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What shall I read? By Liz Froggatts

There is such a choice, more and more books published each year, so many categories and each person has his or her own preferences. Liz Froggatts is a regular contributor, book worm and Silver Robin friend. Perhaps she might inspire you to read a book and send in your review?

Books by authors from Eire is the thought that came to me whilst reading Only Say the Word by Niall Williams. He lives in Co.Clare and has written 8 novels as well as stage plays, screen plays and works of non-fiction. I had to stop reading after a while because the book is set in rural Eire and I worried for the children; I like to live on a bus route. Then I resumed for he is such a good writer, do try one of his novels

Colm Toibin wrote Brooklyn which was made into a well-received film. This is one of his 5 novels which are described as ‘Irish society, living aboard, the process of maintaining individual identity’, all shown in Brooklyn

‘Irish Society’ reminds me of Molly Keane (Good Behaviour, Time after Time and Loving and Giving) which she wrote after a break of 20 years. Her earlier books, of which there were many (including Devoted Ladies, Conversation Piece and Loving without Tears) are less well known Molly Keane paints a vivid picture of crumbling houses and crumbling upper class families

The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry was a Book at Bedtime, and enthralling. Barry is also a poet and playwright as well as author of prize-winning novels. These interweave two Irish families, the Dunnes and the McNultys over many time-frames, just right for those who enjoy characters from one book appearing in another….

which is a good segue into Maeve Binchy who is so easy to read and yet gets the reader thinking. One of Ireland’s most successful novelists she has written many books with recurring characters – Quentins, Evening Class, Tara Road, Scarlett Feather and Whitethorn Woods are a few.


I watched the programme about the Bronte sisters on television and whilst i could not hear it all (memo to self, put on sub-titles) it made me think of them. Charlotte (Jane Eyre, The Professor, Villette, Shirley) Emily (Wuthering Heights and many poems) and Anne (Agnes Gray and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall)

Jane Austen was prolific by comparison (Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion and Lady Susan) as well as much work labelled as ‘Juvenilia’

Of the books by Anthony Trollope I have always preferred the Chronicle of Barsetshire. The names of the characters (Bishop Proudie, Mr Slope the oleaginous clergyman, and Mrs Quiverful with all her children) remind me of Dickens. His Palliser novels, also 6 of these, are of this family who are politically important in Barsetshire

Then John Galsworthy, the Forsyte saga being often repeated both on the television screen and on the radio. Although Galsworthy wrote a number of successful plays and some short stories it is his Forsyte trilogy for which he is most remembered and admired

So many more, to be continued…… !


Politics have been important recently with the Labour Party election and Conservative Party Conference, so what about looking at the memoirs and diaries of British politicians. I feel that as the diaries were written as the events happened they may give a more accurate report of events

Probably the diaries with the most revealing and interesting sections were those of Sir Henry ‘Chips’ Channon and of Alan Clark, but Harold Nicholson’s were interesting – he was married to Vita Sackvile-West and together they created the garden at Sissinghurst. More recently are those of Chris Mullen (A View from the Foothills, A Walk-On Part and Decline and Fall) and all writers of memoirs will say they kept diaries

Gathering together various diary entries is Events, Dear Boy, Events by Ruth Winstone a political diary of Britain 1921 to 2010. The Duff Cooper Diaries 1915 to 1951 cover an interesting period, and as well as being a politician Duff Cooper was a diplomat and socialite, the book being edited by his son John Julius Norwich. Margot Asquith’s Great War Diary is edited and covers the period 1914 to 1916 when she and her husband were in 10 Downing Street

Alan Johnson has published his third memoir, the first of his mother dying and being brought up and supported by his elder sister. That Boy, followed by Please Mr Postman and now The Long and Winding Road. Many recently serving Members of Parliament have written memoirs, your choice of which to read I think will depend upon your own political views


Autobiographies and biographies, particularly of authors, are a good way of understanding the person and the possible reasons for why that person behaves (or writes) as he or she does..

As I enjoy the author John le Carre I was thrilled to read the biography of him by Adam Sisman and to know that le Carre himself has written his memoir ‘The Pigeon Tunnel’. But beware of memories, so often mis-remembered. I enjoyed watching The Night Manager on television and to see My Kind of Traitor at the cinema, both from le Carre books. I have a number of his audiobooks, read by le Carre himself, and now I have read the biography I understand why he is so good at reading them. His is a world of spies of various sorts, so I enjoy books about spies and spying.

I laughed a lot reading Agent Zigzag by Ben Macintyre and particularly enjoyed his A Spy Among Friends about Kim Philby, and of course there is the Dreyfus Affair excellently told by Robert Harris in An Officer and a Gentleman. Children interested in that world are portrayed in Spies by Michael Frayn, and back to non-fiction Giles Whittell’s book (made into the film) Bridge of Spies with Gary Powers and the U2 American plane, surely we all remember that?

A classic spy story is by James Fenimore Cooper, Spy, and of the first world war is Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Calder. The 39 Steps by John Buchan is a spy story and there is The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad

So there’s a start. Who else can contribute spy stories they have enjoyed?

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