March 8th, 2008

earthsea

March Books 16) The Owl Service

16) The Owl Service, by Alan Garner

I think I read almost all of Alan Garner's works as a teenager, but gave up on this one part way in because it didn't grab me at the time. Well, age brings increased ability to appreciate. It's an incredible book, a masterpiece of showing rather than telling, about patterns from the past (of story, of earthenware, of painting) coming to haunt the present day. There is a lot left beneath the surface - we never find out exactly how old Alison, Roger and Gwyn are, though the implication is that they are all three in their mid-teens, Alison perhaps younger than the other two; we never even see Alison's mother Margaret, though she remains a presence in the background; the mystery behind the owls and flowers and the pierced stone is never completely explained, which normally would annoy me, but just seems to work really well here. A really good book.
earthsea

March Books 17) Berlitz Turkish Travel Pack

17) Berlitz Turkish Travel Pack

I haven't really finished this, but I gave it enough of a try during last week's trip to northern Nicosia via Istanbul to justify writing it up. It's a combination of the standard Berlitz tourist phrase book with a CD of sample important phrases. To be honest it's not really worth paying the extra for the CD; it's not sufficiently well integrated with the phrase book to be really useful, and the phrases are often too long and spoken too rapidly to repeat easily. But I bought it before I had discovered BYKI.com, which is what I shall use to get my ear in next time. The phrase book is fine, and it's not their fault that I forgot it the one evening I found myself eating on my own at a restaurant where none of the staff spoke English.