Firstly, this is an article about the yew tree by nature writer, Richard Mabey, from his new book, The Cabaret of Plants. I promised this link to semyaza a couple of weeks ago.
Next, a spooky story from Scotland and perfect for Halloween. (I know that was Saturday but a spooky story like this 'needs' to be shared. :-))
And lastly, with the run-up to Rememberance Day on the 11th., a WW2 story that I was completely unaware of. Tragic that the misguided enthusiasm of so many young girls and women could have been so badly taken advantage of.
Now onto some books.
First up, An Appetite for Wonder by Richard Dawkins
This is the first instalment of famous 'thinker' and athiest, Richard Dawkin's autobiography. The first half to two thirds of the book deal with his childhood in Africa and at public school in England when his family moved back here. This was all delghtful and interesting and I liked the way he meandered all over the place with his thoughts and opinions on all kinds of subjects. It got a bit less interesting, in my opinion anyway, when he dwelt in fine detail on his scientific research at university and later... chicks and their pecking etc. It would be of interest to other scientists I'm sure but I found myself skim reading whole sections. Still, overall I thought it was very good and will read the second volume, Brief Candle in the Dark, which is just out, at some stage. I'm hoping that will include more about his beliefs and ideas, although I do have one of his books of essays which will cover some of that I'm sure.
Next, The Violins of Saint Jaques by Patrick Leigh Fermor.
The narrator of this story meets Frenchwoman, Berthe de Rennes, on an island in the Aegean. She's lived a long and interesting life and likes to talk about it... and the narrator becomes interested in the time she spent on an island in the Caribbean, Saint-Jacques in the Antilles. Newly inpoverished, she had gone there to distant relations to be a governess to the family's children. Berthe becomes immersed in their way of life, falls in love and is fallen in love with, and all against the backdrop of a stunningly beautiful volcanic island. That basically is the book. There isn't a huge plot, just the intricacies of people's lives and how their dramas all come together at the annual Mardi Gras ball... about which there is a lot of detail. What raises this short little book above the ordinary is the contents of the last 20 pages. I suspected the outcome but wasn't prepared for the brilliant and devastating way in which it was written, which of course made it even more shocking than it might otherwise have been. I was going to give the book a 4 on Goodreads but made it a 5 because of the ending. Patrick Leigh Fermor is best known for his travel writing of course, I'm not sure if this is his only fictional book, I think it might be, which is a real shame. Parts of this book will live with me for a long time.
Lastly, Terra Incognita - Ruth Downie
Roman Medicus, Gaius Petreius Ruso, finds himself heading north from Deva (modern-day Chester) to the borders of England and Scotland, a wild and lawless area where his housekeeper, Tilla, originates. Expecting a quiet time, Ruso is of course quickly disabused of this fanciful notion with an accident on the road which is not an accident, the appearance of a sinister antlered individual whom Tilla thinks is a god, and the murder of a Roman soldier. It's a real can of worms and Ruso soon wishes himself back in Deva as the powers that be assume he, with a track record of solving a murder, can help solve this one. Really enjoyed this second instalment of this 'Roman Empire in Britania' series. The sense of place is very strong, it seems to me that plenty of research has been done as to landscape, buildings, costume, conditions and so forth, plus the books are good mysteries with quite a lot of wry humour. Poor Ruso's life is endlessly complicated by people constantly taking advantage of his honourable nature and also by the wonderful Tilla. I will definitely read a lot more of this series.