Category Archives: Justine Picardie

If the Spirit Moves You; Life and Love After Death – Justine Picardie

I was having a major sort out of all of my TBR when Justine Picardie’s nonfiction book ‘If the Spirit Moves You’ caught my eye, which I have had in the TBR pile for years and years. I had oddly been having a chat with one of my friends about spiritualism and my encounters with mediums, of which there have been a few, and so I thought that maybe this book and its subject matter might be just the thing I could do with reading at the moment. It could equally have been the exact thing not to read at the moment but I decided to give it a whirl anyway.

Picador Books, paperback, 2002, fiction, 227 pages, from my personal TBR

Ruth Picardie died of breast cancer in September 1997. A well known journalist she chronicled her time living with breast cancer for the Observer magazine which her sister, writer and journalist Justine Picardie, was working for at the time and encouraged. ‘If the Spirit Moves You’ is Justine’s account of a year, from Good Friday in 2000 to Easter Monday 2001, in which she decided to see if she could contact the spirit of Ruth in some way and come to terms furthermore with her untimely death and the grief and loss still very much at the heart of her life since her sisters passing.

With a book such as ‘If the Spirit Moves You’ it is really hard to try and compare it with anything else you have read. In the form of diary entries Justine lets us into the world of the many mediums she visits and investigates things such as EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) and automatic writing in her venture to try and contact Ruth in some way. This is all rather fascinating, if fascinating is the right word, especially when so desperate to talk to her sister she even enrols in a school for mediums to see if she can communicate with Ruth herself and try and see if the voice of Ruth she gets in her head is her own self projections, she freely admits that she has an ‘internal psychologist’ analysing what she says and thinks, or is it actually the spirit of her sister.

You can probably guess already that ‘If the Spirit Moves You’ is much more than just a nonfiction account of Picardie seeing if there is an afterlife or not and indeed if we can communicate with it or not. It is also a book very much about grief and the process that we have to go through in order to grieve ourselves as well as how other people deal with it. Her husband at the time she writes, Neill, loses his sister, the singer Kirsty MacColl, and deals with his own grief in a very different way. She also looks at how her father, who leads talks in Kabbalah, deals with it and looks at religion and if it is

The honesty with which the book is written can sometimes be incredibly raw and quite difficult to read, though I do urge you all to read it, as there are moments when Justine portrays not only those around her, but also herself, in some very unflattering lights. Yet this is what we are like with grief, we can become internal or go to the complete opposite side of the spectrum being incredibly audibly, and rather angrily, vocal about how we feel. I really admired Picardie for doing this and being brave enough both to write about her sister’s death and how it left her feeling and how she dealt with it. I don’t know if many could write so honestly, with such emotion and also, it should be mentioned, with such wit too and without any judgement on the people she meets who deal with the afterlife, or possibly do, along the way.

I think ‘If the Spirit Moves You’ is a rather incredible book. Due to everything going on it could have been a slightly bad choice of timing reading wise but actually it was a consolation in some ways. I did have to laugh as I took it to Grans last week and after leaving it on the side without thinking, which could have proved very tactless; Gran spotted it and asked me all about it. Interestingly she said ‘Simon, when I am gone, don’t waste your time seeing those people. You’ll know if and when I am there.’ I told her I wouldn’t mind if she haunted me, depending what mood she was in or what I was up to because we always have that hope don’t we?

Like I said, a definite recommendation from me. It has made me want to read Ruth Picardie’s ‘Before I Say Goodbye’ too.

Advertisements

5 Comments

Filed under Justine Picardie, Non Fiction, Picador Books, Review

Justine Picardie Joins ‘Discovering Daphne’ Part One…

In the first of two special interviews for ‘Discovering Daphne’ I get to grill the lovely Justine Picardie about her novel Daphne and the wonderful woman who inspired it…

Before I opened the first page of ‘Daphne’ I did expect it just to be about Daphne Du Maurier, instead we have a tale of Daphne, Bramwell Bronte and an unnamed narrator, which reflects Rebecca. Was Daphne’s the story you wanted to tell in the main, or was it one of the other characters that started it all and Daphne suddenly popped in unannounced?

The origins of ‘Daphne’ are in one sense very simple — I’d loved reading her novels since childhood, and had a powerful attachment to the Cornish landscape that she describes — but as is often the case with writing, there was a far more complicated alchemy that formed a catalyst for the beginnings of my novel. I wrote an introduction for a Virago edition of ‘The King’s General’ in 2003, which prompted my return to the mysterious place that is Menabilly — Du Maurier’s beloved house near Fowey, an inherent element of ‘Rebecca’ and ‘The King’s General’, although uninhabited and close to ruin when she wrote ‘Rebecca’ (indeed, it was the huge success of this novel that allowed Du Maurier to lease Menabilly from the Rashleigh family, and finance its restoration). Two years later, I wrote a second introduction for Virago — this time for ‘The Infernal World of Branwell Bronte’ — and was fascinated by the book, and by Du Maurier’s dedication of her work to the Bronte scholar, Symington. Coincidentally — or perhaps this was one of those apparently magical instances of synchronicity — I was already intrigued by the mysterious Mr Symington, having already encountered him in my research while I was working on a chapter entitled ‘Charlotte Bronte’s Ring’ for my previous book, ‘My Mother’s Wedding Dress’. All of which probably sounds impossibly tanged a tale, but seemed to resonate for me.

Daphne was a very complex woman from what we read about her, how did you go about getting into her head? Being a fan of hers, which you clearly are, were you adding pressure on yourself that this had to be right? How did you find her narrative voice?

I read and read and read — every word that she had written — her novels, short stories, letters, notes, memoirs — and immersed myself in the Du Maurier archive at Exeter University, and other archival collections elsewhere. Perhaps I wasn’t in her head, but her voice was certainly in mine.

The research in the book is incredible, yet at no point did I think ‘oh Justine is just showing off now’ which can happen with some books that have a biographical and indeed historical element. How did you do the research for this book and how did you manage not to include every single fascinating fact you discovered along the way?

Thank you! Whenever and whatever I am writing — whether about the history of nineteenth psychical investigations in ‘If The Spirit Moves You’, or during the years of research for my most recent book, ‘Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life’ — I immerse myself in archives and museums and  libraries, as well as doing hundreds of interviews with the relevant people who can provide insight, advice, and expert knowledge on the subject matter. Then I sift through it all, cross reference, obsess, analyse, dream, debate with myself and others — and finally start to write. As I write, the details of the research permeate my text, but don’t always appear — so the facts  are very much in my mind, and between the lines, rather than being obviously inserted into the story.

I don’t know about you but I have fantasy dinner parties in my head, and I think, along with Agatha Christie, Daphne du Maurier would have to be one of the top guests I imagine I could invite every time. Getting to know her in the way you must have researching this book did you think you would like her?

She might not have been comfortable company, but I always like the person I’m writing about — actually, that’s an understatement — they become central to my thoughts.

Having read Daphne’s childhood memoirs ‘Growing Pains’, which I have since learnt has been republished as ‘Myself When Young’, I noticed the mention of ‘The Snow Queen’ in the form of her mother, there always seemed to be a Snow Queen in Daphne’s life, why do you think it was and why did she always give her that name?

Another excellent question! The Snow Queen was — and is — a powerful presence, for Daphne and the rest of us. The icy yet enticing woman in white — alluring and destroying and compelling, even as you fear her touch.

This is a toughie, but what do you think Daphne would have made of your fictional version of her life? Would you have written it if she was still alive?

I couldn’t, and wouldn’t, have written it when she was still alive. Who knows what she would have thought of it — but I hope she might have seen it as a tribute to her power and lasting influence on subsequent writers; just as she herself had been influenced by the Brontes, and immersed herself in ‘The Infernal World of Branwell Bronte’.

‘Rebecca’ is Daphne’s most famous novel of them all followed by ‘Jamaica Inn’ which other novels would you demand people following ‘Discovering Daphne’ go and read? Have you read all of her novels yet, or have you left some to savour?

I’ve read them all, and would recommend each and every one. ‘My Cousin Rachel’ is a particular favourite of mine — however many times I read it, I’m never sure of who is the villain and which is the victim — and I’m also a huge fan of her short stories. Just think of The Birds or Don’t Look Now — such dark tales that they have had an afterlife in two haunting films — and other, less well known but equally compelling stories in ‘The Breaking Point’. And don’t forget about ‘The Infernal World of Branwell Bronte’ — worth reading for what it tells you about Du Maurier herself, as well as the Brontes.

A huge thank you to Justine for taking the time to discuss ‘Daphne’ and Daphne Du Maurier with us, tomorrow the grilling continues with Polly over at Novel Insights

1 Comment

Filed under Daphne Du Maurier, Discovering Daphne, Justine Picardie

Simon’s Bookish Bits #6

Is it Saturday already? This week seems to have sped by. Anyway welcome to the latest of my Bookish Bits today I don’t have a link of the week I have a few, I look back over January at my resolutions, some sympathy parcels come in and some of you win some books.

I did have a link for week and now I cannot for the life of me remember what it was so I thought that I would mention a whole list of people who have moved from Blogger to WordPress and become part of my neighbourhood. I love the migration as Blogger is a nightmare to comment on sometimes if you aren’t on Blogger and also WordPress is just so easy to use. Anyway the lovely blogs that have moved (and I should have changed the links of in my list) are Su(Shu), Kiss a Cloud, Bookssnob and Gaskella. Do pop to their new homes and say hello.

Its been rather a haul of books for the postman this week, I will be writing about most of them on Tuesday but I wanted to say a special thanks for four that have arrived. One from the above mentioned Gaskella who I won a copy of ‘The Girl With The Glass Feet’ by Ali Shaw which is one of my choices for Not The TV Book Group. Ooh speaking of the NTTVBG don’t forget its just over a week until the first online meeting, hope you have managed to get some copies of Brodeck’s Report. Anyway, the sympathy supplies…

As well as the recent win from Gaskella, I also received three parcels from some very kind people two who don’t blog and one who does. My first arrivals were ‘If The Spirit Moves You’ by Justine Picardie which I was sent ‘because you loved Daphne and I know you are fascinated by the spiritual… and you need to read more non-fiction’, I was also sent ‘A Rope of Sand’ by Elsie Burch Donald because ‘the cover is very you, the book is a bit dark and mysterious and Kate Atkinson has a quote on the front’ these do both sound very me. I also had a gift all the way from America as the very kind Kristen M sent me ‘A Reliable Wife’ by Robert Goolrick after I commented on another blog how much I would like to read about a ‘poisoning wife’ sounds quite sensational. A big thank you for these, most kind.

These all of course make the book buying ban I embarked on from the 1st. I have to say so far I haven’t found it too hard. I have even been in some second hand shops, and visited my favourite old book binge haunt to give them a few hundred of mine and left with none. I even dared to have another mooch. As it’s the end of January almost I did wonder what about my other resolutions? Recently my whim reading has slightly wobbled so that needs sorting, am still reading short stories not in one go just working through a collection between books or when I fancy a quick read. Translation books are going better however I have as yet not read a Brazil based book, so that’s something to change for February. How are you all getting on with your resolutions?

Is it me or does it feel like a funny old week? Not the world of blogs just in general, they do say it’s the most depressing week, I think the word is melancholic. Well hopefully I can bring some joy into two people’s lives. In last weeks Bookish Bits I said anyone who commented would be thrown in for a signed copy of the latest Agatha Raisin. Well congrats to Verity and Kirsty who have both won one each… let me have your addresses and they will be in the post sharpish. If you didn’t win do keep your eyes peeled over the next couple of months as we have some huge Agatha Raisin giveaways to come so that’s something to look forward to.

So how have your weeks been? Any nice new books in your household? How are your New Year’s resolutions going? Who is joining in with next weeks NTTVBG? What have you read in the last week that you have loved?

28 Comments

Filed under Ali Shaw, Book Thoughts, Justine Picardie, Not The TV Book Group, Simon's Bookish Bits

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?

42 Comments

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

Daphne – Justine Picardie

I have had this book on the TBR pile for quite some time now and though have picked it up on several occasions I have never ended up reading as I have been slightly in fear of it. Not in fear of the size or subject matter, more in the fear that I wouldn’t like it and that no book could do justice to the life of my favourite writer. I also had the thought that if I read something which had been so thoroughly researched about Daphne I might not like her and that could tarnish all my reading experiences of her in the future and from the past. So with trepidation I opened the first page and…

I could barely put ‘Daphne’ down! The book is of course mainly about Daphne Du Maurier, though this is not a fictionalised life story which some people might assume. This is actually set in the late 50’s when Daphne herself was herself 50. It was a turbulent time in her life and actually inspired the collection of short stories in ‘The Breaking Point’ which I read only the other week. Her husband ‘Boy’ Browning was in a nursing home after a breakdown and so Daphne moved for a while to London and into Boy’s cramped flat where she was then confronted by his mistress ‘The Snow Queen’ who asked Daphne to free ‘Boy’ and that hiding his affair was clearly killing him.

Desperate to save her marriage despite her own affairs Daphne tries to turn Menabilly into the perfect ‘family’ and ‘marital home’ only not only does thoughts of the Snow Queen take her over but also the ghost of her own fictional creation Rebecca haunts and taunts her in her lonely hours. She then decides to throw herself fully into her latest project, the biography of Branwell Bronte. In doing so she strikes up a correspondence with scholar and Branwell expert Alex Symington who seems to have some secrets when it comes to all things Bronte especially after being ‘let go’ from the Parsonage Library itself because of the dealings of himself and his previous colleagues.

There is also third strain to the story as a young woman in Hampstead whose current situation seems to bear similarities to both Daphne in her 50’s but even more so to the ‘unnamed’ narrator of Daphne’s most famous works ‘Rebecca’. To escape the problems of her own marriage and her unhappiness by burying herself in a thesis on Daphne Du Maurier and the Bronte’s and their writings and also what she believes is a 50 year old literary mystery.

After taking a few pages to get used to reading one of my favourite authors as a character and as fiction (though quite clearly Justine Picardie has researched Daphne Du Maurier to the nth degree) I literally couldn’t stop reading the book. Though there are three narratives, and frankly I myself could overdose on all of the parts told through Daphne’s eyes, this is essential to the movement and mystery of the story as a whole. We get extra insights into the whole scenario through these different eyes and we piece the whole mystery together ourselves.

I imagine many people who haven’t read any Du Maurier (shame on you all) or any of the works by the Bronte’s (which includes me apart from having read Wuthering Heights, though I have been to the parsonage) would possibly think this book would leave them alienated, I honestly don’t think it would. As a stand alone book, though it’s a complex tale Justine Picardie tells, yet it all weaves together effortlessly. It is beautifully written too, the prose is quite stunning and in some parts poetic. I think this book must have been a true labour of love to write (the details have all been immaculately researched) the results are fantastic. This is an ideal book for any ‘bookworms’ out there without question.

This is a book anyone could enjoy not just the die hard Daphne fans like me, some of whom (cough) might have been both excited and worried about it, though if you loved Rebecca this is a great accompaniment. Justine Picardie handles this like a true master, you can also tell she completely loves the subject, I will definitely be reading more from her in the future. This is highly recommended reading, I have probably left something out I could praise this book till the cows come home.

I would love to do a Savidge Reads Grills with Justine only I dont know how to get in touch with her… if any of you do, do let me know!

15 Comments

Filed under Bloomsbury Publishing, Books of 2009, Daphne Du Maurier, Justine Picardie, Review

Taking On My Travels

It’s all going a little bit wrong in the land of Blogger which I am finding quite annoying as it isn’t seeming to let me do any blogs before today when I want it to (additional note this should have been posted successfully at 11am not almost 11pm) and I am fairly unimpressed as I am desperately trying to get my Orange thoughts to you before tomorrow. Burnt Shadows finally seems to be up but it’s not letting me do two more which is really irritating! What I may have to do is put the reviews up in advance and you can get my full thoughts on the list on Wednesday and reviews of the final two afterwards, that cant be considered cheating as frankly I have read them and done the time. It is also annoying when you are trying to write a week worth of blogs so that while you are away magically there is something fun for your readers daily! I have to admit I am seriously thinking about moving blog provider when I come back from Switzerland or will that confuse things even more? Any advice or thoughts would be much appreciated.

Anyway onto happier things I am off on holiday, in fact by the time this goes up I will be there… or even back who knows (I mustn’t think of that or I will worry while I am away and am on an internet break) and so of course I need to have some books to take on my travels. I think I have shown you how I do this before, in fact I have, but I base my travelling choices like this…

a) Something big I have been meaning to read for ages
b) A guilty pleasure read in case the above really just doesn’t work out, you know something slightly erm… un-literary??!!
c) Something by one of my favourite authors
d) Something brand spanking new ‘just in’ as you never know
e) A good crime novel
f) Something that has been hovering on my TBR pile and reading radar for sometime

Now because I am away for a week and doing a lot of train travelling across the Swiss landscape there will therefore be a lot of dragging of suitcases, so I have limited myself to five but some of them fit in several categories! So my Swiss TBR pile is looking very much like this…


Vanish – Tess Gerritsen
I love Tess as and author and frankly I have been holding of the next in the series for as long as physically possible. She’s becoming less and less of a guilty pleasure and more and more of an open obsession plus its crime and something that should keep my mind off being up in the air in a plane which I hate with a passion.

Wavewalker – Stella Duffy
You know that I love Stella’s work and this is the second in her crime series. I really enjoyed the first and so have high hopes for this, I will be saving it for my flight back as think it will take my mind of being in a tin can so many miles above the earth. Moving swiftly on…

Daphne – Justine Picardie
I have now said I will take this with me and read it on three holidays and its getting out of hand. A book all about the wonderful Daphne Du Maurier and The Bronte’s really is a must read, shame on me. I have just realised I still haven’t done a review of the new Daphne short stories so I will sort that out when I am back.

The Devil’s Paintbrush – Jake Arnott
This sees Jake leave the crime Genre and go all historical on us. I don’t have too much of an insight into what it’s about as I am desperate for it to be a surprise. It’s also been on a travel trip with me and come back unread, second time lucky let’s hope.

The Little Stranger – Sarah Waters
How could I not, I have managed to hold of the whole way through the Orange shortlist and I refuse to hold off any longer. That is all I have to say on it for the matter. A few of you seem quite divided on this book which has made me all the more intrigued.

…Now tell me London City Airport doesn’t have a book shop does it that could be lethal with time to kill and nerves galore!?! Oh and additional comment, please don’t be offended if I don’t visit your blogs or comment back on here while I am away, I will do so with gusto when I am back!

7 Comments

Filed under Book Thoughts, Jake Arnott, Justine Picardie, Sarah Waters, Stella Duffy, Tess Gerritsen

Catching Up: Blog Silence, Competition Closed and Midway Through Midnight’s Children

Hello one and all, is it me or does it feel like I have been away ages? It is probably very likely just me. Firstly apologies for the blog silence the weekend actually really took it out of me much more than I had expected and I came back feeling quite drained and exhausted so I needed a bit of a break which is very unlike me. However let us not dwell on all that. I am back now and raring to go. My work situation has changed too (in a good way) so am finding I have much less time and so am writing this weekend off, and sadly postponing the Savidge Big Read “Sea of Poppies” by a week if that’s ok, to chill out, devour lots of reading that I have been meaning to do for ages and play catch up in general.

Speaking of what I have been reading… I set a little competition for you with regard to my travel reading. I had given you the list of books I was taking and asking which ones I would have read by the time I got back and which book out of a possible five was my mystery addition to my packing…

Well the mystery book was Daphne by Justine Picardie which lots of you got right, but sadly that was half the question. How many did I actually read? The answer is 150 pages of Midnight’s Children, so technically none, which none of you guessed. However fear not, I will be doing this again the weekend after next (I know am becoming a bit of a jet setter) and once in June, July and August so you have four more opportunities to win a delightful selection of books.

I have to admit my reading hasn’t been great since I got back, I did break from Midnight’s Children to devour The Earth Hums in B Flat by Mari Strachan for fellow blogger Lizzy’s live Q&A which very sadly I missed as was working late. The questions I would have asked were “is it autobiographical” and “where did you get the title from” alongside gushing praise to Mari on a superb book which I will review shortly. It seems my questions were asked by others which made me feel slightly better but am gutted to have missed the main event and I do feel have let Lizzy down. I am thinking that this week is simply not going to be my week, am a bit out of sorts.

So how is Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie going? Really slowly but really well in all honesty. Now when I say slowly I don’t mean this is because it’s a difficult or boring read far from it. You know sometimes when you really like a book and the voice of the narrator you can either greedily rush through it or slowly devour it an hour at a time? I am definitely doing the latter with this book and I am finding it so worth it. Yes its quite complex and yes there is a lot of surrealism but it’s by no means the monster that I was imagining, more a friendly beast of a book. More to come when have finished it!

5 Comments

Filed under Book Thoughts, Justine Picardie, Mari Strachan, Salman Rushdie