Tag Archives: Miriam Toews

Evie Wyld & Edward Hogan’s Books of 2011

I always love it when people you know are on a wave length with the books they love that you have read, it means they might know lots of books you haven’t read but really should. You might remember that I mentioned how a short review Evie Wyld did on Open Book led me to reading ‘The Hunger Trace’ by Edward Hogan, which has become one of my favourite reads of the year. Well after I tweeted about it Evie and I were then emailing about other bookish bits and bobs, as she works in an independent bookshop which I am most envious of, at the same time I was also emailing Ed about Derbyshire (as we are both from there and I had just finished his wonderful second novel and wanted to say wow) and we started discussing books of the year and then I thought why not get both of them to tell me their top five books that I could share with all of you? I think they are two of the literary worlds Bright Young Things and, though it makes me feel slightly sick and hate them just a little that they are only two years older than me and such creative geniuses, I thought it would be interesting to see what two authors of the future (and present, but you know what I mean) have read and loved this year. So that is what I am going to do today…

So, ladies first and Evie’s five books of 2011…

The Devil all the Time by Donald Ray Pollock

It’s not often you read a book in which the author has successfully balanced darkness and comedy so cleverly. There’s something compelling about an author who can write about the worst things imaginable, with such an extraordinarily poor and bleak landscape as their backdrop and still manage to get out of it a bouncy and colourful voice which is utterly compelling. Its set in rural Ohio and West Virginia, and it’s drunken and violent and unsettling – a dream.

The Storm at the Door by Stefan Merrill Block

There are sentences so beautiful in A Storm at the Door that you reread them over and over wondering how Block’s brain works. It’s a kind of imagined memoir of his American grandparents. His grandfather spent much of his life in an asylum in Boston. It’s tough and manic and extraordinary, dotted with occasional photographs of the couple, which is a touch I love. You could say it’s an interesting examination of truth in memoir, and the thin line between fact and fiction, but more than that it is a beautifully written book.

A Taste of Chlorine by Bastien Vivès

A graphic novel that takes place almost entirely in a swimming pool. There are pages with practically no words but just the acutely observed sensation of being in a public swimming pool – the light and the movement, the strange isolation. It’s a love story about a man who starts swimming to treat his bad back, and who meets a woman in the pool. Not a lot that you can see really happens, but a lot is sensed. I reread this about once a month.

Waterline by Ross Raisin

I’m baffled as to why Waterline hasn’t been on heaps of prize lists. In the book shop when I recommend it to customers, sometimes they’ll say it sounds too sad, but sad things happen in novels, because they’re about life. Rant over, this is a fabulous book and it’s a devastatingly good book to follow God’s Own Country. Waterline is a journey between Glaswegian shipyards, Australia and London, and it’s about death and guilt and sadness, but it’s also written by Ross Raisin, which means the writing is exceptional and darkly funny even in its most crippling sad bits.

The Vintage and the Gleaning by Jeremy Chambers

The story is of an old sheep shearer who has spent his life filled to the gills with alcohol, and who has just been told that if he drinks again, his stomach will rupture and he will kill himself. He works on a vineyard in South Australia now, and the drinking culture there is just as heavy as that of the shearers, the suspicion of non-drinkers just as tough. The dialogue in this book is the thing that stunned me. Chambers gives the voice enough space that seemingly banal conversations become beautifully funny and meaningful. There’s a story repeated over and over about a dog stealing an ice cream that made me happier than any other storyline this year, possibly ever.

So now to the lovely Edward and his five books of 2011…

Irma Voth by Miriam Toews

My book of the year.  It’s about a 19-year-old girl growing up in a Mennonite community in Mexico.  Irma is a brilliant character; she’s funny and forgiving and has a huge capacity for love.  Her hard life is invigorated by the arrival of a Mexican film crew.  Toews herself starred in a film about Mennonites, and she warmly satirises the process here. She’s great at writing about kindness (which is rare), and Irma Voth is funny in that way which makes you laugh, then keel over, then weep with sadness.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (from an original idea by Siobhan Dowd)

A shockingly original and powerful monster story about a boy, Conor, dealing with the impending death of his mother.  It has the ancient power of a parable, but contains all the subtleties and complications of Conor’s grief.  I’ve no idea how Patrick Ness managed it.  The hardback is beautifully illustrated by Jim Kay.

Waterline by Ross Raisin

With the dominant political party and half of the media demonising everyone without a job, the country needs this book!  It charts the fall of Mick Little, a former worker at the Glasgow shipyards, into poverty and homelessness.  Raisin isn’t sentimental about the underworld of the homeless, he shows you how it works in well-researched detail, and presents Mick – with compassion – in all his humanity.

The Virago Book of Ghost Stories

Ghost stories are usually very political, so it’s fascinating to read these tales written by women over the last 150 years or so. Of course, there are the masters of the craft, like May Sinclair, but the contemporary writers hold their own, too. A.S. Byatt’s story is very moving, and Penelope Lively has a subversive story about a middle class woman who is held hostage in her home by a spectral black dog prowling in the garden.

Lazarus is Dead by Richard Beard

I’m only halfway through this sort of fictionalised biography of Jesus’ bezzie mate, but already it’s a remarkable book. Without being patronising or arrogant, Beard shows you how fiction can not only ‘fill in the gaps’ of history, but also revise it, take issue with it. It’s so confident, and also funny. ‘What was Jesus really like?’ one admirer asks Lazarus. ‘Slow at climbing,’ he replies.

So there we have it! What do you think of the selection of books that they have chosen? I haven’t read any of these so in all likelihood the ones I haven’t will now be on my radar. I think I am going to have to read the Ross Raisin book after seeing them both recommending ‘Waterline’, I was told by lots of people I should read that but the boats on the cover put me off. Have you read any of them, or the authors who have made the suggestions novels (my grammar and waffle killer seem to have vanished today sorry)? I would love to hear your thoughts. My top books of 2011 will be appearing on Saturday (when I will be asking to hear what yours are), though if you are gasping for a taster listen to the latest episode of The Readers here.

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Filed under Books of 2011, Edward Hogan, Evie Wyld

A Few More Additions & Double Trouble

I am not sure the postman was a fan of me this week, but then again with all the postal strikes of late I dont think that I am really a fan of the postmen. Who do they keep on striking when its not getting them anything, well all its getting is the british public a bit narked off and really you would think they would want us onside. In the current climate at least they have jobs… any way off my Savidge Soapbox and back to books!

Yes its that time again when I come to share with you the latest arrivals at Savidge Reads Towers (which the postman has begrudged delivering) and ask you what you have read from whats arrived and what you want to read…the latter in particular today you may want to think about as it may prove relevant further in the blog. Anyways the first few arrivals have been  from the lovely people at Oxford University Press for my ‘Sensational September’ read-a-thon which I would love for you to join in on if you would like. So the ones that have arrived so far (more are on the way apparently) are…

Some Sensational Stuff

  • No Name by Wilkie Collins, which I know nothing about which in a strange way suits the title of the novel.
  • The Dead Secret by Wilkie Collins, this is supposed to be one of his shortest Sensation Novels and yet one of the ones which packs the biggest punch which after reading The Woman in White (which I am going to re-read) I would be mighty impressed if it could beat.
  • East Lynne by Ellen Wood, sensation fiction fans claim this is the mother of all sensation novels and there for maybe where I start, or should this be where I finish? This one sold hundreds towards the end of the 1860’s and is most well known for its implausible plot – sounds a hoot!

Next is a mixture of stuff from various publishers and other sources. The week before last saw the author Chris Ewan contact me )my Gran was here she found it all very exciting) after seeing me comment on Random Jottings post about his books and offered to send me the latest not minding “if you don’y blog about it if you dont like it” which was a really refreshing view, I have had pushy authors in the past who I shall not name and shame, its simply suffice to say their books have never featured on the site.  Anyway I bought the first one ‘A Good Theifs Guide To Amsterdam’ as I have to read series in order, everything else has popped through the Savidge Reads letter box from various lovely people.

New Random Arrivals

  • An Expert in Murder by Nicola Upson, I have lost count how many times I have seen praise in the blogging world for this novel and so its been on my hitlist a while. Very excited.
  • A Good Thief’s Guide To Amsterdam by Chris Ewan, as mentioned above.
  • A Good Thief’s Guide To Paris by Chris Ewan, again as mentioned above. Oh but the premise is that its about a crime author who is also a thief. Read the post by Random Jottings for a better summary.
  • Ekaterinburg by Helen Rapport, I have had this one the wish list for ages as people were raving about this non-fiction piece about the Romanov’s and the last thirteen days before their massacre in 1918. This looks to be a non fiction masterpiece and I said I would read much more non fiction this year.
  • Voice Over by Celine Curiol, which is next months Book Group Book. You can go on that page to read more about it and if you want to attend do contact me. Sounds like a very exciting debut from this french author I wouldnt have read if it hadn’t been put forward this month.
  • Sunset Oasis by Bahaa Taher, I knew nothing of this book it was a suprise in the post, I do adore the cover though. It’s based in Egypt which is a country I haven’t read many novels set in and looks like its quite an intriguing plot about relations between Britain and Egypt and the political climate. I may have got that all wrong.
  • Angel With Two Faces by Nicola Upson, the sequel to An Expert in Murder… already, very exciting.
  • Conspirator: Lenin in Exhile by Helen Rappaport, the latest of her non fiction and more about Russia andof course Lenin. Ever since reading Child 44 I have wanted to find more out about Russia and it seems over the next few months I will get my chance.

Finally (‘at last’ I hear you cry) there have been five or ten other arrivals depending how you look at it…

Doubled Up

  • True Murder by Yaba Badoe, I have been picking up and putting this down for about three weeks at Waterstones as its one of thier books of the month. Two children find a skeleton in their attic at boarding school and decide to play detective, though what if the killer is still there and wants to keep certain dark secrets buried? Sounds reallt, really good and quite me.
  • Noah’s Compass by Anne Tyler, the latest Tyler novel… erm… need I say more?
  • The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews, this was long listed for the Orange prize earlier in the year. I like the Orange lists and this is one I didn’t get to read but now its out in paper back I can.
  • A Story of Marriage by Andrew Sean Greer, the tale of a happy marriage that one the arrival of a knock at the door changes for ever, another book that sounds very me.
  • The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty by Sebastian Barry, now if any of you have read and loved ‘The Secret Scripture’ then you might remember the brief arrival of the character Eneas in the narrator Roseanne’s tale, now prior to The Secret Scripture the author Sebastian Barry has already written Eneas’ story, am looking forward to this one a lot too.

As you may have noticed I got doubles of these and so, yes thats right, you can expect some giveaways in the fortchcoming weeks, so keep your eyes peeled! I just need to work out if I should give them away one by one or in a big parcel or two parcels? Hmmm… I shall mull it over by the Lido today in the sun, where I am going to be getting into the world of The Tudors and Cromwell. More on that later in the week.

Have you read any of the books above? What are the latest books you have bought, been given, etc? What are you reading now and whats top of your TBR and wish lists?

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