Tag Archives: Maria Barbal

Summer Read Suggestions – The Bloggers (Part One)

In the first instalment of my final set of vox pops (this runs over two days) for the Savidge Reads ‘Summer Reads Week’ that I have left scheduled and running while I had both a real holiday and a little blogging holiday I decided that after the publishers and the authors I would ask some bloggers what they were thinking of. Especially after my NTTVBG blogging co-hosts and I announced our Summer Selection this week, sadly we aren’t doing anything more than suggesting titles this summer. So I thought what about some other bloggers? Which summer reads have they loved and what are they looking forward to devouring over the summer?

Annabel, Gaskella

I do find it harder to concentrate on reading in the summer, with the long daylight hours I’m always more tired by the time I go to bed, but then I am up with the lark and read in the early morning a lot instead. On holiday I read even less. As to what I read, crime and thrillers often take over from lit fiction – books that are more plot driven and not so meditative work best at this time for me. James Bond, Michael Connelly and Henning Mankell for instance.

This summer I was thinking of starting to read Charlie Higson’s young James Bond series!  But also have had my eye on Robert Wilson’s Inspector Javier books and the Martin Beck series by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo for a while.

Rachel, Book Snob

Something that’s very gentle, atmospheric, and reminiscent of tea parties under parasols in English country gardens; light, witty, fresh and cheering to the soul after a long, hard winter. My favourite summery read? Can I have two? I would have to say The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim and Illyrian Spring by Ann Bridge. Both perfect examples of what I’ve described, filled with the natural, evocative imagery of summer and the hope and fresh promise it brings.

This summer I really want to get Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth Von Arnim read.

Thomas, My Porch

Since I read all year, I don’t really believe in the whole notion of summer reads. But if I think about what I like to read while on vacation I can say that I am more prone to pick up something that would fall into the category of popular fiction. Like on my last trip I stumbled across Her Fearful Symmetry which I would never have picked up otherwise, and ended up totally enjoying it. The Potato Peel book would be another perfect example even though I didn’t read it on vacation.

If I follow the notion set forth above, I would have to say that I am probably most interested in Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson. It looks fun and easy and I liked the feel of the writing when I glanced at the first page.

Elaine, Random Jottings

I am not sure why I feel this way, but when the sun is shining and the sky is blue I have no desire to read a book that requires a huge amount of mental effort.  Almost as if the lazy, hazy days of summer affect my concentration and it has always been this way for me.  So toss the Margaret Atwood and the AS Byatt onto the to be read pile, ditch Ulysses and Recherché le Temps Perdu (for the umpteenth time) and turn to a more relaxed read, one that requires no flexing of the little grey cells, one that you can sink into and simply enjoy.

So into that category, oddly enough comes murder and detection but only of the so called ‘cosy’ variety.  In the last few months I have read the detective novels of Georgette Heyer, revisited those two redoubtable Dames, Agatha and Ngaio and have thoroughly enjoyed reading these stories with which I am so familiar.    Even knowing the books backwards and the identity of each murderer in each title does not lessen my enjoyment and relish with which I reacquaint myself with Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, Inspector Alleyn and also Lord Peter Wimsey as I have  just reread Gaudy Night.

In the last fortnight I have read two of my favourite summer reads and I don’t think it is a coincidence that these books are always published at this time of year.  First up,  Perfect Proposal by Katie Fforde which I have had on pre-order at Amazon for months.  Love her books, witty and amusing and, yes formulaic, but written with such lightness and joi de vivre they are a joy.   Read this one through in a straight two hours one afternoon last week as the sun shone. The other was The Wings of the Sphinx by Camilleri the latest Inspector Montalbano story.  I love, love, love these books and Montalba no’s attitude to life, love and food and they are the perfect summer read.  I also read the latest Donna Leon set in Venice a month or so ago and now all my summer delights are done and dusted.

I am sure I can find some more though if I look hard enough….

Rob, Rob Around Books

Like many readers I get a lot more mobile in the summer. I’m never in the same place for too long, and there’s so many other non-bookish activities screaming for my attention that I can’t seem to find the time I need to get through as many full-length novels that I’d like to. So in the summer months I prefer to keep my reading choices short and simple – choosing instead to read short stories and novellas – just so I can keep myself free from any long-term reading commitments. As for a favourite ‘summery read’? Well, I don’t tend to schedule my reading around the seasons but one particular favourite title that sticks firmly in mind partly because of its summery theme, is Niccolò Ammaniti’s ‘I’m Not Scared’ (Canongate).

Bearing in mind my preference for choosing to read shorter works in the summer months, there are a myriad of titles in my TBR that I’m looking forward to reading this summer. But picking just one – well two actually – there’s that wonderful duo of translated titles from Peirene Press that every blogger seems to be talking about right now, ‘Beside the Sea’ by Véronique Olmi and ‘Stones in a Landslide’ by Maria Barbal.

Verity, Cardigan Girl Verity

The most summery book I have read is The go-between by L.P.Hartley; partly because it is set over a long hot summer, but mainly because I remember reading it in my teens lying in the back garden over a very hot Bank Holiday weekend.  But perfect summery reads for me are generally either books which I have been saving for my holidays (and thus hugely anticipating) and/or books which are lighter in feel, whether this is in terms of plot, style of writing or target market.  Generally nothing too literary and dense!

Over the summer months I am most eager to read The Wavespotter’s Guide; I have a huge TBR of fiction but this new non-fiction book by the author of the Cloud-spotters guide is hugely appealing to someone who loves to spend their time at the seaside and who likes nothing better than to sit on the beach and watch the surf and the tide coming in and out.

Marcia, Lizzy’s Literary Life

Summery reading is something that I avoid.  Reading about hot places when it’s invariably pouring down in Scotland is not good for my psyche!  If I’m travelling, I like to read something associated with my destination.  Invariably I spend the second half of August in Edinburgh at the Edinburgh Book Festival and so somewhere along the line, I’ll read something set there.  Perhaps this year, I’ll allow myself to read the final novel in Alexander McCall-Smith’s 44 Scotland Street Series, “The Unbearable Lightness of Scones”.  I just love that title!   I’ve been saving it as I don’t want the series to end.

My reading list during July and August is dominated by the events I’ll be attending at the Edinburgh Book Festival.  The program was published last week and my first pass wish list amounted to 48 events!  At £10 a ticket, I don’t think so.  I will definitely be attending David Mitchell’s event and so,  even though the title contains the wrong season for the purpose of your feature,  “The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet” is top of this summer’s TBR.

So what do you reckon to these recommendations? Which books of the list today have tempted you? Which ones have you read and agree make the perfect summer read?

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Summer Read Suggestions… From Authors

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

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

Maria Barbal

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

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

Neil Bartlett

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

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

Stella Duffy

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

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

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

Tess Gerritsen

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

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

Sophie Hannah

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

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

Hillary Jordan

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

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

Paul Magrs

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

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

Dan Rhodes

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

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

Natasha Solomons

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

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

Evie Wyld

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

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

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

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

Stone in a Landslide – Maria Barbal

You don’t normally think that you would be in the position where you have really high expectations from the next book you read from a publisher, especially when it’s the second book they are publishing. That is however how I have been feeling with the latest Peirene Press release ‘Stone in a Landslide’ by Maria Barbal. It is really all the fault of their first book ‘Beside The Sea’, which I think is one of the best books that I have read in recent years, which I am still thinking about and recommending to anyone and everyone. So no pressure then for this book as I sat down to read it.

When reading ‘Stone in a Landslide’ I found it to have a rather reflective and nostalgic feel to it, despite the fact that I have never lived in Spain, though I have been quite a few times. I think this is all down to our narrator Conxa. It doesn’t give anything away to say that Conxa tells us her story aged 80 and looking back at her life which has not been one of the easiest. But then it possibly wouldn’t be so interesting would it? From her childhood, moving to her aunt Tia and Oncle’s house to be a worker and almost adoptive daughter, through a civil war that rages through the country even to the Pyrenees where she lives and onto life for an older lady in a world that just keeps modernising. We see her loves, her loses, her joys and her heartaches.

I don’t really know if any more should be said as I could give the whole plot away which would never do. Instead I will do as Kirsty at Other Stories did and quote Peirene’s publisher Meike Ziervogel. ‘I fell in love with Conxa’s narrative voice, its stoic calmness and the complete lack of anger and bitterness. It is a timeless voice, down to earth and full of human contradictory nuances. It’s the expression of someone who searches for understanding in a changing world but senses that ultimately there may be no such thing.’ I doubt anyone trying to write thoughts on this book could put it any better.

I can say more on the author, who is understandably one of Spain’s most regarded writers. Barbal is a wonderful writer, in her hands as a reader you are gently drawn through a lifetime of a woman. It’s a full life and yet despite the shortness of the book you never feel you are rushed. In fact often you are asked to stop a while and take in the smallest of scenes from a village dance to a family meal or joining women gossiping in the streets, all incredibly detailed and yet understated. Yet all of them breathe Conxa’s life and indeed the Spanish life into wherever you are reading the book. Does that sound a little loopy? It also has a rhythm that keeps you reading until whoops the book is finished. This could of course be the translation which has been done meticulously; though I have a feeling it’s quite probably a combination of the two.  

‘Stone in a Landslide’ has been a best seller around the whole of Europe since its initial release in 1985 and now having read the book I can see why, it’s a beautiful simplistic and touching book that leaves you feeling reflective, yet in a hopeful way. It’s also a book that makes me even more excited about what might be coming next from Peirene Press. 8/10

Savidge suggests some perfect prose partners:
Beside The Sea – Veronique Olmi (you must, must read this book!)

It is books like this, and indeed ‘Beside The Sea’, that leave me wondering just how many more wonderful European novels and novella’s we are missing out on here in Britain, and indeed all over the world? What possibly unknown European gems have you found that I (and many others) should be seeking out?

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Filed under Maria Barbal, Peirene Press, Review

Reading Retreats…

Savidge Reads will be off on a little holiday by the time you read this. Fear not though I have some rather interactive posts coming up over the weekend, even if I don’t manage to respond until I get back… buts that the whole point of a holiday isn’t it? So where will I be, who with and what will I be reading? That is of course what today’s post is about.

Well I will be ‘glamping’ which is apparently a version of camping with a few mod cons. Oh and not in a tent, rather in a log cabin in the delightful setting of woodlands and ponds in Surrey, I did try and convince everyone I was going camping but nobody bought it, I can’t think why…

I won’t be with The Converted One, but I won’t be alone as the lovely Novel Insights is coming, along with our very wonderful and delightful friend Michelle. It’s going to be a bit of a break that gets us all back to nature, we are banning  most of the mod-cons the place offers (well apart from the comfortable beds, shower and maybe the hot tub ha, ha) for the break and having a sort of companionable reading retreat!  So what will I be reading? These books have made it into my luggage…

  • Peyton Place – Grace Metalious (I have almost finished this; we have all been reading it in advance and are discussing it over dinner and drinks on Saturday Night in a sort of rogue book group)
  • Stone in a Landslide – Maria Barbal (very excited about the new novella from Peirene Press after having loved their first release ‘Beside the Sea’)
  • The Passage – Justin Cronin (I will finish this, I will, I will!)
  • The Woodcutter – Reginald Hill (I have never read Reginald Hill but was sent this to read for a magazine and being in the woods seems to team with the theme)

So what are your plans this weekend? Read any of these or eager to? Have any of you given Reginald Hill a whirl, as I never have, and what did you think? Have any of you any reading retreats planned?

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