Book Bloggers have been posting their mid-year reports: Best Reads to Date, progress with club challenges, personal targets, Goodreads 2019 goals, and the like. Way to go, bookworms! Currently I’m not in the mood for competitive statistics, so no report from me.
However, I have managed to progress through some of my languishing TBR pile. This month I tackled The Siege of Krishnapur. The small print had kept me at bay for some years, but last week, in a now or never mood, I read a few pages, and realised what a great read lay ahead of me. It won the 1973 Booker Prize. Reading the novel made me realise how Booker tastes and judges have changed over the following forty years. Farrells’s book offers a straightforward story, based on historical diaries, letters and records of the Indian Mutiny, but from a satirical and wry perspective of the British in Colonial mode. I read the book slowly, with much enjoyment and realised how grateful I am to live in an age not so hidebound by social convention, as portrayed in the novel.

Most unusually for me, I re-read a short French novel. Usually I am blundering around in the vast lands of the Back Lists and trying to get into the new territory of current hits, so I can’t indulge in re-reads, but The Reader on the 6.27 was irresistible.

The Reader on the 6.27 – Jean-Paul Didierlaurent . A re-read; just as quirky and charming the second time around. If you enjoy French novels – read this.
The Siege of Krishnapur – J G Farrell. The British Raj in all their ignorance and arrogance. Authentic sense of time, place and people. Recommended.


Self-Helpless   – Rebecca Davis . An exploration of Cape Town’s Self Help & Wellness world. A real eye opener. Recommended.

The Forger’s Tale – Shaun Greenhalgh. Reviewed on this blog.https://wordpress.com/post/thebooksmithblog.wordpress.com/754

Frankly, my Dear – Shelley Klein. Wit, vitriol and barbed comments from Hollywood. Stars, screen writers, gossip columnists, the famous and the infamous – they’re all here; a wonderful book to dip into for a quick five or ten minute read.  Each read ending in a laugh.





A FORGER’S TALE – Shaun Greenhalgh. Non-Fiction

Britain’s master forger describes his life as a dedicated Art Lover and his 30+ year career as a versatile forger until 2007, when he was jailed for four years; a development he accepted with equanimity.

I marveled at SG’s dedication to museum and art gallery research, years of learning, acquiring different skills, his work ethic, (yes ,e had one; he was productive! ) Despite working in a garden shed – a shed! mark you, in his parents’ back garden – SG mastered metalwork, woodcarving, pottery & ceramics, drawing, water colour painting , he was a one-man Renaissance in modern Britain, working away in that little shed.

The part I enjoyed most were his stories of his rough and tumble boyhood and early teens in the 1960’s in the working class area of Bolton, near Manchester. In amongst the crazy boyhood adventures, he was starting on his lifetime career as a brilliant faker. At the age of 11 he was making fake Victorian ceramic pot lids, with a teeny little kiln (in the famous shed, of course) passing them off as finds from digging through city rubbish tips; selling them to dealers who sold their stock at markets and fares. Can you credit it?

I found the chapters dealing with his arrest and trial less interesting, ditto the long detailed sections on the art techniques he researched, learned and mastered in the course of his career. I would have liked more info about his life post-prison. You have to ask yourself: what does a world class art forger do for the rest of his life once released from jail? If he sketches so much as a Christmas card for his Nan, the cops will be on to him.

Apparently his dear old Mum and Dad were part of the Family Forging business, dealing with enquiries and sales, whilst sonny boy was beavering away busily in the aforesaid shed. A brother took care of the finances. The family lived a modest lifestyle, in a council house, no flashing their cash and if SG is to be believed, he didn’t do it for the money but for the satisfaction of cocking a snook at the world’s art dealers and experts.

Maybe so. Who knows what motivates human beings? I enjoyed the book, but felt I was being offered a carefully curated version of SG’s brilliant career. If ever there was truth in the saying Truth is Stranger than Fiction, this book is the proof. If, of course, we can believe the contents of the book.

SELF- HELPLESS – Rebecca Davis . Non-Fiction


Capetonian Rebecca Davis gives up drinking, and for a year, she explores the highways and byways of the Self-Help route, the Wellness world. Her adventures make for informative and sometimes downright scary reading. She gamely gives a wide variety of teachers and techniques a bash: a sweat lodge, crystal healing, floating in in an isolation tank, visiting a sangoma, to mention only a few.

She ends her book by referring to the wide collection of hippies, charlatans, healers and shamans that she encountered. Did they work? Help her cope with life any better? Most didn’t, but meditation, moderate exercise, silence and solitude did help. Some of the methods e.g. the magic mushrooms and the sweat lodge were downright dangerous to life and health.

She concludes that most Wellness fads are simply money-making enterprises, once you brush off the pixie dust and mystical woo-hoo.

I enjoyed her snarky style and turn of phrase. This was investigative journalism with lady-balls, to repeat one of her more memorable phrases.




I didn’t do much reading in May, because I was involved in a local writing project. I was vetting entries for a competition so my reading mileage was not confined to contents between book covers.  This said, I nevertheless managed to read two whoppers, The Labyrinth of the Spirits by Carlos Ruiz Zafon which weighed in at 805 pages, followed by The Master and Margarita, a paltry 445 pages.



Noddy Badge for me, I tackled a hefty book from my TBR pile: The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. The Russian writer wrote his satirical, fantastical masterpiece during the Stalinist era and the book finally struggled into print in the mid-70s. What a read! I’ve never read anything like it. I’m painfully aware that I missed, or didn’t understand, much of the satire. I resorted to GR reviews, some of which filled in the gaps for me; all of them raved enthusiastically about the book. Me too. It will appear on my 2019 Hits & Misses Reading summary, but just how to classify it I’m not sure : the strangest book ? the wildest book ? One thing is for sure: I want to re-read the book.

I can’t say the same for the Carlos Ruiz Zafon novel. I was /am a fan. The Shadow of the Wind blew me away, and I have re-read it, something I seldom do. But this time around? No. In fact I’m surprised I finished Labyrinth . I found the book too long, too repetitive – I thought : if these two catch another taxi and we go on yet another detailed tour of Barcelona, street by street , or if the duo rendezvous in yet another tiny restaurant and Alicia drinks way too much white wine, I shall scream! I also found the book very dark and violent. Its been a while since I read Zafon, and my memory of his earlier books was more of mystery, and nostalgia and book related matters. This time around it’s about political intrigue and crime related to the Spanish Civil War, and blood and bodies fall from far too many pages.


So after two long reads, a slim French novel came as a welcome relief: The Girl from the Chartreuse, a novel about loneliness, about books and reading – always one of my favourite topics. Etienne Vollard, the huge, bearlike bookseller, driving a van load of books back to his little book shop, knocks down a little girl, Eva, as she darts across the road in a rainstorm. Naturally there are consequences, and we watch them unfold. French novels often offer quirky storylines, beautiful writing, and no slick feel-good endings. This was one such book.


The Master and Margarita -Mikhail Bulgakov. Modern Russian classic. Fantasy-satire combo. Extraordinary and unique. I dare you to read it!

The Labyrinth of the Spirits – Carlos Ruiz Zafon. One for the die-hard CRZ fans. Over long and violent. I think I’m done with CRZ.

The Girl from the Chartreuse – Pierre Peju, translator Ina Rilke. Unusual French novel about a bookseller, books, a little girl, a traffic accident. Charming and poignant. Recommended.

This is What Happened – Mick Herron. A lonely woman in London, struggling with big city life meets a nasty man who hatches a twisted plan. A suspense novel. I’m a MH fan but I felt the plot was weak – not one of my faves.