My rating: 5 out of 5 stars
I finished reading this novel weeks ago and still can’t think of a way to praise it highly enough.
The main character, Eleanor, has her routine — work, home, a limited wardrobe, a functional diet, and two bottles of vodka to get through each weekend. Often her social and communication skills aren’t in accord with other people, but I loved her bluntness and lack of awareness that her honesty might not go down well at times, plus her nerdiness; she’s a veritable mine of information. In both these respects, she reminded me a bit of Saga in the Nordic crime series The Bridge and, as with Saga, many of her comments caused me to laugh out loud, more so for being justified more often than not.
This is a story where the main protagonist starts out lonely, damaged, and with serious trust issues, but who slowly learns to believe in herself with the help of a few people who show her a huge amount of kindness and the meaning of true friendship, especially her work colleague Raymond from the IT department upstairs.
Gail Honeyman’s writing style is accessible, fluent, and pleasing, and it doesn’t surprise me at all that this, her first novel, won the Costa Book Award last year and has been in The Sunday Times Top ten Paperback for many months.
This book is an absolute must read…
How to Stop Time
by Matt Haig
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I’m glad to have discovered that this well-known, prize-winning children’s author also writes fiction for adults. How to Stop Time isn’t a standard time-travel novel, although it jumps backwards and forwards between various points in history. It’s about a man who has a syndrome that prevents him from aging. At first, he thinks his condition is unique to him, until he discovers there are others like him.
The story explores how it feels to be different, and how people at various times in history have treated people who don’t fit the norm; the dangers, the loneliness, and, in the case of this novel’s main protagonist, the problems with forming a longterm attachment with another human who has a comparably short lifespan.
The novel is easy to read, gently humorous, sad in places, but seeks to find the best in humanity. I liked it well enough to buy another novel by the same author and read it straight after this one.
A recommended read, if only that it won’t leave you exhausted and the author has a writing voice that fills you with warmth.
by Matt Haig
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars
The Humans by Matt Haig is an absolute delight. It’s about an alien who’s sent on a mission to replace/pose as a university professor of mathematics and suppress the prof’s cracking of a formula that would advance humanity in a way which could prove dangerous to extra-terrestrial civilisations across the galaxy.
Although this sounds like the makings of a science fiction novel, I would not class it as such. It’s more about people and their relationships with one another in their daily lives and how, despite all their flaws, they’re worthy of a place in the universe.
The alien looks exactly like the uni prof and knows his mathematics, but that’s where the similarity ends. As he learns to be human, his adoptive “wife” and “teenage son” can’t believe the positive change that has come over the once cold and arrogant husband and father.
I don’t want to say anything further about the story, to avoid any spoilers, but I read this at a time when I was feeling extremely negative, if not depressed about the human race, and Matt Haig helped me look for and rediscover the good in people once more.
A highly recommended read, that’s quirky, funny, moving, and possibly good for your mental health!
Chalk soil challenge…
gardeners’ nightmare combo:
slugs, snails, and rain.
Slow worm, best friend of pot plants,
hungers for slimy munchers.
Poor slow-worm, I guess it went away hungry when it visited my garden the other day. Not a mollusc in sight.
At the beginning of June, I set myself the challenge of humanely removing all slugs and snails from my garden and relocating them elsewhere; a campaign that has proved hugely successful.
So here’s how I did it…
- Old two-litre ice-cream tub with tiny breathing holes pierced in the lid and yummy leaf placed inside as food.
- Plant label as slug scoop*
- A torch for the night-hunt.
[*Pick up snails by their shells, but be extra gentle with baby snails, as their shells are very fragile and it’s easy to crush them]
- Two collection times in the day (about 0700 hrs and 2300 hrs).
- Closely inspect each pot plant (the leaves (especially the undersides), the soil, and the outside of the pot).
- Inspect any large-leafed shrubs and soon you will discover which are the molluscs’ favourite ones. It’s quite likely that if you check out the soil under these particular shrubs you’ll uncover a snails’ nest, which you can scoop up and remove elsewhere. I’ve located two such nests in my garden.
- Place the slugs and snails into the ice-cream tub, along with a juicy leaf, close the lid tight, and store in the shade to prevent the creatures from roasting in the sun.
- Once every 24 hours, transport them to the nearest woodlands or fields and release them into the vegetation.
My dog, being Supervisor-in-chief at all times, takes the snail-hunting thing very seriously. When we’re out walking in the street, she has taken to glaring at any snails she spots slithering up people’s garden paths or along the pavement.
Here’s how some of my petunias, busy lizzies, and hostas looked a few days ago, and there are many more pots of them happily dotted around the garden with only the odd hole in their leaves…
Wiggle, munch, all legs and hair:
wings, its destiny.
[Image: courtesy of my son, Joshua Munns]