Tag Archives: A. S. Byatt

Other People’s Bookshelves #3 – Louise Trolle

For the latest in the series of Other People’s Bookshelves, a perfect read if you have managed to get up off the sofa after being so filled with food (or is that just me?), we are having a nosey around the shelves of the lovely Louise Trolle, another lovely commenter on Savidge Reads. Louise is 35 years old, Danish, living in Helsinge, Denmark, is married to Anders (whom she met at a role-playing convention), mother of two and proud owner of a Hokkaido dog and a Dachshund. Like all of us, she adores reading, has a BA in literature, and trained and worked as a bookseller for several years. Now however, she works in customer services for a stationary shop (why do all book lovers also love stationary?). Her and her family have a dedicated library/computer room in our house, and her husband is trying – slightly successfully, to keep all the books there… there are 2032 books at present! So let’s have a look through them…

Do you keep all the books you read on your shelves or only your favourites, does a book have to be REALLY good to end up on your shelves or is there a system like one in one out, etc?

I generally keep all the books by certain favourite authors (Auster, Fforde, Rushdie, Byatt, Gaiman etc) and complete series. Apart from that, 1-2 star reads often go to my family or to the other ladies in my book club – as they might enjoy them more than I did 🙂

I collect books with owls and dragons on the cover, and general picture books with dragon stories. I recently negotiated with my husband that out staircase can be used for storing my books and his model airplanes. That has postponed the space problems.

Do you organise your shelves in a certain way? For example do you have them in alphabetical order of author, or colour coded? Do you have different bookshelves for different books (for example, I have all my read books on one shelf, crime on another and my TBR on even more shelves) or systems of separating them/spreading them out? Do you cull your bookshelves ever?

I have my sci-fi and fantasy books on one bookcase, my chick-lit/erotica has it own shelf, and so does my poetry, role playing books and short stories. Apart from that I just keep books by the same author together (and in stacks on the floor). Twice a year I host our book club, and I usually give them some of the books I don’t want to keep (including books I bought that I already have!)

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What was the first book you ever bought with your own money and does it reside on your shelves now?

I honestly can’t remember, probably a fantasy book.

Are there any guilty pleasures on your bookshelves you would be embarrassed people might see, or like me do you have a hidden shelf for those somewhere else in the house?

I probably wouldn’t bring my erotica books to work to read on my break, or on a vacation with my in-laws, but I don’t hide them away either.

Which book on the shelves is your most prized, mine would be a collection of Conan Doyle stories my Great Uncle Derrick memorised and retold me on long walks and then gave me when I was older? Which books would you try and save if (heaven forbid) there was a fire?

Ugh that’s a difficult one. I’m very fond of my rare, clothbound Divine Comedy by Dante, and my signed, illustrated Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie

What is the first ‘grown up’, and I don’t mean in a ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ way, that you remember on your parent’s shelves or at the library, you really wanted to read? Did you ever get around to it and are they on your shelves now?

I think it was James Clavell’s Shogun series. I read it when I was about 12 and was very fascinated by the samurai society etc.

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If you love a book but have borrowed the copy do you find you have to then buy the book and have it on your bookshelves or do you just buy every book you want to read?

If I really love a book, I probably would buy it (especially if there’s a lovely edition to be had). But I’m on a budget at the moment, so I try to use the library etc. as well (and the about 900-1000 unread books I have).

What was the last book that you added to your bookshelves?

It was The Mongoliad Book 1 by Neal Stephenson

Are there any books that you wish you had on your bookshelves that you don’t currently?

Well, there’s 793 books on my Amazon wish list… After reading Snow Crash I’m keen to read more books by Neal Stephenson and thanks to Simon I’ve now discovered the Persephone books…

What do you think someone perusing your shelves would think of your reading taste, or what would you like them to think?

I wouldn’t say that I’m a book snob, but I like the fact that I have very few “popular bestsellers” on my shelves, and I guess I like it when people notice that I have lots of books by less known authors (I love discovering new ones /quirky books). I guess most people would consider my shelves a bit nerdy/literary.

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A big thank you to Louise for letting me grill her. Don’t forgot if you would like to participate (and I would love you to) in Other People’s Book Shelves series then drop me an email to savidgereads@gmail.com with the subject Other People’s Bookshelves, thanks in advance. In the meantime… what do you think of Louise’s responses and/or any of the books she mentioned?

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My Top Five Victorian Reads by Essie Fox; Part Two

After a wonderful guide to some of the literature of the times yesterday, today Essie Fox gives us her guide to her top five Victorian Pastiche novels. I have to say I have never been sure if I like the term Victorian Pastiche, it almost sounds like its work that is mocking or merely copying the original works when these modern novels can be a real treat. I suppose that ‘contemporary novels set in the Victorian era’ is rather a mouthful, though someone mentioned neo-Victorian yesterday in the comments which I quite liked. Anyway enough from me, over to Essie…

The Quincunx: The Inheritance of John Huffam – by Charles Pallisser

Oh, but this is brilliant. I really can’t begin to recommend this book highly enough. It is a very big novel in every sense of the word and one in which the story’s hero, John Huffam, bears the middle names of Charles Dickens, of whose inheritance this book is a worthy champion. Huffam’s story artfully reflects that of Dickens’ own creations, filled as it is with stolen documents, deceitful women, laudanum addicts, sewer scavengers, asylums and dens of thieves – but this pastiche also has modern sensibilities so that our narrator is not always the most reliable, and there are many ambiguities.

Affinity by Sarah Waters

This spell-binding story draws the reader into a brooding, slowly swirling vortex in which an unmarried well-to-do woman has suffered a nervous breakdown and is far too reliant on laudanum. Now seeking to become ‘useful’ in the world she is visiting those less fortunates in the gothic maze of Millbank prison. But there she is mentally imprisoned herself when drawn into the seemingly magical world of Selina Dawes, a young, disgraced spiritualist medium. Incredibly sensual, eerie and dark, this is a very clever book.

Note from Simon – I too loved this book, in fact out of all her works this remains my favourite though I haven’t read ‘Fingersmith’ yet.

Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter

The sheer magic and dizzying prose of this post-modern feminist plot will enthral you. It is the story of Fevvers, a circus trapeze artiste who was raised in a brothel and who may or may not have a pair of wings sprouting out from her back.

Note from Simon – I had no idea that Angela Carter had written a novel set in the Victorian period, let alone that it was one of her most well known. I shall have to read this pronto, I always seem to pick up her dystopian works.

Angels and Insects by A S Byatt

This is actually made up of two novellas, both written in Byatt’s gloriously sensual style, weaving fact with fiction, and reality with magical romance. Morpho Eugenia is the story of a young naturalist, William, who finds himself immersed in the lives of the Alabaster family, gradually and naively drawn into their dark world of depravity. The Conjugal Angel is the tale of a group of spiritualists, one of whom is mourning her dead lover, the young man immortalised in Tennyson’s ‘In Memoriam’ – and Byatt’s own poetry is also woven into the plot.

The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox

An exceptional Victorian crime thriller which tells the story of Edward Glyver and his obsession with Phoebus Rainsford Daunt, a man who has stolen all that is rightfully his. The story continues in a sequel, entitled The Glass of Time.

Note from Simon – Sorry I keep bustling in on your recommendations Essie, I had this to read and it sounded so up my street, one of my old flats got flooded and which book took the brunt. Yes this one. Its 600+ pages soaked up most of the damage and saved a few others. Just a little bookish aside.

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A huge thank you to Essie for doing this, especially at short notice as I had been a bit lax, and sharing a wonderful list of ten books to get stuck into, especially as she is currently rather manic with The Somnambulist’ being on The TV Book Club tonight and all that entails. If you want to see the first part of the Victorian reads bonanza pop here, and for Essie’s wonderful Victorian-fest of a blog head to Virtual Victorian. Which of her recommendations have you tried and what did you think? Which Victorian Pastiche or neo-Victorian books have you read and loved? I must give yet another heard up for ‘Gillespie and I’ by Jane Harris, one of my personal favourites. Do share the ones you have enjoyed too. Who knows Essie might come and chat with you about them!

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August’s Incomings…

As always if you don’t like posts about books are incoming then look away now, there is another post coming later today about my favourite memoir of the year, if not in quite some time. But now to the post in hand and the books which have come in during the last month. I hope you will note it’s a much slimmer selection than in previous months.

Of course August is Man Booker month and so a few of those came in through the door…

I have to say that I was really excited about the longlist this year when it was announced, but from dipping in and out of some of them I am beginning to simply not get it. There are six books I think could make a rather strong short list (more about that next week) but in the main I am a little bit non-plussed after trying and failing with a few of them. I am thinking it might be time to introduce a new series of posts on ‘Books I Didn’t Finish and Why’ but maybe with a snazzier title.

So moving on from Booker books what else has popped in from the publishers? Well you will be shocked to learn that I can fit my hardbacks, trades and paperbacks in one photo, that’s quite a breakthrough. I haven’t had as many unsolicited books and those I have had have been much more my cup of tea. Hoorah! So here they are…

  • Good Offices by Evelio Rosero – unsolicited copy, winner of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize sounds a little bit different and is short so could be worth a read.
  • Ragnarok by A.S. Byatt – I didn’t think I would try another Byatt, I find her a little full of herself in her writing and in person (oops), but books should be about good stories and this looks a treat as its one of the Canongate Myth retelling series.
  • The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai – A book about a librarian who kidnaps and is kidnapped by one of the children who comes to the library. I am half way through this and I think it is wonderful so far. I can’t wait to tell you more.
  • Blow On A Dead Man’s Embers by Mari Strachan – I really liked her first novel ‘The Earth Hums in B Flat’ so I begged for this one. When it arrived my aunty, who is a whatsit for a title, asked if it was about something rude. I hadn’t thought of it but now I keep giggling when I see the book. Oh dear.
  • The Gendarme by Mark Mustian – You know when you see a book in Waterstones and just love the cover but aren’t sure it would be quite your cup of tea, you keep seeing it and you keep being torn. Well, now I have it and am expecting quite a lot.
  • Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson – I thought Winterson’s debut novel ‘Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit’ was wonderful, I am puzzled by the author though. On TV I have seen her be delightful or prickly, and I know she had a phase of hating being labelled as an LGBT author, and yet now we have a very LGBT book. Should be interesting, but puzzling too.
  • The Book Lover’s Tale by Ivo Stourton – I admit I asked for this solely based on the title.
  • The Blue Book by A.L. Kennedy – This is probably going to be read this weekend. It’s a book about psychic’s on a cruise ship and just sounds right up my street. I have struggled with Kennedy before so am hoping this is the way in. It’s also a beautiful book to look at.
  • The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan – I have wanted to read this since Marieke Hardy called it a ‘cock forest’ on The First Tuesday Book Club, she didn’t like it and her reaction just made me want to read it even more.
  • The Silent Girl by Tess Gerritsen – I love Tess’ books so there is no way I couldn’t have this. Its signed too. Hoorah.
  • 666 Charing Cross Road by Paul Magrs – A new series starts… could be very exciting.
  • Twenty Six by Jonathan Kemp – Twenty six (very) short stories from one of last years Green Carnation short listed authors. Looking forward to this one.
  • Into The Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes – Kevin from Canada mentioned this on the Man Booker forums as a brilliant crime and had a very nice review of it too. It’s not his genre so if its got non crime fans raving then I need to give it a whirl.
  • Something Was There edited by Kate Pullinger – unsolicited copy, Asham Award Winning shost stories, perfect for the autumnal nights which seem to have come early this year.
  • The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno by Ellen Bryson – unsolicited copy, a book about sideshow freaks and the love story between the Human Skeleton and the Bearded Lady, erm yes please (I have to say if I had seen the drab cover in a shop though I wouldn’t have picked this up, Picador are normally ace at covers, what’s this about?).
  • The Shadows in the Street by Susan Hill – unsolicited copy, had the hardback so this reminded me a read was due, especially seeing as the next one ‘The Betrayal of Trust’ is out in October, which I will of course really be desperate to read.
  • Electricity & The Man Without by Ray Robinson – I thought ‘Forgetting Zoe’ was brilliant and so I am really looking forward to reading his back catalogue.

There was a second hand spree this month so I can’t say I have been that good in terms of treats. However I have had a lovely loan and two lovely gifts too.

I did a call out to see if any of you had Sue Johnston’s first autobiography as I am ‘in conversation’ with her next Tuesday at Waterstones Deansgate (a review of her stunning autobiography out today will be up this afternoon) and the forementioned Paul Magrs had a copy of ‘Hold onto the Messy Times’ which he has kindly loaned me. I don’t know why I didn’t ask Paul first, he has lots of the TV books from the 1980’s so it should have been an instant thought. Ruth from my book group has kindly given me her latest finished read which is ‘The Fallen Leaves’ a Wilkie Collins book I don’t own. Naturally I was thrilled. And finally, all the way from the USA, Rachel of Booksnob sent me ‘Bedilla’ by Vera Caspary which she read and adored and with a tagline ‘she seduces men… but does she kill them? A mystery bout the wickedest woman who ever loved’ knew would be right up my street. Thrilled, again.

A more compact month, but a month filled with gems I think you will agree. What have you had through the post/from the library/bought from the shops lately? Which of these have you read or are looking forward to reading and which would you like to see reviewed on Savidge Reads in the near future?

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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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Simon’s Bookish Bits #19

Sorry if when you start reading this you are lulled into the false sense of security that this is Saturday, it isn’t unfortunately, I have just moved my bookish bits a day forward. This week we have some competition winners, some Persephone bits, big books and you have the opportunity to ask Granny Savidge Reads anything bookish and my mother too (who is just as hot on books) so rather than waffle on let’s get cracking.

First up a HUGE thanks to all of you who came up with the wonderful descriptions of a Bunyip that author Evie Wyld and I asked for last Saturday, they are some of my favourite comments ever and I was thrilled how creative you got. Evie has had a look and named three winners who are Jenny, Fliss and Jodie! If you email me your addresses then a copy of Evie’s book will be in the post and your Bunyip’s will be on show next week as Joe is creating your visions right now.

Now links and things this week are about bookish events both bloggish and in the flesh that are coming up. Not only is next Saturday the 8th the ‘UK Book Bloggers Meet’ which is being organised by the lovely Simon T (and I will be popping into briefly) it is also ‘Vintage Classics Day’ at Foyles where you can see and meet A.S. Byatt, Martin Amis, Adam Foulds, Julie Myerson… oh and me and my rather special plus one who will be reporting back on it all! So that’s something to head out for I feel, you can find out more about it here.

From Monday it is also ‘Persephone Reading Week’  hosted by Verity of The B Files and Claire of Paperback Reader (who has done a wonderful Angela Carter month, I have been loving ‘The Bloody Chamber’ so much I have been rationing it). Do you have some Persephone’s lined up? I have five options I am mulling over currently.

Speaking of Persephone I was a little over excited by the fact I had not one but two quotes in the Persephone biannually…

 

You should be able to click on the pictures to see larger versions or you could just pop and see my thoughts on Little Boy Lost and The Shuttle. The Shuttle is my favourite Persephone that I have encountered so far and will soon be on my ‘A Readers Table’ which a lot of you have emailed about the disappearance of along with a lot of other pages. They are having some nips and tucks but will be back over the next few days, though not this weekend as I will be away and having no signal I will be getting to grip with this monster (which I have started and have to say is addictive)…

My being away leads to the final part of today’s post. I am off up north (or already on my way/there dependent on when you are reading this) to see my mother, step dad, siblings and THE WHOLE Savidge family, all 22 of us, which of course includes Granny Savidge Reads (who has told me her column is half done). Mum has agreed to do a Savidge Reads Grills like Gran did too. I then thought though I would go one further and let you ask either of them any bookish based question you like!!!! Just leave it in a comment and I will corner them sometime on Sunday and let you have the results in due course.

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Mantel for Man Booker 2009?

So today is the big day and we finally find out who is the winner of the Man Booker 2009. Its been quite a special year for me as its the first time I have read the entire longlist before the shortlist was announced. Last year I seemed to pick a longlist out of thin air and was pretty rubbish this year I was halfway there so maybe next year will be even better? I ahve to say I am split on whether I will do it next year.

I have loved reading some new authors that I may not have heard of otherwise (Adam Foulds, James Lever, James Scudamore, Ed O’Loughlin) some authors I have been to scared to read until now for fear they would be too highbrow for me (J.M. Coetzee, A.S. Byatt, William Trevor) a favourite author (Sarah Waters) a fabulous debut again (Samantha Harvey) and some authors I now want to read the entire works of (Sarah Hall, Simon Mawer, Colm Toibin, Hilary Mantel) so it has been brilliant in many ways.

There were a couple of con’s and that was the fact that it meant my reading became scheduled and slightly more pressured, and reading should be fun and occasionally it was a bit like wading in thick mud and I also worried that by reading that list I might be allienating readers in a way, plus with so many bloggers doing it were we saturating the book blogosphere? I would love your thoughts on it seriously, do you want to know all about the long list?

Back to the task in hand though and to who I think will win. Well there were many joys in the Man Booker dozen this year and though my personal favourite ‘Brooklyn’ by Colm Toibin didn’t make it onto the shortlist it was one of my reading highlights so far this year. Another reading highlight for me and the book that I would love to see win has to be ‘Wolf Hall’ by Hilary Mantel. I don’t think I have ever loved a tudor based book this much, and believe me I have read quite a lot both in my blogging and pre-blogging days, its a favourite era for me in fiction and history. Who thought i would ever enjoy a book about Thomas Cromwell, I certainly didn’t and yet I was totally there along side him to the peak of his career. I will also be there on his downfall if the rumours are true and their is a second book in the wings (I do so hope so).

There is one author that I wouldn’t mind Mantel loosing out to and that would be Simon Mawer as I though ‘The Glass Room’ was a very, very good book. I do have a feeling it may go Byatt or Waters way though, oh dear now it sounds like I am just covering my back. I want Mantel to win and thats that.

What about you who do you want to win and is it the same person as you think will actually win? Do you care? If you havent read the longlist and shortlist will you read the winner? Do you think that bloggers all blogging about the man Booker cuts people off or do you like it? Oh so many questions… 

***Please note Simon has just noticed neither his Sarah Hall or Simon Mawer thoughts are up… this will be rectified very soon!!

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Informative Reads… Fiction or Non Fiction?

Today’s Booking Through Thursday question asks ‘what is the most informative book you have read recently’ and my initial reaction was that all books you read inform you in some way. It could be on the authors thoughts on people/life/certain subjects, it could be the level of research they have put into it or it could be based on factual things that have happened.

If I go on the fact that fiction can be informative reading then without a doubt Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel would be the most informative read that I have had the pleasure of reading in a long time. The lengths that Mantel has clearly gone into researching Cromwell and the Tudor era (and in a way looking extra hard for new information and a different viewpoint to the era as many people have written Tudor based books in the last few years) was immense and you felt you walked the street, breathed the musty air and were actually there. Some people may say that fiction isn’t fact and I am aware fo the difference but when its based on fact, researched and thoroughly written I still think, with the right mindset, we can learn from it. I could also apply this to The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt, Daphne by Justine Picardie or the Taste of Sorrow by Jude Morgan I just haven’t read those as recently.

When it comes to non fiction, which I suppose is really the most informative books that you can read, then it’s a bit harder for me because I don’t read very much of it. My instant thought was The Letters Between Six Sisters all about The Mitford’s but that I read almost a year ago. Then looking back how could I have not thought instantly of In Cold Blood by Truman Capote which is one of the best books that I have read in 2009. Based on the savage murder of a family in rural America Capote writes the factual events (in such a stunning way you almost cant believe its not fiction) and looks at why people kill people, what makes people murder and how does it effect the surrounding village and population and their lives and how does it effect the families of the victims and the murderers themselves. It’s an incredibly insightful, moving and very informative and shocking book.

So what’s your most recent informative book? Do you agree or disagree that some fiction, or all fiction, can be informative in its own way? Have any fictional novels based on fact blown you away and made you feet like you were actually there? What fiction have you learnt from? What non fiction must I read?

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