Tag Archives: Markus Zusak

The Prose Practice – Books for Book Groups

I am currently ‘oop north’ in Manchester and have been joined at my aunties by the lovely Granny Savidge Reads (though she does prefer to be known as simply Gran) and last night she was asking me my advice on possible choices for one, of the three that she is a member of, book groups and their choices of reads next year.

They already have a list of possible options and the idea is that each member of the group chooses twelve of the titles from the list giving them points in order of preference (twelve being the maximum and working down) and the ones that get the most votes are the twelve they head for in 2011.

Naturally I thought that all of you would make a wonderful panel who could recommend a title of twelve from the list, rather than just me. So here without further ado, and in order of authors first name, is the list of the possible reads, I have crossed some out as Gran had already read them and didn’t fancy them again or just didn’t fancy end of – though I am sure she could be persuaded by you all…

  • The Children’s Book – A.S. Byatt
  • The Yacoubian Building – Alaa al Aswanny
  • La’s Orchestra Saves The World – Alexander McCall Smith
  • The Long Song – Andrea Levy
  • The White Tiger – Aravind Adiga
  • The Card – Arnold Bennett
  • Dreams From My Father – Barack Obama
  • Our Mutual Friend – Charles Dickens
  • Last Train From Liguria – Christine Dwyer Hickey
  • Short Stories – D.H. Lawrence
  • Death Sentence – David Lodge
  • Counting My Chickens – Deborah Devonshire
  • These Foolish Things – Deborah Moggach
  • The Good Soldier – Ford Maddox Ford
  • Girl in a Blue Dress – Gaynor Arnold
  • Adam Bede – George Elliott
  • Three Cups of Tea – Greg Mortenson
  • Kafka on the Shore – Haruki Murakami
  • Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel
  • Family Romance – John Lancaster
  • Paradise Postponed – John Mortimer
  • The Plague of Doves – Louise Erdrich
  • An Education – Lynn Barber
  • The Red Queen – Margaret Drabble
  • The Memory Box – Margaret Forster
  • The Glassblower of Murano – Marina Fiorato
  • Florence Nightingale – Mark Bostridge
  • The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
  • The Hamilton Case – Michelle De Krester
  • Memento Mori – Muriel Spark
  • The Wasted Vigil – Nadine Aslam
  • Great Fortunes – Olivia Manning
  • Border Crossing – Pat Barker
  • Peripheral Vision – Patricia Ferguson
  • The Law of Dreams – Peter Belling
  • Trespass – Rose Tremain
  • Sacred Hearts – Sarah Dunant
  • The Little Stranger – Sarah Waters
  • Engleby – Sebastian Faulks
  • Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
  • The Beacon – Susan Hill
  • Restless – William Boyd
  • A Whispered Name – William Brodrick
  • The Believers – Zoe Heller

That’s quite a list isn’t it? I am sure you can understand why I thought opening this up to all of you would be much more helpful as I haven’t heard of half of the authors. Which is also an apology if therefore I have spelt some titles and authors wrongly, I am going by the spreadsheet Gran brought with her. I did recommend ‘The Little Stranger’ oddly as though I didn’t initially love it, it grew on me over time, I would have loved to have read it and been able to discuss the ending and what it all seemed to mean.

So which twelve would you pick and why? I know Gran will be popping by and checking, as will I as I have some of these on Mount TBR which I have been itching to get around too. Let us know, if you could suggest twelve in orderof preference and why that would be amazing…

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Filed under Book Group, The Prose Practise

I Am The Messenger – Markus Zusak

I was really torn with which book I should choose for the latest meeting of The Riverside Readers which took place last night. We have already covered non-fiction, classics, science fiction, modern literature, translations. As I wanted to choose something different I had three options to my mind which were crime, short stories or young adult. As a genre I have the issues with and like to test myself I opted for the latter and chose ‘I Am The Messenger’, or simply ‘The Messenger’ as it’s known in Australia, by Markus Zusak a book he wrote before the cross-over smash ‘The Book Thief’ (which I loved when I read in my pre-blogging days).

I don’t know if I would have bought ‘I Am The Messenger’ of my own volition if I am honest, though I would definitely read the next book by Markus Zusak, in part because it is deemed as ‘young-adult’ fiction a tag that simply puts me off, but I won’t open that can of worms. However a friend picked it up for me in Australia as they knew I had raved to anyone and everyone about ‘The Book Thief’.

Stuck in a city as an underage cab driver who happens to be hopeless at love and rubbish at sex you might not think that nineteen year old Ed Kennedy, the protagonist of ‘I Am The Messenger’, would be someone who could changes the lives of people but neither would he. In fact if you told him that he could he would probably laugh in your face or possibly tell you to ‘f**k off’ and so would his friends. However everything changes after Ed inadvertently foils a rather incompetent bank robbery.

After this event his name and face is plastered across the newspapers and someone sends him a playing card, the Ace of Diamonds, with addresses written on it and Ed soon realises someone has given him the mission of giving people messages, some they may like and some they might not either way Ed is now in charge of changing the lives of strangers, only the cards keep coming and everything starts to get much closer to home.

Some of the stories were genuinely touching like a tale involving Christmas lights and also a relationship that Ed builds with a wonderful old lady called Milla. The later in particular really made me smile throughout the book and I am not ashamed made me feel a little warm inside.  Some are easy such as giving someone an ice-cream which touches them more than anything else could. Some are dangerous and disturbing such as the case of a man who regularly rapes his wife in a drunken stupor and how to stop him.

I liked how Zusak could take you from something quite humorous to something quite hard hitting within a paragraph or two and yet it never jarred and kept the pace the whole way through (in fact towards the end I felt I was reading a thriller to a degree). I found the characters of Ed and his friends a little two dimensional to begin with but as the book went on they were fleshed out as the plot thickened, that’s all I will say for now, you will spot the love story a mile off though!

What won me round with this book in particular, being a bit of a cynic, was that this book never strayed too far into cheesy territory which could have been an easy move, nor did it preach (I did on several occasions think the book might suddenly gain a religious slant) despite the author clearly having a motive and a message of his own. Though not always subtle and slightly saccarine in parts, Zusak has created a book that can be dark, laugh out loud funny and occasionally quite poignant. 6.5/10

Having now read ‘I Am The Messenger’ I don’t think I would call this a cross-over book, maybe I have become a bit of an early old timer but I wouldn’t want my brother or sister (8 and 12) reading this, mind you they read Twilight so what do I know. It did work for me though and I will definitely be reading whatever he comes out next without question and am really rather keen to read more of his already published works.

Savidge suggests some perfect prose partners:
The Book Thief – Markus Zusak (if you haven’t read it you should)
The Other Hand – Chris Cleave (though if you have read it and hated this book – it’s a marmite number – don’t let that put you off)

And no… I haven’t mentioned today’s general election… yet!

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Filed under Book Group, Markus Zusak, Pan MacMillan, Review