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A wilding

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  1. Just read a biography of the extraordinary life of Svetlana Alliluyeva, Stalin's Daughter by Rosemary Sullivan. An apt title, as Svetlana clearly never managed to escape that label, despite her efforts. It had been on my list ever since I saw The Death of Stalin. This was a difficult read, as her life was a very unhappy one, and her troubles were far from over when she defected to the US in 1967. However it is also a tribute to human resilience, as she was only damaged by her experiences, not broken like her brother. She just kept going through it all and perhaps gained some sort of peace by the end of her long life. So I would recommend this book to anyone who might be interested in her. I also found it a little weird that for me the book started as history (the Stalin era) but then moved on to events in my lifetime (she was still a cold war political pawn in the Reagan/Gorbachev era). I was somewhat disconcerted to discover that she spent two years living in Cambridge in the UK at the same time that I was doing my degree there. It is likely that I unknowingly walked or cycled past her in the street!
  2. I am going to do the same as @dog-days here, knowing that I shouldn't. (See how easily we get stuck in our scripts?) Bluntly: bollocks. It is entirely clear your mother is working hard at destroying your self esteem and making you think that you could not cope on your own, so as to ensure that you remain tied tightly to her. (In justice to her, she may not be fully aware that this is what he is doing.)
  3. Here is what I would say if you were working for a private company in my profession (IT): Don't fall in to the trap of trying to do too many things, consequently doing most of them badly, and ultimately probably getting burned out and/or resigning or being fired. You will get little sympathy from your employer and will only damage your mental health and career. Instead report that you have too much to do and request prioritisation of your tasks. If you don't get it, choose your own prioritisation, making sure to prioritise tasks you enjoy and that will help you grow, and, if you want to play nice, also those you think most crucial to your employer. Then make sure to report this prioritisation, and your progress, at frequent intervals, keeping a record. If ordered to pick up a new task, say "okay, which current task do you want me to drop?", and if you get no answer, choose one to drop and document this in your next report. If your manager won't work with you and keeps demanding that you do everything at top priority, then look for another job. I don't know how much of that applies to you, but your mental health must always come first.
  4. I have just read The Man Who Died Twice myself. I definitely enjoyed it, but it left me with a slightly odd feeling. The main plot is a light-hearted and entertaining (if somewhat implausible) romp with some very clever misdirection. But then some of the characterisation is indeed very strong, especially of Joyce, a fully 3 dimensional character who must surely be closely based on Richard Osman's own mother. And also the Ibrahim subplot is much darker in tone then the rest of the book. Somehow these disparate aspects did not quite jell together for me.
  5. Agreed about making provision for your retirement. But I still say generally, unless your employer offers one, steer clear of pensions, particularly personal pensions. You may get a tax break when you pay in, but that is offset by your money being taxed when it comes out. There are also various rules of how and when you can access the money, and a future government may well tighten up those rules (they are concerned about people burning through their pensions too quickly and then needing to be supported by the state). On top of that the pension provider will be extracting charges out of your pension every year which can have a substantial cumulative effect. (Things do change somewhat if you are a higher rate taxpayer with larger amounts to save though.) Also be very wary of professional personal financial advisors. The industry has a long and shameful history of outright mis-selling, and a consistent practice of flashy misdirection and giving advice that maximises the benefit to the advisor, but that is not necessarily the best for you. Even in the best case, they will take a significant cut of your savings to offset the doubtful benefit they provide. Far better to do your own homework.
  6. I will join in. In the UK saving is a no brainer for the average person (assuming you have paid off any debts and have a sufficient rainy day chunk of cash somewhere). Put in in a stock market ISA, invested in a spread of lost cost index tracking funds. Forget about a pension unless (as is often the case) your employer offers a good one as a job perk, in which case you probably want to do whatever is needed to maximise their contribution to it. If you want to save more than the ISA limit of £20K a year, then you are certainly a higher rate taxpayer so start looking at a SIPP, or perhaps a buy to let property.
  7. Yes it was no babies named Nigel in the UK in 2016. Which may possibly have something to do with Nigel Farage (a populist right wing politician turned TV personality who was one of the strongest proponents of Brexit but now appears to be in the process of transitioning to the US).
  8. So many, yes. Though this one needs to be read with some care and background knowledge. For example there is a single letter from the "Mischling" to her boyfriend's sister in Holland in the book, written when she needed to pass on some important information (the sister, despite not being anti-semitic herself, had still advised her brother to end the relationship). This letter is full of praise for Hitler's regime. My first thought was "poor brainwashed idiot". But then my second thought was "she knows she is likely being watched and wants to avoid trouble for herself and to make sure this letter gets through".
  9. I have been reading up on European social history around World War II and have come across a fascinating book "Between Two Homelands" by Hedda Kalshoven. This consists of the 1920 - 1949 correspondence of a German woman who in 1929 married a Dutchman and moved to Holland. It tells an extraordinary story and gives some real insight into attitudes of the times. For example in the 1930s she is supporting a charity looking after Jewish refugees in Holland while her mother is writing from Germany "I know I am not supposed to talk about politics, but our wonderful Fuhrer, marvellous rallies, we all owe him our loyalty, ignore the lies in the news, he is quite right to address the Jewish Question". (Parallels with the current day are inescapable, but could be taken too far.) Then later, in the war, she is still close to her Nazi brother in the German army while her husband is involved in the Dutch resistance and she herself is sheltering Jewish people in hiding. Though the brother's Nazi allegiance clearly wavers when he falls in love with a "Mischling" (1/4 Jew) that he is not allowed to marry. And then comes the Hunger Winter ...
  10. Can't get into the Matthew Venn books either. For me the issue is with his characterisation. As with Vera's skin complaint (though that gets forgotten after the first few books), she has given him an initial character trait to make him more interesting, but failed to flesh it out and make it plausible. I suppose details are a mild spoiler:
  11. In the UK it is a great deal easier to get your first book published, and to get the publisher to push it hard, if you are already famous or connected, and so the dice are loaded in your favour. Though it is still quite possible that no one remembers the book a few years later. At least in Osman's case we can be reasonably sure it was not ghost written by someone else.
  12. <pedant mode> Wasn't it G. K. Chesterton? Certainly I am sure that Oscar Wilde himself would have shuddered at the word "someplace". </pedant mode>
  13. It is basically an idealised version of 18th - 19th century rural England. Frodo is your classic English gentleman. He inherited a nice house and enough money to have no need to work, and is related in one way or another to most of the important people in the Shire. And when an out of context problem turns up in the shape of the Ring. he considers it his duty to step up and solve it himself.
  14. ... and that tells you all you need to know about Facebook in one post.
  15. It does occur - I can see Mrs W's point in wanting to be careful - but is still relatively rare.
  16. Interesting. Ticks are a problem in the Scottish Highlands also. My wife has to be very careful there (she has a special tool for pulling them out of your skin in one piece) but I also have never had one.
  17. Personally I think the Shetland series is not as good as the Vera series. The first 3 books are okay, but then it goes downhill (and in a book that once more features ornithology). And if you don't want to read about religious bigotry, the Shardlake series is definitely not for you! I have been on a reread of the classic golden age story (and also slight send up of the genre) Trent's Last Case by E.C.Bentley. It has aged extremely well considering it was published in 1913, possibly partly because, like The Moonstone, it is almost the only mystery story he ever wrote. (He co-wrote a sequel 25 years later, which is also good - a strong theme of failure and futility - but suffers a little from the co-writer's interest in food and drink.) I recommend it to any golden age fan who has not already come across it.
  18. In that case then I would indeed call her behaviour pathological. I have some slight experience of someone with issues, so if you want my advice (but do feel free to ignore it) I would suggest avoiding giving her the satisfaction of reacting to her behaviour, and to act in a calm and adult manner. Set boundaries and protect yourself. As far as possible detach yourself somewhat and try not to let what she says or does affect your own self esteem. Easier said than done when it is someone as close to you as your sister, I know.
  19. Is that a cultural thing? I am middle class English, and to me demanding to know what a family member was going to give you for Christmas would, unless there were very special circumstances, be extremely rude. Unsolicitedly criticising the gift to their face, however unwanted it was, would be unspeakably rude. Of course quietly giving it away straight after Christmas would be acceptable, and the giver could later ask only very indirectly whether the gift had been enjoyed or was valued.
  20. It is a while since I read those Rebus books. But basically it is difficult to discuss clues because of their spoilery nature. Feel free to come back if/when you have worked your way through Reginald Hill.
  21. Personal opinion: classic Reginald Hill - say from Ruling Passion (1973) to Bones and Silence (1990) - is definitely worth trying. Later on he had obviously got a bit bored of police procedurals and his books got weirder and started genre hopping. Apart from anything else, one of his books contains possibly the single most audacious clue in the whole of crime fiction. Even to say which book it is in might be a slight spoiler:
  22. I have read some of them. (They are included as extras in some editions of his books.) I would say they are a bit mixed, some good, some feeling a bit like filler. And they tend to be short. Unless one of the ones I have not read is a novella I doubt that the whole collection is that long. So I would suggest that only serious fans or completists read this (though I probably will).
  23. I fear I cannot share in your confidence that GRRM will ever finish the books, sadly.
  24. We may have been lucky with ASoIaF being finished as a TV show after all?
  25. Steven Saylor's Roma Sub Rosa series? Set in late Republic Rome with most of the key figures of the period turning up at some point. He started publishing them in the 1990's though so they may not count.
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