Category Archives: Ali Smith

The Story of Antigone – Ali Smith

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I had the urge to return to my classicist roots, well genes if such things are in the blood which I feel they might be, and was working out how to do it. I plumped for the option of heading to a retelling by a favourite author and whilst I had Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad I decided to go for one I didn’t own by another author I love dearly too. Any excuse for a new book, I can’t lie. This was a book I had no idea existed until I saw Jen Campbell mention a while back, when doing a video on Ali Smith’s works. It was The Story of Antigone. So I promptly bought a copy and proceeded to read it in one big wonderful gulp one night after work. (I so need more books I can do that with, it’s quite the feeling to come home from work and somehow devour a whole book!)

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Pushkin Press, paperback, 2015, fiction, illustrated byLaura Paoletti, 100 pages, bought by myself for myself

Ali Smith sets herself no easy challenge in adapting the story of Antigone for a new audience, which this book is part of an initiative to do, because it is both complex and part of a the greek myths which tend to have glimmers of what could be bigger stories within the one epic. Antigone, a young Theban princess, has not long lost her father (King Oedipus) and now her brother Polynices has just been killed in battle. Polynices has been declared a traitor by the new King, King Creon, and so his body must remain outside, uncovered and open to the elements, to be eaten by crows. Should anyone dare to try and bury him they will be found and stoned to death. Funnily enough this is what Antigone wants to do, despite her sisters best efforts to beg her to leave Polynices and save themselves. Yet if you are facing death anyway what is there to lose?

In many ways the story of Antigone is actually a story that is really part of the story before it, and after it, if you know what I mean. I know you could say this of most books; however it is particularly so here. Many authors would struggle to set it up as a tale in its own right, though many have tried, Ali Smith seems to do this effortlessly. One of the instant ways in which she does this is to tell it through the voice (and eyes) of a crow. One of those crows that is probably going to get to chow down on Polynices at some point if Antigone doesn’t get there first.

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This works brilliantly. Firstly, despite my disdain for talking animals in fiction, who doesn’t like a talking crow? By their nature crows are a little bit sinister and somewhat untrustworthy and unpredictable by nature. Therefore being the perfect sarcastic and unreliable narrator who will appeal to readers of all ages. The crow is also, obviously, not human which also adds a distance to the story that is unfolding below. This to me makes the story at once all the more macabre and gory, because every Greek myth tends to be and crows delight on the bloody bits, and also oddly all the less disturbing as it takes away the human fear of death (which this story is all about) yet observes the human emotion of grief and makes the human need for power and control seem a bit daft frankly. In Smith’s hands the crow really is the perfect narrator.

“So,” the crow said. “What happened then was this. First his mother/wife killed herself, didn’t she, for ‘shame’. For ‘scandal’. And what did King Oedipus do then, for goodness sake? He put his hands in his own head and he took out his own eyes! And off he went, wandering the world like an old tramp, not a king at all. Typical still-alive stuff. His two sons. The big brothers of those two girls we just saw arguing, decided they’d share being king instead. The guess what happened? Go on. Guess.”

What I also really loved about crow and his voice (apart from the very witty interview he gives Ali Smith at the end about why she wrote the book, very meta and very entertaining) is that you are completely captivated. You also leave The Story of Antigone wanting to read a whole heap more around it. The way crow introduces the context of the story inside the story before and the story after (oh here I go again, making it sound all complicated unintentionally) hints at these othetr wonderful tales and leaves you desperate for more, as you can see above. I wanted crows version of the tale of Oedipus in more detail, maybe Ali Smith could just come back and adapt them all in a series all of her own?

Before I round off I do need to mention the gorgeous illustrations throughout by Laura Paoletti. As Smith does with the text, Paoletti again takes the old elements of the ancient classic and gives it a modern twist. I felt the pictures were at once contemporary and yet harked back to the wall paintings that you see when visiting a collection of Greek works in a museum or adorning the walls of a Greek ruin where they have survived. I thought this was a fantastic and apt addition to the book.

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The Story of Antigone was the perfect way back into the world of the ancient classics and myths and legends that I have been hankering after of late. It has left me most keen to go away and find more adaptations but also head back to the real thing. My mother, who is a classicist and who I saw last weekend, has told me I need to seek out a really good translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses so if any of you know of a great edition of that please let me know. A new translation of The Iliad has arrived this week, so I am wondering if may that is where I will head next, though it does look rather daunting. What do you think, just dive in? I also really want to try the other Pushkin ‘Save the Story‘ titles too, The Story of Gilgamesh by Yiyun Li particularly appeals.

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Filed under Ali Smith, Pushkin Press, Review

How to be both – Ali Smith

When the lovely folk at the Bailey’s Prize asked me if there was a book I would like to champion from the shortlist that I hadn’t read yet (or you know it would be The Bees) I instantly, and quite cheekily, asked them if I could read Ali Smith because I am a big fan of her work. I have actually been a big fan of her work since before this blog was born when I read The Accidental and loved it just as much as I was occasionally baffled by it. Since then I have loved Girl Meets Boy, The First Person & Other Stories, There but for the and Artful. Now with How to be both I think Ali Smith has encased everything I love about her writing in one book, though I am also aware that it won’t be a book for every reader out there…

Penguin Books, paperback, 2015, fiction, 384 pages, kindly sent by the lovely lot at the Bailey’s Prize

How to be both is a clever novel in that is is made up of two narratives/novellas/stories which form a whole novel, yet can be read and have indeed been printed in either order creating a slightly different book. Before we get too involved in how that works, let me tell you more about the two stories. First up, well in my editon, is the tale of George whose mother has recently died and whose life and death along with the things she was interested in have become a kind of obsession with George whilst coping with the grief and loss of her mother, one being the art of an Italian 15th century fresco painter, Francesco del Cossa. The other story is the tale of the artist del Cossa who of little is known and indeed until a specific fresco and letter were discovered wasn’t a known artist at all. It may seem like the link between the stories is obvious however the more you read the more the narratives are connected, occasionally mirrored and interweaved.

But which came first? her mother says. The chicken or the egg? The picture underneath or the picture on the surface?
The picture below came first, George says. Because it was done.
But the first thing we see, her mother said, and most times the only thing we see, is the one on the surface. So does that mean it comes first after all? And does that mean the other picture, if we don’t know about it, may as well not exist?
George sighs heavily. Her mother points across the way, to the castle wall. A bus goes past. Its whole back is an advert for something in which there’s a Madonna and child picture as if from the past, except the mother is showing the baby Jesus how to look something up on an iPad.

Now I left in the last paragraph of that quote because if you are worried that this novel might be too clever or maybe a little to conceptual it is honestly not. Yes Smith is an amazingly gifted and clever writer, yes she is also an author who is brimming with ideas and her novels can have an unusual concept to them, in no way is she a writer who alienates, comes across as pompous or likes the sound of her own voice or opinions. Her writing is as enjoyable as it is experimental and she has as much sense of humour as she has ideas, admittedly the first part of the Italian section made me do a ‘what?!?’ but I trusted her and read on more of that shortly. What I love about her writing the most is the way that she will play with words, flip them and their meanings about and show you just how blooming amazing this language we all have is.

There is also much more to love about her writing. Layers mainly, in fact layered is a very good word for Smith as she does this with themes in her novels, gender, beginnings, art, culture, stories, spirit & essence, death, grief and more are in this novel. Smith is clearly a people watcher. She has the ears for dialogue and the eyes for character. Any conversation you read in a Smith novel be they set now or be it set several centuries ago is exactly how people speak. I know this sounds really obvious because all authors write dialogue, yet even when that dialogue is good it isn’t as brimming and astute and layered with meaning as when Ali Smith does it, in particular (and this almost beats one of the best dinner party conversations in fiction ever in There but for the) there are conversations between teenage George and her mother that we know we have all had when we were being pedantic clever clogs and one scene with George and her father having to discuss a pornographic  video with its undertone of two people who have become alien to one another since grief hit, is utterly brilliant.

The same brilliance with dialogue applies to Smith’s characters. George is a wonderful, wonderful character who I loved seeing the world from the angle of. Like in There but for the (sorry to mention it again, it remains my favourite Smith book and I loved this) in How to be both Smith uses a younger character to show us the reader how utterly bizarre we are as adult human beings. She does this with the way her mother uses language, yes her own mother, and she does this when she is thinking about death, about art, about pornography, all without it ever sounding precocious. I was utterly charmed by George and it may have been leaving George behind, and initially the very unusual way the start of the second section (in my version of the book) that made me a little hesitant and a little cranky initially when we went to 15th Century Italy.

Don’t get me wrong, once I had warmed up to and got used to the way del Cossa tells a tale I was into the swing of it. There were three particular highlights in this section firstly the wonderful and rompy tale of del Cossa’s rise to painting for the aristocracy, which takes us via a wonderful and vivid whore house, secondly her tale of friendship  and finally, yet most incredibly of all, the way Smith writes about painting. You’d think creative types writing about other creative types would be easy, quite the opposite and some novels about artists or musicians can go horribly wrong (oh hello Richard Powers’ Orfeo) or come across as pretentious drivel. Not for Smith. I was worried I might get bored when she wrote about del Cossa painting or feel like it was a lecture, I was captivated.

It is a feeling thing, to be a painter of things: cause every thing, even a imagined or gone thing or creature or person has essence: paint a rose or a coin or a duck or a brick and you’ll feel it as sure as if a coin had a mouth and it told you what it was like to be a coin, as if a rose told you first-hand what petals are, their softness and wetness held in a pellicle of colour thinner and more feeling than an eyelid, as if a duck told you about the combined wet and underdry of its feathers, a brick about the rough kiss of its skin.

I also think the Italian section is very integral to another thing Ali Smith likes to toy with and that is our assumptions. If there is one thing I have learnt in the case of an Ali Smith novel it is to have no preconceived ideas about it, other than it will be very good, and also to assume nothing. For those of you who have yet to read it I will say no more for fear of spoilers, for those of you who have read it you will know what I mean and we can talk about those and much more in the comments below – after all I promised this would be like a book group, this does mean there may be some spoilers in the comments, be warned. I did wonder how it would work if I had read the two parts the other way around and tried playing the ‘if I had read it that way’ game, I am wondering if too much would have been given away too soon. More to discuss below I feel?

I really liked How to be both. I think it takes all the best parts of her previous novel, mixes them up  and produces something wonderful. Occasionally this does mean that How to be both will have a familiar feel to its predecessors in some way (I so wanted to call this post Artful: The Remix) yet it is also a completely original novel and concept too. As I said before, Smith is as enjoyable as she is experimental and long may she keep writing books like this and gaining a much deserved wider and wider readership. I think she could be one of the most interesting contemporary writers of our time whilst also being one of our most accessible, if you are prepared to put the work in and leave your reading inhibitions by the door. Marvellous!

So normally it is over to you and I ask if you have read the book and what you thought of it, plus ask you what else I should read of Ali Smith’s and indeed from the Bailey’s shortlist. I still want all that but I want a little bit more (and I feel I am worth it, ha) as I said this would be like a book group discussion so to get us all going I do want you to tell me what you thought, I have also asked a few questions in the first comment below… let’s get discussing!

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Filed under Ali Smith, Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction, Penguin Books, Review

Artful – Ali Smith

Ali Smith is one of my favourite contemporary writers. She is one of those writers who, and I am hoping that we all feel this way about a few authors, I love reading even when occasionally something goes completely over my head or I am not quite sure what she means, another one of these I have is Nicola Barker. I have read quite a few of Ali’s novels and There But For The and Girl Meets Boy are two of my favourite books released in the last decade. That said I have to admit that her latest work Artful, being a mixture of fiction and four lectures she gave was one I was worried I wouldn’t ‘get’. So I chose it for the Hear…Read This! so that I could chat to Gav, Rob and Kate about it. Turns out though, despite the discussion being wonderful, I didn’t need the back up, I got exactly what Ali Smith was trying to do with this one… I think.

Penguin Books, paperback, 2013, fiction 240 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

Imagine one day, not long after their death, your partner suddenly returns from the dead. Is this a figment of your imagination? Could it be that you are being haunted by a real ghost? Is it grief playing a cruel trick on you? Could you be going mad? This is one of the many themes which Artful looks at in one of its many strands as Artful is a book that has as many layers as it does ways you could take the story and read it.

You see Artful is a very unusual hybrid of a book, originally taken from four lectures that Ali Smith delivered in Oxford back in 2013. These lectures (On Time, On Form, On Edge and On Offer and on Reflection) look at books, words, language, pictures, poems, basically all forms of art and how we as people take them in, react to them or sometimes don’t. If it sounds like it is going to be dry it really isn’t, it is a warm narrative that will (if you are anything like me) often feel like Smith has the same thoughts as you, only you couldn’t quite put it into words before and need to go and have a think about it. It will make you rethink how you read, and maybe even how you treat, books. For example it has certainly left me wondering if I appreciate books enough and if I give them the time that they deserve and was one of the reasons I decided to slow down with all my reading this year.

Books themselves take time, more time than most of us are used to giving them. Books demand time. Sometimes they take and demand more time than we’re ready or yet know how to grant them; they go at their own speed regardless of the cultural speed or slowness of their readers zeitgeists. Plus, they’re tangible pieces of time in our hands. We hold them for the time it takes to read them and we move through them and measure time passing by how far through them we’ve got, what the page-edge correlation (or percentage, if we’re using a digital reader) between the beginning and the end is. Also, they travel with us, they accompany through from our pasts into our futures, always with their present-tense ability, there as soon as they’re opened, for words to act like the notes heard in music do, marking from word to word the present moment always in reference to what went before, what’s on its way, in a phrase, a sentence, a paragraph, a section, a chapter.

What also stops the book from making your head explode from the cleverness of Smith (never smugly clever let me add) is the way the lectures are interwoven as we join an unnamed narrator after the death of their unnamed partner whose ghost suddenly turns up. The lectures we read, though in a few cases not the whole lecture which I thought was interesting, were written by the recently departed and have not long been found by the grieving one left behind (neither character is given a gender, I felt it was two women though I can’t say exactly why). What is also a ghost story is indeed a very intimate and often incredibly moving picture of grief.

It was you except for at the eyes. Where they’d been, a blue like no one else’s, there were now black spaces. It looked like your whole eyes had become a pupil. You stepped into the room like you were blind. Leaving a trail of rubbly stuff very like what I’d had in my hand when we all stood round  and I threw the urnful of you up the Roman road in the wood on the path that’s lined with beech trees, you went through and stood in front of your old desk, all the papers piled on it pretty much the way you left them.

What is also a ghost story is indeed a very intimate and often incredibly moving picture of grief mixed up with a wonderful sense of being a love letter to that person and also Smith’s own love letter to all art forms, though there is a sense of words and language being at the very heart of this book.

Look at its curves, though, its lovely jerky slopes. Look at your y’s and your g’s. Look at the way you ran ing at the end of representing into a pencilled line with no discernable letters in it at all. No one had handwriting like it. It could only be your hand.

Artful is definitely a book for book lovers but, as Ali Smith seems to point out throughout, it is not a book that is designed to simply be read and forgotten about. There is work to do here and when you work at it the rewards, like all good things in life, are great. I started off trying to read it as a novel, then finding the lectures slowing everything down while my brain tried to process it all. That isn’t the way to read it, you need to re-read paragraphs here and there. You need to go off and look things up on the internet, grab the dictionary or reserve a few books in from the library. You need to have space from the intelligence and the questions it asks you, you need to have some space to contemplate the grief.

It is a book that requires time and yet makes you make time for it and around it. It is quite unlike anything I have read before and left me thinking, which is of course what I love most about all of Ali Smith’s work. I have also come away with so much more to read in the future, always the gift of a wonderful book. I only hope I have done it justice.

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There But For The – Ali Smith

I have had an interesting relationship with Ali Smith before leading up to reading ‘There But For The’. I really liked her last novel ‘The Accidental’ (pre-blogging days) though was also delightfully puzzled by it, I loved ‘Girl Meets Boy’ and thought The First Person and Other Stories’ was a lovely collection. However I really didn’t get on with ‘Hotel World’, to the point where I didn’t finish it and one of her other short story collection I simply didn’t get. So I was intrigued to see which way my experience with ‘There But For The’ would go, I admit I was rather worried that the title might mean it was going to be a little experimental.

Penguin Books, hardback, 2011, fiction, 384 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

The premise of ‘There But For The’ is a rather simple one. Imagine throwing a dinner party and having one of your guests vanishing after the starter to lock themselves in your spare room for months. This is the very position that Jen and Eric (can you see what Smith has done there?) find themselves in after they invite Mark, a ‘homosexual’ they hardly know, who brings Mike along with him as his plus one even though he isn’t and he barely knows him. It is Mike that disappears and starts the lock in, with no seeming cause as to why.

What I really liked about how Smith wrote this was that she tells the story through people who know Miles and not through him himself. Most of them hardly know him that well at all, or have for certain small parts of his life up to the dinner party. I won’t say anything about them as it might give some of the joy of the ‘discovery’ aspect of the book away. This provides little insights and a certain distance which rather than alienate the reader actually creates intrigue and a little bit of mystery. I wanted to read on. It was a risk but its one that I thought Ali Smith pulled off successfully and it certainly kept me reaching for the book at any opportunity. I think I ended up reading this in about five sittings.

The other master stroke, which I know other people have questioned a little (and you can see in the comments of John Self’s post on ‘There But For The’ we have had a discussion about it), was the characters of Jen and Eric ‘The Hosts’. I don’t know if it was intentional, I can’t speak for Smith on this one, but it was like she poured everything that’s horrible about those smug middle class people  who have dinner parties and invite diverse people (sexuality and religion wise) they don’t know simply to almost see what happens, like they are an addition to the nights entertainment. I found this really comic and it added to the book’s fun feel.

As soon as you mention the word ‘fun’ in a novel people will mark it as not having enough literary merit. Not that I am saying that’s what I search for in books. I would heartily disagree with this, and in fact use ‘There But For The’ as a prime example of a book that is fun and is full of literary merit. Smith plays with words and the formation of language (typesetting etc), you can’t get more ‘literary’ than that, and has fun with it, the reader is made to engage with different forms of prose  you might be reading a newspaper cutting about Mike and then when Mark’s dead mother speaks in his head, brilliant character quirk, it is always in a rhyme.

Her characters are also very quirky and fully formed. One of the highlights of the book is where over about 40+ pages we are at the dinner party with all the guests on the evening everything happened.. This could have been really dull because it’s full of random conversation pieces, bits of politics, buts of ‘world issues’, drunken embarrassing over sharing and accidental stereotyping. It’s entertaining, its maddening, its funny, its sad, most of all its insightful – especially in how much is said by what’s unsaid. I had a feeling of ‘uh-oh’ when it started but I utterly loved it. I don’t think I have read anything quite like it. It’s a piece of writing that some authors would have given their writing arm to, well, write. It’s intricate.

“Out of nowhere Caroline starts crying and laughing at the same time. She says she wants to make a confession. Her confession is that she’s frightened of flying in aeroplanes. Hannah reaches across the table, knocks over an empty water glass and pats her hand. Jen starts shouting about CBT. Six sessions of CBT will sort you out, she says, only she shouts it, like a mad person, and she shouts it over and over, she has said it about six times, Mark thinks, either that or he is very drunk himself, which can’t be possible since he’s only had one glass and it was only half full. Hannah is shouting too, about how she has rights, and that one of her fundamental rights is the right to be able to take cheap flights, because her parents didn’t have that right, and that flying doesn’t harm the environment nearly as much as they claim. At this point, Hugo and Richard start free-associating a fantasy – Mark watches them slip into cahoots as if they’d not been being the least bit acrid with each other all night, as if cahoots is exactly the same as loggerhead”

I think ‘There But For The’ is a great novel and so far it’s my favourite of Ali Smith’s works to date that I have read. She has taken bits of her earlier work; great characters, observations, comedy, unusual narratives, prose and pacing and put them all together. It’s a tour-de-force as opposed to a hotch-potch. I don’t want to say this is her most accessible book, even though in many ways it is, because that makes it sound like its not experimental and it is. It’s just honed down, controlled and done without ego. I am very excited to see what she will come up with next. 9.5/10

This book was kindly sent by the publisher.

It’s interesting looking at ratings of her other books that she gets a full variation of opinion from great to not so. Who else is a fan of Ali Smith’s novels? Who isn’t? Why?

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Filed under Ali Smith, Books of 2011, Hamish Hamilton, Penguin Books, Review

The First Person and Other Stories – Ali Smith

Having loved ‘The Accidental’, in those dark pre-blogging days, and then loving ‘Girl Meets Boy’ (I will admit that I started ‘Hotel World’ and didn’t get into it but I think that was a timing thing) I have been meaning to read much more Ali Smith. I have also been meaning to read more short stories. So what could be more perfect than combining the two and so I started ‘The First Person and Other Stories’, that was about two months ago…

Penguin Books, hardback, 2008, short stories, 224 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

It’s always hard to write down all your thoughts about a collection of short stories is that you want to start writing what you would for a book for each story. So I will instead try and share with you what is the essence of ‘The First Person and Other Stories’ and also what makes them all different and interesting to read, so do bear with me as I try and accomplish this. I will start by saying that this collection of Ali Smith’s has some of the most wonderful short stories in it and every single tale could actually be a set of snap shots into a selection of real people’s lives, only of course we know they are fiction but sometimes its hard to differentiate.

You have many stories about love and lovers, in fact that’s possibly the main running theme in this collection along with Smith’s clear fascination with the English language both used to extremes in the delightful ‘The Third Person’ which starts with the line ‘all short stories long’ its almost too complex to explain (not helpful that) because in thirteen pages she can do so much. ‘No Exit’ is a tale of two ex lovers who start chatting after one of them see’s a woman go down a blocked exit in a cinema leading to a steamy flashback which leads to a phone call in the small hours reminiscing. ‘Astute Fiery Luxurious’ and ‘The First Person’ both look at the loves that have gone before the one you are with right now, the later in a most touching way that you don’t expect.

My favourites of the collection however didn’t really look at love, though the first you could say was the love of true friendship and of stories. The opening tale is the wonderful and touching ‘True Short Story’ which was a tale of short stories, friendship and cancer and move. The other was a tale of a woman, who doesn’t want children, finding one in her trolley whilst at the supermarket who starts to call her ‘Mummy’ and the madness that ensues, especially when the child starts to act rather like an adult and aptly titled ‘The Child’.

I would have placed those first two stories at the end of the collection because they stood out so much the ones that followed until the last and aforementioned ‘The First Person’ seemed to suffer from the first twos brilliance. It could be that I spread out the reading over slightly too long a period after deciding to read a story now and then, mind you the first two really stayed with me and I am still thinking of the last one. A really interesting and quite compelling collection, there were the occasional few loose canons here and there where I couldn’t quite work out what had happened but I have to say Ali Smith is an author you can happily lose yourself in… even if you can’t work out exactly what’s going on or where for the whole time.

Have any of you tried this or any of Ali Smith’s other short story collections as I have some more of them in the TBR pile and am not sure where to go next!? Or should I go for another of her novels and re-try ‘Hotel World’?

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Filed under Ali Smith, Penguin Books, Review, Short Stories

Reading Me Like A Book (Or Ten)

I got tagged by the lovely Simon T of Stuck in a Book last week in a meme he had created. It’s a great idea and one that, should you wish to, you can all have a go at. You simply go to your shelves close your eyes and pull ten random books of them and then tell your readers what those ten books tell the world about you. Simon says (ha, I normally am on the receiving end of that saying) that you can cheat a bit which is what I had to do a bit as I only took books of my shelves with books I had read on and some of the titles didn’t work. Anyway on with the books which as you can see I carefully arranged on the sofa… sort of.

Blackmoor by Edward Hogan
This is the best casing point of proving that I wasn’t cheating and as soon as I had picked it I thought ‘oh no’ as I couldn’t think of anything it said about me. I then remembered that it is set in Derbyshire and that is where I am from so that tells you more about me doesn’t it.

The Mitford’s: Letters Between Six Sisters edited by Charlotte Mosley
Now you probably already know I am a bit of a Mitford maniac so that’s not really something new. But I am a huge fan of letter writing. I used to write sides and sides of A4 letters to my friends but sadly it’s gone out of fashion, I am thinking I should make some new pen-pals but not sure how you go about it.

The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins
Now after my sensation season I don’t need to fill you all in on how much I love the genre or how fascinated I am by all things Victorian but its worth a mention. Did you also know that I am into all thinks ghostly and though I haven’t stayed in a haunted hotel I worked in on in Devizes and have stayed in a few haunted sites like Peterborough Museum which was once a hospital and a mansion (I even spent a while in the old morgue) I have also slept in the London Tombs a lovely bunch of plague pits for charity.

Animals People by Indra Sinha
India is one of the countries that I most want to go to, fact one. The second fact is that I have always been a big fan of pets. In fact from about 3 years old I had a duck called Rapunzel who lived indoors with us and would fly to me if I shouted her, she was one of the best pets ever. Since then though I have reverted to cats and goldfish, I only have the latter at the moment but we could be getting two little sets of whiskers in the house soon. Very excited! Ooh and thirdly I did my work experience at a vet surgery and was in the Swindon press after we helped save a dog’s life.

Spies by Michael Frayn
My fantasy job, as I soon decided I didn’t want to be a vet, is now to be a spy. It won’t happen in a million years but I would love it, apart from being terrified all the time. It is also why I am addicted to Spooks when it’s on.

The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld
If I had done a degree my aim was to become a psychologist and to go onto do criminal profiling and working out why people kill and how their killings say so much about a killer. I think its fascinating and why I like crime fiction so much and need the occasionally binge.

Daphne by Justine Picardie
Good old Daphers is my favourite author and Rebecca is my favourite book, can’t say more than that can I? Ha!

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
Well I am an avid reader and hopefully the books I read aren’t common. Hmmm, how do I put that better? I hope I read a diverse collection of books. Also apart from age and national treasure status I like to think I have a lot in common with Alan Bennett he’s northern, a writer etc, etc.

The Accidental by Ali Smith
I am one of the clumsiest people you could ever meet, seriously it’s ridiculous. Falling seems to be one of my specialities or bumping into things or tripping, basically anything is a health hazard.

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
This was my only cheat and it’s a bit of a tenuous fact. I am a big fan of cats; in fact as a kid I wasn’t interested in dinosaurs but I wanted a sabre tooth tiger as a pet. So I think if I could be any animal it would be snow leopard or white tiger. I know that’s pushing it a bit but it’s the best I could do.

So there you have it! Who else is up for doing this? I wont tag particular people just leave it up to all of you to have a go at and if you do it do pop a link in the comments, or of course if you have already done it. Do you think these books say a lot about me; do you feel you know me a little bit better?

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Filed under Alan Bennett, Ali Smith, Aravind Adiga, Book Thoughts, Charlotte Mosley, Edward Hogan, Indra Sinha, Justine Picardie, Michael Frayn, Wilkie Collins

Should Have Reads 2009

It’s odd to believe that we have two weeks left of the year to go. It is especially irksome when I look at my shelves and see the wonderful books that came out in 2009 that I simply haven’t read yet. I feel most shameful. Then I think hang on a second I have two weeks to go, I can probably polish off another five or six of them by then and that is where you will be coming in shortly!

Last year I did a list of the books at the end of the year that I had meant to read but hadn’t and ten seemed a huge amount to me then. I think this years list will exceed that, we will see when I compile it below, which is odd considering I have read more books this year than I have any other year. I blame a new love of all classics in particular sensation novels partly and the fact that I still had so much I wanted to read at the end of 2008. From my should have read list last year I have only read two of the books I intended to in 2009 (though lots more I didnt intend to), it’s not promising is it?

So now I will hand it over to all of you as you were so helpful with my Gran’s list last week. Which of the following books published in 2009 that I have on the TBR must I really try and read before the year is through?

  • The Devil’s Paintbrush – Jake Arnott
  • All The Nice Girls – Joan Bakewell
  • The Death of Bunny Munro – Nick Cave
  • War on the Margins – Libby Cone
  • The Solitude of Prime Numbers – Paolo Giordano
  • The Lieutenant – Kate Grenville
  • The Other Half Lives – Sophie Hannah
  • The Believers – Zoe Heller
  • A Beginners Guide To Acting English – Shappi Khorsandi
  • Pretty Monsters – Kelly Link
  • Hells Belles – Paul Magrs
  • One Day – David Nicholls
  • The Angels Game – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  • The First Person and Other Stories – Ali Smith
  • Noah’s Compass – Anne Tyler
  • Legend of a Suicide – David Vann

Actually that’s not as bad as I thought it would be. So over to you… which of these books must I try and devour by the end of the year and why? Which books published in 2009 have I missed and should have tracked down? I am looking forward to your thoughts as ever.

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Filed under Ali Smith, Anne Tyler, Book Thoughts, Books of 2009, Jake Arnott, Kate Grenville, Paul Magrs, Sophie Hannah