Practically Perfect- Katie fforde

practically perfect

This book was recommended to me recently as a nice, light-hearted, novel to read before bed. I’d never read any Katie FForde before, but I hadn’t heard anything bad so I thought I’d give it a go. The concept is quite interesting; Anna is a newly qualified interior designer who has bought a ramshackle cottage so she can renovate it for a profit. There is also a suitable obstacle between Anna and Rob, the love interest, in that he’s a buildings inspector who is constantly stalling her renovation work because of his rules and regulations. The build up of their relationship is pleasant and I was pleased with the way they interact with each other.

The thing is, this book was just slow. It seemed like too much time was devoted to really ordinary events; like characters drinking tea or Anna reminding the reader she has no shower or bath, and not enough to creating plot twists. Perhaps it’s just me, but I found myself losing focus in the middle little bit. Unfortunately this just made me concentrate on the  irksome bits more. For example, the way Fforde constantly describes Anna as scruffy. I got that she was supposed to be a bit careless of her appearance, because she was in the middle of decorating a house, but didn’t like how much emphasis was placed on this. It was as if the only way to prove she was good at her job was to make her totally unfeminine- almost manly. Maybe that’s a little picky and maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I found myself really noticing it every time it came up. In reality this is such a small flaw that I wouldn’t usually have mentioned it, but it helps make my point, there just wasn’t enough substance to Practically Perfect.

In the end, I suppose this novel was everything that I was told it would be, a nice, light-hearted, bedtime read and I definitely didn’t hate it…I just didn’t love it. Since I finished, I’ve been told that it’s not Katie Fforde’s best work, so I’ll probably give her the benefit of the doubt on this one. If you have read it, what did you think? Did I miss something? Have you read any Katie Fforde, if so what books would you recommend?

Mrs Dalloway- Virginia Woolf

mrs dalloway

One of the best things about studying English was the number of books I would never have read without “required reading lists” that have since become some of my favourites. Mrs Dalloway is one of those books! When I first saw it on the syllabus I was a little daunted, I’d heard that it was quite experimental and that Virginia Woolf’s writing style was about as deep as the mid-Atlantic. Left to my own devices this would have probably languished on my to-read list for years, if not indefinitely, as it was I had a week to read it and so I took the plunge.

What first struck me was how different the structure, or rather lack of structure was. Reading Virginia Woolf is like waking up inside somebody else’s brain- still retaining some sense of yourself but completely surrounded by another persons thoughts and feelings, ranging from the mundane to the complex. So what is it even about? I will applaud the person who can sum it up properly, because I’ve been sitting for ages trying to work out what to write! At it’s most basic, the novel follows the progress of one day as Clarissa Dalloway prepares for a party- you can’t imagine how long it’s taken me to reduce the book to this small sentence that still doesn’t seem to be right. It’s funny how the best books do that to you isn’t it? Somehow the traditional plot takes a backseat and leaves space for Woolf’s beautiful writing to take the prize. It’s not a story in the traditional sense of beginning, middle and end and there’s not really a character you could definitively point to and say there’s the main character. The more I read, the more I thought of Mrs Dalloway as Woolf’s way of processing the way she saw the world. It’s hard to describe how surreal this experience is. There are no chapters in Mrs Dalloway, so there never felt like there was a natural pause. The result of this was that when I prized myself away from the pages I felt almost dazed (in a good way) as the real world came back into focus!

I could keep talking about this book for ages, but in the end I can’t really do much better than encourage you to read it for yourself and if you have read it to plead with you to talk to me about it!

Seriously, please read Mrs Dalloway, then come back here and tell me what you thought!

Friday’s Favourite: Coffee

Friday's Favourite: Coffee

Welcome to the first ever “Friday’s Favourite” here at The Female Scriblerian! This is a feature I am really looking forward to working on, which will hopefully round up the week nicely. Read more

The Vanishing Act- Mette Jakobsen

vanishing act

“This is a story about a snow-covered island you won’t find on any map. It’s the story of a girl, Minou. A year ago, her mother walked out into the rain and never came back. It’s about a magician and a priest and a dog called No Name. It’s about a father’s endless hunt for the truth. It’s about a dead boy who listens, and Minou’s search for her mother’s voice. It’s a story of how even the most isolated places have their own secrets. It’s a story you will never forget.”

I initially picked up this book because of the cover; I know that this is some kind of cardinal sin, but it’s true. There was something eye-catching to me about the simple drawing and the blue background, and so I picked it up. I then walked around the shop with it for a while just in case something better caught my eye, it came down to a choice of two, long story short I left with this one…cover art won the day. Why am I telling you this? Well, to try and explain my feelings about this book. I’m conflicted. When I picked it up I was intrigued by the blurb (which I’ve written above), but I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy the book, and I like to be sure I’m going to enjoy a book before I spend my money on it!

As it turns out, it did take me a while to warm up to The Vanishing Act; the style of writing felt stilted and annoying but the more I read, the more it began to feel refreshingly different. The book is written from Minou’s perspective and restricted to her comprehension of the world. This is, at times, very frustrating. It felt like secrets were being deliberately being kept from me, and any one who knows me will appreciate how much I dislike being kept in suspense.  The truth seemed to hover in the margins of this book without ever making its way into the text itself and I wanted to scream at Minou for failing to see what I felt seemed so obvious. What soon became apparent, however, is that I was expecting to much of Minou. I was trying to make her an omniscient narrator when what she is really, is a twelve year old girl who is dealing with massive loss. Mette Jakobsen really captures Minou’s naivety and innocence without making the writing absurd and I think this is one of the strengths of the novel, that, and her ability to create a sense of sadness that is not too cloying.

So did I enjoy The Vanishing Act? It’s hard to say, it made me think about lots of things- and I enjoyed that. It was different from any of my safe bet books- and I enjoyed that. I suppose it comes down to this question, “do I want you to read this book?”, and the answer is yes!

Brighter Than The Sun- Julia Quinn (A Rainy Day Remedy)


It’s Time for a little confession: I love this book. There is nothing like snuggling up with a blanket, a cup of tea and a really good novel on a rainy day, don’t you agree? Brighter Than The Sun serves this purpose perfectly. It’s a light, bright and (coincidentally) sunny read. Even better, it’s sure to cheer you up when the weather is grim, and really, what more could you ask for? This is the first book I read by Julia Quinn and before I started it, I don’t mind admitting I was a little sceptical. I’m very picky when it comes to historical fiction as it’s so easy to get it horribly wrong but Quinn avoids this. The reason is that her heroine, Eleanor, is so engaging. She’s sufficiently modern minded to make her identifiable, but is equally endowed with enough Regency England morality to make her fit the setting well enough to  keep me reading. I’m not sure about you, but for me this is a really hard balance for authors to get right. I get really annoyed with this genre when the time period is just used as an excuse for the words “Rake” and “The Season” to be thrown in and then conveniently forgotten. Plus the writing is funny, well paced and, crucially, the interplay between Eleanor and Charles makes you really root for them. The two of them are really equally matched; Charles is demanding but Eleanor is no pushover and what’s really nice is the way both characters seem to learn from each other.

At a push you may be forced to admit that the idea of a man falling from a tree and immediately proposing marriage is a little bit ridiculous, but I can forgive Quinn if you can. There’s enough motive on both sides of the match to make the haste if not totally realistic, at least understandable and quite frankly is an Earl fell out of a tree and proposed to me, I’d at least consider it! Additionally, what’s nice about Julia Quinn’s novels is that her characters often reappear in other stories; one of my favourite things is to spend half an hour imagining the afterlives of characters and Quinn really taps into this in a subtle enough way not to detract from other stories. Obviously if you are looking for a book that really stretches all the boundaries, this is never going to be it; but if you are looking for a nice book to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon with I can’t think of better one. What do you think? What’s your favourite rainy day read?

Wuthering Heights- Emily Bronte


Wuthering Heights, it’s just one of those books isn’t it? A classic that is just waiting to be loved. Heathcliff, Cathy, dark moors it’s got it all, plus it’s on nearly every “Read Before you Die” list ever made.cathy2 Basically, in every quantifiable way, Wuthering Heights has made it to the big leagues (any book that has it’s own song qualifies for “big leagues”). Here’s the thing though- I just don’t love it.  Oh, I’ve tried to love it, I’ve read, and re-read it, several times. At first I thought it was just because I was trying to make it romantic, it’s not, so I gave it another chance. Still nothing but annoyance. It’s frustrating, all the signs are there, well one sign- the heroine is called Cathy…I’m called Kathy, so obviously this means the book should be my favourite. I even dressed up as Cathy one Halloween because I thought this connection was so worth pointing out, it was my first year of Uni, it was the English Society Party, I apologise.

The thing is Wuthering Heights is just a bit weird. Isn’t it? To begin with the narrative structure is all over the place, we get a couple of chapters about the narrator, then nothing. Not. One. Thing. Then he gets ill and forces his servant to gossip about his neighbours to pass the time, this is when it all goes downhill for me.  Also I’m a bit of a wimp…dead people outside my window at night? No thank you. On so many levels the detached and analytical part of my brain almost convinces me that this book  is a masterpiece. It really is a testament to the dangerous and obsessive side of love and I am constantly amazed that all of it came from the mind of a sheltered vicar’s daughter. Emily Bronte really gets inside your head and makes you think, and feel. All this aside, katebushthough, I just don’t get it and this frustrates me. Perhaps it’s because I’ve never felt remotely the way Cathy and Heathcliff feel about each other that I can’t identify with Wuthering Heights, perhaps it’s because I don’t want to feel remotely this way about anyone…I don’t know, but there’s just something about it that makes me finish the last page, shut the book and think “well I’m never reading that again”. Then again, there is equally something about it that makes me pick it up and start the process all over after a many months have passed. I guess that’s part of the intrigue, I keep reading because I want to understand it but at the end of the day, perhaps I never will. I do love the song though!