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Books of 2014

7 January, 2015 at 7:51 pm by belgianwaffle

Leaving aside books written by those nearly related to me, these are my top 5 books of 2014, in order of preference:

“In the Woods” by Tana French
“Dear Life” by Alice Munro
“Greenery Street” by Denis Mackail
“Love Nina” by Nina Stibbe
“Look Who’s Back” by Timur Vermes

2014 was a really great year for me – I read loads of books I enjoyed very much and the choice of a top five was unusually hard. More detailed reviews below, lifted from old posts and slightly updated, if you care.

“In the Woods” by Tana French

This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. It’s a detective story and a page turner but also very well written; quite lyrical in places without ever being dull. The author has written quite a few books and I plan to read them all. I’ve read another one since and it is just as good as the first and would have made this list only I was very tight for space.

“Dear Life” by Alice Munro

I really enjoyed this collection. I had read some of her work in the past and found it tough going but I found this collection drew me back again and again and I was putting aside other things to read it. I am not sure whether her style has changed or whether I like her better now that I am older. These short stories are all sad. They are slices of life and although things happen, that is not really the point. She is superb at drawing characters; not necessarily very nice or appealing characters but convincing ones. She writes beautifully. Well worth a read.

“Greenery Street” by Denis Mackail

My kind sister-in-law gave me a present of this in the Persephone Bookss edition and I was charmed. It is a lovely novel about a young married couple in their first home. The couple are singularly ineffectual, always running out of money and live in fear of their maid whom they call “the murderess”. All their crises, however, are minor ones and happily resolved.

I discovered on reading the introduction that Angela Thirkell, whose books I like very much, was the older and much loathed sister of Denis Mackail. Apparently she was by far the stronger personality of the two. I can see that as there is a sweetness in “Greenery Street” which is entirely absent in Thirkell’s work.

“Love Nina” by Nina Stibbe

This is a very entertaining read but might possibly be even more entertaining, if you were intimate with literary London in the 1980s. Unacquainted as I am with London literary figures, it still made me laugh. Also, Alan Bennett is a lovely man.

“Look Who’s Back” by Timur Vermes

The conceit of this novel, which was a best seller in Germany, is that Hitler wakes up in modern day Germany. Everyone things that he is a Hitler impersonator and he becomes a media darling. It has some very clever and amusing pieces like when Hitler tries to set up an email account (“Adolf Hitler” – No that’s gone – “Reichstag” -That’s gone too – and so on) and when he visits the neo-nazi offices. Quite daring overall, as well as funny, and interesting.

Where There’s Muck, There’s Brass

22 December, 2014 at 10:48 pm by belgianwaffle

Do you remember that I mentioned my obsession with brass polishing? And that I was nervous about tackling the fender? Well, the month of December has seen me turn my attention to this particular labour of love.

I would like you to know that shining a brass fender is a deeply rewarding activity. Also I would have made a fantastic scullery maid.

2014-12-09 11.11.49


13 December, 2014 at 7:07 pm by belgianwaffle

We all went to see “Minuscule” as part of the French film festival and it was delightful. Highlight was small child speaking clearly and crossly in a gap between adults laughing hysterically, “C’est pas rigolo!”

Last night the Princess and I went to see Oliver Goldsmith’s “She Stoops to Conquer” in the Abbey. It was our Christmas outing and while nothing will probably ever match the thrill of her first theatre outing (“Little Women” in the Gate in 2011 or so the internet says) this was pretty good. Our expectations were on the low side which is always helpful. The set was amazing and as we walked into the theatre she clutched my arm in delight at the sight of the stage. The costumes were also superb. The whole thing was played hugely for laughs and almost like a pantomime in places but really entertaining for both of us. Brilliantly done and we loved it. There were no other children in the audience that I could see which was a pity because, it was very suitable and really funny. It was her first trip to the Abbey (“our national theatre” as the portentous voice before the play told us) and it was great but she was lucky as it is not always thus. In fairness to the Abbey, since the revamp there doesn’t seem to be a bad seat in the house. We were in the front row and, although we were, inevitably, slightly looking up the characters skirts, visibility was really good. Tickets were as cheap as any I have had, €13 each. When you consider that it costs €11 to go to the cinema, I think this was really good value for a lovely experience. You should go, if you live in Dublin, and bring your children aged 11+.

Domestic Administration or Would You Care to Watch Some Paint Dry?

26 November, 2014 at 10:15 pm by belgianwaffle

Achieved this evening:

  • Updated excel spreadsheet and printed off childminder’s payslip.
  • Filed away bills and bank statements and notice of derisory dividend arising from unwise share purchase of many years ago.
  • Signed up to electricity supplier’s online billing on the basis that I would get €20 off my shopping.  The voucher does not appear to have materialised.  Signed up to electricity supplier’s rewards scheme.  Apparently, I will get money off my electricity bill just by shopping in my usual supermarket. On both occasions I needed to give them my name, account number, meter number, date of birth and two different passwords, lest anyone hack my account and pay my bill for me or take away my exciting rewards.
  • Tried and failed to work out what is covered as set out in my healthcare cover renewal letter and filed it away lest it become clearer at a later point.
  • Did online shopping for delivery on Friday.  Noted that I have shopped in my usual supermarket and no electricity money off voucher appeared to be forthcoming.
  • Agonised about the use of full stops in a bulleted list.
  • Realised it was NaBloPoMo and posted this.

And how was your own exciting Wednesday evening?


24 November, 2014 at 10:30 pm by belgianwaffle

We went to see the small Greek orthodox chapel in Arbour Hill. Who knew that there were sufficient members of the Greek orthodox community here to support a church? Mr. Waffle and I went in, the boys sat outside expressing zero interest and a strong desire to go home and commune further with the x-box. The Princess was at a party.

2014-10-18 16.55.51

The Princess and I saw a pebble dash house constructed in the yard of the museum to make us think about house design.

2014-11-02 15.52.42

We also got to see the Anglo-Irish bank sign. When it came down, it was saved for the nation. To inspire bitterness in current and future generations, one can only assume.

2014-11-02 16.15.35

Mr. Waffle and I finally watched “What Richard Did“. Beautiful cinematography; my sister calls that the kiss of death for a film. People loved this film which came out in 2012. It had the potential to be interesting and plot driven but instead it was boring though beautiful to look at.

Mr. Waffle and I also went to the opening film of the French film festival, “Bande de Filles“. It’s about a group of young, black female friends in the Parisian suburbs. It’s very good on the limited options open to these girls and how hard it is for them to escape from various unhappy destinies but it doesn’t really have a narrative arc and could have ended at a number of different points. One of the actresses was there and it was so strange because in the film she is the leader of the gang, quite intimidating and fills the screen whereas in reality she is tiny and seems very self-effacing though quietly confident.

Yesterday, the Princess and I went to a musical interlude in the new(ish) theatre in the docklands where I had never been before. I had written about this at some length but failed to save it. Here is a summary: It was musical, it was short and it was mildly enjoyable.

The Right Reason

23 November, 2014 at 11:09 pm by belgianwaffle

Someone pointed out to me that in the romance languages, when you want to say that you are right, you say you have reason -j’ai raison, ho ragione – but that in the Germanic languages you say that you are/have right – ich habe rechts, I’m right.

I was charmed by this insight into how language makes our world view different, so, of course, I decided to tell the internet.

Can you believe how much NaBloPoMo is still left?


16 November, 2014 at 7:36 pm by belgianwaffle

The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa

I was quite charmed by this as I read it but in retrospect, it feels a bit like the kind of thing that a parent might give to a child to try to make maths fun and fascinating. I’m ambivalent.

Prenez Garde by Terence DeVere White

I quite enjoyed this book written in the voice of a precocious child during the War of Independence. Like Elizabeth Bowen’s book written about the same period, these upper middle class people are very preoccupied about the social status of the Black and Tans. It is entertaining and enlightening though. Herself read it and enjoyed it also.

A Death in the Family by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Oh Lord, this nearly killed me. Unless you live under a rock you will be aware that this is part one of a several volume autobiography which has been outrageously successful.

Until the author’s father actually dies, whole chunks of this book are unbearably dull. You feel like you are an adolescent in a small town in Norway. In other words, you hover on the brink of death from boredom. Notwithstanding that conveying this is a form of genius, it’s a really useless form, in my view. The book really picks up after the father dies (I’m giving nothing away here, it’s on the cover) and I was so engaged that I am almost thinking of picking up volume 2. Almost.

If you are thinking of reading this book, you will need to consult this link. Also, in terms of the language regime, it may help you to consider what Mr. Waffle said to me when I was questioning him on this point: “When a Norwegian says he speaks 5 languages, you can bet 3 of them are Norwegian.”

A Spanish Lover by Joanna Trollope
A Passionate Man by Joanna Trollope
The Choir by Joanna Trollope

I’m tired of Joanna Trollope now, I need a little break. The Choir is the best of these three for my money but none of them really worked for me.

The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobsen

I thought that this would be laugh out loud funny. It’s amusing in parts. I have learnt a lot about what it means to be Jewish. It’s complicated.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

I found the start of this book really fascinating and very moving. I thought it lost focus a bit towards the end and I’m not sure I would read all the other volumes but the parts about her early childhood were beautifully written and gave extraordinary insights into what it was like to be black in the American South less than a century ago.

Armageddon Outta Here by Derek Landy

Collection of shorter extracts/stories etc about the skeleton detective. About as successful as these things normally are.

Skulduggery Pleasant and the Dying of the Light by Derek Landy

The last Skulduggery Pleasant book and a triumphant return to form for the skeleton detective after a couple of lacklustre outings. Or so the boys and I thought, Herself didn’t like it much.

In the Woods by Tana French

This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. It’s a detective story and a page turner but also very well written; quite lyrical in places without ever being dull. The author has written quite a few books and I plan to read them all.

by Enrique Vila-Matas

The title tempted me to read this. It’s about a retired Spanish literary publisher who comes to Dublin for a holiday. Really not for me. Literary fiction in translation can be very tough going and this was a good example. To be fair, I don’t think I would have liked the book in Spanish but the translation did it no favours. Frankly, when you read the excerpts from Ulysses in the text with relief because they are less hard going than the rest of the book, something has gone very wrong.

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