Bridget Jones’ Diary: Helen Fielding 

This is one of those books I am always surprised that I have not read. It has been on the list for ages, especially when the film is on TV around Christmas (why is it a Christmas type film?!). Anyway, I came across Bridget Jones’ Diary in a thrift store in Philadelphia for the grand total of 29 cents so really had no excuse not to buy it.

It is a pretty famous story. Bridget, 30 something career-type-girl with a disasterous love life, aims to keep a diary to record her transformation into a goddess. She generally screws it up by being the embarrassing human being we all know we are, whilst somehow netting hunky bad boy Daniel Cleaver and charming but bumbling Mark Darcy. That is about as far as the similarities between the book and the film goes. There is so much more to Bridget’s life in the book – not to mention her crazy friends and the antics of her late-life-crisis mother. If you have only seen the film, you will find this very different.

Bridget Jones’ Diary is an incredibly quick and easy read. It is light and hilarious and an incredibly small book. A most excellent holiday essential, you could read this anywhere – whether it is by the beach or in Philadelphia City hall. 

The 100-Year-Old Man who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared: Jonas Jonasson

I have officially finished my degree folks! So I bring you new book reviews.

Today, I would like to discuss a recent read. The 100-Year-Old Man who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared was a suggestion from the same friend who recommended The Kite Runner to me, and she was spot on with that one so thought I would give this one a try. When I found it in my favourite second-hand book shop, an Amnesty shop round the corner from the York Minster, I knew it was meant to be. Apart from anything else, the blurb was very intriguing – detailing the escape of an old man and the ensuing highly criminal chase. What’s not to like?

The book follows Allan Karlsson, an elderly man on the brink of his 100th birthday. Instead of attending the landmark birthday party thrown by his care home, he instead decides to make his escape, going wherever the whim takes him. Having acquired a suitcase full of cash he embarks upon a trip across Sweden, finding a group of friends/accomplices en route. The book flits between Allan’s adventures in the present day, and back to incredible events throughout his past. It quickly emerges that Allan has been present for most of the world’s biggest historical political moments, despite his hatred of politics.

I loved this book. It was refreshing and witty and strangely pure. I really engaged with the concept – I think a little old man running away from his care home is comedy gold. This book was also particularly great for me, as I was reading it in between studying and in snippets before I went to bed – it was really good to drift in and out of due to the switching between ‘history’ and present. The alternate history sections were particularly hilarious, the conversations Karlsson has with Harry Truman, Lyndon B Johnson, Stalin, Chairman Mao and Kim Jong Il are brilliant works of fiction.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a light but engaging read, perfect for casual reading around busy schedules!

All Fun and Games Until Somebody Loses an Eye: Christopher Brookmyre

This is another one of those charity shop finds. What with the stresses of writing dissertations and life in general, the brain was in need of a little rest. I have always enjoyed a sarcastic detective novel, and decided to pick this up as the blurb sounds relatively hilarious. Anything that references hard core hoovering is right up my street. Oh the irony.

‘All Fun and Games’ is based around a for hire specialist black ops team, tasked with recovering a missing scientist. To do this, the team-leader (Bett) decides to bring in the scientist’s mother (logical I know), to use her lethal mothering instinct to protect her own. The mother in question, Jane Fleming, is a 46 year old grandmother stuck in a mid-life rut. She spends a lot of time attempting to smuggle herself across the English channel and being trained up to become a secret agent type. All in all, this book featured a lot of ass-kicking, beautiful locations and a perfect form of escapism for my frazzled brain.

This was a brilliant, witty, fairly plot-y book, if you ignore the irrationality of training up the target’s mother which is altogether a time consuming exercise when you have a team of experts to hand. I definitely enjoyed reading it though, and would probably recommend this for anyone looking for a cheery read.

A good gift for a parent, might inspire them to become a black ops agent.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Douglas Adams

My guilty pleasure has to be science fiction. By science fiction I more specifically mean alternate universes. Think Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.

Yet, it is only now that I have got around to reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I tried once when I was a lot longer but I just could not get into it. My Dad was the one who got me interested in Pratchett and he quite likes Hitchhiker’s Guide so I thought it was probably about time to read this. I definitely need a new book series to get into.

If you have never heard of this I am, quite frankly, surprised. When this book was first published in 1979, it was an instant bestseller in the UK. It has sold over fifteen million books in the UK, the US and Australia. It is loved by millions across the globe, and has developed a cult following.

Arthur Dent is a normal guy, on a normal Thursday, trying to prevent the demolition of his house for a new bypass. Little does he know, he should actually be concerned with another demolition that is about to occur…after the destruction of Earth, Dent may be the last human alive. Trapped with his friend Ford Prefect, who he now discovers to be an alien, on board of a Vogon demolition ship, his only comfort being the words ‘DON’T PANIC’ inscribed in friendly letters on the Hitchhiker’s Guide – a travel guide for the professional space hitchhiker. Now he must chase the meaning of life across the galaxy with a disgraced president and the cute girl from a party in Islington.

This is a classic example of the English humour I love – dry, sarcastic and brimming with underdogs in hilarious scrapes. The attention to detail creates a rich story, my particular favourites were the Babel Fish (they sit inside your ear canal and absorb brain energy aimed towards the host, spitting it back out as translated language) and Dent’s various attempts to teach the Nutri-Matic drinks machine how to make a cup of tea. My only complaint is that this book is evidently a ‘set-up’ book for the rest of the series. Not that much seems to occur, which is a tad annoying. Yet I will probably definitely read the other four in the series. Watch this space.

I would recommend this to any lovers of science fiction or that strange British witty charm.

So, Anyway…: John Cleese

As you may have guessed, along side my great enjoyment of short stories, I also love comedy auto-biographies. If you do not believe me, please check out my reviews of Stephen Fry, Amy Poehler and Rik Mayall. I first registered John Cleese’s new book after his appearance (with his cat) on The Last Leg. Apart from being generally hilarious, it got me thinking – this guy has been around for a while. Joining the BBC in the 1960s he was a part of the revolution of comedy, the movement towards the zany and bizarre that I find so hilarious. In my opinion, Cleese is a national treasure.

monty python the parrot sketch ex parrot

So, Anyway… details Cleese’s life from around the age of 11 to the beginning of the Pythons, with a brief skip forward at the end of the book to cover the Flying Circus revival in 2014. It kind of seems like he managed to fall into a lot of his career based on accepting every opportunity which came his way – something we could probably afford to do a little more. The book takes a lot of time to discuss Cleese’s creative processes, working with Graham Chapman and on TV and theatre productions.

funny monty python john cleese the ministry of silly walks

Cleese was ridiculously engaging to read, as can be expected, its anecdotal and occasional turn towards tangents making the experience a delight. I was particularly interested in his career experiences – as someone who hopes one day to go into TV production it was fascinating to see how the industry has changed. So, Anyway… also allowed an insight into a man who is often described as withdrawn from the press, some of whom choose to highlight his anger roles as a reflection of the person. To learn of his anxiety and fear of performing is refreshing, as he ponders candidly on why he turned out the way he did.

Could not resist.

If you are intrigued by the vanguard of British comedy this is definitely the book for you, the comedy connections are ripe in this one. On the other hand, it provides an easy to follow read for anyone interested in biographies, with a little extra for comedy fans.

According to YES: Dawn French

Apparently I need to stop moaning about my parents sending me serious books – this is what turned up in the post! As a big Comic Strip Presents fan and lover of French & Saunders I thought I had better give this a try. I did thoroughly enjoy Bonkers: My Life in Laughs by Saunders too, so the chance of a good piece of fiction was very tempting.

According to YES details the arrival of Brit Rosie Kitto in New York, ready for a nannying job for a wealthy Manhattan family. As she tries to draw out the family from their un-fun emotionally constipated shells, clashes occur with the Wilder-Bingham matriarch Glenn and complicated situations arise. If anything, this book demonstrates the issues caused by a lack of communication. Through her various mistakes Rosie attempts to find happiness and move on from a difficult history in Britain. This novel is brilliant for character development, as a reader I felt fully invested in everyone Rosie encounters.

I enjoyed this book. It was happy and light – there were a few cliffhangers but nothing to ruin a Sunday morning read with a cup of tea. I felt some of the best writing involved the scenes between Rosie and her young charges searching out fun in a bustling New York. Considering its subject matter, there was a lot more sex in this book than was expected. Yet how this was handled was tasteful and did the complications of each encounter justice. At times it felt a little like Rosie’s only purpose was to fulfill and empower the male characters in the plot, but there were a couple of very touching scenes between Glenn and Rosie in the latter half of the book, as well as with the maid Iva.

I would recommend this book to anyone look for a quick cheerful read. As Christmas is now coming up, this may be a good book to buy for the mother or a relative in need of a good read.

Four Stories: Alan Bennett

Hello book fans! I realise it has been a VERY long time since I last posted (Easter holidays in fact), but it has been a busy term for me – unfortunately second year university actually counts towards final grades and I got distracted! Reading has been far from my mind, but let me write a post to make up for it.

Way back in the Easter break I read Four Stories, another Alan Bennett book-I enjoyed The Lady in the Van which I covered in another review and features in this collection of short stories. This book comprises radio plays, short stories and an exploration of a TV film.

The Laying On of Hands follows the unravelling of a funeral, as all those in attendance sit in fear of the reason for Clive’s death. As increasing numbers of the congregation are revealed to be linked to the dead man in compromising ways, the story follows the priest residing over the memorial service and the Archdeacon sent to review him. This story manages to make a moral statement about fear of taking risks and the unknown within British society as well as the taboo of AIDs, whilst also using the fact that – sex sells.

The Clothes They Stood Up In is a strange tale of a couple robbed of everything in a bizarre twist of mistaken identity, who in the process of trying to rebuild their lives discover the extent of their repression within their own lives.

Last but not least, Father! Father! Burning Bright explores the experiences of Midgley as he attempts to come to terms with the imminent death of his father, the person he holds to blame for his failures in life. It’s an interesting study of the selfishness of reaction to dying.

These short stories are great for those brief bus journeys. Bennett writes with a sharp witty irony that keeps the reader gripped and on their toes – something rare to find in this format. I would definitely recommend these, whether you are a fan of his previous work or are new to the world of Alan Bennett.