Posted by: billpurdue | September 21, 2008

23 A really good book!

I’ll start this time by telling you about a book which I have really enjoyed. The Great Western Beach [ Bloomsbury, £14.99, 9780747595915]  first caught my eye, because I thought it might have something to do with railways, but no. The beach in the title is at Newquay in Cornwall where the author, Emma Smith, spent her childhood between the wars and this is her memoir. The memoir begins in 1924 – when Emma (then Elspeth Hallsmith) even remembers the pattern of the cover of her cot – to the day the family move away to Plymouth. It’s told in the present tense and from the point of view of the Elspeth’s sphere of knowledge and experience at that time.

Elspeth had a reasonably happy childhood, at least happier than her older brother and sister, who were twins. Their father was a prisoner in the First World War and gained the DSO for his bravery. He is now a bank clerk in Newquay, a fact that continually irritates him, since he feels that he should be worthy of a better job considering his exploits in the war. He vents his wrath on the twins, sometimes by telling Pam how ugly she is and scolding her brother Jim, a weakling suffering for several years with a double hernia. When Jim is bullied at school, his father’s way of settling the matter is to set up a boxing match between the bully and Jim. Needless to say, Jim comes off worst.

In spite of all these troubles, childhood for Elspeth doesn’t appear to have been full of woe. She was, for most of the time, privately educated along with her sister, which meant that school finished soon after midday and the rest of the afternoon could be spent on one of the beaches in Newquay – the Great Western Beach being her favourite. If you like childhood reminiscences, or you like Newquay, you will love this book. I was sorry when I got to the end.


I didn’t get very far with Having a Lovely Time by Jenny Éclair [Time Warner,£10.99 9780316724904] . It’s all about two families on the verge of marital collapse; Joe and  Nina and Guy and Alice. Nina has given up her wild nights out with her rather bohemian friends for the daily routine of bringing up young children. She is thrilled to learn that Joe has booked a luxury holiday in Italy, but not so pleased that his children, by his first wife, are coming too. Guy has just started a torrid affair with a girl at the office – much younger than him and her name is Peanut. He and Alice are also going on holiday to the same place and Guy is hoping that this will be his last with Alice and that he can say goodbye to her awful cooking.


I just didn’t feel that this was holding my attention, so I gave up on it before long. A quote from someone named Stella Duffy on the front cover says that it is “painfully funny” and “painfully true”. Well maybe the second of those statements is true, but I was just mildly amused. Perhaps it just wasn’t me. Be prepared for a smattering of strong language. (Jenny has a very attractive website by the way)


Finally a note about the second in the sci-fi trilogy fr m Peter F Hamilton ( The Temporal Void [ PanMacmillan £18.99 9781405088831 ] is the second book in a trilogy and is out in October. It seems to be getting a lot of advertising space on railway stations at the moment. The first volume is The Dreaming Void  [Pan £8.99 9780330443029 ] and is now out in paperback. This series is set in the year AD 3580 in a world where death has been overcome and there is an artificial black hole where the laws of physics are very different from those we are used to – mind blowing stuff.

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