Category Archives: Walter De La Mare

Memoirs of a Midet – Walter de la Mare

If it hadn’t been for the lovely people at Telegram Books emailing me to see if I would like to read any of their books then I would quite possibly have never read Memoirs of a Midget and yet it is a classic, one maybe many of us haven’t heard about but a classic never the less. I actually thought from the cover it was a very new book, it turns out it’s just a new edition. I hadn’t heard of Walter de la Mare but doing some research I found out he lived from 1873 until 1956 and he was a well loved and respected poet. This was his fourth book was published in 1921 and won the James Tate Black Memorial Prize for fiction. Already before I had read a single page I was intrigued by what appeared to be a forgotten classic.

Though I admit I have never read a Dickens (though I have seen many on the television – which I know isn’t the same) or read any Thomas Hardy I have had quite a few on audio book. In fact from around the age of around ten until around fourteen I loved nothing more than listening to Tess of the d’Urbervilles and often. The reason I mention these two authors is the fact they have written great books with a huge landscape of characters and that is just what Walter de la Mare does in this novel.

‘Memoirs of a Midget’ is the life and times of Miss M, told by none other than Miss M herself. Born from two ‘non-midget’ parents we follow her through her childhood and then through her early adult life and onwards after her parents both pass away. This indeed is mainly a book about how society deals with people who are different and looks at how Miss M is vilified by some, loved by others and isolated by many, written in the time it was it somehow doesn’t seem to have aged at all and in some ways could have been written quite recently. For me the tell tale signs it was a much older book were of course the fact that technology wasn’t up to date but there were other signs that it was a classic like the names of characters such Pollie Muggeridge or Lady Pollacke. There are many other wonderful characters with no actual name just a Mr or Mrs and then a wonderful surname like Bowater, Hubbins or Crimble.

All these characters were wonderful and added to the density and panorama of the book which has a huge scope and travels around Britain as it goes leading up to Miss M’s arrival in London. My favourite character partly because she was so bolshie, lovely and then suddenly serpentine was Fanny Bowater (every great classic has a character somewhere in it called Fanny, honestly, you have a think) who in some parts actually stole the show (literally) completely from Miss M.

Miss M is a fascinating character though, for a while I got slightly annoyed I couldn’t work out exactly how tall she was or wasn’t as it made her hard to visualise but eventually I worked it out and from then on was completely swept along by her story. I found the tales of the people she met and how they reacted to her and the fact she was so different very moving, occasionally funny and always touching. If you like big great long adventures with one protagonist as they struggle through the highs and lows of their life then this book is definitely one for you to read, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

This book has left me really wanting to dig out more classics; I need to get my hands on a copy of Tess of the d’Urbervilles sharpish, until then though what next? I think its time for me to get some short books read. I have loved being totally swept away for pages and pages by such wonders as this and of course The Blind Assassin but I do think I need a few shorter reads just for a few days, I have no choice as the next Savidge Big Weekender fast approaches with The Name of The Rose as the next choice, do let me know if you are joining in on that one.

So short books and novella’s… what would you recommend? You all know I always love to get your opinions. Maybe I am in the mood for a guilty pleasure, why I call them guilty pleasures I have no idea, I feel no guilt when reading them, none whatsoever. And of course do let me know what you think of the sound of Memoirs of a Midget, you never know Telegram could contact you… they found me through my comments on another book blog!

7 Comments

Filed under Review, Telegram Books, Walter De La Mare

New Arrivals, Blind Assassins & Big Weekenders

A slightly late blog today but I have been work, work, working and on deadline weeks blogging, though delightful, is slightly harder to fit into my day I am here now though. Highlight of a hard day today has been two parcels, one from the delightful people at Transworld/Doubleday which I might have known was coming and one from the lovely people at Sceptre which was a complete suprise. You can see them on my coffee/fishbowl table here…

Their Finest Hour and a Half – Lissa Evans
I am really excited about this one, partly because its in the Orange Longlist and I really wanted to do the whole lot but just to get one is a delight. The other reason is because its sounds quite different. “It is 1940. France has fallen, and only a narrow strip of sea lies between Great Britain and invasion. The war could go either way and everyone must do their bit. Young copy writer Catrin Cole is drafted into the Ministry of Information to help ‘write women’ in propaganda films – something that the men aren’t very good at. She is quickly seconded to the Ministry’s latest endeavour: a heart-warming tale of bravery and rescue at Dunkirk. It’s all completely fabricated, of course, but what does that matter when the nation’s morale is at stake? Since call-up has stripped the industry of its brightest and best, it is the callow, the jaded and the utterly unsuitable who must make up the numbers: Ambrose Hilliard, third most popular British film-star of 1924; Edith Beadmore, Madame Tussauds wardrobe assistant turned costumier; and Arthur Frith, whose peacetime job as a catering manager has not really prepared him for his sudden, unexpected elevation to Special Military Advisor. And in a serious world, in a nation under siege, they must all swallow their mutual distaste, ill-will and mistrust and unite for the common good, for King and Country, and – in one case – for better or worse…”

The Solitude of Prime Numbers – Paolo Giordano
This young man (26 years old) has had a huge hit with this already in 34 countries and won awards that authors such as Umberto Eco has won, stand him in good stead. “He had learned his lesson. Choices are made in a few seconds and paid for in the time that remains. A prime number is inherently a solitary thing: it can only be divided by itself, or by one; it never truly fits with another. Alice and Mattia also move on their own axes, alone with their personal tragedies. As a child Alice’s overbearing father drove her first to a terrible skiing accident, and then to anorexia. When she meets Mattia she recognises a kindred spirit, and Mattia reveals to Alice his terrible secret: that as a boy he abandoned his mentally-disabled twin sister in a park to go to a party, and when he returned, she was nowhere to be found. These two irreversible episodes mark Alice and Mattia’s lives for ever, and as they grow into adulthood their destinies seem irrevocably intertwined. But then a chance sighting of a woman who could be Mattia’s sister forces a lifetime of secret emotion to the surface. A meditation on loneliness and love, “The Solitude of Prime Numbers” asks, can we ever truly be whole when we’re in love with another?

Sunnyside – Glen David Gold
I knew nothing of this book until it arrived but it sounds very interesting and unusual. “From the author of the acclaimed Carter Beats The Devil comes a grand entertainment with the brilliantly realized figure of Charlie Chaplin at its centre: a novel at once cinematic and intimate, thrilling and darkly comic, which dramatizes the moment when American capitalism, a world at war, and the emerging mecca of Hollywood intersect to spawn an enduring culture of celebrity. SUNNYSIDE follows three overlapping fortunes: Leland Wheeler, son of the last (and worst) Wild West star, as he heads to the battlefields of France; snobbish Hugo Black, drafted to fight in Russia under the British general, Edmund Ironside; and Chaplin himself, contending with studio moguls, accusations of cowardice, his unchecked heart and, most menacing of all, his mother, as he pursues the goal of making a movie ‘as good as he was’. With a cast of enthralling characters both historical and fictional, Sunnyside is a heart-rending, spellbinding novel about dreams, ambition and the dawn of the modern age.”

The latter two arent out until June, so do you think its ok to leave reviews and reading until nearer the time of release? Hmmm, a puzzle and a conundrum I hadn’t thought of before.

So The Blind Assassin… no review just yet its more likely to be tomorrow that I have it up and online. I have still got about 190 pages to go but am giving myself the night off to devour the final pages. So far I am really enjoying it, I can see why other people might not though. It’s definatley a book to take your time with and though the print is quite big its misleading! So the first Big Weekender Review is running a little bit behind now… whoops!

Speaking of the Big Weekender am swapping some of the dates of the books. I am going to do Midnights Children on the May Bank Holiday instead as it sounds like its needs some extra time and patience. I think aswell I might start the books on a friday night! Oh and I also decided on the 4th book after all your thoughts so now the list looks like this…

Memoirs of a Midget – Walter De La Mare (Weekend of 18th April)
The Name of the Rose – Umberto Eco (Weekend of 25th April)
Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie (Weekend of 2nd May)
Sea Of Poppies – Amitav Ghosh (Weekend of 9th May)

So thats all the latest. Oh actually not quite, I need your advice, Savidge Reads Towers appears to have mice (its a Victorian house in London enough said) how can we humanely get rid of them, and most importantly… they don’t eat books do they?

7 Comments

Filed under Book Thoughts, Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie, Umberto Eco, Walter De La Mare

Introducing: Savidge Reads Big Weekenders

That title makes it sound like I am hosting some sort of blogging/book festival every weekend which sadly I am not. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful event though, lots of book bloggers under one roof discussing books for a whole weekend, you could even get publishers and authors in on the act too… maybe I should trademark that? That’s actually really got me thinking! Anyway sorry I digressed.

Did you all have lovely Easters? Isn’t it nice that we still have a day of relaxation, reading and letting all that chocolate digest? I have spent most of Friday and Saturday working, no rest for the wicked if they work from home. There have been big breaks away from the computer to curl up on the sofa and read though. Yesterday I had a day off with the Non Reader which was meant to be wandering the streets and getting ‘Lost in London’ which we like to do. You can find the most delightful secret areas of London that way. However the not great weather ruined it all and so we ended up having a spring clean. I held off from a great book sort as then the Non Reader wouldn’t have seen me for a day. Today is back to the grindstone for a half day this afternoon after a lovely lunch with my ex-boss. What did you get up to both relaxation and reading wise I would love to know? I have digressed again! So The Savidge Reads Big Weekenders…

I have a TBR pile all of its own for books over 500 pages. Now I do not call these books tomes (is that spelt right?) by any stretch of the imagination they are not War & Peace, Gone With The Wind or Anna Karenina (which is still at 200 pages read – and has been since late January whoops) those are proper huge monster books, not necessarily monsters in a bad way, just slightly daunting. No the books on this special TBR piles are ones that I really want to read but then think ‘imagine the number of books I could get through instead of that one book’. So on Saturday when I was sorting my TBR piles I thought ‘Simon this is silly, you’re probably missing out on some true gems here so why not read one big book every weekend?’

Well I started one this weekend which I have been meaning to read for ages and promised Novel Insights I would read as part of our Rogue Book Group’s Rogue 5 Challenge while she jets around the globe. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood is a book I started about four years ago, told my Gran I was doing so and she told me the ending. Being only 20 pages in I decided that I would leave it for another year or two until I forgot and fortunately I have – no one spoil it please, don’t you hate it when people do that? This is also a Man Booker winner; and after enjoying doing The Richard & Judy Challenge and then finding that randomly Farmlanebooks was doing the same thing, we have been discussing doing the Man Booker winner list together. More of that later in the week when it’s all finalised though. So I then planned the next four Savidge Reads Big Weekenders which are including this weekends…

The Blind Assassin – Margaret Atwood (Weekend of 11th April)
Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie (Weekend of 18th April)
Memoirs of a Midget – Walter De La Mare (Weekend of 25th April)
The Name of the Rose – Umberto Eco (Weekend of 2nd May)

I am debating between The Comapny fo Liars by Karen Maitland and Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh after that? If anyone would like to join in that would be wonderful hence why thought would give you the list of what’s coming and we all like a challenge don’t we? I will do the review on the Monday after the weekend of the chosen book and then if you have read it you can leave your thoughts and comments too? Might make interesting discussion, this week the review will be up tomorrow (I should have finished it by then). I would also love to hear your suggestions for ones that I should consider in the future. The only criteria are they need to be more than 500 pages, maybe even 550 and yet less than 850 pages. Can’t wait to see what you suggest.

So far am 200+ pages into The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood and loving it I can already tell there is going to be a big punch in the end. Though isn’t it annoying when you start a book and tell people, or they ask you and then say things like ‘oh god no, I thought that book was awful, I liked her early stuff but that book was dire’ or ‘have you tried The Robber Bride… oh you didn’t like it and couldnt read past 100 pages, shame as its much better than that one you’ve started.’ Fills me with hope that doesn’t it? So far they are both wrong… we will see.

12 Comments

Filed under Book Thoughts, Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie, Umberto Eco, Walter De La Mare

Not Delivered By Stalks, But By Telegram & Dove(greyreader)… And Through BAFAB Week Through Me Too!

One thing I have loved about blogging about books is all your feedback, comments and thoughts. I don’t get paid to do these reviews or anything of the like I just LOVE books. So imagine my suprise when on my birthday last week I got a lovely email from Telegram Books who “publish the best in new and classic international writing, from debut novelists to established literary heavyweights. Telegram has brought cutting-edge and authoritative voices from the UK, Spain, North Africa, Korea, Hungary, France, China, the Middle East and beyond” . I admit I hadnt heard of them as a publisher (sorry) but as soon as I started reading their catalogue I recognised their books. Whats more was that they were wondering if I would like to have some review copies of my choice that if I loved I could pop on here. Well what do you think I said? They arrived this morning!

I chose The Cleaner and My Driver by Maggie Gee because I had heard her interviewed on Open Book on Radio 4 which is one of my Sunday morning pleasures, I would kill for Mariella’s job. I also liked the idea of novels written by characters who know their employers every little secret which these books, as they are a series, seem to do. Memoirs of a Midget by Walter De La Mare was another book that I instantly thought I would love “Miss M., a pretty and diminutive young woman with a passion for shells, fossils, flints, butterflies and stuffed animals, struggles to deal with her isolation from the rest of society due to her extraordinarily small size. When her father dies, she must make her own way in a world that treats her as an entertaining curiosity, a momentary diversion from the game of making ones way up the social ladder. An elegiac, misanthropic, sometimes perverse study of isolation, de la Mare’s prize-winning classic seduces by its gentle charm and elegant prose.” So a big thank you to the lovely people at Telegram, very, very kind.

Now there of course has to be a negative in the week and bar the fact I seem to be blogging very late in the day this week which will stop, or the fact that I havent picked up The Cellist of Sarajevo yet as I started a Patricia Cornwell I picked up in a charity shop – don’t you hate it when you have saved the start of a book for a long tube/bus/train/plane journey get to the station/airport/stop and realise you’ve forotten it then you thankfully seea charity shop on the corner! No it is none of those… the big negative of the week is the fact that the flying rodents of London have been using my wonderful, grown with real love, Winter Pansies as a runway/landing pad!


Now there could have been quite a sulk (like when no one comments on my blog hahaha) and some distress at this, well ok there still was a bit but it was softened when I then got another email entitled ‘Belated Birthday Present’ from the lovely Dovegreyreader! She had seen this post and had a spare copy of The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie and has posted it as a birthday treat, I cant wait for that bundle to arrive I have heard wonderful things from people I trust book recommendation wise, the reviewers were very anti this book when it was long listed for the Man Booker. This was such a kind thing of her to do and I was amazed that she was even reading my blog as I am very fond of hers, so another thank you!

Thats something I love about Book Blogging and Book Bloggers, no not the free books, the relationships and friendships I am slowly but surely building. So in honour of all that I am joining in with all the Buy A Friend A Book Week high jinx and will be giving a copy of one of my highly rated reads… am just deciding which one. so lets say like Juxtabook its a surprise, but a very nice one! Here is my question though to qualify… and its a toughy… “If you were stuck on a desert island and you only had one book to read that you havent read yet, which would it be?” So if you fancy it let me know on here and the Non-Reader will pick out the winner Wednesday!

15 Comments

Filed under Book Thoughts, Patricia Cornwell, Salman Rushdie, Walter De La Mare