Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Three biographies

I've been reading an awful lot of Virago Modern Classics recently (see over on my other blog for my progress), and although I've been enjoying it, I feel that I've been neglecting other reading. Most of the novels which I photographed on my library TBR pile about a month ago, are still languishing there. But that didn't stop me from going to the library to pick up some more books yesterday, and I came away with three biographical/autobiographical tomes (they are all fairly chunky hardbacks)

The first is an interesting looking book, called Beginner's guide to acting English by Shappi Khorsandi and is Khorsandi's personal tale of her life as a refugee in England. I'm really looking forward to reading this as I enjoy reading about cultural differences and finding out about how people assimilate (or don't) to English/British culture.

The second is a book that I've wanted to read for a while, but when it came out there was a very long reservation list. Sometimes it is worth waiting 6 months, particularly when one already has a huge TBR pile, to save the 85p reservation charge, and I was very happy when I saw it on the shelf. I enjoyed McGrath's earlier book Silvertown very much. This book is a portrait of the life of Eastenders in London, about a century ago; one of the key yearly activities for this group of the population was the annual trip to the hops fields in Kent. I am looking forward to reading this as I love social history.
I read the third book last night. The lost child aroused a lot of media interest when it came out; it is the story of two lives. Firstly, the life of Mary Yelloly which Myerson is researching, and secondly the life of her son Jake, who substantially falls apart in his late teens, dropping out of school and becoming addicted to skunk. In addition it is also the stories of Myerson's research into the life of Yelloly and of Myerson's own childhood. There was a huge amount of controversy in the newspapers over here ; it certainly generated a lot of publicity for the book.
Quite honestly, aside from the issue as to whether or not it is right to put your child's life into the public domain in this way, I did not feel that the book worked. Mary Yelloly's life sounded hugely fascinating as did the research project and I felt that this would have made enough of a book. I found it confusing switching between the two strands of the book. But I did find it interesting reading; I enjoyed reading about Yelloly and I was gripped, disturbed and very sad for the Myersons following the tale of their son.


  1. How funny: A Beginner's Guide to Acting English was the book I was offered as a review copy but already had and today I noticed it on Savage Reads and now here... apparently the Universe is telling me to read it.

    I'm not a regular biographies/non fiction reader but every so often some catch my eye.

  2. A Beginner's Guide to Acting English would be such a terrific read. I must keep my eye out at our library for it...and really, your library charges for reservations? Some libraries in neighbouring cities to ours charge .50 for reservations not picked up but that's it. Very interesting...

    Oh, and Hopping sounds intriguing as well.

  3. I might start reading that one tonight, it looks really interesting. I would have brought it with me today but it's quite heavy.

    Claire - lucky you being offered a free copy! I don't think I've seen you write about bios/autobios so will be interested when you eventually get to it.

    Darlene - yes, 85p - scandalous! It's only £1.90 more to buy a cheap copy of a book from Amazon...

  4. Verity, apart from Me Cheeta I don't think I have yet!

    Darlene, my library requests are 50p :(.

  5. Your tax dollars go towards purchasing the books in the library, they're having you pay AGAIN to read them, that doesn't seem quite fair to me. Next time I have a customer complain about paying a fine I will certainly be telling them how lucky they are!

  6. I have been considering The Lost Child for some time ... and I think I will be considering for some time to come. Maybe if I spot it going for cheap somewhere I will buy it.


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