Tag Archives: autobiography

Review Wednesday – Land of a Thousand Hills by Rosamund Halsey Carr

CB4520FD-2698-49CE-A0E2-C72A6FE4E798 I was keen to read this book, gifted to me by a friend from my own, old ‘Africa’ days. Modern travel can be, I believe, exciting and fulfilling and adventurous and certainly much easier and quicker than of old, but I do love to read accounts of those who ‘went before’. 

Rosamund Halsey-Carr was a young woman, living in New York, who, in 1949, fell in love with and married big-game hunter Kenneth Carr and subsequently moved with him to, what was then, the Belgian Congo. The marriage didn’t last but Rosamund’s love of Africa was already firmly rooted and she decided to stay on. She moved to close-by Rwanda.

Having spent a good number of years in Central Africa during the 1980’s and 90’s ( Zambia, Zimbabwe and Kenya but not Rwanda ), I am in awe of a lone woman (or man) who would have the guts and determination to build a life alone in such a country before the advent of home computers, the internet, mobile phones etc. There was and is a lot to love about the region but, having experienced an attempted coup first hand, I know how scary that can be, especially without communication with the outside world. 

And yet this woman took on the role of plantation manager and eventual owner. She showed courage and compassion time and again. With the help of her trusted workers she learned the ropes and staved off bankruptcy. 

Alongside the story of her work in Rwanda runs the record of her personal relationships, her continuing friendship with her ex husband, the flamboyant and fun lifestyle of some of the rich colonials and, in some cases, their subsequent tragedies. She knew Dian Fossey and relates the ups and downs of her life in Rwanda and the mystery of her death.

There were plentiful adventures and even the sad times are related in an upbeat manner.

When the genocide came in 1994 Rosamund was finally persuaded to leave the country for her own safety. That wasn’t the end of her African adventure, though. This determined woman (in her eighties) went back a few months later to the place she loved to run an orphanage. 

It’s an inspiring story of a woman who lived her life the way she wanted it to be, and did a lot of good along the way. 

Review- A Life in Parts by Bryan Cranston

img_1939Wow! This is a great book. An autobiography that I didn’t want to end; that’s an unusual situation for me.

I don’t go much for celebrity reads or celebrity anything really but I downloaded this audiobook because I so admired Cranston’s role in Breaking Bad, ( where he played the amazing character Walter White) that I wanted to know more about this actor.

The book isn’t just about Breaking Bad, not at all. It begins at the beginning; family problems, divorce, hard times though always told with humour and a sense that optimism was a non-negotiable attitude for the Cranston children.

Bryan and his brother take on all manner of jobs to keep the wolf from the door. There are some very surprising accounts of boyhood in an era when you could lose a job one day and walk into another the next and when CV’s and an interview process for minor and summer jobs hadn’t yet been invented. He tells of early no-holes-barred training for a career in the police force, including time in the morgue and a life-defining road trip before the serious work of acting began.

As far as his acting career goes, Cranston’s account seems honest and straightforward. He believes in hard work and is willing to walk the walk. He speaks of his great career boost with his role in Breaking Bad, the camaraderie on and off set and the relationships that didn’t work out so well. Fans of the series will appreciate some of the insight into this great show but beware, anyone about to begin watching there are some spoilers. Maybe watch first, read later.

A very interesting and enjoyable book. I listened to this on Audiible and Bryan Cranston with his warm, just-sitting-across-the-table-from-you, voice is a very good narrator too.

Review – Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

img_1938Reasons to Stay Alive is an important book. I know this because many reviewers who are also sufferers say it has helped them, that it is important to them, and they after all, should know.

I’ve read dozens of books on depression, old and new; some by doctors, others honest, personal accounts by those who suffer and have suffered.

Matt Haig, already an accomplished writer before he wrote this book, tells his own particular story very well. He talks about the confusion at the onset of his depression and the fear and debilitation it caused. He goes into great detail, he relates the awful challenges of simply maintaining an ordinary existence.

Reviews of the book by those affected by depression really bring home how much it can mean to read the account of someone who has gone through similar experiences and felt similar feelings. People with depression often feel very alone with their problem, unique even in the most horrible of ways, and finding that they are not is powerful.

Reading from the viewpoint of someone who is related to a sufferer is different. Reasons To Stay Alive and similar books can give hope and just a little bit more understanding. We can encourage our loved one to read the book and engage with it, see the sense and the hope in it, but don’t know if they will. But anyone who can articulate their experiences should keep writing books such as these. Let’s keep being open and honest about this devastating condition and hope the future can be brighter for many.


Review Wednesday – Dangerous by Ian Probert

img_1936One of the hardest things is to understand the motivations of others when they move in a world so alien to you that it might indeed be another planet.

This is the way I feel about boxing, a sport that lives on the periphery of my universe. I know of its existence and yet I have no desire to explore it depths and cannot fathom why anyone would. Of course the fascination lies in that, to some, this world is wonderful, desirable and the centre of their existence. The fascination is that we humans are capable of so many different reactions and responses to the world around us.

I know Ian Probert’s writing from his very funny children’s book, Johnny Nothing and that was what brought me to reading Dangerous, a book, of all things, about boxing. And yet, it isn’t. Dangerous is about love and loss and finding a place in the world comfortable enough to inhabit.

Ian Probert pulls no punches (sorry, but the phrase is entirely the most appropriate!) in this honest account of his relationships within and without the boxing world. Making his living as a boxing reporter some twenty -five years ago he admits that he loved his job and the circles he moved in. Then a tragic ‘accident’ in the ring left a boxer on life support and Ian, who counted himself a friend and supporter of boxers was suddenly seen as nothing more than an outsider by the boxer’s family, an interfering reporter who was only interested in his ‘story’. Ian was shattered by this rejection, that so mirrored his personal life, and left behind the job he loved.

In the book, the author tells the story of his determination to reconnect, to revisit the boxing world and meet with those characters, new and old that have been so important to his life. He very ably describes a life of camaraderie, even love, amongst the boxing fraternity and helps outsiders to see that there is much more than just punches and pain.

At the same time we hear about the author’s personal life, a crisis with his daughter’s health and the long-standing conflict with his father which is at the heart of the story.

The book is painful, heartbreaking, funny and above all human;  the story of man who has decided to ‘say it how it is’. If you like brutal honesty you will appreciate Dangerous. If you love boxing you will, I think, find this a fascinating insight. And if you don’t, you will experience a little of an alien world and maybe in the process understand it just a bit better.