What I Read in May
I do like Monty Don. He is my Celebrity Gardener of Choice. He is practical and down-to-earth and, no matter what the occasion, always wears the same line in blue shirts. You know where you are with Monty Don. And in this book, you are travelling with him as he visits notable gardens in France. Peppered with anecdotes and amusing observations, his journey marries views about the practical and aesthetic ingredients of a worthy garden with autobiographical twists and some interesting dollops of history. A most enjoyable and easy read.
I am not an atheist. But I thought I'd give this book a fighting chance to convince me otherwise. Written by Alom Shaha, a scientist who was brought up in the Muslim faith, it explores ideas about belief in God stemming from all faiths. It takes a sometimes psychological, sometimes practical and sometimes personal experience approach and it did, in some places, make me think about the way religion can narrow life experiences and personal growth. I wouldn't call it a 'handbook.' More a starting point for healthy discussion. Did it change my mind about faith? No. Did it sometimes make me huff? Yes. But it also made me challenge my own personal views. No bad thing, eh?
Ah...good old 'Pride and Prejudice', the inspiration for this 'below stairs' story of the lives of the servants living at the physical and emotional beck and call of the Bennet family. Jo Baker uses the plot of Jane Austen's novel as a washing line upon which to hang the dirty laundry lives of Mrs Hill, her decrepitly gummy husband, Sarah and Polly the maids, and James the footman with more than a secret or two. Familiar Austen and unfamiliar Baker weave together, giving an historical fiction insight into the life and lot of the Georgian servant. It is a heart-warming, tear-jerking, smell-o-visually jolly good read, and all I can say is, 'God bless whoever invented the washing machine!