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Brian Bilston has been hailed the poet laureate of Twitter – a 21st century title if ever there was one! – and while I generally struggle with poetry, I have found his poems delightful, amusing, and utterly relatable. Here, he writes as a fictional version of himself, having decided that he is going to write a poem every day of the year, while also keeping a diary of his year. (The poems are all included in his diary, and while there are a minority of days when he doesn’t write one, he more or less keeps his resolution.)

The Brian Bilston of this story is a likeable character, with a sharp eye for life’s minutiae, and while he often writes about the mundanity of life, he always makes it highly enjoyable. He is also a genius at wordplay!

Brian and his wife Sophie have broken up and she has fallen for a new, indefatigably enthusiastic man; his relationship with his teenage son is strained; work is boring to Brian and he has no interest in it; the insufferable fellow poet Toby Salt is finding fame and fortune, much to Brian’s disgust – in fact the only bright spots in his life are his cat and Liz, the new lady at his poetry club, but he can’t seem to get things going with her.

As we follow Brian through his calamitous existence, there is a smile or laugh to be had on every page, even though much of the story is actually quite poignant, and there is a mystery element thrown in which was enjoyable, although probably not necessary. I found myself rooting for Brian throughout, although I sometimes wanted to give him a good shake as well.

Overall I would certainly recommend this book and I do hope that Mr Bilston releases another novel before too long.

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I’ve read this book before, but it was several years ago, after reading Bridget Jones’ Diary. I admit that when I reread the first book, I felt somewhat disappointed and wondered if I would feel the same way after rereading this one, the first sequel.

Bridget starts off this book in a good place. Happy relationship, good friendships etc etc, but naturally she can’t help screwing things up. Through a colossal and somewhat unbelievable series of misunderstandings, she and Mark end up splitting up (don’t these people ever actually just sit and TALK to each other).

As before, her friends Shazzer and Jude feature heavily and while they are both well meaning and loyal, they are also full of ridiculous advice. This books takes Bridget to such far flung shores as Rome and Thailand, sees her life threatened, and her having to live through several embarrassing and cringeworthy situations.

On the positive side, it’s an undemanding read – perfect for that strange week between Christmas and New Year when you have no idea what day it is, or what’s going on (which is when I read it) and Helen Fielding definitely knows how to write humour. I did on several occasions burst into giggles.

On the other hand, Bridget herself is – let’s face it – a hot mess. Living her life according to self-help books which usually contradict each other and only having herself to blame for lots of the problems that arise just made me frustrated. For example, at one point she gets the chance to fly to Italy and interview her favourite actor. Instead of preparing her questions beforehand, packing in advance and getting an early night the evening before she is due to fly, she fails to prepare anything, gets drunk the night before, doesn’t pack and therefore misses her flight, causing everything to need to be rearranged. She is always late for work and it’s always her own fault. So when people say that Bridget is relatable, I have to say – to WHO exactly?

So overall, a slightly frustrating experience rereading this. But not altogether unenjoyable. Maybe I’ll pick it up again in another 15 years and see what I think then.

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Just a short review for this one, as it is the third (I think) time that I have read it. I remember the first time I read this book, not long after it was written, and I was howling with laughter. A couple of reads further on, and I still think it’s funny, and I still think that Fielding captured the viewpoint of a particular type of woman in the mid 1990s.

I did feel a bit more cynical about it this time around though, and got annoyed with Bridget for her constant need for approval and her desperation to feel attractive to men. But yes, it’s funny, and I still love the parallels with Pride and Prejudice. Looking forward to rereading the sequel, and reading for the first time the third book in the series.

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Hendrik Groen (the author’s true identity has been kept a closely guarded secret) is, as the title suggests, an 83 year old man who decides to keep a diary of his life in an Amsterdam Nursing Home for a  year. The title seems like an obvious take on The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 1/4, and it’s true that this book feels like a cross sometimes between Adrian Mole and Victor Meldrew of One Foot In The Grave.

Hendrik describes the mundanity of his life, but manages to make it anything but mundane for the reader. He writes about the red tape and bureaucracy which the management have to deal with, and which has effects for the residents (or inmates as he refers to them) of the home, as well as the world of politics, and while he is referring specifically to Dutch politics, much of what he says can be related to other countries as well. Incidentally, if you are not a fan of politics, don’t be put off by the thought of reading about it – Hendrik talks about it in the way that most of us pass comment on the subject with people we know – it’s not vastly in-depth and his sardonic and cynical eye makes it worth reading.

As well as a regular and healthy dollop of humour – there’s something to make you smile or giggle on almost every page – there’s also a great deal of poignancy and sadness as he sees various members of his close circle of friends struck down by ailments such as stroke and diabetes. While he himself enjoys fairly decent health, euthanasia and assisted suicide often crop up in his thoughts, but this does not mean that the book is depressing, just that it provides a bit of insight into what some people might feel. Hendrik never dwells too long on the sadness, and always provides an amusing grumble about one or other of the other residents to make you laugh again.

Overall this is an easy and quick read – undemanding for sure, but one that may well stay with you for some time after you have read it. Highly recommended.

 

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More of the funny stuff in Adrian Mole’s second diary. In this book Adrian deals with his parents marital problems, his on-off relationship with Pandora and depression, and his ongoing battle to be recognised in the literary world.

Very, very funny, and something that can be read and enjoyed many times.

(For more information on the Arian Mole series, please click here.)

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This is a lovely amusing and light hearted book, which I think can best be described as Hyacinth Bucket meets Bridget Jones.

The narrator (the provincial lady of the title) takes us through a year in her life in diary form.  Set probably in the 1930s – although this is never specified – and somewhere in or around Plymouth, our un-named narrator struggles to hold together a seemingly indifferent husband, two young children, a chaotic staff and ever growing financial worries.  Trying to always anticipate and stay one step ahead of her problems causes her to find herself in many sticky situations!

Although the social situations described are very much of their time, the interactions between various characters reminded me of present day relationships, and as the reader is permitted access to the narrator’s innermost thoughts – which of course, nobody else in her life is permitted – I often found myself nodding along and smiling in recognition.  There were also a number of laugh-out-loud moments.

I didn’t feel that the characters were explored in any great depth, but this did not detract from enjoyment of the book – it was more plot driven than character driven, although the narrator was by turns hilarious and sympathetic.

The writing reminded me very much of that of Helen Fielding in Bridget Jones’ Diary, and as this book pre-dates that one by several decades, I can’t help but wonder if Fielding was influenced by this.

Overall, this was a hugely enjoyable book, and I will definitely be buying the two sequels.

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This is a very funny book, which dog lovers especially would enjoy.

Blake, the cross-breed ‘author’ shares his diary with us, which involves romancing other dogs in the park, constantly thinking up new ways to cause mischief and most importantly, taking on the park bully, a pit-bull called Razor. It made me laugh out loud on several occasions – it may be not be a book to make you think too hard, and it won’t change your life, but it will certainly make for a hugely enjoyable read!

Blake truly has a personality (dogality?) of his own – this will come as no surprise to any dog owners – and all of his four legged friends have their distinct personalities too.  Life through Blake’s eyes casts a hilarious light on many situations which will be familiar to humans.

Definitely recommended!

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