she continues to campaign passionately for decent food and standards of living.

This new drama, starring Jaime Winstone and June Whitfield, revisits her past and her relationship with her beloved Grandma.

Jack's blog started in 2012 after a Southend local councillor attacked single mothers. Jack lived in a small flat with her young son. Having been made redundant from a well-paid job, she found herself struggling to get by on benefits while applying unsuccessfully for jobs. Her blog documented the difficulties of living on welfare and, particularly, how to feed her son a nutritious and enjoyable diet on just £10 a week. It became a huge hit, Jack became a journalist, published food writer and social campaigner.

Episode 1: We find out why Grandma isn't talking to Jack and why soda bread is her favourite recipe.

Episode 2: Jack meets one of Southend's few on-off vegetarians, while her Grandma despairs of her granddaughter ever settling down.

Episode 3: Jack's first blog about life on the breadline goes viral.

Episode 4: Jack and Grandma clash, despite Jack's improving fortunes as her blog begins to earn her money.

Episode 5: Jack is nominated for the Fortnum and Mason Food and Drink Awards and invites her Grandma to be her guest.

Jack Monroe Jaime Winstone
Grandma June Whitfield
Gary Sam Troughton

The Senility of Vladimir P.: A Novel by Michael Honig

The Senility of Vladimir P.: A Novel - Michael Honig


Description: Set twenty-odd years from now, it opens on Patient Number One—Vladimir Putin, largely forgotten in his presidential dacha, serviced by a small coterie of house staff, drifting in and out of his memories of the past. His nurse, charged with the twenty-four-hour care of his patient, is blissfully unaware that his colleagues are using their various positions to skim money, in extraordinarily creative ways, from the top of their employer’s seemingly inexhaustible riches.
But when a family tragedy means that the nurse suddenly needs to find a fantastical sum of money fast, the dacha’s chef lets him in on the secret world of backhanders and bribes going on around him, and opens his eyes to a brewing war between the staff and the new housekeeper, the ruthless new sheriff in town.

Opening: HE DIDN'T KNOW HOW long he had been sitting there. Could have been two hours. Could have been two years.
Suddenly a connection in this brain sparked to life and set off a chain of ignitions, like a momentary flickering of stars lighting up across a darkening, dying galaxy.

Damn. I wanted this to be amusing, or cutting edge journalism, or insightful satire, or poignant view of senility.


A dull diatribe invoking could it be / perhaps not characters, entirely without any compelling force. This should have been shit hot, firework of a read, instead it was a rained on pizzle of a sparkler.


A House Full of Daughters by Juliet Nicolson

A House Full of Daughters - Juliet Nicolson
bookshelves: published-2016, radio-4, nonfiction, spring-2016, autobiography-memoir, women, families, society
Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from April 13 to 22, 2016




Description: Juliet Stevenson reads Juliet Nicolson's journey through seven generations of women, including her Flamenco dancing great great grandmother Pepita, her grandmother Vita Sackville West and her mother Philippa - all of whom have shaped and formed, in extraordinary ways, exactly who she has become today.

We journey through the slums of 19th century Malaga to the political elite of Washington, from English boarding schools during the second world war, to London in the 60s and New York in the 80s. It is one woman's investigation into how her past forms and informs her future.

Muscle for the Wing (Rene Shade #2) by Daniel Woodrell

Muscle for the Wing - Daniel Woodrell


Description: After ex-con Emil Jadick and his bad boys--a national gang of ex-cons who call themselves The Wing--storm a local St. Bruno poker game, Rene Shade sets out to stop the newcomers dead in their tracks.

Opening: Wishing to avoid any risk of a snub at The Hushed Hill Country Club, the first thing Emil Jadick shoved through the door was double-barreled and loaded.

Rene and Nicole are planning a fishing trip to the Ouachita mountains via the sounds of Don't Get Around Much Anymore - Johnny Hodges (Alto Sax) .

This Dean Pugh character would need close watching. He was foul and lean, junk-food raised and opposed to dentistry judging by his greening teeth. His skin had a yellow tinge, beneath shitfly green eyes, and his brain was probably odd enough to posthumously set off a bidding frenzy among scientists. He generally seemed batty as a loon, goofy as a goose on ice, immaculately weird, with no stain of normalcy on him at all.'

The Wing was a white prison gang, a loose nationwide cartel of sorts that kept in touch via three-to-five jolts and visitation privileges. Though not as strong as The Aryan Brotherhood or The Brown Mafia or The Locked-Up Muslims, The Wing had dirty fingers that could pull triggers on both sides of those high federal walls.

Under the Bright Lights (Rene Shade #1) by Daniel Woodrell

Under the Bright Lights - Daniel Woodrell


Description: When a city councilman is gunned down, Rene Shade refuses to write off his death as a burglary-homicide as he is ordered to do. Now, Shade's quest for the truth leads him on a chilling chase through a treacherous swamp of leeches and cottonmouths--while dodging his own unresolved past.

Opening: Jewel Cobb had long been a legendary killer in his midnight reveries and now he'd come to the big town to prove that his upright version knew the same techniques and was just as cold. He sat on the lumpy green couch tapping his feet in time with a guitar he scratched at with sullen incompetence.

Looking at Woodrell's text is like looking at those visual picture puzzles. You have to look through the oddly cobbled together phrases to catch the story, and it is a kind of wonderment when it works on a personal level. The real knack is deciphering the conversations, staccatoed brevity is my take on most of the grunting intercourse, yet it all works.

This is a sad, sick tale of assassination, pornography, politics, and kids who just don't know any better.

Coal bins lined the tracks, providing a haven for those rambling men who couldn't spare the buck for a flop and refused to perjure themselves on the God issue for the payoff bowl of soup and green-blanketed bunk. Urban Darwinism was at work in the grim light of this place, and the mean got over with their no-limit rage, while the weak went under, silently."

Got to love that Urban Darwinism.

The Cold Embrace by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

The Cold Embrace - Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Cathy Dobson, Red Door Audiobooks
bookshelves: spring-2016, radio-4x, shortstory-shortstories-novellas, women, victorian, ghosties-ghoulies, cousin-love, play-dramatisation, betrayal, supernatural, suicide
Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from April 13 to 18, 2016



Description: By Mary Braddon. After a German artist's cool betrayal, his fiancee's retribution is eerily apt. Stars Stephanie Turner and Jonathan Firth.

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit - Jeanette Winterson



Description: A unique coming of age story and a darkly funny tale of religious excess and human obsession.

Mrs Winterson has grand plans for her adopted daughter. Having received Little Jeanette from the Lord she intends to give her back to the Lord - she'll be a Missionary and save the world from sin. But despite her strange and zealous upbringing Little Jeanette begins to question her future. Inspired by the legends of the Holy Grail, she may forge her own path - much to her mother's despair.

1/2 Mrs Winterson has plans for adoptee Jeanette.

2/2 Jeanette: Now 16, Jeanette's future as a budding missionary is called into question when she falls in love with one of her converts, Melanie. It's not long before Mrs Winterson discovers her daughter's 'unnatural passions'. As the congregation determine to exorcise her demons, Jeanette is forced to choose between her church, home and family or the woman she loves.

Mrs Winterson Lesley Sharp
Little Jeanette Eleanor Worthington-Cox
Jeanette Katie West
Pastor Spratt Vincent Franklin
Miss Jewsbury Pauline Lynch
Mrs White Susan Jameson
May Adie Allen
Elsie Norris Angela Pleasance
Louie Claire Cage
Mrs Arkwright Vicky Licorish
Man Sam Rix

Thoughts Out of Season 1 by Friedrich Nietzsche

bookshelves: translation, philosophy, gutenberg-project, e-book, spring-2016
Recommended to Bettie☯ by: Laura
Read from April 16 to 17, 2016


"Women can form a friendship with a man very well; but to preserve it - to that end a slight physical antipathy must probably help." - Nietzsche Family Circus

Description: "Human, All-Too-Human (1878) is often considered the start of Friedrich Nietzsche's mature period. This complex work, composed of hundreds of aphorisms of varying length, explores many themes to which Nietzsche later returned and marks a significant departure from his previous thinking. Here Nietzsche breaks with his early allegiance in Arthur Schopenhauer and Richard Wagner, and establishes the overall framework of his later philosophy. In contrast to his previous disdain for science, now Nietzsche views science as key to undercutting traditional metaphysics. This he sees as a crucial step in the emergence of free spirits who will be the avant-garde of culture." This is an essential work for anyone who wishes to understand Nietzsche's incisive critique of such diverse aspects of Western culture and values as the idea of good and evil, the roles of women and children in society, and the concept of power and the state.

Kicking off is: DAVID STRAUSS, THE CONFESSOR AND THE WRITER: I. : Public opinion in Germany seems strictly to forbid any allusion to the evil and dangerous consequences of a war, more particularly when the war in question has been a victorious one. Those writers, therefore, command a more ready attention who, regarding this public opinion as final, proceed to vie with each other in their jubilant praise of the war, and of the powerful influences it has brought to bear upon morality, culture, and art. Yet it must be confessed that a great victory is a great danger. Human nature bears a triumph less easily than a defeat; indeed, it might even be urged that it is simpler to gain a victory of this sort than to turn it to such account that it may not ultimately prove a serious rout.

"We Germans are of yesterday," Goethe once said to Eckermann. "True, for the last hundred years we have diligently cultivated ourselves, but a few centuries may yet have to run their course before our fellow-countrymen become permeated with sufficient intellectuality and higher culture to have it said of them, it is a long time since they were barbarians."

Indeed, our Philistines have ceased to be faint-hearted and bashful, and have acquired almost cynical assurance. There was a time, long, long ago, when the Philistine was only tolerated as something that did not speak, and about which no one spoke; then a period ensued during which his roughness was smoothed, during which he was found amusing, and people talked about him. Under this treatment he gradually became a prig, rejoiced with all his heart over his rough places and his wrongheaded and candid singularities, and began to talk, on his own account, after the style of Riehl's music for the home.

The heaven of the new believer must, perforce, be a heaven upon earth; for the Christian "prospect of an immortal life in heaven," together with the other consolations, "must irretrievably vanish" for him who has but "one foot" on the Straussian platform.

Is not life a hundred times too short to bore ourselves? - Nietzsche Family Circus

A corpse is a pleasant thought for a worm, and a worm is a dreadful thought for every living creature. Worms fancy their kingdom of heaven in a fat body; professors of philosophy seek theirs in rummaging among Schopenhauer's entrails, and as long as rodents exist, there will exist a heaven for rodents. In this, we have the answer to our first question: How does the believer in the new faith picture his heaven? The Straussian Philistine harbours in the works of our great poets and musicians like a parasitic worm whose life is destruction, whose admiration is devouring, and whose worship is digesting.

It has been many moons since I read any FN, however this one has just been completed over on Gutenberg and Brazilliant alerted me (hattip). Maybe you would care to re-visit too, here is the link.

NB I found three spelling mistakes in the grramazon blurb, so be careful when copying and pasting. (headsup)
PS The new default typeset at Project Gutenberg is easy on the eyes, a vast improvement.

Burr by Gore Vidal

Burr - Gore Vidal
bookshelves: giftee, paper-read, historical-fiction, adventurous-april-2016, north-americas, published-1973, tbr-busting-2016, series, lit-richer, biography
Recommended to Bettie☯ by: Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
Read from December 25, 2015 to April 16, 2016


Description: Burr is a portrait of perhaps the most complex and misunderstood of the Founding Fathers. In 1804, while serving as vice president, Aaron Burr fought a duel with his political nemesis, Alexander Hamilton, and killed him. In 1807, he was arrested, tried, and acquitted of treason. In 1833, Burr is newly married, an aging statesman considered a monster by many. Burr retains much of his political influence if not the respect of all. And he is determined to tell his own story. As his amanuensis, he chooses Charles Schermerhorn Schuyler, a young New York City journalist, and together they explore both Burr's past and the continuing political intrigues of the still young United States.

Opening: 1833: One: A Special Despatch to the New York Evening Post: SHORTLY BEFORE MIDNIGHT, July 1, 1833, Colonel Aaron Burr, aged seventy-seven, married Eliza Jumel, born Bowen fifty-eight years ago (more likely sixty-five but remember: she is prone to litigation!). The ceremony took place at Madame Jumel's mansion on the Washington Heights and was performed by Doctor Bogart (will supply first name later). In attendance were Madame Jumel's niece (some say daughter) and her husband Nelson Chase, a lawyer from Colonel Burr's Reade Street firm. This was the Colonel's second marriage; a half century ago he married Theodosia Prevost.

The ingenue narrator of this fictionalised biography is one Charles Schuyler. There is energy and a strong didactic oppositional stance to the narrative that will indubitably appeal to state citizens and USAphiles.

The curtain-raiser to Leggett's continuing drama occurred when he was cashiered from the navy for fighting a duel. At the court-martial he insulted his commanding officer with a tirade of quotations from Shakespeare. (p. 15)[heh]

3* Burr
WL Julian
3* Myra Breckinridge
5* Creation

Mothering Sunday: A Romance by Graham Swift

Mothering Sunday: A Romance - Graham Swift
bookshelves: spring-2016, author-love, radio-4, long-weekend, published-2016, filthy-lucre, lit-richer, class-war, britain-n-ireland, books-about-books-and-book-shops, lifestyles-deathstyles, women
Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from March 28 to April 16, 2016




Description: Booker prize-winner Graham Swift's new novel is a luminous and sensual meditation on truth, loss and the forging of a writer. Twenty-two year old Jane Fairchild, orphaned at birth, has worked as a maid at one English country estate since she was sixteen. And for almost all of those years she has been the secret lover to Paul Sheringham, the scion of the estate next door. On an unseasonably warm March afternoon, Jane and Paul will make love for the last time--though not, as Jane believes, because Paul is about to be married--and the events of the day will alter Jane's life forever. As the narrative moves back and forth from 1924 to the end of the century, what we know and understand about Jane--about the way she loves, thinks, feels, sees, remembers--deepens with every beautifully wrought moment. Her story is one of profound self-discovery and through her, Graham Swift has created an emotionally soaring and deeply affecting work of fiction.

1/10: Berkshire, 1924. On the one day of the year when servants are given leave to visit their families, orphaned maid Jane languishes in the bed of her lover.

2/10: Maid Jane Fairchild answers a telephone call at Beechwood which will change not only the course of her Mothering Sunday but, in time, also her life.

3/10: On the traditional servants' holiday maid Jane has been summoned by her lover Paul, the only surviving son of neighbouring Upleigh House.

4/10: After spending the morning in bed together, Jane accepts that her lover Paul Sheringham must leave her to meet his wealthy fiancée.

5/10: As Jane languishes in Paul Sheringham's bed, her lover dresses with meticulous care in preparation for meeting his fiancée.

6/10: After their secret assignation on Mothering Sunday, Jane Fairchild is given the freedom of her lover Paul's empty mansion when he leaves to meet his fiancée for lunch.

7/10: As author Jane Fairchild is interviewed later in life, she finds her thoughts returning to the afternoon in 1924 when everything changed.

8/10: Did it matter if your birth date is not exactly the right date when born to the lower classes.

9/10: Mr Niven awaits Jane.

10/10: Jane reflects on how her last, secret, assignation with Paul Sheringham would lead indirectly to her future literary success.

HUZZAH for this, thanks Auntie. As those who are close to me already know, I am in awe of Graham Swift's writing, even those 3* results (see below) are a notch higher than every other 3* novels. Mr Swift seems to speak directly into my ear. Yet this, dear friends, is delicious, full of female anguish and male hypocrisy - yet the maid makes good with inner drive and a plethora of reading ♥.

Now I am torn as to whom should be the winner of the Booker Prize 2016: Swift or Mitchell. Two completely different styles and subject matter, yet I adore both. My ratings are 5* Swift, 4* Mitchell: Slade House 4*, Mothering Sunday 5*.

3* The Sweet Shop Owner (1980)
5* Waterland (1983)
5* Ever After (1992)
4* Last Orders (1996)
3* The Light of Day (2003)
TR Wish You Were Here (2011)
5* Mothering Sunday (2016)

The Crime of Olga Arbyelina by Andreï Makine

The Crime of Olga Arbyelina - Andreï Makine


<- my cover

Description: A Russian princess, a refugee from the Bolsheviks, abandoned by a faithless husband, flees with her child to France, where she is subsequently found half-naked on a riverbank next to a body of a man with a terrible wound on his head.

Translated by Geoffrey Strachan who notes that Makine was born and brought up in Russia but this novel is written in French.

for You
Opening quotes by Dostoyevsky and Proust.

Opening: Those that come first lie in wait for his words like mere eavesdroppers. Those that follow seem to appreciate something more in them. And they can be easily identified: there are fewer of them than the merely inquisitive ones and they come alone. They dare to draw a little closer to the tall old man as he slowly patrols the labyrinth of avenues, and they leave later than the first comers.

This is a tale of Russian emigres in France. Dreamy prose delivered circumlocutionally, and in ever decreasing spirals backwards through time. One for lit lovers.