Reviews

‘a delightful amateur sleuth novel with a well balanced mix of domestic and academic life and a strong sense of place.’ [Stage Fright]

- EUROCRIME.CO.UK

10 Books that have made me laugh

51ytpx5tKhL._AA160_Today Moira at ClothesinBooks.com and I are posting our list of books that have made us laugh. Mine are, in no particular order:

Three Men in a Boat, by Jerome K. Jerome. A classic. I particularly love the part where they try to open a tin of pineapple without a tin-opener, and Uncle Podger hanging a picture, and then there’s . . . but read it yourself, if you haven’t already.

The Pursuit of Love, by Nancy Mitford. I was twenty-five when I first read this, and have lost time of how many times I have read it. Romantic and touching as well as funny.

The Harpole Report, which I blogged about a couple of posts ago.

P. G. Wodehouse, Summer Lightning. Difficult to chose just one, but many years ago when I was living alone in a bedsit in Birmingham this was read by Ian Carmichael as a Book at Bedtime. Sheer bliss.

Gerald Durrell, My Family and Other Animals. A teenage favourite that has endured.

Joyce Dennys, Henrietta Sees It Through. Again, mentioned before as a favourite on the blog. I wish it was twice as long. There is another volume, but it’s not enough.

Michael Simkins, What’s My Motivation? Michael Simkins is one of those decent, jobbing actors who often plays the main character’s boss, as in he does in Foyle’s War, but he is also a wonderful comic writer, writing frankly about the up and downs (mostly downs) of the actor’s life.

Kate Dunn, Exit Through the Fireplace: The Great Days of Rep. Another theatrical offering drawing on actors’ memories of door handles jamming on flimsy sets and fluffed lines (‘It’s Marple, Miss Murder!’). I nearly fell out of bed laughing.

Sue Hepworth, But I Told You Last Year That I Love You. One of the funniest writers that I know – and a great friend, maybe because we make each other laugh.

Bill Bryson, The Thunderbolt Kid. Not only very funny, but contains some startling insights into the America of the fifties and sixties.

Another day it might be another choice, though most of these didn’t really need thinking about, they are such old favourites. I’m longing to see what Moira has chosen.

Ps. I have now, and it is fascinating. Hardly any overlap, so lots more for my reading list.

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid

For some reason I had taken it for granted that Bill Bryson wasn’t my kind of writer. (Too popular, perhaps? And to anyone who accuses me of intellectual snobbery, I have only this to say: THE DA VINCI CODE). But then I caught him reading from THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE THUNDERBOLT KID on Radio 4 and liked what I heard. Now I have read the whole thing.
The story of Bryson growing up in the fifties in Des Moines, Iowa, is not just the account of a childhood, but the portrait of a whole decade. Bryson has done his research and what he uncovers makes hair-raising reading. The ways in the Americans were developing and testing their nuclear deterrent and the extent of cold war paranoia make Kubrick’s DR STRANGELOVE, OR HOW I LEARNED TO LOVE THE BOMB look like a work of sober realism. The development of fast-food, the rapid rise of the consumer society, the doubling of the number of cars on the road in just a decade: fascinating as all this was, what I most love about the book are the parts about his family and friends. There were times when I was helpless with laughter. He refers in the acknowledgments to ‘his incomparably wonderful, infinitely sporting mother’ and so she is.
This is a work of comic genius and like most such it has darker tones that prevent it from being too sentimental or nostalgic. I truly didn’t want it to end.