Tag Archives: John Updike

Trespassing with Tremain…

It has been a year since Gran died. A year which seems to have gone all too quickly and also weirdly slowly all at once. How does time do that? Naturally I have thought about her daily since, at the weirdest of times, and missed her a huge amount both as my Gran and also as being one of the most bookish influences I had around me. I miss speaking three times a week about anything and everything and ending up on seeing how we were getting on with X or Y book, I still finish a book and wondering if she would like it, I miss reading the same book and having the same good or bad thoughts on it or polar opposite thoughts which we could get into heated debates about, I miss discussing our latest book group lists and meetings. The list could go on.

I was umming and ahhhhing how to mark the year since her passing. Did I mention it? Did I just let life go on? Having recently read one of the books I inherited from her, A Month in the Country, and loving it so much I thought maybe it was time to do something like Greene for Gran again and see if, like you all did amazingly last year, you would like to join in. The question was who or what to read?

My initial thought was to go for authors that she loved that I had read like Graham Greene last year. The choices could be Kate Atkinson, Margaret Atwood, John Updike, William Trevor, Antony Trollope (gulp) and Anne Tyler etc. Yet the bittersweet joy, because I couldn’t talk to her about it afterwards, in reading A Month in the Country was that she had introduced me to a new author and favourite book, even though (annoyingly) she doesn’t know it. I also decided that I quite fancied a more contemporary, and indeed living, author would make a change. So I ransacked my brain for the authors she had lots of books by and I had read and the answer was obvious…

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Rose Tremain, Gran raved and raved about Restoration, The Colour, The Road Home, Music and Silence and Trespass. In fact I seem to remember giving my proof/new incoming copies of anything Tremain because I knew the buzz she would get from having them early. I think she had almost all of Rose Tremain’s thirteen novels and a few of her short story collections. I can also remember how annoyed she would get when she asked if I had read any of them, ironically forgetting I had sent them her way, and my response would be ‘not yet, but I will’ with the response ‘you’d better.’

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Well Gran, guess what, in honour of you I am going to try Trespassing with Tremain into all the different era’s and lives that she writes about. I am thinking of reading and writing about four of her books and one of her short story collections – one every fortnight – from the 10th of August until the 5th of October. I will announce which ones when in due course, after your recommendations really. So where to start and who is up for joining me and hopefully finding some more great reads?

 

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Filed under Random Savidgeness, Trespassing with Tremain

The Witches of Eastwick – John Updike

Being one of my favourite films I have always wanted to read John Updike’s The Witches of Eastwick because the general rule is that the book is always so much better than the film, so in my head this meant the book was going to be amazing. I have also meant to read Updike again ever since I read Couples which was a choice at my old book club back in 2010. So I admit that I entered into the spirit of reading this one in high hopes. I have to tell you whilst The Witches of Eastwick has some similarities to Couples it has very little similarity to the film other than the characters names, it was quite unexpected.

Penguin Modern Classics, paperback, 1984 (2007 edition), fiction, 320 pages, bought by me

There is something in the air in the town of Eastwick that turns women into witches, generally when they leave or are left by their husbands. Alexandra, Sukie and Jane are three such witches and as they have become friends, with their Thursday nights of cocktails and gossip, they have formed rather a powerful bond and indeed a rather powerful coven. These three ‘independent’ women sleep with the married men of the town, seemingly casting a spell over them, until a stranger by the name of Darryl Van Horne arrives taking over the local Lennox Mansion and wetlands and soon the three witches are competing to vie for the attentions of one mysterious man.

What initially, and I should add pleasantly, surprised me about the novel was the fact that these three witches were just that, witches. They could cast spells on the people they didn’t like (which at various points becomes very important and quite horrifying), throw fortune in their favour, hex you, levitate, create storms and quite literally drive men mad. Yet brilliantly Updike just makes this all part and parcel of a life in a town in Rhode Island in the 1970’s with the Vietnam War making its presence felt in the background. No one in the town seems to really bat an eyelid, what they don’t like it change and Daryl Van Horne is very much change, magic they barely bat an eye to.

Alexandra counted the seconds until the thunder: five. By rough rule this made the storm she had conjured up two miles in diameter, if these strokes were at the heart. Blundering thunder rumbled and cursed. Tiny speckled sand crabs were emerging now from their holes by the dozen and scurrying sideways towards the frothing sea. The colour of their shells was so sandy they appeared transparent. Alexandra steeled herself and crunched one beneath the sole of her bare foot. Sacrifice. There must always be sacrifice. It was one of nature’s rules.

Yet these are not the sort of witches I would want in my neighbourhood because, rather surprisingly to me because of the film, these women are not that nice, more often than not they are actually quite nasty witches and quite nasty bitches. In some ways this is rather fascinating as we see these women who have become friends, though I was never quite sure why as they had slept with each other’s husbands in the past and could be quite malicious about the other, turn against each other and several people of the town.

At the same time though I found this confusing. What was Updike trying to say about women? You see initially Alexandra (in particular), Sukie and Jane seem like thriving independent women who are getting the most out of life. That I found a really positive and feminist stand. However soon enough not only do we discover they are sleeping with most of the married men around the town, as I mentioned including each other’s husbands before they ridded themselves of them. Then as Darryl turns up they turn on each other and become calculating and manipulative man eaters (especially Jane who I despised) who will trample on each other to get the man before realising they are going to have to share and so start having group sex regularly, to please their man – classy. Oh and heaven help any woman who then tries to get in on the act. Where is the sisterhood then? The book soon becomes the polar opposite of feministic as it twists and turns.

Like most good school teachers he was a tyrant, unctuous and insistent; in his dank way he wanted to sleep with everybody. Jane was sleeping with him these days. Alexandra had succumbed a few times in the past but the episode had moved her so little Sukie was perhaps unaware of its vibrations, its afterimage. Sukie herself appeared to be chaste vis-à-vis Neff, but then she had been available least long. Being a divorcee in a small town is a little like playing monopoly; eventually you land on all the properties. The two friends wanted to rescue Jane, who in a kind of indignant hurry was always selling herself short. It was the hideous wife, with her strawy dull hair cut short as if with grass clippers and her carefully pronounced malapropisms and her goggle-eyed intent way of listening to every word, whom they disapproved of. When you sleep with a married man you in a sense sleep with the wife as well, so she should not be an utter embarrassment.

As I read on I became more and more frustrated for the book as it became more and more apparent that Updike’s novel for feminists, with a little research I discovered that is what he called it, was more like an evocation of his ideals of feminism. Also known as women who will basically sleep with each other and all the men and don’t mind overall but if one puts a toe out of line then you might end up with a terminal illness hexed on you, or worse.

Updike’s prose, as with Couples which interestingly has similar themes and similarly vile characters, is wonderful. The descriptions of Eastwick and its inhabitants are marvellously created and you feel you have walked the streets, chatted to the locals and headed out to the wetlands once you have finished. He also really looks at the society of certain times and how the world was changing far faster than people wanted it to. Again, magical goings on are fine, but building a tennis court (the scene in the book is even better than the film) or changing the name of a street is an utterly heinous idea. Change is not good.

Felicia’s beady eyes furious eyes flashed. “No you wouldn’t. You wouldn’t think Shithouse Square had such a bad ring to it either. You don’t give a damn about the world we pass onto our children or the wars or the we inflict on the innocent or whether or not we poison ourselves to death, you’re poisoning yourself to death right now tho what do you care, drag the whole globe down with you ith the way you look at it.” The diction of her tirade had become thick and she carefully lifted from her tongue a small straight pin and what looked like part of an art-gum eraser.

I am torn with The Witches of Eastwick as a novel. Unusually I much preferred the film. I guess on the level of a tale of three witches in a small town who are pulled apart and against each other over a new man on the scene it is a darkly entertaining read. I also loved all the magic in such a suburban setting. Not that you have to with a book by any means, but don’t expect to like any of the characters or find any real redemption anywhere, well maybe with Sukie, maybe. As a feminist work it falls flat, really it’s a male chauvinists view of what the fantasy, or maybe even nightmare, of feminism is – the twist almost at the end really highlighting that. Puzzling indeed.

Who else has read The Witches of Eastwick and what did you make of it? Did you dislike the witches as much as I did? If you want to hear more about the book Gavin, Kate, Rob and I discuss it on the latest episode of Hear… Read This! so do have a listen. Which films have you seen that are better than the books, or give the characters and situations of a book a better context, do many of them exist?

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Filed under John Updike, Penguin Books, Penguin Classics, Review

How Many Book Groups Make Too Many?

I love books. I know that sounds like a rather obvious thing to say with a book blog, but sometimes my love of books gets me into trouble. For example at the moment I am in the midst of reading the Green Carnation Prize submissions, of which we have easily had double or maybe treble what we did last year and there are more to come. I also have a big pile of books on the bedside table which I keep ‘meaning to read next’, some advance reading to do for ‘Discovering Daphne’ and another project for the blog which starts in August. Phew! So you might think considering I am part of two book groups the very thought of joining another would seem idiotic… and yet I think I have.

It’s not the fault of the other two book groups that have made my eyes wander. It’s definitely me.

You see with the book group I first joined (that in my own head I call ‘the lovely ladies of Levenshulme book group’ because it is lots of lovely women and me and Paul Magrs) I love the banter and I love the people but until this month a lot of the choices have been re-reads for me. This is of course my fault for reading too much frankly and not theirs at all. However this month, though I have no idea what day it’s happening, we are reading ‘The Lost Daughter’ by Diane Chamberlain which is a book I have never read and would go as far as to say from the cover looks like a book I would possibly avoid. It looks a bit Jodi Piccoult. However this is the very point of a book group isn’t it?

Sadly at the moment the book seems to be avoiding me. I ordered it from the library, they went and loaned it after I ordered it. I have tried book shops and no avail. I could go online, but I feel all funny about online sales after the latest Book Depository news. So if I get it and if I find out when the meeting is I shall of course be going.

The next book group I joined in part because it was organised by one of my lovely new friends up in the north and secondly because I hadn’t read the book, which was ‘Purple Hibiscus’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, one I had wanted to read for ages and ages but not quite got around to. The only issue is that I have read the next book that’s been chosen (again my fault not theirs) but I really don’t want to read it again. What is it? ‘The God of Small Things’ by Arundhati Roy. This seems odd, especially as you can see from a review of it back in 2008, when I had read it for a book group too, I came away confused but overall liking it. So wouldn’t this be just the sort of book that could do with a re-read? After all this was a few years ago. The answer screaming at me is no. I don’t want to be confused by it again, and one thing I missed in that review was how long that book took to read. I have it by the bed in case but I will see, I did love the people who went so much – a really lovely mixture. Can I not go without having to re-read it and see if I can remember it fully? I admit I remember one horrid scene in a cinema all too well.

Fate seemed to extend a hand when I found a new book group in Manchester through twitter completely randomly. I think Waterstones Deansgate retweeted them, they are the @NQbookclub. This group are a little specific with what books they choose, which is what attracts me so much – as well as meeting new book lovers that is, as they only read post war classics it seems… Classics such as ‘Revolutionary Road’ by Richard Yates, ‘Things Fall Apart’ by Chinua Achebe and next up to read is ‘Rabbit, Run’ by John Updike. Many of you will of course have read these, but I haven’t and yet they have always been books I have fancied (I did read Updike’s ‘Couples’ for a book group and was impressed with the read and the discussion was great) so should I add another book group to my reading schedule?

I am torn, especially as with ‘Bookmarked’ starting soon (exciting announcement about that soon) and the reading I will need to do for that… maybe it is too much? Do I need to give up one? I don’t really want to. How many book groups are too many? Has anyone else found that they go to a book group and each month it’s a book they have read? Does it matter if you pick and choose which meetings you attend, what are your thoughts on etiquette?

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Couples – John Updike

Before I talk about the book I think it’s only fair that I explain in part why the circumstances of reading it might have made me feel slightly less about the book than I could have. Reading should be like work, if you have personal issues or busy personal stuff going on outside the office leave it there, and really I should have applied this rule to ‘Couples’ by John Updike. You see it was the latest read for the book group I co-founded ‘The Riverside Readers’ and chosen by Claire of Paperback Reader. The thing was I actually forgot book group was this week until Saturday when I thought ‘oops’ and grabbed it. Only in doing this slightly rushed it and formed a grudge against it due to my own lack of social planning awareness. So when it was very good it wasn’t half bad and when it wasn’t great it was dire, that was my mind frame. I am just being honest from the off as I am with any review.

I have always wanted to read Updike, he has been one of those authors you have on your own personal hit list, so I was rather looking forward to ‘Couples’. I also liked the salacious sounding premise ‘Couples in love. Couples at play. Couples who talk, who cheat, who lie…’ and we do indeed meet ten couples who live in Tarbox, New England during the Kennedy and post-pill era of the ‘swinging’ sixties. These couples, who dine with each other, discuss politics and religion with each other, bitch about each other and then sleep with each other behind each others backs are really the soulless heart and soul of the book.

I call them soulless (not the book) because they are all so vile, few of them have any redeeming features about them even when we do get to know some of their backgrounds, not because they aren’t well drawn or are immensely readable, which they are. When I say some of the couples I actually mean two, as the story in the main focuses on the arrival of Elizabeth Whitman aka Foxy to Tarbox and an affair that follows with Piet Hanemas. It’s therefore this duo, their predicament and their spouses, circumstances and backgrounds we get to know the rest of the couples seemed to fill two objectives a) give insights to how Foxy and Piet are perceived and b) take part in the endless drunken dinner parties where the couples try and one up each other and talk about the state of the nation to give Updike a chance to vent his thoughts on certain subjects. However, they could have not been there and the book could have been a good few hundred pages shorter were my initial thoughts after closing the last page.

Yet maybe as a reader in this decade I am missing something that others at the time got, very like I did with Amis and ‘Dead Babies’, which is the shock factor. In this present day and age this book reads a little like a soap opera, back when it was published it was shocking, controversial and I am told quite scandalous – resulting in great sales the cynic in me thinks. So this meant I was missing something as a reader in this modern age maybe. However the book is much more than just about ‘couples’ really its about womens roles at that time, their boredom and how with new drugs they could spend their spare time with other activties, though of course not all women did this.

I can’t fault Updike’s writing though (apart from one scene in a bathroom which could have been incredible if toilet humour hadn’t won the day – its not that I am a prude, it just ruined it), there’s a powerful mix of frustration and anger in it that charges the whole thing. You can picture the characters perfectly, you understand them even when you might not want to or don’t agree with them and I could visualise Tarbox perfectly. I didn’t love this book and it’s probably not the best place to start with Updike, if like me you haven’t read him before, yet it has made me want to read more.

A book that will: not be as salacious as you might hope but if you already love Updike or insights into the 1960’s then this could be a big winner for you. 7/10

This book does prove that book groups make you read things you never would. Which titles have been like that for you? Do you think books can ever be too long for a book group? Has an author ever done something (don’t plot spoil if you answer this please) that has ruined a scene for you so much it’s almost ruined the whole book? Have you read ‘Couples’ and if so what did you think? Which Updike books are the best way to start with him and which are the must reads?

Fellow book group member Kim’s thoughts here.

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Filed under Book Group, John Updike, Penguin Books, Penguin Classics, Review

Simon’s Bookish Bits #26

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thanks, Treats, Loans, TBR’s & Wishlists

A little bit of a mixed bag and sort of catch up post today. I don’t feel like I have communicated with you all properly for a while. In part because I was really sick over the end of last week and weekend which has thrown me out of kilter a little bit. Then there was the blooming marvellous post by The Bookboy which has left me worrying about my own blog posts, ha, for an eleven year old he’s very good and has made this twenty eight year old slightly concerned. I have also been having a major clear out of Savidge Reads HQ, and The Converted One has been on a DIY binge, as we have Mummy Savidge coming down with my siblings and step dad this weekend. I have also been doing some blog housekeeping whilst clearing up the TBR which I showed you over the weekend.

I have several thanks to give out but have been waiting to amalgamate them all. Now seems a good time as some very kind readers out there (some don’t want to be mentioned so I will simply say you know who you are and a big thanks to you) have sent me some absolutely delightful treats. In fact two of them called them ‘book buying ban survival supplies’ which is a tag that I love and might need to trademark. The books that have arrived are;

  • The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle – which was sent by a kind reader after we announced the NTTVBG Summer Selection and is one of the novels Kim of Reading Matters put forward as a summer treat.
  • Pele: The Autobiography by, well, Pele – a reader sent this as they thought it might be a reading twist for my Reading for Brazil plans, they are right… am looking forward to it though.
  • Eight Months on Ghazzah Street by Hilary Mantel – I am quite shocked that someone offered me this as I have been wanting to read it ever since reading Kim of Reading Matters (goodness she features a lot in today’s post lol) review here. So I was very chuffed when without having discussed this here a reader wung a copy my way.
  • This Time of Dying by Reina James – This made me laugh as after getting sent another book by a reader a while back that I had said I wanted on another blog, this came through in a comment on here about that comment (make sense?) and I cheekily said oh if anyone wants to send me ‘This Time of Dying’ and an email arrived and someone did!
  • Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami – I love Murakami and have been told that this is one of his strongest so am ever so grateful for this lovely edition that came all the way from America!
  • A Samba for Sherlock by Jo Soares – I mentioned this before on the blog but thought I should mention it again as it teamed with the theme.

I am thinking I might be really cheeky and pop a ‘wishlist page’ on the blog so if you want to know what books I am hankering after you might have going spare, ha! Back to the books though…

I also got myself a ridiculous two books from the library this week. I was going to go mad but I still have five at home I haven’t read and my reason for going to the library was to pay a rather large fine for having forgotten to renew any… grrr! Anyways the library loot was;

  • Heartburn by Norah Ephron – because I have been wanting to read this book FOR AGES!
  • The Great Western Beach by Emma Smith – I saw this out the corner of my eye when I was on the way out so had to queue again. Lynne of Dovegreyreader suggested this as one of her summer suggestions for the NTTVBG.

There were more treats from a dear friend, Kim who I have mentioned already, and TCO who kindly offered to get me the next Riverside Readers book group choice and then got me some treats too. So here are those special arrivals;

  • So Much for That by Lionel Shriver – I wanted to borrow this after hearing great things and also seeing Lionel Shriver talk at Foyle’s a while back. Kim kindly gave me her old copy, she also gave me…
  • Mr Scobie’s Riddle by Elizabeth Jolley – which she reviewed here and I thought, sounded a treat. I am loving the retro fabulous cover too.
  • Couples by John Updike – the next book group read which TCO got me along with…
  • Brazil by John Updike – I have been hankering after this for sometime. I did ask a publisher but shall not say what the response was as they may feel shamed, ha. This has been on a mental wishlist of mine for a while but not as much as…
  • 253 by Geoff Ryman – which I will probably be reading next as I simply cannot wait! I heard Michael Kindness discussing this on Books on the Nightstand and it sounds amazing. 253 people can sit in a London underground train and this is a book about one such set of 253 people, that’s all I will say for now. It sounds awesome though and is a London book for a Londoner. I am most impress TCO knew I wanted this… maybe I have been mentioning it a lot more than I thought!?!

So these have all now been placed nicely into the recently culled TBR pile – do note none of the culled books have left the building in case they are on the Man Booker Longlist, it would be sods law wouldn’t it?  But more on my Man Booker thoughts for this year soon! I have decided to go crazy and share the TBR with you once again (I had it up a while back but took it down after the revamp) and now it is up and running, though will be changing as am still culling, and you can find it here!

So what new incoming books have arrived with you lately? Have you read any of the above, let me know if you have I always like to hear your opinions on books that come into Savidge Reads HQ! What else has been going on for you all of late?

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Savidge Reads for Brazil

You may have been wondering why I have been getting rather focused on Brazilian literature in some posts of late even leading me off to Daunt Books to do some research (yes winners of those bags and some surprise books are at the bottom of today’s post). Well as I am off there for a while in November I decided to set up a little sort of ‘reading expedition/challenge’ in the lead up to that date that I hope you will all join in with in some form or other into the foreign lands of Brazil (unless you already live there of course).

It was a conversation about Brazil that originally sparked all this off in my head when one of The Converted One’s best friends said to me ‘you know you should immerse yourself in the Brazilian culture and history before you go, and you are a bit of a book geek to why not read yourself silly about it’ and so I thought ‘well why not?’ It was then another conversation where The Converted One said ‘when you get back from Brazil you will be buying and reading books for England’. And I thought ‘well why not twist that phrase and before I go read for Brazil!’ So now I am planning on doing just that. (Thanks to Kim of Reading Matters who has done my lovely logo’s!)

I am aware that I did say back at the beginning of the year that I would avoid all reading challenges; however that hasn’t stopped me from doing the NTTVBG and Persephone Reading Week etc, etc. So I am breaking my own rules again and have been off through the TBR looking for books that fit the criteria and I am most surprised by how many I already had at home…

The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts – Louis De Bernieres
The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman – Louis De Bernieres
Senor Vivo and the Coca Lord – Louis De Bernieres
The War of the End of the World by Mario Vargas Llosa
Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes – Daniel Everett
Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands by Jorge Amado
The Lost City of Z – David Grann
A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh
Bel Canto – Ann Patchett
The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
The Seamstress – Frances De Pontes Peebles
Viva South America – Oliver Balch
Equator – Miguel Sousa Tavares
Orphans of Eldorado – Milton Hatoum
Ashes of the Amazon – Milton Hatoum
Barbequed Husbands – Betty Mindlin & Indigenous Storytellers

I am already thinking that ‘The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts’ by Louis de Bernieres, ‘A Handful of Dust’ by Evelyn Waugh and ‘The Seamstress’ by Frances de Pontes Peebles (which sounds like a Brazilian Sensation novel set in the 1920’s and 30’s and really rather brilliant) would make two great choices for a read-a-thon if anyone is up for it?

  

I have also been researching what books I don’t have, which of course is most vexing because a) I am on a book buying ban and b) most of the books I would love to read aren’t available in the UK – so if any of my US readers spot anything by Clarice Lispector or a wonderful sounding crime series by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza which starts with ‘The Silence of Rain’ then do let me know as I am most open to Brazilian Relief Parcels hee, hee. There are lots of authors though who I have heard of and don’t own whose titles I will be hunting down in the library such as John Updike, Sylvia Townsend Warner, John Grisham etc. I have in fact added an all new page ‘Reading for Brazil’ which has more details of these authors and more plus more information on the lack of rules around this ‘challenge’. So do have a gander.

So will you be joining in with some of the titles? I would soooooooo love it if you did (and so would The Converted One) if you are let me know, if enough of you like the sound of certain titles maybe we could do some reading along together before November which might be nice? Oh and feel free to let other people know about it too! Hopefully you will all catch the Brazil bug (if only in terms of fiction)!

Oh and the winners of the two Daunt Bags with some surprise books thrown in are… Suejustbooks and Jodie (in true Brazil colours), well done Jodie thats two wins in a few weeks!

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Granny Savidge Reads

So Granny Savidge Reads (who it would appear is very popular and indeed in demand on this blog) has been staying and I know you have all been desperate to hear from the delightful Dorothy but we have been very busy hitting the museums, restaurants, galleries, cafes and of course bookshops of London town a city which my Gran ‘never tires of’ and still ‘gets excited by’.

Now I did ask Gran to write a blog but being such an upto date trend setter she has a mac and finds my computer a little bit daunting plus we didnt have much time and so until her next visit we decided she would do a top ten of her favourite books. This became a top twenty and I have been told to say that “at 67 years of age when you have been reading for almost 64 years having a top ten is impossible as you have read too many great books… well if you are lucky!” So here is Granny Savidge Reads (though if she ever heard me call her Granny she would be so unimpressed) top twenty books “in no particular order”…

  • Rabbit Run – John Updike
  • Emma – Jane Austen
  • Barchester Towers – Anthony Trollope
  • The Quiet American – Graham Greene
  • Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
  • Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
  • For Whom The Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemingway
  • East of Eden – John Steinbeck
  • Snow Falling on Cedars – David Gutterson
  • A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
  • The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
  • English Passengers – Matthew Kneale
  • Oscar and Lucinda – Peter Carey
  • The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver
  • A Month in the Country – J.L. Carr
  • Reading Tugenev – William Trevor
  • The Secret Agent – Joseph Conrad
  • Small Island – Andrea Levy
  • The Naked and the Dead – Norman Mailer
  • All Quiet on the Western Front – Erich Maria Remarque

When I said I had only read one of those (I didn’t feel mentioning I had read half of Anna Karenina would count) which is of course Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ I could have sworn she muttered “call yourself a book blogger” hahaha, before realising “but I have bought you three of them… haven’t you read any of the books that I have bought you?” I was fortunately forgiven. Though I do think that ‘Snow Falling on Cedars’, ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ and ‘The Poisonwood Bible’ need to climb my TBR sharpish before Dorothy descends again. Have you read any of these?

We naturally, especially in the 5th floor cafe/bar of the huge Waterstones in Piccadilly, talked alot about books. In fact Gran is one of the few people I can talk to about books on and off for two days without either party getting bored. We don’t agree on all books at all. I loved ‘The Time Traveller’s Wife” (which we discussed because of the movie being advertised everywhere) Gran thought ‘it wasnt up to much… and a naked man meeting a young girl, no its not right’ which of course made me guffaw.

I had lots of authors to ask her about and she came out with some gems. On Angela Carter “well its all this surrealism, and then she just rewrote someone elses stories no, not for me”. On Anita Shrieve “well I read one or two but by the third she is much of a muchness”. On Diana Athill (who’s ‘Somewhere Towards The End’ she read and cracked the spine of – I was shell shocked) “you wouldnt warm to her would you, and I don’t like all this pretending that she is poor”.

We do of course love some of the same authors. I have only just started reading William Trevor but agree “his prose is absolutely stunning” and that Margaret Atwood “isn’t one to be missed, even when I don’t like her – which is rare – she is still very good” and Anne Tyler “oh I do like her, does she have a new one out, can you get me a preview copy?”.

She has already booked her next visit, and may indeed be here for one of my theme’s coming up, either the whole September theme (I am teasing you all with that one) or for the special fortnight I am now planning in October which is also her birthday month and we are going to do afternoon tea at The Ritz just before or just after. On that visit she has promised she will do a blog or two “and you can show me how to create and work one of these blogs… I wouldn’t mind having a go.” Which sounds interesting!

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