Do not say we have nothing (Madeleine Thien)

This book was our Book Group pick this month. It starts in Canada with the arrival of a Chinese teenage coming to the home of a second generation Chinese girl (10 years) and you would be forgiven for thinking that the story is going to be one of the integration of an outsider into “normal” society. Instead you are taken into a rich, complex, gripping reflection on China’s cultural history, told through the eyes of a group of young people whose talent for music takes them into the Conservatory.

I had Wiki open next to me for the first few chapters to help me work out who was who, who was real and who not, who was related to whom and how. It helped.

I was a new mum in 1989, thought myself politically aware and vaguely interested in the Tianenman Square protest as it happened (April – June) but had no idea of the lives of people involved, the cultural forces at work in China, the grip that the Gang of Four held on the minds and dreams of the people over such a vast area.

Madeleine Thien is a brilliant writer. Her words sparkle across the page. The clash between East and West, Right and Left, parent and child are all explored with wit, affection, intelligence and compelling insight.

It made me want to weep for the loss of dreams, for the awful, awful turning of the cultural wheel. The death of dreams, the dreadful stasis of fear. The mob, the overwhelming mob.

It is a long book and needs to be read when you really have time to get going with it (book group members who can only snatch 20 mins or so for themselves found it a little daunting) but it rewards the investment.

Awards and honours

  • 2016 Man Booker Prize, shortlisted.
  • 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize, won.
  • 2016 Governor General’s Award for English-language fiction, won.
  • 2016 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction, longlisted.
  • 2017 Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards – Writing with a Sense of Place, won.
  • 2017 Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction, shortlisted.
  • 2017 Rathbones Folio Prize, shortlisted.

Food, Leisure

Mistley thorn (Sunday Lunch)

This pub / restaurant in Mistley sits a little away from the causeway, on the main road through the village. It’s menu is on the pricey side, and I will never mind making that choice if the food is excellent.



This however  was a mixed bag. The roast beef dinner was lovely – the meat beautifully cooked, melty and lovely. The veg was nicely cooked, the gravy not quite enough. But the Yorkshire (green inside, if you can believe that!) was inedible. I saw several go back.

For pudding I opted for the american pancakes with toffee sauce but was told they kitchen had run out.

Run out.

Its flour, eggs and milk, and children learn them as a first ever lesson at school.

(lesson learned – sometimes when a menu says these things are cooked at the place, it might not have been recently.) I opted for the rhubarb jelly with vanilla ice cream, thinking it a poor second place to pancakes, but I was delighted with it. The jelly was a delight, so wobbly the whole table giggled, the ice cream was soft and lovely and the shortbread biscuits were yummy.


At £9 a glass of red was a raising of the eyebrow (only flippin Malbec ffs, not a chateauneuf!)


So I may not go again, but I might. Its a bit far to go to be disappointed but when they get it right they get it very right indeed.



Oat cookies

These are the bestest, easiest cookies ever!


3oz each of SR flour, sugar, porridge oats and butter

1tbs each of syrup and milk

Mix all dry (I throw in a snack pack of nuts and seeds)

Heat all wet

Mix and bake at 180 for 10 mins

Makes 12


Yes, there are 11 in the picture.


(mental image of me wiping off a crumb………….)




never a bad choice, even if I have got a wedding to lose weight for…….


Now, that is an easy recipe and I do love those – do you have any to share?