Category Archives: Book Review

The Gentle Art of Quilt Making – Jane Brocket

I’ve been very unproductive the last week or so and as it school holidays for the next two weeks I don’t think that is going to change. However, I have bought The Gentle Art of Quilt Makingby Jane Brocket.

I have her Gentle Art of Domesticity which I loved (I’m sure she is living the life I should have had!) So I had to have this one.

Once again it is beautifully presented. It contains 15 quilts and a description of in the inspiration behind each quilt. What Ms Brocket does really well is to take away the paralysing effect of perfection – it’s all about having a go and making something usable (and beautiful).  Most of the pieces are squares or strips (much easier to cut and sew) and the wow factor is produced by the fabric selections. Who would have thought squares on point could be so spectacular (see the cover image above).

Here are three of my favourites …

Beach Hut (Ice Cream)


Purple Rain

Don’t let my dodgy photography put you off. I think this book is designed for quilters of all levels.

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The Girl on The Wall – Jean Baggott


I thought my book review if The Girl on the Wallby Jean Baggott belonged to both of my blogs. This is a really lovely book and I think most crafty people would enjoy it.  (Read my review – here for more information).

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Material Obsession 2


The girls went back to school yesterday. We’ve had a lovely holiday, but I was keen for them to return to school.

After six weeks of very little child-free time I decided to treat myself with a trip to the Subiaco Book Store. This is a great store – independent with an eclectic mix of books and the most amazing embroidery, quilting and knitting section. It’s not particularly child-friendly hence the desire to go there on my first child-free day.

I bought a copy of Material Obsession 2by Kathy Doughtly and Sarah Fielke. I had a quick look at the first one, but the quilts in this one appealed to me more.

Here’s the description from Amazon…

Each of the pairs of quilts in this gorgeous new book by quilters Sarah Fielke and Kathy Doughty springs from a single idea or shared moment of inspiration. The results – like non-identical twins – are inextricably linked, yet intriguingly different. With their reinterpretation of traditional designs, as well as a characteristic bold use of colour and dazzling patterns, Sarah’s and Kathy’s quilts will appeal to quilters of all levels – from new quilt-makers looking for the next challenge, to experienced quilters ready to embrace some of the more complex projects. With practical step-by-step instructions, a comprehensive basics section and glorious photographs, this is a book to make your fingers tingle with sheer inspiration.

I’ve always liked their work – in particular their use of colour and applique. In this book they each write a brief essay on their inspiration and then include detailed instructions to replicate the quilts. It’s a beautiful book – well presented with fabulous photographs.

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Free Range Knitter – Stephanie Pearl – McPhee


I thought this book was hilarious – I can particularly sympathise with the challenging child stories. It motivated me enough to pick up my knitting needles again – not with much success.

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Wedding Season – Katie Fforde

If you like Katie Fforde, you’ll like this one. Reminded me of The Rose Revived. I got it from here – (I love this place.)

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Mister Pip – Lloyd Jones

Mister Pip Lloyd Jones

Mister Pip, the winner of the 2007 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, has been the novel of choice for many of my friends’ book clubs. For this reason I have been avoiding it but I finally succumbed.

Lloyd Jones, a New Zealand author, has written several novels (including This House has Three Walls and Book of Fame).

Mister Pip, for me at least, is about the power of literature to transform lives. To make us imagine different ways of living and being. Mister Pip is set in a small coastal village on the island of Bouganville during the 1990 civil war. A subject well know to Mr Jones as he was a journalist there during the conflict. The island is blockaded and most of the white people have left. Mr Watts, a white man married to a native women, agrees to teach the school. He reads Great Expectations to them. The children are entranced – the world of 19th century England becomes as familiar as their own village and Pip a member of their family.

 It was always a relief to return to Great Expectations. It contained a world that was whole and made sense, unlike ours.


As we progressed through the book something happened to me. At some point I felt myself enter the story.

This close relationship with a text creates problems, firstly with the more religious members of the village (like Dolores Matilda’s mother) and finally the dreaded ‘redskins’ (Government soldiers) who don’t believe Pip is an imaginary character and this has dire consequences for the villagers.

Matilda, our narrator, is 13 at the start of the story, but like Great Expectations, this story is related by the adult Matilda (across a vast distance of time and space). All of the characters are portrayed beautifully in a simple sympathetic manner – Mr Jones clearly liked his characters. During the course of the novel we watch Matilda’s relationship with her mother develop. It is a complicated relationship – there is obviously great love but also misunderstanding.

At first, Dolores enjoys hearing Matilda retelling the story of Pip, but then she fears Matilda’s obsession will take her away from her.

But that was the last time she asked to hear an installment from Great Expectations. And I blame ‘a rimy morning’. Although she didn’t say so I knew she thought I was showing off; and that I was biting off a bigger piece of the world than she could handle with language like ‘a rimy morning’. She didn’t want to encourage me by asking questions. She didn’t want me to go deeper into that world. She was worried she would lose her Matilda to Victorian England.

 The relationship between Mr Watts and Dolores is also beautifully written. At odds over the reading of Great Expectations they still respect one another.

 This was one of the times when I felt Mr Watts was personally addressing her. He was about to thread their old classroom debate into his account of the battle for the spare room. And she was ready.


On the sixth night, Mr Watts told a tale, his own I believe, that established the place of the nonbeliever. [ … ]If you were my mum you might have felt you were listening to an admission from a heathen that everything he said or believed was wrong. I have come to think of it as his gift to her.

 Mr Watts is another wonderful character. He is the only white man in the village, married to Grace (who appears to have lost her mind – we learn more about that later in the book). He is a gentle tolerant man who provides the children (through reading Great Expectations) a means of escape from the hideous reality of their lives.

The characters don’t develop through the story they just become more themselves or their better selves.

I recommend this book, but must point out that it contains some horrifying acts of violence.

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The Good Parents – Joan London

The Good Parents

My book club chose to read this book because of the this review – it was very glowing.

The general consensus at book club was that it was a good choice; one person loved it and no one hated it – unlike a few of our other choices.

Here’s a description …

Eighteen-year-old Maya de Jong has moved from Warton, country WA, to Melbourne, in the hope of finding work and getting away from the stifling environment of a small town. She’s never really suited Warton, and though she loves her parents and her younger brother, Magnus, the town holds no future for her. Through a family contact in Melbourne she lands a job working at Global Imports, a small operation owned by the enigmatic fifty-year-old Maynard Flynn, whose wife Dory is dying of cancer. Maynard is entranced by the impressionable Maya and the two begin an affair. Business is not booming and after the death of his wife Maynard is convinced by a shady business acquaintance to move interstate to start up another line of business. Maynard persuades Maya to go with him, to drop everything and leave immediately. She agrees, and they go despite the fact that Maya’s parents are on their way to Melbourne to stay with her for a couple of weeks. Jacob and Toni, Maya’s parents, turn up at her share house and are told by Maya’s housemate Cecile that Maya has disappeared and she doesn’t know where she is. And so begins a search, both physical and emotional, that spans the couple’s past and present. For Jacob and Toni, their whole identity has been about being good parents, or being good enough parents. With the disappearance of their daughter, everything they have stood for, believed about themselves over the years is called into question and will affect not only their notion of who they are, but their relationship with each other.

 Ms London writes beautiful prose her description of the toilets in Maya’s office building is fabulous. This novel was written from many different points of view, which I liked, but then I always like first person narratives. I think she writes well about adolescent angst – particularly teenage boys and her descriptions of ordinary events are full of detail and very convincing.

I enjoyed reading about Perth and Warton – it’s always nice to read a story set in your own town. I thought the accidental meeting at the MCG at the end was a bit too neat (I won’t say more because I don’t want to spoil the story). However, one of my friends did comment that things like that happen all the time. About two thirds of the way through the book I was ready for it to end, but overall my impression is positive and I shall try to read her other works.

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The Foundling – Georgette Heyer

The Foundling by Goergette Heyer

I’m a big Georgette Heyer fan. She writes regency romances (and some thrillers, but I’ve never read any of those). Her ‘regencies’ are meticulously researched and you can imagine the world of the ‘ton’ – her use of slang or cant can be a bit over the top, e.g.

‘He don’t look like a downy one to me’ objected the waiter. ‘And if he’s swallowed a spider he wouldn’t have handed me a fore-coachwheel only for asking of silly questions for him’

Her novels are very formulaic as she writes to her publisher …

It is a Regency society-comedy quite in my lightest vain. There is a certain young man who has appeared in several of my books – he was Cedric Brandon in The Corithian, Viscount Winwood in The Convenient Marriage – and some others!

She even refers to Mark 1 and Mark 11 heroes in her letters …

Mark 1: The brusque, savage sort with a foul temper

Mark 11: Suave, well-dressed, rich and a famous whip

Despite all of the above, I love her novels – they are like frivolous Jane Austen novels.

In The Foundling the Duke of Sale escapes his retainers and proceeds to have an adventure involving a run away school boy, a beauty and a charming cad.

The Duke was born after his father’s death and was a sickly child consequently he has been mollycoddled and protected all of his life. His uncle (and Guardian) informs him that he expects him to marry Lady Harriet Presteigne, as does Lady Harriet’s family, he is shocked and surprised, but still (and this I don’t understand) offers for her. While in London, he hears of his cousin’s woes and decides to solve his problems while pretending to be ‘plain Mr Dash’. He is involved in a series of rollicking adventures, but all ends happily.

The ‘foundling’ of the title is the beautiful Belinda who will go off with any man if he offers her a purple silk dress. Mr Liversedge, the villain, is hilarious. He is completely inept at blackmail and kidnap, but finally convinces the Duke to finance a ‘gaming hell’ on the continent.

Finally the relationship with Harriet. This was a bit disappointing. They were reluctantly engaged at the start (at least on the Duke’s part) and in love by the end, but I’m not really sure why of how the transition occurred.

The next Heyer on my list is Cousin Kate.


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At Mrs Lippincote’s – Elizabeth Taylor

At Mrs Lippincote\'s Elizabeth Taylor

 I selected this book because it was recommended by Jane Brocket. I bought it from here (which, by the way, is a fabulous place – free postage!).

This is the blurb from the back …

Mrs. Lippincote’s house, with its mahogany furniture and yellowing photographs, stands as a reminder of all the certainties that have vanished with the advent of war. Temporarily, this is home for Julia, who has joined her husband Roddy at the behest of the RAF. Although she can accept the pomposities of service life, Julia’s honesty and sense of humor prevent her from taking her role as seriously as her husband might wish; for Roddy, merely love cannot suffice—he needs homage as well as admiration. And Julia, while she may be a most unsatisfactory officer’s wife, is certainly no hypocrite.

This is a subtle understated book about a time and place where women’s lives were stifled by custom and circumstance. Julia is married to Roddy, a junior officer in the RAF. They have a son, Oliver, and Eleanor (Roddy’s cousin) lives with them while recovering from a breakdown. Her special friend was

‘…reported missing, then killed and then, after a long time, a prisoner of war.’

Julia and Eleanor are polar opposites and Mrs Taylor uses these extremes to highlight that all women’s lives are narrow and confined. Eleanor wants to be married, preferably to someone like Roddy – possibly even Roddy – and if so she would support him in his career and ensure that he is well feed and cared for. Julia, however, is a free spirit who wants to have control of her life. For example, she wants to be able to go out and have a drink whenever and not just on ‘ladies night’. She can be relied on to say something vague or outrageous that will embarrass Roddy.
Roddy’s boss, the Wing Commander, shares an interest in the Brontes with Julia and Oliver (he also knits socks much to the inane twittering of the Officers’ wives). I think he is even in love with Julia. He provides them with an occasional treat – a hare some eggs – plus he encourages his daughter to befriend Oliver (a sickly isolated child who relates all of his experiences to something he has read). The depiction of the relationship between Julia and Oliver is one of the highlights of this novel.

Roddy, in my opinion, is simply a pratt! He has nothing in common with Julia – it seems a marriage where neither party can respect the other. And there is the lonely spinster Eleanor. She develops a relationship with Mr Aldridge (the carpentry teacher) and his communist friends. This group of communists provides Eleanor with a sense of belonging although sadly she is deluding herself – apart from Sarge none of the communists like her or think she is useful.

Mrs Taylor is a precise, elegant writer who provides us with glimpses into the consciousness of all of her characters. She excels at describing the ordinary in a compelling and somewhat menacing manner.

Finally there is the house – Mrs Lippincote’s. Mrs Lippincote has moved to a hotel and has rented her house fully furnished to Roddy (she has even left her family photos on display). This house is damp, dark and slightly sinister – a character in itself.

Read this book for the domestic detail of war time England or read it to appreciate the confined lives of middle class women.

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Still Glides the Stream – Flora Thompson

Still Glides the Stream

I picked up a copy of the above book in a second hand book store (while on holiday). As I really enjoyed Larkrise to Candleford both the novel and the recent BBC adaptation, I thought I would like this one as well.

From a social history point of view it is really interesting – the period detail is fabulous and not many novels are written about agricultural labourers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. However, the book was dull and I struggled to finish it. The characters didn’t seem as compelling as in Larkrise to Candleford and it was written in a sentimental manner that didn’t appeal to me.

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