August 21, 2017

Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

I oBreakfast at Tiffany'snly got around to watching the film version of Breakfast at Tiffany’s a few years, and I’d also heard good things about the book…

I thought the book was short – then I realised there were 2 short stories at the end – Breakfast at Tiffany’s is surprisingly short.

The story is a reminisence of the writer who lived above Holly Golightly, triggered many years later by an Africa statue. In some ways it feels less deep than the film, but yet also more deep.

A good easy read. No chapters.

Gigi and the Cat by Colette

gigi and the catAs far as I can remember before reading Gigi and the Cat I hadn’t read anything by Colette.

And now I wish I had.

The book is 2 short stories, “Gigi” and “The Cat”. Both dwell on the change from being a child to being an adult – but in different ways. Gigi is about a girl being groomed to be a courtesan by her mother and grand mother. It’s the shorter story of the two, and the more gripping / has more intrigue. I can’t say much about it without giving away the end, suffice to say she’s more astute than they give her credit for!

Second up is “The Cat” where a boy’s love for his cat gets in the way of his marriage. As well as the whole growing up sub plot we have ones about people marrying the wrong people, and new-money vs old.

A good read.


The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin

the stepford wivesI picked The Stepford Wives up in one of Amazon’s Kindle sales. I’m really glad I did.

Like many I’ve always understood the phrase “Stepford Wives”, but never really understood the full concept of the book. (I’ve not seen either film, yet, either).

The edition I read has a great intro by Chuck Palahniuk which I found very useful to understand the full scenario in which the book was written.

I was surprised by how short the book is (I think I’d got it a little confused with the tome-like Valley of the Dolls), and it’s also pretty scary.

It tells the story of Joanna Eberhart and her family as they move out of New York to the small town of Stepford. Where something odd is going on, with all the women these perfect wives.

It really gripped me, and I think it’s one I’ll def be reading again, and wishing for a different outcome.

The Beast in the Jungle by Henry James

The Beast in the Jungle
This is a very short story by Henry James, I think it’s the first of his I’ve read and I would like to try something longer. This one didn’t grip me at all – it’s the story of a man who’s always felt some catastrophe awaited him, but didn’t know when or what it owuld be. Then he discovers he’d told someone about it – and falls in love and then along comes the catastrophe.

Intriguing and an interesting take on life – but not a book I’m going to hold on to.

Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith

Diary of a NobodyThis classic novel is very funny. It was originally serialised in Punch in the last 1880s and then printed in full as a book in 1892. Since then it’s never been out of print.

It tells 15 months in the life of London city clerk Mr Charles Pooter, mainly about his homelife. And parodies the middle-class life of Victorian London. Not that I’ve heard this phrase used before, but apparently the book led to a phrase “pooterish” to describe someone who takes themselves too seriously.

In many ways the book reminded me of the BBC sitcom Keeping up Appearances. Both Mr Pooter, and his wife spend a lot of time trying to do what they think is right. Be it Mrs Pooter hanging on every word and suggestion of her friend Mrs James (very much keeping up with the James), or Mr Pooter trying to maintain a conservative lifestyle that his boss might approve of.

But they are in many ways thwarted by their son Lupin, who is their total opposite.

It is an amusing book, not least because Mr Pooter thinks he is very funny and regularly records the little jokes he’s made.


Babylon Revisited by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I got this Penguin Mini Modern Classic free in the Telegraph a few weeks ago.

babylon revisited by f scott fitzgeraldI love the work of F. Scott Fitzgerald so I was really pleased to get this copy of Babylon Revisited. It contains 3 of Fitzgerald’s short stories:

  • Babylon Revisited
  • The Cut-Glass Bowl
  • The Lost Decade

Each was originally published in different collections, but they’ve been printed in this format before. And it’s easy to read any of them in one sitting.


Babylon Revisited is the first story in the book. It tells the story of Charlie Wales who’s revisiting Paris to try and get his daughter back – she’s currently living under the guardianship of her mother’s sister.

It seems that everything went a bit crazy for Charlie when he lived in Paris, and during the depression. He’s now living in Prague and has sorted himself out, but unfortunately Paris isn’t a place he should be spending much time.

It’s really well written and VERY intriguing.

The second tale is The Cut-Glass Bowl which opens by telling the reader all about the “cut-glass age” (in comparison with the bronze age, or iron age) fantastic irony.

The story hinges on the lives and loves of Howard and Evylyn Piper. Fairly normal disfunctional lives, then it takes a dark twist (as many of his short stories do).

Finally, The Lost Decade, only a few pages long. About a man meeting a man for lunch who’s lost the last decade. But not lost it. – Pretty good.

Oscar Wilde by Frank Harris

Oscar Wilde his Life and ConfessionsThe background

Reading the intro I have to say I’m very tempted to find an autobiography of Frank Harris.

He wrote this not completely accurate biography soon after Oscar Wilde’s death. Publishing it himself in New York – for many years its sale in the UK was banned, and very controversial.

However, it was a very honest (for the time) account of Oscar’s life – no stone unturned. But much of it isn’t accurate. Harris wasn’t always there when he says he was, and so there’s some poets license thrown in.

So there’s a pretty good introduction to this edition, AND many letters and other things in the appendix. Including a sketch of Wilde by George Bernard Shaw – added to Harris’ book to try and quell some of the opposition to it.

The main review

I’m sure for a scholar of Wilde this is a fascinating book. But I just couldn’t get into it.

It certainly moves at a pace – takes just 35 pages to get to the end of his time at Oxford. (including his parents lives!). But the style wasn’t for me.

It’s a mix of ¬†other people’s stories told verbatim, with Harris’ memories, sections of prose and remembered conversations. Just not engaging.

2nd Free Book in @Telegraph today!

the beast in the jungle by henry jamesToday (Sunday 6th February) the Sunday Telegraph continues to publicise the Penguin Mini Modern Classics series giving away a free copy of Henry James’ The Beast in the Jungle.

It’s a novella about John Marcher who lives believing that there’s something huge around the corner, and then it happens…

Yesterday (Saturday 5th February 2011) there was a copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Babylon Revisited.

Free Books in the @Telegraph this weekend

To publicise the Penguin Mini Modern Classics series there are going to be 2 free books in this weekend’s Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph.

babylon revisited by f scott fitzgeraldToday (Saturday 5th February 2011) there is a copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Babylon Revisited. Contains 3 of Fitzgerald’s short stories:

  • Babylon Revisited
  • The Cut-Glass Bowl
  • The Lost Decade

And tomorrow (Sunday 6th February 2011) will be Henry James’ The Beast in the Jungle.

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

This is quite a quick read, but a very moral one. I found it easiest to skip the somewhat endless “in her heart she…” and “in his head he…” etc etc.

The Scarlet LetterThe book tells the story of Hester Prynne, a married woman who travelled to America ahead of her husband. Her husband then failed to appear in America and she ended up pregnant in a very religious community near Boston.

The story starts with her punishment – 3 hours on the pillory with babe in arms a scarlet “A” pinned to her breast. She steadfastly refuses to name the father. It’s the mystery of the father, and how she copes with her punishment that forms the core of this tale.

Other key people in the story areRoger Cillingworth a travelling self educated doctor who saves her from madness the night after the pillory. And Rev Mr Dimmesdale a young and very learned priest.

Hester refuses to take her punishment lightly, earning a good living from her embroidery skills, and dressing her daughter pearl lavishly. BUT using the rest of her income not to dress herself, but to clothe and look after the poor.

The story then jumps to seven years later, when in order to save pretty much everyone’s soul Hester decides it’s time to meet with the father and for them to give in to their desires and leave. With the vivacious and slightly insane Pearl.

A very moral tale with many many levels. Not really my cup of tea, but if you are going to read it I seriously suggest you skip the preface – v tedious!