Tag Archives: Ed Hillyer

Books of 2010 Part Two…

So in my second list of books that I loved in 2010 I decided to go for books that were published in hardback or paperback for the first time in 2010. There are some exceptions though and I have not included any of The Green Carnation Prize long or shortlisted books as I don’t know if I could rate them in the same way I do the books I read randomly and pop on the blog, is that fair of me? I will have to think about that more going forward in 2011 maybe? Right anyway, as Miranda Hart would say, let’s get on with the show…

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot (Pan Books)

“…there is so much in this book that it’s really, really hard to do it justice in any kind of way. It’s book that will open your eyes to some of the most important times in modern science, the not that distant injustice of racial segregation was still going on (Henrietta was on a coloured only ward) and a real life family drama that you couldn’t possibly believe isn’t fiction, but it’s all very real and makes for an incredibly emotional and utterly brilliant book. I cannot recommend this enough; it’s definitely one of my books of the year, if not the book of the year so far for me. It’s emotional, angering, thought provoking and mind expanding; it’s also incredibly readable and an important book too.”

Purge – Sofi Oksanen (Atlantic Books)

“Sofia Oksanen has written something quite amazing. It is a rare book that takes me on such an emotional journey and to such dark places and yet leaves me almost unable to put the book down. Her prose is absolutely stunning (and here I should credit Lola Rogers on a fantastic translation) and without ever being too graphic she manages to drop in enough information to let the reader work out what’s going on and yet leave enough unsaid that we create the scenes in our own minds which is often the more disturbing and effective than spelling everything out.”

One Day – David Nicholls (Hodder)

“I am well aware that this book won’t be for everyone but anyone who is looking at it and thinking ‘chick-lit by a man with no literary merit’ (and I have heard that said) would be wrong. The prose is incredibly readable without being throw-away. I laughed and cried whilst reading this book in one sitting, it was rather like spending a day on an emotional rollercoaster I have to say and yet once I had put it down I really just wanted to start all over again and I don’t say that too often. It’s not a modern masterpiece but I hope it becomes a contemporary classic… A book that will leave you an emotional wreck, make you want to hug it and also start all over again all at once possibly.”

Beside The Sea – Veronique Olmi (Peirene Press)

“I know there are some people out there who think that if you don’t have children then you can’t relate to tales about mother’s (or father’s) feelings for their child or children. I think that’s a load of rubbish, I believe that a wonderful author can take you absolutely anywhere, into any mind or situation, that’s the wonder of books. Olmi is just such a writer who put me into the mind of a mother thinking of her and her children’s lives and left me rather an emotional wreck and not any books can leave me almost feeling physically winded.”

The Long Song – Andrea Levy (Headline Review)

Slavery is always going to be a tough subject and yet the way Levy writes it both hits home the horrors of what took place, sometimes in quite graphic detail, and yet through her wonderful narrators voice there is a humour there… If you haven’t read any Levy then this is a great book to start with. If you have already had the pleasure then this book continues to show that Levy is a wonderful author who can take you to faraway places with wonderful characters and make it all look effortless… This is a truly wonderful book that haunts you in both its humour and its horrors.”

A Life Apart – Neel Mukherjee (Corsair)

“It is hard to believe that this is a debut novel as to read it feels so accomplished. Unlike other books that could have made you feel almost too much is going on everything is measured and paced, themes are explored but not overly so. No puddings are overegged by Mr Mukherjee here where some authors might have gone into melodrama or overkill. The prose is both lush and stark in parts and has a wonderful flow to it. The only slight tiny niggle I had was that Maud Gilby’s tale is all in bold which played a bit with my eyes, as I said a small niggle though…  Not only, as I mentioned above, is it a book that leaves you feeling a little differently about life, not on a grand scale but in subtle ways and haunts you after you finish the last sentence.”

Room – Emma Donoghue (Picador)

“Emma Donoghue does something incredibly special with ‘Room’. By putting us in the mind of 5 year old Jack she makes us see things from both the innocence of the child narrating and the cynical knowledge the reader has as an adult and rather than play it for a schmaltzy tale of woe, or a calculated tear fest, though the book is emotional in parts. It’s also very funny in parts too and that’s all down to the child eye observance of Jack and his voice. Child narrators can sometimes really grate on me, let alone books that are written in a slightly childish dialect, yet I could have listened to Jack describing his life for pages and pages more.”

Started Early, Took My Dog – Kate Atkinson (Black Swan)

“Not only do you have a mystery or two in the book to work out, you have this overall mystery of just how on earth everything interlinks and with ‘Started Early, Took My Dog’ she draws out the process by introducing each character and bringing their circumstances and personalities to the fore. No one dimensional characters here, not even if they are merely in the book for a page or two. All the main characters are marvelous, readable and real. In doing so she also gets to voice her thoughts on both issues from the past (in this case the serial killings in the seventies which gripped the nation and left many women in fear) and in the present (prostitution, child welfare, the recession, dementia) through their back stories which makes it even a fuller read.”

The Hand That First Held Mine – Maggie O’Farrell (Headline Review)

“I should say it will be hard to do this book justice full stop, it will also be hard to say too much without giving everything away and spoiling it for the reader… For me the star of the whole book was the writing. Every single sentence was a real joy to read and seemed to have been crafted with care as if every word counted and that is a rare find I think. In some ways it reminded me of the way Brooklyn was crafted though the stories are nothing a like at all. The fact that on top of this atmospheric and beautiful writing are two such interesting women, a whole cast of wonderful crafted characters and a plot makes this a wonderful book for the reader, you won’t want to rush it rather savour every line page by page.”

The Clay Dreaming – Ed Hillyer (Myriad Editions)

If I said to you that ‘The Clay Dreaming’ was a book about an aboriginal cricket team arriving in London in 1868 it might not sound like the type of book you would instantly rush down to your nearest book shop to grab… The prose is masterly, the characters are full drawn – apart from the mysterious ones of course and I could easily imagine this having been published in installments in the papers/magazines of the late 1800’s… It’s not a book to be read quickly, nor an easy read by any means (ideally it’s one to be read slowly with no great rush and allowed to unfold in front of the readers eyes – perfect for on your holidays) but it is one that I don’t think people should miss out on.”

You can find the rest of my top books of the year here. Which of the books above have you read and what did you think? Have any of these books been on your must read lists? What were your favourite reads of 2010?

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The Man Booker Prize 2010

I know it’s rather in advance but on the Tuesday when the Man Booker Longlist is announced I will be posting the first of two ‘mother of all posts’ for the week. I actually really ummed and ahhed about doing a post on the Man Booker Longlist, short list or even anything at all this year but I do love a guessing game and in creating my own guesses and hopes for the Man Booker Longlist  I couldn’t really not discuss the prize a little.

I don’t think, as it stands right now, I will be reading the Longlist this year – mind you if I have read a few and have the rest on the TBR who knows. It was the TBR and the shelves of ‘books I have read’ in the lounge that inspired my final ‘Savidge Reads Booker Dozen’ because every book that I have popped on the list is one I have read or one I own and am rather keen to read. Hence why you won’t see one of the books many people say will be on there – ‘The Pregnant Widow’ by Martin Amis. So without further ado here they are, with a nice picture of the doodles and scribbles that took place in guessing (also proof I thought of some if they sneakily turn up, ha)…

  • Grace Williams Says It Loud by Emma Henderson (Sceptre)
  • The Clay Dreaming by Ed Hillyer (Myriad Editions)
  • The Long Song by Andrea Levy (Headline)
  • And This is True by Emily Mackie (Sceptre)
  • Solar by Ian McEwan (Jonathan Cape)
  • Even The Dogs by Jon McGregor (Bloomsbury)
  • The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell (Sceptre)
  • A Life Apart by Neel Mukherjee (Constable)
  • Ghost Light by Joseph O’Connor (Harvill Secker)
  • The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell (Headline)
  •  The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of His Friend Marilyn Monroe by Andrew O’Hagan (Faber)
  • The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas (Atlantic)
  • As The Earth Turns Silver by Alison Wong (Picador)

I mulled over ‘The Blasphemer’ by Nigel Farndale but as I didn’t really love it I couldn’t pop it on, I have a feeling that might show its face, maybe! So maybe in that case of all my choices being picked I could end up reading the whole lot if I’ve guessed all thirteen right – which I very much doubt! At the moment though its not in my plans because it took so much time last year and became a bit more of a chore despite some of the marvellous books on the list that I adored, ‘Brooklyn’ and the winner ‘Wolf Hall’, and wouldn’t have read without that extra push. I just got narked with the schedule and I tried earlier this year with The Orange Prize and it all went a bit wrong.

So what would your thirteen be? Or which certain books would you like to see in the Longlist? What do you make of my choice; I am sure they are well out. What are your thoughts on the Man Booker Prize in general?

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The Clay Dreaming – Ed Hillyer

I am trying to work out how to make you read today’s post, so its probably best to simply say read this post because I think if you miss it you could be missing out on a gem of a book. I am sure you are all aware by now how much I love a good sensation novel? You know I love everything about Victoriana? Well Myriad Editions also picked up on this and asked me if I would like to read a debut novel that feels like it has stepped straight out of that era. I couldn’t refuse because it sounded so intriguing, but would it knock my socks off? Well the short answer is yes, for reasons why you will have to read on.

If I said to you that ‘The Clay Dreaming’ was a book about an aboriginal cricket team arriving in London in 1868 it might not sound like the type of book you would instantly rush down to your nearest book shop to grab. Even for someone who is a huge lover of all things Victorian and wants to learn all they can I admit the word ‘cricket’ instantly made me think ‘oh no!’ Oh how one can be proven wrong. The cricket is part and parcel of the story but it’s a back drop and indeed based on fact along with another tale from sixty years earlier which interweave which Ed Hillyer creates an epic Victorian tale from.

When Sarah Larkin goes to see the infamous cricket team ‘the Aboriginal Australian Eleven’ play in the Kent countryside she is unaware that a forgotten mystery is soon going to be the main part of her otherwise dull and difficult life looking after her ailing father with no sign of any income. However days later Brippoki, or King Cole as he is also called, finds her believing she is a guardian who can help him find out about a man he believes to be a relation buried in a unmarked grave. From then on we are taken on a journey (I don’t want to say adventure but it has its thrilling moments) uncovering the past. Of course because of that I can say no more about the plot and shan’t!

The cast of characters with Sarah and Brippoki at the helm is one that will have you reading on and indeed has some Dickensian style characters such as Dilkes Loveless, Lily Perfect and Mrs Luck. This is no pastiche though in fact reading it you could occasionally be mistaken into thinking that this is indeed a book from its time, even possibly a sensation novel as it reads so authentically. The atmosphere and the people almost come straight out of the pages themselves. In fact London itself, through the Regency and Victorian period, is truly the main character at the heart of this book (so if you love books about the London of the past this is perfect for you) almost on occasion to excess.

In fact I would say it was the amount of knowledge and clearly hours of research Hillyer has done that stops this being a ten out of ten book (I would still give it eight out of ten) which is should be. He is clearly passionate about the city and the period and so wants to leave no stone on any cobbled street unturned. London is almost featured too much. For example Brippoki goes ‘walkabout’ regularly throughout London and then so does Sarah on her quest to all parts of city whilst she delves into the past. We are sometimes almost given too much of a good thing. I myself enjoyed it personally but I can imagine the meandering nature of the book, which never hinders but does slightly dilute the plot, could be an issue for some readers. Then again maybe they don’t deserve the reward this book gives in the end.

That’s a small niggle though because in every other way this reads like an author on their fourth or fifth book rather than their debut novel. The prose is masterly, the characters are full drawn – apart from the mysterious ones of course and I could easily imagine this having been published in instalments in the papers/magazines of the late 1800’s. An ideal read for me then! I would love to catch up with Hillyer and have a good old natter about it all, well maybe not the cricket hee, hee!

It’s also the afterword and additional information after the story closes that has a huge impact on the book as you find out the true story it’s based on. It certainly adds an emotional punch and also a sense of further wonderment at Hillyer’s work. He is clearly an author to keep our eyes on.  It’s not a book to be read quickly, nor an easy read by any means (ideally it’s one to be read slowly with no great rush and allowed to unfold in front of the readers eyes – perfect for on your holidays) but it is one that I don’t think people should miss out on. 9/10 (I wouldn’t mind this getting a nod on the Man Booker Longlist this year.)

Savidge suggests some perfect prose partners;

The Crimson Petal and The White by Michel Faber (possibly one of the best Victorian epics to have not actually been written in the era, characters are wonderful and the tale is fantastic too)
The Secret River by Kate Grenville (a marvellous book set when the ‘mystery storyline’ of this novel is set. Looks at how prisoners from London, and England in general, sent to exile in Australia affected the country, an utter masterpiece in its own right)

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Do I Want To Read…?

I told you that this might be a sporadic series and it has indeed been a while since I last asked you about some books that crossed my path that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read or not. I have read one of them and it will be on the blog this week, so thank you for all your thoughts on that one as it lead to a reading. This time its three books that I know nothing about and had in fact never heard of until a certain website recommended that I read them and now I am in two minds, though the covers are calling me…

  

  • Evelina: Or the History of A Young Lady’s Entrance into the World – Frances Burney
  • Memoirs of Emma Courtney – Mary Hays
  • Cecilia: or Memoirs of an Heiress – Frances Burney

There was another one about two victorian sisters which looked ace as well but I cannot find that title for the life of me which is most vexing as it would be perfect for my victoriana research, oh well. As for these three as I said I know nothing about them but they do intrigue me and I have said I want to read more fiction that isn’t contemporary so these seem like they could be a treat! I haven’t even heard of the authors and I feel like I should have. So those of you who know the classics do please let me know if these are any good as they have stirred an interest from Savidge Reads and I would love your insights.

For those of you who are more into your contemporary, I am pleasing both parties to day I hope, I finally opened the parcels that I mentioned on Saturday’s post that had been awaiting me at the sorting office for a few days. They contained these delights…

  • The House of Special Purpose – John Boyne
  • Baba Yaga Laid an Egg – Dubravka Ugresic
  • The Sea’s – Samantha Hunt
  • The Oxford Book of Death
  • Glasshopper – Isabel Ashdown
  • The Einstein Girl – Philip Sington
  • The Slap – Christos Tsiolkas
  • Our Tragic Universe – Scarlett Thomas
  • The Lonely Polygamist – Brady Udall
  • Half Life – Roopa Farooki
  • A Preperation For Death – Greg Baxter
  • The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet – David Mitchell
  • The Clay Dreaming – Ed Hillyer
  • The Hand That First Held Mine – Maggie O’Farrell
  • The Shadows in the Streets – Susan Hill
  • The Swimmer – Roma Tearne
  • The Great Perhaps – Joe Meno

Let me know if you have heard good things about any of the titles or authors, if you have read any, any you are already sick of hearing about and any you would really like to hear more about, that would be marvellous.

That’s all from me, after a marvellous discussion round at mine for the latest NTTVBG and ‘Skin Lane’ by Neil Bartlett (which I think is an amazing book) I am quite, quite tired and have rather a lot of virtual tidying up to do, I am quite sad it was my last hosting session though. Right, I am off, thoughts on the above books please!

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