by Laline Paull
narrated by Orlagh Cassidy
"Born into the lowest class of her society, Flora 717 is a sanitation bee, only fit to clean her orchard hive. Living to accept, obey and serve, she is prepared to sacrifice everything for her beloved holy mother, the Queen."One review I read called this "Watership Down with bees" and I have to agree. Despite rampant anthropomorphism, I hope that there is a grain of truth in some of the behaviours described - I should ask Bee Lady to have a read and let me know. I liked Watership Down and I like this, and another thing that raised it above the average was excellent narration.
In Xanadu: A Quest
by William Dalrymple
"While waiting for the results of his college exams, William Dalrymple decides to fill in his summer break with a trip. But the vacation he plans is no light-hearted student jaunt - he decides to retrace the epic journey of Marco Polo from Jerusalem to Xanadu, the ruined palace of Kubla Kahn, north of Peking."I bought this in 1991, so the flyleaf tells me, partly because the author and I were at the same university at the same time and I'd seen his tagline on various university news publications. He did the journey before he'd graduated, and took a few years to write the book, and it doesn't do to draw comparisons between his skills and maturity as a twenty-something graduate and my own. I don't remember reading this the first time round, but it is quite a wonderful first book. Certainly makes me feel like an underachiever, anyway.
Here on Earth
by Alice Hoffman
"March returns to her childhood home with her teenage daughter, Gwen, to attend the funeral of the housekeeper who brought her up. Unexpectedly, though, the visit rekindles in March a passion for an earlier unrequited love."The story is loosely modelled on Wuthering Heights, and is similarly annoying and frustrating in that the lead characters are rather unlikeable. Catherine and Heathcliff may have been romantic soulmates, but they were pretty unattractive people, and so are the couple here. At least this one ends satisfactorily, if a bit suddenly.
The Five People You Meet In Heaven
by Mitch Albom
"On his eighty-third birthday, Eddie, a lonely war veteran, dies in a tragic accident trying to save a little girl from a falling cart. He awakens in the afterlife, where he learns that heaven is not a lush Garden of Eden but a place where earthly life is explained to you by five people who were in it."I read the whole of this on the aeroplane journey back from Bulgaria in between bouts of coughing and about an hour's sleep, and there was only one embarrassingly tearful moment. It's a bit moralistic but nicely written, although nowhere near the miraculous work of fiction that the hype declared, and which was what prompted me to read it.
Send for Paul Temple
by Francis Durbridge
"In the dead of night, a watchman is brutally attacked and with his dying breath cries out, “The Green Finger!” It is the latest in a series of robberies to take place that have left Scotland Yard mystified, and with no other choice but to call upon the expertise of Detective Paul Temple."A very easy read which provided a little frisson of pleasure when Leamington Spa was featured (as the setting for a jewellery heist). My home town is described as 'a comparatively innocuous watering place' which 'still thinks of the day when Queen Victoria paid it a visit and it suddenly became 'Royal'.' Other than this unexpected bonus content, it's a straightforward whodunnit with a completely unbelievable plot that is far too complicated. Suspension of disbelief is definitely required.