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Amaryllis on a Ramble

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I have just had a lovely walk with J and F around the neighbourhood, chatting about this and that… One tricky moment when J seemed about to buy up the entire stock of a shirt stall but we managed to talk her through this particular shopaholic episode and tranquillity was restored.
Then I returned to the shop to find boxes of Ottolenghi cakes on the counter courtesy of our very dear CWD. Cake heaven in the form of cheesecakes, meringues, lemon tarts and raspberry roll. I think a picture of the ravaged remains will soon feature on Instagram…
This week in our Classics book group we discussed The Good Soldier by Ford Maddox Ford. It opens with the bold, declamatory statement that ‘this is the saddest story that I have ever heard’. Which led me to pondering the word sad and how it differs from tragic. It feels less noble, less catastrophic in worldly terms, the fault of our petty whims and fallibilities rather than the rage of the gods. Let’s face it, describing King Lear or Hamlet as the sad play doesn’t quite have the same effect… Sad is one of those generic words like good, poor and nice whose meaning depends on the tone of voice using it. My children often use the word sad in connection with things I am most enthusiastic or horrified about… In this case, I think it means pathetic and actually this is one of the meanings given by the Oxford Dictionary so they are quite correct in their usage. Obviously Ford uses these words deliberately to obfuscate and undermine the truth of the narrative given by his unreliable narrator. Anyway we had a really good discussion with widely varying views of said narrator from comic to bumbling to murderous!
Obfuscate is a very good word which was brought to my attention by the other book read for book group this week: Staying On by Paul Scott. This is a marvellous and very moving book covering life in 1970s India for a couple who stayed on after Independence. It reduced several of our members to tears. I didn’t cry but I did have tears in my eyes when watching Goodbye Christopher Robin but I don’t think it was sad or tragic, perhaps unhappy. But anything to do with children and, even worse, animals is a guaranteed lump in the throat: Watership Down, Lassie films, Black Beauty and I never got to the end of Tarka the Otter once I realised that he was going to be pulled apart by dogs!
The other great book that I read this week is the new book by the Costa winning children’s author, Frances Hardinge. A Skinful of Shadows combines a historical setting of the Civil War with ghostly elements and a gutsy female protagonist to create a unique and thrilling story. I am also so excited about the fifth and final Lockwood book…/p>

About Amaryllis


Amaryllis is our bookshop blogger.


Her pen name is taken from Alice Thomas Ellis’ Other Side of the Fire, which is unfortunately and scandalously out of print. One of the funniest bits in the book is the bodice-ripper that one of the characters is writing and the female - who slays the men with one toss of her raven locks and one glance from her fiery green eyes as she strides among the glens, faithful wolfhound by her side - is Amaryllis! And the name just seemed to suit so here we are.

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