Recently I brought a load of books to keep me occupied over the Christmas period. One of them was this beauty of a book by Adelle Stripe. Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile tells the story of Bradford playwright Andrea Dunbar. Andrea Dunbar grew up in extreme poverty on the Buttershaw Estate an estate in Bradford, Yorkshire. The book is interesting because it is a fictional story based on Andrea’s life events. I had to admit after reading the book I googled to find out more information as it wasn’t clear to me if Andrea had been a real writer or not. Looking back at the book for writing this review it does say that it is a work of fiction and ‘an alternative version of historic events’.
The story is gritty, Andrea had gone through some real hardship, falling pregnant young and then miscarrying, living with an abusive partner and then moving to a safe house, her unhealthy relationship with alcohol and poverty. her playwriting comes in when her teacher at school picks up the fact that she has a talent for writing. This leads to her writing The Arbor which was performed at the Royal Court Theatre in London in 1980. Rita, Sue and Bob too is the play which is she is well known for, debuted in 1982 tells the story of two women who have an affair with a married man. Her final play Shirley is about Shirley and her family and friends in an working class estate in Bradford in the 1980’s.
The book keeps you gripped throughout, at times the book makes you want to throttle Andrea as it seems that she is passing over opportunities at almost an act of self-sabotage.
I hadn’t heard of Andrea Dunbar before the book and I hadn’t heard of her screenplays before (it was in the 1980’s so before my time!) but I certainly want to read them. An extraordinary story about an extraordinary woman who managed to achieve her dream against every worse scenario possible.
Author: Helen Russell
Publish Date: 2015
Genre: Non- fiction
Journalist Helen Russell just a year ago was living in London working in an extremely stressful job when her husband gets the opportunity to work at Lego for a year. Not being sure at first Helen does some research and finds that Denmark is one of the most happiest countries on the planet and she is intrigued why. Helen’s Danish journey is set out in 13 stages that follow the months of the year and an extra chapter called Christmas (the layout reminded me of Gretchen Rubins books). Throughout, the book is littered with quotes from specialists in Denmark ranging from culture to health and her journey of adjusting to a new culture and all the crazy traditions that come with it.
So what is so different about Denmark than the UK that makes them happier? What I found interesting was that Danes as a whole prefer paying high taxes because they know that one day they will need either the health service or education and have faith that their taxes will be spent wisely. Danes also value family time, in winter whole towns shut down as they prefer to stay in with lots of candles lit. Danes have a good work culture as well as it is mainly 8am- 4pm (Helen was shocked to find her husband back before five some days) and also father’s are given long paternity leave and that working very late is viewed as a negative as it is showing you cannot get your work done within the allotted time.
Danish people as a whole and this is what I think and what Helen thought underpinned their happiness was the level of trust Danes had for each other. The trust that Danes had in the state and their politicians was high (unlike the UK) and the level of trust for each other meant that people were happy to leave their children in prams outside the shops! What I also loved and picked up in the book about the Danish is that traditions are valued. I feel that in the UK sometimes we don’t value our traditions as we should or we have to be apologetic all the time for being British. Whereas the Danes just don’t care they will set fire to things and throw plates at houses to greet the new year in because they can.
So what did I think of the book? Overall I enjoyed the book, it really gave me an insight to Danish culture in a candid and fun way from someone who has experienced it first hand. At times, I was starting to find it boring and was ready for the book to finish. Nonetheless if you are interested in Scandinavian culture this book is worth buying.
Author: Jane Elmor
Publish Date: 2009
The story starts with Luna, a thirty something free-spirited artist, who after going to her father’s funeral wants to understand why her mother, Angie, left him behind. In addition, Luna starts to question the decisions she has made regarding her lifestyle (living the dream as an artist but struggling to make ends meet and actively choosing not to have children) which is the defining theme in the book. As the story develops we see the reason why Angie left Dave, learn about her life on a welsh commune, Luna questioning herself as a woman and we are introduced to a young mother Nat. Nat is trying to build a good life for her children despite the fact she is a young mother who mixes with the wrong crowd. The story is told from three angles, Luna in the present, Angie in the 1970’s and Nat in the late 1990’s.
I really enjoyed the book, so much so I have reread it a few times. The hippy 1960’s/ 1970’s era really interests me and always has done. Therefore, I found Angie’s chapters detailing life on the commune to be the best and most appealing to me. Luna was just quite moany after a while and that started to grate with me. However this I felt was meant to be deliberate by the author. Nat didn’t need to be in the book, I much rather had more chapters about Angie’s life on the commune than Nat’s chapters. So I found myself flicking through those parts quite quickly. As there was no connection between Nat and Luna and Angie both (apart from the children and them being women) it felt fragmented and found myself skipping over those parts. Although it all came together in the end and the book ended well. It left me hoping there is an Angie spin off!
”Here is a truth that can’t be escaped: for Mia ‘Rabbit’ Hayes, life is coming to an end.
Rabbit Hayes loves her life, ordinary as it is, and the extraordinary people in it. She loves her spirited daughter, Juliet, her colourful, unruly family; the only man in her big heart, Johnny Faye.
But it turns out the world has other plans for Rabbit, and she’s OK with that. Because she has plans for the world too, and only a handful of days left to make them happen.
Here is a truth that won’t be forgotten: this is a story about laughing through life’s surprises and finding the joy in every moment. ”
Author: Anna McPartlin
Publish Date: 2014
Awww I loved this book, this story is about Rabbit, she is in a hospice dying of cancer and she is aware that she hasn’t got long to live. In Rabbit’s sleep, she goes back to her youth where she was in love with Johnny Faye who was in a band with her brother. The chapters alternate between the growing love story between her and Johnny to how her family is dealing with Rabbit dying. In particular the relationship between Rabbit’s mother, Molly and her brother Davey, over the guardianship of Juliet her daughter. The story itself was very well written, it felt to me that each chapter had its place and added to either the love story or the practicalities and emotions of having a close one pass away. On a side note, I loved the fact it was set in Ireland, as I have visited Ireland before and loved the place (and want to go back).
Frank Chalk is a teacher in a fairly poor inner city school- a school where the kids get drunk, take drugs and beat up the teachers… when they can be bothered to turn up.
He confiscates their porn, booze and trainers, fends off angry parents and worries about the few conscientious pupils.
Terrifying and hilarious, IT’S YOUR TIME YOU’RE WASTING is Chalk’s real- life diary from the front line of the modern edukashun system.
I have had this book a number of years and it is one of the few books I have read over and over again. I bought it at a time when I really wanted to be a teacher (before I saw sense). It’s Your Time You’re wasting was published by a small book publisher Monday Books, known for publishing real life books. The book narrated by Frank Chalk (not his real name, probably to save his sanity) goes through the tale of his time as a supply teacher at St Jude’s which is based in the Cherry Tree Estate. He tells us tales of sloppy staff and even sloppier school children all of this which is punctuated with descriptions of the Cherry Street estate so you get to understand why the children behave like they do.
The story is easy to read as it is in a chatty style, there isn’t any chapters as such, there is just one tale after another all following each other (I have noticed this is the style of writing in other books Monday has published). The author doesn’t feel sorry for himself either, you just let the story wash over you as you find yourself laughing and sinking into despair at the naughty children and feeling really sorry for those poor children who are just trying to get on with life.The book hit a chord with me because you can see through Frank’s eyes how the education system has failed the children. This is through two ways. One the lack of support at home. Frank visits a few children homes to tutor them and he see’s the effect of constant TV, fast food, the lack of books and interest from the parents resulting in the children being disengaged with anything that is longer than two minutes. The result of this being children who vandalise school property, not being able to understand school work and being downright nasty to anyone.
You could argue that his book reinforces stereotypes, through the names of the children and the description of the council estate. But this is the reality of modern Britain as it is repeated through books like this one and on programmes on the TV such as Tough Young Teachers. So disillusioned is Frank with the school that he tells parent’s of a child to move to a better school. However, I feel that the author is realistic and what comes across well is Frank wants to teach but with the children not accepting responsibility, there doesn’t seem the point.
To conclude, this book is well worth a read if you want to while away an afternoon or want some escape. If you truly hate your job this book may also be of use, as by the end of reading you may think your job isn’t too bad 😉