Friday, 1 June 2012

Confessions Of A Bookworm



If you're my age, when you see the words "Confessions Of" in a title you can't help but associate it with images of that cheeky chap Robin Askwith and his tawdry 1970's sub Carry On dirty films. Whilst our neighbours across the channel were making the erotic Emmanuelle, Askwith was peeping at showering schoolgirls through bathroom windows with a leering grin that would today have him banged up for sexual harassment. Fortunately younger readers won't remember the films and, having read the best selling Confessions Of A GP from the same publisher (the excellent The Friday Project) last year, I had an inkling of what Confessions Of A Male Nurse would be like.


It is exactly what the title suggests. Michael Alexander ( a pseudonym for obvious patient confidentiality reasons) tells us about his sixteen years as a male nurse in both New Zealand and London in a series of short anecdotal chapters. And what experiences he has had! The cover picture suggests humour and there is a degree of this in the book although for me it has more of an overriding air of humanity as Alexander is clearly someone of great compassion who cares for his fellow man (and woman).


We are taken through a challenging start to his career as the only male nurse in a gynaecological ward and then on through surgical wards, periods as an agency nurse, the horrors of A&E and the difficulties of working with psychiatric patients. The problems of working with know-it-all doctors, couldn't care less colleagues and belligerent patients in sometimes short-staffed, sometimes dirty but occasionally pleasant wards are outlined in a very well written, extremely believable and insightful book. Although he has plenty to moan about, I am pleased to say that the author is not a moaner and his upbeat style makes this an interesting, educational and very enjoyable read.




Last week I, along with a number of other followers of meandmybigmouth's blog (see the link over there on the right), read Jeffrey Eugenides Middlesex. I had heard of the book and recall listening to a discussion about it on Woman's Hour; I had thought of it as just the tale of an unfortunate who was born with inconclusive gender. I'm so pleased that we read it as it is so much more than that. It flits across the decades going back to his/her grandparent's flight from Smyrna, through Ellis Island and into a life in the USA. It's a fascinating read. Full of beautiful metaphors and at times poetic prose, it is an excellent family saga and whilst the problems of being an hermaphrodite are always there, they are sufficiently below the surface to make it not just a book about gender. I enjoyed it very much and strongly recommend it if you want a good long read.


  
Talking of long reads, a fellow detecting enthusiast recommended Company Of Liars by Karen Maitland.Being on jury service this week gave me plenty of reading time on the train and in the waiting room so I got stuck in and managed to finish it this afternoon. I expected an historical novel but, although it's billed as "a novel of the plague" on the cover, there is an underlying fantasy element to the book which made it less compelling for me. The story is told by Camelot, a seller of dubious relics, who gathers together a group of nine misfits who travel England in an attempt to escape the pestilence. Each has a secret - hence the title. It's a well written story and if it had been purely historical I might have enjoyed it more but once we were presented with the supernatural I lost interest (it's just not my cup of tea). However, I'm not one to stop reading half way through and I persevered until the end. Some of the secrets are good and some are very good and the author does an excellent job in surprising the reader when they are revealed. If you like fantasy then give it a try but if you want Wolf Hall I wouldn't  recommend it.




So that's my Kindle reading almost up to date. I've just downloaded this book of short stories put together by the brilliant author Caroline Smailes. It's a selection of 100 word stories inspired by songs on YouTube. I had a go at writing one for inclusion myself but was completely on the wrong track and was understandably (but very politely) rejected. ALL proceeds from this book go to an extremely worthwhile charitable cause  One In Four -  for victims of sexual abuse and sexual violence. You can read about the charity here . Please download it. It's less than the cost of a couple of sips of wine.