On finishing up a recent book review I noticed I'd gone a bit overboard on the personal comments. Some of these were far from being relevant to the book review but I was a little reluctant to get brutal with the self editing that obviously needing doing. The solution was to post two different versions. I'd wanted to start a blog someday so using this as my first post was a good excuse to get off the mark. Here is the full uncut review with the self indulgent bits still included.
On the morning that Fiona Robyn emailed me to tell me I’d won a signed copy of The Blue Handbag I also got another unexpected though pleasant surprise. A Greater Spotted Woodpecker was seen in my garden… or so I’m told. I didn’t see him myself. I missed him. I’ve seen them before on my travels but never in my own garden. Maybe he’ll come back.
A few days later the book arrives. There is still no sign of my elusive new visitor and the weather has gone to clouds and showers, turning the garden into an unfit place for either bird watching or book reading. I start the book anyway and begin to get acquainted with the main protagonist. I like Leonard almost from the start. He has a quality that reminds me of my Grandad, who was probably one of my most favourite people in existence. But Leonard is far too fanciful, and on occasion silly, for that comparison to stand much scrutiny. I soon realize that a closer mark for comparison might be myself. The clowning about, the wandering imagination and sadly the Ta-da! moments are all things I’ve been guilty of. The paragraph about Leonard not being able to stop himself mimicking accents even elicited a 'Bloody Hell!' of recognition from me. Unfortunately with me it often used to stick for a while. I once came back from college talking like a character off Only Fools and Horses - I’m told. My best friend at the time was from Peckham. The characterisations throughout are one of the books strengths. The book never overloads with too many characters at a time. You can imagine these people having a life beyond the last page of the novel. I caught myself wondering what Leonard thought of the new bloke on Springwatch this year. And was he missing Bill? Was he drawn to the science or the aesthetics of nature? Probably a mix of the two I conclude. I’m glad he learnt that ducks aren’t just for kids. Ducks are great. So nosy though. I remember guarding a stunned Woodpecker from a badelynge (love that word - sadly obsolete) of ducks crowding onto the decking at a cabin I stayed at. Being pecked by ducks is a little like being poked by a blunt sliver of soap. Doesn’t hurt at all but not what you want when you’ve just flown into a window at a hundred miles per hour.
The mystery that begins with a blue handbag takes it’s time to unfold, small clues are uncovered as the months pass and the seasons turn. I like Fiona’s writing. Some of the passages seep into your head like a cool balm straight to the brain. The only time my eyes started to slightly glaze over was the penguin sequence.
It was such a shame that the weather remained dull over the weekend when I read this because it would have been a perfect read in the garden book. I haven’t read The Letters yet, so I’ll just add that to my to-read list after I finish up here. Maybe by the time I read it I’ll have caught a glimpse of that woodpecker. The tree he landed on now has a new birdfeeder. He’s out there somewhere - probably in the wood further up the hill. One day he might come back.
Jane and I are hitting our stride with the book - Jane’s done some fast catch-up: one reason for our writing down the history was to pick up the threads of that universe where I’d left them some years ba...
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