The Shadows in the Street – Susan Hill

I mentioned in passing the other day the fact I sadly still have yet to meet Susan Hill who, no pressure, is one of my favourite living writers. I am still waiting for the afternoon tea we once discussed (see comments here). Anyway, it was not seeing her that reminded me I hadn’t reviewed The Shadows in the Streets, the fifth in her Simon Serrailler series which I am devouring slowly as I don’t want them to run out. Susan Hill is one of those authors who seem to be able to turn her hand to any genre, and in her crime novels have become one of my favourites, even if we did have a few bumpy starts, and this was no exception to the rule.

Vintage Books, paperback, 2011, fiction, 384 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

Lafferton is a city in which the levels of prostitution have been rising. This has not gone unnoticed by the people of the city especially as the girls seem to be grouping closer and closer to the centre of town, possibly due to a rise in younger girls who may have been trafficked in. One person has noticed this in particular and has decided to take advantage of the seeming abundance of women, buy killing them. Initially what seems to be a one off incident is followed by another and it seems Lafferton has a serial killer on its hands, yet it’s most esteemed (well in some circles) Detective, Simon Serrailler, is getting away from it all in the tranquillity of a Scottish island, his peace and quiet is soon to be shattered.

Prostitution and trafficking are two very tricky subjects to handle by any author. There is the danger of adding a moral compass to the subject or in some cases preach about it. Initially I was slightly worried that this may go down that route as Hill introduces a new Dean at Lafferton Cathedral along with his wife, who seems to have some very moralistic opinions of the work of these girls and their effect on the city’s image, I needn’t have feared though. We soon see through Cat Deerbon, the local GP and Simon’s sister, that this woman is not what Lafferton, its cathedral or people want as some kind of pompous vigilante.

In fact The Shadows in the Street really looks at the reasons behind why these women are prostituting through some of its characters. Yes, some of them are doing it for the next fix of a drug, which is often seen as one of the stereotypes, yet why have they got into a situation where they are dependent on drugs? Some of these women end up doing it in the hope for a better life be it through choice, or in some cases not. We see these women’s plight and how some of them manage to gain power and independence through it, whilst some end in a spiralling situation. In every case these are not just nameless one dimensional prostitutes, just as they are one just faceless victims of a murder, these women have their own stories and we empathise with their situation. I found this an incredibly powerful aspect of the novel.

Someone had left a newspaper on the bench. There was a photo of the girl in the green jacket. Missing Prostitute Chantelle Buckley, 17.
Abi looked away. Why did they have to do that? She wasn’t a prostitute first, she was a girl, just a girl, no need to label her. Would they do that to her? Abi Righton, 23, prostitute. She shook her head to clear the words out of it. That wasn’t her, she was Abi Righton, mother of two, Abi Righton any bloody thing, and the same with Chantelle, same with Hayles, same with Marie. Just people.

Of course this is a thriller and designed to be devoured and read addictively offering escapism and chills and thrills. Fret not, if you are worried this is all sounding too heavy, as Susan Hill also provides all these elements, as well as a thought provoking read at the same time. Firstly I should say that I had absolutely no idea who the killer was until just before the very end (just when Hill wanted me to I suspect) when it dawned on me and due to what was going on in the book, which of course I won’t spoil, I got that really sick worried feeling. I was that engrossed. Indeed I was engrossed throughout as Susan Hill seems to know how to make the chapters just the right length and have just the cliff hanger ending that you find yourself saying ‘oh just one more chapter then’ until the whole book is finished. Secondly she also has an incredible power to make a book ever so creepy, as those of you who have read her ghost stories will know, and uses this to great effect to rack up the tension in her thrillers.

He had not overtaken her, he was not someone making quickly for home, with no interest in her. He was there, keeping behind, and nobody else was in sight or earshot. To her left reared up the dark outline of the Hill; to her right, the railings of the park. Houses were on the far side of that – she could not even see any lights, people had gone to bed by now.
She prayed for someone to drive by, for the gnat whine of the scooter, a late-night van, even a police patrol, even just one person walking a dog last thing.
But there was no one, except whoever was now a couple of yards behind her and closing in. She could hear breathing, a soft pant, in and out, in and out. Quiet footsteps. Marie broke into a run. The footsteps behind her quickened too.

The other element I like in the Simon Serrailler series, apart from the lead obviously though he wasn’t in this one that much to be honest, is the way I have come to know his family. I have followed them as relationships have created stronger bonds or had them broken, I have followed births and deaths, love and grief. Not to spoil anything for anyone who might want to start at the beginning (which you will want to do if you are anything like me and need order in your life where you can get it) but in this series how one character deals with grief and how a new incoming member of the family tries to bring two members back together very touching. It adds another level to the series I think.

I really enjoyed The Shadow in the Streets and once again Susan Hill has proved that the Simon Serrailler (who of course is another Simon S so I am bound to like him) series is one which has both those brilliant elements of being gripping and being thought provoking. I am a huge fan of Susan Hill in whatever genre she writes, I do think that with her crime novels we get the best of her literary writing and character driven plots as well as the dark and gothic chilling tones of her ghost stories, a perfect combination.

I am now very keen to read The Betrayal of Trust and see what happens next in Lafferton, before that though I am being very brave and bringing Susan’s modern classic I’m The King of the Castle as my choice for the final episode of the first series of Hear Read This next month, eek – will my co-hosts like it? Will I? Back to Lafferton though, who else is a big fan of the Simon Serrailler series? Who has yet to try it and have I tempted you?

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Filed under Review, Susan Hill, Vintage Books

London Diary #3 – The Folio & House of Illustration Prize

This is going to sound ruder than its meant; sometimes emails arrive in the Savidge Reads inbox and the initial excitement is almost imminently met with gloom. I am talking about the moment a really wonderful and exciting email arrives inviting me to something bookish and fabulous and I can’t go. Normally this is because they are in London on a working day and if by some miracle I could get the day off, the train fare down is ludicrous unless several weeks/months in advance. So imagine my joy when an invite to the Book Illustration Competition Awards arrived and I was already going to be in London. This was made all the better that it was from the lovely folks at the Folio Society who make all those gorgeous editions of books for their forthcoming Ghost Stories collection, which I am going to have to get, along with The House of Illustration! How could I say no? Especially when I was allowed a plus one, and so took a friendly face you might recognise…

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Yes, that is Polly, my best friend of almost thirty years (I know, we look so young don’t we) and former blogger of Novel Insights, which she won’t bring back no matter how many times I beg. She was the perfect person to have a good old gossip with over a class or two of sparkly whilst we had a look at all the long listed submissions on display in the House of Illustration’s gallery (I did have pictures but they all came out blurred or reflecting the crowd/my fizzog) and at some of the past winners of the awards…

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Soon the lights went down and it was time to get ready to announce the shortlisted authors which was meant to be done by the one and only Susan Hill but who alas couldn’t make it. I was momentarily bereft, more champagne helped…

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Anyway the short listed illustrators were Carrie May, Emma Buckley, Charlie Dixon, Jamie Clarke and Imogen Clifton. You can see examples of their work here along with the winner. Then it was time for the winner to be announced…

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And the winner was David McConochie! Once again, as with the other event I went to in the last week, it is me taking pictures of silhouetted people…

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As you can see his works are brilliantly spooky, capturing the essence of the gothic and the ghostly, it is also very varied…

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This was my favourite one…

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Something very sensation novel and Victorian about it. In fact I would quite like a portrait in this style of myself, just putting that out there. A huge congratulations to all the illustrators, as I am sure Polly would concur their art work was all marvellous and must have made it a very, very difficult job for the judges. I can’t wait to see the finished product when it comes out and will be purchasing a copy. I actually had a look through their catalogue on the way home and could frankly have the whole lot in my house… maybe one day when I have that stately home with its own library wing?!? I also need to return to the House of Illustration and have another wander when I am next in London.

Do you have any Folio Society editions and if so which ones? Also, I would love to know which Ghost Stories you would include in an anthology… I thought I would have loads and I don’t, which is odd as in my head I love them. I seem to have more novels, like The Woman in Black by the aforementioned Susan Hill, who I will meet one day – I will, I will, I will!

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London Diary #2 – Foyles Fills Me With Excitement

So one of the meetings that I had booked for my trip to London was to meet with the lovely folk at Foyles. I have shared my love of Foyles, and indeed their new flagship store, with you before on the blog. One of the reasons I was meeting them was to discuss the plans for the second year of partnership with The Green Carnation Prize in 2015, already it looks like the prize will have another exciting year ahead and (without spoilers) it might be a bit edgier this year, so watch this space. I was also there to discuss something else which I have been floating ideas about with them since last autumn and, though I can’t tell you everything about it yet, they have agreed to let me curate a week long festival in their flagship store over the summer. I can’t quite believe they have said yes, but they have…

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Now obviously I have to go into major planning mode, without being funny what could be more fun for a complete book geek than planning a book festival? I have lots and lots of idea’s and once things are all more formalised, shaped and sorted I will share more with you. I am really excited about this summer, with this news and some very exciting news I will be sharing next week about something else I am doing over the next months I think it is going to be booking brilliant!

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London Diary #1 – Ten for 15; Speakeasy @DrinkShopDo

One of the things that I miss about London, and something I would like to address ‘oop north’ in Liverpool if I could get ten minutes, is the literary buzz that runs through the city. I don’t just mean all the famous author living or dead, or the infamous sights, sounds and streets that they write about; I also mean the fact that on almost any given night you will find something wonderfully booky going on in some lovely venue somewhere in the city.

Thanks to the lovely Will who is now Community Manager at Vintage Books, I was invited to such an event called Speakeasy at Drink Shop Do, one of those lovely shops selling gifts (like tea towels, bags, candles, cards and knickknacks that I never knew I wanted until I walk in and promptly need them)  and upstairs has a cafe-cum-bar (careful how you say that) and disco room. I do not know who had this idea but they are a genius – could they please identify themselves and open one in Liverpool instantly that I can run. Anyway tonight was all about ten readings from ten authors whose books look set to cause quite a lot of chatter in 2015, hosted by the very funny and lovely duo comprised of Ian Ellard (who I believe works for Faber) and Tom Pollock (whose books you may have read, I know I have been recommended them by many of you).

So who were the authors and what were their books about I hear you cry, desperate for me to get on with it so you can go and see if you want to read their books. Well thanks to modern technology I was able to sneakily take some snaps of the authors, which came out rather snazzily like silhouettes that some really amazing photographer would take hours to conjure. Coughs.

First up, as her surname came first, was Emily Bullock whose debut novel The Longest Fight is inspired by her grandfather and is set in 1950s South East London in the gritty and violent world of boxing. Now boxing is probably somewhere not far behind boats and horses in my idea of what I would like in a book, Emily’s reading created a real tension in the room as her protagonist faced the ring and actually hooked in me, right on the chin (see what I did there?)

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Alex Christofi was up next and broke the tension with a very, very funny reading from his debut Glass, which is currently getting a lot of buzz in all the right places as an off-beat comedy about a young man finding his way in the modern world, oh and window cleaning. If the whole book has the sense of humour, which was darkly and ever-so-slightly wrongly funny, we witnessed the whole way through I think it will be right up my street.

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Nicci Cloke was up next to read from her second novel, Lay Me Down. Set in San Francisco, it follows a couple, Jack and Elsa, as they struggle to adjust to the extraordinary demands of Jack’s job on the Golden Gate Bridge. Apparently it is also a tale of suicide. Nicci is one of the Vintage authors and so it was in part thanks to her I was there.

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All rules of alphabetic order were thrown caution to the wind as Rebecca Whitney (who might have had an early train to catch) read from her debut The Liar’s Chair, which sounded right up the alley of Gone Girl fans like myself as it asks: What if the thing you were most afraid of was your husband? Her reading was genuinely creepy, so I need to get my mitts on that.

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Antonia Honeywell was the next person to stand up (next to Ian Ellard who is in all these pictures and gives very good ‘listening’ face, I tend to stare at my shoes or idly pick at fluff on my top when an author is reading when hosting events) and read to us all from her debut novel, The Ship. Yes, you guessed it a book on A BOAT! I have to say though if anyone is going to get me reading a book on a boat in 2015 it will be Antonia. Enough about me, the story… Sixteen year old Lalla’s father has a plan to escape London which has gone into meltdown: he will captain a ship big enough to save five hundred worthy people. But what is the price of salvation?

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Den Patrick was up next and read from The Boy Who Wept Blood which is a follow up to The Boy With the Porcelain Blade. I do not know anyone who has yet to tell me they didn’t like the first so this is a series I need to do some more investigating on. In other news Den Patrick looks very like Matthew Goode out of Hollywood, you can’t tell this from my picture but it is true.

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Peter Swanson was up next with his second novel The Kind Worth Killing. Now by this point I might have had too many sherries or too many Haribo from lovely china cups, I swear that he introduced the book as being about someone who feels his wife should be killed and so does she… yet that doesn’t sound right. Either way he made me want to read it and I have his first novel The Girl With a Clock for a Heart on my shelves already.

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Ruth Ware was the second of Vintage’s authors up and was reading from her thriller In A Dark Dark Wood which is set around a hen weekend which goes horrendously wrong and a secret between some of the women that seemed to have been left in the past, hasn’t. This isn’t out until the summer so we will have to wait with baited breath. Note – I have included a shot of Tom Pollock in the background of the photo below to a) prove he was there b) show you his very good listening face.

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The penultimate reading was from David Whitehouse, whose debut Bed I absolutely loved when it came out and yet never reviewed because I am a tool. His new novel The Mobile Library sounds like it will be just as wonderful, I mean from the title you can tell it will be about bookish adventures and so any book lover wants to read it regardless of whether I tell you more or not. So I won’t. I will say in just a few pages that David read he does humour and heartbreak brilliantly well.

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Last but not least was Shelley Harris, another author whose debut I really liked but didn’t review because I am a loon – though I did share her bookshelves, reading from Vigilante which also sounds right up my street. After stumbling into a vigilante rescue one night, Jenny Pepper decides to become a hero – but with frightening consequences. Now as a lover of superhero’s, and just from Shelley’s prologue, I cannot not read this at some point this year.

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So there you have it, ten authors whose books I would highly recommend you read if you haven’t already. If that wasn’t enough I also got to see lots of lovely faces from the blogging world. Will and I have been meaning to say hello for years, also on my table were my mates Kim, Rob and Kate plus I got to meet SanneNaomi and Jim for the first time as well as the lovely Nina.  Oh and Anna from the We Love This Book. Then there were the aforementioned authors who some of came and said hello, as I was being my usual wallflower like self, as did Stuart Evers who was also in attendance. Plus from the land of publishing the lovely Sam and Francesa from Picador and Drew from Serpent’s Tail. It was quite a first night in London Town. A huge thanks to Vintage Books and especially the lovely host with the most Will for inviting me and looking after me so well!

So have you read any of these authors’ books and if so what did you think? Have you been to Drink Shop Do? Which literary events have you been to and loved?

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Filed under Alex Christofi, Antonia Honeywell, David Whitehouse, Den Patrick, Emily Bullock, Nicci Cloke, Peter Swanson, Random Savidgeness, Rebecca Whitney, Ruth Ware, Shelley Harris

Off to London, And You’re Coming With Me…

I am off to London for the rest of this week as I have some time off (though oddly I am working on Wednesday at London Olympia) and there are some lovely bookish things going on. People always said that I wouldn’t appreciate living in London till I left it, and they were sort of right. Don’t get me wrong I love living ‘oop North’ but now when I go back to London I really, really appreciate it. Before I was too busy getting from a to b without trying to kill someone on the commute – yes, I was one of those people, forgive me. The only thing I miss really badly, bar all my lovely mates, is all the booky things that go on down in big London. Well I am rectifying that on this trip and thought I would do a ‘London Diary’ of sorts while I am there so that you can all be part of the fun. Well if you want to, you might not in which case normal blogging will resume on Saturday…

Will I be bookishly themed enough on the Tube?!?

Will I be bookishly themed enough on the Tube?!?

Over the next few days though you can expect some posts on an event at Drink Shop Do (which just sounds ace) where ten authors will be reading from some of the most anticipated books of 2015 (and there are cocktails so the pictures might be blurred), a visit to Foyles (where I can’t buy any bloody books), afternoon tea at Liberties and a book illustration prize where I may finally meet Susan Hill. Yep, it is a jam packed few days – I will need another holiday after it!

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The Casual Vacancy – J. K. Rowling

Tonight sees the first part of the adaptation of J. K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy being screened on BBC One here in the UK, admittedly I had no idea that it had been adapted till I saw the new edition of the book in the supermarket, so I thought it was about time I gave it a whirl. I am a fan of Rowling’s writing, I loved the Harry Potter books and indeed for the last three was one of the people who went and queued for a midnight release. Yet the hype and buzz around Rowling’s first ‘proper book for grown ups’ when it came out proved too much for me, even though it’s about a small British town which is a setting I love with all that curtain twitching. So I set it aside for when the time was right, which seemed like now as I needed to read it before I watched it on the telly, and so I started.

Little Brown, hardback, 2012, fiction, 503 pages, bought by myself for myself

As you would expect from a Rowling novel, The Casual Vacancy has a huge cast of characters and also a rather wide scope, even if only set in the small town of Pagford. As the novel opens Councillor Barry Fairbrother dies suddenly, leaving the casual vacancy of the title. If you are like me and not really up on government politics let alone local ones (which as I work for an offshoot of the council is ironic, I do get passionate around general election time so watch out this summer) then this will mean nothing to you either, yet it is indeed a true thing.

‘We’ve got a…?’ asked Maureen, frightened that she might have missed something crucial.
‘Casual vacancy,’ repeated Howard. ‘What you call it when a council seat becomes vacant through a death. Proper term,’ he said pedagogically.

Here too you might also think ‘oh no this sounds really, really dull and dreary why would I want to read about local politics?’ as I did, yet this is just really the background noise as at the centre stage are the lives of those who might stand to take up Barry Fairbrother’s place, as well as those he leaves behind on a personal level after his death. It is here behind closed doors, where people’s secrets lie, where the action and heart of the novel are. It is also where Rowling creates a wonderfully intricate and darkly funny series of plots and twists with the interlinking characters that live behind them.

First are the Mollinsons. Howard Mollinson is already on the council and, along with his wife Shirley, desperately want their son Miles to take over as the new councillor. This adding to Howard’s plan to make sure The Fields, a council estate that houses a drug clinic, fall under the council of the nearby city of Yarvil and becomes their responsibility – a major part of the book, more on soon. The only person who doesn’t seem keen in Miles’ wonderfully awful, miserable and bitter wife Samantha, who would rather just concentrate on making her lingerie shop more of a success before coming home and getting drunk.

Second up is Dr. Parminder Jarwanda, who was Barry’s right hand woman, and is seen as one of the most respectable prospects both with her job and her picture perfect family, of course the perfect picture often has cracks within it. Third up is Colin “Cubby” Wall a local Deputy Head Teacher who some would say was rather obsessed with Barry Fairbrother; he is also obsessed with not doing something else. Fourthly and finally is the rather left field option that is Simon Price, a man who thinks he is of the people, yet we soon learn is a horrendous tyrant and bully to his family.

All these people want to go for a respected role and yet, as you will have guessed, they all hide secrets, secrets which soon start to appear on the Pagford community website written by “The_Ghost_Of_Barry_Fairbrother” but who is this ghost and why are they spreading such poisonous messages exposing the flaws in the candidates. Could there be some undercover vigilante’s in the midst of the town and what are their motives?

As I mentioned the novel also deals with those who Barry left behind. There is his wife Mary, his best friend Gavin (who doesn’t quite realise it till he has died) and also teenager Krystal Weedon. Krystal may initially be a surprise link, yet she lives on The Fields, where we discover Barry came from hence his passion for it, and who he took under his wing. Krystal is a girl living with a hard life trying to look after her little brother when her mother falls off the wagon and either gets drunk or finds the funds, or prostitutes herself, for a fix of heroin. Krystal is also the link of sorts between all the other characters, she plays on a team (which Barry coached) with Sukhvinder Jawanda and is dating Colin Walls son, Fats. Are you still with me? Good. She is really Rowling’s heroine of the piece, yet I also found that she was the character that Rowling lets down the most in the end…

Before I get onto that, I want to share with you what I loved about The Casual Vacancy, as there is a lot to love. Most importantly, I really, really love Rowling’s writing. I love the way she creates Pagford so completely in your head. You see the streets that these people walk down, you watch the curtains twitch and you go and have coffee and gossip with them in the shops. Her characters are also wonderfully drawn; vivid and fully formed they inhabit your head as they inhabit the town. I also loved the way that Rowling uses a wicked sense of humour to create them and depict their physicality and situations, often in a quite upfront and giggle inducing way. No we are not in the land of Harry Potter anymore…

Though Pagford’s delicatessen would not open until nine thirty, Howard Mollison had arrived early. He was an extravagantly obese man of sixty-four. A great apron of a stomach fell so far down in front of his thighs that most people instantly thought of his penis when they first clapped eyes on him, wondering when he had last seen it, how he washed it, how he managed to perform any of the acts for which a penis is designed.

It was for all these reasons that I raced through the first two thirds of the book. Then I started to struggle. It is not that the book is too long, I just felt it and Rowling lose their way and get too caught up in the social mores and trying to piss Daily Mail readers off. You see whilst all the secrets and themes of the novel (the self harm, the depression, the domestic violence, racism, homophobia, assumptions about class) initially are the fire in the belly of The Casual Vacancy they also start to weigh it down too much.

There is the fact that to be honest there are no redeeming features in any of the characters, apart from Barry’s widow Mary, each one is really a bit of a shit in one way or another. Whilst this may be true of some villages and towns in the country a novel needs some form of redemption somewhere. Even the younger generation in the novel, who I should say Rowling writes the best, are actually little sods in some ways with the exception of Sukhvinder. Yes, even Krystal, the girl who Rowling uses to depict the working class and poor that she came from, soon gets motives of survival that I found quite insulting to that class.

Then Rowling did two things, one which I saw coming and didn’t think she would do as it seemed to obvious and one which I didn’t see coming and was enraged by, which for me both let all those people down she clearly wanted to highlight and make us feel for AND made the book so utterly bleak, grim and depressing I threw the paperback I anally bought so not to dent my hardback in my work bag on the commute across the room in anger and frustration – but not in the way I think Rowling wanted me too. There was just no need and no redemption, and this is from someone who likes books that are dark. I sulked, epically. I went from cackling to cursing.

Now I have had some time away from The Casual Vacancy I still feel very conflicted about it and I think I probably will remain so. On the one hand it is a tale about the lengths people will go for power. It is also a darkly funny novel about a fantastic, if unlikeable (which doesn’t put me off a book to clarify) bunch of characters and what they try to hide from each other. It is also about the responsibility of those privileged enough to get the power, especially in acting for those who may never get their voices heard let alone the power to make decisions in society. The thing is for me in the last sixty pages Rowling goes from vocalising those voices to inevitably letting them down, well in the opinion of this reader anyway.

I don’t think I am alone in this having mentioned the book on twitter a few times and indeed seeing that the people behind the BBC’s adaption have apparently changed the ending as they felt it was too grim. I still love Rowling’s writing, I am still going to read the Robert Galbraith crime novels, I just wish she had carried on highlighting the plight of a part of society without the extremity which then backfired, I thought. I will stop now or I will get cross again. Who else has read The Casual Vacancy and what did you make of it? Who else is going to be tuning into the mini-series?

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Filed under J.K. Rowling, Little Brown Publishing, Review

Other People’s Bookshelves #51 – Katharine Lunn

Hello and welcome to the latest Other People’s Bookshelves. If you haven’t seen it before this is a series of posts set to feed into the filthy book lust/porn and either give you a fix of other people’s books and shelves. This week we are off to Nottingham (where my great grandparents used to live and I would go every other Sunday) to meet blogger Katharine Lunn, or Kate as we are all friends here. Before we have a good route around her house, and interrupt her lovely Valentine’s Day evening with her boyfriend, let’s settle with a nice cup or glass of something and find out more about her…

I’m Kate and I’ve lived in or around Nottingham, in the middle of England, all my life. I’m currently doing a master’s degree in Creative Writing at the beautiful University of Nottingham and I work in a school. I started my blog, http://katharinelunn.wordpress.com, last May; I thought I would write about lots of things but most of the time the content is book-related. I do like to geek-out over books and am loving reading for pleasure, as well as reading brand new books, after finishing an English degree last year (though sometimes I get a strange hankering for Literary Criticism). I live with my similarly bookish boyfriend and putting our books together on the same bookshelves meant that we were serious. I also try to do Pilates every day but I eat a lot of chocolate to offset that.

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Do you keep all the books you read on your shelves or only your favourites, does a book have to be REALLY good to end up on your shelves or is there a system like one in one out, etc?

I want to look at my bookshelves and see lots of books that I love. I don’t really understand why people would want to keep books that they really disliked. I think that would just make me angry. I will have to implement a one in one out system soon because I’m running out of space to put bookshelves.

Do you organise your shelves in a certain way? For example do you have them in alphabetical order of author, or colour coded? Do you have different bookshelves for different books (for example, I have all my read books on one shelf, crime on another and my TBR on even more shelves) or systems of separating them/spreading them out? Do you cull your bookshelves ever?

Fiction takes up most of one downstairs wall and is one long A – Z by author’s surname (I worked in a library for four years and my boyfriend works in a bookshop, so I feel that this is expected of us). Non-fiction is more of an organised mess, grouped in vague sections, but it’s upstairs so less people see it. Books on psychology are grouped together and there’s a small section about diaries. Poetry is awkwardly placed underneath that. I’ve been thinking making about a TBR bookshelf for a while but I never get around to initiating it. I love culling books.

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What was the first book you ever bought with your own money and does it reside on your shelves now?

I really can’t remember what the first book I bought with my own money was. We had these little stamp books at primary school and you bought in 20p, 50p a week and saved up to buy books. I bought a lot of books that way. I remember there was definitely some Jacqueline Wilson and I was really into veterinary books, but all of those are probably still in my parents’ attic.

Are there any guilty pleasures on your bookshelves you would be embarrassed people might see, or like me do you have a hidden shelf for those somewhere else in the house?

I’m not really embarrassed by any of my books, so no. I probably should be embarrassed about a cookbook I own called Fifty Shades of Kale. But I’m intrigued about your hidden shelf.

Which book on the shelves is your most prized, mine would be a collection of Conan Doyle stories my Great Uncle Derrick memorised and retold me on long walks and then gave me when I was older? Which books would you try and save if (heaven forbid) there was a fire?

My boyfriend bought me a first edition of The Remains of the Day for Christmas. I think it might be my favourite book, so I would definitely save that. Also, I have a broken Roald Dahl cookbook I got when I was little. I made my first cake from that book – Bruce Bogtrotter’s Cake – for my dad’s birthday. The back cover has fallen off now. But those two books would be at the top of my list.

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What is the first ‘grown up’, and I don’t mean in a ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ way, that you remember on your parent’s shelves or at the library, you really wanted to read? Did you ever get around to it and are they on your shelves now?

I remember an old paperback copy of Jane Eyre that looked interesting to me. I’m not sure how it found its way onto my parents’ bookshelf because neither of them were very interested in reading it. It used to intrigue me but looked too adult at the time. I ‘borrowed’ that edition of Jane Eyre and it now sits happily on my shelves.

If you love a book but have borrowed the copy do you find you have to then buy the book and have it on your bookshelves or do you just buy every book you want to read?

I do like to own real live books, and if I really love a book I borrowed from the library I probably will buy it (but still haven’t got around to buying Bossypants by Tina Fey). I like re-reading and making books my own: finding sand in the spine of a book if I read it on holiday, for instance. If I don’t like a book I bought I take it to the charity shop.

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What was the last book that you added to your bookshelves?

The last books I got were kindly sent from Bookbridgr – Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekbäck and The Chimes by Anna Smaill. Wolf Winter is beautifully haunting and very readable.

Are there any books that you wish you had on your bookshelves that you don’t currently?

I’ve just got into Margaret Atwood in a big way, so I want everything she’s ever written. But she’s written so much! Also, there are a lot of new books that I‘m dying to read. I really want to read Elena Ferrante’s novels and the new Kazuo Ishiguro.

What do you think someone perusing your shelves would think of your reading taste, or what would you like them to think?

I think because my boyfriend and I share bookshelves they would look quite eclectic to a new eye. I like literary stuff, but readable literary stuff. I like reading lots of different viewpoints, so hopefully they don’t look too homogenous.

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A huge thanks to Kate for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves! If you would like to catch up with the other posts in the series of Other People’s Bookshelves have a gander here. Don’t forget if you would like to participate (and I would love you to – hint, hint, hint as without you volunteering it doesn’t happen) in the series then drop me an email to savidgereads@gmail.com with the subject Other People’s Bookshelves, thanks in advance. In the meantime… what do you think of Kate’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that she mentions?

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