Tag Archives: Justine Picardie

Now We Are Six!!!!!!

“Happy Birthday to me, happy birthday to me, happy blogging birthday dear Savidge Reads, happy birthday to me…” Imagine that sung in my most beautiful of singing voices! Yes, today Savidge Reads is officially six years old though weirdly it feels older than that. It was six years to this very day that I first put my tentative toes (or tapping fingers) into the blogosphere and wrote a review, of sorts though I am quite embarrassed by it now, of Susan Hill’s ‘The Various Haunts of Men’. More dreadful reviews/bookish thoughts followed, most of which I have since deleted because they were mortifying, and no one read it for ages and ages. And now here were are…

Now We Are Six

To actually celebrate a blog birthday seemed rather a bonkers idea in years past, however this year with all that has gone on (and, without blowing my own trumpet, the fact that the blog went to number one here) The Beard decided we should celebrate it and has only gone and made me the blog-birthday cake above – any excuse for us to eat cake – and also bought me two new books. This was made all the more special as they came with the Books Are My Bag bag after a little jaunt out yesterday to Linghams. Anyway the books are ‘Coco Chanel; The Life and the Legend’ by Justine Picardie (which I was so sure I had in hardback but couldn’t find the other day) and ‘New Ways To Kill Your Mother’ by Colm Toibin (the title of which I love) which is some literary history and criticism all rolled into one I believe. Both non-fiction too as now I am six I really feel I should be challenging myself more.

I am also going to have a little mini bookish party of my own later today as I finally settle down to read (in big fat gulps) my current bookish obsession ‘The Luminaries’ by Eleanor Catton. But before that we are off on a Famous Five like adventure to a lighthouse. I am hoping for a picnic with some of that cake with lashings of ginger beer or pink lemonade once we get there.

Anyway, a big thanks to those of you who have joined in the fun here at Savidge Reads over the last few years and all the lovely bookish banter and the like, it has been bloody lovely. Here’s to the next six…

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If the Spirit Moves You; Life and Love After Death – Justine Picardie

I was having a major sort out of all of my TBR when Justine Picardie’s nonfiction book ‘If the Spirit Moves You’ caught my eye, which I have had in the TBR pile for years and years. I had oddly been having a chat with one of my friends about spiritualism and my encounters with mediums, of which there have been a few, and so I thought that maybe this book and its subject matter might be just the thing I could do with reading at the moment. It could equally have been the exact thing not to read at the moment but I decided to give it a whirl anyway.

Picador Books, paperback, 2002, fiction, 227 pages, from my personal TBR

Ruth Picardie died of breast cancer in September 1997. A well known journalist she chronicled her time living with breast cancer for the Observer magazine which her sister, writer and journalist Justine Picardie, was working for at the time and encouraged. ‘If the Spirit Moves You’ is Justine’s account of a year, from Good Friday in 2000 to Easter Monday 2001, in which she decided to see if she could contact the spirit of Ruth in some way and come to terms furthermore with her untimely death and the grief and loss still very much at the heart of her life since her sisters passing.

With a book such as ‘If the Spirit Moves You’ it is really hard to try and compare it with anything else you have read. In the form of diary entries Justine lets us into the world of the many mediums she visits and investigates things such as EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) and automatic writing in her venture to try and contact Ruth in some way. This is all rather fascinating, if fascinating is the right word, especially when so desperate to talk to her sister she even enrols in a school for mediums to see if she can communicate with Ruth herself and try and see if the voice of Ruth she gets in her head is her own self projections, she freely admits that she has an ‘internal psychologist’ analysing what she says and thinks, or is it actually the spirit of her sister.

You can probably guess already that ‘If the Spirit Moves You’ is much more than just a nonfiction account of Picardie seeing if there is an afterlife or not and indeed if we can communicate with it or not. It is also a book very much about grief and the process that we have to go through in order to grieve ourselves as well as how other people deal with it. Her husband at the time she writes, Neill, loses his sister, the singer Kirsty MacColl, and deals with his own grief in a very different way. She also looks at how her father, who leads talks in Kabbalah, deals with it and looks at religion and if it is

The honesty with which the book is written can sometimes be incredibly raw and quite difficult to read, though I do urge you all to read it, as there are moments when Justine portrays not only those around her, but also herself, in some very unflattering lights. Yet this is what we are like with grief, we can become internal or go to the complete opposite side of the spectrum being incredibly audibly, and rather angrily, vocal about how we feel. I really admired Picardie for doing this and being brave enough both to write about her sister’s death and how it left her feeling and how she dealt with it. I don’t know if many could write so honestly, with such emotion and also, it should be mentioned, with such wit too and without any judgement on the people she meets who deal with the afterlife, or possibly do, along the way.

I think ‘If the Spirit Moves You’ is a rather incredible book. Due to everything going on it could have been a slightly bad choice of timing reading wise but actually it was a consolation in some ways. I did have to laugh as I took it to Grans last week and after leaving it on the side without thinking, which could have proved very tactless; Gran spotted it and asked me all about it. Interestingly she said ‘Simon, when I am gone, don’t waste your time seeing those people. You’ll know if and when I am there.’ I told her I wouldn’t mind if she haunted me, depending what mood she was in or what I was up to because we always have that hope don’t we?

Like I said, a definite recommendation from me. It has made me want to read Ruth Picardie’s ‘Before I Say Goodbye’ too.

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Filed under Justine Picardie, Non Fiction, Picador Books, Review

Justine Picardie Joins ‘Discovering Daphne’ Part One…

In the first of two special interviews for ‘Discovering Daphne’ I get to grill the lovely Justine Picardie about her novel Daphne and the wonderful woman who inspired it…

Before I opened the first page of ‘Daphne’ I did expect it just to be about Daphne Du Maurier, instead we have a tale of Daphne, Bramwell Bronte and an unnamed narrator, which reflects Rebecca. Was Daphne’s the story you wanted to tell in the main, or was it one of the other characters that started it all and Daphne suddenly popped in unannounced?

The origins of ‘Daphne’ are in one sense very simple — I’d loved reading her novels since childhood, and had a powerful attachment to the Cornish landscape that she describes — but as is often the case with writing, there was a far more complicated alchemy that formed a catalyst for the beginnings of my novel. I wrote an introduction for a Virago edition of ‘The King’s General’ in 2003, which prompted my return to the mysterious place that is Menabilly — Du Maurier’s beloved house near Fowey, an inherent element of ‘Rebecca’ and ‘The King’s General’, although uninhabited and close to ruin when she wrote ‘Rebecca’ (indeed, it was the huge success of this novel that allowed Du Maurier to lease Menabilly from the Rashleigh family, and finance its restoration). Two years later, I wrote a second introduction for Virago — this time for ‘The Infernal World of Branwell Bronte’ — and was fascinated by the book, and by Du Maurier’s dedication of her work to the Bronte scholar, Symington. Coincidentally — or perhaps this was one of those apparently magical instances of synchronicity — I was already intrigued by the mysterious Mr Symington, having already encountered him in my research while I was working on a chapter entitled ‘Charlotte Bronte’s Ring’ for my previous book, ‘My Mother’s Wedding Dress’. All of which probably sounds impossibly tanged a tale, but seemed to resonate for me.

Daphne was a very complex woman from what we read about her, how did you go about getting into her head? Being a fan of hers, which you clearly are, were you adding pressure on yourself that this had to be right? How did you find her narrative voice?

I read and read and read — every word that she had written — her novels, short stories, letters, notes, memoirs — and immersed myself in the Du Maurier archive at Exeter University, and other archival collections elsewhere. Perhaps I wasn’t in her head, but her voice was certainly in mine.

The research in the book is incredible, yet at no point did I think ‘oh Justine is just showing off now’ which can happen with some books that have a biographical and indeed historical element. How did you do the research for this book and how did you manage not to include every single fascinating fact you discovered along the way?

Thank you! Whenever and whatever I am writing — whether about the history of nineteenth psychical investigations in ‘If The Spirit Moves You’, or during the years of research for my most recent book, ‘Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life’ — I immerse myself in archives and museums and  libraries, as well as doing hundreds of interviews with the relevant people who can provide insight, advice, and expert knowledge on the subject matter. Then I sift through it all, cross reference, obsess, analyse, dream, debate with myself and others — and finally start to write. As I write, the details of the research permeate my text, but don’t always appear — so the facts  are very much in my mind, and between the lines, rather than being obviously inserted into the story.

I don’t know about you but I have fantasy dinner parties in my head, and I think, along with Agatha Christie, Daphne du Maurier would have to be one of the top guests I imagine I could invite every time. Getting to know her in the way you must have researching this book did you think you would like her?

She might not have been comfortable company, but I always like the person I’m writing about — actually, that’s an understatement — they become central to my thoughts.

Having read Daphne’s childhood memoirs ‘Growing Pains’, which I have since learnt has been republished as ‘Myself When Young’, I noticed the mention of ‘The Snow Queen’ in the form of her mother, there always seemed to be a Snow Queen in Daphne’s life, why do you think it was and why did she always give her that name?

Another excellent question! The Snow Queen was — and is — a powerful presence, for Daphne and the rest of us. The icy yet enticing woman in white — alluring and destroying and compelling, even as you fear her touch.

This is a toughie, but what do you think Daphne would have made of your fictional version of her life? Would you have written it if she was still alive?

I couldn’t, and wouldn’t, have written it when she was still alive. Who knows what she would have thought of it — but I hope she might have seen it as a tribute to her power and lasting influence on subsequent writers; just as she herself had been influenced by the Brontes, and immersed herself in ‘The Infernal World of Branwell Bronte’.

‘Rebecca’ is Daphne’s most famous novel of them all followed by ‘Jamaica Inn’ which other novels would you demand people following ‘Discovering Daphne’ go and read? Have you read all of her novels yet, or have you left some to savour?

I’ve read them all, and would recommend each and every one. ‘My Cousin Rachel’ is a particular favourite of mine — however many times I read it, I’m never sure of who is the villain and which is the victim — and I’m also a huge fan of her short stories. Just think of The Birds or Don’t Look Now — such dark tales that they have had an afterlife in two haunting films — and other, less well known but equally compelling stories in ‘The Breaking Point’. And don’t forget about ‘The Infernal World of Branwell Bronte’ — worth reading for what it tells you about Du Maurier herself, as well as the Brontes.

A huge thank you to Justine for taking the time to discuss ‘Daphne’ and Daphne Du Maurier with us, tomorrow the grilling continues with Polly over at Novel Insights

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Discovering Daphne – Round Up #1

Today over on Polly of Novel Insights blog you can see her thoughts on the wonderful novel by Justine Picardie called ‘Daphne’, which as you might have guessed is all about the wonderful Daphne Du Maurier at a particularly interesting and time in her life. I am sure I pushed that book on Polly (did I Pol?) after I myself read it way back in 2009 and thought it was fantastic. You can see my thoughts here.

 

We are very excited too because the lovely Justine Picardie has kindly agreed to talk to us all about Daphne and we should have two lovely interviews with her for your delectation tomorrow, who knows if you leave any Daphne questions in the comments she may just pop and answer them for you, if we all ask very nicely of course.

So how is your Daphne reading going on? We know Sakura of Chasing Bawa has been getting back into the swing of Daphne, who else has? Please leave us links in the comments on our blogs or simply email us them and we will make sure we give you a nod and a thanks for joining in. Oh and you can let us know on twitter too as we now have #discoveringdaphne doing the rounds.

How is my Du Maurier reading going? Well I am just about to finish reading ‘Mrs De Winter’ by one of my favourite authors Susan Hill and will be reporting back soon. Was this the only ‘Rebecca’ spin-off (I hate that term) that the Du Maurier estate said ok too, or did they say ok to Sally Beauman’s ‘Rebecca’s Tale’ too (which I fancy reading but is HUGE so therefore scary)? That’s something for me to go and look up I think. I shall do that after the final page and before I crack on with ‘Mary Anne’ for the read-along on Sunday.

Hope you are all enjoying the week so far?

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Books of the Future & Books of the Now

On Monday night I was lucky enough to get to have a wander behind the scenes at one of the UK’s big publishing houses. The kindly souls at Picador and Pan Macmillan has asked if I would attend (I dragged Novel Insights along with me) an evening in their new offices to listen to some of their authors reading. Baring you all in mind, as I always do, I made sure I got a cheeky snapshot of their fabulous book filled reception. I cannot tell you how hard it was not to get on that ladder and fill my man bag, I managed, I know not how.

As I mentioned we were there to have a listen to some authors who were; John Butler, Stuart Evers (who you may know from The Guardian, Twitter etc), Sunjeev Sahota and Naomi Wood. Now if you haven’t heard of these authors that might be because they are new authors, in fact I think all of these were debut novels/collections (I could be wrong), and also their books aren’t actually out until 2011.

I can say they all sounded rather exciting John Butlers being the adventures of a young man in San Francisco in the 1980’s – his reading made us all laugh, Stuart Evers debut collection looks to be a gem if the one tale  ‘What’s in Swindon’ is anything to go by. Sunjeev Sahota’s tale ‘Ours Are The Streets’ sounds like it could be quite a hard hitting yet very funny novel, plus he additionally won me over being from my homeland of Derbyshire. Naomi Woods novel then went and won both Polly and I over being set in Newcastle (where we went to school together) in an England we don’t recognise because it’s based on and England of extreme secularism. Sadly they weren’t all in print or proof stage but I did manage to smuggle two of them away which at the end of an evening of bookish chatter and wine was perfection…

Oh yes you may notice I have included a copy of ‘Caribou Island’ by David Vann (I did so like ‘Legend of a Suicide’) in the picture and that’s because it sparked my first mini theme in today’s post… books of the future, in this case books of 2011 specifically. I am hopeless at knowing what is coming out (I seem to have come off lots of publishers catalogue mail outs sadly) in the future, although 2011 is only actually 3 months away, so I wondered if there were any titles that you have started to get really excited about coming next year? I haven’t really got a buzz for any apart from the ones above.

I thought I would use this as an excuse to mention some books of NOW in the meantime as some lovely parcels have been popping through the letter box in the last fortnight or so and I love your thoughts on these loots so I thought I would share them with you. (Sorry for the picture quality, its dreary in London and my iPhone has no flash, I will try and do another anon.) Anyway I have had;

  • The Agatha Raisin Companion – which is perfect for me and came along with…
  • Agatha Raisin and the Busy Body by M.C. Beaton – this will be being read at Christmas as its got a Christmas setting, only I won’t be in the snow I will be in Copacabana, but where better to be resting with Agatha on the hunt for a murderer?
  • A Diary of The Lady by Rachel Johnson – When this arrived I was initially not sure what Penguin were trying to say by sending this (he says with two Agatha Raisin books above). However I was discussing this with Kimbofo when we went out on Thursday night and she said she thought it sounded like it could be really good. I then tried twenty pages and though the word ‘smug’ seems to be in my mind at the mo I am strangely addicted. It’s a great bathroom book, you know you can pick it up and pop it down at intervals. Erm, anyway, moving swiftly on…
  • Nourishment by Gerard Woodward – I actually won this in the Picador event raffle which left me feeling a bit smug as it was the one book (apart from the new Brett Easton Ellis) that I really, really wanted to walk away with. It’s set in the war and tells a very different tale of a husband and wife as the husband wants dirty letters, sounds brilliantly unique. I will be reading this soon.
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot – Many of you have said this is the best non fiction you have read in some time, it’s the tale of Henrietta Lacks and how unwittingly her cancerous cells were used by scientists and have made massive advancements in science and yet no credit has gone to her or any of the money made from this to her family. Funnily enough Picador/Pan Macmillan publish it so a massive small hint was dropped. I think I am going to be hooked by this and possibly outraged too.
  • Wait for Me by Deborah Devonshire – the autobiography of the youngest Mitford Sister, I need say no more. I will be reading that next after book group Nevil Shute choice.
  • Coco Chanel by Justine Picardie – I had a lovely email from the publishers of this after Justine had apparently told them she read this blog and would like me to read it if I wanted to.
  • Pereira Maintains by Antonio Tabucchi – I know nothing about this book, do any of you?
  • Air & Was by Geoff Ryman – Very excited about both of these, in particular Was which is another book I want to start instantly… but I can’t and nor can I read all the books I want to at once, its most vexing.
  • The Country Diaries edited by Alan Taylor – I have seen this around the blogosphere and been very intrigued by it (I use the word intrigued so much but it’s genuinely how I feel), this could be another bathroom book. You all know what I mean by a bathroom/toilet book don’t you? I’m not being rude or trying to offend in case anyone thinks I am being crass.

So what are you reading at the moment? What books have you got your eyes on? What books have you been bought/borrowed/found/treated yourself to recently? Are you already anticipating a book that’s coming out in 2011? What are you up to this weekend?

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Heartburn – Nora Ephron

I have always been rather a fan of Nora Ephron’s films in the past, they aren’t my all time favourites, though Julie & Julia could one day end up there, but I have enjoyed them enough that myself and a colleague where I used to work would have ‘Ephron moments’ you know when life is a little bit bittersweet and you still have to laugh about it. In fact it was this former colleague, and also something I saw on Justine Picardie’s blog some time ago that brought Ephron’s book to my attention, and when I saw it in the library a few weeks ago I had to pick it up.

‘Heartburn’ is the tale of Rachel Samstat a journalist who has somehow become a name in cookery writing, which is why there are a fair few recipes spread out throughout the book. As we meet her she has not long discovered that her husband Mark has been having an affair with Thelma Rice, whilst Rachel herself is heavily pregnant. What’s worse is that this doesn’t seem to be a small bout of infidelity (can we really even forgive those?) but a relationship that has been going on for some time and doesn’t look like either participant wants to give up. What follows is an incredibly vivid, occasionally incredibly funny and also incredibly emotionally raw, account of a woman coming to terms with her second unfaithful husband. At least this time, Rachel thinks, it isn’t with one of her friends like the husband before.

I thought this book was brilliant and very clever. It could easily have become a very bitter tale, and in some parts there is rage and hurt, which simply slagged off men (which it sometimes does, though it also looks at women’s faults too) and became a rather torturous read. Instead, whilst very much looking at the emotional side of it all and indeed the practicalities of the situation Ephron adds some humour. Even when the worst things happen to us we do still laugh at the most random of things, there is that saying ‘if you didn’t laugh you’d cry’ and Ephron clearly has this intention with this novel. She also introduces other couples and characters into the mix that add to the laughter, yet have their own tragedy such as Rachel’s mother’s madness, her father’s marriages after and so on.  

Many people say that ‘Heartburn’ is actually a fictionalised version of Norah Ephron’s marriage breakdown and divorce. Not knowing Ephron personally, sadly, I couldn’t comment on that, however in her own introduction – which makes great reading afterwards – Norah hints it may be ‘thinly disguised’ fiction. Regardless it’s a brilliant book. Because the author has been there and pretty much puts her heart and soul laid bare into the pages it feels real, we have all at some point felt some of these emotions; so we can empathise and have more of an involvement, understanding and reaction to the book.

A book that will: strike a chord regardless if you are male or female (I get the feeling this is aimed very much at women but I think men would like it too) it will also make you laugh out loud. 8.5/10

I can’t currently think of any books that I could pair this with so I haven’t done so. Has anyone else read this and could share some books that other people might like too and of course what you yourself thought of ‘Heartburn’? Has anyone seen the film and what did you think? I have just ordered it on LoveFilm – thrilled to see Meryl Streep plays Rachel!

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Informative Reads… Fiction or Non Fiction?

Today’s Booking Through Thursday question asks ‘what is the most informative book you have read recently’ and my initial reaction was that all books you read inform you in some way. It could be on the authors thoughts on people/life/certain subjects, it could be the level of research they have put into it or it could be based on factual things that have happened.

If I go on the fact that fiction can be informative reading then without a doubt Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel would be the most informative read that I have had the pleasure of reading in a long time. The lengths that Mantel has clearly gone into researching Cromwell and the Tudor era (and in a way looking extra hard for new information and a different viewpoint to the era as many people have written Tudor based books in the last few years) was immense and you felt you walked the street, breathed the musty air and were actually there. Some people may say that fiction isn’t fact and I am aware fo the difference but when its based on fact, researched and thoroughly written I still think, with the right mindset, we can learn from it. I could also apply this to The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt, Daphne by Justine Picardie or the Taste of Sorrow by Jude Morgan I just haven’t read those as recently.

When it comes to non fiction, which I suppose is really the most informative books that you can read, then it’s a bit harder for me because I don’t read very much of it. My instant thought was The Letters Between Six Sisters all about The Mitford’s but that I read almost a year ago. Then looking back how could I have not thought instantly of In Cold Blood by Truman Capote which is one of the best books that I have read in 2009. Based on the savage murder of a family in rural America Capote writes the factual events (in such a stunning way you almost cant believe its not fiction) and looks at why people kill people, what makes people murder and how does it effect the surrounding village and population and their lives and how does it effect the families of the victims and the murderers themselves. It’s an incredibly insightful, moving and very informative and shocking book.

So what’s your most recent informative book? Do you agree or disagree that some fiction, or all fiction, can be informative in its own way? Have any fictional novels based on fact blown you away and made you feet like you were actually there? What fiction have you learnt from? What non fiction must I read?

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Hidden Gems

Bizarrely yesterdays blog actually linked into something that I wanted to write about today after a rummage in a delightful second hand bookstore south of The Thames. It also linked to Daphne which I am still very much thinking about at the moment almost a week on from finishing it. In that book one of the voices, the girl with no name who is studying her PhD mentions that she goes into a second hand bookshop in search of possible early editions of books by or about Branwell Bronte or Daphne Du Maurier’s. I thought this sounded like a dream and so when I went to my nearest library to pop some (very overdue, shame on me) books back in I decided to visit a shop that occasionally holds second hand book lovers gold and it didn’t disappoint.

Growing Pains - Daphne Du MaurierThe book I walked away with was Daphne Du Mauriers very own memoirs ‘Growing Pains’ which you simply cannot get easily or cheaply anymore (£20 on amazon and waterstones for a specially made one, or £65 for this edition) though it looks like it is being reprinted next year by Orion. I almost let out a small ‘whoop’ of joy in the store but then I thought the seller might cotton on that he had something special on his shelves so I stayed silent. I am fascinated by Du Maurier so finding this little treat was a real thrill for me and all for a whopping £2!!!!! I had to keep checking my bag after I had left the shop to see if it was still definately in there. Thats a slightly sad omission isn’t it? I mentioned yesterday I would love to read more memoirs written by authors and people that I think highly of in terms of talent etc and this book combines those things with the added fact that Daphne Du Maurier was such a mysterious character and closed book in so many ways. I wont be able to hold off from reading this for very long I can assure you.

I don’t know if this is about to be a small Daphne-a-thon actually as at Book Group last night (which was wonderful – the page will be updated over the weekend along with my ‘favourite forty’ which for some reason didnt show up at 6.30pm last night, sorry) my ‘favourite’ book was of course ‘Rebecca’ – how could it not be, and Claire also said it would have been hers though she guessed I would bring it so brought another. I am now wonderig if I should read all Daphne’s books in chronological order as I own almost all of them now, what do you think, might it make the blog a bit samey?

It certainly didn’t then help when I went to see what other books of hers they had (I got a rare copy of ‘Kiss Me Again Stranger’ which hasnt been in print here for years a while back for £1.50 and a wonderful old hardback of ‘The Glass Blowers’ for £2) and found that there was quite a wonderful collection…

Some great first Du Maurier editions

…including four different novels of hers which were first edition’s and each one was only £5. I did incredibly well and only left with Growing Pains though now I am thinking maybe I should go back as to have these on my shelves would be wonderful. I actually felt like a character in Justine Picardie’s book. Which is quite interesting as she will be popping by for a Savidge Reads Grills over the weekend, so if you have any questions for Justine Picardie then do let me know by lunch time (uk time) today and I will throw them into the mix. Until then there is a book review coming tomorrow finally, is it me or is the heatwave here in London, or anywhere in general, not condusive to reading?

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Daphne – Justine Picardie

I have had this book on the TBR pile for quite some time now and though have picked it up on several occasions I have never ended up reading as I have been slightly in fear of it. Not in fear of the size or subject matter, more in the fear that I wouldn’t like it and that no book could do justice to the life of my favourite writer. I also had the thought that if I read something which had been so thoroughly researched about Daphne I might not like her and that could tarnish all my reading experiences of her in the future and from the past. So with trepidation I opened the first page and…

I could barely put ‘Daphne’ down! The book is of course mainly about Daphne Du Maurier, though this is not a fictionalised life story which some people might assume. This is actually set in the late 50’s when Daphne herself was herself 50. It was a turbulent time in her life and actually inspired the collection of short stories in ‘The Breaking Point’ which I read only the other week. Her husband ‘Boy’ Browning was in a nursing home after a breakdown and so Daphne moved for a while to London and into Boy’s cramped flat where she was then confronted by his mistress ‘The Snow Queen’ who asked Daphne to free ‘Boy’ and that hiding his affair was clearly killing him.

Desperate to save her marriage despite her own affairs Daphne tries to turn Menabilly into the perfect ‘family’ and ‘marital home’ only not only does thoughts of the Snow Queen take her over but also the ghost of her own fictional creation Rebecca haunts and taunts her in her lonely hours. She then decides to throw herself fully into her latest project, the biography of Branwell Bronte. In doing so she strikes up a correspondence with scholar and Branwell expert Alex Symington who seems to have some secrets when it comes to all things Bronte especially after being ‘let go’ from the Parsonage Library itself because of the dealings of himself and his previous colleagues.

There is also third strain to the story as a young woman in Hampstead whose current situation seems to bear similarities to both Daphne in her 50’s but even more so to the ‘unnamed’ narrator of Daphne’s most famous works ‘Rebecca’. To escape the problems of her own marriage and her unhappiness by burying herself in a thesis on Daphne Du Maurier and the Bronte’s and their writings and also what she believes is a 50 year old literary mystery.

After taking a few pages to get used to reading one of my favourite authors as a character and as fiction (though quite clearly Justine Picardie has researched Daphne Du Maurier to the nth degree) I literally couldn’t stop reading the book. Though there are three narratives, and frankly I myself could overdose on all of the parts told through Daphne’s eyes, this is essential to the movement and mystery of the story as a whole. We get extra insights into the whole scenario through these different eyes and we piece the whole mystery together ourselves.

I imagine many people who haven’t read any Du Maurier (shame on you all) or any of the works by the Bronte’s (which includes me apart from having read Wuthering Heights, though I have been to the parsonage) would possibly think this book would leave them alienated, I honestly don’t think it would. As a stand alone book, though it’s a complex tale Justine Picardie tells, yet it all weaves together effortlessly. It is beautifully written too, the prose is quite stunning and in some parts poetic. I think this book must have been a true labour of love to write (the details have all been immaculately researched) the results are fantastic. This is an ideal book for any ‘bookworms’ out there without question.

This is a book anyone could enjoy not just the die hard Daphne fans like me, some of whom (cough) might have been both excited and worried about it, though if you loved Rebecca this is a great accompaniment. Justine Picardie handles this like a true master, you can also tell she completely loves the subject, I will definitely be reading more from her in the future. This is highly recommended reading, I have probably left something out I could praise this book till the cows come home.

I would love to do a Savidge Reads Grills with Justine only I dont know how to get in touch with her… if any of you do, do let me know!

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Filed under Bloomsbury Publishing, Books of 2009, Daphne Du Maurier, Justine Picardie, Review

What To Read Next… You Decide

I mentioned yesterday that I really wanted to read something set in a big house, probably something that had a spooky side to it. The reason is that I will be staying at a stately home this weekend and so I thought as I am nearing the end of the brilliant ‘Daphne’ by Justine Picardie – which is oddly also set partly in Daphne’s stately home, and also need a Bronte break before I start ‘The Taste of Sorrow’, that I would read something in a stately setting next. 

So I asked for your thoughts and then also had a look through my never ending TBR and found three books that fit the brief.  Now, as I really like having interaction with you on the blog, I thought I would give you the option of choosing what I read next out of the three which are…

The House at Midnight – Lucie Whitehouse

When Lucas inherits Stoneborough Manor after his uncle’s unexpected death, he imagines it as a place where he and his close circle of friends can spend time away from London. But from the beginning, the house changes everything. Lucas becomes haunted by the death of his uncle and obsessed by cine films of him and his friends at Stoneborough thirty years earlier. The group is disturbingly similar to their own, and within the claustrophobic confines of the house over a hot, decadent summer, secrets escape from the past and sexual tensions escalate, shattering friendships and changing lives irrevocably.

Madresfield – Jane Mulvagh

Madresfield Court is an arrestingly romantic stately home surrounded by a perfect medieval moat, in the Malvern Hills in Worcestershire. It has been continuously owned and lived in by the same family, the Lygons, back to the time of the Domesday Book, and, unusually, remains in the family’s hands to this day. Inside, it is a very private, unmistakably English, manor house; a lived-in family home where the bejewelled sits next to the threadbare, the heraldic and feudal rest easily next to the prosaically domestic. The house and the family were the real inspiration for Brideshead Revisited: Evelyn Waugh was a regular visitor, and based his story of the doomed Marchmain family on the Lygons.Never before open to the public, the doors of “Madresfield” have now swung open to allow Jane Mulvagh to explore its treasures and secrets. And so the rich, dramatic history of one landed family unfolds in parallel with the history of England itself over a millennium, from the Lygon who conspired to overthrow Queen Mary in the Dudley plot; through the tale of the disputed legacy that inspired Dickens’ Bleak House; to the secret love behind Elgar’s Enigma Variations; and the story of the scandal of Lord Beauchamp, the disgraced 7th Earl.

The Seance – John Harwood

‘Sell the Hall unseen; burn it to the ground and plough the earth with salt, if you will; but never live there…’. London, the 1880s. A young girl grows up in a household marked by death, her father distant, her mother in perpetual mourning for the child she lost. Desperate to coax her mother back to health, Constance Langton takes her to a seance. Perhaps they will find comfort from beyond the grave. But that seance has tragic consequences.Constance is left alone, her only legacy a mysterious bequest will blight her life. So begins “The Seance”, John Harwood’s brilliant second novel, a gripping, dark mystery set in late Victorian England. It is a world of apparitions, of disappearances and unnatural phenomena, of betrayal and blackmail and black-hearted villains – and murder. For Constance’s bequest comes in two parts: a house, and a mystery. Years before a family disappeared at Wraxford Hall, a terrifying stately home near the Suffolk coast. Now Constance must find the truth behind the mystery, even at the cost of her life. Because without the truth, she is lost.

So now all that is left for you to all tell me which one I should read and then I will pop it into my packing before I leave late tonight. I look forward to counting the votes.

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Filed under Book Thoughts

Taking On My Travels

It’s all going a little bit wrong in the land of Blogger which I am finding quite annoying as it isn’t seeming to let me do any blogs before today when I want it to (additional note this should have been posted successfully at 11am not almost 11pm) and I am fairly unimpressed as I am desperately trying to get my Orange thoughts to you before tomorrow. Burnt Shadows finally seems to be up but it’s not letting me do two more which is really irritating! What I may have to do is put the reviews up in advance and you can get my full thoughts on the list on Wednesday and reviews of the final two afterwards, that cant be considered cheating as frankly I have read them and done the time. It is also annoying when you are trying to write a week worth of blogs so that while you are away magically there is something fun for your readers daily! I have to admit I am seriously thinking about moving blog provider when I come back from Switzerland or will that confuse things even more? Any advice or thoughts would be much appreciated.

Anyway onto happier things I am off on holiday, in fact by the time this goes up I will be there… or even back who knows (I mustn’t think of that or I will worry while I am away and am on an internet break) and so of course I need to have some books to take on my travels. I think I have shown you how I do this before, in fact I have, but I base my travelling choices like this…

a) Something big I have been meaning to read for ages
b) A guilty pleasure read in case the above really just doesn’t work out, you know something slightly erm… un-literary??!!
c) Something by one of my favourite authors
d) Something brand spanking new ‘just in’ as you never know
e) A good crime novel
f) Something that has been hovering on my TBR pile and reading radar for sometime

Now because I am away for a week and doing a lot of train travelling across the Swiss landscape there will therefore be a lot of dragging of suitcases, so I have limited myself to five but some of them fit in several categories! So my Swiss TBR pile is looking very much like this…


Vanish – Tess Gerritsen
I love Tess as and author and frankly I have been holding of the next in the series for as long as physically possible. She’s becoming less and less of a guilty pleasure and more and more of an open obsession plus its crime and something that should keep my mind off being up in the air in a plane which I hate with a passion.

Wavewalker – Stella Duffy
You know that I love Stella’s work and this is the second in her crime series. I really enjoyed the first and so have high hopes for this, I will be saving it for my flight back as think it will take my mind of being in a tin can so many miles above the earth. Moving swiftly on…

Daphne – Justine Picardie
I have now said I will take this with me and read it on three holidays and its getting out of hand. A book all about the wonderful Daphne Du Maurier and The Bronte’s really is a must read, shame on me. I have just realised I still haven’t done a review of the new Daphne short stories so I will sort that out when I am back.

The Devil’s Paintbrush – Jake Arnott
This sees Jake leave the crime Genre and go all historical on us. I don’t have too much of an insight into what it’s about as I am desperate for it to be a surprise. It’s also been on a travel trip with me and come back unread, second time lucky let’s hope.

The Little Stranger – Sarah Waters
How could I not, I have managed to hold of the whole way through the Orange shortlist and I refuse to hold off any longer. That is all I have to say on it for the matter. A few of you seem quite divided on this book which has made me all the more intrigued.

…Now tell me London City Airport doesn’t have a book shop does it that could be lethal with time to kill and nerves galore!?! Oh and additional comment, please don’t be offended if I don’t visit your blogs or comment back on here while I am away, I will do so with gusto when I am back!

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Filed under Book Thoughts, Jake Arnott, Justine Picardie, Sarah Waters, Stella Duffy, Tess Gerritsen

Catching Up: Blog Silence, Competition Closed and Midway Through Midnight’s Children

Hello one and all, is it me or does it feel like I have been away ages? It is probably very likely just me. Firstly apologies for the blog silence the weekend actually really took it out of me much more than I had expected and I came back feeling quite drained and exhausted so I needed a bit of a break which is very unlike me. However let us not dwell on all that. I am back now and raring to go. My work situation has changed too (in a good way) so am finding I have much less time and so am writing this weekend off, and sadly postponing the Savidge Big Read “Sea of Poppies” by a week if that’s ok, to chill out, devour lots of reading that I have been meaning to do for ages and play catch up in general.

Speaking of what I have been reading… I set a little competition for you with regard to my travel reading. I had given you the list of books I was taking and asking which ones I would have read by the time I got back and which book out of a possible five was my mystery addition to my packing…

Well the mystery book was Daphne by Justine Picardie which lots of you got right, but sadly that was half the question. How many did I actually read? The answer is 150 pages of Midnight’s Children, so technically none, which none of you guessed. However fear not, I will be doing this again the weekend after next (I know am becoming a bit of a jet setter) and once in June, July and August so you have four more opportunities to win a delightful selection of books.

I have to admit my reading hasn’t been great since I got back, I did break from Midnight’s Children to devour The Earth Hums in B Flat by Mari Strachan for fellow blogger Lizzy’s live Q&A which very sadly I missed as was working late. The questions I would have asked were “is it autobiographical” and “where did you get the title from” alongside gushing praise to Mari on a superb book which I will review shortly. It seems my questions were asked by others which made me feel slightly better but am gutted to have missed the main event and I do feel have let Lizzy down. I am thinking that this week is simply not going to be my week, am a bit out of sorts.

So how is Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie going? Really slowly but really well in all honesty. Now when I say slowly I don’t mean this is because it’s a difficult or boring read far from it. You know sometimes when you really like a book and the voice of the narrator you can either greedily rush through it or slowly devour it an hour at a time? I am definitely doing the latter with this book and I am finding it so worth it. Yes its quite complex and yes there is a lot of surrealism but it’s by no means the monster that I was imagining, more a friendly beast of a book. More to come when have finished it!

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Filed under Book Thoughts, Justine Picardie, Mari Strachan, Salman Rushdie

Travel Companions (and a hard but worth while competition)

So by the time you read this I shall probably be on a train going halfway up the country to my homeland, that’s right the blogs you get over the next few days are timed and have been written in advance so I have been less reading and more typing the last few days. It is a mixture of sadness and happiness that takes me up as I love seeing all my family but sadly we are doing my Granddad’s (or as I called him Bongy) ashes, it would have been his 70th birthday on Sunday. Now that may get you all doing some maths, my Mum had me when she was 16 and my grandparents helped raise me when she was at University (well in the holidays – I was with her in term time) so as my Dad wasn’t around Bong was actually the closest thing to a Dad I had. Sadly almost two years ago he was diagnosed with cancer and died within seven weeks, and I think the shock, plus logistics of the Savidge Tribe (we are having a close family dinner Sunday and its 20 people) have held us off doing this sooner. I think it’s quite nice it’s his 70th seems timely. Anyway enough doom and gloom this is a book blog not my online therapy outpourings.

So like I said when you read this I will be on the train and what does one need for all good train journeys? No not a book… books. I see the books I travel with as being almost as important as whom I am travelling with. You need something for every possible eventuality; therefore I don’t take a book I tend to take two or three for each direction the ones I don’t read on the way to my destination I can read when I am at it if that makes sense? So I always take about six one of each of the following catagories;
a) Something big I have been meaning to read for ages
b) A guilty pleasure read in case the above really just doesn’t work out, you know something slightly erm… un-literary??!!
c) Something by one of my favourite authors (like we discussed on Thursday)
d) Something brand spanking new ‘just in’ as you never know
e) A good crime novel
f) Something that has been hovering on my TBR pile and reading radar for sometime
This so far has stood me in good stead (though do note this isnt the order I read them in) and ok so my bags might be a bit heavy (I always get a tut from the Non-Reader over the amount of books I “need” when we go on trips) but should the train breakdown in the middle of nowhere or we get stranded at a station hey I am all sorted thank you very much.

So for this trip I have enclosed in my luggage in reference to the above formula:
a) Midnights Children – Salman Rushdie (and the latest Savidge Big Reads which you can join in with, I think some of you are already?)
b) Angels & Demons – Dan Brown (as The Da Vinci Code was a complete cheap thrill page turner and also because I am also going to a special screening with Q&A’s with the stars and director next week)
c) Behind The Scenes At The Museum – Kate Atkinson (must try and love this book)
d) The Earth Hums in B Flat – Mari Strachan (and I am taking part in a blog on someone elses site where we get to ask the author lots of questions and you can join in – more of this on Wednesday)
e) The Point of Rescue – Sophie Hannah (because her books are just superb)
Now what about f? I was stuck I simply had too many contenders. Eventually I managed to whittle it down to five…

If you cant see the picture very well the five are; Daphne – Justine Picardie, The Girl on the Landing – Paul Torday, The Devil’s Paintbrush – Jake Arnott, The Road Home – Rose Tremain or The Secret River – Kate Greville!

So which one did I pick? Well I thought I would leave you guessing and see what you come up with, which one would you have taken? Which one do you think I will have taken? I can’t wait to read your thoughts… and also if you have any particular ‘books for travel’ rules yourselves?

I was going to dish up the results of my nosey findings of what people have been reading on the tube as it fits well with this but as this blog looks a little like a business report I shall hold off with any more lists and bullet points! I am going to run a little competition though… As well as telling me which one I picked from my five and your travel reads habits, if you can guess how many of the books I actually read (and which books they were) from what I have taken I will send you a very special book filled parcel! Adds to the May Bank Holiday Fun for you all I think! You have until 9am Tuesday…

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Filed under Book Thoughts, Jake Arnott, Justine Picardie, Kate Atkinson, Kate Grenville, Mari Strachan, Salman Rushdie, Sophie Hannah

I’m Back… With More Books

So I had the break away which was very much needed indeed I love London but it really can be nice to get away. Did I buy any books while I was away? Not a single one. I came back and within a few hours ‘oh look’ I have bought three but I didnt intend to go and get them. I merely wanted to go and see if the new book shop that they have been promising to open down the road was actually open yet. It wasnt… and as I walked past the window of one of the other ones I saw a book I have been wanting to get for ages, Lady With Lapdog by Anton Chekhov. Ever since seeing The Reader I have been wanting to read it, if you’ve seen the movie you’ll know why if not then I wont spoil it.

The other books that I got were books that I *needed* or ones that are quite difficult to get. I have been looking for The White Hotel by D.M. Thomas for the last month or so as I am joining one of my friends book groups in Hertfordshire next week and that is what they are reading but its not that easy to get despite being Long Listed for the Man Booker. I told my Gran that I was going to read D.M. Thomas and she exclaimed ‘ooooohhhh I think his stuff is a bit racy… if it is let me know’ I am not sure whether that meant she would avoid it or read it!

The other book that I managed to get, and am thrilled that I saw out of the corner of my eye, was White Mischief by James Fox. After reading The Bolter about the life of Idina Sackville and all the shenanigans going on in the Happy Valley I have been wanting to find out more about the era and the characters in it. White Mischief is all about one of Idina’s five husbands who was mysteriously murdered out in the Happy Valley. I only thought this was a movie I didnt realise the book (which is non-fiction I gather) had come out first so I will be devouring this very soon.
Whilst away I didn’t manage either of the two books I asked you to guess I might take with me because I was a little too busy with these two…

I did manage to finish Child 44 with Tom Rob Smith which I shall review tomorrow. Oh which two books did I take? If only I could do a drum role, sadly I can’t so I shall just say Daphne by Justine Picardie and The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood. I’ve come home and started something completely different instead… and autobiography am off to go and read it now. So what are you all reading and what have you all been upto? Three days seems like a lot longer, in a good way.
Oh I also forgot to add that while I was away I received an ‘I Love Your Blog’ award from the delightful Farm Lane Books so was very chuffed, what a lovely welcome back. Do check out Farm Lane Books as its great, we are both doing the Richard and Judy Book Challenge (to read all of them) and though we occasionally differ I love hearing all her reviews and thoughts.

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Filed under Book Spree, Book Thoughts, Justine Picardie, Margaret Atwood, Tom Rob Smith