Mrs Ford’s Reading Diary


Making Conversation – Christine Longford 

Enjoyed: some of the period settings

Annoyed by: unappealing central character, rather stilted storytelling

The Happy Tree – Rosalind Murray

Enjoyed: elegant and thoughtful analysis of relationships

Annoyed by: heroine’s sister-in-law

Saplings – Noel Streatfeild

Enjoyed: unusually detailed and realistic depiction of children’s thoughts, hopes and fears

Annoyed by: fact that it wasn’t “Ballet Shoes” and all cozily resolved

The Marriage Plot – Jeffrey Eugenides

Enjoyed: beginning

Annoyed by: three central characters, author’s clear belief that he was Very Clever

The Casual Vacancy – J K Rowling

Enjoyed: being annoyed

Annoyed by: characters, story, language, settings, relentless unpleasantness masquerading as Realism

Capital – John Lanchester

Enjoyed: finishing it

Annoyed by: uninteresting characters, uninteresting story, author’s inability to leave anything out, uniformly glowing reviews

I Am Pilgrim – Terry Hayes

Enjoyed: reading something completely different

Annoyed by: fairly blatant national stereotypes

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

Enjoyed: memories of first reading, getting angry with lots of the characters, unexpected humour

Annoyed by: Jane (sometimes), Mr Rochester (constantly)

Us – David Nicholls

Enjoyed: readability, descriptions of European railway stations

Annoyed by: implausibility of narrator and story, suggestion that only disorganised artistic types have worthwhile emotions

The Hare with Amber Eyes – Edmund de Waal

Enjoyed: Vienna section

Annoyed by: rather ponderous and meandering style, author’s failure to make me care about any of the objects or art so extensively discussed

Strangers at Witchend – Malcolm Saville

Enjoyed: happy memories of childhood Lone Pine fandom

Annoyed by: how long ago it all seems

Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Enjoyed: parts set in Nigeria, idea that blogging is respectable full-time employment

Annoyed by: increasingly unsympathetic central character, judgemental and superior Social Observations in place of properly developed characters, idea that blogging is respectable full-time employment

The Year of Reading Dangerously – Andy Miller

Enjoyed: some shared experiences and  tastes (Middlemarch, Tolstoy, Kinks); occasional astute observations

Annoyed by: use of footnotes to ensure no joke left unexplained and no carefully-checked fact unappreciated; every mention of  author’s utterly wonderful wife; rather self-indulgent pointlessness of whole exercise

The Paying Guests – Sarah Waters

Enjoyed: complete immersion in strange but gripping story and expertly-created settings; intriguing echoes of all sorts of other books; memories of own Camberwell days

Annoyed by: any interruptions while reading it

The Woman Who Stole My Life – Marian Keyes

Enjoyed: Irish details, some funny lines, main character’s parents

Annoyed by :  most of the plot, most of the characters, Reading Group Questions at end of book

Housekeeping – Marilynne Robinson

Enjoyed: strange and unusual setting and characters, some rather dark humour

Annoyed by: certain Driftiness of language and story, nagging feeling that I was Missing The Point

The Jane Austen Book Club – Karen Joy Fowler

Enjoyed: some astute observations about Jane Austen and Modern Life, occasional episodes in characters’ pasts

Annoyed by: thinness and dullness of characters, patronising Appendix of Jane Austen material

 Looking for Alaska – John Green

Enjoyed: breezy, easy Young Adult read, slices of American life

Annoyed by : heroine (rather too Manic Pixie Dream Girl for me), pretentious teenagers being pretentious teenagers

The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Enjoyed: everything about it  – style, storytelling, story, settings, characterisation, wit, profound ideas about life, love, dreams and reality. Nice and short as well.

Annoyed by: almost all of the characters, most enjoyably.

Meadowland – John Lewis-Stempel

Enjoyed: mix of history, observation, folklore, science and literature; author’s genuine and deep connection to the land; elegant and often very witty prose

Annoyed by: own inability to read more than two paragraphs of any nature writing, however beautiful, without getting slightly bored

Journal – Katherine Mansfield

Enjoyed: immediacy and intimacy of reading a writer’s passing thoughts on life, literature, travel as they occurred to her over several years; finding myself in agreement with A Great Mind on so many things.

Annoyed by: own ignorance of Katherine Mansfield – determined to Rectify.


The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway

Enjoyed: ticking off a Modern American Classic in an hour or two at the beginning of the New Year; the shark encounters

Annoyed by: own entirely predictable failure to muster any interest whatsoever in Hemingway’s descriptions of fishing (as metaphor for Life or otherwise)

The Shepherd’s Life – James Rebanks

Enjoyed: occasional sections where he forgets to be angry

Annoyed by: almost all of it, but especially his angry superior ignorant contempt for almost everyone else he ever meets

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying – Marie Kondo

Enjoyed: very readable and often quite funny style, tempting prospect of  life transformed by throwing away, idea that everything around me should Spark Joy

Annoyed by: impossibility of this ever happening in house shared with dear family

Someone at a Distance – Dorothy Whipple

Enjoyed:  good mix of realistic characters, well-drawn domestic settings, quite a bit of humour, very readable and ultimately satisfying plot

Annoyed by: manipulative and foolish characters, no doubt just as author intended

The Wrong Box – R. L. Stevenson and Lloyd Osbourne

Enjoyed: some genuinely funny turns of phrase, observations, and character descriptions, especially the portrayal of a complete Bore

Annoyed by: not enjoying it quite as much as anticipated, over-complications of farcical plot

A Little History of the World – E.H. Gombrich

Enjoyed:  sweep through thousands of years of history in engaging and readable style (apparently designed for intelligent 10 year-olds)

Annoyed by: own ignorance of far too much of it

A Study in Scarlet – Arthur Conan Doyle

Enjoyed: entertaining detective mystery, sparky characters and dialogue

Annoyed by: inability to visualise Sherlock Holmes except as Benedict Cumberbatch

War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

Enjoyed: pretty much everything about it – even War Bits, which had generally Skimmed Through in previous readings

Annoyed by: finding Natasha At The End (who had previously seemed baffling and annoying) entirely recognisable and even sympathetic

BOOKS READ IN 2017 and most of 2018

Sadly unrecorded for posterity…


The Longest Journey – E.M. Forster

Enjoyed: precisely evoked worlds of Cambridge, public schools and countryside;  some very E.M. Forsterish musings on Life; interesting cast of minor characters

Annoyed by: other very E.M. Forsterish musings on Life; rather frustrating major characters

The Girl on The Train – Paula Hawkins

Enjoyed: very readable thriller story, descriptions of commuting and commuters

Annoyed by: feebleness of the main female characters, brutality of the main male characters, guessing the ending far too soon

The Tortoise and The Hare – Elizabeth Jenkins

Enjoyed:  intelligent and unusual insights into characters and relationships, descriptions of early 1950s life among the rich professional classes, sense of developing menace

Annoyed by: most of the characters to some extent

The Way of All Flesh – Samuel Butler

Enjoyed: savagely witty descriptions of characters and family relationships, constant barrage of invigorating and original ideas about money, religion, evolution, education…

Annoyed by:  lack of a Samuel Butler for our time

The Catcher in the Rye – J. D. Salinger

Enjoyed: it all much more than when I read it as a teenager (when I found main character entirely unsympathetic)

Annoyed by: trying to work out whether I have become more tolerant and understanding or just more unsympathetic myself


Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë

Enjoyed: second half more than the first half. Almost invigorating relentlessness and intensity of unpleasantness and misery

Annoyed by: all the characters, but most especially Catherine and Heathcliff

The Rise and Fall of Becky Sharp – Sarra Manning

Enjoyed: easy-reading story, some clever updating ideas

Annoyed by: predictability of satire, characterisation of Rawdon and Dobbin, entire absence of promised laughs

Tidal Zone – Sarah Moss

Enjoyed: one or two fresh insights

Annoyed by: infuriating, self-pitying, self-righteous narrator; endless judgemental and  unimaginative observations on The State of The Nation;   overly self-conscious Writing.








16 thoughts on “Mrs Ford’s Reading Diary

  1. Have found wonderful system for reviewing of books. Must consider adopting in future for own book reviews rather than current diatribes. Enjoyed: concise and precise. Annoyed by: did not think of myself. xx

    • Thank you – reviewing system devised mainly as way of Giving Vent to my overwhelmingly negative feelings about almost all books read recently! Hope this will all change with your recommendation.

  2. Please do try ‘Looking for Alaska’ by John Green. It really opened up the portals to my mind. The works of Sarah Dessen also look good. I’m practically on first name terms with those lovely people at Waterstones, Piccadilly. xx

  3. Manic pixie dream girl/boy sounds exhausting! I attach an interesting slant on the very issue: What I like about such characters is that they don’t pretend to have a glossy veneer….I like my protagonists to be ‘multi-faceted’; quirky outsiders who make mistakes but have an endearing vulnerability to them. You could say I like ‘triumph over adversity’ to be the central theme in my books.

    • Thank you for that link, very interesting! I agree, I like protagonists to be very human, rounded characters, and I definitely like “triumph over adversity” as well. I’m not generally a huge fan of sadness (“Let other pens dwell” etc etc) but I’ve just finished “The Great Gatsby” and have an overwhelming desire to tell everyone just how good it is! (Though everyone else has probably read it already, rather than fondly imagining that they must have done and just having a vague memory of Mia Farrow talking about beautiful shirts.)

  4. Have you read “The Girl in a Swing” by Richard Adams? I’ve just finished it and found it quite different from a lot of other books I’ve read. Bit of an annoying ending though.

    • No, I haven’t – would you recommend it? I remember my brother liking “Watership Down” and “Shardik”, a long time ago, but I don’t think I’ve every read any Richard Adams.

  5. Mrs Ford, I’m not denying these novels by Richard Adams are not powerful, but I hate animal cruelty and bloodshed. I am still thumbing through Gatsby, loving the art deco, the decadence, the playboy Jay Gatsby but not Daisy (too brittle for me). I found this. Coming back to life affirming lessons, and how everyone you meet has something to teach you. xx

    • Does anyone other than Gatsby actually like Daisy? She’s definitely too annoying for me. I hadn’t heard of that book but completely agree that you can learn something from everyone you meet.

    • Sorry for absurdly late reply. I seem to have read very few of those on that list so clearly Must Try Harder. I’ve heard some other people talk very favourably about “Middlesex” by Jeffrey Eugenides so might try that, even though I was so rude about “The Marriage Plot”.

  6. Dear Mrs Ford, I am sure you can be forgiven for late replies. I totally understand that one has to deal with the trials and tribulations of acting as Clerk to the Trustees on top of a very sociable (and wistful) month meeting with former colleagues. If I may be so bold, I attach a link of titles to look at. I think your choice of that Great Gatsby is par excellence. Take good care of yourself, Mrs F

    • Super-speedy reply this time to compensate! Yes, trials and tribulations of Clerkship duties managed to intrude into my WordPress profile yesterday, so apologies for any confusion caused….I’ll try to do some reading over the weekend: thank you for this list and have a good weekend!

  7. I love lists and even more I love book lists. What a great idea to write ‘ enjoyed’ and ‘ annoyed by’ points.
    I can’ t visualise Sherlock as anyone else but the peerless Jeremy Brett. Oh dear, showing my age again.

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