Category Archives: Mari Strachan

The Earth Hums in B Flat – Mari Strachan

I actually have to admit that I read this before I had finished Midnight’s Children in between Book One and Book Two – does anyone else do that if they are reading quite a lengthy meaty book with books or volumes in it? I had won a copy of Mari Strachan’s ‘The Earth Hum’s in B Flat’ from a giveaway from the lovely Lizzy Siddals blog. I had been wanting to read this book for quite a while after hearing some wonderful reviews from other bloggers and some of the media. There were three other factors that made me really want to read it however and those were a) the cover b) the title and c) the fact that the author Catherine O’Flynn who wrote the superb What Was Lost had quoted wonderful things about it all over it. Therefore before even starting Mari Strachan’s debut it had a lot to live up to… but would it?

This book is essentially a tale of growing up though I wouldn’t put that dreadful label of ‘coming of age tale’ on it though I suppose in many ways it is. When you are young everything is black and white though not so much for the narrator of The Earth Hums in B Flat, and the wonderful creation that is, Gwenni Morgan. In the land of 1950’s Wales where a TV is rare Gwenni has two main interests which are reading (especially detective classics) and the people around her but never does she border on precocious, she is simply interested in everything. Gwenni is described by the fellow villagers of her small town as “quaint” though her mother thinks this means “everyone thinks you’re odd”. This is down to a slightly overactive imagination where Toby jugs are always watching you, fox scarfs are appealing to her to give them a true burial and the fact that she can fly at night. All these slightly surreal and bizarre images and sights Gwenni throw in just add to her character, voice and are a very comical aside when the book can get very dark and serious.

As Gwenni becomes more interested in the people around her she discovers that the adult world is full of mysteries and secrets. When one of the villagers goes missing Gwenni decides that like the hero’s in her detective books she will find out just what is going on in her village and get to the bottom of all the mysteries she only hears the whispers of (mainly through the gossiping villagers who don’t think young ears are listening). However soon enough she finds that not all secrets and mysteries have happy ending and some of them should stay uncovered.

With all this going on Mari Strachan also manages to fit in the story of Gwenni growing up and how things change in those pre-teenage years. Friendship is one subject that is written about with wit and in some parts sadness as Gwenni’s older (and wiser – in terms of repeating her mother’s – the queen of gossip in the village – words) friend Alwenna starts to take notice of boys, who Gwenni despises and changes no longer wishing to be Gwenni’s sidekick in all her adventures. The other subject is family but I don’t want to give too much away with that storyline.

I really, really enjoyed this book. It’s a book that warms the heart, with a world that you can’t wait to dip into, you can picture life in the village and how hard things were for some of the lesser well off families (such as Gwenni’s). You see how idle gossip can tear people apart and also how people’s imaginations can runaway with them. This is the perfect book to curl up and spend a single Sunday devouring though I would try and prolong the experience in all honesty. Highly recommended.

Sadly I missed a live blog chat, which was partly the point of winning the competition to read the book, with Mari Strachan on Lizzy’s blog. What would I have asked her? I only had two immediate questions which would have been “where did you get such a wonderful title” and “was it in any part autobiographical”. However some other people did ask those questions and you can see the whole thing here. I have to say in my lead up to reading the Orange shortlist it must be a great selection if this one was left of it (and the long list too)!

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Filed under Books of 2009, Canongate Publishing, Mari Strachan, Review

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!

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

Travel Companions (and a hard but worth while competition)

So by the time you read this I shall probably be on a train going halfway up the country to my homeland, that’s right the blogs you get over the next few days are timed and have been written in advance so I have been less reading and more typing the last few days. It is a mixture of sadness and happiness that takes me up as I love seeing all my family but sadly we are doing my Granddad’s (or as I called him Bongy) ashes, it would have been his 70th birthday on Sunday. Now that may get you all doing some maths, my Mum had me when she was 16 and my grandparents helped raise me when she was at University (well in the holidays – I was with her in term time) so as my Dad wasn’t around Bong was actually the closest thing to a Dad I had. Sadly almost two years ago he was diagnosed with cancer and died within seven weeks, and I think the shock, plus logistics of the Savidge Tribe (we are having a close family dinner Sunday and its 20 people) have held us off doing this sooner. I think it’s quite nice it’s his 70th seems timely. Anyway enough doom and gloom this is a book blog not my online therapy outpourings.

So like I said when you read this I will be on the train and what does one need for all good train journeys? No not a book… books. I see the books I travel with as being almost as important as whom I am travelling with. You need something for every possible eventuality; therefore I don’t take a book I tend to take two or three for each direction the ones I don’t read on the way to my destination I can read when I am at it if that makes sense? So I always take about six one of each of the following catagories;
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 (like we discussed on Thursday)
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
This so far has stood me in good stead (though do note this isnt the order I read them in) and ok so my bags might be a bit heavy (I always get a tut from the Non-Reader over the amount of books I “need” when we go on trips) but should the train breakdown in the middle of nowhere or we get stranded at a station hey I am all sorted thank you very much.

So for this trip I have enclosed in my luggage in reference to the above formula:
a) Midnights Children – Salman Rushdie (and the latest Savidge Big Reads which you can join in with, I think some of you are already?)
b) Angels & Demons – Dan Brown (as The Da Vinci Code was a complete cheap thrill page turner and also because I am also going to a special screening with Q&A’s with the stars and director next week)
c) Behind The Scenes At The Museum – Kate Atkinson (must try and love this book)
d) The Earth Hums in B Flat – Mari Strachan (and I am taking part in a blog on someone elses site where we get to ask the author lots of questions and you can join in – more of this on Wednesday)
e) The Point of Rescue – Sophie Hannah (because her books are just superb)
Now what about f? I was stuck I simply had too many contenders. Eventually I managed to whittle it down to five…

If you cant see the picture very well the five are; Daphne – Justine Picardie, The Girl on the Landing – Paul Torday, The Devil’s Paintbrush – Jake Arnott, The Road Home – Rose Tremain or The Secret River – Kate Greville!

So which one did I pick? Well I thought I would leave you guessing and see what you come up with, which one would you have taken? Which one do you think I will have taken? I can’t wait to read your thoughts… and also if you have any particular ‘books for travel’ rules yourselves?

I was going to dish up the results of my nosey findings of what people have been reading on the tube as it fits well with this but as this blog looks a little like a business report I shall hold off with any more lists and bullet points! I am going to run a little competition though… As well as telling me which one I picked from my five and your travel reads habits, if you can guess how many of the books I actually read (and which books they were) from what I have taken I will send you a very special book filled parcel! Adds to the May Bank Holiday Fun for you all I think! You have until 9am Tuesday…

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Filed under Book Thoughts, Jake Arnott, Justine Picardie, Kate Atkinson, Kate Grenville, Mari Strachan, Salman Rushdie, Sophie Hannah

The Winner Takes It All (Hummed in B Flat)

I completely and very rudely forgot to blog about a recent arrival (this blog could have lots of Abba connotations – for no reason – if I am not careful, blame a random Abba-fest on the iPod) here at Savidge Towers that popped through my letter box the other day. A lovely copy of The Earth Hums in B Flat by Mari Strachan published by Canongate. This book has already had a glowing review from Catherine O’Flynn who wrote the wonderful, wonderful What Was Lost and was 90% sold to me from that however lots of bloggers have been raving about this book too. One such blogger was the lovely Lizzy who had a competition to win some copies and I am one of the lucky ducks who won! I hardly ever win anything so was over the moon, big thanks Lizzy! It’s all part of what is then going to become an interview with the author so I will have to have my new “Book Notebook” to hand the whole way through, I am very excited. I think this will be the first read after this weekends Savidge Big Weekender ‘The Name of the Rose’ (do feel free to join in the reading) I just need to get another Man Booker Winner finished before I start on the Umberto Eco classic.

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Filed under Mari Strachan