I'm not even going to try and pull an April Fool on all of you, you're all far too clever, but I am always reminded (and I think I probably tell you every year) of the Grand April Fool in my younger health visiting days, played on a GP in the brand new doctor's surgery where I worked, and how can I say it...one who held himself in very high esteem. Quite how I kept my job after this I'll never know.
The letter telling said doctor that the expensively hand-made bricks used in the build had been fired at the wrong temperature and the white efflorescence now evident on the surface (and worrying him madly) was in fact a sign that they could expect severe structural defects to the building within five years. It always seems like such a funny idea when you think of these things doesn't it, but the moment when, hiding in my office, I knew he must be opening and reading the letter ranks along with some of the most terrifying moments of my life. He did go ballistic and hardly saw the funny side when, having shouted across a packed waiting room for the Practice Manager to 'Ring the *&*%^&* architect NOW' , he then rang the contact number on the letter and got Dial-a-Recipe. He was only slightly more grudgingly good humoured by coffee time and I expect all the patients got very short shrift that morning...ah yes, happy days. And that surgery about to be demolished to make way for a new one which tells you how long ago that was, but at least the bricks did last out the thirty years.
So rest easy, we'll talk about books for a change instead. So many books arriving and still I have to overcome that urge to start reading all of them immediately. To that end I have a special shelf where I "make" myself put them as soon as possible and sometimes with great difficulty, all safely filed according to month of publication and I head there towards the end of each month to see what upcoming delights I might want to sample.
I have pulled a few out a few books publishing in April, and there are so many this will take a couple of instalments.
The Vagabond's Breakfast by Richard Gwyn.
I read The Colour of a Dog Running Away on Scott Pack's recommendation, a novel which I enjoyed immensely and now I'm intrigued to see that this memoir recounts the nine years of Richard Gwyn's life lost to vagrancy and alcoholism that left him in need of a liver transplant in 2006. Now the Director of the MA in the Teaching and Practice of Creative Writing at Cardiff University suggests some fairly drastic life-changes in Richard Gwyn's life so I am looking forward to this account of 'redemption via friendship, imagination, literature, love and fatherhood.'
The West Rand Jive Cats Boxing Club by Lauren Liebenberg
1950's life in a J'berg mining city for Chris and Tommy, two pre-teen boys for whom a life of rock 'n' roll and boxing will be turned upsidedown when Tommy's sister goes missing.Innocence will be lost and choices between courage and cowardice, loyalty and betrayal will have to be made. Lauren Liebenberg previously shortlisted for the Orange Prize for New Writers.
My Dear I Wanted to Tell You by Louisa Young.
Now this one comes with the following plea from the publisher...
' This is the most powerful book you will read in 2011. You will want to tell everyone what happens in it. Please don't.'
A First World War novel which recounts the experiences of the women left at home as much as those of the men in the trenches. Louisa Young's grandmother, Kathleen Scott, widow of Captain Scott of Antarctic fame, worked with the pioneering plastic surgeon Harold Gillies, (cousin to Archibald McIndoe) helping him by making clay models of the wounded faces as guidance for the surgeons doing the reconstructions. Now even I have heard of Gillies ...in fact anyone who has worked in an operating theatre may have done too... 'Gillies forceps nurse.' The publisher has very kindly sent me the audio version too so if I can get it onto my iTouch this will be good walking listening.
January 1997, the dying days of John Major's government and 'newspapers fighting for a dwindlign readership amid wild rumours that the internet is about to change the world forever.' and two women journalists, one olf, one young, one a veteran war correspondent, the other a writer of celebrity gossip, meet for the first time. Wit and satire are promised and to be honest that has enough ingredients already for me to give this one a try.. The Devil Wears Prada meets Scoop apparently.
The Beauty Chorus by Kate Lord Brown
The Second World War this time and female pilots delivering Spitfires, and the recommendation is that the reader sinks into a hot bath with a glass of cold wine to read this. I'm not a bath reader and I don't drink so I'll have to make do with an armchair and a mug of hot chocolate and hope I get the same effect.
The Proof of Love by Catherine Hall
I really enjoyed Catherine Hall's last novel, Days of Grace and I'm looking forward to a novel about the long hot summer of 1976 because I have my own particular and very vivid memories of that year too... nursing finals, wedding, little things like that. A young Cambridge mathemetician arrives in the Lake District and takes a job as a farm labourer which is bound to arouse some suspicion...when he saves the life of a young girl in a fire more secrets are revealed and the tension wratchets up accordingly with the increasing heat. The blurb promises shimmering atmosphere and taut plotting, we'll see.
A Man of Parts by David Lodge
It doesn't seem like five minutes since I read David Lodge's last novel Deaf Sentence and now here's a doorstop of another one about the life of H.G.Wells. It's 1944 and 'the man who invented tomorrow' seems like a spent force, ailing and depressed he looks back on his life and his loves, including of course Rebecca West. Interestingly a new Virago edition of her novel The Fountain Overflows with a fascinating introduction by Amanda Craig has also just arrived. Two literary lives of which I know next to nothing and I am hoping that a writer of David Lodge's calibre won't wander off on a frolic of his own with the facts of those lives.
All About Love - Anatomy of an Unruly Emotion by Lisa Appignanensi
A wise, funny and vibrant meditation on love which draws on a wide range of literature, psychology, popular culture as well as personal experience and if Mad, Bad and Sad - A History of Women and the Mind Doctors was any indication, this book promises to be a really good read.
And not in the photograph, but not to be missed by anyone who loved The Morville Hours, Katherine Swift's sequel, The Morville Year published in March, recounts a year in the life of the garden with presumably ne'er an inch of dead escallonia hedge to be seen, and very beautiful colour plates to accompany this book too.
Any of these take your fancy?