Replay is another riff on the theme of reliving your life with all your memories from the previous life still intact. It’s a close cousin of Claire North’s The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August (henceforth FFLoHA) and a more distant relation of Kate Atkinson’s Life after Life.

Jeff, replaying his life, comes to the same conclusion and takes a different path the next time around. On the third replay, he’s not quite as enthusiastic about the whole thing any more. Still he keeps trying new ways of finding a meaning for his life.

I liked this book and yet I was a bit disappointed with it. Jeff generally only changes tack when he starts over (or when he meets another replayer), as if he was incapable of evaluating his life until he dies and starts again. After so many years of living, I would expect a man to know and understand himself better than that.

Jeff is also rather lacking in fantasy. A life of riches, and one of sex and drugs, and one of “back to basics” pastoralism – surely he should be able come up with more ideas than that, especially with potentially nearly unlimited resources! He could travel, learn things,

I was also expecting more depth of feeling. The book is written in a very matter-of-fact, almost bland tone, when Jeff is anything but dispassionate about what’s going on. The book never quite manages to convey any real emotion. The first, least interesting replay, feels like it takes forever. But Jeff’s supposed despair and rage against whoever or whatever is causing him to be reborn yet again merits three lines of attention.

The ending is a bit too pat, and the moral of the story too obviously served on a plate. We are so obviously supposed to wonder, what would I do differently if I got the chance to live again? And then told to live our life the best we can, not to waste it, because it’s the only one we have. Well, thanks for telling me.

Replay and FFLoHA have a lot in common, including the inevitability of ending up in the government’s hands, drugged and imprisoned, if one has the unfortunate idea of letting the public know that one knows the “future”. Replay is the “original”, published almost thirty years before FFLoHA, but I read FFLoHA before Replay so in my mind it’s the other way round, and that’s the direction I inevitably compare them.

Replay is less grand and more personal in scope. FFLoHA has an entire network of immortals, and a plot that involves a possibly-impending end of the world. Replay simply focuses on the effect that repeatedly reliving your life would have on you. It’s easy to get filthy rich when you know exactly which horse will win which race, and what stocks to pick, but it doesn’t make for a satisfying life. It’s hard to invest a life in family and caring for others, when in the end it’s all taken away from you.

In a way, FFLoHA is Replay replayed. It does some things better and some things worse. Can someone write a third replay, please?



I’d signed up for an early morning nature photo workshop. Unfortunately I have a bad cold so my energy levels were low and my inspiration likewise, so I didn’t come home with anything photographically exciting. But it was a nice way to spend a morning.

I’ve been to these photo mornings a few times before, and by now I more or less know what the teacher will say. I’m not paying for the teaching – I’m paying for someone to scout out a nice location, figure out the timing, give me a nudge to go there before the sun is up, and then serve me breakfast.


My aronias go ombre when they change colour: from light orange at the bottom, through dark orange, red, and finally near-black.


Maples have the prettiest leaves.


When it comes to indoor plants, I’m an indifferent and ignorant gardener. Out in the garden, I know all the species and varieties that I have, and that I don’t have but could have. Indoors, there’s various green things, and I only know the names of some of them. I re-pot them way less often than they deserve, and I’m only diligent about watering the most sensitive ones. The rest all get watered on the same schedule, when Eric thinks its time – no individual attention there.

Therefore it’s a pleasant surprise when some of the plants look like they really thrive.


The soles on my favourite comfy shoes are nearly worn through and they will soon be consigned to the trash can. Time to buy new ones. For the umpteenth time I wish fashion did not exist and I could just buy another pair of the exact same shoes that I have. Or that sneakers were more repairable.

As seldom as I go shoe shopping, I keep forgetting that my feet have gotten larger. I still think of my feet as size 38, even though the last few pairs of shoes I’ve bought have all been larger, and then I’m surprised when the shoes I ordered are too small.


This is my little green corner in the office. The plants in the big pots are company plants, the small bonsai tree belongs to the colleague who sits opposite me, and I take care of the two small ones.

I rescued the two small black flowerpots from our old office, when everything left behind was going to get thrown out. One of them had an aloe plant in it, near death. I had hoped to bring it back to life but it died during the summer holidays. So I started over with two baby plants: a cutting from a jade tree we have at home, and the smallest plant I could find at the garden centre. They may have arrived a couple of months after us, but to me they are symbolic of moving in here.

Behind the plants is the air vent. It’s much smaller and less green than the plants, but at least as noticeable. There is almost always chilly air coming out of it. We complain occasionally, the landlord sends a guy who checks and says all measurements are good, and we continue to shiver.


Adrian’s homework each week is to read a chapter in their book, and answer a few questions in writing. The reading goes quickly and easily; the writing takes time.

Uprooted is the best book I’ve read this year. I was torn between trying to make it last, and devouring it as fast as possible because I just could not put it down. The former won, barely; this book was such a pleasure to read that it would have been a shame to wolf it down. (And when I finished, and saw there was nothing in my to-read pile that could possibly compare, I started over and read the best parts again.)

Uprooted is a fantasy novel with a fairy-tale feel. Once every ten years, the local wizard picks a girl and takes her to his tower. This time, to everyone’s great surprise, Agnieszka is picked, instead of the beautiful, brave, kind, smart girl that everybody was sure would be picked – because the wizard sees that Agnieszka has the power to learn magic. The book is about Agnieszka’s growth as a person and a witch, and her and the wizard’s struggle against the corrupting powers of the nearby Wood.

Agnieszka’s magic turns out to be very different from the wizard’s. His is disciplined and beautifully ordered; hers is intuitive and organically growing. I was glad to see that those differences were not because she was doing explained by her gender but by her background. She wasn’t doing “girl magic” but “country magic” – the city witches are as appalled by her magic as the wizard. He is not the least bit happy when they discover that they can achieve the most by combining their magic. I loved the beautiful, fascinating descriptions of their magic spells and their battles with the Wood.

I was also glad to see that this story was driven forward by a deep and surprisingly complex friendship between two young women, rather than a love relationship (although there is one of those as well). The love relationship is the one problematic part of the book – thoughts of Stockholm syndrome come to mind.

But the entire book is such a pure joy to read so I blinded myself to that problematic aspect of it and kept going. Every word, every phrase is perfect and fits just so, and no other word could possibly take its place. I found myself trying those words in my mouth, or reading some phrase again just for the feeling of it.

Some events you see coming a mile away. Of course it is obvious from page one that the wizard will pick Agnieszka. For me, that predictability was part of the fairy-tale charm of the book. Just like when reading a fairy tale you simply know that the heroine will survive all the challenges on her way, and that knowing doesn’t take away any part of the pleasure of reading the tale. You know that she will find a way to do exactly the thing that the oh-so-wise say is impossible, and that she will find a way to put an end to evil not by killing and destroying it but by turning it around.