Category Archives: Dan Rhodes

Marry Me – Dan Rhodes

Fret not, this is not some random post where I declare my love for Dan Rhodes and ask for his hand, though I have been a big fan of his for years and years I wouldn’t go that far. However ‘Marry Me’ is the title of Dan Rhodes latest collection of short stories, which seemed the perfect antidote for having had a real book slump after the torture experience of ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’. I needed something that would make reading a joy and get me thinking and that is just what ‘Marry Me’ did.

**** Canongate Books, hardback, 2013, fiction, 158 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

The theme in all the short tales in ‘Marry Me’ are, rather unsurprisingly from the title, all based around marriage. Be these tales of people who are thinking of getting married, getting married, having just been married or ending their marriage the whole gambit is covered here. You have couples getting married through true love, guilt, accident and people getting out of it for the same reason.

Describing them like that makes them sound like they are all going to be rather dark and cynical, and whilst there are a good few dark little twisted tales (part of the reason I am a fan of Rhodes writing so much) here there are also some that are incredibly raw and also rather sentimental and tender too even if it is not initially obvious.


You would think in a collection of 79 oh-so-short stories there might be some kind of repetitive nature. I will admit that on occasion there were a few that opened with ‘when my fiancé died…’ and there were lots of cheating spouses and husbands who thought everything was fine when it really wasn’t yet the book is brimming with variety. ‘Perfect’ shows the lengths that people will go to for the most special, better than anyone else’s, of days. ’Androids’ takes the theme of, erm, themed weddings to a very dark (but I laughed so, so hard) conclusion. ‘Her Old Self’ shows you should never marry someone because you think you are doing them a favour or out of guilt. There was even a hint of a different genre, science fiction, in ‘Cold’ where a woman gets sick of her husband interfering with the plans she asks him to be cryogenically frozen for a few weeks to let her get on with.


What I always admire with Dan Rhodes work is how he likes to contradict himself and throw the reader completely. Here he does this by being super critical of marriage, despite the fact the book is dedicated to ‘wife features’, on the one hand and then suddenly giving you a quirky cute tale that you weren’t expecting. This is always the case in both his novels and his short stories. With his short stories like these, and many of the tales in his previous collection Anthropology, which at the longest can be a page and a half and at their shortest a few sentences (flash fiction really) it is like his brilliance is concentrated. He can create a situation and atmosphere in a paragraph a whole character in a sentence, it is quite mind-bogglingly clever. They are also overall darkly funny, you’ll laugh when you normally wouldn’t.


I would heartily recommend anyone and everyone give ‘Marry Me’ ago. You might not want to buy it for someone you love, they might not get the way it’s meant, but if you love literature, language and the way that words can work at their most concentrated (and because you like to be entertained and made to laugh) then you should definitely give this a whirl. I would highly recommend it, like I would all the books of Rhodes that I have read.

I have just realised that Dan Rhodes should really be in my Hall of Fame, as I have read and liked so much of his work, but I am going to save that for when I have read ‘This is Life’ which has been on my TBR for far too long and I have been saving to read for a rainy day. Who else has read Dan Rhodes and what do you think of his work?



Filed under Canongate Publishing, Dan Rhodes, Review, Short Stories

Don’t Tell Me The Truth About Love – Dan Rhodes

I like collections of stories that feel like fairy tales for adults. I like books that are darkly funny. I like Dan Rhodes, he is one of my favourite authors. We then have I left reading his collection ‘Don’t Tell Me The Truth About Love’ for such a long time when I knew it would combine all three of these things? Well, if I am being truly honest, I forgot I had it. It wasn’t until I spotted it when looking for another book that I saw it and knew it must be read pronto. It also was one of the books that inspired the recent cull, too many gems I really wanted to read surrounded by those I kinda, maybe one day might read.

Fourth Estate, paperback, 2002, short stories, 198 pages, from my personal TBR

‘Don’t Tell Me The Truth About Love’ rather unsurprisingly given its title is a collection of love stories with a twist, brilliant, just my thing. If you are thinking these will be stories with a happy ending, you would be wrong. Like the proper versions of the fairytales we know and love from childhood, which are indeed much more sinister in their original form than Ladybird or Disney would have you believe, these are all wonderfully dark with some vicious and also hilarious twists as the tales develop. In fact the blurb of the book (I only tend to read these after I have finished a book, random fact, like I do other reviews and thoughts) does say this is ‘a homage to the brothers Grimm’.

There are seven stories in the collection all with one main theme, they all have a wonderful sense of magic, be they set in forests like ‘Glass Eyes’ or in the modern world as ‘The Violoncello’. We have tales of unrequited love between old men and young beauties, old hags who magically entice young lovers, men willing to literally become instruments for women to play with, women so obsessed their lovers don’t love them they will see how far they can test that love. As you can probably tell, love appears in many forms, always quite darkly and generally with a twist.

I will admit the first story ‘The Carolingian Period’ worried me that I might be a little disappointed, it didn’t do quite enough as a tale or effect me like I wanted it to, I also predicted the ending a little. That said it was still a great story, just having read Dan’s other works I wanted more. ‘The Violoncello’ changed all that. I admit I was thinking ‘if these are fairy stories why are we in modern Asia not the wooded lands’ but the magical element kicked in and, if there is such a thing, it became an epic short story. I loved it and reminded myself that stories should never be predictable and fairy tales can happen anywhere, ‘Landfill’ another marvellous example of that as it plays out in, well, a landfill. With ‘The Violoncello’ really I felt like I got a full novel in 44 pages, the story, the characters, the atmosphere, the emotion were all wonderfully drawn.

‘Coquettita was naked except for a string of pearls. He was naked too but with no one there to see it didn’t seem to matter. And they were in love. People in love like looking at each other with no clothes on. But as he saw in her contorted face the unvanquishable desire to pluck out his left eye he began, tentatively, to question the unconditionality of his love for her. For the first time in the six days since they had met, he felt the urge to hide his nakedness behind a tree or some ferns. He was frightened.’
Taken from ‘Glass Eyes’

It was those stories which had glimmers of the ones I loved as a child that I will admit I loved the most. ‘Glass Eyes’ was a wonderfully dark tale of a wizened witch disguising herself and wanting her beautiful lover to be as ugly as her. In fact beauty is a theme in my three favourite of the story’s as ‘Beautiful Consuela’ where a woman pushes the lines of love vs. beauty to extremes and my very favourite, and probably the darkest of the tales ‘The Painting’ shows the darkest effects beauty can have and what it can cause.

As I said at the start I like collections of stories that feel like fairy tales for adults. I like books that are darkly funny. I like Dan Rhodes. If you like anyone of these then you must get ‘Don’t Tell Me The Truth About Love’. It’s a veritable treat.


Filed under Dan Rhodes, Fourth Estate Books, Review, Short Stories

Summer Read Suggestions… From Authors

Earlier in my ‘Summer Reads Week’ I asked for suggestions of favourite summer reads from publishers pasts and the ones they were looking forward to having a read of over the coming months. So I then thought what about authors? I have noticed in the past some papers and the like get some authors to tell us just what they will be reading over the summer, so I thought why not do the same with authors? Asking simply what makes the perfect summer read for you and which book is your favourite summery read? Which book are you most eager to read over the summer months and why?

Rather than go off and just get any author I could to answer these questions I decided to go for some authors who have produced some of my favourite reads over the last few years of me writing Savidge Reads. I was most chuffed that they all said yes…

Maria Barbal

It depends quite on the time to spend. If I have a complete month it’s a good moment to read a long novel but also for a second rereading or for reading the whole work of an author.

I have read one book by Herta Müller and I would like to read some more.  Specially Tot el Que Tinc ho duc al damunt  (Atemschaukel, English: Everything I Possess I Carry With Me), because she has a poetic and piercing style, and reaches the reader with her writing.

Neil Bartlett

A perfect summer read for me is one which is utterly engrossing, but which I can safely fall asleep while reading on the flagstones of my garden, and then pick up the thread of at once, once I awake. Two contrasting examples currently in my pile; The Leopard (Lampedusa- perfect, as it makes the Visconti movie replay in my head) and My Memories of Six Reigns by Her Highness Princess Marie Louise – a junkshop find, full of great pictures and bizarre bejewelled stories.

Which book for this summer ? Andrew Graham Dixon’s new Caravaggio biog, which I think will piss me off, as he’s very determined to de-queer the paintings, but he’s a serious historian, and Caravaggio is an artist whose works I hope to spend the rest of my life looking at.

Stella Duffy

I read really widely anyway, and have never really bought into the ‘some books are for the beach’ idea, BUT I do like the books I’m hungry to get through in one or two sittings when I happen to have an afternoon free (we don’t have much skill at actually going away on holiday in our house!). I’ve had splendid summers in my garden where, after working all morning, I’ve spent the afternoon speeding through a friend’s very fast-paced dark crime novel or another mate’s bonkbuster.

I remember a great summer week of working every morning and reading Val McDermid’s Mermaid’s Singing in the garden in the afternoons. It hardly sounds summery, but there was something about the contrast between the warmth and sunshine and the darkness of the book that I really enjoyed.

I have Anna Quindlen’s ‘Every Last One’ on my TBR pile and I’m definitely looking forward to that. Unusually I HAVE been swayed by the quotes on the cover – Anne Tyler, Elizabeth Jane Howard, and Alice Hoffman in praise? It has to be good! I also have some newly released Janet Frame short stories ‘The Daylight and The Dust’ which I’m definitely looking forward to, and I do think they will need a long, slow, quiet afternoon or two to really do them justice.

Tess Gerritsen

The perfect summer read… A book that takes me completely out of my own surroundings and transports me to a different one.  I especially love being plunged into a different time period, or even a different world.  An historical mystery by Arianna Franklin, for instance, would be an example of a perfect summer read.  Or a fantasy novel along the lines of Tolkien.

I have a copy of Justin Cronin’s The Passage.  I can’t wait to dive in. And I also have a copy of Manda Scott’s mammoth work Boudica, which I’ve been putting off until I have the time to do it justice.  I’m looking forward to them both so much!

Sophie Hannah

The perfect summer read, for me, is anything that pins me to my sun-lounger long after I would ordinarily have leaped into the swimming pool – a book worth getting sunstroke for. I have lots of favourite holiday reads dating back several years – the one that springs to mind is ‘The Memory Game’ by Nicci French, which I read on holiday in Florida in 1999. It remains one of the most sophisticated, intelligent, sensitive and gripping thrillers I’ve ever read.

On my holiday this year, I plan to read the new Scott Turow, ‘Innocent’, the sequel to ‘Presumed Innocent’, which I have no doubt will be as stylish and compelling as Turow always is, and ‘The Disappeared’ by MR Hall, a brilliant new crime writer whose series protagonist is a coroner.

Hillary Jordan

My perfect summer read is a beautifully written novel that grabs hold of me on page one, pulls me into another world and doesn’t let go till The End. I think my best ever summer read was Lord of the Rings.

This summer I was hoping to read The Lacuna but am racing to finish my own second novel, Red…so I suspect that’s the only book my nose will be buried in over the next few months!

Paul Magrs

There are several novels I associate with summer – and I’d be keen to reread them at some point during the holiday… R C Sherrif – The Fortnight in September, a suburban family between the wars goes to the seaside. Nothing happens – from everyone’s POV. A perfect novel! Haruki Murakami – The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, it’s long, episodic and puzzling. I read it in Paris last summer and loved it. Scarlett Thomas – The End of Mr Y. This is another holiday read that’s all mind-bendy and completely absorbing and perfect for sitting at cafe tables with strong coffee and fancy ice cream. Jacqueline Susann – The Love Machine. Perfect sleazy soap opera set in the world of 60s television. Jonathan Caroll – The Land of Laughs, a wonderful supernatural thriller about a writer of children’s books.

And, of course, as many unread or favourite Puffins, gobbled up alongside all of these. The papery fragrance of Puffins *is* what summer smells of, to me. Too many, no..?

Dan Rhodes

My reading habits aren’t particularly affected by the seasons, although I did once give up on Kafka’s The Castle while lying on the beach in Majorca. I just couldn’t feel the cold. At the moment I’m going through a cop novel phase. Two in particular I’ve found supremely original and well worth a look: Bad Traffic by Simon Lewis takes a Chinese detective and drops him in the English countryside, and Pocket Notebook by Mike Thomas follows a ‘roided-up firearms officer as his life and career unravel quite spectacularly. Most cop novels are by whey-faced writer types who would run a mile from a genuine crime scene, but Mike Thomas happens to be a serving police officer, which adds a frisson of authenticity to proceedings. Should that matter in fiction? Possibly not, but either way it’s a cracking read. I’m impatient for more from those two.

I’m going to plough through my short story shelf. There’s still plenty of stuff I haven’t read by William Trevor, VS Pritchett, Katherine Mansfield, Paul Bowles, etc, etc. And just when I think I must be nearing the end of Chekhov’s fiction I always seem to find a bunch of stories I’d never heard of. And while I’m on the subject of short stories, may I recommend Rhapsody by Dorothy Edwards? I’m always on about this book, but it’s criminally overlooked. It’s one of the best things ever to have happened on Earth.

Natasha Solomons

I remember my summers by the books I was reading. The summer of 2000 wasn’t island hopping through Greece with a slightly dodgy boyfriend and his dodgier moped, it was ‘A Thousand Years of Solitude’. The August I left school was ‘Moontiger’ and ‘A Town Like Alice’  — (which did cause me to develop a slight obsession with the sarong). During summer I want a book that transports me — I want the story to be more real than the British drizzle and to be so compelling that I’m flipping the bbq burgers in one hand and clutching my book in the other.

The books I love this year are Irene Sabatini’s ‘The Boy Next Door’, which has already won the Orange New Writer’s Prize — it’s the love story of a mixed race couple struggling amidst the growing chaos in Zimbabwe. I love these kinds of books: the small and personal set against the vast and cataclysmic. The other is Emma Henderson’s ‘Grace Williams Says it Loud’, which made me cry. The book is inspired by Emma’s own sister who lived for many years in a unit for disabled people. Yet, this is a sweeping love story narrated with such verve by Grace that you forget she is unable to speak. You’ll also fall in love with Daniel — he’s so dapper and debonair. I’ll also be re-reading Jane Austen’s ‘Emma’ for the seventieth time. No summer is complete without a little strawberry picking at Donwell Abbey.

Evie Wyld

I love a really massive book for a summer read, and preferably something a bit spooky or scary, like Murakami’s Wind up Bird Chronicles. That was perfect. But this summer I’m looking forward to The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas. I’ve heard amazing things about this book.

Other things I’m taking on holiday are Larry’s Party by Carol Shields and The Trout Opera by Matthew Condon. I love Carol Shields and I’ve been meaning to read this for ages, and I’ve just been given a copy of the Trout Opera by my partner. He says I’ll love it, and he should know. All Australians I’m afraid!

So there you have it, on Friday and Saturday it’s a two parter of books that some other bloggers (some still haven’t responded tut tut, ha) have suggested for your summer reading TBR’s. Back to today though, anything taken your fancy from the selection of titles above? I am most intrigued by some of them I have to say. Did any authors surprise you with what they could be reading over the summer?


Filed under Dan Rhodes, Evie Wyld, Hillary Jordan, Maria Barbal, Natasha Solomons, Neil Bartlett, Paul Magrs, Sophie Hannah, Stella Duffy, Tess Gerritsen

Anthropology – Dan Rhodes

I mentioned on Valentines Day that I find books about love a difficult genre. I tend to like them to have an edge like ‘The Time Traveller’s Wife’ of the latest NTTVBG read ‘The Girl with Glass Feet’ rather than a straightforward slush fest. So imagine my joy at realising I had a collection of tales of love that all had an unusual edge, twist or way of looking at the subject.

When I first saw my copy of Dan Rhodes collection ‘Anthropology’ I couldn’t quite see how in a book of such a small size, for it is small indeed, you could possibly have 101 stories of love in all its forms? Well the premise is that each story is 101 words (or around that as I bet some clever so and so will try counting them) and so you get a story a page. Despite being a big fan of Dan Rhodes’ work I wasn’t convinced this would work especially as I am quite difficult with short stories anyway.

How wrong could I have been? I really, really liked this collection and I think it actually goes to show just how good a writer Dan Rhodes is. In around 101 words he encapsulates a relationship with ease. You have tales of a girlfriend who has been in out of space and wont shut up about it on return, a man who’s girlfriend is kidnapped and objects to a high ransom especially when they keep chopping bits of her off and not reducing the price, a man who’s girlfriend goes off to work with gay people in Mongolia only to become one though he thinks she literally has become a gay man from the Village People with the beard and all. All these tales and more are cleverly depicted in 101 words, how many authors could do that?

The other thing that I really liked about the book was the emotions. Each story has a very different depiction of love be it true love, young love, unrequited love, obsessive love, the ending of love. It also looks at all the emotions behind them the good, bad, happy, ridiculous, compulsive, sad and funny. I thought I would treat you to two of the tales the first a more sombre and sad tale of a love that’s ended called ‘Museum’…

I turned our flat into a museum. Visitors are welcome to marvel at the daintiness of the pumps she left behind, and to look at the band with which she would tie back her hair from the face I kissed so many times. There are cabinets full of photographs, and letters she sent me. There’s a framed birthday card on the wall, with three big kisses in silver pen. No one ever visits but I am here everyday, keeping my head as still as I can. I don’t want to lose any of the brain cells that hold those precious memories.

And here is a funnier one which will hopefully leave you will a smile on your lips called ‘Beauty’…

My girlfriend is so beautiful that she has never had cause to develop any kind of personality. People are alays wildly glad to see her, even though she does little more than sit around and smoke. She’s getting prettier, too. Last time she left the house she caused six car crashes, two coronaries, about thirty domestic disputes and an estimated six hundred unwanted and embarrassing erections. She seems quite indifferent to the havoc she causes. ‘I am going to the shop for cigarettes’ she’ll say, yawning with that succulent, glossy mouth. ‘I suppose you’d better call some ambulances or something.’

I wanted to print one story called ‘Innocence’ which is so rude I couldn’t for fear of offending anyone but when I read it I actually cried with laughter for about ten minutes, read it again and laughed another ten. Yet more proof, for me anyway, of the masterly writing of Mr Rhodes. I am not reading any more of his for a while though as I am getting through his back catalogue rather quickly. I know what to grab of the shelves when I next need a pick me up though that’s for sure. I think this might be my very favourite short story collection too. What’s yours?


Filed under Canongate Publishing, Dan Rhodes, Review, Short Stories

Savidge Reads Grills… Dan Rhodes

Well I am feeling very lucky as two of my favourite authors have kindly undergone  the intense bookish pressure of enduring a Savidge Reads Grills. First up last week was Xiaolu Guo and now we have the pleasure of Dan Rhodes who’s latest book ‘Little Hands Clapping’ I raved about yesterday, seriously its brilliant and is already one of my favs of the year and even the new decade! I decided to try and find out just what goes in on the marvellous and quirky world of Dan Rhodes… (oh and don’t read on if you don’t know how Tess of the D’Urbervilles ends)

How did Little Hands Clapping come about, where was the idea born?
I had the first ideas about fifteen years ago, and it very very slowly grew into the beast it is now. It went through lots of changes along the way. For years I didn’t feel ready to write it – I just had to be patient and wait for the time to be right. The donkey work took three years. 

Your books are all very different but they all seem to centre, as far as I have read so far, on people who are a bit unusual, slightly alienated characters as well as a fairly macabre look on love. Do you agree this is the case and why do you think it is or isn’t so?
A lot of the time I would put a Me character in. Particularly in the first couple – the hapless boy on a quest to find true love. I used to have plenty of excruciating romantic misadventures, and these found their way into the books. It was an attempted exorcism, I suppose. It didn’t really work – the misadventures continued – but at least I got some books out of it. I still write love stories, happy and sad, but then most stories are love stories, aren’t they? 

Some of your books, particularly Timoleon Vieta Come Home (for its ending which we won’t give away) have caused a stir for being shocking is it your intention to shock? How have you felt about certain reactions?
I don’t set out to shock, but I don’t see why I should sugar coat human nature. There’s a certain kind of reader who feels entitled to a happy ending, and they can get stuffed. Here’s a world exclusive for you (I think) – the dog in that book was based, in large part, on Tess from Tess of the d’Urbervilles. I expect Thomas Hardy would have received angry letters from people asking him to sell out completely and save her from the gallows. Until that book came out it didn’t occur to me that there was this army of wimpy readers out there who think that every book needs to have a happy ending, and who will hit the roof if they don’t get one. A lot of my favourite books end on pretty bleak notes – Brighton Rock, Madame Bovary, much early Evelyn Waugh… Films too – Billy Liar, A Taste of Honey, The Incredible Shrinking Man. To me it just seems normal, if it’s right for the story. These are great works – imagine if their creators had wimped out and had everyone smiling at the end. My favourite readers – in fact the only readers I’m interested in writing for – are the ones who appreciate the ending of Timoleon Vieta Come Home. Anyone who’s given me a hard time about it can chew my sock. People can be terrible – why not write about that? 

As well as being shocking, sometimes graphic and often moving too your books are also absolutely hilarious in parts. In Gold the scene where Tall Mr Hughes came back from the loo forgetting to button up had me in tears of laughter for a good ten minutes. Is this intentional? Is it hard to be funny and do you make yourself laugh?
I like to have a mixture of serious stuff and daft stuff because that’s the way life is. Nailing the comic timing is one of the hardest things about the job – and yes, on a good day I do make myself laugh. 

When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer? Was it an easy thing for you to do? How long have you been writing for?
I’ve always mucked about with writing bits and pieces, and from my teens I had a vague idea that I would like to think things up for a living, but I started writing seriously – publishably – in September 1996. I was first published in 2000, so I didn’t have decades of struggle prior to my first book coming out. But no, it’s not easy to write, and it doesn’t get any easier. Six books in, I don’t feel as if I’ve got the hang of it. That’s the creative side, and the financial side is pretty dicey too. I wouldn’t recommend it either way. 

Which books and authors inspired you to write?
In the days when Waterstone’s had an imported fiction section I chanced upon a book with a magnificent title – The Sadness of Sex by Barry Yourgrau. It’s a great book, and I really recommend it. It taught me that it was possible to write very short stories about girls, and that’s what I started to do. Up until that point I’d been too evasive. That was also when I started to put more serious, emotional stuff in – almost everything before then had been purely facetious, and often an in joke with myself. Terrible writing, really. Another motivating factor in my early work was that I just couldn’t find people who were writing fiction then (the 90s) who really blew me away. There seemed to be plenty of writers up my street working in TV and on the radio, but not so much in fiction. I remember either Jim or William Reid saying that nobody was making the music they wanted to hear, so they had to make it themselves, and that’s why they formed the Jesus and Mary Chain. I felt the same way, although it’s possible that I just wasn’t looking in the right places. 

Which contemporary authors do you rate who are writing right now?
Simon Crump is great. Rachel Trezise kicks all kinds of arse (Dial M for Merthyr by her is brilliant). I really hope Sylvia Smith writes another book one day. Magnus Mills.  Ben Rice. Lots of others too. There doesn’t seem to be a shortage of writers I like any more. 

Describe your typical writing routine, do you have any writers quirks or any writing rituals?
Writers love having rituals, but it’s just rubbish really. As long as you can find a quietish spot you can write. Everything else is just excuse-making.

Which book, apart from any you have written, would you demand Savidge Reads and this blogs readers run out and buy right this instant, a book you would call your favourite?
The Young Visiters by Daisy Ashford. It’s everything you could ever ask for in a book. And if you’ve already read that, then Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky by Patrick Hamilton.

What is next for Dan Rhodes?
World domination. But I’ll have a cup of tea first.

A huge thank you to Dan for giving me up some of his precious time to be grilled here at Savidge Reads, I was well chuffed. If, and I hope it has, this interview has left you gagging for more Rhodes then do pop to Dan’s website and have a gander at


Filed under Dan Rhodes, Savidge Reads Grills...

Little Hands Clapping – Dan Rhodes

Where can one start in trying to write about the latest novel ‘Little Hands Clapping’ from Dan Rhodes? The reason I start this with that question is because you are reading away and then somewhere around page 60 something slightly dark and disturbing is mentioned in such an off hand and subtle way you almost have to re-read the paragraph one or two times to actually believe what you have just read. It’s something that isn’t hinted at in the blurb and so I am going to try and write about the book without mentioning it as giving it away would not ruin the read but maybe spoil the book a bit.

The book starts in the strange setting of a bizarre German Museum where an unnamed ‘old man’ works and lives. He isn’t quite security guard and isn’t quite curate, he is quite curious. The fact in the opening chapter we meet him as he wakes in the night from sleep, hears there is someone downstairs ignores it and eats a spider instead before he calmly goes back to sleep leaves you filled with intrigue (well it did me) by page 8. Bring in his acquaintance with Ernst Frohlicher, the doctor everyone loves and admires and you set the seeds for a very interesting and unexpectedly dark tale about a truly shocking crime the become embroiled in.

Dan Rhodes has again, quite like in novel Timoleon Vieta Come Home, spun in a story set in Portugal where in a small town three children are born and all the local old town folk know that two of them are destined to be together forever and one will be born to love one but eternally be rejected and consumed with this unrequited love. It’s a story that you wouldn’t think would have anything to do with the old man and the museum and yet Rhodes magically spins one lovers fairytale into one twisted darker tale, its done very subtly and very cleverly and I was hooked from the opening page until the last which I raced to towards the end as there is a rather gripping denouement within the final pages.

I do really enjoy Rhodes writing as I have probably mentioned several times before. I like the mixture of the dark bleakness and the light humorous tones that he uses. This book has me laughing out loud at several points and what sometimes makes the laughter all the better (and harder) is that you’re often laughing at things you know you shouldn’t. I love all of his characters even if I am not meant to like them and in this book even the smallest characters get a full back story. An example would be the woman who gets the old man to meet his current boss. A girl who grows up beautiful and laughing that even when she gets hit buy a car the street hear her laughing as she flies off the bonnet and even when she is lying broken on the road giggling that ‘at least she’s not dead’. Its like little adult fairytales mixed in with two bigger tales that come together, I think its wonderful.

I don’t really need to add that I thought this book was great do I? I am sure that you have picked this up from the above and in my previous reviews of his books. What pleases me too is that I still have lots of his books to go and so I haven’t read his latest and now have the wait for a few years until the next one comes out. So if you haven’t read any Rhodes do give him a whirl, I think the best way to explain him is that he is like a modern singular Grimm brother writing fairytales and fables for adults. Which how can anyone fail to be charmed by? If you would like to know more about him, do pop by the blog tomorrow…


Filed under Books of 2010, Canongate Publishing, Dan Rhodes, Review

Timoleon Vieta Come Home – Dan Rhodes

When I read Gold all the way back in 2008 not only did I thoroughly enjoy it and laugh a lot I also got very excited about the author Dan Rhodes. It has somehow taken me almost a year and a half to read his work again now having finished ‘Timoleon Vieta Come Home’ would I enjoy Dan Rhodes as much as I did the first time around?

I wasn’t sure that a book about a dog ‘with the saddest eyes’ would work for me as I don’t tend to like adult books about animals, though I am an animal fan. However as that dog is the Timoleon Vieta of the title I knew I would be on a journey with him so I would have to leave my preconceived ideas somewhere else. I am glad I did as within about ten pages I was smitten with Timoleon Vieta (apart from the name which when you have to read it that often gets a little much) and quite wanted him as a pet of my own. Onto the story though.

Timoleon Vieta is the best friend, quite literally, of the composer Cockroft after he appears at the window of his Italian Villa one day. Cockroft a lover of animals, though with a bad history in owning dogs, cannot resist his eyes and so keeps him and spoils him rotten and the two become the perfect companions. That is until ‘The Bosnian’ arrives. Cockroft has a habit of giving out his card (along with a rather sexual quip) to good looking young men in the hope of long lasting affairs; he doesn’t expect them to follow it up, especially when they are straight. However as The Bosnian wants a free life where he can be happily bored for days on end he is willing to go to any lengths to get it, he just has to get that damned dog that hates him out of the way and one night after getting Cockroft drunk the dog is taken to Rome and bumped.

This is when the second half of the book kicks in and though we still read of Cockroft and his wicked Bosnian houseboy we end up following Timoleon Vieta as he makes his way home and surviving. We also are brought into the lives of those he meets and their fascinating stories in the Italian villages and towns. From a tale of star crossed lovers, a spurned Welsh girl after a holiday romance gone bad, to a man left with his dead wife’s child from another relationship these are all short tales of love, loss and betrayal and all of them are stunning.

I really enjoyed this book. There is a shock ending that I should mention as it has been slated on certain sites for it. I found the ending shocking but then sometimes we need to be shocked and sometimes books shouldn’t end the way we the reader want them too. I won’t say anymore because I don’t want to give anything away, if you have read it and want to discuss it drop me an email as wouldn’t want to give any spoilers out on here. It’s official I really enjoy Dan Rhodes writing, in fact he could become a favourite author if it carries on like this. I was surprised this was actually his debut novel; its darker, quite a lot more graphic and a bit angrier than Gold was but none the worse for it and shows that Dan Rhodes can write two very different books. Four stars from me, which is high praise!

I think I will be reading a lot more of him this year and am already eying up Anthropology on my shelves. Any Rhodes recommendations or thoughts from you all?


Filed under Canongate Publishing, Dan Rhodes, Review

Simon’s Bookish Bits #4

Hello, hope you are all well? I sadly have the lurgy so this is a bit of a late bookish bits from my bed where I can have a ramble on about lots of different bookish things that have been on my mind or caught my eye this week. Things coming up are Wallander, book winners, podcasts and vlogs and some more sympathy supplies from publishers. Plus possibly a few other bits and pieces.

First up, and I am probably really behind with this subject, is Wallander. I am sure most of you have heard about this series by Henning Mankell and have also probably read most of them. I am officially late to this Swedish crime series; however as I have a spectacular lurgy this week I have been watching more catch up TV than I have been reading books. (I have devoured some more short stories and a small book plus Jasper Fforde – ok I have been reading less than normal.) One series I came across was the BBC’s version of Wallander played by Kenneth Branagh (pictured below) which you can see on iPlayer.

Wallander... cleary a man who doesn't get hayfever!

Wallander, cleary a man who doesnt get hayfever!

It is absolutely superb, I only watched The Man Who Smiled as I have Faceless Killers on the TBR and am now about to get cracking on reading it before I watch it. I am sure many of you have read it and will be able to tell me where to go after Faceless Killers which I am sure I will be discussing next week in more detail, so don’t give any plots away please.

So next up Podcasts and Vlogs. I am new to Vlog’s and know of only one blogger who does them and its one of my other favourite posts each week which is Eva of A Striped Armchair and her weekly library loot. I have to add I wish my local library was as wonderful as hers as the titles she gets are just marvellous. You must have a watch of her Vlog’s (the latest can be found here) as they are utterly charming and in watching them you get to know Eva even better. I couldn’t do a Vlog I have to say the camera does not flatter me. I would love to make podcasts though I have no idea how do any of you? Do any of you have any Podcast recommendations as I have been bereft since Radio 5 stopped doing there’s, even if I still have Mariella on a Sunday and World Book Club.

Speaking of Podcasts I have found a wonderful new Podcast this week thanks to Mee who had written about it in one of her past blog posts. It is called Books on the Nightstand and is by Michael Kindness and Ann Kingman who work for Random ‘but don’t only talk about our publishers books’. Its marvellous and its like you are overhearing a conversation of two friends over a coffee nattering away about books they have read and loved. You can (and should) download them here and read their blog they are just brilliant from the latest books to ‘challenges on blogs’ they discuss it all. Marvellous!

Now finally an update on the BBB, so far so good but then I have been in bed most of the week. One thing thats been a delight while I have been feeling vile is that I have had rather an influx of books as some lovely publishers have sent me some sympathy parcels. I have had to take a picture on the stairs as there has been rather a wonderful deluge of books here. I did try and put them in publisher order but with all the different sizes it didn’t work. So before I list them all too you a big thanks to Canongate, Orion, Random House, Headline, Penguin, Faber, OUP, Constable and Robinson and Bloomsbury for these. Here they are;

  • The Blasphemer – Nigel Farndale
  • City Boy – Edmund White
  • The Unnamed – Joshua Ferris
  • The Help – Kathryn Stockett
  • Lost – Gregory Maguire
  • Dog Boy – Eva Hornung
  • A Life Apart – Neel Mukherjee
  • Wedlock: How Georgian Britain’s Worst Husband Met His Match – Wendy Moore
  • God’s Own Country – Ross Raisin
  • Shadow – Karin Alvtegen
  • A Lion Among Men – Gregory Maguire
  • Direct Red – Gabriel Weston
  • Depths – Henning Mankell
  • The Chalk Circle Man – Fred Vargas
  • Cutting For Stone  – Abraham Verghese
  • The Complete Short Stories – Oscar Wilde
  • Consolation – James Wilson
  • The Rapture – Liz Jensen
  • A Kid For Two Farthings – Wolf Mankowitz
  • Miss Hargreaves – Frank Baker
  • Love’s Shadow – Ada Leverson
  • Mrs Tim of the Regiment – D.E. Stevenson
  • Timoleon Vieta Come Home – Dan Rhodes
  • Anthropology – Dan Rhodes
  • Little Clapping Hands – Dan Rhodes

As ever if you have read any of the books or the authors let me know your thoughts. Ooh I nearly forgot… The Istanbul competition winner is… Michelle aka Su(shu) do email me your address! If you haven’t won don’t be disheartened as I have some more giveaways related to some of the above titles coming up (I like you all to benefit too) and some I haven’t mentioned! So keep your eyes peeled.

So that’s all from my sneezy wheezy sick bed for today. Let me know your thoughts on Wallander, the latest arrivals at Savidge Towers and details of any podcasts and vlog’s I am missing out on. Oh and if you know how to make podcasts do let me know! Over to you all, I look forward to your comments to cheer me up with this horrid lurgy.

Oh and another quick question as you guys are always helpful with things like this and I can’t work out which is better. Should I title these posts like this “Simon’s Bookish Bits: Wallander, Podcasts, Vlogs and Incoming” or simply “Simon’s Bookish Bits #5”? That would be as helpful as answers to all the above!


Filed under Dan Rhodes, Edmund White, Gregory Maguire, Henning Mankell, Joshua Ferris, Kathryn Stockett, Neel Mukherjee, Nigel Farndale, Oscar Wilde, Simon's Bookish Bits, Wolf Mankowitz

Gold – Dan Rhodes

I love a freebie and the latest Dan Rhodes novel ‘Gold’ was one I picked up for free in a coffee shop, which must do some promotions with publishers, in Angel after a book group meeting a while back. Randomly they were shutting so we got the books and left, the waiters didn’t mind apparently they were disappearing like ‘God Dust’ we got the joke but didn’t really laugh. This had been recently put into my TBR boxes only to be dug out again after it was chosen as the next Book Rabbit ( book group, I have never done one of these online but have decided to give it a go as I quite fancied this book… today, right now. I am so glad I read it.

‘Gold’ starts when Miyuki Woodward arrives in the same seaside village in Wales that she comes to every year. She has made a pact with her girlfriend that they sped a month a part each year and her two weeks is always spent by the sea in Wales, she likes the routine. During the day she walks and reads, reading a book a day over two weeks so she has read the equivalent of over one book a month every year. In the evening she can be found mainly at The Anchor (but occasionally at The Boat Inn which has a hilarious tale of a landlord, brilliance) sitting reading and watching a whole host of characters. The most prominent of these are Septic Barry, Mr Puw, short Mr Hughes and tall Mr Hughes; the latter provided me with several hysterical outbursts as tales of his past and present unfolded during the book. One scene involving him in the pub steals the entire show from everyone and instantly you know it won’t ever be a film sadly as its brilliant.

Here’s a small part of a conversation between himself and Miyuki early one morning on a beach.

Tall Mr Hughes didn’t seem to react to this. ‘Sometimes I lie on the grass and fall asleep, and hope by the time I wake up I’ll have been torn to pieces by vultures.’
Miyuki swallowed hard as this image appeared before her. This wasn’t the type of talk she expected from tall Mr Hughes.
‘You don’t get many of them round here,’ she said.
‘Puffins, then

The dialect is always quite witty and punchy but there are some wonderfully tender moments amongst the humour. Also the characters are so real. Every single one you know you could easily meet in a seaside town in its quite winter periods, with their in jokes, obsessions about alligators and routines. Nothing much happens in the book, but it doesn’t need to and one thing it definitely isn’t is dull. This was the most fun I have had reading for two hours in a long time, with tears of laughter streaming several times. I recommend this book to EVERYONE as a MUST READ; the title is perfect as this book for any reader is pure gold.


Filed under Books of 2008, Canongate Publishing, Dan Rhodes, Review