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Posts Tagged ‘autobiographical’

In the first part of this funny, moving and frank memoir, Alexandra Heminsley discusses how and why she started running, and – more importantly – how and why she continued to run, despite occasional setbacks and bouts of self-doubt.  She talks about how it brought her closer to family members, and made her feel better about herself, and along the way describes some of the races she has participated in.

The second part of the book is given over to hints and advice to other runners, or people who are thinking of taking up running, whether as a casual hobby, or a serious enthusiast.  The book also talks about the history of women’s running (and boy, did that chapter open my eyes; after reading about the journey that Joan Benoit Samuelson took to become the first female Olympic marathon winner, I watched some of the footage on YouTube, and was filled with admiration and tears).

While Heminsley’s own story is very entertaining and inspiring, the second section of the book is very useful to new runners, offering tips on buying running trainers and equipment, and what you will need if you take part in a big race.  It also highlights injuries that can be caused or aggravated by running, and the best ways to deal with them, and debunks many myths surrounding running.

As a fellow runner, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and identified with many of the feelings that the author described.  Heminsley is very engaging and relatable, and also very funny.  I don’t think you would have to be a runner to appreciate this book, but I am pretty sure that after reading it you would want to pull on your trainers and go for a trot around the block.

I would recommend this book for everyone, but particularly people with even just a passing interest in running.

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Alice Wunderland is an American who has lived in Paris for twenty years.  Suddenly finding herself unexpectedly made redundant, she decides that a change of direction is in order, and resolves to qualify as an English teacher.  After all, surely she should be in an advantageous position, as she is a native English speaker?  Alice launches herself with enthusiasm into the studying the course required for all wishing to find employment with the French education system, but what she found left her dismayed and astounded.  Native English speakers appear to be frowned upon, and in fact, speaking correct English does not even seem to be much of a priority; odd considering that they will be required to teach English themselves.

Alice discovers that the system is skewed, and disfavours anybody who is not of French nationality.  Passing the required exams almost seems to be a matter of luck. Disillusioned, Alice decides to investigate further….

This book is based on the author’s own experiences, and it would be interesting to know what the French authorities made of it!  It is very enjoyable, as ‘Alice’ is a warm and amusing narrator, whose frustrations it is easy to understand and share.

Having said that, about halfway through the book, I did think that she was whining somewhat (and her occasional unnecessary ‘sneering’ at some of the other students did not appeal to me, although that is a minor gripe), but I ended up admiring her for at least questioning the system, rather than just accepting it on face value, as so many of her fellow students seemed to do.

Little anecdotes from Alice’s family life (in reality, from the author’s family life) also pepper the narrative, and the parallel between Alice’s difficulty with her course and her daughters difficulty with her schoolwork gives more food for thought.

Overall, an interesting and enjoyable book.

(I would like to thank LibraryThing Early Reviewers for sending me this book to review.  LibraryThing’s website can be found here.  Laurel Zuckerman’s website can be found here.)

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