Gloomsbury: Series 1-3: 18 episodes of the BBC Radio 4 sitcom by Sue Limb

 

Sizzlinghurst, where Vera Sackcloth-Vest wanders around in the fog…

“… one of the funniest, slyest, most naughtily inventive and brilliantly performed shows on the air” Gillian Reynolds, The Daily Telegraph

Description: It is 1921, the dawn of modern love, life and lingerie. Writer, gardener and transvestite Vera Sackcloth-Vest shares a bijou castle in Kent with her devoted husband Henry, but longs for exotic adventures with nervy novelist Ginny Fox and wilful beauty Venus Traduces.

When the women meet saucy novelist DH Lollipop in Cornwall, the close-knit coterie is soon divided by misunderstandings, jealousies and rows. Meanwhile devoted letters whiz back and forth between Vera and Henry.

A cast including Nigel Planer, Roger Lloyd Pack, Morwenna Banks, Jonathan Coy and John Sessions breathes riotous life into the dreadfully droll characters of the Gloomsbury set in these eighteen episodes.

A send-up of the circle who lived in squares and loved in triangles…

This should all add up to a hoot however it really doesn’t. I found Gloomsbury entirely forced; whilst it was clever it really wasn’t funny. NEXT

The Caretakers: A Tor.Com Original by David Nickle

bookshelves: winter-20152016, published-2016, shortstory-shortstories-novellas, snow-times, vampires

Read from January 21 to 22, 2016

 

Description: The Caretakers” by David Nickle is a strange tale about a group of people called to a meeting with their intimidating boss. The newest member of their organization is not so sure she wants to even be there.

Opening: The meeting with Miss Erish started earlier than scheduled, in a room other than the one arranged. That meant they were all late, even Evelyn Simmons, who had flown in the day before and, unable to properly sleep owing to the time difference, risen long before the dawn.

Read here

Yet another cracking cover from Tor.

Miss Erish is undead and Amy has her sussed out and escapes through the snow with her phone, wallet and dirty mouth. Highly atmospheric.

The Outrun by Amy Liptrot

 

BOTW

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06wclxn

Description: Amy Liptrot’s incisive memoir of overcoming alcoholism amid the luminous Orkney landscape.

Liptrot grew up on a sheep farm on Orkney. She was shaped by the wind-swept islands, but longed for the excitement of the city. A move to London led to a life that was hedonistic and fun but she was unable to control her drinking. Her alcoholism exposed her to some terrifying situations and left her lost and lonely. At thirty she finds herself washed up back home in Orkney, and discovers that this place she once longed to escape is curative, its wildness and lore playing an essential part in her recovery from addiction.

Episode 1/5: Amy finds herself washed up and back home.

2/5: Back from the Brink: after hitting rock bottom in London Amy seeks treatment before the Orkney lambing season.

3/5: The Corncrake Wife: a job with the RSPB sees Amy scouring the islands nightly, listening for rare Corncrakes.

4/5: Rose Cottage: Amy has moved to tiny Papa Westray, one of the smallest inhabited Orkney islands.

5/5: Personal Geology: examining the fault lines bisecting her life, Amy questions why she became an alcoholic.

The Crusades: The Authoritative History of the War for the Holy Land by Thomas Asbridge

 

BBC FOUR: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01b3ftw

Description: Dr Thomas Asbridge presents a revelatory account of the Crusades, the 200-year war between Christians and Muslims for control of the Holy Land.

The story of the Crusades is remembered as a tale of religious fanaticism and unspeakable violence, but now fresh research, eyewitness testimony and contemporary evidence from both the Christian and Islamic worlds shed new light on how these two great religions waged war in the name of God.

Episode one: HOLY WAR: traces the epic journey of the first crusaders as they marched 3,000 miles from Europe to recapture the city of Jerusalem from Islam, enduring starvation, disease and bloodthirsty battle to reach their sacred goal, and then unleashed an appalling tide of barbaric violence upon their Muslim enemies. Yet far from being the invincible holy warriors of legend, Dr Asbridge reveals that these crusaders actually considered surrender in the midst of their titanic expedition.

Episode two: CLASH OF THE TITANS: Dr Thomas Asbridge offers a piercing examination of the Third Crusade and the two renowned figures who have come to embody Crusader war: Richard the Lionheart, king of England, and the mighty Muslim sultan Saladin, unifier of Islam. Drawing on fascinating eyewitness accounts and contemporary records, Dr Asbridge constructs an insightful and nuanced picture of these men and their fiercely fought struggle for the Holy Land.

Almost perfectly matched as adversaries, these two titans of holy war clashed during a year-long campaign that raged across Palestine. Both were willing to commit appalling atrocities in pursuit of victory. Each brought the full force of his military genius, guile and cunning to bear, all in pursuit of the ultimate prize: Jerusalem. Dr Asbridge reveals how this shattering conflict brought Saladin and Richard to their knees, even as it served to forge their legends.Watch here

Episode 3: VICTORY AND DEFEAT: In the concluding episode of the series, Dr Thomas Asbridge reveals that the outcome of these epic holy wars was decided not on the hallowed ground of Jerusalem, but in Egypt. As trade blossomed between Christians and Muslims and the Mongol hordes arrived from Asia, a saintly French king – afire with crusading zeal – and the most remarkable Muslim leader of the Middle Ages fought for ultimate victory in the East.

Drawing upon eyewitness chronicles and the latest archaeological evidence, Dr Asbridge argues that it was a fearsome slave-warrior from the Russian Steppes – now forgotten in the West – who finally sealed the fate of the crusades. And, most controversially of all, Asbridge challenges the popular misconception that the medieval crusades sparked a clash of civilisations between Islam and the West that continues to this day.Watch here

The statue of Sultan Saladin in Kerak, Jordan

It is good to remember that forces swept out of Arabia into Palestine and these following crusades were to regain Jerusalem for Christianity. I reference the erudite A History of Palestine 634-1099. There is no accounting for the savagery committed by both sides in the name of God, yet the siege of Acre surely takes the biscuit. Shame on both your houses, then and now.

The content here is thorough, scholarly and truly well researched, however Asbridge is not a presenter I enjoy watching, he would have been better putting his hands in his pockets or held them behind his back. I know, that is purely subjective.

Out of the Sun by Robert Goddard

 

“The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.”― Niels Bohr

11 hours 55 mins read by Paul Shelley.

Blurb: The presumably childless Harry Barnett, living a quiet, aimless life in Britain, receives an anonymous call informing him that his son, a brilliant mathematician, is comatose. Worse, the son’s condition is probably not accidental. His notebooks are missing; people around him are dying under mysterious circumstances. Harry, introduced in Goddard’s Into the Blue, finds a new sense of purpose with the discovery that he is a father, and he begins to investigate what happened and why. The answer lies under layers of deceit, greed, fear, madness, and genius and leads Harry into unexpected byways…

HAH – many have read this since I last did – it goes in the ‘under 1000’ shelf now. If I remember rightly, this does suffer middle of trilogy syndrome…

LATER – ooo, how wrong I was in thinking this subsidiary, the passing of time can distort memory – I love the science conspirarcy here.

“The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.”― Isaac Asimov

4* Into The Blue (Harry Barnett #1) (1990) – re-visit 2016
3.5* Out of the Sun (Harry Barnett #2) (1996) – re-visit 2016
CR Never Go Back

5* Past Caring (1986)
5* In Pale Battalions (1988)
3* Play To the End (1988)
4* Painting the Darkness (1989)
4* Take No Farewell (1991)
3* Hand in Glove (1992)
2* Closed Circle (1993)
3* Borrowed Time (1995)
TR Beyond Recall (1997)
4* Caught in the Light (1998)
4* Set in Stone (1999)
3* Sea Change (2000)
1* Dying to Tell (2001)
3* Days Without Number (2003)
3* Sight Unseen (2005)
2* Name to a Face (2007)
1* Found Wanting (2008)
TR Long Time Coming (2009)
TR Blood Count (2010)
WL Fault Line (2012)

3* The Ways of the World (The Wide World Trilogy #1) (2013)
WL Intersection: Paris, 1919 (2013)
TR The Corners of the Globe (The Wide World Trilogy #2) (2014)
WL The Ends of the Earth (The Wide World Trilogy, #3) (2015)

Finnegan’s Field: A Tor.Com Original by Angela Slatter

bookshelves: winter-20152016, migrant-experience, published-2016, superstitions, shortstory-shortstories-novellas, folklore, australia, cover-love, boo-scary

Recommended for: Laura, Wanda et al
Read from January 17 to 20, 2016

 

Read here

Description: “Finnegan’s Field” by Angela Slatter is a dark fantasy novelette about a six year old child who mysteriously disappears for three years, only to return home just as mysteriously — but not quite the same. At least, not to her mother.

Opening: In Irish lore, when children go under the hill, they don’t come out again.
Ever.
When children go under the hill, they stay where they’re put.
Forever.
When children go under the hill, parents, though they pray and search, don’t truly think to see them anymore.
Never.

You have to hand it to Tor.com, they have boooootiful covers.

Submission by Michel Houellebecq

El Cid by Pierre Corneille, Ranjit Bolt (Translator)

bookshelves: winter-20152016, radio-3, spain, translation, play-dramatisation, france, lit-richer-jan-2016, lit-richer, medieval5c-16c, historical-fiction

Recommended to Bettie☯ by: Laura
Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from January 12 to 19, 2016

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06vp3c9

Description: The story of the 11th century Spanish hero before his rise to fame. Rodrigo is a charming young courtier who plans to marry Ximene. But when her father, the chief general in the King’s army, insults Rodrigo’s father, he promptly finds himself challenged by Rodrigo to a duel. The young suitor, inexperienced in warfare, knows that if he loses he dies. But also that if he wins he loses Ximene. Pierre Corneille’s famous play examines the complex moral and emotional dilemmas faced by the legendary champion-to-be, and his intended.

Translated and adapted by Ranjit Bolt

Don Rodrigo James Purefoy
Ximena Indira Varma
Elvira Eleanor Bron
Dona Urraca Gina McKee
Don Diego David Calder
Don Gormas Ewan Bailey
Don Fernando Stephen Thorne
Don Sancho Chris Pavlo
Leonora Amelia Lowdell
Don Arias Gerard McDermott
Page Gary Podmore

Gentleman and Ladies by Susan Hill

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00sw542

Description: Faith Lavender’s funeral and the arrival of a stranger upsets the balance of Haverstock. Undercurrents of fierce emotion reach the surface, while the tensions rise and the ladies of Haverstock find their actions motivated by mutual suspicion and fear. By the author of Strange Meeting.

1/5: The funeral of Faith Lavender, spinster of the parish, is attended by her family and friends and by one stranger – a man named Hubert Gaily, who never met Faith in his life…

2/5: Friendship blossoms at the village laundrette, but will Ma Gaily approve?

3/5: The villagers of Haverstock look forward to the annual fete and the Gailys make an impression.

4/5: Storms break and accidents happen, but can the ladies of Haverstock cope with change?

5/5: Friendship and family ties are tested as the villagers of Haverstock hear the sound of wedding bells

Patricia Hayes as Eleanor Thorne
Gwen Watford as Dorothea Shottery
Stephanie Cole as Alida Thorne
Sian Phillips as Isabel Lavender.

3* The Woman in Black
TR The Small Hand: A Ghost Story
MB Howards End Is on the Landing: A Year of Reading
2* The Mist in the Mirror
CR Gentleman and Ladies
2* A Kind Man
2* The Beacon
3* The Magic Apple Tree: A Country Year

Into the Blue (Harry Barnett #1) by Robert Goddard

 

18 hours 15 mins, read (brilliantly) by Paul Shelley.

Description: Harry Barnett is a middle-aged failure, leading a shabby existence in the shadow of a past disgrace, reduced to caretaking a friend’s villa on the island of Rhodes and working in a bar to earn his keep. Then a guest at the villa – a young woman he had instantly and innocently warmed to – disappears on a mountain peak. Under suspicion of her murder, Harry stumbles on a set of photographs taken by Heather Mallender in the weeks before her disappearance. Desperately, obsessed by the mystery that has changed his life, he begins to trace back the movements and encounters that led to the moment when she vanished into the blue. The trail leads him back to England, to a world he thought he had left for ever, and at every step of the way a new and baffling light is shed on all the assumptions that have made Harry what he is…

From wiki: Into the Blue was adapted for television in 1997 and starred John Thaw in the lead role of Harry Barnett. Robert Goddard was not impressed with the adaptation. In an interview, he said “The TV version of Into the Blue was a travesty of the story I wrote and I am determined that any future adaptations should be more faithful to the original.”

Some renditions of Silenus remind me of a certain Old Bailey hack.

Excellent suspense novel, it’s not hard to see why Goddard is on my favourite authors list, and ‘Into the Blue’ stood up proud under re-visit scrutiny.

CR Into The Blue (Harry Barnett #1) (1990) – re-visit 2016
3* Out of the Sun (1996)
3* Never Go Back

5* Past Caring (1986)
5* In Pale Battalions (1988)
3* Play To the End (1988)
4* Painting the Darkness (1989)
4* Take No Farewell (1991)
3* Hand in Glove (1992)
2* Closed Circle (1993)
3* Borrowed Time (1995)
TR Beyond Recall (1997)
4* Caught in the Light (1998)
4* Set in Stone (1999)
3* Sea Change (2000)
1* Dying to Tell (2001)
3* Days Without Number (2003)
3* Sight Unseen (2005)
2* Name to a Face (2007)
1* Found Wanting (2008)
TR Long Time Coming (2009)
TR Blood Count (2010)
WL Fault Line (2012)

3* The Ways of the World (The Wide World Trilogy #1) (2013)
WL Intersection: Paris, 1919 (2013)
TR The Corners of the Globe (The Wide World Trilogy #2) (2014)
WL The Ends of the Earth (The Wide World Trilogy, #3) (2015)