CATHERINE ALLIOTT VS CHEMO

Yesterday as the infusion dripped into me and I snarled tighter under my blanket, I was glad for an audiobook of Catherine Alliott’s A Crowded Marriage, even though I’d heard it all before… Imo, Alex, snooty Eleanor, the fox that decapitates Cynthia the chicken, and not one but two possible Heathcliffian suitors… there is also Rufus, 9, who I think runs away with the story. Suzy Aitchison reads most of Alliott’s novels and she is utterly perfect at almost all voices and accents, except perhaps when she attempts Irishmen. They come out sounding a bit Norfolk…

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When you are undergoing Rituximab, which is chemotherapy but the milder form (the pure monoclonal version untainted by high octane cancer cocktails), a nurse invariably switches on the extra heavy duty fluorescent tubes – the ones that burst onto your cornea with sadistic pleasure. You whip out your sunglasses but really, it is your ears you need to seduce into escape. I recommend Alliott wholeheartedly. Also Jill Mansell. And my beloved Marian Keyes. Georgette Heyer must be saved for home because she must never be interrupted by blood pressure cuffs and the young man who will offer you sandwiches and a rather grisly looking cheesecake and although you feel guilty because he has taken the trouble to carry the tray, and ask so politely, you will refuse; you must refuse… Eat melon instead, brought from home. And chocolate, of course. From the vending machine.

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OH YOU ANNE GIRL!

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Although he watched the Canadian televised series of L. M. Montgomery’s  Anne of Green Gables at the height of his daughter’s obsession with the books, my father is only just reading the books. He is enchanted, of course. It is never too late or too early for Anne Shirley. It is always the perfect time. And isn’t it the perfect love story? Not Matthew and Anne – that part was easy. It was love at first train station. But Anne and Marilla – that’s the real exploration of love. Because Marilla never knew she needed Anne. Until she did.

Has there ever been a literary character quite like Anne? And isn’t it wonderful that we all became so familiar with Tennyson’s The Lady of Shalott and Noyes’ The Higwayman? Two Alfreds made more beloved by one red-haired orphan.