read_warbler (read_warbler) wrote,

Two quick reviews

I'm currently rereading Howards End is on the Landing by Susan Hill. I'm doing this mainly because I loved it so much the first time around but back then I whizzed through it without stopping. This time I'm reading it much more slowly, enjoying it more, and also jotting down recommended books as I go. A bit of a crazy thing to do really. I have a tbr pile the size of Mount Everest and hardly need to be making lists of books I haven't read, don't own, and will thus have to buy or borrow from the library if I do decide to read them. Like I said: mad.

Anyway, this is meant to be a bookblog and I haven't reviewed many books lately so here're a couple of quickie reviews of what I've read recently. First up - A Wild Life by Dick Pitman.

Dick Pitman left England in 1977 on a whim to go and work in what was then Rhodesia and is now, of course, Zimbabwe. He began by touring the national parks writing articles about them for papers and magazines. Completely seduced and bewitched by the wildlife and country he then went on to work for the country's national parks as a sort of PR man... getting the parks into the newspapers and so on. Resigning from there a few years later he went on to give more practical help with projects such as returning the black rhino and the cheetah to various parks in his capacity as a pilot or as someone who was fast becoming an expert on African wildlife.

This book turned out to be quite a little gem. Dick Pitman recalls his experiences in Zimbabwe with a great deal of self-deprecation and humour. His love of Africa shines off the page as he describes the area around the Zambesi river, the Matusadona, Lake Kariba, Mana Pools, and the Mavuradonha. Some of what he has to relate is rather sad - the failure of some of the plans to reintroduce animals when they are hunted and killed soon after release for instance. There is also a great deal of bureaucracy and fraud to be overcome as governmental changes come in and the country begins to slide towards bankrupty under the leadership of Mugabe. Throughout it all the author keeps faith with Zimbabwe and stays on giving the reader a unique insight into this troubled country. Loved it to bits.

Next up: Our Spoons Came from Woolworths by Barbara Comyns.

Sophia and Charles fall in love in the 1930s and marry rather too quickly. His family are vehemently against the marriage and turn up on the doorstep to berate Sophia. And this is not Sophia's only problem. She has a job which keeps them both while Charles paints... not very successfully because he never sells anything. Then Sophie falls pregnant. Charles is appalled as he doesn't want to be a father and although Sophie wants the baby she knows she will lose her job and they will have no money to live. After the baby is born Charles relents a little but is still hardly the keenest of fathers. Sophie manages to get work modelling for artists but Charles refuses to try and find work himself. Things come to head when Sophia discovers that Charles has been looking into homes for children whose parents don't want them. Enraged and worried for her son's safety Sophie embarks on an affair...

Gosh. Well, this is a story that Sophie relates to her friend, after the event, so we know right at the beginning that it has a happy outcome. Otherwise it would be overwhelmingly sad to be honest. Not that life isn't sometimes tragic but some of the events in the story are really hard to take. It's beautifully written in the first person so we get to know Sophie very well. She's a fighter and a person who never gives up, never complains about her lot, just relates it all in a very matter of fact way which in a way makes it all the more horrifying. Her selfish and immature husband needed a jolly good smack to be honest and at one point in the book I silently cheered. This is very much a book of its time. Before there was any NHS the scenes in the hospital as Sophie gives birth will make any woman shudder. And these days there would be benefits to help women like Sophie and her son and rightly so. An excellent read, quite sad but ultimately uplifting and recommended if you enjoy Virago Modern Classics.
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