A Glove Shop in Vienna and Other Stories by Eva Ibbotson

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A glove shop in Vienna & other stories is a collection of 19 tales by Eva Ibbotson.

Eva Ibbotson’s stories are romantic and positive, a true panacea when I’m sad or dejected. I did not like all the tales the same, but every collection has its highs and lows.

The best tales are the ones a friend defines “concentrated novels”, where the protagonists meet, are separated and then get together again in the most romantic ending; in this category belong the following:  A rose in Amazonia, Sidi, Theatre Street. Other tales have some funny elements, or near-paradox situations, A little disagreement where an old lady uses to act frequently the day of her death, The great carp Ferdinand where the main dish of the Christmas Eve dinner refuses to die, or The Magi of Markham Street and The Little Countess where respectively we have a Christmas play with unexpected ending and a governess is exhausted by the customs of the Russian family she attends to.

Other tales I liked are: Vicky and the Christmas Angel, Osmandine, A Glove shop in Vienna.

The tales have beautiful plot, but the narrative style should be mentioned, too: Ibbotson’s style is beautiful, using few words a scene becomes alive, and the background is full of characters reflecting culture and life style of the period.


* A Glove Shop in Vienna and Other Stories by Eva Ibbotson ★★★★☆

*I read this book in english

The Witches by Roald Dahl

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Here, but also in the BFG it’s clear how Dahl’s stories for children do not have only positive elements because the target are the children.

In the BFG the giants were evil and desired only to each childs, in The witches the horrific element are these evil figures, whose only aim is to make every children disappear and suffer.

The novel main character is an orphan, and he lives with his Norway grandmother in England where he studies, this being the last desire of his parents. And it is his grandmother that talks to him about witches, since she once used to hunt them all over the world. We then learn with him to identify them and to understand they way of doing evil. The protagonist himself will encounter witches, and this is what the novel is about.

Re-reading it I noticed some details that previously I skipped; above the scary element (the witches) that is a fantastic one, the author puts in the novel some things that are truly scary: the parents death, but also the image of the sick grandmother with pneumonia, she being in the bed with strange machines around, and the perspective to become truly alone in the world.

As every Dahl’s novel I suggest to read it, it’s funny – but not predictable – and engaging.


* The Witches by Roald Dahl ★★★★☆½

*I read this book in italian & english

[Series] Miss Detective by Robin Stevens

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La serie Miss Detective di Robin Stevens è ambientata negli anni ’30 in Inghilterra (1934-35 i primi due romanzi della serie).

Le due protagoniste sono Daisy Wells e Hazel Wong, due ragazze di circa tredici anni, grandi amiche e entrambe alunne in un collegio femminile. Daisy è inglese, bionda, coraggiosa e incontenibile: ha sempre nuovi progetti in mente, ed è lei ad aver inventato la Wells and Wong detective society. Hazel è cinese (di Hong Kong per la precisione) ed è stato suo padre a volere che studiasse in Inghilterra; al contrario di Daisy è timida, timorosa e più riflessiva.

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[Series] Wells and Wong by Robin Stevens

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The Wells & Wong series by Robin Stevens is set in the ’30 in England (the first two book in particular in 1934-35).

The two main characters are Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong, two girls about thirteen, great friends and both studying in a boarding school for girls. Daisy is english, blonde, bold and operative: she has always new project in mind, and she is the inventor of the Wells and Wong detective society. Hazel is chinese (from Hong Kong to be exact) and it was her father to desire her studying in England; she is just the opposite of Daisy, being shy, fearful and more reflexive.

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Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

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[…] Two magicians shall appear in England.
The first shall fear me; the second shall long to behold me;
The first shall be governed by thieves and murderers; the second shall conspire at his
own destruction;
The first shall bury his heart in a dark wood beneath the snow, yet still feel its ache;
The second shall see his dearest possession in his enemy’s hand.
The first shall pass his life alone; he shall be his own gaoler;
The second shall tread lonely roads, the storm above his head, seeking a dark tower
upon a high hillside.
I sit upon a black throne in the shadows but they shall not see me.
The rain shall make a door for me and I shall pass through it;
The stones shall make a throne for me and I shall sit upon it.
The nameless slave shall wear a silver crown,
The nameless slave shall be a king in a strange country.

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La sovrana lettrice by Alan Bennett

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Stava anche scoprendo che un libro tira l’altro; ovunque si voltava si aprivano nuove porte e le giornate erano sempre troppo corte per leggere quanto avrebbe voluto.

In questa novella Alan Bennett ci parla di una lettrice sicuramente non comune: la regina d’Inghilterra scopre l’esistenza di una biblioteca ambulante che rifornisce un avido lettore del palazzo, Norman, impiegato nelle cucine di Buckingham Palace.

Un po’ per non far figura, un po’ per interesse, la regina prende in prestito un libro. Sarà l’inizio di un percorso che, grazie anche al contributo di Norman, trasformerà la sovrana in un’avida lettrice; non sarà un cambiamento innocuo, ne risentiranno infatti tutti gli abitanti del palazzo, ministri, consiglieri, oltre a tutte le persone destinate a incontrarsi con la sovrana.

L’attrattiva della letteratura, rifletté, consisteva nella sua indifferenza, nella sua totale mancanza di deferenza. I libri se ne infischiavano di chi li leggeva; se nessuno li apriva, loro stavano bene lo stesso. […] I libri non sono per nulla ossequiosi. Tutti i lettori sono uguali, e questo le risvegliò un ricordo di quand’era bambina.

Alan Bennett ci parla dell’amore per la lettura – e di come questo possa nascere in modo inaspettato – con il tipico humor inglese che contraddistingue lo scrittore e ci regala una protagonista lettrice con cui è difficile non immedesimarsi: noi lettori già sappiamo che i libri non sono un passatempo.

“Passare il tempo?” Esclamò la regina. “I libri non sono un passatempo. Parlano di altre vite. Di altri mondi. Altro che far passare il tempo Sir Kevin, non so cosa darei per averne di più. Per passare il tempo si può sempre andare in Nuova Zelanda”.

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What she was finding also was how one book led to another, doors kept opening wherever she turned and the days weren’t long enough for the reading she wanted to do.

In this novella Alan Bennett tells about a very uncommon reader: the Queen of England discover the existence of a mobile library that supplies an avid reader in the palace, Norman who works in the Buckingham Palace kitchens.

The queen, to match up for the situation and for real interest,borrows a book. This will be the first step of a path that, also thanks to Norman, will change the queen in a hungry reader; this will not be an innocuous change, in fact all the palace inhabitants, the ministers and conquerors, and in general all the people she comes in touch with will be affected by her new habit.

The appeal of reading, she thought, lay in its indifference: there was something undeferring about literature. Books did not care who was reading them or whether one read them or not. All readers were equal, herself included. Literature, she thought, is a commonwealth; letters a republic.

Alan Bennett talks about the love for reading – and how it may arise unexpectedly –  with the usual british humor that distinguish his books, and he creates a reader it’s hard not to empathize with: we reader already know that books are not only a way to pass time.

Books are not about passing time. They’re about other lives. Other worlds. Far from wanting time to pass, one just wishes one had more of it. If one wanted to pass the time one could go to New Zealand.

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La sovrana lettrice by Alan Bennett ★★★★☆

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry

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1890. Ely, Cambridgeshire ospita una scuola per giovani ragazze: Saint Etheldreda’s School for Young Ladies, diretta da Constance Plackett e frequentata da sette ragazze.

Il lettore non avrà modo di conoscere a fondo la direttrice, colpevole infatti di morire – assieme allo sgradevole fratello – nel primo capitolo, avrà però modo di conoscere le sette protagoniste, presentate prima indirettamente tramite i loro parenti e relazioni, e poi inconfondibili per i tratti che caratterizzano ogn’una di loro nella storia.

L’idea geniale di Smooth Kitty è di non denunciare le due morti e gestire in autonomia la scuola, onde evitare di essere riconsegnate alle famiglie di origine, si crea così una sorellanza in cui ogni ragazza contribuisce alla finzione con le sue capacità: chi di attrice, chi di aspirante medico, chi di truccatrice, ragazze finalmente capaci di seguire le proprie inclinazioni indipendentemente dall’opinione di genitori e parenti.

Some women are born for more independence than society offers them. Perhaps all are, but some have not yet learned to recognize it.

Tenere nascosto l’evento non è però così semplice: bisogna mentire ai conoscenti stretti della direttrice e sostenere la finzione; quando poi sorge il dubbio che la donna sia stata avvelenata le ragazze si accorgeranno di essere ancora in pericolo.

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place è un romanzo brillante, ricco di imprevisti e scritto con ironia; impossibile non affezionarsi ad almeno una delle protagoniste.
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1890. In Ely, Cambridgeshire there is Saint Etheldreda’s School for Young Ladies, directed by Constance Plackett and attended by seven girls.

The reader won’t have the pleasure to meet the headmistress, since she dies – with her unpleasant brother – in the first chapter; he will have instead the pleasure to meet the seven girls, introduced at first indirectly by their relations and parents, and then impossible to mix up for their character traits.

Smooth Kitty has the brilliant idea to not inform the people of Ely about the twi deaths and to manage in autonomy the school, mainly to avoid being sent back to the original family and then to other schools, this way the sisterhood is born: each girl contributes to the pretense with her own skills: someone is able to act, to show medical skills, to do make up, girls finally able to follow their inclination independently from the judgment of family and parents.

Some women are born for more independence than society offers them. Perhaps all are, but some have not yet learned to recognize it.

But it’s not so simple to cover up the event: they will have to lie to the headmistress friends and to keep up pretending, when the doubt of the woman being poisoned arises the girl will have to face real danger.

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place is a brilliant novel, full of accidents and written with irony, impossible not to grow found of at least one of the main characters.

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The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry ★★★★☆½