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May 25, 2010


I very often don't like books that lots of other people like. I hated the Lovely Bones, which felt very emotionally manipulative to me. The Marilynne Robinson book just looked very grim to me when I picked it up to read the jacket.

Also, that cupcake looks so delish.

I couldn't get into Robinson's novel after reading Gilead.

The cupcake and plate are lovely paired with the embroidered tablecloth.

Thank goodness it's not just me who can't get on with The Lovely Bones. One of the few books I haven't finished. Those cakes look splendid!

Hurrah, I'm not alone. I did get to the end of The Lovely Bones but reluctantly and it took me months of nothing more modern than Mapp and Lucia punctated by Jeeves and Wooster to recover. As for Capatain Correlli, I tried to read it twice with no success so as a result of reading this post I am off to firmly remove Housekeeping from my Amazon wish list and might I suggest that if you haven't yet read The Timetraveller's Wife then you should keep it that way....

I love you, Jane. (sorry, it's just the enthusiasm)
Finally. Someone who doesn't enthuse about Captain Corelli's Mandolin!
You just made my day ;)

I read Housekeeping and I liked it - but it was very, very different from what I expected it to be like, and it still makes me feel a little uneasy when I think about it. I read Gilead later and I was much more emotional reading that one, while Housekeeping left me with a kind of detached feeling. A very strange book, but still beautiful, I think. I haven't read any of the other ones mentioned in the comments. But I really disliked Madame Bovary. I couldn't stand how all the characters were so unlikeable :)

I didn't enjoy Housekeeping much, but did love Gilead and Home. And I love your embroidered tablecloth. Very sweet.

Not in Helsinki, but have visited several times. If you're headed that way then please consider a trip over to Tallinn. It doesn't take long and is well worth it to see such a magical medieval place!

I'm struggling with One Day. It was a present. My husband however loved it. I'm afraid The Time Traveller's Wife lost me too but husband thought it brilliant...No staying power, that's my trouble.

Hi Jane
Captain Corelli is initially boring,but stick with it (or cheat and flick forward) until you come to the bit where Corelli and Pelagia meet. It's fab from there on in. Ref the Lovely Bones...that had me gripped. It's a great book. The other two I haven't read. The books I find hard to read are: We have to talk about Kevin and Brick Road. The first I found depressing, the second dull as ditchwater. Have you read the Twilight series yet? Fantastic.

Gosh ... so much to comment on!!! I LOVED Gilead and Home but was a little less entusiastic about Housekeeping although I am TOTALLY with you on the much overrated Captain Correlli and with Rebecca on The Time Traveller's Wife which I only completed because I was in Sicily in the rain and had exhausted all other reading matter! (Her Fearful Symmetry is much better .... but maybe I'm biased because it's set in my neighbourhood ...)Have never read The Lovely Bones: just don't fancy it.

I WAS a member of The Puffin Club!!!! I wonder whether my badge is still at my parents' house???

I think you've probably cooked more of the Hummingbird recipes than I have but I do remember a particularly fraught afternoon last October when Jessy and her friend decided to bake a cake for a friend's birthday and it was one of the most peculiar recipes/ methods I've ever seen... I remember a sort of frantic bubbling ....

I did belong to the Puffin Club...still have the badge too! If I recall there was a page at the end of each Puffin book with details of how to join. One received Puffin Post, a magazine,several times a year. The sort of magazine one wishes was still available for middle school children.
I look forward to reading the Kaye Webb biography.
Ditto above about Captain Corelli, skip or skim the first 100 pages. I did read it all, but whilst on a boat in the Ionian Sea,Kephalonia within sight,
that helped me get into the book too.

Ooh, it's not just me. There's definitely an element of The Emperor's New Clothes about some books, don't you think? I couldn't get on with Captain Corelli, or Gilead, and I haven't even attempted The Lovely Bones. Perhaps we need a secret handshake? In fact I think we all ought to leave our cares behind and meet you in Helsinki. I've always wanted to go there, and I'm sure my children wouldn't notice if I just popped out for a weekend!

I love the question of raved about books which leave you cold.

My biggest, recently was The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. I read the whole thing and I was disgusted that I wasted my time. I've never been able to finish a Marilynne Robinson book, though I did read the Lovely Bones and enjoyed it. The Time Traveler's Wife--I wondered what the big deal was.

Heresy of heresies: what is the big deal about Diana Gabaldon books? I can't get into them.

I loved The Time Traveller's Wife, but found her next book Her Fearful Symmetry unable to get into. Interestingly, it seems most people like the first but not the second; if you feel your reading likes are often the opposite to other peoples, perhaps you would like the second but not the first?!

I couldn't get going on either Captain Corelli's Mandolin or The Time Traveler's Wife when I tried to read them, but loved them both as audiobooks. The others just don't appeal to me. I just read Niffeneggers' Fearful Symmetry and I must say that plot really has stuck with me.

Clearly, it's a case of to each his own.
Reading Gilead and Housekeeping was like eating the next day what you hadn't managed from last night's dinner, cold and congealed.
I felt the same way about Perfume, by Susskind, another of those books people rave about.

Alicia: Gabaldon is not even worth attempting,. There's a truly shocking scene in one of her appalling tomes where the hero beats his wife almost to the point of coma, and later she thanks him (for pulling her into line). Grrrrrrr...

Couldn't finish Housekeeping but adored Gilead -- read it twice, and will read it again some time, sort of like my old standbys I read once a year, for comfort.

I just saw a "new" craft that I'm mad to try. (Browsing magazines at the book store.) Weaving with torn strips of fabric, an inch or so wide. Then quilting with colorful thread. For the 30 minute drive home I occupied my mind planning to tear (literally) into some Kaffe Fassett fabric and make blocks... how to quilt them? Should I just use flannel and a back? how big? It would use a LOT of fabric but maybe a baby blanket? What possibilities!

Everyone it seems, loved The Lovely Bones, and I finished it and detested it the entire way through. It made me feel sick, and at the end I thought, "What IS all the fuss about??"

I do love history and last week I sat down in a bookstore and picked up a book about American history in between when Columbus landed, and when the pilgrims arrived. I read the introduction, and then realized that I had picked up this book before, and only read the introduction and not bought it.

Either the cover art was really intriguing, or I'm going senile at the age of 25. Either way, that too was a book that left me cold.

Have read *one* Diana Gabaldon book and didn't like it; took the others back to the library, unopened. Can't seem to finish "The Hitchhiker's Guide", (although I've gotten pretty good at 'not panic'-ing). Have read the first two "Twilight" books and think she has promise as a writer, and that there are flashes of brilliance, but I just want to pinch Bella's head off, and Edward leaves me cold. Jacob, however, seems to have his head on straight, and both feet on the ground. I thought "The Time Traveller's Wife" was better-than-OK. I tried to read "Ulysses" when I was younger; ditto "The Count of Monte Cristo" a few years ago.

"Housekeeping" is disturbing and unsettling, not a joyride book, but the language is so beautiful that I loved it. Oddly though, I can't get going on "The Lacuna", and Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favorite authors. Maybe it's a matter of timing -- books need to match the mood?

I loved Housekeeping, but could only cope with it in small doses at a time like a very rich meal, the prose is so dense. Captain Corelli was fantastic after I realised the first few pages were what were putting me off, but I wasn`t keen on The Lovely Bones, and didn`t finish it.
I too seemed to make all the recipes in the Hummingbird Bakery Book which had the errors in, and then found the corrections on line, but the red velvet cupcakes tasted really wierd even with the corrections as the amount of red food colouring was enormous, and had a very distinct flavour of its own. The cupcake in the photo looks delicious.

Hello Jane,
I loved being reminded about the Puffin Club - I'm sure we are of an age, so I don't know how you missed it either! I remember finding it about as exciting as things ever got - although to be honest, apart from the badge and some sticky labels that you could put in the front cover of your puffin books I can't remember that anything of note ever happened. I know it made me feel incredibly grown up though!
I just bought the Hummingbird cookbook - thanks for the warning about the mistakes. I shall see if the publisher has a list of them somewhere. The cakes in it certainly look yummy.
By the way, I struggled with Captain Corelli too!
best wishes, Helen

Hello Jane,
I haven't been to Helsinki for quite a few years but when I was there I had a really relaxing time and particularly enjoyed... the Zoo which is on an island, you have to take a boat out to it; a flea market where I picked up a great tablecloth and some 1950s china (think it was early on a sunday morning); the marimekko store (regret not buying more fabric); and a trip out to the house-museum of the artist Gallen-Kallela -you take a tram and then its a lovely walk through a park by the bay. Also visit Helsinki railway station as its an amazing piece of architecture.

I seem to recall that the Puffin Club cost ten shillings to join...the sort of money I only saw on my birthday, usually stuck down as stickers in a Booktoken card! Oh the joy of a booktoken and the possibilities of just what to choose...Gill.

I haven't heard of One Day, but I am with you on the other two! Thank goodness I'm not alone!

Waiting to get my paws on your first book...
Alas, the woes of waiting for our Aussie library system... It's either that or special order online and vicious shipping fees. Sigh.

Warm wishes from Down Under

I loved Captain Correlli's Mandolin - it captivated me from page 1 when the doctor removed the pea from the chaps ear who had been deaf since a boy. The Lovely Bones never appealed.

I have tried to read Captain Corelli so many times and each time I have never got past the third page. So I am with you there! I don't get David Nicholls either - he's overhyped and a bit pseudo intellectual for my liking!
I am so interested by that Kaye Webb article - I never heard of the Puffin Club before but I am now intrigued!

I'm so glad it's not just me who has found the Hummingbird recipes full of errors! A book full of the promise of lovely cakes which nearly always disappoint. Good old Mary Berry recipes always seem to work however!
My daughter is doing GCSE Art but unfortunately there has been a change of teacher, she has gone from being inspired, happy and full of confience and ideas to uninspired and lacking in confidence in one term. Why is it that art teachers in particular can have these dramatically different effects?

I am glad you have tidied your loose ends!
It's wonderful how we all differ so much, and novels show this so well! I loved the Lovely Bones! One of the best books I have read in a long time was David Mitchells Cloud Atlas - I have not found anyone yet who has read and enjoyed it!


I did like Lovely Bones (and everything else she's written, though they are heavy) but couldn't begin to get into Captain Corelli and his bloody mandolin. I loved Time Traveller's Wife though (even the film wasn't tooooo bad!). Just as well we're all different, eh?

Dear Jane

I have long loved your blog and books and recently relished the floral still-life fashioned by Tom.

I agree with you about the marvels of art: if you'd like a daily dose of something beautiful from the National Gallery of Art here in Washington DC (set in accessible and topical contexts), then check out my year-long blog project Art 2010 here http://www.headforart.com/.

And let me know if ever you're on the East Coast!


I was a member of the Puffin Club and still have my pink folders with some of the magazines. Best thing they have resurrected it and my youngest daughter is now a member and loves it especially the free book every issue (not something I got in my day). As for books give me Miss Read or E M Delafield any day. (or most of the Persephone catalogue)

I can't stand The Lovely Bones. Any book that starts with a rape is pretty much out the window.


The Lovely Bones is one of the few books I've thrown away straight after reading it

My literary failures include: Cap Corelli and his Mandolin, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Miss Smilla's something or other about snow, the list goes on....perhaps the world is divided into people who are compelled to finish novels...I'm afraid life is too short to read something that I don't like....no matter how worthy or trendy or 'must read'.

Hm, I couldn't get through Captain Corelli either. And as for The Lovely Bones - I did finish it, I thought it began well, and I liked the premise of a murdered girl narrating, BUT, oh! I thought it disintegrated rapidly and was chaotic and unfocused and had a lot of padding to bump up the word count that neither added to the plot or character development. It needed a few hefty re-writes to get it into shape.
Yes, the cupcake looks delish!

You've made me feel so much better ... I'm struggling through Housekeeping and thought it was just me. I'm glad it isn't. I might even stop trying now. It's one of those books I keep putting off reading, which is no way to finish it! I might just give up now I know I'm not alone
Can't believe you missed out on the Puffin Club though!

The Puffin Club was brilliant. They used to have conventions in the Commonwealth Institute. I can remember a Helen Cresswell book signing and watching the 1970's Lorna Doon film.

They have started a new puffin book club, but sadly I think it is more about selling books than just loving books.

I live in Helsinki and would love to meet you!

After following your blog for quite a while it would be great and kind of surreal too.

I do know the cafes of Helsinki and one or two things about the history of Finland. You know lots about knitting and quilting so it would be perfect match, I suppose ;)

Welcome to Finland!

ps. Kath, I have read and enjoyed Cloud Atlas, it was magnificent!

Hurrrrraaaaah. One of my favourite inspiring people ie you Jane, is a mancunian. I would never have guessed but am not surprised as there seems to be something in the air up north.
Posting this all the way from sydney where I'm temporarily based. Regards, heather
ps. I remember puffin club.

Your vibrant quilts were a feast for the eyes on a miserable wet evening in Bristol. And there goes another stereotype.

Thanks for coming to speak to us and inspiring us to give quilting a go.

Oh, and I did persist with Captain Correlli, but was so bitterly disappointed with the ending that I wished I hadn't bothered.

Life of Pi = Zzzzzzzzzzz

A Reliable Wife: By the end of the book I wanted all the characters to be killed off becauce I found them so ridiculous!

Hi Jane,
I am sitting browsing through my new copy of "The Gentle art of Quilt-Making". Ooohh so wonderful. Congratulations!

Bill Forsyth of Local Hero and Gregory's Girl made an utterly fabulous adapation of Housekeeping as a film - its wonderful dreamy and really worth searching out

I just snorted my tea through my nose giggling at your list of books. Mine is the same, but I would add Water for Elephants to it. I just couldn't get into it.
I'm sure Helsinki will be glorious!

Ah! Captain Correlli - hmm something to do with meeting it on a GCSE paper put me off that one... am I allowed to admit to a no go with 'Harry Potter' since we're all confessing here?

Thank-you Jane, once again you have brought back such happy memories for me. I was a proud member of the puffin club too, I think my badge is somewhere in the bottom of a drawer...

You are such an inspiration! Beautiful words and photos.
PS: As hard as I try, I can never finish 100 years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

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