Category Archives: Sarah Waters

Gran Needs Your Book Thoughts…

Before ‘Granny Savidge Reads’, or just Gran as she likes to be called, answers your questions later in the week (you still have today to go here and leave one or two) she has a favour to ask of you. As the year draws to a close one of the book groups that my Gran is in get to vote for the books for next year. This is one of the U3A groups not the MAD Book Group (which is named because they are in the Matlock and District… not because they are all mad, on the whole) which she founded.  There is a list of books and the members vote for favourite twelve from the list.

Gran and I thought it would be nice, as well as interesting, if you could help recommend which ones you think would be great for the group and which ones you would avoid. I have naturally already thrown in my tuppence worth, so now over to you. The ones in italics are the ones Gran has already read, but do recommend them more if you think fit.

  • The White Tiger – Aravind Adiga
  • The Yacoubian Building – Alaa Al Aswany
  • Black Diamonds – Catherine Bailey
  • Border Crossing – Pat Barker
  • Villette – Charlotte Bronte
  • Restless – William Boyd
  • Oscar and Lucinda – Peter Carey
  • The Short Stories – Anton Chekhov
  • Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell – Susanna Clarke
  • The Shieling – David Constantine  
  • The Inheritance of Loss – Kiran Desai
  • Our Mutual Friend – Charles Dickens
  • Alicia’s Gift – Jennifer Duchen
  • Last Train from Liguria – Christine Dwyer Hickey
  • Engleby – Sebastian Faulks
  • Human Traces – Sebastian Faulks
  • Is There Anything You Want – Margaret Forster
  • The Man in the Wooden Hat – Jane Gardam
  • Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
  • Peeling The Onion – Gunther Grass
  • The Believers – Zoe Heller
  • The Beacon – Susan Hill
  • The Quiet Girl – Peter Hoeg
  • The True Deceiver – Tove Jansson
  • Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow – Jerome K Jerome
  • The Lacuna – Barbara Kingsolver
  • The Other Side of the Bridge – Mary Lawson
  • La’s Orchestra Saves the World – Alexander McCall Smith
  • The Road – Cormac McCarthy
  • Great Fortunes – Olivia Manning
  • The Glass Room – Simon Mawer
  • Things My Mother Never Told Me – Blake Morrison
  • The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  • The Reader – Bernhard Schlink
  • The Stone Diaries – Carol Shields
  • Tales from a Travellers Life – John Simpson
  • Glassblower of Murano – Marianne Siorato
  • The Suspicions of Mr Whicher – Kate Summerscale
  • Love and Summer – William Trevor
  • Miss Garnetts Angel – Salley Vickers
  • The Night Watch – Sarah Waters
  • They Were Sisters – Dorothy Whipple
  • Proust and the Squid – Marianne Wolf

So that’s the lot. I haven’t put any pictures in today’s post as you might be swayed. I know I was when I saw some of the covers of the books that I had never heard of. Gran and I are very much looking forward to all your thoughts, so do get responding.

20 Comments

Filed under Alexander McCall Smith, Aravind Adiga, Barbara Kingsolver, Bernhard Schink, Book Group, Book Thoughts, Cormac McCarthy, Salley Vickers, Sarah Waters, Susan Hill, William Trevor

The Little Stranger – Sarah Waters

Finally a book review I hear you cry! Apologies that this has been so long in coming (get read though there are about to be quite a few) but I have to say that I really had to give myself a little space from Sarah Water’s ‘The Little Stranger’ before I could review it. I have so far only read two of Sarah Water’s other books ‘Affinity’ and ‘The Night Watch’ both of which I really enjoyed, particularly ‘Affinity’ as I found it incredibly dark, brooding and creepy plus I really love books about Victorian London in which it is set.

I have yet to conquer ‘Fingersmith’ which I have heard nothing but brilliant reviews about and I have always veered away from ‘Tipping The Velvet’ as the TV show is still very deeply etched in my mind and though the actresses were fantastic I would like to create the characters from scratch in my head. When Virago kindly sent me a copy of ‘The Little Stranger’ some weeks ago I was in the middle of reading the Orange Shortlist and so had to force myself to hold off. Whilst away a few weeks ago I went could hold back no longer.

The book opens with Dr Faraday returning to Hundreds House for the first time since his childhood when his mother was maid there. The house is much past its heyday, war and rationings and lack of money in the country have turned it into a shadow of its former self. It’s dilapidated and a little bit creepy and the son and heir Roderick is selling land to make ends meet but slowly and surely the house is falling into more debt and more disrepair. He is there to see the maid who is ill, once there he finds she isn’t and that she is simply homesick and scared of the feelings of a presence in the household, something she believed is evil and lurking at Hundreds Hall. From there Dr Faraday makes a bond with the family and Mrs Ayres and daughter Caroline in particular and so witnesses some ‘unnatural’ events as they occur and things start to spiral out of control.

Sarah Waters fifth book sees her writing all about a totally new period in history (post-WWII Warwickshire) from her others. The first three (Affinity, Tipping The Velvet, Fingersmith) were all set in the Victorian Era and The Night Watch moved into the second world war. It also sees her first cast of only ‘straight’ characters as before the leads have tended to been lesbians, so it seemed from the outset that Waters was trying something a little different which is always exciting (and slightly nerve-wracking) when its an author that you like. I needn’t have worried because one thing that you always know with a Sarah Waters book, well it is what I have found so far, is that whichever era, setting or background the story has its going to have been researched to the maximum and her writing will envelope you in that era without any effort from you at all.

In fact for me the book was more a story of the fall and decline of society and the ‘rich family piles and country homes’ than a ghost story as until about three hundred pages in only a few odd things had actually taken place. Oh I should note if you are a dog lover one of the occurrences results in one of the saddest scenes in the whole book which actually really got to me, but I shall say no more. Though there is a great sense of paranoia and unease through out the book and some shades of ‘The Turning of the Screw’ and sensationalist novels from the likes of Wilkie Collins and indeed ‘Rebecca’ by my favourite wrier Daphne Du Maurier with a sprinkling of Grey Gardens thrown in, I never actually felt scared or chilled by the book. In fact after what was quite a ‘me’ opening of the book, a big spooky house and mysterious events going on it petered out and I was left, and I feel awful for saying this as the writing was wonderful, I came away slightly disappointed.

I was expecting a huge twist at the end and at first I couldn’t see one at all. However I would recommend that should you read the book, and I think people should, you might want to re-read the final few chapters as I suddenly saw a huge twist that shocked me a little and actually the very last line alludes to slightly which I then had to re-read. If my second reading and discovery is true then that gave me the chills far more than the ghostly parts of the book did. I don’t know if anyone else has? If you have read it and did then don’t comment on here but email me as I don’t want to give out any plot spoilers.

All in all I wouldn’t classify this as a ghost story, I would definitely say it’s a view of society at a very changing time, the love story between Dr Faraday (who was beginning to really grate on me towards the end) and Caroline was interesting in terms of class and how it all worked in the past but was evolving towards for the future was very interesting too. I look forward to what Waters does next; in the meantime I think I am going to definitely have to pick up Fingersmith very soon.

28 Comments

Filed under Man Booker, Review, Sarah Waters, Virago Books

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

Oranges Or Lemons?

So it starts, yes I am all finished with the utterly superb thriller/crime novel (which I will review later today – I know two blogs in one day I really am spoiling you) and now am all focused on the Orange Short List. I did actually really toy with the idea of reading the freshly arrived latest Sarah Waters novel ‘The Little Stranger’ but then thought “hang on I have already now got a backlog of six books that I need to read in just over two weeks… have I really got time? Actually I am still waiting on Molly Fox’s Birthday by Deirdre Madden and also The Wilderness by Samantha Harvey (which is all about Alzheimer’s a subject very close to my heart as I often go to an Alzheimer’s home to see my Great Uncle) but they are on their way and it give me a chance to get through the others. Maybe I can treat myself to Sarah Waters along the way, maybe at the midway point? I am interested with the selection as until the shortlist was announced I had only heard of two and had only wanted to read one of the books on the list which is Kamila Shamshie’s Burnt Shadows, purely down to a few rave reviews and a wonderful cover. I should really put down the entire list just in case any of you don’t know it (highly unlikely) so the contenders are…

Scottsboro – Ellen Feldman
The Wilderness – Samantha Harvey
The Invention of Everything Else – Samantha Hunt
Molly Fox’s Birthday – Deirdre Madden
Home – Marilynne Robinson
Burnt Shadows – Kamila Shamsie
I am wondering if there will be some complete lemons in the mix of oranges, time will tell. I already have an inkling which one will win, but I am holding fire on saying in case it turns out to be a complete lemon. I also have two favourites in my head (neither which I think are the winner pre-reading them) just from the storyline’s alone. Isn’t it funny what judgements you can make on books without having read a single word!?! Will I be right? I am not sure to be honest as I have only read two of the winners the first was On Beauty by Zadie Smith which I think is possibly one of the most boring books I have ever read and on the complete opposite spectrum Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half A Yellow Sun which sits in my Top Ten Books of All Time. If I can I will try and fit in a few other winners along the journey but I do only have 15 days I must try and stay realistic. I shall announce who is my winner before 9am on Wednesday 3rd of June as it’s announced that evening. I can’t cheat as I will be on a plane to Switzerland at 7am that morning which also means you will all know the winner before I do! I don’t think it will make world news?

What are your predictions? Have you read any so far (no plot spoilers please)? What has been your favourite of the Orange Winners so far? Oh and most controversially, do we still need the Orange Prize and is it sexist to have an award just for women?

9 Comments

Filed under Book Thoughts, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Ellen Feldman, Kamila Shamsie, Marilynne Robinson, Orange Prize, Sarah Waters

1000 Novels Everyone Must Read… So Far

So The Guardian (and Observer) are treating us to the ‘1000 Novels Everyone Must Read’ over seven days. I wasn’t sure how this would work it being that 1000 divided by seven means 142.85714 books per day. However what they have done is to theme each issue in the series. So far we have had Love and Crime. Though personally I didn’t exactly think that To Kill A Mockingbird or Jurassic Park was crime, or The Virgin Suicides a love story but I shouldn’t be picky. I was shocked The Time Travellers Wife wasn’t in love actually. I haven’t thought of ones I would put in their yet! That could be another blog for another time.


I don’t know about you but I go through the list and look at which ones I have read and then the ones that I should read in the future and these two issues so far have given me lots to read. What had I read?

Lady Audley’s Secret – Mary E Braddon
Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
The Thirty-Nine Steps – John Buchan
Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
The Murder At The Vicarage – Agatha Christie
The Woman In White – Wilkie Collins
Jurassic Park – Michael Crichton
The Hound Of The Baskervilles – Arthur Conan Doyle
American Psycho – Brett Easton Ellis
A Quiet Belief In Angels – RJ Ellory (I was shocked this was in here – hated it)
Casino Royale – Ian Fleming
A Room With A View – E.M. Forster
The End Of The Affair – Graham Greene
Red Dragon – Thomas Harris (which I am going to re-read this year)
Lady Chatterley’s Lover – D.H. Lawrence
To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee
Atonement – Ian McEwan
The Pursuit Of Love – Nancy Mitford
Dissolution – CJ Sansom
The Reader – Bernhard Schlink
Perfume – Patrick Suskind
The Secret History – Donna Tartt
Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy (well am reading it in the background)
Breathing Lessons – Anne Tyler
The Night Watch – Sarah Waters

Hmmm… 25/1000 so far… must try harder! If you have missed this so far then have a look here http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/series/1000novels

2 Comments

Filed under Agatha Christie, Bernhard Schink, Brett Easton Ellis, Daphne Du Maurier, Emily Bronte, Harper Lee, Ian Fleming, Ian McEwan, John Buchan, Leo Tolstoy, Nancy Mitford, Sarah Waters

Second Hand Book Boom

There has been a piece in several different papers this week about the surge in second hand book shop sales. Is this because of the credit crisis? I think that assumption is a little too strong. I personally think people are buying from both; I have to say with book groups I will always try and find a book second hand just in case I don’t like it. Now I am get some sent which helps, I can understand people not splashing out on a book especially hardbacks if they might simply not like it. Mind you I have rules with second hand books, they need to not have cracked spines or water stains I am quite picky unless it’s an orange Penguin or is ‘loved worn’. I can also see in some cases the fact you can get a lot of bargains. Like today when I went for a little wonder (research for this blog you understand) I managed to get all of this for just under a fiver.


Red Dragon/The Silence of the Lambs – Thomas Harris
I am almost 100% sure that I have read Red Dragon, but don’t want to check if the ending involves a boat and a sudden twist just in case I am really off and it was one of the others. I saw these and thought ‘oh why not’? I remember enjoying, if that’s the right word, whichever Hannibal Lector book it was about eight years ago.

Animals People – Indra Sinha
I have read this so it’s going straight on the shelves. It was one of the many books I have lent to someone and never seen the light of day again. One of the most unlikely likeable protagonists I think I have read in the last few years and what a story he tells. A fictional chemical factory explodes in a town in India (based on true facts) and the scars it leaves on the land and its people. Brilliance!

Quantum of Solace – Ian Fleming
A collection of all the short stories of James Bond which is in pristine condition and would have set me back over ten pounds. I want to read more Bond after really enjoying the darkness I didn’t expect in Casino Royale last year.

The Ghost – Robert Harris
Have no idea what to expect from this at all. I wouldn’t have picked this up full price but have heard a lot of good things about the author and thought this was a worthy try. We will see…

The Woman Who Walked Into Doors/Paula Spencer – Roddy Doyle
Another author have always wanted to try and read and like the idea of reading The Woman Who Walked Into Doors and then reading its sequel that came out ten years later. Thought would be interesting to read them both in succession and see if it works.

The Night Watch – Sarah Waters
Read it last year and really enjoyed it have bought this for Novel Insights.

A High Wind In Jamaica – Richard Hughes
I would not have picked this classic up had I not seen it today and for so cheap. Sounds like a very interesting mix of Pirate story, children’s adventure and literary classic.

The Shakespeare Secret – J.L. Carrell
I fancy reading some ‘adventure’ stories this year and remember there being some really positive reviews of this, I just didn’t quite want to buy it when it came out and am not sure why now. It’s now on my TBR so no complaints.

Child 44 – Tom Rob Smith
I was sent this by the publishers last year, decided would pick this up as another treat for Novel Insights.

1 Comment

Filed under Book Spree, Ian Fleming, Indra Sinha, Sarah Waters, Tom Rob Smith

Not ‘The Thirty Nine Steps’

I don’t know if anyone else didn’t watch the BBC’s version of ‘The Thirty Nine Steps’ a few hours ago? It’s just I tuned in at the right time earlier tonight and appear to have watched something completely different with the same title and same named lead character of Richard Hannay. Is this just me?


I read the book earlier in the year because I knew this would be on at Christmas and really like to read the novel before I see the TV version/film. After having loved the book so much I was really excited by the prospect of some great Christmas television, especially after how good the Beeb’s versions of ‘Bleak House’ and ‘Cranford’ have been.

Well I don’t know what happened here, I mean it started off the same and then suddenly they brought in this suffragette strumpet called ‘Victoria’ who not only didn’t exist in the book, completely took over and then also completely changed the plot from then on. Richard Hannay didn’t play second fiddle to anyone in the book and yet here he was being ordered about and getting domineered by someone who didn’t exist in the world of John Buchan. I fear the author might have been turning in his grave during the last few hours. I was so cross I didn’t watch the show about him on BBC4.

I really wish I had just watched ITV’s adaptation of ‘Affinity’ by Sarah Waters now!

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Thoughts, Books To Film, John Buchan, Sarah Waters