30 June 2008

The Adventures of the Wishing-Chair (Enid Blyton)

Available at all good bookstores, courtesy of Penguin Books South Africa

What is heaven? Heaven is dark chocolate cake and strong coffee. Heaven is ‘under-sleeping’: waking up a delicious 30 minutes before the alarm clock does. Heaven is orange roses. And heaven is re-reading a book you ADORED as a child, 20 years later.

I credit Enid Blyton for giving me my imagination. For creating characters and places and adventures so colourful and so tantalising that I could taste them. Even when the book was closed. And because I am a copywriter who feeds herself and her family with the fruits of her imagination, I think Enid Blyton is deserving of sainthood.

The Adventures of the Wishing-Chair (originally penned in 1937) is the book that started it. Off we went – Mollie, Peter and I – to the Land of Dreams. To Chinky’s home. To the magician’s party. Again and again, over years and years. And all in the magic chair with the cheeky personality and the little red wings.

Egmont has re-published this first enchanting Blyton book, but retained the original artwork. I’m also pleased to see tidbits of charming, anachronistic language like, ‘Horrid thing!’; ‘We’ll go to-morrow’; and ‘Hurrah!’. All I have to do, now that I’ve read this book for perhaps the hundredth time, is find somewhere safe to keep it until I have kids.


Gillian McKeith's Food Bible (Gillian McKeith)

'The Complete A-Z Guide to a Healthy Life'

Available at all good bookstores, courtesy of Penguin Books South Africa and delivered to me by both Penguin and the team at MediaCo UK

The only fair way to begin this review is to say that I’ve been on every diet known to civilised man – and some that even uncivilised man wouldn’t tolerate. From Atkins to Zone; Blood Type to South Beach; grapefruit to veggie soup; and everything in between. Including only eating foods that are purple.

Not too long ago, I picked up a book called You Are What You Eat, by Gillian McKeith – who turned out to be that blonde lady on TV who examines people’s tongues and poo (although not at the same time, thank G-d). I read it, made a long list of foods to seek out, foods to avoid and foods to buy – and never looked at the list again.

It seemed, at the time, that McKeith advised eating a lot of weird healthy stuff I’d never heard of and didn’t know where to find. I even joked that ‘tincture of spider’ and ‘essence of seaweed gathered at midnight’ weren’t my cup of tea, so to speak.

Enter: McKeith’s latest offering, Gillian McKeith’s Food Bible – . This time, it’s a different story. Not because I’m more committed to my health (I ate MacDonalds yesterday). Not because I know where to find healthy stuff (okay, I do, but it’s far). It’s different this time because the book is so flippin’ easy to follow.

It really is a complete A-Z guide, detailing the key health factors, what makes up a healthy diet in general, which foods to eat at which age and stage of life, and then how to use food to prevent or treat a list of staggering conditions – including acne, Alzheimer’s, autism, breast cancer, bronchitis, bruising … I could go on for 200 pages (the book does).

And for each ailment, there are sections entitled ‘Causes may include’; ‘Action plan’; ‘Eat/drink’; ‘Avoid’; Herbs and supplements’; and ‘Extra tips’.

So let’s say I’m experiencing bloating. (Just to be hypothetical, you understand. Not because I have any idea what it’s like to lug a huge swollen stomach around for days on end, like a kangaroo’s pouch.) This book doesn’t, like other diet books, say, ‘Well, bran’s bad for you, because you’re in the O blood group. Stay away from it at all costs, or die.’

It says, drink warm water, chew really well, avoid refined carbs, consider a couple of supplements, combine food carefully, eat when relaxed, close your mouth when you eat, etc., but in a lot more detail – and more importantly, with good reasons that are specific to the condition in question!

The clincher is, it’s not a once-off read-this-book-and-change-your-life situation. It’s a tome-for-the-home. A big, heavy, easy-to-follow guide to feeling better – all the time, most of the time, as needed, or almost never. It is what it promises to be: a bible. And I intend not only to treasure my own copy, but to give one as a gift to everyone who’s important to me.

For more info on Gillian, her philosophies and her following, visit
www.gillianmckeithclinic.com, www.mckeithinteractive.com or www.gillianmckeithclub.com, or take the quiz at http://www.gillianmckeith.info/yourbody/health/questionnaire/index.php.


05 June 2008

This Charming Man (Marian Keyes)

Available at all good bookstores, courtesy of Penguin Books South Africa

In my world, Marian Keyes is queen. She can do no wrong. Fiction. Non-fiction. Heart-breaking. Hilarious. And whatever she attempts turns into a cuppa hot literary tea: delicious, soothing, welcome – but bloody scalding if you sip too fast.

Despite my overwhelming bias, Keyes’ latest offering, This Charming Man, threw me totally. For starters, it has four narrators and four accompanying first-person perspectives. Not my favourite. Second, there are no Walshes in it. Sad, but forgivable.

But, while its usual fist-in-mouth humour still rolls across every page, there is more sinister grimness than I’m used to from this author; more pain, more anguish, more ugliness, more anxiety, more subtlety. And a plotline that is profoundly disturbing.

Nonetheless, I couldn’t put it down.

Paddy de Courcy, Irish politician and JohnJohn Kennedy-esque hunka-runka, is the charming man. And when he announces his engagement to the graceful (yet equine) Alicia, four women take it very badly. In different ways, for different reasons, and with different results. It’s a great story, but the undertone is undeniably hardcore.

My conclusion? Either Marian’s writing has grown up faster than I have and it’s up to me to keep pace – or I’m more of a softie than I thought. Go ahead - see what you think.