Tag Archives: Gregory Maguire

A Break of Fate

So after having had some ‘head down’ time, which actually became a week of mad reading and lots of author interviews, I was all ready to come back with a review post today, a little post about some bookish treats tomorrow and the latest Persephone project on Sunday. Fate seems to have other ideas though as my wifi has gone kaput and may be kaput for sometime. Plus I don’t get 3G in my apartment (I believe it’s the Victorian ghosts) and so right now I’m typing and setting this all live from the bottom of the garden (where the pixies live, joking, I don’t believe in pixies). But I thought I would try and do a catch up post anyway before vanishing again for a while. So…

This week has been lovely as my belated birthday books arrived from The Beard (it’s our one year anniversary on Sunday, very exciting) this week and what a bounty it was – so much so we’ve had to hire a guard cat to watch over them, you wouldn’t mess with Millie.

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In case you can’t quite see these are; a copy of Gregory Maguire’s ‘Wicked’ which I already have but the musical cover not the original cover which was on my imported first edition I lent to someone and never got back, ‘Building Stories’ by Chris Ware, ‘Black Vodka’ by Deborah Levy, and the next three Persephone’s that I was missing; ‘The Victorian Chaise-Longue’ by Marghanita Laski, ‘The Home-Maker’ by Dorothy Canfield Fisher and ‘Good Evening, Mrs Craven’ by Mollie Panter-Downes. All very exciting.

Ooh while we are on the subject of Persephone’s, they do lead me to saying that as I am wifi-less discussing Etty Hillesum’s ‘An Interrupted Life’ will be postponed to a week on Sunday. I hope that’s ok?

This week has felt a bit bonkers. Everything is getting finalised for the Liverpool Literature Festival (so having no wifi is really annoying right now) and then somehow I ended up with three author interviews in one week, meaning masses of reading.

I have had the pleasure of chatting to Jenni Fagan for the latest Reader Book Club featuring ‘The Panopticon’ and then have been recording two advance episodes of You Wrote the Book! with Alan Bradley (of the Flavia de Luce series – which I love) and then Taiye Selasi, an author who is as beautiful on the inside as the outside as the picture below shows, whose debut ‘Ghana Must Go’ is doing incredibly well as, well, it is incredible. More on that soon…

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Speaking of You Wrote the Book, which you can listen to on repeat if you miss me while I have this blip, the latest episode with Joanne Harris is now live and next week I am recording with… Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, so if you have any questions for her then let me know. I am just about to start ‘Americanah’ finally.

I am also off to see Gran for a few days next week so if you have anything to pass onto her then let me know.

That’s me all up to date. I hope to be back ASAP but am seeing it as a break-of-fate from everything in the meantime. In fact actually this weekend is the perfect time to have a huge book sort! What plans have you this weekend? What else is news with you?

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Other People’s Bookshelves #13 – Simon Savidge

Okay, so I thought I would do something a bit different with Other People’s Bookshelves by taking part in it myself. My thoughts behind this were that a) no one likes to be number thirteen (and indeed I am really, really superstitious about the number myself) and b) as it is my birthday tomorrow I might as well make the whole weekend all about me. I am half joking with that last comment, sort of. Ha! So today I will share with you my shelves and indeed my book boxes and who knows you might even get to know me a little better. How weird to be interviewing myself…

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

I used to keep every single book that I read, yet this all stopped when I was living in London as after a few years I simply didn’t have the room and so I had to get tough. I have to admit I did use to keep books on my shelves that I didn’t really love but just wanted people to see that I had read, so was good to be tough. However now I have much more room and indeed have bought lots more bookshelves so I can see my old ‘hoard everything’ tendency is creeping back. That said though when the new shelves were sorted I rearranged everything and did get rid of ‘Wuthering Heights’ and ‘The White Tiger’ so maybe the habit won’t die out. You do have to be careful of mood though, some books you love some days and less the next. It is tricky. Excuses, excuses, excuses.

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

I have always had them in alphabetical order on the shelves of books I have read in the lounge. Until the weekend before this I did actually have crime on separate shelves from fiction and non-fiction, I think I was playing at having a bookshop in my head, now though everything is mingled together genre wise, but in author surname order.

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

I think the first book I bought with my own money wasn’t actually until my twenties because I had relatives that bought me books and I was hooked onto the library at an early age thanks to my mother. I also had a spell from my mid teens to early twenties where I went completely off reading and didn’t pick up a book for, wait for it, six years. Can you believe that? The first two books I bought then were Agatha Christie’s ‘4.50 from Paddington’ and ‘Rebecca’ by Daphne Du Maurier, both of those are definitely on my shelves.

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

I did used to have my Agatha Raisin books, and indeed my favourite childhood books, hidden away in the bedroom because I thought people would judge me. Now they too are mingled in with everything else since the new shelves have come in. I have decided that I am not going to feel to feel guilty about books anymore, especially if they are a pleasure to read, life is too short. Yet I think I might start to tell myself off if I don’t get better at giving up on books I am just not enjoying. I am guilty of that quite often and it causes reading funks.

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

Funnily enough Simon, it would be the Conan Doyle book of short stories to which you refer. I also have lots of books that my Granddad, Bongy, made for me when I was younger. Those are both to be found stored away by the bed just in case.

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

It was ‘Perfume’ by Patrick Suskind and it was indeed one of the first forays into adult fiction that I had. My mum was always keen to let me read whatever I fancied really, she vetted everything but only with a quick glance and I think, like with my much younger siblings, she just wanted us to embrace reading without forcing it down our necks. Best way to do that was just to let us all read pretty much what we want and never refer things as adult, young adult or kids fiction. I have read ‘Perfume’ twice now, the second time – back in my early mid-twenties – I felt I was reading a completely different book, I don’t think I got all the nuances at a younger age which only added to the initial delight of the book second time around. Oh and yes, it is on the shelves now.

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

I am lucky in the fact that I get a fair few books free through the blog and work. That said I am amazed at the fact that no matter how many books I have there are always more and more books that I want. I have the library for those books, or indeed charity shops though the library is now my place of preference, and if I really, really, really loved them then I would definitely want it on my shelves.

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

I am going to cheat with two. ‘Chocolat’ by Joanne Harris which I finished a few days ago and adored, I now want to read EVERYTHING she has ever written. I have also just popped ‘The Life of Pi’ on the shelves, I leant it to my other halves mother (who I talk about books with a lot) but I don’t really like lending books and so when I spotted a pristine second hand one bought it to go back on the shelves so I don’t have to ask for mine back. It is a weird tick I have, I know she will look after it, and yet… Ha!

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

Hmmmm, I would sound spoilt if I said yes. If you mean on my ‘books I have read’ shelves in the lounge there are a few books I have loaned and never seen again, especially swapping my tie in edition of ‘Wicked’ for the stunning American import I had, and a few that have gone missing in my many moves. If you mean in the ‘books to be read’ shelves and boxes in the bedroom I should say no with over 600 of them – yet Deborah Levy’s ‘Black Vodka; Ten Stories’ and Chris Ware’s ‘Building Stories’ are calling out to me. I am hoping I get some vouchers tomorrow and can get those. Oh and all the Persephone books that I don’t have of course. No rush though, a good library is built slowly.

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

That it is an explosion of eclectic tastes and voices from someone who reads widely and clearly can’t decide what genre of book they really love or what their particular taste or penchant is in books… something I am getting more and more comfortable with as I get older.

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

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October’s Incomings…

So yet another month has whizzed by and its time for me to let you know what has plopped through the letterbox over the last month. I am mad with all things Green Carnation shortlist, my Mum and everything else at the mo so forgive the slightly short and instant introduction.

  • Lethal Investments by K.O. Dahl  – I met the author at Manchester Literature Festival and he very kindly gave me a copy of his book after I interviewed him all about Nordic crime and the appeal of it. This is his latest novel in the series but he said it’s the one I should start with, you can’t argue with an authors orders can you?
  • My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher – I have this in hardback but I think it’s getting a second major push, with an audio version read by none other than David Tenant, I started reading it but I was getting a bit over emotional, I will try again.
  • Divorcing Jack by Bateman – A book to read before I interview him for The Readers.
  • Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons – and the festive reads start coming in. I actually need to read ‘Cold Comfort Farm’ don’t I?
  • Ashes To Dust/My Soul To Take/The Day is Dark by Yrsa Sigurdardottir – another author that I had the pleasure of meeting, and therefore reading, because of Manchester Literary Festival. She was hilarious and the first in the series ‘Last Rituals’ is brilliant, review coming soon.
  • The Doll Princess by Tom Benn – unsolicited copy of a debut novel about post apocalyptic Manchester which isn’t out until the spring but being set where I live the publishers knew I couldn’t resist this.
  • Someone Else’s Garden by Dipika Rai – another novel from an author I met at Manchester Literature Festival.
  • The Good Muslim by Tahmima Anam – another novel from an author I met at Manchester Literature Festival.
  • She’s Leaving Home by Joan Bakewell – I am interviewing Joan next week at Waterstones Deansgate and so am having a bit of a Bakewell-a-thon. I have read her first ‘All The Nice Girls’ (review coming soon) and an now dipping into her essays before I read this over the weekend.
  • The Coward’s Tale by Vanessa Gebbie – unsolicited copy, love the title and the story of two young boys in a welsh mining town sounds interesting.
  • 666 Charing Cross Road by Paul Magrs – I feel a bit bad I haven’t read this yet, but I will be as he is at Bookmarked with Ben Aaronovitch on Monday. I am dubious about reviewing it after I have read it as I know him, and you know I know him. Mind you if you know that and I am honest does it matter?
  • The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz – The official return of Sherlock Holmes and approved by the Conan Doyle estate. I am very excited about this and about taking The Bookboy to meet him tomorrow.
  • The Horror of Love by Lisa Hilton – a book about the relationship between “two people – Nancy Mitford and the Free French commander Gaston Palewski – who conducted a less than ideal love affair in post-war France” I am a Mitford addict of course I need to read this.
  • Out of Oz by Gregory Maguire – the final (I think that’s true) novel in Maguire’s wonderful Oz stories which started with one of my favourite novels ‘Wicked’. Perfect world to be lost in during these autumn nights.

Have you read any of these of anything else by these authors? Which would you like to see me read next? What have you had arrive or been out and bought, borrowed or begged for bookwise of late?

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Prequels, Sequels and Spin Off’s…

I mentioned when earlier in the week when I discussed adaptations that I had been to see the musical ‘Wicked!’ again with The Converted One, my mother, my little sister and her best friend. Now many of you thought it was for the second time, it was actually the fifth!! Anyway it started me thinking about prequels, sequels and spin offs NOT written by the original author and this discussion has come up again a few times in the last week so I decided I should bring the discussion on here too. I hope you will all join in?

It was actually ‘The Wizard of Oz’, and therefore ‘Wicked’, as opposed to instant titles you might think of that have been spinned such as ‘Rebecca’ or indeed ‘Pride and Prejudice’ that got a conversation started on just this subject between myself and one of my fellow Green Carnation judges Nick Campbell when we were out at a book launch on Tuesday night. You see as a child I was rather obsessed with the film ‘The Wizard of Oz’ (and indeed ‘Return to Oz’ though I think people thought that film was rather uncool so maybe I shouldn’t admit to that) ask Granny Savidge Reads… I used to insist on watching it once a week apparently. It seemed that so is Nick and not just of the films but of the books. So I of course asked if he had read ‘Wicked’ by Gregory Maguire and ‘Was’ by Geoff Ryman (the answers were yes and no).

I personally loved ‘Wicked’ when I read it several years ago and it has indeed become one of my very favourite books because it took something I adored and turned it on its very head (making Elphaba a misunderstood witch who was actually best friends with Glinda at university in Shiz not far from Munchkinland. Interestingly though I was then really rather disappointed when I went onto read Gregory Maguire’s sequel to his ‘Oz’ spin off ‘Son of a Witch’ it didn’t cast the spell (pun intended) that I wanted it to once more. Maybe ‘A Lion Among Men’ will? I wonder if I would be such a fan of ‘Wicked’ if I had actually read the original Oz books or would I instead consider it some kind of barbaric sacrilege?

I mean most of the people I know who love ‘Pride and Prejudice’ think anything that is a spin off of that novel they hold in such high esteem is the work of Satan simply doesn’t cut the mustard no matter how good it is. The very fact that it is a spin off of from such a successful story is deemed an author cashing in or writing a book rather lazily to be honest (not my words a rather toned down watershed version of some of my friends actually). Is this the case or are their some gems out there they are simply being too snobbish to admit to? I mean look at ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’ by Jean Rhys which has become rather an acclaimed novel and yet is a prequel of sorts to Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre’.

I applied the notion of prequels and sequels written by another author to my favourite book which is of course ‘Rebecca’ by Daphne Du Maurier. Whilst I have copies of Sally Beauman’s ‘Rebecca’s Tale’ and Susan Hill’s ‘Mrs De Winter’ I have not touched either of them or really been tempted to and considering the latter is one of my favourite authors I am wondering if there is something in this. Can I simply not bear the idea of my favourite book being ruined by another great author who no matter how good or how hard they try simply cannot recreate the atmosphere Daphne did? I suppose I won’t know the answer till I try… but just having looked at them again, I got that same unsure feeling, so I don’t think I will know for quite some time.

Are there any prequels, sequels or spin offs by your favourite authors or the ones mentioned above that have really, really worked for you and managed to embody/channel the voice from the original? Have any ever been better than the original itself? Which prequels, sequels and spin off’s really should never have happened?

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Great Expectations, Can Readers Expect Too Much?

After reading Son of a Witch and feeling rather let down by the whole novel, I wondered whether I was at fault. I wondered if maybe I had expected too much. Having loved its predecessor so much maybe I had hyped the new novel up far too much in my own head? I don’t think this is the case though, lets take another example of this shall we which we can compare and contrast this with.

Harry Potter. Last year saw the launch of the latest and last Harry Potter novel, and ‘Potter-Mania’ reached a whole new level with the final instalment. People had been guessing for weeks (months and years) would Harry die or survive? I wont spoil the ending for the very few of you who haven’t read it yet. The expectation of the novel was so high a large amount of people who I heard say ‘oh it was such a let down’ or ‘well I had guessed the ending and found J. K. Rowling’s ending below par’. She wouldn’t have been able to win either way. Now Harry Potter is a cult, a series of novels so popular with both adults and children it’s untrue. Was I disappointed by it? Slightly but only because I read the epilogue, if you have read it you might understand why, god this not giving things away is difficult.

Now Gregory Maguire’s novels have a following though not on such a grand scale The Wizard of Oz almost does. So I think I was fair in expecting a lot, I mean if you are going to write a prequel or prequels sequel to a classic tale you have to be bloody good, and Wicked was. However there are factors that a reader should take into consideration after they have read something they feel is poor or below what they expected. These could be…

1. Where you really in the right mood for that book? It’s all very well finishing off a crime novel and saying ‘oh I hated that’ when actually when you started you wanted a light read with some comedy. In that case can I please recommend the Agatha Raisin series by M.C Beeton? This collection hits both nails of crime and comedy firmly on the head every time, in my opinion.

2. Did you give enough of your concentration to the novel? I have been doing all the rehearsals for a Pantomime (don’t ask) so I admit I have been shattered whilst reading this and occasionally felt my concentration waver. This is a 50/50 relationship this writing and reading malarkey. A writer spends hours writing the thing, you should try and spend as much time and concentration on a novel as you can.

3. Did you take too long to read it? Now this sounds a silly question but think about it. If you love a book it’s very difficult to put down. If your not enjoying one you read it slower therefore prolonging what could be a kind of good book into a kind of boring one. This is all dependent on your reading habits, be they 30 minutes before bed when your kids/partner/cat gives you some piece, that 50 minute train/tube/bus journey, or be in a ten minute on the loo number.

4. Peer Pressure/Others Reviews? Now this isn’t applicable to me in this instance but should be mentioned. My Gran can be a nightmare she can rave about a book so much I will read it and find it soulless. She can also dislike and berate a novel I am going to read and I love it. (I am sure this will come up in more detail in another blog one day.) Did you read a glowing or poor review in your favourite store, magazine or paper that’s slipped into your subconscious?

These are all things to be wary of. Yes we should expect a lot from our literature, be it £7.99 in Waterstones or 99p in Oxfam you are spending your spare money but most importantly your spare time on these works and you should be getting something out of it. You need to remember, as the saying goes, sometimes ‘you get out of it what you give it’ at least I think that’s an old saying and not something I have just made up? You get the drift.

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Son Of A Witch – Gregory Maguire

I never really believed in the phrase over egging the pudding, I now feel that I can apply this to Son of a Witch the latest Gregory Maguire novel. One of my favourite books is ‘Wicked’ now also a successful award winning musical. What I loved about Wicked was its originality. It added such a clever twist to a very well known tale of Elphaba the wicked witch of the west before Dorothy lands in Oz and questions how wicked she really was.

Wicked was rare in the fact that, for someone who doesn’t generally like peoples sequels or prequels to novels, I got totally re-emerged into the wonderful world of Oz that I loved so much from The Wizard of Oz. So when this novel came out on import (even though it’s coming out in paperback in the UK very soon) I had to grab a copy, the US covers are so much better anyway.

So would I love Oz as much as I did the last time? Not really. This is the tale of Liir who could or could not be the son of Elphaba. It tells of how he is found in the desert and the journey that leads him there which includes a few faces from the past. I like Maguire’s writing style. Wicked had so much imagination and involved some wonderful story telling, everything I loved in Wicked seemed completely lacking in this novel. I wasn’t interested in the characters, sub plots or references to the tales of Oz that we know and love. I felt cheated. I do not claim to think I could have written this novel better, I am just saying that the magic of Oz seems to have worn off.

I have also read ‘Mirror, Mirror’ a retold version of Snow White and have to admit I find that a lacklustre retelling of the original fairytale, so maybe Wicked just ticked all my boxes. It has mystery, witches, talking animals and a real gothic and epic feel to it, sadly its ‘son’ falls flat on its face whilst learning to crawl. A disappointment, maybe I had too high expectations. Is this something a reader can be guilty of? That sounds like the next blog to me…

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