Tag Archives: Nigel Farndale

Simon’s Bookish Bits #27

I can’t actually believe that I haven’t done a ‘Bookish Bits’ post since the start of August. However there are occasionally times when you are writing a post filled with little bookish bits this is just what you need and today is such a post. I have a few different things I want to natter with you about such as the Costa Prize, a lovely publisher loot when I had a meeting about the reading guides I am going to be writing and The Green Carnation event.

I do really like the Costa Book Awards, as I commented on Kirsty of Other Stories blog earlier in the week, I’m never sure why this is though because I don’t think I have read that many of the winners but I have read and really enjoyed many of the books which have been shortlisted, without knowing they have been shortlisted. I don’t read children’s books, on the whole, and I don’t really go for poetry (though I wish I did) and can be funny with non-fiction so in some ways you would think that the prize would maybe not be so much for me but I love the fact it doesn’t seem so snobbish and the lists are always eclectic as you can see from The First Novel and Novel Award short lists…

Costa First Novel Award

  • Witness the Night by Kishwar Desai
  • Coconut Unlimited by Nikesh Shukla
  • The Temple-Goers by Aatish Taseer
  • Not Quite White by Simon Thirsk

Costa Novel Award

  • Whatever You Love by Louise Doughty
  • The Blasphemer by Nigel Farndale
  • The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell
  • Skippy Dies by Paul Murray

I have already read two of the novels of the years and loved Maggie O’Farrell’s ‘The Hand That First Held Mine’ and would recommend everyone on the face of this planet gives it a read. I am slightly surprised that Nigel Farndale’s ‘The Blasphemer’ is on the list as I didn’t love this book, not that I think I am any authority on what should be short listed on this prize. I am wondering f I should return to it as it’s been nestling on my ‘possibly give to charity or my family’ pile. Hmmm! I have been sent some of the other books listed and I think I might pick some of them up in the not too distant future.

I was kindly sent ‘Witness of the Night’ by Kishwar Desai from Beautiful Books which I had heard nothing about but sounds great, ‘Coconut Unlimited’ by Nikesh Shukla which I have heard lots and lots of good things about from Quartet Books, ‘Skippy Dies’ has been languishing on my TBR for ages (oops), I managed to grab Aatish Taseer’s ‘The Temple-Goers’ in the library when I took some books back finally, and I managed to sneak a copy of Louise Doughty’s ‘Whatever You Love’ from Faber & Faber’s HQ when I went in this week, which nicely leads me to the next part of my post…

I mentioned a while ago that I am going to be writing some Reading Guides for a publisher. I can now tell you that the publisher is Faber & Faber and thanks to the comments we are coming up with something very new and different with how these reading guides are going to work. I have lots of brainstorming to do, lots. I stupidly forgot to take a picture of Faber HQ but I did spot this amazing house filled with books which I wanted to move into on the spot.

I did manage to leave with some lovely loot from Faber though in a rather delightful bag. Top priority was ‘Gillespie & I’ by Jane Harris (I adored ‘The Observations’ and am begging Faber to let me write the reading guide for that one next) which isn’t out until May so am soooo chuffed managed to get my mitts on it. I also got all the Ishiguro novels I don’t own which was great (and some double copies which I have passed on) as I want to get to know Ishiguro better as the first book I am going to be writing the reading guide for is ‘Never Let Me Go’ my review of which got me the job unbeknown to me at the time.

Straight after Faber I ran to The Green Carnation Event which was a huge success, so much so I got stuck at the back with the other judges as it was so busy we could barely move and lots of people couldn’t even get in…

It was a great night for those of us who did get in with the readings from the authors and then lots of drinking afterwards in the local pub which I will report back on in due course, I am awaiting some pictures from one of my lovely friends.

So what bookish goings on have you been up to lately? Any great recent reads or new book arrivals? What are your thoughts on how reading guides could be made more modern (for my brainstorming)? Any thoughts on the Costa Book Award Shortlists, have you read any of them at all, any recommendations?

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Filed under Book Thoughts, Simon's Bookish Bits

The Blasphemer – Nigel Farndale

Remember I talked a while back about bookish grumps? Well one book that I had three quarters finished and then put down was the one I am going to talk about today as finally a week or so ago I finished it. I originally started it at the beginning of January so its been quite a process and I have needed another week or so to mull it all over, look at the book notes made in my book note notebook and finally come up with something that I think I can share with you all. I thought I would explain all this to start so you can see that for my posts a lot of thinking and mulling and behind the scenes work goes on.

‘The Blasphemer’ is the first book I have read by Nigel Farndale and it has been quite a reading journey with some stops and starts along the way. Essentially it is two alternating stories one is set in the present and is a tale of Daniel Kennedy and his wife Nancy who whilst holidaying in the Galapagos Islands endure a horrifying time when their plane ditches into the sea and the events after that as Daniel saves himself before remembering to save Nancy and all that follows from his actions. The other tale is of Daniel’s great grandfather Andrew and starts in 1917 as he prepares to go over the top to fight for his country and his life.

Now reading the above synopsis back I am thinking how on earth could I have had a hard time with that? Both stories sound quite thrilling and gripping and indeed they were but despite the writing of the modern tale (the scenes of the plane crash are incredibly tense and terrifying and not for those of you who like me who don’t like flying anyway) it read more like a good thrilling summer read as opposed to the other war torn harrowing and horrific storyline which to me read like an award winning book. Together the juxtaposition just didn’t gel for me initially and I was having a hard time with the transition from one to the other but by the end it’s worth the effort.

The second challenge for me was sadly Nancy and Daniel. I didn’t really understand why they were married as they didn’t seem to like each other before Daniel almost forgot to save her life. Yes ok they had been through a traumatic event and must have been in shock but you’d think they would celebrate surviving and they didn’t they just moped and griped. Yet in the other storyline you had an amazing love story between Andrew and Madame Camier which makes your heart bleed. I think, well I hope, that Farndale was trying to contrast the couples as well as Daniel and Andrew and the fault probably lies with me for not trying hard enough to involve myself in the modern storyline.

The final challenge for me (and I am saying challenge and not hurdle as challenges can be positive) was how much Farndale was putting into the book for example Daniel had only been in the UK a few weeks after the plan crash when he witnesses a terrorist bomb when a van five cars ahead of him blows up so terrorism becomes a topic. We also have another character Daniel works with who is a professor that sleeps with and beats his students which then opens up huge questions about education and then a can of worms about religion (I can’t explain it would take a while) and though I am good at suspending belief with a book I felt I was stretched at points and I haven’t even mentioned the angels – yes there is an angel subject in the book too. It’s quite a lot to take in, but all written really, really well.

With so many idea’s, topics etc in the book I did start to notice I was becoming a cynical reader when I was thinking ‘oh and now we have a gay male character that’s another subject and box ticked’ when actually the relationship between Daniel and his best friend is a wonderful insight into men who care for each other in a purely platonic way. When I got to cynical I stopped reading again but that war time tale of Andrew running along side kept drawing me back to the book again. An interesting read for me in many ways.  I wouldn’t be shocked (or horrified) to see this in the Booker Longlist actually.

All in all and taking lots of stops and starts into account I enjoyed it. I just felt, and this is a compliment, that Farndale had so much to say maybe there should have been two books but then the end result wouldn’t have worked. Ok maybe it should have been a longer book, but then would I have read on if things had been explained slowly with more time to flourish in the long term? Oh it’s a difficult book to sum up even after I have mulled it over and given it space yet its one I am definitely glad I have read. I think its one to get and read slowly and yet pay quite a lot of attention to. Maybe its one to go back to and read again in a few years when I am on holiday on the beach and can give it much more time. As long as I don’t read the beginning on the plane that is!

Have any of you read a book that’s really taken you on reading journey like this, from loving, indifference everything in-between and back again? Has anyone else read ‘The Blasphemer’ and what did you think? I would like to try another Nigel Farndale book, any recommendations?

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Filed under Nigel Farndale, Review, Transworld Publishing