Floremolla gets real with ROOTing goals

Discussão2021 ROOT CHALLENGE

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Floremolla gets real with ROOTing goals

Editado: Dez 31, 2021, 12:37 pm

Back for a fifth year of reading my own tomes. Previous efforts here:


Being a bit less ambitious this year with a goal of 40. Lost track of updating my catalogue last year, so will have to work out stats at some point. And reading priorities.

For this year, ROOTs are books acquired before 1 January 2021. Also included are books loaned to me gifted to me or left in my home by other people - plus books used for coursework!

Editado: Jan 8, 2022, 4:02 pm


1. Sugar Money by Jane Harris (paperback) 387pp 22.02.21
2. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett, (audiobook) 24.02.21
3. Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell, (audiobook) 28.02.21
4. Motherwell by Deborah Orr, hardback, 294pp 31.02.21
5. Milkman by Anna Burns, (audiobook) 03.02.21
6. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke 10.02.21
7. Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell (audiobook) 15.02.21
8. The Confession by Jessie Burton 26.02.21
9. The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy, (audiobook) 14.03.21
10. The Mercies by Koran Millwood Hargrave (audiobook) 20.03.21
11. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters 18.04.21
12. The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst (audiobook) 05.05.21
13. Redemption Falls by Joseph O'Connor 30.05.21
14. A Little Life by Tanya Yaraghara (audiobook and paperback) 24.06.21
15. Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver (audiobook) 08.07.21
16. Mayflies by Andrew O'Hagan 28.07.21
17. Machines Like Me (audiobook and hardback)by Ian McEwan 13.08.21
18. The Mirror and the Light (audiobook) by Hilary Mantel 03.09.21
19. The Dreams of Bethany Mellmoth by William Boyd (audiobook and paperback) 10.09.21
20. Sweet Caress by William Boyd (audiobook and paperback) 23.09.21
21. Transcription by Kate Atkinson (audiobook) 01.10.21
22. The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber (audiobook) 12.10.21
23. Autumn by Ali Smith (audiobook and hardback) 18.10.21
24. Winter by Ali Smith (audiobook) 10.12.21
25. The Nose by Gogol 15.12.21
26. The Wonderful O by James Thurber 16.12.21
27. The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes (audiobook) 22.12.21
28. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy (audiobook and paperback) 27.12.21
29. Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams (audiobook) 31.12.21
30. Little Dorrit (audiobook) March/April 2022

Non Fiction
1. The Essential Garden Design Workbook by Rosemary Alexander and Rachel Myers
2. Landscape Graphics: Revised Edition by Grant W Reid
3. Plan Graphics for the Landscape Designer by Tony Bertauski
4. John Brookes Garden Design: The Complete Practical Guide to Planning, Styling and Planting Any Garden by John Brookes
5. Earthly Paradises by Maureen Carroll
6. Green: Simple Ideas for Small Outdoor Spaces by Ula Maria
7. How to Design a Garden edited by Gwendolyn van Passchen
8. RHS How to Plant a Garden by Matt James
9. The Front Garden by Mary Riley Smith
10. A Small Garden Designer's Handbook by Roy Strong
11. Uncommon Ground by Dominick Tyler

Editado: Dez 31, 2020, 8:49 pm


Dez 31, 2020, 5:32 pm


Dez 31, 2020, 6:44 pm

Happy new year, Donna - here's hoping for a better 2021 for all of us.

Dez 31, 2020, 11:09 pm

Yay, Donna’s here! Wishing you all the best for the year ahead.

Jan 1, 2021, 3:54 am

Happy ROOTing in 2021, Donna!

Jan 1, 2021, 5:16 am

Hi Donna, good to see you back again for a new year of reading. Happy ROOTing.

Jan 1, 2021, 5:27 am

Thank you, >5 Jackie_K:, >6 rabbitprincess: and >7 FAMeulstee:! Off to a good start here with a beautiful day and some choice reading to get my teeth into.

Jan 1, 2021, 5:40 am

>8 connie53: thanks, Connie!

Look forward to following what you’re all reading. I’ve missed the BBs this year so didn’t do my customary ‘last book-shopping before the year-end’ where I contrive to get shiny new books on the ROOT pile. Maybe a good thing though, if it’ll focus me on the Deepest, Scariest ROOTs ;)

Jan 1, 2021, 6:08 am

>10 floremolla: I know that feeling. Have a happy and healthy year of ROOTing.

Jan 1, 2021, 1:02 pm

Hi Donna, and Happy New Year!

Jan 1, 2021, 7:07 pm

>11 Robertgreaves: thanks, Robert!

>12 karenmarie: thanks, Karen!

Jan 2, 2021, 3:44 pm

Glad you're back!

Jan 2, 2021, 3:51 pm

>14 cyderry: thanks, Chèli!

Jan 3, 2021, 3:12 pm

>10 floremolla: my customary ‘last book-shopping before the year-end’ where I contrive to get shiny new books on the ROOT pile
HAHA me too, and I did do some of it in December :) Looking forward to following your ROOTing!

Jan 3, 2021, 3:56 pm

>16 detailmuse: Thanks, MJ!

Must confess, although I didn't buy many books last year, I did succumb to Audible's £3 per book offer in December, over and above my monthly subscription download. I'm usually very circumspect with my Audible choices and like to maximise value for money by getting lengthy volumes, but the daily news reports were full of depressing stuff, so I deliberately chose for enjoyment this time!

Jan 4, 2021, 12:37 am

Happy new year, Donna!

Jan 5, 2021, 9:21 am

Welcome back, Donna! Happy reading, and hopefully we'll be able to indulge in actually visiting bookstores again soon.

Jan 5, 2021, 6:23 pm

Happy new year, Donna! Good luck reaching your goal this year.

Jan 8, 2021, 10:00 am

>18 curioussquared:, >19 MissWatson:, >20 Carmenere: - thank you so much for your warm words, and my best wishes to you too! Looking forward to reading with you and following your progress this year.

Jan 31, 2021, 9:12 am

January reads:

Sugar Money by Jane Harris

On the French Caribbean island of Martinique, in 1765, two slave brothers are tasked with a mission by their master, Father Cléophas - to journey to the island of Grenada and smuggle back some 42 slaves, stolen by the English to work on a hospital plantation. Lucien is just fourteen, quick-witted and keen for adventure. Emile is much older, has fought and distinguished himself in the French army, and has a personal interest in bringing back Céleste, his first love.

Before I started this book, which I’d looked forward to, having enjoyed Harris’ previous two novels, I made the mistake of reading a scathing review. The reviewer, a Scots-Ghanaian, was angry that Harris - a white, Scotswoman - had written the book, which is told from the point of view of Lucien, a mulatto boy. The cultural appropriation accusation hung over my reading like a cloud. The book had been published in 2017 but of course we see things differently since the events of summer 2020. To compound matters, Harris had research funding support from the British Council and Glasgow Libraries, given that the book exposes the roles of Scots merchants, slave owners and military in the trading and oppression of black people. So did this mean cultural appropriation AND institutional racism?

I’m not sure to what extent this impacted on my appreciation (enjoyment isn’t the correct word, given the accounts of brutality meted out to slaves) of the book. I’d also had news of an old friend, terminally ill in hospital, so was finding the very act of reading quite difficult. In any event, I failed to engage fully with the characters or the storyline. I persevered and could see that Harris had done a lot of research, and felt I’d learned a bit of history that I hadn’t been aware of previously. There was a rather clumsy epilogue, explaining how the writings of an eighteenth-century slave boy had been preserved for posterity after abolition, but I liked that it continued the story of the main characters, so that the reader knew what became of them. The book was short-listed for various awards, including the Walter Scott Prize; I felt it just scraped three and a half stars.

Jan 31, 2021, 9:13 am

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

Growing up in the impressive Pennsylvanian edifice that was known as The Dutch House was a mixed blessing for Maeve and Danny, who we first meet as children in the fifties. By this time their mother is no longer in their lives and much to their surprise their father brings home, and eventually marries, Andrea, who has two girls of her own. When their father dies, Andrea loses no time in ejecting teenaged Danny from the house (Maeve has already moved out owing to tensions with her father and stepmother. Andrea contrives to ensure Maeve and Danny receive no inheritance and resents any obligation to support Danny through university. In the decades that follow, the brother and sister meet to watch The Dutch House covertly and through the narrator, Danny, we learn how their lives evolve, and what became of their mother.

I had difficulty getting into this book. Again, I failed to engage with the characters and found the storyline not-quite-convincing. I also really disliked the narration by Tom Hanks who sounded at first as if he was trying to race through it, frequently with intonation inappropriate for the words he was reading. The narration improved as it went on and I realised he was much better when performing the dialogue-heavy parts of the book, and at some point (unnoticed by me) his reading became more fluid and properly nuanced (to my ears, I hasten to add - I know he has many fans of his acting, but I’m not one). Similarly I began to enjoy the book a bit more, although I felt there was a slump in narrative impetus in the long period between Danny leaving The Dutch House and the revelations that came about three-quarters of the way through. The Maeve/Danny dynamic just wasn’t interesting enough for me without there being a third person - a more compelling character - in the mix. Three and a half stars.

Jan 31, 2021, 9:13 am

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Hamnet is a fictionalised account of a period in the life of William Shakespeare, in the late 1500s. It focuses on the death of one of his children from bubonic plague, but alternates with the story of his meeting and marrying his wife and eventually to entering the world of theatre.

I thought this novel started promisingly, with young Hamnet discovering his sister Judith suffering from fever, and no adults at home to help him. The tensions within the Shakespeare family correlated with what I already knew about the writer’s relationship with his shyster father. But my enjoyment was short-lived. Anne Hathaway is reinterpreted as ‘Agnes’, a kind of shaman/earth-mother, whose constant foraging for herbs, and attempting to see the future, I found tiresome. And Will himself seemed lacking in any depth of character, or any sense of him having the talents of a writer and thinker, until almost the end of the book. I did learn some interesting things about the bubonic plague and life in 16th century Warwickshire, but couldn’t shake off the feeling this speculative fiction was a pale imitation of Hilary Mantel’s approach to Thomas Cromwell and the court of Henry VIII. Clearly my impression of the book was out of step with the literati as it performed very well in the 2020 literature awards. The audiobook was ably read by Daisy Donovan, although I sometimes found her accent confusing (eg ‘person’ pronounced as ‘parson’). The account of grief on the death of the child was quite affecting, hence three stars.

Editado: Jan 31, 2021, 9:39 am

Motherwell by Deborah Orr

Award-winning Scottish journalist Deborah Orr’s memoir of a life growing up in industrial/post-industrial Lanarkshire was bound to ‘speak to me’ in some way. I expected a kind of misery-lit but instead I found it a surprisingly well informed account of the political climate and social mores of the town of Motherwell and its hinterland - especially given she left for London on graduating from university, never to return to live there.

I always take with a pinch of salt the ability of a writer to recall with detail and clarity what happened to them at a very young age - my own memory for childhood events is abysmal. But while she and I lived our early years contemporaneously (she was just three years younger than I) in similar environments, with similar cultural influences, she had the misfortune to have a toxic relationship with her mother, Win, that permeated the rest of her life. The instances of Win’s undermining of her daughter are not told in a ‘poor me’ way, but rather they unfold in the context of her story, and when Win unleashes her tongue, either in full blown rant, or in snide remark, it’s brutal and shocking. 'No filter' we'd say, nowadays.

While not making excuses for Win’s behaviour, Orr tries to understand the forces that propelled her mother: the family she had come from, her relationship with her husband John, her preference for her son, her valuing of femininity, her Calvinistic approach to anything connected with sex, and her perennial fear of ‘what other people would think’. This clinging to old ideals and revering men, while putting down women, in an era when feminism was on the rise and boundaries were being redrawn, caused her daughter to keep secrets throughout her life, and live with shame and self-loathing. Orr relates some heinous sexual assaults she experienced during her university years, but never sensationalises or tries to wring emotion from the reader; in her low self-esteem she just found her own behaviour wanting.

In her fifties, with her parents both dead and an unfulfilling marriage (to the writer Will Self) ended, she demonstrates an admirable self-knowledge and understanding of the psychology of the people who were closest to her. Sadly she died in 2019 and didn’t get the chance to fully explore her new-found self-acceptance. Well-written and interesting, four stars.

Jan 31, 2021, 9:36 am

The trouble with poly-reading is that you spend a long time making no perceptible progress, then suddenly you've several books finished at once.

I was finding it difficult to focus, not just because of the latest lockdown and dreadful circumstances, but I lost an old and dear friend, suddenly, after a short illness, in mid-January - ironically, the very person who'd recommended LibraryThing to me as something I might enjoy. One of many things I'll remember him for.

Currently reading The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters, whose previous books I've enjoyed, and Milkman on audiobook, read by the author, Anna Burns. Both are highly engrossing so far, so, fingers crossed, I'm over the reading slump. And the first signs of Spring are here; with the first shoots of snowdrops and lengthening days, there is much to be thankful for.

Jan 31, 2021, 10:13 am

>26 floremolla: I'm sorry for the loss of your friend. Any loss in these circumstances is especially painful, and sudden losses even more so. Hoping this corner of LT can be of cheer to you in these trying times.

Jan 31, 2021, 10:47 am

>26 floremolla: I'm so sorry for your loss, which must be heightened in these weird times. I hope that the return of your reading mojo provides some comfort, and like >27 rabbitprincess: I hope we can be here for you too and give you some respite.

Jan 31, 2021, 2:42 pm

>26 floremolla: I, too, am very sorry for your loss and hope that we can be of some comfort in these trying times.

I just finished Milkman recently and found it very engaging (though disconcerting) as well. Let's hope it helps break you out of the slump.

Jan 31, 2021, 6:57 pm

>27 rabbitprincess:, >28 Jackie_K:, >29 Caramellunacy: thank you all very much. I’m actually feeling fine and quite motivated to seize the day - limited though the options are at present.

Looking forward to a wee jaunt around the threads tomorrow to see who’s reading what :)

Fev 1, 2021, 3:53 am

I'm so sorry for your loss, Donna.

>26 floremolla: I agree with you on the poly-reading. I have one tree-book and one e-book going simultaneous. And I switch from one to the other according to reading conditions. Since I don't travel anymore I tend to read a tree-book more then my e-book. But now I have an interesting e-book going on. And are concentrating on Het boek van vergeten woorden because I like it so much.

Fev 1, 2021, 4:24 am

I'm so sorry to hear of your loss, Donna. I hope the coming spring offers comfort.
Thanks for the reviews, I was very interested to see your comments on Hamnet.

Fev 2, 2021, 5:56 pm

Donna, I'm so sorry about the loss of your friend.

And spring?! happy for you! We just got more snow than in the past few years :( I've been getting outdoor/backyard haircuts from my stylist ... I'm four months in on this cut/color with little hope in sight :0

>29 Caramellunacy: a BB from your thread so happy to see Donna reading it (on audio!) too!

Fev 2, 2021, 6:33 pm

>31 connie53:, >32 MissWatson:, >33 detailmuse: thank you all, most kind.

The weather has reverted to sleet/snow but I’ve definitely found my reading groove again. The Paying Guests is building up nicely, and I’ve finished Milkman. Next up on audiobook is The Line Of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst.

Editado: Fev 3, 2021, 6:51 am

Milkman by Anna Burns

An 18 year old girl in Northern Ireland, during the Troubles, relates a period when she was rumoured to be having an affair with an older man, ‘Milkman’, and how the ramifications of the rumour meant that ultimately she had no choice in the matter. Milkman is a violent and creepy individual, with the weight of paramilitary aggression behind him, and he makes it clear he will kill the girl’s boyfriend if she doesn’t comply.

This is the first audiobook I’ve listened to in a while that I couldn’t switch off. Anna Burns’ narration hooked me in from the start, sounding as she did, uncannily like an 18 year old girl; intelligent, an avid reader of 19th century novels, but struggling to negotiate the tinder-box social and political mores of the community in which she lives. Because the opinion of the community is EVERYTHING and one must be seen not to be in alignment with the social and political mores of the communities ‘across the road’ or ‘across the water’: it decides whether your name is acceptable (no Nigels or Percivals here), who should be ostracised, and whether your behaviour falls within the category of ‘acceptable mental aberration’ or ‘beyond the pale’.

Our heroine is considered ‘beyond the pale’ because of her habit of reading 19th century novels while walking, a trait that could be interpreted as burying her head in literature so as not to have to deal with the political and social realities. But despite her young age she is, like everyone else, hyper-aware of the forces around her, the community’s rules permeating its members as if part of their genetic code.

The novel is notable for its stream-of-consciousness style, the fact that none of the characters is named or described physically, and the different factions are referred to obliquely - and yet we know very quickly which side of the divide the girl is on.

Having been brought up as Catholic in the west of Scotland, which is physically a short hop from Northern Ireland, and rife with sectarianism itself, there was much in the novel that didn’t surprise me. And yet I’d never appreciated the all-pervasive depth of its impact on the people of NI, on a social and cultural level.

Despite the setting and the violence portrayed, there is a rich seam of humour throughout the novel, the characterisation is superb (loved 'the wee girls' and 'third brother-in-law') and the plot is excellently developed with twists, both serious and amusing (such as why was Milkman so called?). Easily five stars, and I’ll be acquiring a paper copy to read, the better to savour the writing and those golden nuggets of observation.

Fev 4, 2021, 5:12 am

>35 floremolla: Thanks for the review, Donna. I need to move this closer to the top of the TBR.

Fev 12, 2021, 10:20 am

>35 floremolla: Beautiful. You've made me decide this is a must-read.

Fev 12, 2021, 8:43 pm

>26 floremolla: belated condolences on your loss, Donna. Glad to hear that reading is becoming more of a comfort again.

Fev 28, 2021, 6:31 pm

>36 MissWatson:, >37 detailmuse: hope you enjoy Milkman as much as I did!

Thank you, >38 Robertgreaves:. There’s always comfort in reading once the sense of distraction calms down.

Editado: Fev 28, 2021, 7:02 pm

Four books completed this month, one of which I’ve reviewed; I’ll give my tuppence-worth on the others shortly.

The recent spring weather has been a boon - much time spent walking and gardening, which boosts the spirits no end :)

Mar 2, 2021, 10:15 am

Hi Donna!

>23 floremolla: I was supposed to read this for my RL book club, but we haven’t met since last March, too many of us don’t have adequate wifi for Zoom or other video conferencing apps, and I haven’t read enough enthusiasm about it to read it.

>26 floremolla: I’m so sorry to hear about your friend. I’m glad she recommended LT to you.

Ever since joining LT I have been slowly increasing the number of books I juggle at the same time and really need to cut back to 2 fiction and 1 or 2 nonfiction.

>40 floremolla: Congrats on four books completed in February and I’m glad spring weather has helped boost your spirits.

Mar 2, 2021, 2:42 pm

>41 karenmarie: I've been juggling lots of books too, and by the end of last year realised I was reading too many at once and just finding it stressful. So I'm actively trying to slow down a bit. I still have 3 or 4 on the go, but no more!

Editado: Mar 5, 2021, 4:48 am

Hi Donna,

>42 Jackie_K: I had the same problem. I now have it reduced to 1 tree-book and one on my Kobo reader.

Mar 5, 2021, 6:51 am

Hi Donna, just catching up a bit here. You've read some great ROOTs this year and your reviews are terrific!
Hope all's well in your corner of the world

Mar 31, 2021, 1:19 pm

Hi Donna, just wanted to say hi, hope all's well with you!

Abr 3, 2021, 5:58 am

Hi Donna. Happy Easter! I hope all is fine!

Abr 3, 2021, 8:22 am

Like your other visitors, just a quick hello. I hope you're doing well.

Ago 5, 2021, 5:39 pm

I hope that everything is okay, Donna.

Ago 5, 2021, 7:13 pm

Echoing >48 Familyhistorian: and hoping all is well!

Ago 6, 2021, 9:40 am

Yes, here too!

Ago 14, 2021, 4:19 am

I hope you are doing fine, Donna!

Dez 31, 2021, 4:34 pm

Sorry I didn't check in much during 2021. I took a little detour in March when I signed up for an online post-grad diploma in garden design. Hadn't anticipated it would involve so much work, not least having to get myself up to date with basic things like formatting documents for submission. A lot of time spent on webinars, reading coursework resources and recommended tomes, research visits to open gardens through the Scotlands Garden scheme....and sometimes working in my own garden.

On the fiction front, I was thankful for audiobooks keeping my reading ticking over, and the odd holiday (in Scotland) where I got time to indulge in physical books.

Also thankful that all's well with my family and friends and hopeful that 2022 is going to bring a bit more social interaction. I hope the same is true for fellow Rooters.

I know I keep saying I'll catch up with threads and get back to posting. I shall start by making my 2022 thread - though every year I don't quite recall how to do it - see you on the other side!

Dez 31, 2021, 4:53 pm

Good to see you, Donna, it sounds like you've been very busy! I hope that in spite of the hard work you are getting a ton of enjoyment from your course!

Dez 31, 2021, 5:25 pm

Thanks Jackie - yes, I'm quite immersed in the course now and boring for Britain on garden related topics ;)

Dez 31, 2021, 6:22 pm

Good to see you back, Donna. That sounds like a very ambitious diploma and how nice that it involved visiting gardens! I know how course work can take over since I started a writing course in September of 2020.

All the best for the New Year!

Jan 1, 2022, 8:16 am

Hi Donna, glad to see you back. I'm so happy you found a subject you are passionate about. See you in the 2022 group!