Tag Archives: Natasha Solomons

Incoming (And Possibly Outgoing)…

It seems that I have rather belatedly cottoned onto the idea of a proper spring clean, just the two months late eh? It has all come about when after coming back from London I was rather strictly told that I better bloody had really ought to think about the amount of books that are in the house. Despite all those bookshelves that Gran bought me last Christmas, along with several storage boxes I don’t technically count, the space was running out. The tops of the shelves themselves, radiator covers and chests of drawers – pretty much anything that could house books has been. The words ‘sizing down’ reared their ugly heads, I hope they were aimed at my books anyway.

Book SortingStrangely a day after this I was very sick with flu, it must have been the shock. Though whilst being sickly I came up with an amazing idea, how about swapping some of the shelves around? This would then mean I would almost double my shelf space logistically (I won’t bore you with how) I forgot that it would also then mean a proper full on spring/autumn clean. If it was to save the books though, what did it matter? Only weirdly in moving shelves I started to move books and notice some that I wondered why I had/didn’t fancy reading anymore/was sent unsolicited and thought I might try at some point but haven’t a few years on. I thought really it was a bit selfish to keep them when the library/friends/neighbours may want them so I started sorting… and it got quite addictive. As you can see I am still in the process.

This of course means there will be space for some more books. I am no fool. This is good as I have had some treats in during the last week and I thought I might share them with you.

Incoming BooksFirst up some random treats have arrived in the last week. The only ones here I was expecting was Tom Sharpe’s ‘Riotous Assembly’ which is the book group read for next weekend and which I should really get a wriggle on and read frankly. Gran always used to tell me that I should read them as she thought the Wilt books were absolutely hilarious. I just remember them for having boobs on some of the covers. At last I am getting round to him, though really a little too late sorry Gran! The other two were the Natasha Solomons, I am a fan, and also the Suzanne Berne. I am wondering if I should read Suzanne’s Orange/Women’s Prize winning book ‘A Crime in the Neighbourhood’ first though. What do you think?

AutumnalNext up were some suitably autumnal books. I seem to have ignored the fact that autumn is here when normally I am celebrating this on the blog as it means I can dust of some Victorian novels, get stuck into some darker crime novels, ghostly tales and revel in the dark nights. Well I think all four of these will be just the ticket. Gavin of GavReads has raved about Sarah Pinborough for quite a while and so I thought with theses retellings of fairytales ‘Poison’ (Snow White) and ‘Beauty’ (Beauty and the Beast) I am in for a treat or two. I need to get ‘Charm’ (Cinderella) to make the set complete. ‘Marina’ was Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s debut novel before ‘Shadow of the Wind’ (which I think I need to re-read – though maybe not with all the books I have yet to read, hmmm) and is the tale of a mysterious disappearance in Barcelona. I am not sure ‘Doctor Sleep’ really needs an introduction. Though it links to the next few books as I have been thinking of spooky reads for Halloween…

Halloween HorrorI have a small ritual of reading a ghost story on Halloween. I have been puzzling what to read this year and am now spoilt for choice with these four books. I managed to snag these copies of ‘The Rats’ and ‘Psycho’ in a random charity shop I fell into the other day. I have been meaning to read ‘The Rats’ since James Herbert sadly passed away earlier this year. I have only recently wanted to read ‘Psycho’ though having watched the movie ‘Hitchcock’ which suddenly made me want to read it instantly. I have also been greeted by treats only this very morning from the very person who said I should clear the bookshelves a bit. That naughty fellow called The Beard. Apparently when shopping today ‘The Ghost Hunters’ by Neil Spring and Adam Nevill’s ‘The House of Small Shadows’ sounded like they were very much my sort of books. I think that this may be the case; I am now spoilt for spooky stories over Halloween.

So what have you borrowed/bought/been given books wise lately? What books are high on your periphery? Any Halloween reads planned?

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Moon Tiger – Penelope Lively

Some books you buy because you think one day you should really get around to reading them. This is the very feeling that I had when I snapped up a copy of Penelope Lively’s ‘Moon Tiger’ in a charity shop years ago because it had won the Booker Prize in 1987 and because I thought Lively was one of those authors ‘all book lovers should really read’, we all have books we buy in those circumstances don’t we? And yes I did say I bought this years ago, because after I snapped it up I promptly put it away in one of my book boxes and it then stayed lingering in the TBR pile limbo. If it hadn’t been for Natasha Solomons choosing it as our ‘Reading With Authors’ choice (discussion coming soon) I think that is where it might have stayed, which would have been a crime frankly as this is an utterly wonderful book.

Penguin Books, paperback, 1987, fiction, 208 pages, taken from personal TBR

There is, I think, a major problem for anyone wishing to write about ‘Moon Tiger’ and that is how to tell people to read the book without divulging the plot. You see ‘Moon Tiger’ is the life story of the beautiful writer Claudia Hampton, told by herself, starting from her childhood just after the First World War up to the present day, where we know she is in hospital at the age of 76 dying of cancer. This should therefore be easy to sum up should it not? Well, no, not really because we don’t get the book in a linear chronology by any stretch of the imagination, we have to work at it, and so (as I am going to tell you that you all have to read this if you haven’t before) it would spoil things to say anymore. I even think the blurb gives too much away.

It was actually this stopping and starting, backwards and forwards narrative (which I admit annoyed me for the first fifteen pages or so) that had me hooked into the book. It seems Claudia is in a delirious state, possibly from the drugs I imagine she would be on for her terminal illness, and so is slightly confused therefore her memory flits, and so do the tales she tells us. Only its not just that simple, Lively adds another brilliant twist. We get Claudia’s memories as she sees them, strangely in third person, and as the other person sees them. We get some very conflicting sides of each tale which I found fascinating. In fact sometimes she will do this with a situation but from four peoples perspectives. I loved it, I didn’t think I would but I did and I wanted to see how on earth Lively could keep making this work, which she does effortlessly. It also felt like a book and word lover’s kind of book, in the way Lively writes she almost tells us how she writes. I loved that too.

“The cast is assembling; the plot thickens. Mother, Gordon, Sylvia. Jasper. Lisa. Mother will drop out before long, retiring gracefully and with minimum fuss after an illness in 1962. Others, as yet unnamed, will come and go. Some more than others; one above all. In life as in history the unexpected lies waiting, grinning from around corners. Only with hindsight are we wise about cause and effect.”

The other thing, apart from the clever way it is told and the great story I cant say too much about, that I loved about ‘Moon Tiger’ was Claudia herself, even though in all honesty she is not the nicest woman in the world. I found her relationship between Claudia and her daughter a difficult and occasionally heartbreaking one. (‘She will magic Claudia away like the smoke.’) She gripes about her life, she has incredibly loose morals (there is a rather shocking twist in the novel that I didn’t expect and made me queasy), isn’t really that nice about anyone and yet I loved listening to her talk about her life. I think it was her honesty. I wanted to hear and know more, even when she was at her wickedest.

“Harry Jamieson has a damp handshake, damp opinions steeped in the brine of the local Rotary Association and the Daily Telegraph, an appalling homestead on the outskirts of Henley with tennis court, swimming-pool and sweep of gravel that apes the country estate to which he aspires. I have not spent more than half a dozen hours in his company since the wedding. This, let me say, out of charity as much as self-preservation: the poor man is terrified of me. At the very site of me his vowels falter, his forehead glistens, his hands dispensing gin and tonic or Pimms No. 1 fumble with ice cubes, send glasses flying, cut themselves with the lemon knife.”

So I loved ‘Moon Tiger’. I don’t think there is much more that I can say other than read it. This is yet another prime example of why I think I need to get off this almost constant contemporary road of reading, I am missing out on gems like this (and I don’t just mean Booker winners or books from the 80’s – I mean all sorts of books) and that is something I have to work on. So a big thank you to Natasha Solomons for making me read this wonderful book. I am very excited that I will be talking about it further with her in the near future, and again with you hopefully.

Have you read this and what did you think? Where should I go next with Penelope Lively, I think I could currently happily binge on her books after this one, what would you recommend?

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Filed under Books of 2011, Man Booker, Penelope Lively, Penguin Books, Reading With Authors 2011, Review

Reading With Authors 2011

Back in February (I am surprised it was this long ago) I mentioned the fact that after having loved doing the Not The TV Book Group I fancied doing it again, sadly the other hosts weren’t sure what they could commit to this year, so I was mulling the idea of doing something similar and different over the ‘early summer months’. Well its not the early part of summer, but summer it still is, and finally (and possibly a little last minute – but you guys are great at rallying round) I can reveal my plans for ‘Reading With Authors’ which is going to be taking place during the Sundays of August and September 2011., and something which I am hoping you will be able to join in the whole lot of or on and off…

Why has it taken so long? Well, there’s been all of the Bookmarked (only 8 days to go… eek) and Green Carnation Prize madness whirling in the background and also the authors taking part are busy bee’s and so choosing titles together and dates that they are free has been a tricky process, but now it is done and here are the books we would love you to read along with us and when…

(thanks to Gav Reads for the image)

  • Sunday 7th of August 2011: The Man Who Fell To Earth by Walter Tevis with Belinda Bauer
  • Sunday 14th of August 2011: Pigeon English by Steven Kelman with Naomi Wood
  • Sunday 21st of August 2011: Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann with Paul Magrs
  • Sunday 28th of August 2011: Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively with Natasha Solomons
  • Sunday 4th of September: Ruby’s Spoon by Anna Lawrence Pietroni with Beatrice Colin
  • Sunday 18th of September 2011: Even The Dogs by Jon McGregor with Isabel Ashdown

There are two more authors and their choices of books to announce in the next week, but I wanted to get the information out there sooner rather than later as the first one, with the lovely crime writing Belinda Bauer, is only a week a way! If you are thinking ‘only a week, that’s no time’ well I had that slight panic too. However Walter Tevis’ novel ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’ is only 186 pages and it’s stunning! I have a feeling that, as with ‘Flowers For Algernon’ by Daniel Keyes, this is a sci-fi book that is about to make me rather emotional and cry quite a lot. Who knew?

The idea behind all this is that it brings books, authors and readers together in a new way. The weekly author and I will have discussed the book, that will go up on the blog, and then we hope those of you who have read it too (pretty please) will come by comment and myself and the author will add comments creating a great discussion.

I am hoping that all the other books are going to be as good as the first promises to be. Some of them, as you can see from the list, are quite recent, some might have been chosen for the Man Booker (Naomi and myself chose ‘Pigeon English’ a while ago, neither of us having read it at the time, and were patting ourselves on the backs on Tuesday) some are cult classics and some are ones that have gone under the radar. All of them are books that the author and I were eager to read… do we all like our choices? You will have to wait and see! What do you think of the list so far?

I do hope you will be joining in!

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Have You Won Some Books? Finally I Catch Up With Give Aways

This post has been far too long in coming, please forgive me that I have taken so long to sort out catching up with not one, not two, not three… but four book giveaways. So without waffling on here we have the winners, is one you?

Mr Chartwell – Rebecca Hunt

Caroline
Mother Etc
Ruthiella

The Novel in the Viola – Natasha Solomons

Harriet Devine
Kate (Scribbling Sea Serpent)
Pippa
Kimbofo

When God Was A Rabbit – Sarah Winman

Reading With Tea
Mary Jones
Christina (Rochester Reader)
Kim (Winterlief)

Gillespie and I – Jane Harris

Tracey (Chase The Crayon)
Hayley (Paper Plane Reviews)
Verity

So if you are one of the lucky winners, please drop me an email – which you can find on the about page, with the book title in the subject line and including your details and I will pass them onto the publishers and you will have a lovely parcel winging its way to you in due course. Congrats! If you haven’t won fear not there are more give aways coming in the next few weeks.

Oh and Polly and I will be announcing the winners of the ‘Discovering Daphne’ reads next week, so keep your eyes peeled.

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Give Away… When God Was A Rabbit – Sarah Winman

I love getting new books and as you can see I am very lucky as a lot wing their way to me. This also has its benefits as it means that with building relations with publishers means that I can pass on the book getting by giving some away, and today I have 4 copies to give away of a book I read and loved in May which was ‘When God Was A Rabbit’ by Sarah Winman.

I am so pleased I can give you all the chance to win what is a wonderful, wonderful read. Like with the Natasha Solomon’s give away this is open until June the 3rd, its open worldwide and all you have to do is simply stick a little ‘yes, please’ in the comments. It’s that simple. Good luck!

P.S I will be doing a big giveaway catch up next weekend, so stay tuned as I have lots and lots of books to do the draws for.

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Savidge Reads Grills… Natasha Solomons

I haven’t done a ‘Savidge Reads Grills…’ post in quite some time (which is interesting as I have quite a lot of them planned in the next two months) but after reading ‘The Novel in the Viola’ by Natasha Solomons and being as charmed by it as I was, and want all you to be, I had to rush off some emails and see if she would take part. With it having just been chosen as a Richard and Judy title I wasnt sure she would have time, but hoorah she did and so we sat down with a virtual cup of tea or two (and possibly one of her freshly baked pies) and had a natter…

Can you explain the story of ‘The Novel in the Viola’ in a single sentence without giving too much away?

One sentence? Are you kidding? I’m a novelist — it takes me 100,000 words to say anything… (That’s why I’m rubbish on twitter).  Someone described the book succinctly in a review, so I shall steal that: ‘The Novel in the Viola’ is both a love story set during the Second World War, and an elegy to the English Country House.’

How did the story come about? Was there anything in particular that inspired you with this novel?

I’d always wanted to write a story set in the Dorset ‘ghost village’ of Tyneham, a place I’ve been haunted by since I was a kid. During the Second World War, the War Office requisitioned Tyneham for military occupation. Churchill promised that the village would be returned at the end of the war. The departing villagers pinned this note to the church door:

‘Please treat the church and houses with care; we have given up our homes where many of us lived for generations to help win the war to keep men free. We shall return one day and thank you for treating the village kindly.’

But the villagers never returned. After the war, Churchill reneged on his promise and the village was requisitioned permanently. I wanted to tell the story of Tyneford/ Tyneham through the eyes of an outsider, a young refugee maid.

Elise is a character that really lives and breathes through the pages of the book, where did she come from? Is she based on anyone you know? How hard is it to create a heroine?

Elise Landau is inspired by my great-aunt Gabi Landau, who, with the help of my grandmother, managed to escape Nazi Europe by becoming a ‘mother’s help’ in England. Many refugees escaped this way on a ‘domestic service visa’ – swapping cosseted lives for the harsh existence of English servants. I read a series of articles by Austrian and German women who had been domestic servants in Britain, and also spoke to several ladies in London. One woman I spoke to had never even on put on her own stockings before she came to England – she had a maid to do it for her. In London she became a char.

I’m glad you called Elise a heroine – she’d like that. It would make her want to stand very tall and flick her hair. Elise was so easy to write, an absolute pleasure. When I started writing ‘Viola’, I realised that she wanted me to get out of the way and let her tell her own story. I think in this instance I felt rather like I was the reader.

The opening line ‘when I close my eyes I see Tyneford House’ instantly made me think of Daphne Du Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’ and I was wondering if this was intentional or just a coincidence?  There were flavours of other books here and there which I found really comforting, was that something you wanted to create? It’s a lovely nostalgic reading experience either way.

Absolutely. I’ll never forget the first time I read Rebecca. The Novel in the Viola is a modern take on the 1930s novel. It’s inspired by Stevie Smith’s The Novel on Yellow Paper, A House in the Country, Marianna and so on. I also remember the pleasure of those long adolescent summers spent reading books like Jane Eyre, Moon Tiger and A Room with A View. I lost days and weeks to those novels – I was far more interested in those worlds than I was in the real one. With The Novel in the Viola I wanted to recreate that feeling in an adult reader; return them to those summers where they had to read on, had to find out what happened to the girl in the story.

Tyneford is as much a lead character as the wonderful, wonderful Elise, well I thought so anyway, was it hard to make Tyneford’s story and Elise’s coexist without one taking over the other?

I didn’t really think of the stories as separate – Elise is telling the story of Tyneford, and it is all filtered through her memories. She loves the Tyneford coast, and now that she’s in exile, it’s even more precious.

‘The Novel in the Viola’ has recently been chosen as one of the next Richard and Judy reads, congratulations you must be thrilled, how did you find out, do authors have any input in the process or do your publishers keep it hush, hush? How much effect do you think being in that bunch of books will have on ‘The Novel in the Viola’?

Thank you – it’s really exciting. There are lot of great books out there and as a reader it’s really hard to know what to choose. So, I think it’s fantastic to have an endorsement from Richard and Judy – it’s like a recommendation from a friend, and I think that does make a difference for people. They do really choose the books themselves. These are the ones they enjoyed reading – it’s actually very genuine.

Have you read any of the other Richard and Judy recommendations you’re amongst and can you give us any recommendations?

I haven’t yet. But I’m really looking forward to all of them – the fun is that they’re all so different. I’m going to take ‘The Poison Tree’ on holiday with me, and Lizzie Speller’s ‘The Return of Captain John Emmett’ is on my bedside.

After the success of Mr Rosenblum’s List’ did you ever worry about that ‘second book syndrome’ or feel any additional pressure about ‘The Novel in the Viola’?

I had a bit of panic and then spoke to a great friend of mine, a composer called Jeff Rona (who composed the music for ‘The Novel in the Viola’). Jeff told me a story that I found really helpful. When he was a young flibbertigibbet of a composer, he thought about his music as ‘important’. He knew he was creating pieces of art, and this thought often made writing music difficult. Nothing was good enough – what would posterity think? Sometimes it wasn’t even fun. Then, one day he was in the studio trying some stuff out when he ran into a well known RnB artist. This guy was recording and having a great time, and he and Jeff got chatting. ‘The problem is,’ said RnB guy to Jeff, ‘You think of your music as fine china while I think of mine as paper plates.’

From that moment, Jeff resolved on only ever making paper plates. He sits in the studio and plays about, experiments, tries stuff out, has fun and doesn’t worry about the significance of his composition. And believe me, his music is amazing (it’s the staple of my playlist when I’m writing).

While Jeff is talking about composing music, I think the metaphor holds for writing fiction too. I don’t think of my writing as either important or significant. I like to have fun when I write. It’s not always enjoyable – some days it’s just hard and I feel that everything I do is nonsense. But, when I don’t worry and try stuff out, play with words and see what works and what doesn’t, good things happen. I can always cut the mistakes. Throw stuff away. After all, I only write on paper plates.

When are we going to finally see the film of ‘Mr Rosenblum’s List’?

We’re just starting to think about directors. That’s super-fast for the film business!

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? How long have you been writing for?

I always knew I wanted to be a writer. I’m a story monster. But I’m dyslexic so learning to write was really hard for me. As is spelling the word dyslexic. It’s a really mean word to give to people who struggle with spelling.

Which current contemporary authors do you really rate?

Ian McEwan, Andrea Levy, David Mitchell, Nathan Englander, Penelope Lively, Siri Hustvedt, Michael Chabon, Aaron Sorkin, David Chase, David Simon. I think that some of the best writing at the moment is in long-form tv.

How relevant do you think book blogging is to the publishing industry? Do you ever pop and see what people have thought of your book or is it something you avoid at all costs?

I think anything which promotes reading and books is a great thing, especially with the ever shrinking arts pages in newspapers. It’s lovely to have a place where people can chat about books whether it’s online, in a living room or coffee shop. I don’t tend to read reviews. I try to focus on what I’m reading and what story I want to tell next.

Which book, apart from your own, would you demand Savidge Reads and readers run out and buy right this instant, a book you would call your favourite?

Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively. I read it first as a teenager – actually, that’s not true – I listened to it on story tape travelling around France with my parents. For once, I never wanted the driving to end. I re-read it again last year terrified that it wouldn’t be as good as I remembered. It wasn’t. It was better.

Describe your typical writing routine, do you have any writers quirks or any writing rituals?

I like to start the morning with a good walk. It’s both a great way to procrastinate and also gets the mind moving —  When it’s raining like it was this morning, I feel very discombobulated. I liked to work in the summerhouse at the bottom of the garden. There is no phone and no internet. I have to avoid the internet or I get nothing done.

 What is next for Natasha Solomons?

I’m just starting book 3, which instead of ‘Untitled 3’, I’m referring to as ‘Ethel’. It won’t be called Ethel. There is no Ethel in the book. Unless someone gets a dog. The dog could be called Ethel.

***

A big thank you to Natasha for taking the time out of her, rather ridiculously, busy schedule and doing a Savidge Reads Grills. You can read her blog here and visit her website here. Also a big thank you to her publishers, Sceptre, who have kindly said they will give four copies of ‘The Novel in the Viola’ away, you can see how you can be in with a chance here. Also if you have any questions for Natasha you might just want to pop them in the commemts and she just might pop by and answer them…

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Give Away… The Novel in the Viola – Natasha Solomons

As you will have seen I was utterly charmed by Natasha Solomons latest novel ‘The Novel in the Viola’, so much so that above you will see a ‘Savidge Reads Grills…’ with her (frankly if Richard and Judy can have her on their lovely sofa, I can have tea and cake with her on my virtual chaise longue) and in conjuncture with all of this I have four copies to give away of this wonderful book, worldwide I will have you know, thanks to her lovely publishers Sceptre.

All you have to do is leave a ‘yes please’ in the comments and four winners will be drawn at random. You have until next Friday the 3rd of June as on Saturday the 4th of June I will be doing a bumper giveaway catch up post (I am so sorry I havent sooner but you know how it has been with me of late, so do forgive). Good luck!!

Oh and if you fancy asking Natasha any questions she might just be answering in comments on her ‘Savidge Reads Grills’ on and off when she can. What a treat today is!

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