Category Archives: Jenny Lord

Novel Insights’ Top 12 Books – 2011

I am savouring my last day off work today and feeling a little bit smug to be sat indoors out of the rain with nothing more taxing to do than mull over my favourite books of the past year. Actually, I say it’s not taxing but I started by trying to pick five books, then changed it to ten, and then bumped it up to twelve – whoops! Well that is one for every month – a perfectly good excuse in my opinion. Here they are:

How To Be a Woman, by Caitlin Moran

5 stars 5/5

“…challenges all the stupid things that women are told (and tell themselves) with a big bucketful of humour…” Read full review.

Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro

5 stars 5/5

“…an important book and one that I think is up there with some of the best dystopian novels.” Read full review.

Never Let Me Go

In Love & Trouble, by Alice Walker

5 stars 5/5

“…each time I picked up Alice Walker’s collection of short stories, I felt as if time was suspended and I was transported completely to heat of the Southern America… The richness and vitality of Walker’s writing makes this book an utter pleasure to read.” Read full review.

Through the Wall, by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya

5 stars 5/5

“The stories sound barmy, and there is a heavy dose of the surreal, but at their heart Petrushevskaya’s tales  are real human experiences of grief, love and loss.” Read full review.

Through the Wall, by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya

Purls of Wisdom, by Jenny Lord

5 stars 5/5

“…a book that I know I will refer to time and time again. I love the informal writing style because it feels just as if a friend is teaching you…” (AKA the book to blame for my knitting obsession in 2011!) Read full review.

Purls of Wisdom: The Book of Knitting

Mr Chartwell, by Rebecca Hunt

4.5 stars4.5/5

“I struggle to think of many other books that convey what is a very serious message with so much originality and seemingly so effortlessly.” Read full review.

Mary Anne, by Daphne du Maurier

4.5 stars4.5/5

“…a book, packed with with witty lines, and a richly described period setting which creates the backdrop for the story of a fascinating protagonist based on du Maurier’s own great-great-grandmother.” Read full review.

The Mermaids Singing, by Val McDermid

4.5 stars4.5/5

“I think that I might have found a new favourite crime writer to add to my list!” Read full review.

The Mermaids Singing

A Grief Observed, by C.S. Lewis

4 stars4/5

“Of course, this is a sad book to read, but also so beautifully and eloquently written… In an odd way, I believe that this little book could be comforting at a time of loss, if only because of how openly the author shares his experience.” Read full review.

Fateless, by Imre Kertész

4 stars4/5

“… a novel that will stay with me, because it is unique in the way that it addresses the experience of concentration camps. The writing is deceptively simple, and peppered with imaginative ideas…” Read full review.

Fateless, by Imre Kertesz

Journey by Moonlight, by Antal Szerb

4 stars4/5

“…has the qualities that I associate with a real classic… A rich and many-layered story.” Read full review.

Before I go to Sleep, by S.J. Watson

4.5 stars4.5/5

“…smartly plotted, written compellingly and the premise is well-executed.” Read full review.

Before I go to Sleep

A retrospective look at Novel Insights tells me that in 2011 I read a total of 43 books which is a whole 30% lower than last year’s count of 62. I don’t get too hung up about the number of books that I read because I don’t like to over-organise or analyse the things I do for pleasure and for this reason I don’t really make reading resolutions.

That said, I do think that my reading and blogging can be seen as a bit of a barometer of how I’m feeling. While sometimes I read less because I’ve been occupied with nice, fun stuff (including quite a lot of knitting this year!) I have felt quite busy over the past few months and it is one of my resolutions to find a better balance between work and my leisure time.

Well that’s my little bit of naval-gazing over and done with! How was your 2011? Do you have any reading resolutions? What books really stood out for you this year?

Purls of Wisdom, by Jenny Lord

5 stars 5/5

If you have ever fancied trying your hand at knitting, Jenny Lord’s Purls of Wisdom is the book you should buy.

Purls of Wisdom

Penguin Books, 2010, paperback, 208 pages - review copy.

I have been able to do simple stitches ever since my Nan showed me how when I was about seven years old, but I usually only pick up a pair of needles once a year when the nights are getting darker and I decide to make something for a loved one – usually a scarf! This year I have decided that I will learn to knit properly. One day I’d love to think that I could be making all sorts of beautiful items including clothing for myself in whatever colours and textures that I like. It sounds a little selfish, but I tend to agree with fitknitchick that you do a better job of something when you do it for yourself.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I want to say that I got hold of Purls of Wisdom: The Book of Knitting because I met Jenny at an event. We somehow ended chatting about knitting and she said that she would sent me a copy of her book. To be honest, I simply thought ‘well that’s nice – a knitting book’ and thought little of it until it turned up in the post. When it arrived I realised that I had spotted it in the library and thought it looked rather nice (bonus!) and decided that when I’d finished the blanket I was knitting for a friend  would try something from the book. Here’s what I thought…

First Impressions

  • Pretty cover, great title (I do like a good pun) and simple patterns that I might actually use / wear
  • Introduction – brilliant! Conversational (completely agree that knitting is an excellent excuse to sit and watch crummy TV programmes) and also informative.
  • Nice colour pictures and looks like the author and her friends are modelling them – I like!
Case Study: Knitted Wristwarmers

I’ve decided that in order to learn to knit properly I’ll do a series of small projects which will teach me a new technique each time. Having become more confident with creating pattern and texture I decided that the next step would be to knit ‘in the round’ and after some lovely encouraging comments chose to knit wristwarmers.

Jenny’s instructions were really easy to follow. For each pattern she has a useful little box which explains which techniques you need to know and what tools you need.

She references where in the book you can learn each technique. I found the black white (and pink!) graphics really simple to follow – clearer than photographs in fact.

Admittedly, I didn’t follow the instructions to the letter. She recommends specific yarn (and tells you where you can get it from) but I was too impatient to order over the internet and picked up some lovely Debbie Bliss yarn from John Lewis haberdashery. I also decided to add a rib border (get me improvising already!) to add a neat edge.

The outcome was pretty successful I thought!

Knitted Wristwarmers

Knitted Wristwarmers

Admittedly I did get a little grumpy and unravelled my first attempt after being distracted by the film I was watching and it all going a bit wrong. This is why it’s good to do small projects! After the first hitch, it took no time to finish my cosy, if unseasonal wristwarmers. Probably a couple of days.

Anything I would change?

At a push, I would say it might be nice to have a ring-bound version that can be laid flat when reading instructions – as I can with my copy of Knitting (Instant Expert). Incidentally this is also a nice book but I find that the patterns jump up in complexity too quickly, and are not as youthful / fresh as those in Purls of Wisdom.

Purls of Wisdom is a book that I know I will refer to time and time again. I love the informal writing style because it feels just as if a friend is teaching you and passing on all her little tips. It’s obvious that Jenny loves the craft, it’s history and the freedom that comes from creating your own customised items. It seems to be the book with everything I need to become an advanced knitter, capable of making some fabulous clothes!

Thanks Jenny for the book and inspiration, and thanks Alan for taking photographs of the results.