This  month’s Dipper is a selection of Argentinian Jorge Luis Borges  short essays starting in 1922 and ending in 1986. He was a witty, erudite and critical commentator on life, literature and the world. Everything and anything interested Borges and he wrote about a dazzling diversity of subjects ranging through, but not limited to: history, literature, book and film reviews, magazine articles. This collection includes  his Lectures on Shakespeare, The Detective Story, and Blindness – particularly poignant because  he suffered from total blindness, a hereditary affliction ….  And progressively diminished his own eyesight from the 1920s onward. It  forced him to abandon the writing of long texts and to begin dictating to his mother or to secretaries or friends.

I would unhesitatingly include this collection high on my list of Desert Island books. Whatever your personal taste, or mood of the day, I’ll bet you’ll find a short piece to your liking,  in this collection. Not all my Dippers are literary, not by any means. Last month’s Dipper was a collection of short pieces, mostly social comment, from the British columnist Lynne Truss and they were a jolly good read, often resulting in laughter, giggles and explosive mirth from yours truly.

Irish novels …. Irish novels   … as a rule of thumb, I tend to avoid them. All that rain and Catholic suffering and general gloom. No thanks. But periodically one of Anne Enright’s novels comes my way, and I read her novels, conscious that I am reading a work by a wonderful writer,  that succeeds in eclipsing  my dislike of Irish novels.

 Actress is a marvellous novel, about an Irish actress and her story is related by her only daughter, Norah. I found the book difficult to start with, because the early section dealt with family history and skipped around  timewise, and was littered with characters, but once I got through that, I enjoyed the story.  Oh the drama! Oh the agonies of doubt, insecurity,  career difficulties and rivalries, oh the drama!  It’s a brilliant account of a woman growing more and more unstable, related with vivid detail, some of which lingers unpleasantly in my mind – grubby bedsheets, the physique of a middle aged seducer –   uuuurrrggghhh! But I read on, cross-eyed, and totally immersed. If you’ve never read Anne Enright, do yourself a favour, and try this novel.


Actress- Anne Enright . Brilliant, difficult, worth the effort. Recommended.

Our Souls at Night – Kent Haruf. A little gem of a book, written with simplicity and sincerity, about companionship in old age, about a small town love affair and an anxious 6 year old boy. The story has great emotional depth .  Recommended.

The Enchanted Garden (South Side series) – Abigail Drake. (e book). Quite sexy, and also Wicca Lite.  A refreshingly well-written book in the cozy series, with some interesting twists at the end.

In For a Penny – Kelsey Browning & Nancy Naigel (e book)              ] Southern Sleuth

Catfish & Collard Greens – Kelsey Browning & Nancy Naigel (ebook)]       Series

Not bad for CMs. Three old gals in a Southern setting – loads of Southern sweetness, and summed up by another reviewer beautifully: the Golden Girls meet Dirty Harry.

NOVEMBER DIPPER – Jorge Luis Borges : Selected Non-Fictions ed by Eliot Weinberger.  A cornucopia of wit, wisdom and Critical Insights, said the TLS.



Coincidentally both my reads at the beginning of October were very similar: books written by women, focused on women, and specifically women living in Britain.  However: here the similarities ended abruptly. Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other  is set in the present and dealt with Afro-Caribbean women, mostly in urban settings,  while Elizabeth Gaskell’s classic novel was first published  in 1853   and described the lives of women living in a small country town during .

I was surprised how much I enjoyed the classic Cranford. It is a portrait of small-town life, social norms of the era, and a character study of some of the residents. The plot is hardly earth shaking, except perhaps the ending, which was barely credible but necessary to tie a tidy bow around the entire business. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the flashes of  dry humour, the acutely drawn nuances of a society dominated by women who lived in terror of transgressing social norms and not being genteel. A word we hardly know, in this rambunctious 21st century. How society, and women’s lives have changed!  Reading a Victorian novel  makes me devoutly grateful that I was born mid-20th century, despite the many problems we currently face.

Bernadine Evaristo’s novel could not have provided more of a contrast, had I hunted for one. She writes with enormous energy, verve and vigour. I was swept along through the 12 stories which reflect contemporary Britain through a feminist and sometimes radical lens. In an interview with Vanity Fair,  BE said she tried to cram in as many women and their stories as she could get away with, and she has succeeded. Again, I was surprised how much I enjoyed the book. The stories are linked, sometimes directly, other times tangentially and I am reminded of the saying: we are all connected.

 Prior to reading it, I had zero to scanty knowledge of immigrant black or half-caste/coloured womens’ lives in Britain, never mind all the ramifications of LGBQT etc lifestyles. Now I do! And I enjoyed hearing about them. Its a refreshing multi-faceted book, and deserved the award of the Booker Prize. I’d like to read more of her writing. 

Emma Donoghue (forever embedded in my mind with her brilliant novel  Room)  presents a thoroughly contemporary novel when she places 79 year old, widowed, sophisticated, American retired professor Noah in reluctant charge of his great nephew, Michael a street smart, electronic games addicted 11 year old from a disastrous family situation.  The two characters couldn’t be more disparate or more incomprehensible to each other; in fact I began to wonder if they were even members of the same species, let alone distant blood relations! Noah is on a quest to resolve WWII mysteries about his mother, in  Nice, France; Michael  is trying to survive the US Social System and a broken family. An intriguing read which paints a clear picture of the terrifying cultural divide between today’s wired/connected kids and the older generation with European sensibilities.  Its not so much the Generation Gap as a Chasm.


Girl, Woman, Other – Bernadine Evaristo. Energetic, fresh, different.  12 linked stories about black/coloured Afro-Caribbean women in contemporary Britain.  Modern and relevant.  A terrific read. Recommended.

Cranford – Elizabeth Gaskell.  A quiet reflective character driven novel set in the early 19th century, in an English country town. It’s a classic, about a simple life in more settled safer world. If you enjoy Victorian novels, this one’s for you.  

Akin – Emma Donoghue. Modern American youth culture versus  older, civilized European culture plus a historical WWII mystery playing out in Nice France. Highly recommended.

Ladies Coupe’ – Anita Nair. Anybody who enjoys reading Indian novels will love this one. The 45 year old Akhila – a spinster – battles to carve out a single life for herself in modern India, still beset by traditions and social conventions. Written & published in India in 2001; modern  India may have red-hot high tech, but still  very unenlightened attitudes to women! Aaarrrgghh.