Monthly Archives: February 2011

The Prose Practice – Is There Another ‘One Day’ Out There?

The other day I had a direct book recommendation question which I thought you could all help me with. I do find it very odd when people I weren’t aware had read my blog and then ask me in the flesh for a recommendation of something to read next. I tend to go a bit flustered and then my mind goes blank.

This happened the other day when one of my aunties friends had read ‘One Day’ by David Nicholls then gone to look up some reviews of it and had happened across mine (which is the most popular post on Savidge Reads ever so far – random). It seemed we were on a complete wave length with the book and so she wondered if I could recommend any other books like it that she would love just as much.

Initially I thought ‘ooh that’s easy’ but actually it’s really not. I do think ‘One Day’ is a book rather unlike many I have read. Some people have labelled it chick-lit by a man, which I think under sells it to be honest and I would rather call it an accessible page turning modern classic. So my initial list included such titles as ‘Small Island’ by Andrea Levy and ‘The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks’ by Rebecca Skloot however they only have the fact they are wonderfully written books that kept me reading spellbound into the early hours like ‘One Day’ did. They aren’t another ‘One Day’ really, but then again is there one? Or do I recommend something that’s really a modern love story, which is of course rather serendipitous being the day today is.

So I am now thinking that I should come up with three lists and of course I will need your help with this. We all love recommending books to someone who is keen to read lots after all don’t we? I am aware that some of you haven’t read ‘One Day’ (if you haven’t then you simply must) but you can join in two as I have three sort of books I am looking for, which are;

  • Can you recommend accessible well written page turners be they fiction or non, ones that kept you glued to your book until the small hours, made you miss stops on public transport, late for work and the whole outside world disappear?
  • Are there any other books that are like ‘One Day’? Would any of the other David Nicholls books have the same effect on a reader?
  • What are the best modern love stories?

So let’s show some love and lovely recommendations on this loving day for a new book lover. I know you will come up with some great reads and as ever I am as interested in your responses as my aunties friend will be when I pass them on. Much love to you all for joining in!

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Filed under The Prose Practise

Free Never Let Me Go Audio Books

You may remember a while back the interesting and diverse discussion we had on Savidge Reads regarding Audio Books. I admitted that I have been rather wary of them for various reasons, you may want to have a look at the post to see more into the whys and what-fors, and the responses I had have made me have a think and so I want to try more. So when The Guardian kindly offered to give away copies of the unabridged audio book of Kazuo Ishiguro’s ‘Never Let Me Go’ (read by the wonderful Emilia Fox)I knew I had to get my hands on it and thought maybe I should share it all with you too if you haven’t already got yourself a copy.

You might want to be quick as you have until 23:59 GMT today to click on the link here and fill in your details and follow the instructions and there you go. It’s all free! I am really looking forward to hearing it, as having really loved the textual/original version of the novel ‘Never Let Me Go’ and having loved it even more when I read it again to write the new Faber & Faber reading guide (which I will pop a link up of once its been published online). I’m also off to see the film, health and everything willing, on Thursday night. It’s like.

I was wondering if lots of us downloaded it maybe it would be worth having a discussion about the audio book, or is that taking the current ‘Never Let Me Go’ fever at Savidge Reads too far?

Oh and don’t forget to pop and have a look, and hopefully leave your suggestions for a new reading group project I am planning for the late spring and early summer this year!

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Reading With Authors

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was hankering for the Not The TV Book Group to get back together for another whirl this year. Due to schedules, reading resolutions and all sorts of bits and bobs it looks like unfortunately it wont be happening in 2011, but maybe in 2012, we will see. There was mention of me carrying on with some new hosts but that didn’t seem right and so I went away, thought about it and have come up with something a little bit different…

I do love having a new project to put my energies into, I don’t know if you have spotted that yet? Anyway ‘Reading With Authors’ is only in the planning stages (and its only the working title for now), though I have the first guest author and book in the bag already, but its going to be something a little bit different over the early summer months of 2011 where myself and a guest author will both be discussing a book on the blog but not one that the author has written, and probably not even one they have read before. As you read this some emails will be winging themselves out to some more authors asking if they will be joining in and an official list of the authors, the books and the dates will be coming soon.

I am mulling over the idea of authors reading books which aren’t in their genre for example a crime writer reading something almost the polar opposite of their genre and vice versa. Like I said its all in the planning stages which means of course you can help shape it with your ideas. Are there any authors you would love to see discussing the books? Are there any titles that you would particularly like to see discussed that would make fantastic book group choices and have gone under the radar? How often would you like the book group to be? I am thinking of just hosting five, maybe six, to start off with and am thinking maybe every two or three weeks? Hmmm. Any other thoughts and ideas are most welcome so if you have some suggestions do make them known.

Oh and of course if you are an author or someone who knows and author who might like to do this then do email me and get in touch, or if you can make lovely badges for a new logo, ha.

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Because It Can’t Always Be About Reading…

I am still happily bubbling along devouring both Jo Nesbo (or is it Jo Nesbø, it’s been confusing me this week) and Deborah Devonshire but very slowly. In fact despite the fact that both these books are brilliant in rather opposite ways and I could quite easily read them in a sitting or two I am finding that taking my time and letting the enjoyment last is really working for me. I’ve even given myself most of today, which is a day off, a break from reading. I might do some this evening, I might not. I have lots of other things that I quite fancy catching up on…

My listening of podcasts seems to have gone down the pan, I mean I am seriously behind with The Archers and all that’s going on in Ambridge, plus I am a few weeks behind with The Book Show etc, etc. Another one and I never know if this is the true book lovers enemy or not and no I don’t mean the e-reader, and that is the TV! I have lots and lots of TV to catch up on and sometimes it’s much needed just for a switch off… or switch on as the case maybe.

I have been hearing really good things about ‘The Big C’ which has only just come to the UK and I love Laura Linney and will be intrigued to see how they deal with terminal cancer in a comedy. It seems to have found the right balance with Linney getting a Golden Globe. I haven’t watched the grim soap opera Eastenders for ages so that needs some catching up. Then there is Glee, I seem to have been really behind with that for its second series. But even my TV viewing can’t be completely book free.

I will have to catch up on a series which I have heard lots about on the radio, when I have managed to catch some of it, and that’s ‘Faulks on Fiction’ which is a new series on the BBC where the author Sebastian Faulks talks us through the history of the novel and in particular the British novel. It’s in four parts titled things such as ‘The Hero’ and ‘The Lover’.  After reading Faulks wonderful ‘Birdsong’ which I thought was a fantastic British novel it will be interesting to see what he has to say on the subject. If that wasn’t enough there is an accompanying book, though I think that you can read it separately I am guessing, which I have been seeing in Waterstones and wanting to read. I will have to report back on the show and let you know, I have also just spotted a show called ‘Beautiful Books’ I will have to take a gander at!

So what do you do in your spare non-reading time? Have any of you seen or read ‘Faulks on Fiction’ at all?

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Do I Want To Read… Beryl Bainbridge?

There are certain authors which I always feel like I should have read and invariably haven’t. I am sure that all readers have this feeling of ‘why haven’t I tried that author yet’ now and again. One of the authors that I have always felt I should give a read is Beryl Bainbridge. This week when The Booker Prize Foundation announced it was doing a ‘Best of Beryl’ prize I was reminded that she was an author I had been meaning to read and had no clue where to start, this is of course where all of you come in.

You see something about Beryl Bainbridge has always appealed to me without having read a word. In part this is because I have seen her on TV a few times and been fascinated, it’s also because I love the name Beryl and in fact named my very first cat just that. I have always seen lots and lots of copies of her last novel ‘According To Queeny’ in charity shops but although I always pick it up I am never quite sure if it’s me or not.

So I thought I would ask you all for your Beryl Bainbridge thoughts and recommendations. I am tempted to see if I can find her first novel ‘A Weekend With Claude’ as I do like to start from the beginning but actually I am going to throw caution to the wind, or indeed to the whim, and see where your suggestions lead me. So where should I start with a bit of Beryl?

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The Cement Garden – Ian McEwan

I am not in general much of a re-reader. I think it’s because with so many new books out there each week I always feel like I might be missing out on something. Every now and again though one of my previous favourite reads will take my fancy or seem to be calling to me and Ian McEwan’s debut novel ‘The Cement Garden’ which was recommended when I asked on twitter for a shirt dark read that might take a hold of me during a mini reading funk (yes I have had one of those already in 2011, fortunately it seems to have passed) and though I had read it I thought it might be just the ticket and indeed it was.

‘The Cement Garden’ is only 144 pages but it’s a book that certainly packs a punch. After the death of their mother Julie (17), Jack (15),  Sue (13) and Tom (6) decide, with their father already dead, that rather than be separated and go into care they will cover up their mother’s death by encasing her in cement in the basement. If you are thinking that this is a grim start (and I haven’t given much away as that’s very near the beginning) thinks get darker as the book progresses. Soon Jack begins to take the role of head of the house to a new level and the siblings begin to become aware of their own sexuality, which leads them to look at each other in a whole new light, including Julie’s dating of Derek which threatens the whole dynamic and leads to a rather dramatic dénouement.

To say much more would be to ruin what can occasionally be a jaw dropping and shocking read. Having read it before I thought the effect might not be so great on me, I was wrong. I found the atmosphere and the things that were left unsaid even more ominous than the first time round and actually more uncomfortable than the events that happen as the book progresses. At the same time it’s a fascinating look into the psyche of teenagers and young adults as they grow and indeed how they cope with death and their own mortality, though of course most teenagers don’t bury their mother, start to experiment in cross dressing or with their own siblings.

Some people will no doubt find this book distasteful. I’m not really someone who thinks you should always be sitting comfortably with a book and after all this is fiction. It’s incredibly written, the writing being taught to create the same atmosphere, and is well told and constructed. It’s dark as well as occasionally, and you might find this odd, being sometimes rather melodramatically comic. Even though you might not like the characters or what they do you won’t be able to stop yourself from routing for them as the novel goes on. Or maybe that’s just me? It’s a book thats horrifically gripping and will stay with you for weeks afterwards. 9.5/10

I would recommend you give this a whirl, be you a fan of McEwan or not, even if you think it might make for a rather uncomfortable read. I personally would like to see McEwan go back to his darker roots with his next novel as when he does bleak he des it with brilliance.

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Filed under Books of 2011, Ian McEwan, Vintage Books

Whats News Where You Are?

I’m feeling a little quiet at the moment as am midway through a long-ish, though very gripping novel (The Redbreast by Jo Nesbø) and some wonderful memoirs (Wait for Me by Deborah Devonshire) and still mulling over some books that I have read over the last week or so! I thought maybe it was time for a general catch up between all of us…

So how are you? What’s news? What’s been occurring? What have you been reading?

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A Peak Book Buying Binge

I know I said I’d not post too many ‘books in’ posts BUT I seem to have had my first severe book buying binge since my year of not buying books. So I thought I should share it with you!

I have been in Matlock, for a little break, for less than 48 hours so far and my book buying had had a little ‘Matlock Meltdown’ as I have been on a slight book binge through the second hand shops and even, oh dear you may judge me, Sainsbury’s and am the proud owner of 6 new books!!!

I know that supermarket book buying is sometimes deemed a crime but they had 2 for £7 and I had turned up with three books I didn’t really fancy reading just at the moment and their was the first in the series, well that has been translated at least, of Jo Nesbø’s books and I’ve wanted the Catherine O’Flynn for ages, hang on let me share a picture of my spoils…

Murder on the Green – Lesley Cookman
Murder by the Sea – Lesley Cookman
My Judy Garland Life – Susie Boyt
The News Where You Are – Catherine O’Flynn
A Darker Domain – Val McDermid
The Redbreast – Jo Nesbø

I’m holding some of you responsible because of your feedback on McDermid and Nesbø the other day! I had to buy the Lesley Cookman books because I have been promising myself a read of them since Lesley was my co-judge on last years Green Carnation Prize Panel! Oh and the Susie Boyt book has been recommended to me sooo many times by those who know how much I ridiculously love the Wizard of Oz (I have dish cloths and all sorts) and Judy too! I wonder if I should write ‘My Doris Day Life’? Anyway I digress…

Have you read any of these and if so what did you think? Did I take a book buying binge a little too far?

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Save Our Libraries Day – A Protest Post

If I could today I would be protesting, as in the UK people all over the place are protesting to save thier libraries. As it is, and because most of my posts are done way in advance in case I go off for another doctors/hospital visit or anything else, I don’t know quite where I will be and so can’t quite plan it. So I thought I would join in even if its in just a small way by writing a protest post. If I can get to a library I will make sure I go and protest, or take lots of books out in person and of course report back to you all if I do. But for now this is the best effort I can make…

Now of course the protests nothing on the scale of what is going on in Eqypt at the moment (where Granny Savidge Reads was – she has been safely evacuated thanks to the French Government, ours aren’t doing much it seems) but up and down the country people are trying to make it clear to our rather useless (and I can say that as I certainly didn’t vote for them) government that people need libraries, and we do they are such important places.

I will admit myself that it wasn’t until last year that I really began to appreciate just how important a resource the library was. I was in a fortunate position of having a good income, lots of great charity shops round me and of course proof copies coming through the door at Savidge Reads HQ. So when I decided to implement a self imposed book buying ban for a year I thought I would be laughing. I honestly wouldn’t have survived it so easily if it hadn’t been for my library. How would I have gotten my book group choices, or books that I had seen reviewed wonderfully and wanted to rush out and get straight away?

You could now be sat thinking ’whats he blathering on about he chose to be on a book buying ban but he could have bought books if he wanted’ and true I could but I wanted to test myself and part of that is because I remember the days when I couldn’t simply ask for a book that I wanted and take myself/be taken to a book shop to get it and then libraries were very important.

My mother had me when she was sixteen and took me with her to university in Newcastle some yeas later. Being a student, though we didn’t really want for things, we didn’t have heaps of money in fact Novel Insights can remember us having water on Frosties, but this isn’t a sob story honest. One of the best days out for me as a child would be going to the library, an endless supply of free books and books on tape, what more could a child want?

Even when Mum was working and we were living in the more affluent county of Wiltshire it was still instilled in me that at least one Saturday a month we would be heading for the library and I would be able to go book crazy. I used to look forward to that day on the calendar weeks ahead. the school library was also a haven for me, though more often than not when it rained and until I could go ‘to town’ on lunch breaks when I reached upper school.

I admit myself and the library parted ways for a few years but then so did me and books, but last year really brought it home how much I had missed and really loved the library. Hence why as soon as I moved up north I joined the library on my first day. Of course today isn’t about my love of libraries and how much I use them, I have only written that so you can see where I am coming from.

It was a delight when a couple of weeks ago I took my youngest cousins on a day trip to the library (get them book addicted young) and they were in heaven. They simply didn’t know which book to read next (and they certainly didn’t want to leave – but that’s another story) and watching that enthusiasm shows how vital it is we have libraries for future generations. Not every child, or indeed adult, can afford new books but I do think every one has a right to be able to read and to read well be it fiction, young adult, picture books, you name it. It’s an incredibly important resource and one we shouldn’t be without.

So what can we all really do today? Well if you have a library near you that’s doing something (and you can see a link here) then head to it, if not get to your local and simply max your loans out. In fact regardless of where in the world you are, don’t just think this is something only for people in the UK, these cuts are global, take as many books as you can. I already have, but that’s no surprise. You could also do your own post on how much you love your library, or leave you favourite library memories here. Let’s all get behind our libraries and not just today but every day!

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Cover Her Face – P.D. James

One of the crime authors I was going to ask your advice about yesterday was the author P.D. James. That was until I realised that actually I had one of her novels, indeed her debut in fact, ‘Cover Her Face’ in the TBR and so feeling the need for some crime I decided that would be my next port of call. I didn’t really know what to expect, but from the cover I was guessing a more modern version of an Agatha Christie manor house murder mystery, and in some ways that is what I got and in others it wasn’t.

Reading the blurb of ‘Cover Her Face’ you would think that this was simply the mystery of Sally Judd’s murder after the church fate in the fictional Essex village of Chadfleet. Yet what we get is not simply a sudden murder and then a backtracking of story lines through flash backs and interviews with subjects, P.D. James lets you get to know the victims and the suspects first giving little titbits of information and possible motives as she goes.

I don’t want to give too much information away but basically Sally Judd, who is a new parlour maid at Martingale House (the manor of the village, isn’t really liked by anyone and to be honest doesn’t seem to care or indeed hide the fact. She’s talk of the village before she has completed a day’s work because she is shockingly an unmarried mother and also because she seems mysterious, no one ever quite knows too much about her past even Miss Alice Liddell, the Warden at St Mary’s Refuge for Girls who recommends her to the Maxie family when they are hiring new help. With so much dislike of her from those both upstairs and downstairs in the house, along with the fact her past seems to be shrouded in mystery Detective Chief Inspector Adam Dalgliesh has quite the job ahead of him in working out who did it.  

“She seemed in some ways a natural murderee. What did astound me was the news that she was an unmarried mother. She struck me as too careful, too scheming for that kind of trouble.”

I am of course going to give nothing away, rather like P.D. James who leaves lost of hints (many red herrings) along the way but doesn’t let the murder show their true colours until the very last minute. I have to say I had gone of on a completely wild goose chaise over a dress choice someone made and night caps. I don’t think that gives anything away though to those of you who haven’t read this yet, and indeed I would advise you to read it. It’s by no means the perfect murder mystery, I wasn’t as chilled as I wanted to be but that’s more me than the book itself which has its darker moments. Is it wrong of me to say I would have liked another murder or two? One just didn’t seem quite enough.

It’s an incredibly accomplished debut novel (though, and this is a minor issue, I could have done with some more paragraph breaks) which manages to mingle some police procedural, the observations of people and village life, some amateur sleuthing, some great characters and some brilliant lines like ‘Mrs Maxie smiled faintly. For the second time the delicate claw was unsheathed.’ It hasn’t bowled me over as it might have done on its release in the 1960’s, though I wasn’t born, but its definitely made me want to try more James as her passion for murder – if that’s how I can put it – does come of the page and makes it more of a meaty manor house murder than you might expect. 7.5/10

This is a book Faber sent me a while ago when they released their lovely Faber Firsts editions.

I get the feeling I would like P.D. James if I met her. I have heard her lots on the radio and her intelligence there is in the pages of her books so I will be reading more. She has a huge following and is now one of the current crime greats so I am hoping you will tell me where to turn next, I am thinking that a stand alone novel might be good before I get hooked in the Dalgliesh series. What do you think?

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Filed under Faber & Faber, P.D. James, Review

Do I Want To Read… Criminal Authors; Val McDermid, James Ellroy & Jo Nesbø

I haven’t done a  ‘Do I Want To Read’ post on for a while but now seemed the perfect time. I don’t mean to bore you all with health issues at the moment but I think between the various waiting rooms I have managed to catch a corking cold and its put me in the mood for some crime anyway and I don’t mean cosy either. In fact what I have been hankering after is chilling and page turning crime and three authors have sort of been on my horizon who fit the bill for various reasons and who I wondered if you could recommend or not…

I was listening to one of my favourite book podcasts ‘The Book Show’ the other day and they repeated and interview with Val McDermid and her latest novel ‘Trick of the Dark’. Val McDermid is an author that I have always wanted to read and yet haven’t gotten round to. I actually got a copy of ‘Wire in the Blood’ ages ago and then a) found out it was the second in the series and I do like to read in order and b) the cover was atrocious (I think it was a magazine freebie) and I went right off it. Listening to her talking about her latest book, which also happens to be a standalone novel, I found her really compelling and so of course now I want to read all of her work. I have heard she is very chilling and it’s quite brutal which oddly, with flu and therefore furious at the world, is just what I am in the mood for right now.   

Another author I have wanted to read on and off is James Ellroy. I saw the film ‘The Black Dahlia’ a few years ago and was left rather confused and also really compelled, I thought ‘ooh I should read the book’ and then of course didn’t. I did the same with ‘L.A. Confidential’ actually thinking about it. Strolling through the City Library, which I will be reporting back on very soon, I caught sight of a What’s On pamphlet and saw that it was LGBT month and there is a regular book group which is ‘a monthly group for anyone who enjoys LGBT-interest fiction’ and one I thought with The Green Carnation Prize now back in swing (yes we are receiving submissions already) it might be interesting to pop by. Their next choice of novel is James Ellroy’s ‘The Big Nowhere’ so of course now I need to read the book. I am just worried it might be a little bit too hard boiled for me. What do you think?

Finally there is an author I seem to be seeing everyone reading, and who was recommended by a few of you when I tweeted my desire for chilling crime the other day and that was Jo Nesbø. I was actually sent ‘The Snowman’ a while back and passed it onto Novel Insights as ‘the new Stieg Larsson’ tag annoyed me (though oddly I have been mulling those over again after loving the films and being in this crimey mood) but I new she loved that series. It also bothered me that it seemed a bit Henning Mankell like an I had only read the first of those, and in fact must read the second at some point, and didn’t want to get my detectives confused. And yes the fact that it wasn’t the first in the series put me off too. Of course I am now intrigued and want to read the series from the start and apparently that’s ‘The Redbreast’ although on Wikipedia it says it’s ‘The Bat Man’ but that’s not out yet which leaves me in confusion, can any of you help and which have you read? Does the order matter?

So can you help? Recommendations on all three authors would be great, as would any specific thoughts on the titles that I have mentioned and pictured above or indeed any of the other titles by those very authors. I am looking forward to your thoughts, I have a feeling this is a post lots of you will be able to advise me on. Ooh, I just thought if there are any cracking crime authors I might have missed do let me know about those too!

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Toast – Nigel Slater

It is thanks to routing through other peoples shelves (I’m going to do a post on the joys of other people’s shelves and having a nosey next week) that I ended up reading a book that I probably wouldn’t have read otherwise and really loved. The book in question was ‘Toast’ by Nigel Slater which had initially piqued my interest after the adaptation on the television over Christmas, which we recorded and then completely forgot to watch. I then forgot about how much I wanted to read the book (see that self hype thing again)… until I was having a nosey and my eyes happened to fall upon it and so I picked it up and absolutely loved it.

All I knew of Nigel Slater before I picked up ‘Toast’ was that he was a rather well known chef whose recipe books seem to be in every single member of my families houses. I’ve never watched his TV shows and really never been that interested in cookery books, other than maybe Nigella, though I like cooking. ‘Toast’ is Nigel Slater’s memories of childhood into adulthood all told through food. I imagined this might be recipes but I was wrong as in fact it’s snippets of memories with titles like ‘Christmas Cake,  ‘The Hostess Trolley’ and ‘Peach Melba’ (which I had forgotten once existed and instantly wanted) each with its own memories attached.

‘Toast’ really is quite a collection of memories as Nigel didn’t have the easiest or happiest of childhoods. His mother had health issues, his father wasn’t the most comforting or friendly of role models and of course there is the cleaner Mrs Poole who soon became the bane of Nigel’s life. It’s never a misery memoir though some of the book is very emotional it also often leaves you in hysterics. In some ways because of the humour I was reminded of Augusten Burroughs, only in this book the addictions are cook books and ingredients rather than drugs, the other thing that reminded me of Augusten Burroughs was the way slowly but surely Slater writes about his being gay, how he noticed it and coped with it in the 60’s and 70’s which again makes for a very heart felt and honest book.  

I knew I was going to be rather smitten with this book when I read the line in ‘Toast 1’ where Nigel writes ‘It is impossible not to love someone who makes toast for you.’ He is talking about his mother and how when they make it in just the right way you are ‘putty in their hands’. People who arrive as the book progresses are each almost given a flavour in addiction to their character and this works wonderfully. It also really evokes atmosphere and underlying tensions such as when he helps his Mum make the, at the time, novel delicacy of spaghetti for his father which none of them have tried and as soon as they add the parmesan ‘this cheese smells like sick’ is deemed as ‘off’ and its never talked of or mentioned again.

I loved Nigel Slater’s writing, it never felt pretentious or woe is me or anything other than a down to earth account of his childhood filled with both happiness and sadness. It’s a ‘real’ memoir if you know what I mean, there are dramas and trials but they are never melodramatic. I decided Nigel Slater and I would be firm friends when he discussed ‘Butterscotch Angel Delight’ my all time favourite too. This is someone who hasn’t had the easiest start in life who rather than complain about it looks back at it fondly and asks the reader to join in and do so too. This is my favourite book of the year so far. 10/10

I am hoping that any of you who are much more up on Nigel Slater and his writing than I am will please tell me there are more books he has written like this as I would really like to read more of his work. I have since reading this cooked one of his recipes and it wasn’t half bad. Which memoirs have left you feeling like you’ve just had a really honest, open, funny and sad catch up with a new found friend even though you’ve never met them?

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Filed under Books of 2011, Books To Film, Harper Collins, Nigel Slater, Review