The Becket List by Henry Becket, Illustrated by Tony Husband

Today I’m thrilled to be joining the blog tour organised by Red Door Press and Helen Lewis of Literally PR for The Becket List. Thank you for a copy of the book, my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

An A to Z of First World Problems is… just that. The Becket List is a not entirely serious compendium of ‘First World Problems’ – the sort of stuff that drives us round the bend on a daily basis. How is it that atonal music, bus stations, cling-film and coat-hangers can bugger us up so comprehensively? Or passport control people, modern poetry, or just about anything you’ll find in a typical hotel bedroom? Embracing both the inanimate – from allen keys to rawlplugs – and the animated (well, in some cases) – from your fellow-travellers to every third-rate waiter who ever walked the earth – this book is essential for your sanity. As such, this comprehensive A to Z provides a signal service to humanity.
A collection of entries about many of the things in life that, whilst essentially trivial, day after day contrive to b*gger you up. In the greater scheme of things they don’t matter a damn, but in the context of advanced civilisation they take on a huge significance. The book is a both an important resource for future social historians and a call to action. It’s also, mostly, really rather silly. 

My thoughts:

In a year full of major anxiety with a global pandemic, this book gave this reader some light relief. Instead of worrying about the ‘big problems’, Henry Becket looks at a wide of variety of people and objects that incur his wrath. Topics covered range from Gatwick Airport to Dry January, from Showers that are impossible to work to Hashtags.

This is a book that can be dipped in and out of, or read in one sitting. In the current climate of zoom meetings, keeping a copy on your desk to read whilst waiting for the host to let you in is my recommendation.

I didn’t agree with all the issues (personally as a non smoker, pubs are much improved by the smoking ban) but did find myself agreeing with many, especially trying to find light switches and use showers in hotel accommodation. For readers of a certain age, you may find yourself worrying that this book will turn you into the Victor Meldrew of 2020 (watch the BBC TV series One Foot in the Grave to understand this reference).


Here’s the ‘about the author’:


Henry Becket was one of that curious breed, a Choral Exhibitioner at Cambridge, where he read… books. And magazines. He then spent decades nurturing what a head hunter once described as an iffy CV – as a Westminster speechwriter, lobbyist, wine merchant, copywriter, ad agency supremo (industry-speak for MD), and writer/director of innumerable eminently forgettable TV commercials in an awful lot of languages. He is lucky enough to have an impressively large family, and is also pretty obsessed with sailing, skiing, claret, churches and hillwalking, among other things. Oh, and the foibles of the world around him. Obvs.

Check out https://thebecketlist.com

Tony Husband

Illustrator

British cartoonist known for black humour. His cartoons appear on greeting cards, and he has a regular cartoon strip in Private Eye entitled Yobs that has been published since the late 1980s. He co-wrote the Round the Bend children’s television series, which ran from 1989 to 1991, and was also involved with Hangar 17, which ran from 1992 to 1994. With Marc Riley he was also involved with the comic Oink! and his work has appeared in numerous publications since the 1980s.

The Tears of Monterini by Amanda Weinberg

I’m pleased to share my review for The Tears of Monterini today, published by Red Door Press earlier this month. Thank you to Lizzie and Red Door Press for a review copy – my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

Monterini, Italy. 1921. Yacobo Levi, an intellectual dreamer, works in the family bookshop. Angelo Ghione, a contadino, makes good wine by singing to the grapes. Lifetime best friends, their Jewish and Catholic families live side by side amidst a backdrop of village communal life, Etruscan tales and the growth of Benito Mussolini. Born on the same day, their children grow up and fall in love. When the 1938 racial laws are passed, the love between Bella and Rico thrives amidst and perhaps because of the fear and uncertainty. When Angelo discovers their liaison he suggests they marry but life is complicated and tensions simmer beneath the surface of love and friendship. When war is declared on the day of Bella’s wedding to Michele a fellow Jew, the peaceful village they live in is torn apart, and the Levis find themselves displaced and fighting for their lives. Will life ever be the same again? 

The Tears of Monterini is a story of love and betrayal, loyalty and friendship. Inspired by true events in Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna, this beautifully written debut will appeal to readers interested in history, Italy, romance, family dynamics and conflict.

My thoughts:

This stunning debut historical novel is one of my five star reads of 2020. By the end of chapter one, I had already shed a few tears after being drawn quickly into caring for the residents of Monterini due to the sublime storytelling by Amanda Weinberg.

This is a story of two children, Bella and Rico, born on the same day but from families following different religions, growing up whilst Mussolini and then Hitler took charge of Italy. This is the story of two men, Jacobo and Angelo, who grew up as neighbours, watching their children fall in love and having different opinions about whether the children should marry. This is the story of Monterini, a community that has enabled people of different religions to live happily side by side for generations, trying to help those who now fear for their lives.

I have read and enjoyed many historical fiction books over the past few years, and this is one of the best. I had never heard of Monterini before but now I would love to visit the area, to try the food and to drink Angelo’s wine. The last few chapters are heartbreaking but compelling – so many lives changed in a few short years. A five star read for me.

Author Bio:

Amanda Weinberg is a London based author and lover of all things Italian. She spends as much time as she can in a village in Tuscany, the inspiration for her fictional debut novel The Tears of Monterini. She is a qualified language teacher and spent many years working in publishing. She was the co director of an Advertising and Sales company, A -Z International Sales. She now spends her time writing, tutoring and volunteering on a programme for a local community website. She is an education appeal panel member for Brent Council. Amanda is a graduate of the UEA and Guardian Course in Creative Writing and has representation with the literary agency Curtis Brown. She lives with her husband Julian and has two grown up children.