I’ve been writing a review of some Nicci French novels for Everybody’s Reviewing, an offshoot of Everybody’s Reading. I’ve blogged about these before so I won’t say too much but you can find the ‘Blue Monday’ series on Goodreads:
and you can find my review here:
But right now I am experiencing the fruits of a generous Quaker: the book collection of a recently deceased Quaker woman was up for grabs at meeting on Sunday. There were some excellent bound editions of classic books, but I chose the edited diaries of Tony Benn.
I am finding them utterly fascinating: so far I’ve got up to the late ’60’s and they are full of names I remember from childhood: George Brown (‘don’t say Brown say hopeless’), Peter Shore, Barbara Castle and Reginald Maudling, as well as the names that have gone down in history like those of Harold Wilson and Ted (‘the teeth’) Heath. Sometimes a name can give you a little someone-walking-on-your-grave-type shudder, as when I read that he had been at a party with Robert Maxwell. It’s fascinating seeing this political history from the inside; and some of it is pure ‘Yes Minister’: Benn as Postmaster General, gets the Palace to agree to commemorative stamps featuring things other than the Queen’s head, only to be thwarted by civil servants who tell him he has ‘signed a minute agreeing that it can’t be done’. On examination he found a tiny clause in a long minute which he had signed late at night. The big story in the first part of the book is Benn’s battle to renounce his hereditary peerage and take up the seat he has democratically won in the Commons. I don’t agree with everything Benn ever said but he was a man of principle and I respect that.
So, You’re a Chap, Are You Bob?
One writer who’s much in evidence of late is Lionel Shriver. Until I heard her being interviewed I assumed Lionel Shriver was a man: and when I found out she was a woman I couldn’t listen to a word of the interview because I kept thinking, how can Lionel be a woman’s name? Time and again I heard her being interviewed without anyone asking her that question or even intimating that there was anything odd about her name: each time I missed the entire conversation because my mind kept screaming how can Lionel be a woman? It was only when I googled her that I found out she’d chosen it as a reference to her tomboy days. It’s tempting to wonder whether she’s gender dysphoric – but let’s not go there. I’ve got enough of that in my life…
PS Oh, the title? Yeah, I was gonna work that in…