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Manny Rayner's book reviews

I love reviewing books - have been doing it at Goodreads, but considering moving here.

Currently reading

The Greatest Show On Earth: The Evidence For Evolution
Richard Dawkins
R in Action
Robert Kabacoff
Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies
Douglas R. Hofstadter
McGee on Food and Cooking: An Encyclopedia of Kitchen Science, History and Culture
Harold McGee
Epistemic Dimensions of Personhood
Simon Evnine
Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning (Information Science and Statistics)
Christopher M. Bishop
Relativity, Thermodynamics and Cosmology
Richard C. Tolman
The Cambridge Handbook of Second Language Acquisition
Julia Herschensohn, Martha Young-Scholten

Bad Manors

Bad Manors - Lisa Armstrong After some discussion with my wife, it appeared that I'd never read a whole chick-lit novel from cover to cover. I asked if she could lend me one, and she said that Bad Manors was about as good as it got - that's why it hadn't already been donated to the Oxfam shop.

A couple of days later, she discovered me engrossed. "Don't you find it rather boring?" she asked, puzzled. I assured her that it was interesting to read an unapologetic wish-fulfilment fantasy presented from the female point of view. So this is what women want! I suppose I had heard most of it before in one form or another, but it was fascinating to see it all written down in explicit detail. Here are some of the fantasies I was particularly struck by:

- People will notice that you are working your butt off, and appreciate it. The heroine is a hypercompetent workaholic control freak, but no one at work ever thanks her! In the end, of course, her brilliance is universally recognized. OK, I knew that one - I'm not totally stupid.

- Despite the fact that you're never able to spend any time with them, your children will grow up to be beautiful, witty and incredibly intelligent. A more subtle fantasy. Evidently, there are only 24 hours in the day, and Cat, the main character, spends most of them working or sleeping. But, miraculously, her daughter is sensible, emotionally well-balanced and does brilliantly in school. The au pair is a perfect surrogate mother, and people just spontaneously volunteer to give her free riding lessons, etc...

- You'll manage not to have sex with the person you obviously shouldn't have got involved with, so that your virtue will be more or less intact when Mr. Right comes along. This part of the plot required massive suspension of disbelief, but after I figured out what was happening it was quite funny.

- The above-mentioned Mr. Right will be handsome, kind, intelligent and moral, but will somehow still be available at the age of about 35, and will not even have any romantic past worth mentioning. Also required considerable suspension of disbelief, but what the hell.

- My personal favourite: your guy will turn down blatant sexual advances from attractive women, even when he's sure he can get away with it and it costs him personally. I just loved the scene where the hot blonde flight attendant is flirting with Toby, and he hands her back the card with her phone number, saying that she must have dropped it. She's so annoyed that she "accidentally" pours a drink over him and manages to ruin his expensive new coat.

The book was worth reading for this episode alone! For a moment, I felt that I, too, was a driven young career woman, juggling home and job, and wondering if the too-charming, too-hunky man I'd somehow started dating was being faithful to me...