Tag Archives: Evie Wyld

Australian Literature Month

I said yesterday in my ‘Reading Resolution’ post that I wouldn’t be starting or hosting any reading challenges in 2012, however that doesn’t mean that I can’t join in with some does it? Already there is one particular challenge of sorts that has attracted me, in fact it attracted me the moment it was announced, and that is the Australian Literature Month that Kim of Reading Matters is hosting throughout January, naturally of course this leads me to wanting some of your book recommendations etc. I also thought some of you might be tempted.

What really attracts me to Kim’s Australian Literature Month (apart from the fact that I love a lot of things Australian) is that there are no limits or levels to the books that I can or can’t read. The aim is simply “post about Australian literature on your own blog or simply engage in the conversation on this blog. If you don’t have a blog, don’t worry” and that is me sold as by chance, and all based on whim, I have about six or seven books on the periphery which are from Oz (do Australians find their country being called Oz rude, I do hope not and if they do I apologize) and three in particular that I am very keen to read sooner rather than later should the mood take…

  

Tim Winton’s ‘Cloudstreet’ is a novel that Kim actually gave me last year, so that seems like a sign, and is deemed as one of the modern Australian classics. I enjoyed his last novel ‘Breath’ which is the first and only of his books I have read so far and managed to make me interested in surfing which I really wasn’t expecting.  Anyway, ‘Cloudstreet’ has also had ‘The Slap’ treatment and the TV series is coming to the UK this month, be it on Sky One, and so I might read and watch, or just read – we will see.I have to admit I have been dipping into Marieke Hardy’s collection of memoir essays ‘You’ll Be Sorry When I Am Dead’ since Christmas but I think I will be finished by the end of the weekend (I am trying to drag the utter joy that this is out for as long as possible) and though its not Australian fiction she loved her Australian Literature as she proves on ‘The First Tuesday Book Club’ most months, so that’s a given read. ‘Bereft’ by Chris Womersley is an unsolicited proof that Quercus have sent and appealed first because of the cover image, before the cover hooking me again when I noticed Evie Wyld had a given it a great quote too (and we know the success I had with the last recommendation I heard Evie making) and has been hovering on the bedside table urging me to open it since.

So those are the books I might dip into first but I wondered if there were any others I should really be looking out for? I would love your suggestions (as it’s a mutual relationship this reading recommendation malarkey on this blog I will have you know) please, and do let me know if you are planning on joining in with this too and what you might read.

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Filed under Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness

Evie Wyld & Edward Hogan’s Books of 2011

I always love it when people you know are on a wave length with the books they love that you have read, it means they might know lots of books you haven’t read but really should. You might remember that I mentioned how a short review Evie Wyld did on Open Book led me to reading ‘The Hunger Trace’ by Edward Hogan, which has become one of my favourite reads of the year. Well after I tweeted about it Evie and I were then emailing about other bookish bits and bobs, as she works in an independent bookshop which I am most envious of, at the same time I was also emailing Ed about Derbyshire (as we are both from there and I had just finished his wonderful second novel and wanted to say wow) and we started discussing books of the year and then I thought why not get both of them to tell me their top five books that I could share with all of you? I think they are two of the literary worlds Bright Young Things and, though it makes me feel slightly sick and hate them just a little that they are only two years older than me and such creative geniuses, I thought it would be interesting to see what two authors of the future (and present, but you know what I mean) have read and loved this year. So that is what I am going to do today…

So, ladies first and Evie’s five books of 2011…

The Devil all the Time by Donald Ray Pollock

It’s not often you read a book in which the author has successfully balanced darkness and comedy so cleverly. There’s something compelling about an author who can write about the worst things imaginable, with such an extraordinarily poor and bleak landscape as their backdrop and still manage to get out of it a bouncy and colourful voice which is utterly compelling. Its set in rural Ohio and West Virginia, and it’s drunken and violent and unsettling – a dream.

The Storm at the Door by Stefan Merrill Block

There are sentences so beautiful in A Storm at the Door that you reread them over and over wondering how Block’s brain works. It’s a kind of imagined memoir of his American grandparents. His grandfather spent much of his life in an asylum in Boston. It’s tough and manic and extraordinary, dotted with occasional photographs of the couple, which is a touch I love. You could say it’s an interesting examination of truth in memoir, and the thin line between fact and fiction, but more than that it is a beautifully written book.

A Taste of Chlorine by Bastien Vivès

A graphic novel that takes place almost entirely in a swimming pool. There are pages with practically no words but just the acutely observed sensation of being in a public swimming pool – the light and the movement, the strange isolation. It’s a love story about a man who starts swimming to treat his bad back, and who meets a woman in the pool. Not a lot that you can see really happens, but a lot is sensed. I reread this about once a month.

Waterline by Ross Raisin

I’m baffled as to why Waterline hasn’t been on heaps of prize lists. In the book shop when I recommend it to customers, sometimes they’ll say it sounds too sad, but sad things happen in novels, because they’re about life. Rant over, this is a fabulous book and it’s a devastatingly good book to follow God’s Own Country. Waterline is a journey between Glaswegian shipyards, Australia and London, and it’s about death and guilt and sadness, but it’s also written by Ross Raisin, which means the writing is exceptional and darkly funny even in its most crippling sad bits.

The Vintage and the Gleaning by Jeremy Chambers

The story is of an old sheep shearer who has spent his life filled to the gills with alcohol, and who has just been told that if he drinks again, his stomach will rupture and he will kill himself. He works on a vineyard in South Australia now, and the drinking culture there is just as heavy as that of the shearers, the suspicion of non-drinkers just as tough. The dialogue in this book is the thing that stunned me. Chambers gives the voice enough space that seemingly banal conversations become beautifully funny and meaningful. There’s a story repeated over and over about a dog stealing an ice cream that made me happier than any other storyline this year, possibly ever.

So now to the lovely Edward and his five books of 2011…

Irma Voth by Miriam Toews

My book of the year.  It’s about a 19-year-old girl growing up in a Mennonite community in Mexico.  Irma is a brilliant character; she’s funny and forgiving and has a huge capacity for love.  Her hard life is invigorated by the arrival of a Mexican film crew.  Toews herself starred in a film about Mennonites, and she warmly satirises the process here. She’s great at writing about kindness (which is rare), and Irma Voth is funny in that way which makes you laugh, then keel over, then weep with sadness.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (from an original idea by Siobhan Dowd)

A shockingly original and powerful monster story about a boy, Conor, dealing with the impending death of his mother.  It has the ancient power of a parable, but contains all the subtleties and complications of Conor’s grief.  I’ve no idea how Patrick Ness managed it.  The hardback is beautifully illustrated by Jim Kay.

Waterline by Ross Raisin

With the dominant political party and half of the media demonising everyone without a job, the country needs this book!  It charts the fall of Mick Little, a former worker at the Glasgow shipyards, into poverty and homelessness.  Raisin isn’t sentimental about the underworld of the homeless, he shows you how it works in well-researched detail, and presents Mick – with compassion – in all his humanity.

The Virago Book of Ghost Stories

Ghost stories are usually very political, so it’s fascinating to read these tales written by women over the last 150 years or so. Of course, there are the masters of the craft, like May Sinclair, but the contemporary writers hold their own, too. A.S. Byatt’s story is very moving, and Penelope Lively has a subversive story about a middle class woman who is held hostage in her home by a spectral black dog prowling in the garden.

Lazarus is Dead by Richard Beard

I’m only halfway through this sort of fictionalised biography of Jesus’ bezzie mate, but already it’s a remarkable book. Without being patronising or arrogant, Beard shows you how fiction can not only ‘fill in the gaps’ of history, but also revise it, take issue with it. It’s so confident, and also funny. ‘What was Jesus really like?’ one admirer asks Lazarus. ‘Slow at climbing,’ he replies.

So there we have it! What do you think of the selection of books that they have chosen? I haven’t read any of these so in all likelihood the ones I haven’t will now be on my radar. I think I am going to have to read the Ross Raisin book after seeing them both recommending ‘Waterline’, I was told by lots of people I should read that but the boats on the cover put me off. Have you read any of them, or the authors who have made the suggestions novels (my grammar and waffle killer seem to have vanished today sorry)? I would love to hear your thoughts. My top books of 2011 will be appearing on Saturday (when I will be asking to hear what yours are), though if you are gasping for a taster listen to the latest episode of The Readers here.

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Filed under Books of 2011, Edward Hogan, Evie Wyld

The Hunger Trace – Edward Hogan

Some books I think are destined to be read just at the right time, or you are meant to read certain books at the right time. You know what I mean. ‘The Hunger Trace’ by Edward Hogan is one such book and I should explain the background. The editor of the novel emailed me back in the summer knowing that I was a fan of Edward’s debut novel ‘Blackmoor’, she also knew I was from Derbyshire which was the setting once more of his second novel. I said yes I would love to read it but with a certain prize I wasn’t sure I would get to it anytime soon, sadly it languished. However I have to thank the author Evie Wyld who I heard on the BBC’s Open Book who described this novel as ‘a darker, funnier version of The Archers, the perfect book to curl up in front of a fire with’ instantly this was a book I had to read and so I elevated it straight to the top of the pile to read next. I am so glad that I did as ‘The Hunger Trace’ has now snuck in as a late entry as one of my books of the year.

Simon & Schuster, hardback, 2011, fiction, 357 pages, kindly sent by the publishers

From the very start of ‘The Hunger Trace’ I had an early inkling that this would be a book for me. It opens with two women, who clearly don’t like each other for reasons we don’t know as yet, having to capture a herd of ibex which have ended up in the local supermarket car park, using a van and a lot of shopping trolleys. There was a drama and humour in all this, along with a certain mystery, that instantly worked for me leaving me captivated, even better was this was a sense of feeling that Hogan managed to retain throughout the book.

‘The Hunger Trace’ has the unusual setting of a rambling wildlife park in the Derbyshire peaks high on a hillside with the village of Detton below. (This really called to me because in my home town of Matlock we have a castle on the hillside called Riber which was itself a zoo for many years, when it closed the owners moved next door to us with their eagle and other menagerie of creatures, which I was allowed to visit.)In this unusual setting we meet three people deeply affected by the death of the parks owner David Bryant; his second much younger wife Maggie, his son from the previous marriage Christopher and lifelong acquaintance Louisa who lives in one of the lodges on the site look after the birds of prey.

Each of these characters is coming to terms with the loss in their lives but also with how to relate to one another. Louisa, to put it mildly, doesn’t like Maggie for reasons that become apparent as the book goes on so I won’t spoil, I shall merely tempt you by saying that Louisa and David shared a secret in their youths. Maggie herself has to cope with taking on a venture like the wildlife park which she had never planned to be her role in life and also missing her husband and the emptiness in her life he has left in several ways. Christopher is working out not only how to cope with his step mother, especially now she is taking over all aspects of his life, he is also learning how to deal with the world as someone who is a bit different, I read him as being autistic though it’s never spelt out, and is often misunderstood or perceived as a threatening force. Things have been simmering a while and over the space of a few months and the arrival of Adam, a male escort (shocking, ha) and another character used to isolation and not quite fitting in with secrets abound, seems to start to bring things to a head.

Hogan’s writing and storytelling is incredible, especially in the underlying and unsaid. He somehow manages to highlight the way people feel about each other in not only what they say and its delivery but even more impressively, and true to life, in what they don’t say. It’s those small actions, sideways looks, and delivery of tone which we have all witnessed in real life which Hogan manages to make come off the page, something that is incredibly hard to do. Normally in fictions it is either the spoken work or inner monologue, and while Hogan does this both of these things too, it is those smaller actions which he makes say so much.

Maggie knocked loudly on the door, but then entered without waiting for a reply and stepped quickly through the hall and into the kitchen. She smelled of the clean air outdoors, along with a faint cosmetic scent – the first in Louisa’s house for some time.
  ‘Louisa, thank God. I knew you’d be awake. I need your help,’ Maggie said.
  Louisa turned back to the sink. ‘I’m busy. What is it?’
  ‘We’ve had a breakout over at the park. Some of the ibex – the big goats –‘
  ‘I know what they are.’
  ‘They got loose somehow, and they’re on the road now.’ Maggie took a long breath. ‘If they get to the duel carriageway, we’ve got some serious trouble.’
  ‘You’ve got serious trouble. What am I supposed to do about it?’
  ‘Well, the Land Rover won’t start.’   
  Louisa took the keys to her van from her pocket, and threw them to Maggie. ‘Take mine.’ Maggie wiped the watery smears of blood from the keys with her sleeve and looked up with an apologetic smile. ‘I need you, as well,’ she said. ‘The trailer’s at my house and we’ll need to hook it up before we go.’  
  ‘Jesus,’ Louisa said under her breath. But she could not refuse. She dried her hands on her jeans and followed.

Atmosphere is one of the things that ‘The Hunger Trace’ is also filled with. Like with his previous novel ‘Blackmoor’ Derbyshire is a brooding and slightly menacing presence, the landscape always features in the novel as those brooding moors, the winding hilly roads you worry your about to drive off and the forests which always seem to hold so many secrets linger in the background (being from there myself his descriptions really hit home). Hogan interestingly propels all these feelings and features in all of his characters be it in the slightest of ways. Christopher is a prime example, he is often very funny with his binge drinking and utter bluntness and yet there is always a slightly threatening feeling of danger with him, you never know what he might say or do next, these feelings spread throughout the book and your always just on the edge of your seat, rather like standing on the precipice of a Derbyshire valley with the wind almost pushing you over the edge.

‘At that time of year, nature blended the boundaries. Leaves from the hilltop churchyard blew across the animal enclosures and onto Louisa’s land. Wasps crawled drunk from grounded apples in the acidic fizz of afternoon light.’

There is a real sense of humour in this novel, dark but often very funny, yet in many ways it is a moving tale of people and their sense of isolation or being an outsider often leading to events in their pasts be the recent or from years ago. These are events that leave a trace on you and which is described beautifully when Louisa discusses her prized bird Diamond who she saves and leads to the novels title. ‘When a falcon is undernourished, the feathers cannot grow properly. A fault line appears, even if the bird is fed again. The fault is called a hunger trace.’ It is this hunger trace that runs through the main character of this novel and their obsessions which keep the real world at bay be they Louisa’s birds, Christopher’s obsession with Robin Hood or Maggie’s need to succeed despite what anyone else says.

If you haven’t guessed already, I thought ‘The Hunger Trace’ was an utterly marvellous book. It is superbly written, its characters live and breathe from the page and you are always left wanting more of both the humour and the dark sense of impending menace and mystery. I simply cannot recommend it enough, easily one of my favourite books of the year. It is books like this which really make reading worthwhile and I hope that many more people discover this gem of a novel.

It’s interesting that two of my favourite books this year, and I am including Catherine Hall’s ‘The Proof of Love’ with Hogan’s latest, have been based in small villages in the countryside with darker undertones. This could be a setting which simply works for me, so I am wondering if you could recommend any more novels along these lines. I have also noticed that these two books, which are also some of the best writing I have come across this year, have been under the radar to many. I am wondering how I can seek out more of these slightly undiscovered gems? Your recommendations will be a start, so get cracking (and you could win a copy of this wonderful novel). I look forward to seeing what you suggest.

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Filed under Books of 2011, Edward Hogan, Review, Simon & Schuster

Do I Want To Read… Some Debut Novelists

I have been meaning to write about this particular thing since World Book Night a few weeks ago. There was a brilliant show on BBC2 on the night in question which looked at promising debut British authors and coming up with a shortlist of twelve that stood out. You may remember me writing about my thoughts on debut novels, and you helpfully gave yours, a while back and this seemed to fit in just so. A panel of judges including novelist Helen Oyeyemi (who I have been meaning to read for ages) and headed by John Mullan, who wrote about it in The Guardian, came up with a final list of twelve 12 and its these novels that I wanted to ask you about…

Now having said I wanted to ask you about all of them, I actually only want to ask about the ones in bold. The ones that aren’t I have already read. I know this list will have people saying ‘that one shouldnt be on there, this one should’ however it’s actually the fact that I have really loved three of the four I have actually read that made me want to ask you if I should give the other ones ago? I have linked back to two of them; sadly I didn’t love ‘Union Atlantic’ when I read it last year (sorry!!) so never reviewed it, the simply amazingly brilliant ‘Mr Chartwell’ is the book up for discussion tomorrow.

I am reading a corker of a debut novel by Naomi Wood at the moment which you can see a picture of  somewhere up there ——> so I am keen to read plenty more of them. I have a few of the list above already (in italics) one of which I struggled with but will head back to. I really like the fact the debut novelists are all of very diverse ages. I just wanted your thoughts on the ones I have not read whether I own them or not, should I indulge in them all?  That’s all… for now.

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Summer Read Suggestions… From Authors

Earlier in my ‘Summer Reads Week’ I asked for suggestions of favourite summer reads from publishers pasts and the ones they were looking forward to having a read of over the coming months. So I then thought what about authors? I have noticed in the past some papers and the like get some authors to tell us just what they will be reading over the summer, so I thought why not do the same with authors? Asking simply what makes the perfect summer read for you and which book is your favourite summery read? Which book are you most eager to read over the summer months and why?

Rather than go off and just get any author I could to answer these questions I decided to go for some authors who have produced some of my favourite reads over the last few years of me writing Savidge Reads. I was most chuffed that they all said yes…

Maria Barbal

It depends quite on the time to spend. If I have a complete month it’s a good moment to read a long novel but also for a second rereading or for reading the whole work of an author.

I have read one book by Herta Müller and I would like to read some more.  Specially Tot el Que Tinc ho duc al damunt  (Atemschaukel, English: Everything I Possess I Carry With Me), because she has a poetic and piercing style, and reaches the reader with her writing.

Neil Bartlett

A perfect summer read for me is one which is utterly engrossing, but which I can safely fall asleep while reading on the flagstones of my garden, and then pick up the thread of at once, once I awake. Two contrasting examples currently in my pile; The Leopard (Lampedusa- perfect, as it makes the Visconti movie replay in my head) and My Memories of Six Reigns by Her Highness Princess Marie Louise – a junkshop find, full of great pictures and bizarre bejewelled stories.

Which book for this summer ? Andrew Graham Dixon’s new Caravaggio biog, which I think will piss me off, as he’s very determined to de-queer the paintings, but he’s a serious historian, and Caravaggio is an artist whose works I hope to spend the rest of my life looking at.

Stella Duffy

I read really widely anyway, and have never really bought into the ‘some books are for the beach’ idea, BUT I do like the books I’m hungry to get through in one or two sittings when I happen to have an afternoon free (we don’t have much skill at actually going away on holiday in our house!). I’ve had splendid summers in my garden where, after working all morning, I’ve spent the afternoon speeding through a friend’s very fast-paced dark crime novel or another mate’s bonkbuster.

I remember a great summer week of working every morning and reading Val McDermid’s Mermaid’s Singing in the garden in the afternoons. It hardly sounds summery, but there was something about the contrast between the warmth and sunshine and the darkness of the book that I really enjoyed.

I have Anna Quindlen’s ‘Every Last One’ on my TBR pile and I’m definitely looking forward to that. Unusually I HAVE been swayed by the quotes on the cover – Anne Tyler, Elizabeth Jane Howard, and Alice Hoffman in praise? It has to be good! I also have some newly released Janet Frame short stories ‘The Daylight and The Dust’ which I’m definitely looking forward to, and I do think they will need a long, slow, quiet afternoon or two to really do them justice.

Tess Gerritsen

The perfect summer read… A book that takes me completely out of my own surroundings and transports me to a different one.  I especially love being plunged into a different time period, or even a different world.  An historical mystery by Arianna Franklin, for instance, would be an example of a perfect summer read.  Or a fantasy novel along the lines of Tolkien.

I have a copy of Justin Cronin’s The Passage.  I can’t wait to dive in. And I also have a copy of Manda Scott’s mammoth work Boudica, which I’ve been putting off until I have the time to do it justice.  I’m looking forward to them both so much!

Sophie Hannah

The perfect summer read, for me, is anything that pins me to my sun-lounger long after I would ordinarily have leaped into the swimming pool – a book worth getting sunstroke for. I have lots of favourite holiday reads dating back several years – the one that springs to mind is ‘The Memory Game’ by Nicci French, which I read on holiday in Florida in 1999. It remains one of the most sophisticated, intelligent, sensitive and gripping thrillers I’ve ever read.

On my holiday this year, I plan to read the new Scott Turow, ‘Innocent’, the sequel to ‘Presumed Innocent’, which I have no doubt will be as stylish and compelling as Turow always is, and ‘The Disappeared’ by MR Hall, a brilliant new crime writer whose series protagonist is a coroner.

Hillary Jordan

My perfect summer read is a beautifully written novel that grabs hold of me on page one, pulls me into another world and doesn’t let go till The End. I think my best ever summer read was Lord of the Rings.

This summer I was hoping to read The Lacuna but am racing to finish my own second novel, Red…so I suspect that’s the only book my nose will be buried in over the next few months!

Paul Magrs

There are several novels I associate with summer – and I’d be keen to reread them at some point during the holiday… R C Sherrif – The Fortnight in September, a suburban family between the wars goes to the seaside. Nothing happens – from everyone’s POV. A perfect novel! Haruki Murakami – The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, it’s long, episodic and puzzling. I read it in Paris last summer and loved it. Scarlett Thomas – The End of Mr Y. This is another holiday read that’s all mind-bendy and completely absorbing and perfect for sitting at cafe tables with strong coffee and fancy ice cream. Jacqueline Susann – The Love Machine. Perfect sleazy soap opera set in the world of 60s television. Jonathan Caroll – The Land of Laughs, a wonderful supernatural thriller about a writer of children’s books.

And, of course, as many unread or favourite Puffins, gobbled up alongside all of these. The papery fragrance of Puffins *is* what summer smells of, to me. Too many, no..?

Dan Rhodes

My reading habits aren’t particularly affected by the seasons, although I did once give up on Kafka’s The Castle while lying on the beach in Majorca. I just couldn’t feel the cold. At the moment I’m going through a cop novel phase. Two in particular I’ve found supremely original and well worth a look: Bad Traffic by Simon Lewis takes a Chinese detective and drops him in the English countryside, and Pocket Notebook by Mike Thomas follows a ‘roided-up firearms officer as his life and career unravel quite spectacularly. Most cop novels are by whey-faced writer types who would run a mile from a genuine crime scene, but Mike Thomas happens to be a serving police officer, which adds a frisson of authenticity to proceedings. Should that matter in fiction? Possibly not, but either way it’s a cracking read. I’m impatient for more from those two.

I’m going to plough through my short story shelf. There’s still plenty of stuff I haven’t read by William Trevor, VS Pritchett, Katherine Mansfield, Paul Bowles, etc, etc. And just when I think I must be nearing the end of Chekhov’s fiction I always seem to find a bunch of stories I’d never heard of. And while I’m on the subject of short stories, may I recommend Rhapsody by Dorothy Edwards? I’m always on about this book, but it’s criminally overlooked. It’s one of the best things ever to have happened on Earth.

Natasha Solomons

I remember my summers by the books I was reading. The summer of 2000 wasn’t island hopping through Greece with a slightly dodgy boyfriend and his dodgier moped, it was ‘A Thousand Years of Solitude’. The August I left school was ‘Moontiger’ and ‘A Town Like Alice’  — (which did cause me to develop a slight obsession with the sarong). During summer I want a book that transports me — I want the story to be more real than the British drizzle and to be so compelling that I’m flipping the bbq burgers in one hand and clutching my book in the other.

The books I love this year are Irene Sabatini’s ‘The Boy Next Door’, which has already won the Orange New Writer’s Prize — it’s the love story of a mixed race couple struggling amidst the growing chaos in Zimbabwe. I love these kinds of books: the small and personal set against the vast and cataclysmic. The other is Emma Henderson’s ‘Grace Williams Says it Loud’, which made me cry. The book is inspired by Emma’s own sister who lived for many years in a unit for disabled people. Yet, this is a sweeping love story narrated with such verve by Grace that you forget she is unable to speak. You’ll also fall in love with Daniel — he’s so dapper and debonair. I’ll also be re-reading Jane Austen’s ‘Emma’ for the seventieth time. No summer is complete without a little strawberry picking at Donwell Abbey.

Evie Wyld

I love a really massive book for a summer read, and preferably something a bit spooky or scary, like Murakami’s Wind up Bird Chronicles. That was perfect. But this summer I’m looking forward to The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas. I’ve heard amazing things about this book.

Other things I’m taking on holiday are Larry’s Party by Carol Shields and The Trout Opera by Matthew Condon. I love Carol Shields and I’ve been meaning to read this for ages, and I’ve just been given a copy of the Trout Opera by my partner. He says I’ll love it, and he should know. All Australians I’m afraid!

So there you have it, on Friday and Saturday it’s a two parter of books that some other bloggers (some still haven’t responded tut tut, ha) have suggested for your summer reading TBR’s. Back to today though, anything taken your fancy from the selection of titles above? I am most intrigued by some of them I have to say. Did any authors surprise you with what they could be reading over the summer?

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Filed under Dan Rhodes, Evie Wyld, Hillary Jordan, Maria Barbal, Natasha Solomons, Neil Bartlett, Paul Magrs, Sophie Hannah, Stella Duffy, Tess Gerritsen

Those Summer Reads…

I mentioned on my bookish bits last week that I was planning on having a ‘Summer Reads Season’ and what time could be better than when I am away myself on a shortish summer break (longer one coming next month). Ahead this week you can expect to hear from publishers, authors and bloggers regarding favourite reads and what delights they have been saving for summer. The newspapers will be going crazy over this in a few weeks (I always read those seasonal lists) and so I thought ‘why don’t I too?’ But for today lets just look at summer reads as a genre shall we?

Two things made me think of what summer reading as a subject, if I did any – which I have now noted I do, for a post which then became a week long jaunt. One was a post Lija of A Writer’s Pet made which really got my mind whirring. The other was that I was already having to look at what books I had read that were my idea of a perfect summer read for something which launches tomorrow (I am shrouding it in mystery to build up the anticipation, ha) and I came up with this delectable eight of which I have had  to whittle down from.

I was going to list them but then the post might be never ending, if you want a list though let me know! Anyway, I never thought that I was someone who subscribed to the idea of summer reading; in fact I thought I read the same things all year round. When I looked into it though from what I read last year I noticed I do actually read a little seasonally. These books initially look like they have nothing in common but the more I thought about it the more as a group they sum up my summer mentality…

  • They are all well written and yet not hard or oppressive (crime doesn’t have to be dark just have some shades) nor are they froth
  • They each have big themes but never make them depressing
  • They have a slightly magical touch to them even if they aren’t surreal (it makes sense in my head to me if it doesn’t to anyone else)
  • They are books you could languish in no matter the genre
  • They are books you want to rave about to people
  • There is generally sunshine in them to my memory, be it the place, the season it’s written about or just a sort of jovial summery prose (even the war time ones)
  • They are literary yet punchy/paced too
  • None of them is trashy

Not all of them tick all those criteria but each one hits at least four or more… So I guess that must be my criteria for a good summer read from me. Weirdly I could probably sum up an autumnal gem for me far easier than I could a summer. I have also noticed that none of them are particularly long, even though one that looks like it might be.

Interestingly when I looked at what was on my current bedside it seems the ridiculously humid London heat of the last few weeks has started to have a summery effect on my reading subconscious already as I have these lined up and ready to go by the bedside.

I think they all fit with my summer bullet points don’t you? So do you read seasonally? What criteria can you list for me that you need from your summer reads? Don’t give any recommendations yet, save yourself for next week when it all goes recommendation mad! Hope you’re looking forward to it?

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Simon’s Bookish Bits #19

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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Simon’s Bookish Bits #18

It’s quite nice that Saturday pops around so quickly until I suddenly realise I have made no notes (I am big on notes as my addiction to stationery and Paperchase as seen on my bank statement would prove) for what the heck I am going to talk about today. But fear not I have a few bits and bobs and actually with a favourite link, podcast of the week and a rather special worldwide competition it seems my Bookish Bits seem to have gone back to their roots at long last hee, hee.

First up a huge thanks for all the comments and emails regarding the new look, it seems you all really rather like it so that’s good. Over the next week or so more pages and places will be added but I will keep you updated with them as they arrive. At the moment I am looking at re-doing ‘The Readers Table’ as it hasn’t been done for ages, in fact ‘My Mighty TBR’ could do with a bit of a sorting too.

On to other blogs though and my fav post of the week and one I keep popping back to is by Simon of Stuck-in-a-Book who has done a wonderful post where he is asking people to tell him about the weirdest profession any character/s have in books, do pop over and have a gander.

I think I’ve completely forgotten, until now, to tell you that the video podcasts of ‘The First Tuesday Book Club’ are back and see the delightful Jennifer Byrne and co discussing books. The latest edition sees them discussing Ian McEwan’s ‘Solar’ and guests Sarah Waters in the discussion. I am becoming even more a fan of Marieke Hardy especially as she described the novel as ‘loosey goosey structurally’ I think she might become on of my bookish idols. You can see it all here.

Now before I go off to the park with a bag of books (its delightful weather here again today) I have a competition for you. As you will hopefully all have seen, and if you haven’t pop and have a look, the lovely Evie Wyld did a Savidge Grills on Thursday which funnily enough was the day of her wonderful debut novel coming out in paperback. Vintage have kindly offered three copies of ‘After The Fire, A Still Small Voice’ to giveaway worldwide all you have to do is answer Evie’s creative quandary about a legendary mythical Australian creature…

When I was 19 I asked my Australian grandmother what she thought the Bunyip looked like. Her answer was ‘sort of roundish with legs’. Any improvements on this description would be most welcome!?!

So we would like you to come up with a creative made up description of a Bunyip in a single sentence (you can be as bonkers as you like) ‘I saw a Bunyip and it looked like…’and the winning three get a copy of the book AND not only that (as Evie and I were plotting away we thought as its quite hard you should get something else too) but you the three winners will also get their Bunyip drawn by the lovely Joseph Sumner who is working with Evie on a graphic novel. How ace is that? I am tempted to enter it myself. You have until Thursday so get cracking! Have lovely weekends!

Oh and FYI my Bookish Bits will be on Friday next week!!!

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Savidge Reads Grills… Evie Wyld

Now if I hadn’t urged you to get your mitts on this debut novel before today then I would urge you once more to read ‘After The Fire, A Still Small Voice’ by Evie Wyld, that is of course unless you have already read it! I enthused about it last year and it made my top books of 2009. Well I had the pleasure of meeting Evie a while back (a big thanks to Kim of Reading Matters for being brave) and going all fan like and a little star struck. However despite my ‘rabbit in the headlights’ first impression Evie kindly agreed to be my latest victim author to have a Savidge Reads Grilling. Here she discusses her wonderful debut (on the day it comes out in paperback in the UK hint, hint), kissing books and books that make her clap with joy…

For those people who haven’t read After The Fire, A Still Small Voice yet, can you try and explain it in a single sentence…
It’s a story about traumatised men, not talking and scary things that people try to ignore. 

How did the book come about, where was the idea born?
I really just sat down and wrote for three years. I didn’t have any strong ideas of where it would go, I just followed the characters around until they made their own way in the story. Australia was the only bit that was a solid ‘idea’.

Now the book is written from points of view of some very strong (and if I may say so emotionally withdrawn) males, how easy did you find that, what were the hurdles?
I didn’t find it difficult using a male voice – in fact I think I find it easier to write at a bit of a distance, because you have to imagine so much more to make it authentic. When I was writing at home there was a fair bit of acting that went into developing the characters, I spoke a lot of their dialogue out loud; I stomped round the flat and tried to imagine I was Frank and Leon. That seemed like the easiest way to understand them.

Has working in a book shop been a push to write more? How did you combine work and writing?
I work twice a week in the book shop, so ordinarily I’ll have three days of writing, which seems to be working out pretty well. Working there has made me aware of how difficult it is to get anywhere with writing – and rightly so – there are so many wonderful books, and they keep coming, there’s no reason for anyone to read a bad book. I think it’s made me understand the importance of getting it right.

How relevant do you think book blogging is to the publishing industry? Do you ever pop and see what people have thought of your book or is it something you avoid at all costs?
I find it impossible not to read reviews. And they can be really helpful – it’s lovely to know that someone you’ve never met is taking your work seriously. I’ve found that book blogs give a whole other life to the book, and it’s that sort of word of mouth which has been the most useful in getting the book out there. Reviews on your blog or on Dove Grey Reader seem to be as helpful to sales as something from say the Guardian.

When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer? Was it an easy thing for you to do? How long have you been writing for?
I started writing when I was about 15, and the first thing I wrote came out really easily, partly because it was pretty awful but partly because it released some tension I didn’t realise I had until then. It just flowed out and it was a really wonderful feeling. I don’t get it often but that’s the feeling I’m chasing when I’m writing. It’s as much about figuring yourself out as telling a good story.

Which books and authors inspired you to write?
Cloudstreet by Tim Winton was the first novel that made me envy a writer’s relationship with their work. I had the misguided idea that for the author the characters have an afterlife, that it doesn’t all end when the writing stops, like you could ask what a certain character goes on to do after the book is over and the writer would know. I love Lorrie Moore too and anything in the Love and Rockets series by the Hernandez brothers

Which contemporary authors do you rate who are writing right now?
David Vann’s ‘Legend of a Suicide’ is wonderful. I would read anything that Tim Winton writes, and I’ve just got into Peter Temple. Jon McGregor is a hero and I’ve just read ‘The Cuckoo Boy’ by Grant Gillespie, his first novel. I loved that. I’m looking forward to whatever Karen McLeod writes next.

Describe your typical writing routine, do you have any writers quirks or any writing rituals?
I write best it the morning, and I drink black coffee. I like to get out of the flat, so that I don’t have the temptations of housework and looking in the fridge. My only really creepy ‘quirk’ is that if I’m reading a book, I have to kiss page 100 when I get to it. That’s the only thing that really makes me worry about myself. 

Which book, apart from your own, would you demand Savidge Reads and readers run out and buy right this instant, a book you would call your favourite?
So hard – I really don’t have a favorite, but The Idea of Perfection by Kate Grenville makes me clap my hands.

What is next for Evie Wyld; please say we don’t have to wait too long for the second book? No pressure though, hee, hee!
I’ve made a start on the next book, its set between Australia and sea side towns in the UK. I’m also working with an illustrator on a short graphic novel, which is really good fun. It’s about my early childhood and swapping between Australia and England and it’s about sharks.

Well I don’t know about you but I cannot wait for novel number two and the graphic novel (maybe this project will help me finally get into that genre). A huge thanks to Evie for taking part, I won’t go all fan-esque again, I shall just say if you haven’t read her book then you really, really must and you can visit her website here and read her blog as Booktrust ‘writer in residence’ here. Oh and I nearly forgot, should you have any burning questions for Evie you might want to pop them in the comments as she just might pop by, you never know…

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A Bookish Couple of Days…

First off before I start to rabbit on about what have been wonderfully bookish times over the past few days I wanted to say a big thank you to you all for your very kind birthday wishes yesterday. In fact one of you has a surprise further down, there is also a competition today too, so do keep reading on after my waffle for that. This could have been the next bookish bits as it’s quite a jam packed post.

Tuesday night saw me venturing out for a night at To Hell With Publishing’s shop to hear David Vann talk about, and read from, his wonderful book ‘Legends of a Suicide’ which the lovely Joe from Penguin invited me to. Now I don’t like going to events on my own and certainly not walking into them by myself. Luckily the lovely Kimbofo and Lynne from Dovegreyreader and I all met for a coffee/chai latte first and had a delightful bookish natter before we arrived, we were most sorry Kirsty wasn’t there as then the whole NTTVBG would have been together. Oh a quick aside – Lynne has started Skin Lane and says so far so very good!

Once at the shop we were made very welcome given a bear had a natter with The Writers Pet and listened to David read us a new short story which had us all laughing. It was during this that I noticed we were in some rather wonderful company. There was Florence from Florence and the Machine, Julie Myerson and then Kim and I spotted Evie Wyld whose ‘After the Fire, A Still Small Voice’ I adored last year. Well after me wobbling about speaking to her Kim just tapped her on the shoulder as she passed and we were nattering (well maybe gushing) away at her for a good ten minutes. She was utterly lovely; I am now an even bigger fan (I didn’t get a piccie because I thought that might be stalkerish). It was particularly weird when she knew my blog and who I was and had even read my review; you always forget the author might see it so we had a bit of a love in between us all really it was a delightful way to end my 27th year.

Then yesterday Headline had decided to throw a bookish bloggers party at their head office that happened to fall on my birthday, what could be better? Thankfully no one had bought me a birthday cake yesterday because the spread was fabulous and the girls from Headline had made some marvellous homemade cakes. There was a presentation, a chance to meet the lovely people you email but don’t see, meet some of the authors (who included Paul Magrs whose series I really enjoy of and who was a good laugh) and get some books with a lovely goodie bag. I was very restrained, I hope you will be impressed…

I will talk more about ‘birthday books’ tomorrow. It was a lovely event and I got to meet lots of bloggers I had never seen before and have lots of new lovely sites to go in search of. It was lovely couple of days and yesterday it was really nice to be getting all of your messages through the day. So I thought as a surprise thank you I would put everyone who left one in a secret raffle for a copy of the marvellous ‘A Life Apart’ to show my appreciation, and the winner is… Nadia! So do email me your address and a copy will be out to you!

So for another competition… I have raved about Agatha Raisin on and off for ages and have told you all how you should read them, in fact I was having a natter about her yesterday with Paul Magrs and a few others in the pub. Well it seems in honour of my birthday (ok maybe not quite) she has had a makeover and I thought you should have the oppourtunity to get your mitts on a set of the first four revamped books in the series. Which look like this…

   

I am quite jealous as I want these! Thanks to the very kind Constable publishing there are two sets to be given away worldwide all I want to know, after my Evie experience, is which author you would most like to meet and what would you love to ask them? Simple as that. The deadline is the end of Friday the 26th – good luck!

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Guessing The Orange Prize Longlist 2010

I do like a good guessing game, I can almost guarantee I will always be pretty much wrong but I still like to have a go anyway. The last bookish year saw me trying and failing (though I did better than the previous year) to guess the Man Booker Longlist (I did guess the winner though) and the winner of the Orange Longlist both of which I got wrong. It is my dream to one day be on a book prize panel of some sort and as it will never be the Orange I thought I would list you what I would put forward before the actual 20 are announced tomorrow. I haven’t read them all but really want to, all bar two I haven’t read are on my TBR.

It was quite hard choosing though as the books can’t be translated, have to have been published in the UK between the 1st April 2009 and 31st March 2010 (one book in my list is due out on both the 31st of March and 1st of April depending where you look so it may not make it, I went under the assumption that the 31st was correct) and all must be novels, no novellas. 

I have popped them all alphabetically in order of author surname so as you can’t guess my favourites…

   

Ms. Hempel Chronicles – Sarah Shun-lien Bynum
The Rehearsal – Eleanor Catton
War on the Margins – Libby Cone
Isa and May – Margaret Forster

   

How To Paint A Dead Man – Sarah Hall
Blueeyedboy – Joanne Harris
Dog Boy – Eva Hornung
Small Wars – Sadie Jones

   

The Long Song – Andrea Levy
Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel
The Confessions of Edward Day – Valerie Martin
A Gate At The Stairs – Lorrie Moore

    

White is for Witching – Helen Oyeyemi
Where The Serpent Lives – Ruth Padel
The Boy Next Door – Irene Sabatini
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand – Helen Simonson

   

The Help – Kathryn Stockett
Trespass – Rose Tremain
Dancing Backwards – Salley Vickers
After The Fire, A Still Small Voice – Evie Wyld

I will say another two titles were fighting for a place in the top twenty and they were ‘Black Mamba Boy’ by Nadifa Mohamed and ‘The Rapture’ by Liz Jensen so if the judges pick either of these then I will be kicking myself. I also originally had ‘A Beginners Guide To Acting English’ by Shappi Khorsandi not realising it was a memoir (have now seen the very tiny word on the back of the book, thank you Justine! You see it started off being quite tough and then I kept thinking of ‘just one more’ several times.

You might notice some big contenders of last year are missing from my list, titles such as Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood’, Sarah Water’s ‘The Little Stranger’, Audrey Niffenegger’s ‘Her Fearful Symmetry’ and A. S. Byatt’s ‘The Children’s Book’ (though I don’t think she allows hers to be put forward) all four of which I read last year and thought were very good I just think they have had enough publicity already. You could say the same for Wolf Hall but I adored it more than very much liking it so it made my selection. It wouldn’t be a shock or a scandal to see any of those on the list though. 

So will I be anywhere near right? Quite unlikely, would be hilarious if I was though. What about all of you, what do you think might be seen on the Longlist this year? I am not planning on intentionally reading whatever the final twenty or even the short listed titles are, is anyone else?

Note: This was a post I scheduled the other week and I didn’t realise Jackie was doing one too which you can see over at Farmlanebooks if you havent already. Let me know if any more of you are doing this!

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After The Fire, A Still Small Voice – Evie Wyld

One of the things that I have really loved about 2009 is extending the network of bloggers that I have met. This of course has lead me to some books and authors that I would possibly have missed. One such book is Evie Wyld’s debut and its thanks to a video Kim posted of the author describing her book as a ‘romantic thriller about men not talking’ which you can see here. With such an unusual surmising of a plot I couldn’t really not rush out and read this could I?

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‘After the Fire, A Still Small Voice’ is actually the tales of two separate men told in alternating chapters living in Australia told both in the present and in the past and not always in chronological order yet never confusing for the reader. It is really hard to tell you all about it without giving anything away but do bear with me as I will try and do my best without any spoilers and yet trying to cover everything that this wonderful book does.

The first of the men we meet is Frank. Having recently given up his life in Canberra after a rather rocky relationship he has moved to his Grandparents shack by the sea in an attempt to hide away from the world which he will have to live off, though in the end the world won’t remain hidden, neighbours will be friendly, and he will need money and so takes a part time job in the local marina. But in a small town he is watched with interest and suspicion, especially as a girl has recently gone missing. Franks a tough character and as we get to know him better and the story of his youth, though he is only in his twenties roughly, you gain an insight into why.

Leon is the second male character. We meet him in his youth in a town, where his family are looked down on for being immigrants, as he learns the trade of his father’s cake shop which when his father is sent to fight in Korea he must take over until his father comes back. Once his father returns he is a changed man and adds additional strain to the family home leaving Leon in charge for good. Only Leon himself then gets conscripted to fight in the Vietnam War and like his father the affects of war change him forever.

This makes the book sound quite simplistic and it’s not the case as Wyld throws in quite a few other plots such as a delightful romance for Leon and a wonderful tale of a little girl breaking through Frank’s tough exterior. To say anymore would simply give too much away. I thought that is was particularily remarkable how Wyld got so deeply into the two male lead characters, especially as they are both such complex, emotionally scarred and sometimes quite dislikeable characters. I wasn’t sure this book would be for me for the first two chapters and then I was hooked and read it in three sittings. Through these two men’s viewpoints I went on an emotion filled journey through loss, love, war, discrimination, and also most importantly I felt, hope.

I thought this was a marvellous piece of work, an incredibly impressive debut, I think Wyld is definitely an author to watch out for in the future. I am already wondering if there may be some recognition of this in the 2010 Orange Longlist, I do hope so, its already won The John Llewellyn Rhys prize. I am definitely honouring it with the Savidge Reads “Cover of 2009” prize, if ever you were to judge a book by its fabulous cover make it this one. I am not the only one who enjoyed this thoroughly as you can see Kim’s review here too. One of my books of the year no question.

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Filed under Books of 2009, Evie Wyld, Jonathan Cape Publishers, Random House Publishing, Review