Category Archives: Mary Ann Shaffer

Time… For Your Thoughts!

Does anyone else feel a little bit cheated today? Does anyone feel like they have lost an hour this morning to enjoy a delightful read in bed, in the bath or just with your elevenses? Yes me too. I am enjoying Blackmoor so much that frankly this spare hour that has vanished has thrown me into a small sulk. I know it’s Sunday so it’s a nice relaxing day anyway but still, I want that hour back. It’s some kind of time stealing skulduggery that’s what it is.

Mind you it did get me to thinking about Time both reading wise and book wise. Can you believe that some people actually think that reading a book is time wasting, there have been a few books that I have felt that way about, but reading as a general rule I think is one of the most rewarding ways to spend your time. So now its time for you feedback (do you see what I did there) I thought I would ask you all some questions relating to time and see what you all come up with. I shall also have a go too. So here are ten time based questions with my answers beneath each and I would love you to all have a go…

What time do you find the best time to read?
Hmmm, I could read all day but I have four main reading times. Thirty minutes when I get up, on the tube, in the bath and an hour or two before bed.
What are you spending time reading right now?
Blackmoor by Edward Hogan, already am deeply entranced by all the mystery in the book which being set in the 1990’s I didn’t know if would grip me but it has.
What’s the best book with time in the title you have read?
Without question for me it’s The Time Travellers Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, I actually want to read this again before the movie comes out.
What is your favourite time (as in era) to read novels based in?
I would say Victorian and Tudor are my two favourites with Victorian novels being my very favourite as it’s such a dark point in history. I also like books set around The Plague, is this making me sound strange.
What book could your read time and time again?
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier.
What recently published book do you think deserves to become a classic in Time?
I think it would have to be The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer or The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite by Beatrice Colin.
What book has been your biggest waste of time?
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, which actually has a time theme, I insisted on finishing it but don’t know why I did.
What big book would you recommend to others to spend time reading if they haven’t?
I would have to recommend that anyone who hasn’t read The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins must, or Darkman’s by Nicola Barker which is huge but well worth it. I on the whole prefer shorter books as you can read more of them.
What’s your favourite read of all time?
That is a really hard one I could list about five that tie for this however as have only one choice it would be The Complete Tales of Sherlock Holmes by the great Arthur Conan Doyle which you can read in parts or simply devour.
Who is your favourite author of all time?
Hmmm that’s a tough one I can think of three, but again as only one choice I would say Daphne Du Maurier, as yet I haven’t read a book of hers I haven’t like and two of her novels would make it into my top ten books of all time.

I look forward to hearing all your responses! So let me know either in my comments of by leaving a link if you decide to do it in your own blog and get other people you know doing it as I think the answers could be very interesting, even if I do say so myself.

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Filed under Arthur Conan Doyle, Audrey Niffenegger, Beatrice Colin, Daphne Du Maurier, Edward Hogan, Mary Ann Shaffer, Nicola Barker, Wilkie Collins

The Savidge Dozen

Blimey so a reading year is over… a year of some good reading, some difficult reading, some readers block plus some dire reading and some frankly amazing reading. In fact there was so much amazing reading I changed my mind and didn’t do what I did last year and have a top ten, instead am doing as the delightful Dove Grey Reader had done and am doing my version of the Man Booker Dozen. So thirteen then… unlucky for some but not for these authors who should feel very lucky (I am being facetious) it was a really hard choice actually, really, really hard. I did stick to last years rule though of only one book per author. So here goes, in reverse order…

13. The Spare Room – Helen Garner
There was uproar in the blogosphere when this didn’t even make it onto the Man Booker Prize long list and after reading it I could see why. A thought provoking, sparse and raw novel about dealing with cancer this book was also filled with heart and emotion. Helen invites her friend Nicola to stay after she is diagnosed with terminal cancer, what follows is nights of cleaning beds, friendships pushed to breaking point and possibly one of the most honest fictional voices I heard this year.

12. The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Shaffer
I think if Nancy Mitford was still around (what is it with the Mitford’s being everywhere this year, more on them later) she would probably have been a massive fan of this novel. All at once this novel is sharply witty, comical, touching, observant and sad. Juliet Ashton became possibly my favourite character of the year as a writer struggling to find the next book in her and befriending the said society (it’s too long to write the title each time) and corresponding through letters with the many wonderful characters on a post occupied Guernsey. Superb!

11. The Reader – Bernhard Schlink
This book was simply unputdownable, and yes that is a word I have made up but should exist. When 15 year old Michael meets older woman Hannah when he falls ill he doesn’t know this is a relationship that will be in their lives forever. After becoming lovers one day Hannah vanishes only to reappear in Michael’s later life and to make him think about his life and the country he lives in totally differently. A new interesting, horrifying and thought provoking look at the Holocaust. Will make you think, a lot.

10. The Room of Lost Things – Stella Duffy
I honestly genuinely believe this is one of the most over looked gem books of the year, and not because I know the author and think she is fabulous. I would hope you’d know by now that I am not that sort of person. This book celebrates London and has some of the most fabulous characters in it. Be it from the story of Robert Sutton who is selling his laundrette (where everyone leaves their secrets in their pockets) after a lifetime of hard work to the homeless men who sleep under an archway on a old battered sofa the characters in this book are full of life and I secretly hoped for this to be the start of a series. A love letter in novel form by the author to South London!

9. When Will There Be Good News? – Kate Atkinson
My love for the writing of Kate Atkinson went stratospheric this year with the third so far in the Jackson Brodie ‘literary crime fiction’ series. Having also read its predecessor ‘One Good Turn’ this year I didn’t think her coincidence based complex plots could get any cleverer, I was wrong. This book is much darker than the previous two and grittier yet still in parts incredibly funny. It also of course had one of the characters of the year in it through Reggie the sixteen year old girl who saves Brodie life and yet brings an old flame and a mystery that needs solving into his life on top. It’s so difficult to explain this book, so simply put… buy it!

8. Mister Pip – Lloyd Jones
Ok so this book has been out a while but sometimes I get behind, I mean The Reader is eleven years old, so be kind. I ironically had no expectations of this book at all which sees the children of a small village on a tropical island receive a new teacher and a new book to study ‘Great Expectations’. The new teacher Pop Eye or Mr Watts takes on the class when no one else will due to war in the South Pacific. This reminded me slightly of Half Of A Yellow Sun for the graphicness of war which when you start reading the book you wouldn’t imagine you are going to have in the story ahead of you. Definitely my most shocking read of the year, amazingly written and celebratory of fiction and all it can inspire.

7. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
When Novel Insights and I decided to do this as one of our Rogue Book Group choices I wasn’t sure it would be my cup of tea. I was completely won over by Waugh’s stunning writing and possibly my favourite villain of the year in the form of Lady Marchmain. Charles Ryder reflects on returning to Brideshead during the war on his own history with the building and the Marchmain’s who owned it and their privileged life style in the post Second World War glory days. However Charles experience has a nasty sting in the tale that though he has tried to forget he simply cannot. A genuine classic.

6. The Boy in the Striped Pyjama’s –John Boyne
If there is anyone left who hasn’t seen the movie (which was almost as good as the book, a rarity) or who hasn’t read this book themselves I do not want to give a single bit of plot of this book away as if I had known what was coming I don’t think it would have worked in the same way. I will say that it tells of a young boy Bruno who is forced to move from his childhood home with his mother and sister to join their father for his work. The land they move to is in the middle of nowhere though eventually Bruno befriends another young boy through a fence. Through their innocent friendship Bruno is brought into a much darker world one that will change his life and his family’s lives forever.

5. Mudbound – Hillary Jordan
I admit that the title I found both intriguing and incredibly off putting, however a random purchase in Sainsbury’s (I know, I know) led to me reading possibly one of the most surprising and remarkable books of the year. Set in the Mississippi Delta in 1946 you are first lead to believe this is a novel about a resentful wife being made to live in the cotton farm of her nightmares she swiftly calls Mudbound. What Jordan manages to bring in to this incredible novel is stories of family breakdowns, affairs, war and racism. Not always comfortable reading, especially one sickening scene, this book absolutely blew me away. I cannot wait for Jordan’s second novel whenever it comes.

4. The Suspicions of Mr Whicher – Kate Summerscale
Now shock horror, Mr Savidge who never really liked to read non-fiction has two in his top ten. The first of which is Kate Summerscale’s simply wonderful, if crime can be wonderful, retelling of the events of ‘The Suspicions of Mr Whicher’ or ‘The Murder at Road Hill House’. Back in 1860 in the small town of Road in Wiltshire a horrific murder took place one which the local police simply couldn’t figure out so at a time when detectives were a new thing Scotland Yard sent Mr Whicher to investigate. The murder both provoked national hysteria and also inspired many authors such as Dickens, Wilkie Collins and Conan Doyle. Being a fan of crime fiction and of books this was a perfect read and made all the facts down to train timetables easy to digest until you find yourself detecting alongside.

3. To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee
I most people will know this book and I know it had been a book that I had wanted to read for a long time and so after sneakily buying myself and Novel Insights a 50p charity shop copy each it became a Rogue Book Group choice. Scout tells the tale of her town in the 1930’s Deep South of America. Her father Atticus (a wonderful character) is defending Tom Robinson of rape, Tom is black and in a time and town where racism is rife he finds himself and subsequently his family struggling with the town and struggling for justice. I loved it, even though until about 50 pages in it hadn’t gripped me suddenly I was hooked.

2. On Chesil Beach – Ian McEwan
In a year that has seen a lot of McEwan pass in front of my eyes, and has seen him become one f my favourite authors, it was this book in particular that wowed me of all of his I read. Set in the early sixties it is Edward and Florence’s wedding night. For uptight and inexperienced couple, through not speaking and misunderstood actions, this is the night that will change their lives forever and have devastating results. A superb look at how society has changed and how people have become more informed on life since, but also a sad and startling look at innocence, communication and what was expected of differing genders in those times, plus what was morally or socially correct. A small book with a lot of punch and bite. Oh, and its the second year that Mr McEwan has been in my top three books of the year!

1. The Mitford’s: Letters Between Six Sisters – Charlotte Mosley
What had initially led me to read this book was the idea of letters that spanned a huge amount of history. Having, until this book, only known of Deborah Cavendish (though not as a Mitford because of her name, but because I know Chatsworth well), Nancy Mitford (as an author) and Unity Mitford (as the supposed mother of Hitler’s child) to a small degree; I fell in love with all the sisters (possibly bar Diana, she didn’t have being crazy as an excuse to liking Hitler like Unity) and thought the amount of British history contained in one book was phenomenal. I also loved their play on language, thoughts on society, books and people. I defy anyone to read this and not be 100% in love with it and ready to start again once you have put it down. This book has unquestionably inspired me to read a lot more non fiction in 2009. Best book of 2008 by a clear mile, no offense to any others.

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Filed under Bernhard Schink, Books of 2008, Charlotte Mosley, Evelyn Waugh, Harper Lee, Helen Garner, Hillary Jordan, Ian McEwan, Kate Atkinson, Kate Summerscale, Lloyd Jones, Mary Ann Shaffer, Stella Duffy

As We Get To The End Of The Year…

So naturally I have started to go through what I think are the best books of the year which I will announce on the 30th of December, in the lead up and looking at other people blogs everyone is working out how many books they have read and by male or female authors like Simon Stuck in a Book. I liked this idea of as well as blogging your favourites of the year you do something a bit different too. However I thought of a few extra questions I would ask people, so here we go…

How many books read in 2008?
I think the one I am reading now will be the last one of the year as after that am reading Anna Karenina and don’t think could read that in less than three days and finish this one so “When Will There Be Good News” will be my 102nd book of the year beating last years 69.

How many fiction and non fiction?
In total 94 fictions and 8 non fictions.

Male/Female author ratio?

50 male and 52 female which really shocked me as I thought I had read much more books by women than men, odd.

Favourite book of 2008?
I have a pretty sneaky suspicion but you’ll have to wait until the end of the year!

Least favourite?
Midnight Cowboy by James Leo Herlihy was incredibly boring though I finished it, I didn’t finish Iain Pears ‘An Instance of the Fingerpost’. I also thought that ‘Son of a Witch’ by Gregory Maguire was poor; I don’t think anything he has done has been as good as ‘Wicked’ though. I refuse to mention Abby Lee. I was also underwhelmed by Emily Bronte sadly.

Any that you simply couldn’t finish and why?
I didn’t finish the aforementioned ‘An Instance of the Fingerpost’ just because after realising that I was going to have to read the same boring storyline four times from different people I gave up during the second. My Gran read this and struggled on through but said she wished she’d given up. The other was ‘Company of Liars’ by Karen Maitland which I really wanted to read but just wasn’t in the right mind frame for, maybe in 2009!

Oldest book read?
Emily Bronte’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ which I thought didn’t live up to expectations at all.

Newest?
I have read a fair few new ones of which isn’t out until January, so a few pre-publication.

Longest book title?
I read quite a lot of long titled books such as any of the M.C. Beaton ‘Agatha Raisin’ novels but it was Mary Ann Shaffer’s ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’ is officially the longest.

Longest and shortest books?
Nicola Barker’s ‘Darkmans’ was easily the longest; shortest I think is ‘The Tales of Beedle the Bard’ by J.K. Rowling.

How many books from the library?
None, which is shameful isn’t it!?

Any translated books?
‘The Reader’ by Bernhard Schlink, ‘Strangers’ by Taichi Yamada and ‘In The Miso Soup’ by Ryu Murakami.

Most read author of the year, and how many books by that author?
Stella Duffy, I managed to devour three of her books this year!

Any re-reads?
Not this year.

Favourite character of the year?
Julie Ashton the narrator of ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’ just completely and utterly stole my heart this year, either her or Atticus from Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’.

Which countries did you go to through the page in your year of reading?
England and America through the ages, Italy, China, Switzerland, Sweden, Germany, France, Africa, Afghanistan, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, The Netherlands, Guernsey, Mexico, post apocalyptic somewhere, and of course the land of Oz.

Which book wouldn’t you have read without someone’s specific recommendation?
‘The Reader’ by Bernhard Schlink.

Did you read any books you have always been meaning to read?
Five classics; Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, Emily Bronte’s ‘Wuthering Heights’, Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’, Henry James ‘Turn of the Screw’ and John Buchan’s ‘The Thirty-Nine Steps’.

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Filed under Bernhard Schink, Emily Bronte, Gregory Maguire, Harper Lee, Henry James, Iain Pears, John Buchan, M.C. Beaton, Mary Ann Shaffer, Nicola Barker, Ryu Murakami

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Shaffer

With a superb title like that how could you possibly not want to read this book? The reviews through the blogosphere had been fantastic however with a huge TBR pile I wasn’t sure whether I should take a risk on it or not. Well after receiving a copy in the post recently it went almost straight to the top of my TBR and having just put it down I cannot recommend it highly enough.

The novel is set in 1946 and the author Juliet Ashton receives a letter from Dawsey Adams a Guernsey farmer. He has found her previous address in an old copy of Charles Lamb and has written to her to find out if she knows any more on the author and if she can recommend anymore reads for The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. Juliet is naturally, as you would be, intrigued by the society and the people of Guernsey who have joined it and how it was formed. This sees the beginning of letters between the members of the society and Juliet. It also sees letters between her and her publisher, possible wooer and best friend as she embarks on a journey of discover of Guernsey after the occupation of the war. What exactly is the society; well you should read it to find out!

Juliet is a fantastic lead character. Having spent the war writing ‘Izzy Bickerstaff Goes to War’ under the pseudonym she now wants to start writing something new and more importantly as herself. She is a real sparky and unconventional character for her time. She has previously dumped a former fiancé because when she came upstairs he had packed all her books away into the basement and filled her shelves with his trophies. She isn’t afraid of wicked journalists throwing a kettle at ones head ‘though it was empty and didn’t do any damage’.

The characters of the society almost, almost steal the show with their own tales, some funny and some incredibly moving especially the story of Elizabeth who was sent to prison leaving her daughter behind who the rest of the society look after. Of course you are taken a long and educated in it all through Juliet’s journey, I learnt so much about Guernsey and the occupation I had no idea about. I frankly wanted to pack my bags and head of there myself to take in the atmosphere and history further; you can see why Mary Ann Shaffer fell in love with the area on a visit and wanted to write about it.

Sadly Mary Ann Shaffer died before she could see her books get published although she knew it was going to be published. It’s a real shame as her voice was wonderful, managing to mix tales of deadly wit (I was reminded of Nancy Mitford when reading some of the book) with some harrowing tales and takes you along the emotions of everyone involved. Sometimes I had to remind myself it was fiction.

This is undoubtedly one of my favourite books of the year. I was worried a book of letters would become complicated especially with the amount of characters that this book contains but every voice is unique and I whizzed through the letters, I couldn’t wait to hear the latest from all the characters. Why has letter writing gone out of fashion it’s such a shame I think it needs to come back, maybe I should start a letter writing group for book lovers?

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Filed under Bloomsbury Publishing, Books of 2008, Mary Ann Shaffer, Review