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The Vintage Village Bake Off by Judy Leigh #Review

  Here we are with another amusing romcom by Judy Leigh . The Vintage Village Bake Off was published by Boldwood Books on December 4th. Now in his seventies, Robert Parkin is stunned to find himself the unlikely sex symbol of the village gardening club. Living in happy solitude with his cat Isaac Mewton in the Devon village of Millbrook, entertained by his mischievous chickens and goats, Robert has never figured out the rules of romance. But as the local ladies vie for his company, it soon becomes clear that Robert's Victoria Sponge cake is the lure, and as his baking prowess grows, so does his confidence. Cheesecakes, meringues, puddings, Robert can do it all, but his real masterpieces are his scones - ginger, rosemary, coconut, fruit, his recipes are inspired and soon come to the attention of the local media. Which county does the best cream tea - Devon or Cornwall? It's time for an age-old debate to be settled with a competition. Robert's sisters Bunty and Ha

Moonstone: the boy who never was by Sjón

Winner of the Icelandic Literary Prize and the Icelandic Bookseller's Prize for Novel of the Year 2013. Translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb.

Moonstone is a short novella of 142 pages, mainly set in the Iceland of 1918. Catastrophic events are happening inside and outside the country. The Great War is nearing its end and inside the country, the volcano Katla, is erupting ominously. Life in Reyjavik is torn apart by an outbreak of Spanish Flu, brought in on a foreign ship, which is decimating the population. Iceland is undergoing transformation and becoming a sovereign independent country.

     Máni, the central figure, is a young, gay teenager, detached from mainstream life. Orphaned as a child, he has been taken in by an old woman, said to be his great grandmother's sister. He earns money by working as a male prostitute. He is obsessed with the imported films he sees in the new, local cinema and visualises life as if it exists on the screen. Everyone seems to be objectified. Some sections of the story are in the form of dream sequences and it feels as if there is a blurring of fact and fiction which unsettles the reader. 

    Written as a series of short fragments, over the course of a few  months, Moonstone has a poetic feel. You feel that each word has been carefully chosen. There is nothing superfluous in any of the sentences. It is hard when reading a book in translation to know if the rhythms and cadences in the text reflect the feel of the original. I found some of the scenes brutal and difficult to read and so estranged from life was Máni that I found it difficult to empathise with him. I couldn't help but remember Camus' La Peste as the Spanish Flu took hold. 

In short:  a life splintered, a country under change.  

Thanks to the publishers, Sceptre Books, who gave me a copy of the book via Bookbridgr.    


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