Tag Archives: Emma Donoghue

February’s Incomings…

I do love those lists that some bloggers have down the side of their blogs where  the jacket covers of all the incomings that they have received or are receiving as the weeks go on can be seen. Sadly, though I am sure that there is one on wordpress, I have no idea how to do such a thing and as I started one last month I thought I would do another end of month post (which might become a monthly feature) of the books that have arrived this month. Now if you don’t like these sort of posts fear not as you can discuss the pro’s and con’s of big books with me today on this post here instead. However if you love these posts, as I do on other blogs, then lets take a gander at what has been quite a crop of books.

First up it’s the hardbacks and as you will see while a lot of books do come from publishers some are treats from other lovely people, or simply treats from me.

  • Snowdrops by A.D. Miller – This is a book I had been told was winging its way to me and I got very excited about and then the mail man mislaid it. Now it’s here and over the next week or so I am going to be throwing myself into Russia which is a country that fascinates me and yet I know very, very little about. I am wondering if the atmosphere, which is meant to be incredible in this novel, will send me off to read some of the Russian greats.
  • Beautiful Forever by Helen Rappaport – This came out last year and is non-fiction about “Madame Rachel of Bond Street – cosmetician, con-artist and blackmailer” true life Victorian dastardly goings on, what could be more me. This was a belated Xmas pressie from my mother which she brought down last week.
  • One of Our Tuesdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde – The latest Thursday Next novel and a timely reminder I need to start at the beginning (I wanted to see him at Waterstones tomorrow but I will be in hospital, grrr).
  • The Tenderloin by John Butler – a Green Carnation Prize submission from Picador.
  • The Path of Minor Planets by Andrew Sean Greer – One of Faber and Faber’s entries for the Green Carnation Prize. (Publishers are really onto it early this year – hoorah!)
  • Mrs Fry’s Diary by Mrs Stephen Fry – I bought this at Sainsbury’s for £3 on a whim as thought might make me laugh at hospital.
  • Sleeping With Mozart by Anthea Church – I was thrilled when Virago got in touch and asked me to read this but sadly I didn’t care for it much and as I don’t like doing negative reviews it’s leaving me in a real quandary, to write about or not to write about? Hmmm!
  • Darkside by Belinda Bauer – I loved Belinda’s debut ‘Blacklands’ and having been in a crime mood this was ideal. Thoughts will be up tomorrow (if everything works right) on this murder mystery.
  • Ape House by Sara Gruen – After reading ‘Water for Elephants’ for book group and loving it, I am thrilled that Sarah’s publishers Two Roads wanted me to give her latest a whirl.
  • Cedilla by Adam Mars-Jones – This is the second Faber entry for the Green Carnation so far and its HUGE (I am talking big books later) and one I am looking forward to as it’s the sequel to the rather marvellous ‘Pilcrow’ though I will be judging it as a stand alone book of course.

Phew that’s quite a few. Onto paperbacks which have been arriving thick and fast. I haven’t included the Jo Nesbo parcel which arrived and I mentioned before, nor have I included the two rather large shopping spree’s which I undertook in February both on a visit to Granny Savidge in Matlock and on a day out in Yorkshire earlier this month. Shame on me, still somehow I managed to buy a few in this lot too.

  • Through The Wall by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya – The lovely Novel Insights brought me this Penguin Mini Classic last week on a visit as she thought it would be right up my street. I have a feeling she will be spot on.
  • Heat & Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala – A booker prize charity shop find for 50p. I have said I do intend to read all the winners at some point and have devoured this one so expect thoughts soon.
  • The Novel in the Viola by Natasha Solomons – I really enjoyed ‘Mr Rosenblum’s List’ when I read it last year and actually chattered and nattered to Natasha when she was working on this one so I know a bit about the plot and it sounded fascinating so I have everything crossed this will be a corker.
  • The Bride That Time Forgot by Paul Magrs – The latest Brenda and Effie adventure in paperback, again reminding me I am slightly behind with this series. I also have a spare so expect a give away at some point.
  • Where The Serpent Lives by Ruth Padel – I know nothing of this book but isn’t she the lady that caused a lot of controversy over something and nothing?
  • South Riding by Winifred Holtby – I have devoured this one and my thoughts on it are here.
  • The Surrendered by Chang-Rae Lee – Another book I know nothing about but having read the quotes and page 29 (all the blurb says is ‘read page 29’) this looks like it could be an astounding book.
  • Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue – As you will all know I loved ‘Room’ and this is a reissued copy of her earlier historical novel (I am hoping it’s a Victorian romp) which I am excited about. I have already got an American edition of this which I am now handing over to Granny Savidge Reads who, after reading ‘Room’, is a Donoghue fan too.
  • The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund De Waal – I so wasn’t bothered about this when it came out but since winning the Costa Prize and having heard about it all over the place when it arrived I was super chuffed and have started dipping into it already.
  • The Magnificent Spilsbury and the Case of the Brides in the Bath by Jane Robins – I do like true historical crime, modern stuff makes me feel uncomfortable in general – too close to home maybe, but this sounds like its right up my street. Maybe not one to read in the bath though?
  • 31 Bond Street by Ellen Horan – I bought this in Sainsbury’s, bad me, partly because the cover is so good and also thinking it was non-fiction from the blurb, wrong. I will give it a whirl though and see.
  • Half a Life by Darin Strauss – A memoir about accidental murder. I had to sign a confidence clause before I could get the proof for this and then forgot the date had been and gone so will schedule my thoughts to be shared soon.
  • The Long Song by Andrea Levy – I have already read this, however it’s a book group choice in the next few months and I’d had mine signed for my Gran so a new one has magically turned up. I am actually really looking forward to re-reading this one even so soon after I originally did.
  • Dog Binary by Alex MacDonald – I don’t know anything about this, it came with Half a Life.
  • Trick of the Dark by Val McDermid – I am hoping this is another entry for the Green Carnation Prize as we do want a mixture of genres, I don’t think the other judges have had this one though so I will have to check. I have heard McDermid is very good at murder so this should be good.

So lots of books to read while I am in waiting rooms, hospital wards and in bed when I get home over the next few weeks or so which is an utter delight. I wonder how much of a dent in them I will make. I also really need to have a fresh cull and clear out too. It never stops. Have you read any of these books and if so what did you think? Any you would like to see me give priority to if the whim takes me?

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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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And The Man Booker Prize 2010 Winner is…

…Well we don’t know yet but we will do later tonight. If you are bored of all things booker, and I admit I have gone off it a little this year, then fear not there is another BIG thank you post coming later on today. As I mentioned I have been a little ‘meh’ about the Man Booker this year, maybe reading everything in the longlist last year put me off for a couple of years, or maybe being a judge on another book prize had me book prized out. However a book award is a book award and I do love a good guessing game so I thought I would put forward who I want to win and who I think will win.

Of the whole shortlist I have only read half of them so I am not 100% qualified to really make a decision; hey ho this is only for fun. I actually have a sneaking suspicion that a book that I haven’t yet read will win this year and that is the bookies favourite ‘C’ by Tom McCarthy. I actually wanted to read this one the most out of the short listed books I hadn’t touched yet, however, I never seemed to have the time and I think it’s a book you need a good hour or two with before you can get a hold on it and read it commuting or stealing an hour with it here and there. I decided to give that free time to ‘Jane Eyre’ instead which wasn’t hard to get onto but needed quite a chunk of time and ‘Crime and Punishment’ will be getting the devotion time next. If ‘C’ wins I will undoubtedly read it, though possibly not for six months or more as the hype will quite possibly put me off for a while… but you never know.

So that’s who I think will win but who do I want to win? Well as I type this it’s a real tie with me and it’s between these two books, both which I have read and loved for completely different reasons…

‘Room’ By Emma Donoghue was a book that I was instantly blown away by because it seemed so different from anything I had read in ages. ‘The Long Song’ by Andrea Levy was a book that I loved when I read it and has stayed with me long after, especially the voice of its narrator Miss July. So I am torn really on which of these two should win. I should say I think Damon Galgut’s book is very interesting too. That’s so hedging my bets isn’t it. Ok, ok…

If you had to push me on which of those I would choose then it would have to be ‘The Long Song’ it’s had less publicity and sales than ‘Room’ and I think it deserves an equal amount. It’s also a proper story and I think its time book prizes went back to that. Maybe I should have popped a bet on Levy as she’s not the favourite and my gut instinct wants her to win. What do you all think about it all this Man Booker business this year?

*Well, blimey, it was Howard Jacobson for ‘The Finkler Question’. I haven’t read it, I am not sure I will… but I might, maybe, eventually! I know this shouldnt count but he sounds lovely on the radio and was very funny when I saw him at the Foyles ‘Vintage Day’ when he was very entertainingly discussing sex in books!!! 

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The Man Booker Shortlist 2010

How did I forget that this was being announced today?? I have missed taking part in my guessing games! Anyways, a big well done to Andrea Levy and Emma Donoghue on being short listed for their books ‘The Long Song’ and ‘Room’. I can’t comment on Damon Galgut (as he is on The Green Carnation Longlist) but I think I can congratulate him though without it looking like favouritism or some such? Though I am aware I don’t want to open another can of worms. I will talk about ‘In A Strange Room’ at some point just not quite yet.

  

Will I read the other three?

  

I would like to try one of Howard Jacobson’s books after hearing him talk earlier in the year and laughing rather a lot and Peter Carey is another author I have lots of books of and yet haven’t read a word of. I am not sure though with Carey if this book would be where I would want to start? However I don’t have their two listed books. I do have ‘C’ by Tom McCarthy though and have heard some rather intriguing things (its already favourite to win according to the bookies) so maybe that’s one to take on the long trains up north and back this weekend. What do you think?

Oh and speaking of recommending books, can you please post some recommendations below just here. I know I am on strike (mind you three posts in one day isn’t a strike, in fact I should stop) like London Transport – but your not allowed to be ha! Thanks in advance.

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Lastest Incomings & Postal Problems

I thought as I haven’t done one for ages and ages I would do a post on the latest arrivals from some of you and some lovely publishers over the last month and a bit. First though I need share my latest postal drama’s with you. You might remember a while back that I told you how my delightful postman (I like to point him out to visitors when they are staying so they can see just what a miserable so and so he is) was leaving my parcels in the street. Finally he has given up on that front but I was rather worried as some rather important parcels (which I can’t share with you or talk about sadly) hadn’t turned up. So off to the sorting office I marched.

I got there, explained the situation as they know e quite well and they said they would have a look. I then get one of them coming out beaming ‘it’s your lucky day’ they had seven rather large parcels waiting. I was about to leave when I noticed the posted dates, some as far back as last Saturday, so back to the man I go and ask what this is all about. I get a sheepish look before I am told ‘well the thing is, because you get so much post we hold the parcels for a week and then try and deliver it in one go once a week’. I didn’t shout, I didn’t kick off – after all these people do handle my post and I don’t want it vanishing forever as opposed to a few days. I simply and quietly said I would be most appreciative if my postal service could deliver the post that people are paying for at the speed they are paying for it. I then shouted and screamed a bit down the customer complaints phone line. Anyway before I make myself cross again lets get to those parcels, and some that arrived on time, which of course cheered me up no end.

First up a big thank you to you out there who read the blog and then send me emails asking me if I would like a copy of this that or the other that you have spare, want to re-home etc. None of you wanted your names mentioned but I wanted to put you first at least with a picture of your treats as I am very grateful. In the last month you have come up with some real gems such as…

  • Wise Children by Angela Carter – after I loved ‘The Bloody Chamber’
  • Taking The Devils Advice by Anne Fine – as it was mentioned in my Mum’s favourite books
  • The Child Garden & Lust by Geoff Ryan – a kind reader thought after my ‘253’ joy these would be good and one is a very sci-fi look at a future London so that will be interesting
  • Life Before Man by Margaret Atwood – you all know I love an Atwood and this is one of the few not on the TBR
  • Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue – after I loved ‘Room’ a kind reader thought I might like her 1700’s slightly sensational earlier novel

Now onto publishers some who sent a few so I have placed their books separately before a mixed bag or two at the end. First up some more guilty pleasures as Constable and Robinson sent me the latest M.C. Beaton series which they are relaunching this autumn. Cosy Edwardian murder mysteries with a new heroine and some fabulous titles.

The power of social media can bring you some treats sometimes. I tweeted that I had heard Brett Easton Ellis on the Guardian Bookclub podcast (I also heard Sarah Waters this week and it made me like ‘The Little Stranger’ even more which has grown and grown on me) a week or so ago and how listening to him talk made me want to read everyone of his books that I hadn’t, and wasn’t it funny how listening to or seeing authors talk can do that? In the post within a few days came this from Picador…

So now I do have the whole of his works to go through bar the latest as I had only read one of his books before which is the amazing (but possibly a book you don’t read twice) ‘American Psycho’ which If you haven’t read bite the bullet and try.

Vintage Books sent me a mixed bag of unsolicited (which I like as with Vintage they tend to be books that are going to become classics and I never knew I wanted to read – or had heard of – and yet once I see them I do) forthcoming treats containing…

  • The L-Shaped Room by Lynne Reid Banks
  • The Good Angel of Death by Andrey Kurkov
  • Look At The Birdie by Kurt Vonnegut
  • A Week in December by Sebastian Faulks (can you believe I have still never read a Faulks?)

Now for two final mixture of publishers who have sent and who are…

  • Highland Fling by Nancy Mitford (Capuchin Classics) – I will be reading this over the bank holiday weekend
  • The Pantomime Life of Joseph Grimaldi by Andrew McConnel Scott (Canongate Books)
  • Last Night In Twisted River by John Irving (Transworld Books) – another author I can’t believe I haven’t read yet
  • Something Sensational To Read On The Train by Gyles Brandreth (John Murray) I love diaries and these one sound quite salacious and gossipy so I might be dipping in and out of them for the next few months
  • Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman by Friedrich Christian Delius (Peirene Press)
  • Tarr by Wyndham Lewis (Oxford University Press)
  • The Woman Before Me by Ruth Dugdall (Legend Press) winner of the Luke Bitmead Novel Award and being compared to Sophie Hannah

  • The Nobodies Album by Carolyn Parkhurst (Sceptre) – call me a book cover slut but I do want to read this for the cover alone
  • Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart (Granta)
  • The Death Instinct by Jed Rubenfeld (Headline) – I have started this one because I really liked ‘The Interpretation of Murder’ only thing is I couldn’t remember what happened in that as it was my pre-blogging days – oops. I know I liked it though and so far I havent had to hark back to the last one!
  • Farundell by L.R. Fredericks (John Murray) – I had never head of this one before it thudded through my letter box, however reading the synopsis and seeing thoughts on it here and there I am actually ridiculously excited about reading this one over the weekend
  • The Captain’s Wife by Kirsten McKenzie (John Murray)

Right that’s the lot of lovely loot, it has been a good month or so since I did one hence the mightiness of it. Special thanks again to you the readers who have been sending. So which of these have you heard about, which do you quite fancy and what else have you read by any of the authors and what did you think? Any more tales of postal hell?

Oh and a quick note; none of these books were asked for – I have banned myself from that as have lots in the house – either the publishers contacted me or simply sent them unsolicitied. Just so you all know!

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What Do You Want & Expect From An Award Winning Book?

This is a question which I have been asked rather a lot recently. Actually the exact question has been ‘what do you look for in an award winning book?’ So I thought I would open it up to all of you for all your thoughts on that very subject. We all do it, we judge the panel that judge the award and we always have opinions of why a winning book should/shouldn’t or did/didn’t win don’t we? (If anyone is saying no then you are fibbing!) I am also interested, as ever, in what you all think because I would like to see just how different or similar our expectations are with these books. 

I could easily think of some recent titles that show just how much discussion/controversy book winners can cause. The first that came to mind were these two both winners of awards in 2010.

First up is ‘Truth’ by Peter Temple, which I have now decided I need to get my hands on imminently, this book seemed to shock everyone by being a ‘crime/thriller’ that won the literary prize The Miles Franklin Award 2010. Why should that be so shocking, does the genre really matter? There seems some great surprise, like when Tom Rob Smith’s brilliant ‘Child 44’ was put forward for the Man Booker, that a crime book could be well written and yet they are well written (need I send you in the direction of Kate Atkinson or have I raved about her enough?) in fact I think some of the plots in some of the best thrillers published could put some of the more prose heavy contenders to shame yet you wouldn’t.

Also a shock winner this year was ‘The Lacuna’ by Barbara Kingsolver (which I gave up on and am giving to Gran at the weekend as she’s doing it for one of her book groups and a ‘guest review’ on here) which caused a lot of controversy for winning the Orange over what many believed was the better novel ‘Wolf Hall’. It appeared the judges couldn’t let the latter book win as it won the Booker the year before, which strikes me as slightly odd because surely if its won one award already it’s because its bloody good and deserves to win more? Or is it just me that belongs to that rare school of logic?

Turning to another subject on award winners I was interested that reviews of one of this years Man Booker long-listed titles ‘Room’ by Emma Donoghue have suggested that despite the fact people think its absolutely brilliant they doubt it will be Man Booker winning material because its too accessible. I am not berating that because that’s what I thought too, why though? Shouldn’t the books that go on to win awards, not only by being very well written, be able to reach out to a mass of people and just be a cracking good read as well as everything else?

Really with most awards it’s down to a group of people rather than us and what they think makes a cracking read. They aren’t able to please everyone and yet we expect them to, which brings me nicely to my next point.  

Another question which I have been asked a lot is ‘what qualifies you to be a judge of what is a good book or not?’ My answer so far to that one has been ‘I read enough of them to know what I like, what makes a book special or amazing rather than just another good read, it’s a very personal thing too.’ Which left me wondering what my criteria is for an award winning book and I don’t think it would match some other peoples, and maybe people will be asking the question at the start of this paragraph even more after seeing what it is.

Though because we have sworn to secrecy I can’t tell you how many books have been submitted for The Green Carnation Prize 2010, which ones they are/might be or which publishers sent them… I do feel I can tell you what I personally will be looking for regardless of genre, length etc;

  • The writing has to be captivating. I don’t mean that it has to be the most beautiful prose that has ever graced a page – though that helps – I do need to be spell bound by it, every word should count without being calculated and together as a whole work have an effect on me.
  • It needs to be readable and accessible. I don’t want to be able to put it down (this doesn’t mean it has to be trashy books like the marvellous ‘The Hand That First Held Mine’ by Maggie O’Farrell can be stunningly written and also page turning) yet I don’t want to enjoy it and forget about it as soon as its on the shelf.
  • I want narrators who I believe the whole way through no matter how lovely or vile or how reliable or not they may be.
  • It needs to be a book I would rush out and buy for anyone and everyone (hence why no thoughts on any of the long listed or short listed books of a certain prize will appear on my blog or be discussed by me in specifics in the real world until the winners announced) because because its a great story and one I want others to read asap.
  • Most importantly I want a book that stands out and etches itself in my brain in some way, it doesn’t have to change my life or world completely, but it does need make me think and linger with me for days, weeks and months after.  

So what makes the perfect award winning book for you? By all means mention a few titles but what I would love to get to the crux of, and am much more interested in, is just what those perfect award winning books had about them for you? What made them work for you personally? Which criteria would you be looking for if you were judging a book award? What would instantly stop you from wanting a book to go further through the process? Which book award winners have mystified you and more importantly why?

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Room – Emma Donoghue

Out of all the books on the Man Booker long list this year ‘Room’ by Emma Donoghue was the one that instantly intrigued me. There has already been a lot of ‘buzz’ (rather than hype) around this book here there and everywhere so it was on my radar but I hadn’t expected to see it on that list. So when it arrived the day after the announcement I knew I had to read it instantly, especially as I knew my reading plans were going to be going awry over the next few forthcoming months, more on that tomorrow. So ‘Room’ by Emma Donoghue, what did I think?

‘Room’ opens with the fifth birthday of Jack. Slowly but surely as he describes his day we realise we are in the real world but not a real world we would know. For Jack’s world is Room the place in which he was born and has lived for his five year life with his mother and no one else but ‘Old Nick’ who comes by at night and brings them food, creaks Bed and leaves ‘Sundaytreat’ once a week. As we read on we realise Jack’s mother was kidnapped and has been hidden away for years and that ‘Old Nick’, who has a really dark and menacing presence in the book, is their captor – though of course Jack doesn’t.

It seems that Jack’s birthday sees the start of a turning point though in all their lives as his ‘Ma’ decides that he needs to know there is more than Room, there is outside. But how would it feel to realise that there is a huge world outside the one you have always thought is simply it, which hurts Jack’s head when he even tries to think about it? Even bigger, how would they cope if they did actually get outside?

You might think ‘ooh he’s giving it all away’ but honestly I am not, there is so much more to this book. In fact I was worried myself that having seen so much written about ‘Room’ already, which give hints to the plot, before I even started it something would be spoiled for me. I couldn’t have been more wrong because even the best reviews I have seen so far don’t and couldn’t give you a sense of the journey that you go on with the book. As clichéd as I am aware that sounds it’s true.

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. It adds a new dimension to the whole book.

“Spider’s real. I’ve seen her two times. I look for her now but there’s only a web between Table’s legs and her flat. Table balances good, that’s pretty tricky, when I go on one leg I can do it forages but then I always fall over. I don’t tell Ma about Spider. She brushes webs away, she says they’re dirty but they look like extra-thin silver to me.  Ma likes the animals that run around eating each other on the wildlife planet, but not real ones. When Iwas four I was watching ants walking up Stove and she ran and splatted them all so they wouldn’t eat our food. One minute they were alive and the next minute they were dirt. I cried so my eyes nearly melted off. “

Donoghue’s writing is wonderful. I think my favourite line in the whole book was this… “We’re like people in a book, and he won’t let anybody else read it.” In a single line Ma sums everything up and as a reader it really hit me, there’s a lot of emotion and impact in just that one line so imagine what Donoghue can do with a book full of them. I could go on and on about this book but I will stop and simply say ‘read it’. I think this could very quickly become one of my favourite books of the year and I hope regardless of Man Booker winning or not it becomes a huge seller as it’s a book that really deserves a wide audience, it’s the sort of book I think anyone could get something out of.

A book that will: quite possibly leave you a little breathless and remind you what reading is all about and may have you running out to buy it for everyone you know. 10/10

To me this is what a book prize should be about, finding a book with a new voice, something that’s funny, emotional and captivating (I read this in two sittings) and that’s what the best books are isn’t it? Have you read ‘Room’? Had you noticed the ‘buzz’ before the Man Booker Longlist was announced? Has anyone read anything else by Emma Donoghue as I noticed in the front pages that she has another nine books, any one recommend any?

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Filed under Books of 2010, Emma Donoghue, Man Booker, Picador Books, Review

Simon’s Bookish Bits #26

I realised yesterday that I hadn’t done a bookish bits for ages and today seemed the perfect time to do one as everything seems to have had a major wobble and jolt in my reading. Interestingly its not that I am having a reading slump but more that I have too much at the moment that I want to read and can’t seem to get through. Do you ever find yourself in that very position?

In part its all down to yesterday’s news and ‘The Green Carnation Prize’, already some books have started arriving and with all the submissions arriving I am more that aware there are some books that I really want to get through before we start whittling down to a longlist between this coming Friday and the 1st of September. My current mini TBR pile on the bedside table is as follows;

  • Couples by John Updike (for Book Group, I have only just started so am thankful for taking a week of next week as its rather long. I need to have a think about Book Group though as dependent on the next titles and their length will I have time in the forthcoming months?)
  • The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle (with the new BBC modern take on ‘Sherlock’ which is actually very, very good I of course want to read one of Sherlock’s original adventures)
  • Peace by Richard Bausch (I have heard rave reviews about this here there and everywhere and I haven’t read a fictional book about the actual war rather than the time period for a while)
  • Room by Emma Donoghue (I know it’s the book everyone is going to be reviewing but I don’t care as its one I am desperate to read regardless)
  • The Thirteen Problems by Agatha Christie (I have an urge for Marple at the moment and I always believe you should follow any urge to read a Christie)
  • Heartburn by Norah Ephron (some swine has ordered my copy so have to get this back to the library very soon)

The good thing is that four of them are fairly short and I do believe that going forward, between all the reading I am doing for ‘The Green Carnation Prize’ in forthcoming weeks, short books are the ones that will be featuring more and more on Savidge Reads. Especially since all submissions are made on a confidential basis and the judges have all agreed not to mention our thoughts on the longlisted books as we read them on our blogs, though we can mention them after the winner is announced on World Aids Day. The good news is that with all the reading I will be doing for this I will have masses of posts to schedule for here while I am in Brazil.

It has meant I have had to stop ‘The Slap’  midway through which was quite an effort for me as I thought it was shaping up nicely. But , though it hasn’t been yet, I am hoping it gets submitted… I shall say no more than that.

I have decided to give myself a bit of time off and so will be scheduling some posts for the week ahead today before heading off to the new Jimmy Spices in London (again, I went of Friday but its possibly my favourite place on earth) and having an evening of no books. Then, having booked a week off, its down to some earnest reading and a little more silence from me than usual on comments both here and around the blogosphere whilst I get my pre-judging reading sorted. So do bear with me.

So how is all your reading going? I have seen some slumps here or there in the blogosphere are occurring, do you have any advice for any of those bloggers? What are the top five books you have your sights on for reading in the very near future? Do you have any other bookish plans or news to share?

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The Man Booker Longlist 2010

So it’s been announced and I will probably just be repeating what is already old news but here are the thirteen books the judges have picked (if you are already bored of the Man Booker or just not interested have a gander at the Mum Booker Longlist I popped up earlier here)…

  • Parrot and Oliver in America by Peter Carey (Faber and Faber)
  • Room by Emma Donoghue (Picador)
  • The Betrayal by Helen Dunmore (Fig Tree)
  • In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut (Atlantic Books)
  • The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson (Bloomsbury)
  • The Long Song by Andrea Levy (Headline Review)
  • C by Tom McCarthy (Jonathan Cape)
  • The Thousand Autumns of Zacob de Zoet by David Mitchell (Sceptre)
  • February by Lisa Moore (Chatto & Windus)
  • Skippy Dies by Paul Murray (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Trespass by Rose Tremain (Chatto & Windus)
  • The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas (Atlantic)
  • The Stars in the Bright Sky by Alan Warner (Jonathan Cape)

How many did I get right, well you can compare today’s list with my list here and see!!!

I have marked the one, yes one, that I have read in bold and the ones that I own in italics (some of which have been saved from the ‘for the charity shop’ pile as we speak – I won’t say which ones). The latter part of that statement suggests I might be thinking of reading the whole longlist. Am I? I don’t think I will be; in part because I don’t have all the books (which isn’t me being bitter) but in the main because I did it last year in a full on way and it became a chore. There are some titles on there that I would like to give a whirl though but if I don’t own it (though I know one of the titles I don’t own yet is on the way) its very unlikely to be read. I have a feeling ‘Skippy Dies’ and ‘The Slap’ might get devoured fairly soon though!! Athe moment though, as its the only one I have read, I have everything crossed for Levy hahaha! I did really like that book though.

It is an interesting list, and one that I don’t think anyone could have predicted the whole of – which is a good thing, I think. I was slightly surprised that Ian McEwan didn’t make it and feel slightly smug I predicted Amis wouldn’t be on there.Why do I have a small vendetta against that man after quite liking the last book I read by him? I am rather chuffed for Andrea Levy and sad to see Maggie O’Farrell wasn’t on there but most of all annoyed Neel Mukherjee didn’t make the cut as that’s one of my favourites of the year and one that feels truly worthy of winning. I kind of think its a forgone conclusion that Mitchell will win which is a bit boring, but I could be wrong.

So what do you make of the list? Any surprises or shocks for you? Any you are really annoyed were missed out or even included?

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