Monthly Archives: September 2013

Ambling Around Amsterdam…

So, as I mentioned yesterday, I thought this week on the blog we could go Dutch both in the books that feature this week and the non-review posts too. All of this is in honour of a lovely trip I took to Amsterdam a few months ago for work and so today I thought we could have a little amble around the city before taking in two very special bookish places later in the week. It is hard to try an encapsulate any city, but particularly Amsterdam, so I thought we could start with a picture that sums up the city over all as well as being my first and lasting impression of it…

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It is so beautiful! I think over the course of one walk from the train station to my hotel I fell in love with (and mentally moved into) about fifty or sixty different houses. Isn’t it bizarre, if you think about it (not for too long or it hurts your head) how every city, particularly in Europe, has its own style? You can often see a picture and instantly know what that city is, you certainly can with this one. I completely enjoyed getting completely lost in the city and just enjoying seeing what every single street had in store, eventually I found my hotel (the Hotel Andaz which is a converted library and managed by a lovely woman called Daphne, could it be more perfect) and my amazing and amazingly bonkers bedroom.

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A fish spoon!?! What is going on there? The whole hotel has this slightly kitsch meets incredibly expensive classy vibe to it that I just loved the whole place. I do have a hotel rule of thumb though, I always judge them by their breakfasts and after having an early night that night after the adventure of getting lost in the city and seeing some bookshops (more on those later this week) I was soon able to judge this hotel by that system.

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Amazing again. Now that is my sort of never ending breakfast, oh and you could have cooked food too – I am not at liberty to say how many times I made the visits I made to the buffet, or how many of the cooked breakfasts I tried. So let us move on… It was time for some culture and so I headed to the heart of it. Amsterdam’s very own Museum Plein, or ‘museum square’, which is  a park just a ten minute walk from the city centre surrounded by museums.

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You could easily loose a day as whatever your taste in art there is a museum which will draw you in (see what I did there). Highlights for me were the Van Gogh museum, where to see some of the world most famous paintings is quite a heady experience. I have always liked Van Gogh, and indeed the Beard is very good at making copies of them in a non-illegal way, so I happily got lost in there for a good few hours and discovered this gorgeous picture that I had never seen of his before.

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It is one of those incredible pictures which seems to tell the start of a story, the more you look at it the more you get and also (though this could just be because of my mind) the darker the picture actually seems. Hidden depths in that one. I am a BIG fan of modern art. Ok, let’s rephrase that, I am a big fan of good modern art. I particularly love Picasso and so if I know somewhere has some, even just one, I have to go and have a gander and so I headed for the Stedelijk Museum of modern art. I saw some lovely Picasso’s and many more and also this old chestnut which I do actually think is art, especially on a massive scale…

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This however I do not…

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Hmmmm. It’s not even a good display in a double glazing showroom that! Before my head could pop with any more pop art, do you see what I did there, I stopped and had a coffee on the square before heading over to the Rijksmuseum and had to take a shameless ‘selfie’ (so down with the kids) with the I Amsterdam sign, well when in Amsterdam…

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The incredible Rijksmuseum (which has recently had a multimillion euro makeover) probably needs a full day or two to explore and is where you can see some of Rembrant’s best known works amongst many others. I had a gander at those but I find art from around that period a little austere and so headed for some of the wackier stuff. I think, after two hours looking, this was the most mind boggling thing that I found, which surprise, surprise happened to be a book.

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This is actually the notebook of a psychopath which was part of an experiment in the 1950’s to see whether if you let lots of psychopaths keep journals some similarities might show in the text. I found this idea fascinating and am amazed there isn’t a book about these books somewhere. I wanted to break it our if its case, instead for fear of being arrested I headed by out into the city to find my evenings dinner. In doing so I got completely delightfully lost and ended up in the heart of the Red Light District which was NOTHING like I expected it to be…

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And once dinner was over it was time to head for my hotel, and bed (and breakfast the next morning)to get some rest before my next port of call which was Anne Frank’s house, a place I didn’t expect to have such a reaction as I did. More on that later in the week though. Hope you have enjoyed our little jaunt around the city? We are in for a Dutch ‘detour’ of sorts again tomorrow…

(A big thanks to Holland.com who sent me away on a work trip and kindly got me into all the museums, and put me up in such a literary hotel, mentioned above!)

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The Light of Amsterdam – David Park

I have decided that this week we are going Dutch. Either the authors will be Dutch or the books will set in Dutch places. What is the inspiration behind this? Well, since you asked so nicely and weren’t forced into this way of thinking by me at all, I had the joy of going to Amsterdam back in July for work and whilst I was there I did my usual trick of reading a few books set there or by authors who lived there. The first of these was ‘The Light of Amsterdam’ by David Park which seemed perfect choice because of its plot (more shortly) and also because it was also one of the Fiction Uncovered 2012 selection, and I haven’t read one of their choices that I haven’t liked yet.

Bloomsbury Books, trade paperback, 2012, fiction, 384 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

‘The Light of Amsterdam’ is a novel that weaves the stories of three pairs of tourists coming to the city for a long weekend (at one point as they were flying to Amsterdam in the book as I was doing the same thing at the actual time) and how their lives change over that weekend. As I typed that I, for the first time, suddenly saw how clichéd that sounds, but honestly ditch that opinion because David Parks does do something quite marvellous with that plot device.

Alan, whose career as an art lecturer seems to be going down the pan as fast as his marriage recently did, decides to take his teenage son Jack on a father son bonding weekend whilst making a pilgrimage of his youth. Jack takes his wife Marion, who thinks Jack is desperate to have an affair no longer seeing her as a sexual being, for a birthday treat and to get them away from their garden centre before the pre-Christmas madness. Karen, the cleaner in both an office and old people’s home, is there on a hen weekend which would be her ideal of hell anyway but is made worse by the fact that the bride to be is her own daughter. We then follow all three pairs as they pass each other in the street, or randomly bump into each other, as the weekend unfolds.

At first I have to admit that I didn’t think I was going to enjoy ‘The Light of Amsterdam’ at all. As the book opens we are in Alan’s head as he watches the final journey of George Best after his funeral and I was slightly worried we were about to endure the narrative of some middle aged football fan. As Alan went on to discuss his affair, the end of his marriage, how bored he was in his job, how difficult his teenage son was, etc and I was thinking ‘bugger, have I got to unpack my luggage in public to find another book’ yet there was something in the writing and the characterisation Parks had that kept me going and I am really, really glad I did because his characters are superb.

Call it the ‘nosey parker’ in me but I love books about people, regular ordinary people. People who you could pass in the street, fictional people you have met the characteristics of in people you have spent time with. They aren’t remarkable, they just get on and David Park has these characters spot on and develops them fully before the plane has left the runway and we get their back stories. Alan is simply a disappointed middle aged man, who feels like (partly through his own actions which is always worse) that his life has taken a wrong turn. Karen is a woman who got pregnant very young but has built a life for her daughter and herself no matter how tough it has been or how much she has had to sacrifice nor how menial the jobs she has to do in order to make ends meet. Marion is a woman who has a successful marriage, business and yet somewhere inside her feels all this is too good to be true, something has to give and will it be her husband, tipped over the edge when he buys her membership to a gym. It was Marion who I have to say I found the most intriguing, especially when you discover what she has planned on their weekend away.

“When the girls had finished their coffee he told them he’d drive them home. She was glad that he didn’t offer them any more wine and that he hadn’t drunk any more. When he went off to fetch the smoke alarms and his toolbox she looked at the bottle and was momentarily tempted to finish it off after everyone had gone but tried to strengthen her resolution to dedicate herself, if not to abstinence, then at least moderation. The girls left by the kitchen door to go and fetch their coats. She heard them chatting in Polish as they walked out into the floodlit corridor. Standing at the glass she looked at how harsh the light bleached Anka’s hair almost white. For some reason she thought they looked like prisoners making their way back to their cells for the night. She felt sorry for them in their struggle to make a better life. She didn’t think she could be as brave, told herself that she had never been brave, so this thing that she was planning to do seemed like it belonged to someone else and she wondered if she could find the strength to see it through.”

Even though I found Marion the most intriguing, I loved all of the characters the more I got to know them and as the stories developed. When I alternated between them as I read on I didn’t find myself mourning the last narrator or rushing onto the next one. I also admired Park for his sense of giving them some personal mini drama’s once in Amsterdam without every pushing the story lines too far and turning it into some farce or melodrama. The characters have issues, they address the issues, some overcome the issues, some don’t, the world goes on as it does in real life and I really liked that quality with the book. My only slight niggle was that I felt it ended a teeny bit too neatly overall, yet because I liked the characters so much I was almost glad of it and to be fair Park doesn’t make the most obvious thing that could happen end up happening. You will know what I mean if you have read the book or once you do, which I recommend.

‘The Light of Amsterdam’ is one of those great novels about the stories real people tell, the ones that you overhear snippets of on the bus/train/cafe and want to know more. It is three tales of people who you could quite easily pass in the street, and it celebrates the little understated drama’s that we have ourselves every so often. Those life events that aren’t huge and all encompassing, but that change us slightly or make us see our lives differently. If the characters are doing that you can’t help but do that yourself a little bit, whilst also looking around you and thinking ‘I wonder what that person sat over there’s life is like?’

Who else has read ‘The Light of Amsterdam’ and what did you make of it? Have any of you read any of David Park’s other novels? I have heard this one was something a bit different for him so I am pondering if I would like his previous books or not so would love your thoughts, as always. Tomorrow we are off for a little wander round Amsterdam…

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Filed under Bloomsbury Publishing, David Park, Fiction Uncovered, Review

Now We Are Six!!!!!!

“Happy Birthday to me, happy birthday to me, happy blogging birthday dear Savidge Reads, happy birthday to me…” Imagine that sung in my most beautiful of singing voices! Yes, today Savidge Reads is officially six years old though weirdly it feels older than that. It was six years to this very day that I first put my tentative toes (or tapping fingers) into the blogosphere and wrote a review, of sorts though I am quite embarrassed by it now, of Susan Hill’s ‘The Various Haunts of Men’. More dreadful reviews/bookish thoughts followed, most of which I have since deleted because they were mortifying, and no one read it for ages and ages. And now here were are…

Now We Are Six

To actually celebrate a blog birthday seemed rather a bonkers idea in years past, however this year with all that has gone on (and, without blowing my own trumpet, the fact that the blog went to number one here) The Beard decided we should celebrate it and has only gone and made me the blog-birthday cake above – any excuse for us to eat cake – and also bought me two new books. This was made all the more special as they came with the Books Are My Bag bag after a little jaunt out yesterday to Linghams. Anyway the books are ‘Coco Chanel; The Life and the Legend’ by Justine Picardie (which I was so sure I had in hardback but couldn’t find the other day) and ‘New Ways To Kill Your Mother’ by Colm Toibin (the title of which I love) which is some literary history and criticism all rolled into one I believe. Both non-fiction too as now I am six I really feel I should be challenging myself more.

I am also going to have a little mini bookish party of my own later today as I finally settle down to read (in big fat gulps) my current bookish obsession ‘The Luminaries’ by Eleanor Catton. But before that we are off on a Famous Five like adventure to a lighthouse. I am hoping for a picnic with some of that cake with lashings of ginger beer or pink lemonade once we get there.

Anyway, a big thanks to those of you who have joined in the fun here at Savidge Reads over the last few years and all the lovely bookish banter and the like, it has been bloody lovely. Here’s to the next six…

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A Bookshop Crawl with Kerry Hudson…

So as I have mentioned already, today is the day of the Books Are My Bag initiative which I am a big fan of. I thought it would be nice to do something book shop themed today and a post the lovely Kerry Hudson had written for me for Independent Bookshop Week (which I had planned to post back then but couldn’t as Gran was so poorly) and her book launch seemed perfect. So I will hand over to the lovely Kerry who also loves an Indie book shop as much as I do…

It was complete coincidence that the paperback of my debut novel, Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma, came out during Independent Bookshop Week but it’s very fitting that it did. For the last year Tony Hogan has found its way into people’s hands largely thanks to word of mouth and personal recommendations. Thanks to Indies like Bookseller Crow in Crystal Palace and Dulwich Books in…um…Dulwich, reading the book, loving it, blogging about it and hand-selling copies. Yes, getting buy-in from the chains and wholesalers, the Goliaths, is important but I think we all know and understand the power that the Indie’s, the Davids of the bookselling world, have.

That is why, to launch my paperback, I cycled around the capital. On a tiny red bike. On a day hotter than the surface of the sun. Delivering 80’s goodybags filled with gliders, Sherbet Dib-Dabs, Wham Bars and Vimto lollypops to some of London’s finest Independent Bookshops.

my trusty steed

I began my tour close to home at Broadway Books. Broadway Books is right by Regent’s Canal and is great for cult classics and local author books and, vitally, have one of the best fish and chip shops in East London a few doors up. If anyone can tell me what is nicer than sitting by a canal, eating a bag of chips and reading a great book I’ll call them a liar.

Broadway Books

Next a cycled off to Pages of Hackney, located in hyper-hip Clapton they have a great stock of new books upstairs and a selection of secondhand books, a comfy sofa and (sometimes) a very cute pug downstairs. My next hop took me to chic Exmouth Market and Tales of Clarkenwell, a calm, stylish indie where Peter told me that they’re opening a Toronto branch soon, or maybe that they already have…I was a little sun-addled at that point. To be honest.

Village BooksIt was time to head South, first to Village Books in Dulwich. On the way I ask directions from a local who beams at me ‘that’s an amazing bookshop’ and it is indeed. As I sign books Kate, a bookseller who clearly loves her job, tells me how each of the booksellers have customers who appreciate their personal taste and so come to them specifically for recommendations. Dulwich is very pretty and just as well because I get hopelessly lost making it to my next destination, Dulwich Books. They’re expecting me, and have busted out the leg-warmers and eighties tunes in preparation. Dulwich Books and their very active bookgroup were some of the earliest Tony Hogan…supporters and it’s amazing to be able to say thank you to them in person.

I resist the the lure of their kids section beanbags, buy myself an ice-cream up the road and carry on my way to…Bookseller Crow on the Hill in Crystal Palace. I love what Jonathan and Justine, who’ve been trading for twelve years, have done with the shop. So much care has been taken with the curation of the collection of books, they have regular author talks and Jonathan runs a subscription scheme ‘Flight Club’ where subscribers are sent a mystery book that Jonathan feels people will especially enjoy. I leave Jonathan with the bag of sweets and Lloyd Cole crooning sweetly to his customers and hop on the tube down to my final stop, Clapham Books. Clapham Books has the most incredible shop interior with a kind-of-glass-pagoda-ceiling (go see it, you’ll know what I mean). As we had a chatter they told me they’ve been doing two book events a week for a while and I confess to them which well known author scares the pants off me…nope, my lips are sealed! I leave them saying I’m ‘off for a giant beer’.

Clapham Books

That day I only visited a fraction of the amazing Independent Bookshops in London and if you consider how many more there are across the UK it is hugely heartening. So what’s so special about Indies? What I find special is that every single shop is as unique as their owner and staff and that they are run and staffed by people with a huge passion for getting books to readers, but they can only continue if we, the book buying punters, put our hands in our pockets and support them.

These bookshops are doing something incredible in the current climate. They are striving, staying creative, loving books and reading, hand-selling debuts like mine, that otherwise nobody would know about, and staying in business where many other businesses couldn’t. Indie bookshops, clever hardworking booksellers, I salute you!

Here, here. I couldn’t put it better myself – hence why I am off to mine today for Books Are My Bag and seeing what new books might end up in my bag. A big big, in fact a HUGE, thanks to Kerry for doing the post today, especially now she is on the path to stardom both being short listed for the Polari First Book Prize and also winning the debut novel category for the Scottish Book Awards (which makes her eligible to be the overall winner if the general public vote her to be, which I think they should here from October the 1st – put it in your diaries) when she is the next Mantel we will remember these days fondly.

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Filed under Bookshops I Love, Bookshops We Love, Bookshops You Love, Kerry Hudson

Life After Life – Kate Atkinson

There are some living authors with which, as a reader, the release of something new of theirs is really one of the highlights of your bookish year. I have had a few of these this year, though the one I have been the most excited about is undoubtedly Kate Atkinson’s ‘Life After Life’. Part of this was just because it was a new Atkinson book full stop, then I was even more intrigued when I discovered this wasn’t a Brodie novel before got far too excited about the murmurs of this being a speculative novel. The book arrived here back in late 2012 and stayed on my shelves, I was just too worried it wouldn’t live up to the hype I had built in my head. Then the praise started to flood in here there and everywhere for it and I had a small sulk that I hadn’t read it sooner, then I started it when Gran was getting very ill (she would have loved this as she was a massive Atkinson fan) and I couldn’t concentrate. The poor book, it couldn’t win, I don’t think it knew if it was coming or going. Finally a few weeks ago I simply sat down with a few hours to spare and started it, within pages I was spell bound.

Doubleday, hardback, 2013, fiction, 480 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

On the 11th of February Ursula Todd either dies or is born, again and again and again to die again and again and again. The concept, and I suppose you could call this a concept novel in some ways, of Kate Atkinson’s ‘Life After Life’ is to look at all the environmental and physical aspects of our lives, as well as the decisions that we make, that can coincidentally or accidentally change the path our lives take which of course eventually leads us to death. Doesn’t sound too cheery that really does it, yet if you excuse the pun it is a book that celebrates life and all that we can become be it through fate or choice.

As Ursula lives these differing versions of her lives we see all the possibilities of who she could be (well most of them as with this premise they could go on indefinitely) or what might befall a woman living from 1910 onwards. In one version she might not make it past a family holiday. In another, which is at the very start of the book so I am not spoiling anything, she could end up being the woman to assassinate Hitler. In another she ends up, via a wrought but beautifully crafted version of events, as a rather unhappy housewife in the suburbs. In others she ends up on either side of the channel after surviving the First World War only to end up in the second which, to me looking back on the book, really evokes the frailty of life in general but particularly during that period of British history.

You might be wondering if this means there are endless versions of Ursula wandering around, or if indeed the book gets a bit complex or ultimately becomes rather repetitive. Interestingly as I read on I didn’t think to question the premise of the book, I simply got lost in it. Yet Atkinson does some very clever things to make this more than just a tale of a girl born again and again with no knowledge of it. Ursula herself has lots of severe cases of déjà vu, something we have all experienced at some point, where she feels she has been there before or will finish of someone else’s sentences. This sees varying versions of her going into therapy as her mother (who we will come to later) starts to worry that her daughter is not right – especially when Ursula occasionally gets the inexplicable feeling she needs to change a course of events to rather comical effects.

“And sometimes, too, she knew what someone was about to say before they said it or what mundane incident was about to occur – if a dish was about to be dropped or an apple thrown through a glasshouse, as if things had happened many times before. Words and phrases echoed themselves, strangers seemed like old acquaintances.
‘Everyone feels peculiar from time to time,’ Sylvie said. ‘Remember, dear – sunny thoughts.’
Bridget lent a more willing ear, declaring that Ursula ‘had the second sight’. There were doorways between this world and the next, she said, but only certain people could pass through them. Ursula didn’t think that she wanted to be one of those people.”

In terms of the question of repetition, I never got bored with the book or thought ‘oh here we go again’, not once. If anything I would try and work out which way her life would lead us next. Invariably I got this completely wrong as Atkinson doesn’t always make a life relived have a different outcome even if some things have changed along the way, after all fate can be sealed. Sometimes (rather worryingly) I was also wondering with slight glee how on earth Atkinson was going to kill Ursula off next. Which nicely leads me to mention how the trademark dark humour I love in Atkinson’s writing can lighten the story when needed, drive home something sad with its sense of irony and creates some utterly brilliant characters like Ursula’s mother, who I adored and is probably the most complex character in the book. I would love a novella of Sylvia’s life should Kate Atkinson ever feel the need, she had cynicism, hidden depths and a really darkly naughty side which I loved.

“Sylvie and Mrs Glover were preparing a little tea-party, ‘a surprise’. Sylvie liked all her children, Maurice not so much perhaps, but she doted entirely on Teddy.”

This does lead me to a couple of niggles with the book, firstly Ursula herself. To me she always seemed rather at a distance from me, a bit of an enigma, and someone that even though I spent pages and pages with her as she grew older I didn’t feel I got to know her any better. On occasion I found myself less moved by her deaths and more moved by some of those around her. Secondary characters like her mother, her aunt or siblings seemed to have much more depth, though interestingly in each version of events none of their personalities changed.

Another small niggle was that on the cover of ‘Life After Life’ perspective readers are asked “What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?” Well despite the book never being confusing (you thought I had forgotten to address this didn’t you) which could so easily have happened I was left a little confused by the ending of the book. It doesn’t spoil the book to say that after some serious thought about it I am left with a sense that there is no ‘right way to live your life’ and no neatly tied off endings and that the book leaves that question in the air rather than answering it. I think though that might be the point, as you can see I am still a little unsure and pondering it. Mind you I felt the same way about ‘Human Croquet’ with its magical and ambiguous ending for a while after reading it before I thought, as I am already beginning to think, ‘no, Atkinson is a genius’.

Those are two very small issues though and ones that are easily glossed over by the fact that Atkinson is a master of prose in my eyes. I love the way she gives the readers discreet asides and occasional knowing winks. I love her sense of humour, especially when it is at its most wicked and occasionally inappropriate. I think the way her characters come to life is marvellous and the atmosphere in the book, particularly during the strands during World War II and during the London Blitz (though I didn’t think the Hitler parts of the book were needed, even if I loved the brief mention of Unity Mitford) along with the tale of her possible marriage were outstandingly written. There is also the element of family saga, the history of Britain from 1910 onwards and also how the lives of women have changed – all interesting themes which Atkinson deals with throughout.

‘Life After Life’ is not a perfect book, yet the more books I read the less I believe there is such a thing, yet it is a bloody good one. In fact, because he didn’t think I would, I would go as far as to repeat what I said to Gav Reads after I had finished it… ‘It’s a really f**king good book’, strong language but sometimes it is needed to drive a point home. I will be recommending ‘Life After Life’ to pretty much everyone as I think it shows the workings and joys of one of our greatest living authors.

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Filed under Books of 2013, Doubleday Publishers, Kate Atkinson, Review

The Adventuress – Audrey Niffenegger

I have been reading quite a lot of books involving time travel of late and so I thought I would read something that would be different and also a bit of a palate cleanser, if you know what I mean. I have only just (literally right now) seen the irony of the fact that I chose Audrey Niffenegger as an author to cleanse after some time travelling books – sometimes I really am a simple Simon. Anyway, I thought that Audrey’s ‘The Adventuress’ might be just the thing as it seemed rather like an adult picture book, and I don’t mean that in a snarky way.

Jonathan Cape, hardback, 2006, graphic novel, 144 pages, borrowed from the library

Put very simply ‘The Adventuress’ is the story of a beautiful young alchemists daughter who is abducted by a much older evil count before she manages to escape after setting fire to his home, and most likely him too, before she meets the love of her life. Yet of course like all the best stories there come some twists and turns only I don’t think anyone would guess the plot developments that unfurl, after all this is one of Audrey Niffenegger books and as someone who has read a fair few I have learnt that anything is possible in her hands/head.

For example, who would expect that ‘The Adventuress’ would be imprisoned and turn herself into a moth and escape from jail to find sanctuary in a library (I love Niffenegger for her vehement love of books) where she would meet the love of her life? Who would then turn that most romantic of moments into something much darker as we learn that her lover, Napoleon Bonaparte, would then pretend to go to conquer Russia when actually he has gone to have it off with lots of other women nearby? Who would have thought she might get pregnant and give birth to a cat? I know I have given a lot of the plot away there but the images are what makes this book so worth picking up as they are stunning.

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The reason I call it an adult picture book is because of it has the same deft simplicity that a children’s picture book does. You have a few minimal words, sometimes repetitive and the pictures and yet within those words and pictures are almost another story in every page. This probably sounds a little bit of a mix of impossible and me being a pretentious ass but it is true. Kids love picture books because they tell a story in more than one way, that is what I liked about ‘The Adventuress’ so much, the pictures tell you more and ask questions at the same time. Why does she never have a top on? Why does she suddenly become a moth? Who does Napoleon cheat on her with? Etc. There is also this underlying sense of the magical which all picture books have when you are a child and that nostalgic feeling hit me reading this book – and as I would have as a child I read it three times on the trot.

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What also makes an interesting addition to the book is just when you have finished it and have most probably thought something along the lines of ‘oh blimey, where did all that come from?’, Niffenegger goes and tells us. I liked this added insight into the book even if I did worry initially that she was about to do herself a disservice and dumb it down initially by saying it was some doodles of a random woman with no top on who gives birth to a cat. Yet then she found herself asking the question of who this woman was and hey presto there was a story and then there was a book, one she made herself by hand initially before she reached all the fame she has. That is like a story in itself really isn’t it?

I really enjoyed ‘The Adventuress’. It did exactly what I hoped it would in taking me away for twenty minutes (or an hour with the re-reading) into a magical world and quite a nostalgic frame of mind. I am now mad keen to read ‘The Raven Girl’ and ‘The Three Incestuous Sisters’ since having finished this and liking it as much as ‘The Night Book Mobile’. Oh and as we mentioned felines again before, here is a picture of Millie also enjoying it though not for the same reasons I did.

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Have you read ‘The Adventuress’ or any of Audrey Niffenegger’s other graphic novels and if so what did you make of them? And do you know what I mean by a picture book for adults (in a good way) or have I lost the plot?

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Filed under Audrey Niffenegger, Graphic Novels, Jonathan Cape Publishers, Review

Must I Review Every Book I Read?

That question isn’t meant to sound like I am on my knees the rain falling down and I am shouting it up to the heavens arms outstretched in a state of despair – just in case that is what you were picturing?

Forgive me for once again using and abusing you all as a sounding board, sometimes though it is the only way for me to get a set of thoughts out of my head. I have another conundrum, one that you think may only apply to fellow bloggers or people who keep book notebooks/diaries but actually you can all help me out here. I have been pondering as to whether or not I should review every book that I read?

You see not content with creating enough of a void in my life by dying and now not being on the end of the phone or a few hours away to see Gran has inadvertently also created what I am calling ‘The Gran Effect/The Gran Vortex’. (In the last two weeks I have read Kate Atkinson’s ‘Life After Life’, Lauren Beukes’ ‘The Shining Girls’ and James Smythe’s ‘The Explorer’ so excuse the sci-fi analogy but it has all gone to my head!) As I mentioned the other week, having looked after Gran and visited so much in the last year that she was sick and particularly in the last few months before she died I got a middling amount of reading done but really absolutely no/minimal reviewing done. This has created a strange state of affairs at Savidge Reads as I am oddly really behind in my reading yet way, way ahead in terms of books read in ratio to reviewed – which is all at odds with everything in the universe and just not right.

I have quite a pile, which I thought was 12 but is actually 14, of these ‘ready and ripe’ to review books now stick piled on my bookshelves and they look at me a little resentfully (books can give you looks don’t pretend they can’t). Each book has lots and lots of notes and page numbers for quotes on my computer and in varying notebooks so I know reviewing them won’t be the problem BUT, that said, I did work out if I sat down and finalised them all that would be the next 4.5 weeks of my blog done. We would be in mid October, which makes me wonder if the posts would feel a little out of date should I actually get my arse in gear and start commenting back to you all again – which will happen, it will, it will.

But how do I rectify this? I had thought about not reviewing all of them but then I felt like I would be letting some of them down. Then I started to make excuses like ‘well that one I was on the Green Carnation judging panel for and I shouldn’t really review books I judged there’ (yet I have done and also I re-read one of those books this year for something else) or ‘well I discussed the book on You Wrote The Book with the author or on The Readers Book Club’. Yet again that doesn’t ring quite right with me. The only books I really won’t review are the ones I either didn’t finish, because I don’t think you can really be allowed to comment if you didn’t finish it cover to cover personally, or I loathed so much people might never come back to the blog thinking what a Grade A knob I was with my outpourings of venom. I used to review everything when I started the blog though if you go back to the beginning you might think otherwise as these pieces were so rubbish I deleted most of them in a fit of embarrassment.

So I am wondering if stock piling is the answer? Could I write up all the reviews yet keep some stored away for if I ever fancy a month off yet seemingly still be here, or if there is an emergency and I can’t blog/have to take time out, or if I decide to read some mammoth books (which is looking rather likely) and so my output would be lower. I am growing to like this idea already. The other option is ‘round up’ posts but, unlike many a blogger I admire, I am pretty crap at those – as you will notice from my posts I find succinct quite difficult.

I guess what I really wanted to do is to ask what your thoughts are, but instead of just asking directly I have gone off on a whittling tangent and now you’ve read over 700 words of me waffling on. What do you think though? Or, if you are a blogger/reviewer/diary keeper, what do you do? As a reader of blogs do you want to hear about everything that a blogger has read, good bad and in between or just the highlights? Thanks in advance for your thoughts, I am now going to go and mull which book to review for tomorrow. Decisions, decisions!

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