June 14th, 2012

book and cup

#62 Nella Last in the 1950's - Patricia and Robert Malcolmson (ed)

I found this copy in a charity shop not that long ago thinking it would be nice to finish the trilogy of diaries and see what happened later to Nella. However when I was just a few pages into this book I had a sneaking suspicion that I hadn’t actually read the second book ‘Nella Last’s Peace’. I checked – and I hadn’t. This fact continued to irritate me mildly through the first part of the book.

Nella Last – was an ordinary woman in many ways. Yet when she began to write diaries for the Mass Observation she found her voice. It proved to be a quite extraordinary one too. Her observations of her family, friends and neighbours with whom she had shared the war years in Barrow certainly made for fascinating reading in the first book of her diaries. Although what I particularly liked in that book was the minute recreation of daily life for ordinary people during those long and difficult war years. Nella’s work with the WVS and the people she met who she would otherwise never have met made it a hugely readable and memorable book for many people.

In this book Nella’s writing is still just as good – maybe even better – she’s had many years of practise by this time – yet these diaries do concentrate mainly on the lives of the people around her. Nella does comment a lot however, about politics – both nationally and locally, never frightened to say what she means. She too, is unfailingly honest – admitting for instance to a certain amount of colour prejudice. She is a wonderful observer of people and here too she is quick to criticise those she finds hard to understand. Nella’s honesty is particularly poignant in her descriptions of her husband’s depressive illness, and the challenges this presented her.

Throughout her diaries Nella’s love of Cumbria and the lakes is infectious. She is a wonderful chronicler of Barrow in the 50’s and brings the period to life for us reading her words now. Nella delights in occasional trips into the Lakeland countryside; bargains found on market days, celebrates the good news of one neighbour while condoling over the fate of another.

“Friday, 5 October
We went to Coniston. Never have I seen that quiet lake more serene and lovely. Its glass-like surface was a phantasy of shadows of fell and hil, difficult to tell where shadow ended and substance began. Such a wonderful day for Donald Campbell – a country man answered us there had been several such days – a real worry for him and his staff when they are away fixing up yet another something or other.”

As good as these diaries are – and I do think they are – I didn’t enjoy reading them as much as I had expected. I don’t think I was really in the mood for non-fiction – but actually enjoyed the first third of the book a lot – before I became a tiny bit restless with it.


When I saw the slim volume Telling Stories the Kiowa Way on my library shelf, relatively brand-new and seemingly never read, I thought it was a shame that it had apparently received so little attention and checked it out for a look-see. It does 1484_tnwhat it says on the tin - Kiowa anthropologist Gus Palmer Jr. relates in his own words and through storytelling experiences from his youth and adulthood the unique nature of Kiowa talecrafting. He examines a frustrating issue with recording Kiowa folklore and stories - Kiowa storytelling is highly dependent on a storyteller's personal style and theatrical affectations that aren't easily duplicable in text. Kiowa tales are also highly dependent on listener interaction - audience members are expected to add their own comments and sidestories throughout the performance, and the communal additions to the tale often lead to the main narrative comfortably meandering about to explore side avenues and doubling back on itself. Details of a given story might change from session to session and with audience additions, and fact is freely blended with mythic truth and symbolism. The personal interaction and interpretation upon which the storytelling depends therefore doesn't easily lend itself to being recorded in bound-gospel-truth "definitive" versions in impersonal, noninteractive text. Yet the old Kiowa storytellers are dying out, so finding a solution to preserving Kiowa literature is becoming a pressing issue.

Palmer's smart in how he approaches telling the audience about Kiowa tales - he records memories of storytelling sessions instead of the stories themselves, so we get a taste of how Kiowa storytelling goes. Like Kiowa tales themselves, though, the thread of the book does double back on itself a good deal and therefore, as an academic work, does seem a bit repetitive at times. I also have to say that Palmer and his friends seemed narrowminded and petty at times: they'll spend copious amounts of page space denouncing, say, an old Kiowa leader who got a bridge named after him (he was part Mexican and therefore an unsuitable candidate) or a Kiowa woman who tried to revive the Sun Dance (she shouldn't have done it because that's not a woman's place and anyway the medicine man she got to preside over the ceremony was Crow). They'll mock and complain, but they won't come up with any productive alternatives - maybe somebody will do something about reviving the Sun Dance someday, we dunno, but at least we stopped a woman from doing it! I'm still glad I read the book, despite its shortcomings, but I'd like to see another scholar take a crack at this area of study.

book 20

The Perfect Christmas by Debbie Macomber
chick lit, romance
3/5   -worth reading


For Cassie Beaumont, it's meeting her perfect match. Cassie, at thirty-three, wants a husband and kids, and so far, nothing's worked. Not blind dates, not the Internet and certainly not leaving love to chance.

What's left? A professional matchmaker. He's Simon Dodson, and he's very choosy about the clients he takes on. Cassie finds Simon a difficult, acerbic know-it-all, and she's astonished when he accepts her as a client.

Claiming he has her perfect mate in mind, Simon assigns her three tasks to complete before she meets him. Three tasks that are all about Christmas: being a charity bell ringer, dressing up as Santa's elf at a children's party and preparing a traditional turkey dinner for her neighbors (whom she happens to dislike). Despite a number of comical mishaps, Cassie does it all --- and she's finally ready to meet her match.

But just like the perfect Christmas gift, he turns out to be a wonderful surprise


A woman goes to a no nonsense matchmaker to find her perfect match. I couldn't help but picture Steve Ward.

I like these little romance books. I don't care if they're cheesy, I don't care if they're unrealistic. I just enjoy happy stories. But the epilogue to this kind of book is always just a bit much.

I like the story here, a woman goes to a matchmaker and ends up falling for him. A great little romcom.

But the epilogue; are we suppose to believe that within a year, less than a year really, and they're married and pregnant? Really, she doesn't even know him. She doesn't learn one thing about him in the book.

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