Category Archives: The Prose Practise

The Prose Practice Returns; Help Aunty Alice…

So after a three year hiatus I have decided to bring back The Prose Practice, a place where readers can bring their ills, concerns and questions to which I try and be helpful and you all end up being much, much more helpful. Oddly this has nothing to do with me having been sick as a pig (where does that phrase come from?) for a week, it just seemed timely. When this occasional series was in force back in 2010/11 we tried to help many a reader with very important questions like; which books are best for book groups, is there another ‘One Day’ and most importantly (and my favourite yet)… Where are all the novels about lonely men in cardigans?

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In short this is a place for any queries about books you might have, from an awkward relative (nothing to do with this post honest) you want to buy for? Any books with a specific recommendation you are having horrors hunting down? Anything really.

What inspired me with this post is that my lovely aunty Alice, who I never call aunty for varying reasons, randomly asked me about some bookish advice. Actually she didn’t ask in person, she’s become all technological and so asked me on Facebook – how modern! Now Alice likes a book, like most of the Savidge’s though not to the extent of myself and my mother perhaps, but she would like some specific recommendations. Very specific…

Hello bookworm, recommendations please. Am thinking thriller type gripping page turner, nothing too violent with proper good plot twists. Can you help?

Now, as it happens I could do with your help on this one as all I could think of to recommend was the oh-so-obvious but oh-so-brilliant Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and anything by Sophie Hannah. All my other recommendations would have had too much gore or too much ‘full on’ murder. I think Alice doesn’t mind a murder, just wants one that has happened or doesn’t happen in the view of the readers eyes. I wanted to recommend Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty, but I haven’t actually read it, just heard lots of marvellous stuff about it.

So, go on… What book or books would you recommend for Aunty Alice, and also possibly for me?

P.S If you have a bothersome bookish conundrum do email me and maybe we can answer it.

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The Prose Practice – Is There Another ‘One Day’ Out There?

The other day I had a direct book recommendation question which I thought you could all help me with. I do find it very odd when people I weren’t aware had read my blog and then ask me in the flesh for a recommendation of something to read next. I tend to go a bit flustered and then my mind goes blank.

This happened the other day when one of my aunties friends had read ‘One Day’ by David Nicholls then gone to look up some reviews of it and had happened across mine (which is the most popular post on Savidge Reads ever so far – random). It seemed we were on a complete wave length with the book and so she wondered if I could recommend any other books like it that she would love just as much.

Initially I thought ‘ooh that’s easy’ but actually it’s really not. I do think ‘One Day’ is a book rather unlike many I have read. Some people have labelled it chick-lit by a man, which I think under sells it to be honest and I would rather call it an accessible page turning modern classic. So my initial list included such titles as ‘Small Island’ by Andrea Levy and ‘The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks’ by Rebecca Skloot however they only have the fact they are wonderfully written books that kept me reading spellbound into the early hours like ‘One Day’ did. They aren’t another ‘One Day’ really, but then again is there one? Or do I recommend something that’s really a modern love story, which is of course rather serendipitous being the day today is.

So I am now thinking that I should come up with three lists and of course I will need your help with this. We all love recommending books to someone who is keen to read lots after all don’t we? I am aware that some of you haven’t read ‘One Day’ (if you haven’t then you simply must) but you can join in two as I have three sort of books I am looking for, which are;

  • Can you recommend accessible well written page turners be they fiction or non, ones that kept you glued to your book until the small hours, made you miss stops on public transport, late for work and the whole outside world disappear?
  • Are there any other books that are like ‘One Day’? Would any of the other David Nicholls books have the same effect on a reader?
  • What are the best modern love stories?

So let’s show some love and lovely recommendations on this loving day for a new book lover. I know you will come up with some great reads and as ever I am as interested in your responses as my aunties friend will be when I pass them on. Much love to you all for joining in!

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Funny But Substantial Fiction – The Prose Practice

The other dayI received some direct messages from Twitter all the way from Austin, Texas which were asking for some reading suggestions, and as I was both slightly stumped and intrigued in the idea of such a genre I thought I would have it as the latest Prose Practice problem so that all of you could help me and a dear reader out. So the question was this (I have turned what became a chat into a question)…

Dear Simon,

I am looking for some good light reading to cleanse the palate between ‘heavy’ books, ideally funny but substantial. I don’t really have anything like that at the moment and could do with some recommendations please. Dry wit might do?

David

Now initially I thought this would be really easy but then two factors came into play. The first was, well what do you like reading heavy or not, the second was what really funny reading? The first David answer by telling me he really likes ‘everything from the classics to modern classics like Forster to Raymond Carver and Kundra’. The second part I am stuck on because actually I don’t often read funny books, or if I do they aren’t that substantial, and so David has kindly highlighted a question I have often pondered and not yet asked on Savidge Reads. You can bet its something that I quite fancy giving a whirl… I am not too great at farce, but funny and substantial appeals to me.

So today I have a simply question for you, can you please recommend some ‘funny but substantial’ books to a pondering reader… and also to a pondering blogger? Am I right in hazarding a guess that Howard Jacobson would fit this genre or is that misplaced?

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The Prose Practice – Cracking Christmas Reads

I was actually rather thrilled when I received an email from Philippa earlier this week with a rather timely reading conundrum for Christmas which I am sure you can all help her with. I was going to add that this is the season of good will after all but you are always so helpful anyway, so without further ado I shall hand you over to Philippa and her prose problem…

Dear Simon,
I know that it’s a little late in the day as Christmas will be here in less than a week, but there are still some shopping days left, yet I was wondering if you and your lovely readers could come up with some fantastic Christmas reads for me to make my way through over the festive period. I don’t have children and this year it’s actually just me, my sister and my Mum and we are all planning on reading lots by the fire. We all have very eclectic tastes and wondered what you could suggest that are the perfect Christmas themed reads, we want Christmas to be the main feature really, apart from the obvious Dickens ‘Christmas Carroll’. We love all types of books but something thrilling and comic amongst the more literary suggestions would be wonderful. We look forward to your suggestions as we will be swapping what we read with each other over this period.
Many thanks,
Philippa

Well my response has to be a Christmas themed cosy crime novel or two, and in fact you will be hearing about one I have just recently read on Christmas eve, you all well know how much I love the ‘Agatha Raisin’ mysteries and M.C. Beaton has started to write seasonal specials which I love curling up with to escape in a quiet corner. There are also some Christmas specials from the wonderful Queen of Crime Agatha Christie which I would look out for too. But what else is there, I am stuck and can actually only think of the Dickens ‘Christmas Carroll’ (which I haven’t read, sssshhhh don’t tell anyone) as another option so I would quite like your recommendations/suggestions too! I think I want to read something HUGE but am stuck between wanting to read a mammoth classic or a modern epic… hmmm!

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The Prose Practise – LGBT Literature

I had a rather interesting email from a follower earlier this week which had highlighted something to them at my recent burst of mentioning ‘The Green Carnation Prize’ and one of the questions we asked our shortlisted authors which was ‘what book would you nominate if there was a ‘Lost Green Carnation Prize’ novel?’ it was a question which I was asked myself in an interview a while back and one I struggled a little with and so naturally who can I turn to for recommendations… you lovely lot of course.

Dear Savidge Reads,
I thought I would email you as The Green Carnation Prize has really brought some fantastic titles written by gay men to my attention that have come out this year. What I wondered was which books are LGBT classics, are there any lost or forgotten books which people should try to be tracking down? I myself am not gay but I would like to read more books written by gay authors and ones that look at the history of homosexuality, what can you recommend?
Many thanks,
Anne

As I mentioned it was a question which I struggled with (which I am hoping won’t make people think I am not really qualified to Chair the judges for The Green Carnation Prize 2011) not because its something I have never been interested in or cared about, in fact quite the opposite, but because it was never something I was informed about growing up. I mean the gay and lesbian section at my local library back in the 1990’s never had anything much and it wasn’t a section I wanted to be caught by my school friends in for various reasons. The only books I did manage to get my hands on were by Edmund White, because I told my Mum it was a memoir of an authors life – a truth in parts, and the Armistead Maupin ‘Tales of the City’ series which I managed to get in second hand shops with my pocket money. There are many more authors out there who I missed back then (such as the amazing Neil Bartlett) and are more I am sure I am missing.

Two books I have been recommended by several people I know and authors I have finally got my mitts on, thanks to some lovely people, recently. These are the now out of print ‘Queens’ by Pickles which a friend bought me a few months ago when The Green Carnation Prize was born and said ‘I simply must read’ (I will soon I promise) and ‘Faggots’ by Larry Kramer which Novel Insights bought me when she helped me take lots and lots of books to the 5 for £2 book shop up the road at the weekend.

Yet there must be so many more and not just books long forgotten but also from the last few years that might have gone under the radar. Can you recommend any that you have read and loved which need more attention and recognition, or any classics that people should read simply because they are missing out? You would be helping Amy and you’d be helping me, as I am planning on reading many more of these in the next few months.

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The Prose Practice – Books for Book Groups

I am currently ‘oop north’ in Manchester and have been joined at my aunties by the lovely Granny Savidge Reads (though she does prefer to be known as simply Gran) and last night she was asking me my advice on possible choices for one, of the three that she is a member of, book groups and their choices of reads next year.

They already have a list of possible options and the idea is that each member of the group chooses twelve of the titles from the list giving them points in order of preference (twelve being the maximum and working down) and the ones that get the most votes are the twelve they head for in 2011.

Naturally I thought that all of you would make a wonderful panel who could recommend a title of twelve from the list, rather than just me. So here without further ado, and in order of authors first name, is the list of the possible reads, I have crossed some out as Gran had already read them and didn’t fancy them again or just didn’t fancy end of – though I am sure she could be persuaded by you all…

  • The Children’s Book – A.S. Byatt
  • The Yacoubian Building – Alaa al Aswanny
  • La’s Orchestra Saves The World – Alexander McCall Smith
  • The Long Song – Andrea Levy
  • The White Tiger – Aravind Adiga
  • The Card – Arnold Bennett
  • Dreams From My Father – Barack Obama
  • Our Mutual Friend – Charles Dickens
  • Last Train From Liguria – Christine Dwyer Hickey
  • Short Stories – D.H. Lawrence
  • Death Sentence – David Lodge
  • Counting My Chickens – Deborah Devonshire
  • These Foolish Things – Deborah Moggach
  • The Good Soldier – Ford Maddox Ford
  • Girl in a Blue Dress – Gaynor Arnold
  • Adam Bede – George Elliott
  • Three Cups of Tea – Greg Mortenson
  • Kafka on the Shore – Haruki Murakami
  • Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel
  • Family Romance – John Lancaster
  • Paradise Postponed – John Mortimer
  • The Plague of Doves – Louise Erdrich
  • An Education – Lynn Barber
  • The Red Queen – Margaret Drabble
  • The Memory Box – Margaret Forster
  • The Glassblower of Murano – Marina Fiorato
  • Florence Nightingale – Mark Bostridge
  • The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
  • The Hamilton Case – Michelle De Krester
  • Memento Mori – Muriel Spark
  • The Wasted Vigil – Nadine Aslam
  • Great Fortunes – Olivia Manning
  • Border Crossing – Pat Barker
  • Peripheral Vision – Patricia Ferguson
  • The Law of Dreams – Peter Belling
  • Trespass – Rose Tremain
  • Sacred Hearts – Sarah Dunant
  • The Little Stranger – Sarah Waters
  • Engleby – Sebastian Faulks
  • Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
  • The Beacon – Susan Hill
  • Restless – William Boyd
  • A Whispered Name – William Brodrick
  • The Believers – Zoe Heller

That’s quite a list isn’t it? I am sure you can understand why I thought opening this up to all of you would be much more helpful as I haven’t heard of half of the authors. Which is also an apology if therefore I have spelt some titles and authors wrongly, I am going by the spreadsheet Gran brought with her. I did recommend ‘The Little Stranger’ oddly as though I didn’t initially love it, it grew on me over time, I would have loved to have read it and been able to discuss the ending and what it all seemed to mean.

So which twelve would you pick and why? I know Gran will be popping by and checking, as will I as I have some of these on Mount TBR which I have been itching to get around too. Let us know, if you could suggest twelve in orderof preference and why that would be amazing…

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The Prose Practice – Single Ladies With A Twist

It’s been a while since we all got out thinking caps on in order to help another fellow reader with a prose problem. So when I got this email last week from one of my lovely reader Jodie, who also has a blog here, I thought ‘oooh I must put it up straight away’ and have now left it a week – sorry Jodie!! Now this latest reading conundrum I thought initially was really easy… only I have become quite stumped. So I wonder if you can help, well I know you can, answer this…

Hi Simon,

I might have a bit of a tricky one for you and the Savidge Readers. I’m looking for happy novels about single women who stay single. Yep, women who don’t marry, but stay single and happy. Sounds simple doesn’t it, but I think it might be a bit of a challenge as I’ve already asked for recommendations on my blog and people reading there have managed to turn up about ten. All the recommendations were gratefully received (and some were bought), but ten is not many for a whole world of books.

The women should be single by the end of the book (although it would be fab if they were single throughout the entire book) and living, or about to go off and live, happy lives. Preferably they should be the main characters of their novels/novellas, but I’ll take secondary characters if you can rustle them up. Any genre works for me.

Thanks for any help you and the readers can provide.

 Jodie

Beyonces video still was the only image that sort of summed this problem up... sort of!

Simon Says: My instant reaction on hearing the  words single lady were of Bridget Jones but the whole point of that book is that she isn’t totally fulfilled until she has two men chasing after her, some people are never happy are they, ha?  It is hard to think of books where people stay single and like it though, really hard. Currently the closest that I can come up with at the moment is ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’ though it doesn’t quite fit the criteria… I/we wont say why as it would spoil the plot. I am trying to think of others and may come back and add a few more titles into the comments as the day progresses! What can you all suggest?

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