As you may know I am away on a reading retreat this weekend and I am hoping I will be back with some pictures of the stunning reading views I have encountered, as well as some of the fun and frolics. Some people might think that you don’t need a nice view to read, after all aren’t we all just staring at the page. I myself think that environment is important when you are reading. For example I find it really hard to read anywhere where people are talking, in London I am fortunate as very few people like to talk to each other on the underground during commuting hours. I thought I would start a mini project which I am hoping you will all get involved with both in words and in images, read on and I will explain…
A few weeks ago (which shows you how long I have been plotting a post like this) I decided that I would take pictures of some of the places I read during a fortnight, or if I happened to end up reading anywhere special. I was surprised in how many places I stopped and read, especially as I didn’t record all of them, when I looked back at them all. Here are the results…
Anita Brookner in Somerset House…
Neil Bartlett on a bench in London’s east end…
Evelyn Waugh on my knees (yes those are my pyjama patterns) in bed or on the sofa…
Horace Walpole in the bath…
Natasha Solomon’s in St James Park (my favourite park in London)…
Sophie Hannah on the tube…
It’s quite a mixed bag isn’t it? So I thought I would ask if you guys would do a couple of things for me. The first of which is to answer three quick questions for me;
- Where is your favourite place to read?
- Where can you simply not read for love nor money?
- What’s the strangest place you have read?
The next thing I wondered relates to the last question a little. I wondered if you had any pictures of a book you have been reading in a really bizarre place and if you would like to share them? Or do you have a picture of the environment of your favourite reading spot? If so, how about sending me a picture or two. I thought it would be interesting to see the results either in a post at a later date, on a separate page, or in my bookish bits each week? Might give us more of an idea where we all read and get to know each other better? What do you say?
I am really glad that I started doing the ‘Do I Want To Read’ posts because you have been marvellous at letting me know some of your thoughts on some of the books I have been umming and ahhhing over, or as I like to call it ‘quibbling about’, of late. One such book was ‘The Castle of Otranto’ by Horace Walpole which I had never heard of before Novel Insights mentioned it and then many of you said was the original ‘gothic’ story.
If I was just to write a one word review for this novel then I think it would have to be ‘bonkers’. As the book opens you meet Manfred, the owner of ‘The Castle of Otranto’, his wife Hippolita and their children Conrad and Matilda. Manfred is obsessed about keeping the family line alive yet Hippolita has only managed to give him a rather sickly heir in Conrad. As the book opens Manfred has arranged a marriage between a young girl Isabella and Conrad in order that a new male heir may be in the family as soon as possible. Only on the big day a giant helmet with plumed feathers falls from the sky and crushes Conrad. See I told you it was bonkers.
From this point on Manfred goes almost mad for fear of a prophecy ‘that the castle and the lordship of Otranto should pass from the present family, whenever the real owner should be grown too large from it’, no it doesn’t make sense but it’s a great plot device for Manfred to then decide he wants to marry Isabella and disown Hippolita whether they like it or not. Though Manfred didn’t expect the arrival of a stranger in the village that fate seems to throw in his path at every turn. A tale of secrets passages, mysteries, knights, giants, trysts and death then ensues with lashings of drama.
I liked it, I am not sure I could or would say it was my favourite book ever. I found the lack of space between the characters speech really confusing but that was how they wrote then so is me the reader that is at fault not the book or the author. I liked the craziness of it all and yet it worked against it for me. There’s too many unexplained random moments and turns of events that you suddenly have no idea where you are in the story or who is who. I will say you do carry on because it’s quite short and Walpole keeps the pace and momentum up. You do occasionally think ‘not another revelation’ but that’s all part of the fun. An interesting short read if you want something truly classic, its was originally published in 1764, fancy trying a truly Gothic book (I have heard that this being the first it suffers from then having been bettered later a little) and don’t mind a completely barmy plot that can go off at any tangent at any moment.
I liked this as a bizarre and enjoyable romp between some other books, I do think it may have suffered somewhat because I read it after ‘Skin Lane’ and ‘The Loved One’ which having been such wonderful, wonderful reads meant any book I read after would have to blow my bookish socks of. ‘The Castle of Otranto’ didn’t do that, it did give me a delightful escape into a world of fiction I hadn’t tried before but I definitely want to read much more gothic works in the future and I am very glad I started with what is deemed the first. It also took me out of my comfort zone which is always a bonus. Where should I go gothically next I wonder?
A big thank you for all the lovely comments yesterday and all your thoughts, it was really lovely to know that you were all out there giving me your support and condolances. I won’t be replying individually as I don’t really want to dwell on it and so today I thought ‘what would be a joyful post after yesterday’ and so I thought I would share with you what has been arriving through the post box over the last few weeks from publishers at Savidge Reads HQ. Who out there can say they can’t be cheered up by lots of books arriving? Plus what could be more appropriate on World Book Day?
I have decided to arrange them in sizes, so let’s kick it all off with the paperbacks…
The Castle of Otranto – Horace Walpole
Someone at OUP obviously read my first post of my ‘do I want to read’ series as sure enough it arrived along with two more gothic friends you can see below.
The Silver Linings Playbook – Matthew Quick
Obviously this is one of the TV Book Group choices and I wouldn’t have heard of this without it am sure. I am looking forward to it just from the title alone. Might try and fit this in before it’s discussed on the telly.
I’m Not Scared – Niccolo Ammaniti
This looks like it could be a very me book as it centres on a ‘dilapidated farmhouse’ and dark discovery. I like the mystery of it and the covers quite dark and yet inviting.
The Italian – Ann Radcliffe
An author I have had on my radar for quite some time and not dared to try as Udolpho is so huge (see below) this looks much more manageable and just as gothic.
The Crossroads – Niccolo Ammaniti
Canongate must think me and Ammaniti are going to get on like a house on fire as they sent this with ‘I’m Not Scared’. Reading the blurb he sounds like an Italian Mankell would that be correct?
Alone in Berlin – Hans Fallada
I have seen the posters for this everywhere and so my Savidge Reads Radar has been beeping regularly alerting me that there could be a wonderful book out there I don’t own… which now I do, hoorah!
The Mysteries of Udolpho – Ann Radcliffe
Some say this is the greatest novel every written. I am hoping I have as much fun with this as I did with East Lynne the mother of all sensation novels, we will see.
Now to the, what do you call these size books? I call them the middle/in between sized ones but am sure that’s not the official term…
Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit – Jeanette Winterson
Winterson has been an author I have wanted to try for ages. I had this one already but the new 25th Anniversary edition is just gorgeous and so I will be delving into that very soon.
Once Again To Zelda – Marlene Wagman-Geller
A book I was alerted to thanks to the BBC’s Open Book. This is fifty stories behind fifty dedications in some of the world’s greatest books. With tales of why Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, Agatha Christie, Oscar Wilde, Grace Metalious, J.K. Rowling and many more, dedicated their books to the people they did.
Orphans of Eldorado – Milton Hatoum
The latest Canongate Myths book which is set in Brazil a country I want to read lots more about this year.
Where The Serpent Lives – Ruth Padel
Any book that has the settings of London, Devon and the jungles of India needs to be read frankly.
Bitter Leaf – Chioma Okereke
I have read some cracking African fiction in the last few months and want to read more so Virago must be psychic as this debut is ‘set in a world that is African but never geographically placed’ sounds intriguing. I have a hunch this might get an Orange mention… maybe.
Rupture – Simon Lelic
The blogosphere has been going crazy over this book of a teacher opening fire in a school assembly, in the last month or so. Will I be joining them in raving about it?
Finally the bigger books…
Homer & Langley – E.L. Doctorow
Another author I have always wanted to read and this book of two brothers who holed themselves up (like a male version of Grey Gardens in a way) from the world and lived alone in a dilapidated grand old building of New York. I have an inkling this will become a favourite of the year.
The Songwriter – Beatrice Colin
I utterly fell in love with Colin’s book ‘The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite’ last year am hoping this book captures the same spell on me.
A Little Folly – Jude Morgan
Another author I loved last year as I read ‘The Taste of Sorrow’ and was mortified it wasn’t in the Man Booker Longlist as it was superb. Instead of the lives of the Bronte sisters or any other famous authors we are now treated to a scandalous tale of Regency London. I cannot wait!
The Pacific – Hugh Ambrose
A slightly leftfield rogue sending from Canongate. This has been made into a ten part series by Tom Hanks and Stephen Spielberg I gather. It looks a bit hard hitting as it’s about the real men involved in the war. I am intrigued but wary all at once.
So have you read any of those titles or anything else by any of the authors? Are any on your TBR or radar? What have you had arrive lately by post, by shopping or by library loaning?
I was actually planning today on simply doing a post saying that I was going to have a ‘blogging day off’ then just as I was settling down to sleep last night an idea loomed in my head and I thought ‘if I don’t do this ASAP then someone else will’ and so I thought I would introduce you to what will be a rather random little series simply entitled ‘Do I Want To Read…?’ With it I will highlight a book or couple of books (like today for example) every now and then that have caught my eye but I am on the fence about reading/asking for as a birthday present/getting from the library etc and so want your thoughts either if you have read them or have heard about them. So lets crack on.
The first book is ‘1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die’ compiled by Peter Boxall. I love a good list of books and indeed I love books about books and so when I saw this at the library the other week I almost had to take it out. Two things stopped me. Firstly I had reached my limit and secondly it is massive and weighs a tonne. I do always ponder with these 1001 things before you die series of books ‘how did they choose that list?’ or ‘what gives that person the authority to decide?’ Do you know what I mean? I also fear I’d start to read the book only to worry that I might never read all 1001 and then panic and go into some kind of bookish despair or get very cross I don’t have lots of them in my TBR. Then again I do love reading about books and it might introduce me to some lovely rogue reads, you can see my quandary I am sure.
The second book currently hovering on my radar I am blaming on Novel Insights as she emailed me with the subject ‘Walpole’ and the message “kind of want to read the book and visit strawberry hill and go to the exhibition as he sounds weird and a bit crazy!” There was also this link here. Well with all of that it was only natural that ‘The Castle of Otranto’ by the slightly crazy and intriguing sounding Horace Walpole is now firmly in my book thoughts. I like the premise “A haunted castle and a ruined bloodline Manfred, wicked lord of Otranto Castle, is horrified when his son is crushed to death on his wedding day. But rather than witness the end of his line, as foretold in a curse, he resolves to send his own wife to a convent and marry the intended bride himself. However, Manfred’s lustful greed will be disturbed by the terrifying omens that now haunt his castle: bleeding statues, skeletal ghouls and a giant sword – as well as the arrival of the rightful prince of Otranto…” I also want to read more gothic books but then I saw this quote “a series of catastrophes, ghostly interventions, revelations of identity, and exciting contests. Crammed with invention, entertainment, terror, and pathos” and I thought it sounds a bit, well, dare I say O.T.T and pretentious? So now am not sure?
Can you shed some light please dear readers? Have you read/heard about either of these? Is there a book that you are umming and ahhhing over at the moment that you need help to decide if you read or not?