Tag Archives: Colm Toibin

New Library, New Loot

I mentioned yesterday that I was on the hunt for a new library where I could actually take books out and I think a few of you (or maybe this was on twitter too) said Manchester Central Library would be best. Sadly, as I discovered yesterday, that library of such legend is closed for refurbishment until 2013 (selfish) but I did find one closer to my new abode and joined without needing any ID at all, how mad is that? What was even madder was that I was very restrained with what I took out.

Normally I would go mad and get anything and everything that takes my fancy in a slight ‘I have a library card and I am not afraid to use it’ kind of way, however I only came away with three – yes that is right, just three – books on my first visit. I am not sure what has caused such restraint in me but restrained I was and came away with my new library card (as shown below) and…

  • A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali by Gil Courtemanche – some of the lovely ladies at my new book group were saying this is one of the saddest but most moving and important books they had read on Monday and so I thought with that many people saying the same thing I should give it a whirl.
  • Truth or Fiction by Jennifer Johnston – ever since the lovely Kimbofo chose ‘The Illusionist’ by Jennifer Johnston for Not The TV Book Group earlier this year, which I really liked, I have been meaning to read another. They had loads of her books but this was the most recent and the shortest which with my current book attention span is ideal.
  • The Empty Family by Colm Toibin – you will quite possibly know that I loved ‘Brooklyn’ when I read it last year and though I have most of his books on Mount TBR, Mount TBR is currently in a lock up in slight disarray (don’t fear I did bring a few boxes and bags of books into my new abode too) and this was a collection I have begged Penguin for but never heard back about. So you can imagine that I almost let out a little squeal of joy when I saw this, a previously unborrowed copy, on the shelves. I think this might be my next read actually.

It’s a small haul but one filled with quality I think, which might be my new library loan mantra. Its not about getting loads, it’s about picking a few gems. Mind you I am saying that, the nearby library is quite small and perfectly formed, I have learnt there is a huge one a mere bus ride away! I am hoping these three are gems though, have any of you read them, any thoughts? What did you last get from the library?

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Would Love To Read…

I thought I would introduce a new little feature on Savidge Reads which is along the lines of ‘Would Like To Meet’ only a bit of a bookish version. I have said I want to get to some older books in my new guidelines for the blog, however no matter how many books we have… we always want more. Or is that just me? These aren’t books I am unsure about, like my ‘Do I Want To Read’ series these are books I would be devouring the moment I got to them. So I thought I would let my friends (hint), family (hint, hint) and all of you know of some titles that have appeared on my bookish radar every now and again which have not popped through the Savidge Reads letter box and which if I wasn’t on a self imposed book buying ban I would be running off to the shops to get my mitts on.

Interestingly I thought that my first ‘Would Like To Read’ would be filled with fiction as it’s what I assume I read the most yet its non fiction that has been grabbing my attention in the main over the last few weeks. The first of which is the highly timely, with Halloween just around the corner, is ‘The English Ghost: Spectres Through Time’ by Peter Ackroyd which sounds like a wonderful collection of true tales of the supernatural as the blurb describes much better than I could;

“The English, Peter Ackroyd tells us in this fascinating collection, see more ghosts than any other nation. Each region has its own particular spirits, from the Celtic ghosts of Cornwall to the dobies and boggarts of the north. Some speak and some are silent, some smell of old leather, others of fragrant thyme. From medieval times to today, stories have been told and apparitions seen – ghosts who avenge injustice, souls who long for peace, spooks who just want to have fun. “The English Ghost” is a treasury of such sightings – which we can believe or not, as we will. The accounts, packed with eerie detail, range from the door-slamming, shrieking ghost of Hinton Manor in the 1760s and the moaning child that terrified Wordsworth’s nephew at Cambridge, to the headless bear of Kidderminster, the violent demon of Devon who tried to strangle a man with his cravat and the modern-day hitchhikers on Blue Bell Hill. Comical and scary, like all good ghost stories, these curious incidents also plumb the depths of the English psyche in its yearnings for justice, freedom and love.”

The first of the fiction is actually short stories, again not my normal regular reading material, but the collection ‘The Empty Family’ not only has a wonderful intriguing title its also by Colm Toibin and after reading ‘Brooklyn’ I simply want to get to every single one of his books at some point and its always the ones that you don’t have that you want the most.

“’I imagined lamplight, shadows, soft voices, clothes put away, the low sound of late news on the radio. And I thought as I crossed the bridge at Baggot Street to face the last stretch of my own journey home that no matter what I had done, I had not done that.’ In the captivating stories that make up “The Empty Family”, Colm Toibin delineates with a tender and unique sensibility lives of unspoken or unconscious longing, of individuals, often willingly, cast adrift from their history. From the young Pakistani immigrant who seeks some kind of permanence in a strange town to the Irish woman reluctantly returning to Dublin and discovering a city that refuses to acknowledge her long absence each of Tobin’s stories manage to contain whole worlds: stories of fleeing the past and returning home, of family threads lost and ultimately regained.”

Could  my second non fiction title today ‘Chocolate Wars’ by Deborah Cadbury be this years most perfect Christmas read (its only just over two months away)? I think it could! I heard about this on a podcast last week and it was all I could do not to run out and buy it and break my ban. Fortunately it’s not out yet so I simply can’t. It will be as tempting as a box of Cadbury’s when it is out in the shops.  

The delicious true story of the world’s most famous chocolate firms by award-winning writer and a descendant of the Cadbury chocolate dynasty, Deborah Cadbury In ‘Chocolate Wars’ bestselling historian and award-winning documentary maker Deborah Cadbury takes a journey into her own family history to uncover the rivalries that have driven 250 years of chocolate empire-building. In the early nineteenth century Richard Tapper Cadbury sent his son, John, to London to study a new and exotic commodity: cocoa. Within a generation, John’s sons, Richard and George, had created a chocolate company to rival the great English firms of Fry and Rowntree, and their European competitors Lindt and Nestle. The major English firms were all Quaker family enterprises, and their business aims were infused with religious idealism. In America, Milton Hershey and Forrest Mars proved that they had the appetite for business on a huge scale, and successfully resisted the English companies’ attempts to master the American market. As chocolate companies raced to compete around the globe, Quaker capitalism met a challenge that would eventually defeat it. At the turn of the millennium Cadbury, the sole independent survivor of England’s chocolate dynasties, became the world’s largest confectionary company. But before long it too faced a threat to its very survival, and the chocolate wars culminated in a multi-billion pound showdown pitting independence and Quaker tradition against the cut-throat tactics of a corporate leviathan. Featuring a colourful cast of savvy entrepreneurs, brilliant eccentrics and resourceful visionaries; ‘Chocolate Wars’ is the story of a uniquely alluring product and of the evolution, for better and worse, of modern business.

I adore Dawn French as she really, really makes me laugh and ‘A Tiny Bit Marvellous’ is her debut novel. I have to admit I have high expectations of this for being laugh out loud funny or a piece of bittersweet genius. I am not sure if the fact the family’s dog is called Poo is really funny in a childish way or really not… hmmm, I would like to find out. I enjoyed her autobiography ‘Dear Fatty’ though I know autobiographies and fiction are very different, well with some people they are.

“Everyone hates the perfect family. So you’ll love the Battles. Mo is about to hit the big 50, and some uncomfortable truths are becoming quite apparent: She doesn’t understand either of her teenage kids, which as a child psychologist, is fairly embarrassing. She has become entirely grey. Inside, and out. Her face has surrendered and is frightening children. Dora is about to hit the big 18 . . . and about to hit anyone who annoys her, especially her precocious younger brother Peter who has a chronic Oscar Wilde fixation. Then there’s Dad . . . who’s just, well, dad.”

Finally there was another book which I have forgotten so will have a dig through my memories or maybe note books would be better to find out what it was. I was inspired by a review I read yesterday on lovely Kimbofo’s blog regarding ‘Nothing To Envy; Real Lives in North Korea’ by Barbara Demick which sounds incredible. I am intrigued and mystified by North Korea and this sounds like a really insightful look into the world that we know so little about other than what we are shown, which isn’t often. You can read Kim’s marvellous review on Reading Matters it sounds fantastic and one I would love to read too.

North Korea is Orwell’s 1984 made reality: it is the only country in the world not connected to the internet; Gone with the Wind is a dangerous, banned book; during political rallies, spies study your expression to check your sincerity. After the death of the country’s great leader Kim Il Sung in 1994, famine descended: people stumbled over dead bodies in the street and ate tree bark to survive. Nothing to Envy weaves together the stories of adversity and resilience of six residents of Chongin, North Korea’s third largest city. From extensive interviews and with tenacious investigative work, Barbara Demick has recreated the concerns, culture and lifestyles of North Korean citizens in a gripping narrative, and vividly reconstructed the inner workings of this extraordinary and secretive country.

So those are the books I most fancy, that I don’t own, right now and am eager to get my mitts on. What books have you added onto your ‘wish list’ of late? Any other books you have read of later that I simply must add to mine that I have missed this time round?

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Granny Savidge Reads (The First Column)

Oh dear! As my late, lamented mother-in-law would say. As in ‘We are going to France for two weeks Mother’- oh dear… or ‘we are buying a new  washing machine, Mother’, Oh dear! What has this to do with a book blog you may ask, well my reaction when Simon asked me to  write a Granny Savidge Reads piece was exactly that, oh dear!

Anyway, here goes. I belong to three book groups which may seem a bit excessive but as a retired person I do quite a bit of gadding about and by belonging to three I usually get to at least one each month. But sometimes life catches up with me as it did last month when I was able to go to all three in the space of 5 days, whoops! Two of the three books were whoppers, ‘Wolf Hall’ being 600 + pages, ‘They Were Sisters’ 400+pages and then the more modest ‘Border Crossing’ by Pat Barker.

What about Wolf Hall? I’m sure not everyone has enjoyed this magnificent tour de force but everyone in our group did. Sometimes we had difficulty in knowing who was speaking but usually the ‘he’ in the text referred to Cromwell. We found it tantalising not knowing where fact ended and fiction began and we would love to have known more about his early life. I suppose not much is known about that and I think Mantel did rely on contemporary evidence where possible. The dialogue though must have come from the author’s imagination. Cromwell is a real living person in this novel, there before us on every page, it’s almost as if we are living his life with him. I already knew something about Wolsey, from school, about Thomas More from the film ‘A Man for all Seasons’, which, my recollection tells me, made him out to be a just and upright man, I may be wrong here, but anyway Hilary Mantel paints a different picture. Cranmer I remember from a wonderful series on Henry the Eighth that the B.B.C. made way back in the mists of time. I knew nothing about Cromwell before reading this book, though I had seen the Holbein portrait on a recent visit to New York. Now I can’t wait to read more about him in the sequel. I’m not sure I want them to make a film based on the book but it is intriguing to guess who might play Cromwell.

Now for the Dorothy Whipple. This book is published by the wonderful Persephone Books, visit their shop/office in Lambs Conduit Street if you get the chance and haven’t already. They seem to publish forgotten authors from the past whose books have long ago gone out of print. The book covers are a classy grey and the paper the novels are printed on is lovely and soft. The feel of the paper the novel is printed on is quite important to me, does anyone out there feel like that?

In Much Wenlock in Shropshire there is a reading group that only reads Persephone books! Anyway, Dorothy Whipple was a famous author in her day and ‘They Were Sisters’ was a best seller, one of our members who is over 90 can remember how well known she was at one time. Anyway this story is about three sisters and their lives. One of the sisters is married to an absolutely awful man, utterly selfish and boorish, an out an out emotional bully. My blood pressure soared at some of the things he did.   He ruined so many lives by his awful behaviour and nobody would stand up to him. But aside from this the book demonstrates how powerless women were in general in what, to me, is the fairly recent past. It’s certainly a book that would make any self respecting woman’s blood boil.

‘Border Crossing’ was a disappointment for all of us… I think. It tells the story of a child killer who, years later when he is released from custody, meets up, in a melodramatic way, with the psychologist whose expert evidence probably convinced the jury,up until then appearing sympathetic to the boy, of his guilt. I found parts of the book unbelievable such as the many meetings the two had subsequently, especially the one at the psychologists house. I don’t know that any clinical psychologists (and one of my daughtes is one) would act as this one did. Woven into the story is the secondary theme of the psychologists disintegrating marriage, this part of the book felt like a cliché to me and unnecessary padding. So there you have it.

Whats next? Well, in the next couple of weeks we are due to read ‘When Will There Be Good News’ by Kate Atkinson. This is the third in the Jackson Brodie, fallible man, series. I really enjoyed the first two, generally speaking I like Kate Atkinson’s books, she writes intelligently and amusingly and her books are often ‘page turners’. The second book is ‘A Mad World My Masters’ by John Simpson, the B.B.C. correspondent. I will miss this meeting so probably won’t read the book (sshhh don’t tell anyone) though I may peep inside it to see how well he writes, or not as the case may be. The third book is ‘Brooklyn’ by Colm Toibin. I’m really looking forward to this one (Simon has raved about it). I’ve read ‘The Master’ and his collection of short stories ‘Mothers and Sons’ and am hoping this one will be as good as these two. Have you read any of these? Any thoughts?

That’s me signing off as I’m off to ‘Brooklyn’ now with Colm. Happy reading everyone,

Granny Savidge

P.S If anyone could think of a name for my new column Simon and I would be most pleased.

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Books of 2009… A Teaser

I have to say I don’t normally do something like this during a blogging year. Instead I normally do a Savidge Reads Dozen (thirteen though like the Man Booker) Top Reads at the end of the year here is last years. However as its thanksgiving for some today- Happy Thanksgiving to you – Booking Through Thursday was asking about books and authors we are thankful for. Recently I also saw Jackie of Farmlanebooks do her best books of 2009 so far so I thought for a change I would merge the two in a way. My end of year one won’t be books that have necessarily come out in 2009 just ones I have loved in 2009. I thought for now I would give you my top five (in no particular order) as a bit of a teaser, it was tough I can tell you… there is still five weeks to go till 2009 ends so it could all change.

Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie – The story follows possibly my favourite character of the year so far (and there have been a few contenders) Hiroko Tanaka on August the 9th 1945 in Nagasaki just before they dropped the bomb and ‘the world turns white’. Though Hiroko survives her German lover Konrad is killed. Two years later as India declares its independence she turns up on his half-sisters door step in Delhi with nowhere to stay and becomes attracted to their servant Sajjad and all this is in the first 60 pages. The book then follows Hiroko’s story and the story of people around her (that’s all I am saying trying not to plot spoil) through more pivotal times in history such as the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan and America post 9/11… Read more here.

The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett – The Shuttle is one of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s adult fiction books. I should admit here I haven’t read any of her children’s titles either. I had picked it up purely as it was a Persephone novel and I have wanted to read as many as I can get my hands on frankly. Reading the synopsis in the book cover I wasn’t sure this was going to fare very well with me as it seemed to be about the ships that took American’s to England and vice versa in the late 1800’s. I don’t really do books with ships and so with trepidation I opened the book and then simply couldn’t put it down… Read more here.

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin – ‘Brooklyn’ is a tale of Eilie, a young girl in Ireland after the Second World War where the economy is a disaster and jobs are scarce. Overjoyed simply to find a Sunday and occasional evening job when you can expect little more Eilie is suddenly offered a job and life in Brooklyn where work is easier to find and so is money and more importantly prospects. Eilie soon realises that this isn’t a sudden offer and in fact her mother, sister and brothers (in England) have been well meaningly plotting this for quite some time and really she has no choice.  After following her nightmare journey across the ocean we watch as Eilie settles into a new life with new people and new cultures in an unknown environment. We also watch as she grows from girl to woman and falls in love. It is eventually though a trip home that leads to the climax and a huge decision for Eilie… Read more here.

Henrietta’s War by Joyce Dennys – Henrietta’s War actually started out as columns in Sketch. Dennys was an artist who has many successful collections though once married and a mother in the late 1920’s her life became a domestic one in the English countryside and so needed something to take her frustrations out on. Out came Henrietta’s wartime letters to her ‘childhood friend’ Robert who is ‘out on the front’ and eventually became published as a collection and a novel in the form of this wonderful book. I think that any book that has the line “Dear Robert, I have a great urge to knit something for you” with in the first chapter (or letter in this case) is going to be a hit with me… Read more here.

Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith – Child 44 is set in the 1950’s Soviet Union. A child is found dead with what appears to be soil in his mouth and his family are sure that this is murder despite the boy’s body being found on the train tracks. Leo Demidov of the MGB is sent to cool things over and persuade the family that this is nothing more than a tragic accident, a job he does begrudgingly as he feels it is taking his time away from his more important work. However when Leo himself goes through some very changing circumstances and another body of a child with soil in its mouth is found he begins to realise that there may be a serial killer out there… Read more here.

Now I mentioned that we have five weeks left (how is it going so quickly) and so it could all very easily change. In fact I know there are two books I have read but haven’t written about yet that would probably wing it in the top five at the moment. You could also make it change, I would love you to tell me what the top five books are that you have read this year and if I own them I will try and read some of them and if I don’t own them I will look out for them when I have a small binge next week once we are in December! So its over to you…

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Savidge Reads Short Stories

Yesterday I mentioned in my review of ‘Howards End is on the Landing’ by Susan Hill I mentioned the fact that the book made me think… a lot. It made me look at area’s in my reading that I am slightly weaker at, for example I am not big on science fiction and so maybe need to try a few choice authors in that field but that’s for another time and actually I have quite a few of those hidden away in my TBR boxes, plus I will be reading ‘1984’ in the next week or so for Book Group anyway. No there has always been a certain sort of books I’ve always had a problem with that Susan Hill’s latest book has given me an insight and enthusiasm for…

The short story! I don’t know why but I have always found short stories an interesting idea and then when faced with an entire collection either got bored, got very confused or found them all a much of a muchness. The only collections that haven’t done this were ‘The Fantastic Book of Everybody’s Secret’s’ by the wonderful Sophie Hannah, which I thought was superb and features the brilliant short tale The Octopus Nest and anything by Daphne Du Maurier. So the problem might be the authors I have tried in the past? Another problem might be the fact that I am reading the whole collection if it was a book (though I think with the Pulitzer prize winning Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout that is just what you are supposed to do) and that would sound like possibly an error of common sense and yet it took me reading Susan Hill’s words about taking a short story at a time.

So what I have devised on my bedside table (when you see the picture don’t judge me by the half empty mug as the photo was taken in the morning and I must have a coffee first thing or else) is an array of collections of short stories I have had on my TBR piles (not the boxes though will be having a rummage soon as have a fair few more) and so will be reading one or two a day before I go to sleep and gently working my way through the collections. So on the bedside table we have;

Bedside Short Reads

  • The Birds & Other Stories – Daphne Du Maurier (I know I will manage these)
  • Bluebeards Egg – Margaret Atwood
  • The Yellow Wallpaper and Selected Writing – Charlotte Perkins Gilman (from your recommendations and the library)
  • Mothers and Sons – Colm Toibin
  • Classic Victorian & Edwardian Ghost Stories – Various (may have trouble with multiple writers so this is a test but its almost sensational reading)
  • Dancing Girls – Margaret Atwood
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow & Other Tales – Washington Irving
  • Olive Kitteridge – Elizabeth Strout (does this count though?)
  • Beginners – Raymond Carver
  • The First Person & Other Stories – Ali Smith 

I will keep you updated as to how I get on! I have also, partly from reading some of Susan’s book and seeing its fine to have books you haven’t read lingering for ages and feel no shame, decided for now to give up the Ulysses Challenge. I think if I am going to read it I need to just do it straight, the deviating isn’t working. Maybe I will play catch up over Christmas. There were some other interesting idea’s I had from HEiotL but I will leave those for future posts.

So now I want to know what your favourite short story collections are. Are the above collections good starts to short fiction? Do you read them all with no breaks or do you deliberate over a collection and read in bits when the mood takes? Which author writes the best short stories that I simply mustn’t miss? What is your most treasured short story?

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Read The Whole Lot?

Now today is of course Thursday and by now those of you who pop by regularily would normally have seen me write a Booking Through Thursday but it arrived later than normal and so now you get two posts today instead of one after my earlier post about Tuck Everlasting, aren’t you the lucky ones? Today’s question is more of a theme and simply asks us to write about something we have wanted to discuss with a lot of fellow book lovers.

So I thought and thought about what there was that I have always wanted to discuss with you all. Was there one thing I have always wanted to discuss and haven’t yet? Well even though we do have lots of wonderful discussions on here there were actually a few (which is good as this blog would dry up sharpish if not), is reading the entire works of an author or an entire series. It will make sense I promise if you bear with me.

I love several authors such as Margaret Atwood, Susan Hill, Stella Duffy, Colm Toibin (very recently), Sophie Hannah, Daphne Du Maurier… the list could go on. I have never read all of any authors work, not even some of my favourites mentioned and the same applies with a series of books. I love all of the Isles and Rizzoli series of Tess Gerritsen’s, The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency, Miss Marple, Agatha Raisin (again I could go on)  but I don’t ever quite catch up with the latest books in these series or ‘the one book I haven’t read’ by a specific author… why?

Mainly I think it’s because I fear that the one I haven’t read, or the latest in the series is going to be the last one and that really worries me. If authors are living its less likely, once I read the last Daphne Du Maurier I can get my mitts on I won’t have any left so what would I do? How would I cope? It’s like with my sensation season, I am not reading all of them as then there would be none left, I have made sure some gems are still lying in wait to be discovered in years to come.

I also worry that an author I love might write a new book I don’t like, or have a real dud in their back catalogue. You can for give it once, maybe twice but then I would loose a favourite author. Mind you if they wrote that many books I didn’t like they wouldn’t be a favourite author would they? It is a worry and so I always leave one, or two, or ten. Is there anyone else out there who does this?

So that leaves me with lots of questions for you all and I am excited about the answers already, though I think its going to play absolute havoc with my recently whittled down TBR. Which series must I simply read? Which author’s entire works would you demand must be purchased and devoured now? Do you hold back on reading everything in a series or by an author or do you think life’s too short and if you love them read them now and not hold back? Who has finished a series and knows the agonising wait, or is enduring one now, for the next book? Who has read everything by an author and is now bereft not knowing which author to turn to next? I will leave the floor, or in this case the blog, open for you all to discuss…

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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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What Have You Enjoyed Lately?

I really like today’s Booking Through Thursday (though I do wonder if the ‘recent’ series will ever end and we will go back to random questions which always kept you on your toes, though last weeks recent topic was a favourite as everyone’s answers were so interesting) because its asking ‘What’s the most enjoyable, most fun, most just-darn-entertaining book you’ve read recently?’ I know already I will love this because I will find everyone else’s answers so interesting and different, all part of the fun of book blogging.

As for what my most enjoyable read is… hmmm… there have been quite a few recently but the ones that have made reading that much more pleasurable in the last few months have been Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, Me Cheeta by James Lever and Brooklyn by Colm Toibin.

If I had to go for one that’s been the most fun and the most entertaining it would have to be Wilkie Collin’s ‘The Haunted Hotel’ which was the first read in my ‘Sensation Season’ (I would love more people to join in with this). I don’t see how anyone can not be bowled over and thoroughly enjoy a sensation novel. They have twists, great narrators, dastardly plots, malicious men and wicked women, murder, mayhem and the odd ghost and are just perfect for classic unadulterated escapism. The hours fly by when you are under the spell of a great sensation novel and you can hardly put them down.

So that would have to be my most enjoyable book of late. I have to add though that in searching for a ‘modern sensation novel’ (any recommendations welcomed) I started reading ‘Her Fearful Symmetry’ by Audrey Niffenegger yesterday and already have the inkling that its going to be an incredibly enjoyable read… but more on that in the next few days.

So what about everyone out there, what’s been your most enjoyable read of late? Oh, and if you happen to have any idea’s for modern sensation novels then I would be most appreciative especially as a post on them is coming soon. I love hearing everyone’s recommendations, opinions and thoughts.

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Savidge Reads Man Booker Shortlist

Ok, now indulge me for a minute or three and let me imagine that I am one of the judges on the Man Booker Panel (which I won’t lie is one of my life’s missions) and I was in the position to choose what made it onto the shortlist, which of course is the big literary news of the day, just what would I choose? Well having actually read them all now (more reviews coming in between Sensational September when it starts tomorrow) I feel that I can finally give my verdict.

I won’t score them or anything like that, as its not something I do with my book thought posts, and I am not going to even try and guess what the judges are going to name as their shortlist. Instead I am simply going to leave you with the pictures of the covers of the six that are my personal favourites be it for the prose, the plot or just the way I reacted to the writing/characters/situations. Those six are…

  

  

Now I wonder how close I will come to the actual six, probably not very close at all but hey ho, time will tell. It was hard with Summertime and Love & Summer as I could have placed The Glass Room or How To Paint A Dead Man (reviews of both coming soon) in the top six, the later of the three particularily but I had to be tough and looking at prose and thought provoking reads the six above ticked all the boxes. There is nothing wrong with the seven I havent picked and I know some people may be shocked about’The Wilderness’ being missing, while I did like it, having now read it twice I still didnt really quite connect with it though and I have mulled that book over lots and lots now. I would be perfectly happy to see it in the short list though. Which ones wouldnt I want to see? I couldn’t possibly comment… on here, but maybe in an email ha!

Who do I think will win… it flips between four hourly and for all I know they may not even be short listed so I will comment on that nearer October and the winner being announced. Have you read any of the longlist? Who would you like to see short listed or even win?

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Best Recent Read

Booking Through Thursday is again about ‘Recents’ this week. We have had ‘funny’, ‘serious’, ‘worst’ and now ‘best’. This week is genuinely going to be a quick blog post as my most recent best is easy.

Without a doubt the best read I have read of late, and in fact for a little while as got to be Brooklyn by Colm Toibin. It’s just wonderful and in fact I wrote about it yesterday and one of the things I said was that “this is just the book I have been craving to read, and haven’t quite been able to find for quite a while something I would rush to read the next bit of and get lost in all over again“. I would recommend absolutely everyone to read this and am now crossing everything that it makes it onto the Man Booker short list and possibly even go on to winning.

I actually enjoyed it so much I am wondering about adding it onto my ‘All Time Favourite Forty’ I don’t like to do that too rashly though so I may leave the book to linger with me for a while.

So what about you? Whats your most recent ‘best read’?

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Brooklyn – Colm Toibin

One thing that I particularly like about reading this year’s Man Booker long list is that it is giving me the opportunity to read for the first time some authors that I have always wanted to try but never quite managed, or possibly been slightly daunted by. A.S Byatt is one of them and that is still going slowly but surely (enjoyably so), Coetzee I will be starting today and is someone I have always been intrigued by. However its Colm Toibin who I pretty much own the back catalogue of works by but haven’t read a page… until I started ‘Brooklyn’ that was.

9780141041742

I am not going to hold back I loved ‘Brooklyn’. I thought Toibin’s style of prose and narrative was simple and beautiful and throughout the whole book I was totally and utterly engaged. I liked and believed in all the characters and I loved the subtle simple plot. In fact ‘subtle and simple’ are possibly the perfect two words to sum this book up for me. Yet at the same time it’s quite an epic novel and one that covers a huge amount in fewer than 250 pages.

‘Brooklyn’ is a tale of Eilis, a young girl in Ireland after the Second World War where the economy is a disaster and jobs are scarce. Overjoyed simply to find a Sunday and occasional evening job when you can expect little more Eilis is suddenly offered a job and life in Brooklyn where work is easier to find and so is money and more importantly prospects. Eilis soon realises that this isn’t a sudden offer and in fact her mother, sister and brothers (in England) have been well meaningly plotting this for quite some time and really she has no choice.  After following her nightmare journey across the ocean we watch as Eilis settles into a new life with new people and new cultures in an unknown environment. We also watch as she grows from girl to woman and falls in love. It is eventually though a trip home that leads to the climax and a huge decision for Eilis… I wont say any more than that, I will say I bet the ending will either seal the deal for people or possibly put them off the book completely.

The plot brings us some wonderful, wonderful surroundings. I loved the Ireland we briefly got to see at the start and especially when Eilis ends up working in the local shop where supplies are low and people get special treatment, well bread that’s not off, if the owner likes them. When Eilie moves to Brooklyn you could vividly see the streets of shops and as Eilis works in one of these ‘Bartocci’s’ we get to see how everything runs and I could just envisage it so clearly. I will admit it; I ended up wanting to be there in Eilis’ house share in 1950’s Brooklyn!

The plot also brings up many subjects. The first is poverty and how the Second World War left countries like Ireland and all the people who survived the horrors of war behind. It looks at women’s roles and how they changed and strangely gained independence further during these times, they could go and work in other countries and start new lives even if the job opportunities were limited. It also discussed racism at the time as the colour of customers in Bartocci’s changes; this isn’t a subject at the heart of the book I did like its inclusion though as it would have happened at the time. In fact looking back with Eilis’ love interest being from an Italian family and Eilis not being an American in America different cultures is in a way a theme.

For me out of everything it was the prose and also the characters that really made the book the complete joy to read I found it. I liked Eilis though for me she was in a way a ‘nice and intrigued’ pair of eyes to watch a story through. It was characters like the scary domineering and gossiping Mrs Kelly who owned the corner shop and the fabulous Georgina, who I adored, and is Eilie’s partner in illness on one of the most horrendous boat crossings I have read… I did laugh though. With characters, plot and backdrops like this I would be amazed if you could fail to love this book.

In fact actually this is just the book I have been craving to read, and haven’t quite been able to find (not even in Samantha Harvey’s The Wilderness but almost) for quite a while something I would rush to read the next bit of and get lost in all over again. I can’t wait to read more Toibin after the Man Booker long list, the only question is… where to start, what should I read of his next?

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Man Bookers and More…

I have had quite an influx of books at Savidge Towers from some lovely publishers and thought I would share with you what titles you may well be seeing much more of on Savidge Reads. The first set of books that have been coming very kindly through the letter box are of course my main source of reading through August and that is the Man Booker Long List.

Booker Books

Now I have ordered them into “read” which are standing up vertically, “going to read” horizontally and then ‘The Children’s Book’ which is my “steady progress” I actually should have put The Wilderness slightly at an angle as I am re-reading that one again as I think I read it to fast earlier this year and missed some of the magic you have been mentioning. ‘Love & Summer’ was read this week and ‘The Little Stranger’ I read a while ago, I am still finding the latter is one I think about a lot in hindsight. I have just finished ‘Heliopolis’ so expect a review of that soon, possibly later today. I am feeling quite chuffed I have gone from having read one and a half of the list to 4 and 3/4 in a week. Now which should I read next? I still have two more to come which are apparently in the post and those are ‘How To Paint A Dead Man’ by Sarah Hall and ‘The Glass Room’ by Simon Mawer… I hope they arrive in time before the shortlist is announced! Eek! There has also been some non Booker books arrive…

Non Booker Books

We have in the picture (do you like my new bedding?) just in case you cant see the books are;

  • One Day – David Nicholls ( we meet a couple of people on the same day every year for twenty years and see how their lives entwine)
  • Serena – Ron Rash (don’t know much about this but sounds like an epic novel)
  • Border Songs – Jim Lynch (haven’t read him before but have always wanted to try The Highest Tide)
  • A Beginner’s Guide To Acting English – Shappi Khorsandi (I think she is a brilliant comic and a tale of escaping to Britain should be quite funny)
  • Of Bee’s & Mist – Erick Sethwan (not out till December this is meant to be an amazing debut of magical surrealism based on folklore from Erick varying family cultures, apparently this has been quite big in America)
  • The Other – David Gutterson (someone I have always wanted to try)
  • Julie & Julia – Julie Powell (I won’t lie I will be reading this pronto!)
  • The Monsters of Templeton – Lauren Groff (a debut novel thats sounds very exciting and me and I have been wanting to read since it came out in hardback)
  • The Bronte’s Went To Woolworths – Rachel Feruson (I seem to be late on the uptake with this re-released classic)
  • Henrietta’s War – Joyce Dennys (Paperback Reader and Stuck-in-a-Book have both loved this so I am sure I will)
  • The Angels Game – Carlos Ruiz Zafon (loved Shadow of the Wind, VERY excited about this one)

 Now if this wasnt enough I had two more deliveries (my Gran is staying and has been flabberghasted at the arrivals) one which isgoing to remain secret and be a theme for Septembers blogs and I will announce at the weekend and hope some of you will join in. The other wasn’t for me… or my Gran, but for ‘The Converted One’.

Brazilian Books

The lovely people at Bloomsbury had sent two Brazilian authors works they are publishing this year, or have published sorry. ‘Equator’ by Miguel Sousa Tavares which ‘The Converted One’ is “going to read next, is so kind of them” and ‘Ashes of the Amazon’ by Milton Hatoum which won the Brazil Jabuti Prize for Best Novel in 2006. After enjoying Heliopolis (even though not by a Brazilian but set there) I am going to have to piler these myself!

Which of these books have you been tempted to read or have your read? Have you read anything else by one of the authors? As ever do let me know, I love all your opinions. What books are at the top of your TBR and are you itching to start?

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Man Booker 2009… 5 Out of 13 Ain’t Bad!

Okay, okay so I didn’t guess the Man Booker Long List but compared to my two correct guesses last year I don’t think that five is that bad? Yes, the Man Booker Long List has been announced, just over two and a half hours ago and the long listed novels are… 

  • The Children’s Book – A. S. Byatt
  • Summertime – J. M. Coetzee
  • The Quickening Maze – Adam Foulds
  • How To Paint A Dead Man – Sarah Hall
  • The Wilderness – Samantha Harvey
  • Me Cheeta – James Lever
  • Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel
  • The Glass Room – Simon Mawer
  • Not Untrue & Not Unkind – Ed O’Loughlin
  • Heliopolis – James Scudamore
  • Brooklyn – Colm Toibin
  • Love & Summer – William Trevor
  • The Little Stranger – Sarah Waters

The ones I guessed are in bold (you can see the others below) and I think the winner will be… I have no idea actually. I am disappointed that neither Jude Morgan nor Kamila Shamsie haven’t made it onto the list, the latter I think a few people will genuinely be shocked about. Am I going to read the Long List? Well yes I am going to give it a whirl and the publishers are behind me reading them which is very nice to know and also saves me around £260. I do think hardbacks are too expensive, sorry am drifting off onto another topic. 

I have already read ‘The Wilderness’ by Samantha Harvey but am going to read it again, slowly as I think I rushed it last time plus my review has never shown up and I have jiggled with it and allsorts. I don’t think I am going to re-read ‘The Little Stranger’ though unless it makes the shortlist as I read it quite recently. I will say in regard to that book that my opinion of it has greatly changed. I went from liking it to liking it very much after re-reading the last chapter, that’s all I will say. I can see this being one of the books people might moan about being long listed. We will see. 

What is quite funny is I could have guessed six out of thirteen as ‘The Converted One’ (previously known as ‘The Non Reader’) has already read Heliopolis by James Scudamore and absolutely loved it and indeed has even been raving about it to me. It’s set in Brazil where ‘The Converted One’ is from and I have now been told, and I quote “that one should win because its based in Brazil and Brazil is the best” I will see when I start reading it over the weekend. I actually found a picture of ‘The Converted One’ which seemed apt both to the new nickname and to the Man Booker theme today. It was taken on the train to Manchester a few weeks ago… 

From 'Non-Reading' to 'Man Booker Reading'

From 'Non-Reading' to 'Man Booker Reading'

I shall leave you with that for now and you can let me know just what you think of the Long List, I think its going to cause quite some debate. Do you think it’s the right 13? Have you heard of all of them? Have you read some of the more obscure ones? Should any definitely not be in there? Which books are you furious didn’t make it?  Do divulge all!

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Guessing The Man Booker Longlist

Now in case any of you think that I am cheating and releasing this on the day that the longlist is announced, I have actually written this a few days ahead, as am still in bed and its good to use this swine flu for something positive, anyway so its a timed blog that should be online from 2am. See all bases covered. So back to the point of the blog its the day (or will be the day – as I type) that the Man Booker Longlist is announced which in the world of books is quite a big event. So I thought I would have a guess (and believe me I have done this for two years running and only matched four of my guesses to actual longlisters so am not expecting better this year) and this years Savidge Reads guess is…

  • Between The Assassinations – Aravind Adiga
  • Strangers – Anita Brookner
  • The Childrens Book – A. S. Byatt
  • The Lieutenant – Kate Grenville
  • The Wilderness – Samantha Harvey
  • The Book of Negroes  – Lawrence Hill
  • Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel
  • The Taste of Sorrow – Jude Morgan
  • Burnt Shadows – Kamila Shamsie
  • Brooklyn – Colm Toibin
  • The Slap – Christos Tsiolkas
  • The Little Stranger – Sarah Waters
  • Breathe – Tim Winton

Will I be even close? I would love to be and possibly feel a little current and with it, at the same time I would like to be quite wrong and see lots of talent I haven’t spotted that I can then read if that makes sense? Out of my list I would most like Kamila Shamsie, Jude Morgan or Samatha Harvey win, though really its a close battle at the moment for Kamila Shamsie and Jude morgan as to who has written my favourite read of 2009 so far!

Who do you think will get longlisted? Are you going to try and do the longlist? I think I am, I just need to pace myself properly with ‘other books I want to read along the way’ as I didnt do this with the Orange. So how close will I get… we will have to wait and see, let me know all of your thoughts!

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