Tag Archives: Patricia Duncker

The Green Carnation Prize Shortlist 2016

When this news goes live I will be in a  meeting room or restaurant in Soho networking and schmoozing like a demon, ha. So I won’t be able to instantly shout with glee about the shortlist for this years Green Carnation Prize, even though I will be desperate to and have been since the list was decided a week and a bit ago. Anyway here is the official word on it (my unofficial word will follow)…

The six shortlisted titles celebrating LGBT writing have been announced after hours of debates between the judges over an exceptionally strong longlist. Once again with a list including fiction; from debut novelists to well established literary faces, non-fiction; from investigations into the modern drugs world to a memoir of a mother’s illness, from Victorian London to Jamaica, the Green Carnation proves itself as one of the most diverse prizes.

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  • Sophie and the Sibyl – Patricia Duncker (Bloomsbury)
  • A Place Called Winter – Patrick Gale (Tinder Press)
  • Chasing the Scream – Johann Hari (Bloomsbury Circus)
  • A Brief History of Seven Killings – Marlon James (OneWorld)
  • Mrs Engels – Gavin McCrea (Scribe)
  • Stammered Songbook – Erwin Mortier (Pushkin Press)

Chair of the judges for 2015, author Niven Govinden said of the shortlist “After a lively and robust debate, we’re proud to unveil our shortlist, which we feel represents the best of the best: books that excel and incite passion in the reader.”

Simon Heafield, Marketing Manager for the prize’s partner Foyles said “We’re very proud to play a part in promoting a shortlist of such quality. Indeed, most are books we’ve been actively promoting instore this year so we’re delighted that readers will again be given good reason to investigate them further.”

The Green Carnation Prize is a prize awarded to LGBT writers for any form of the written word, in any genre, including novels in translation. This year sees the second year of the prize’s partnership with Foyles bookshops. The partnership will see Foyles offer event space in their flagship store to host the award ceremony on Tuesday December the 8th 2015, with public events celebrating the prize to follow around the UK in 2016.

For more information please visit: www.greencarnationprize.com or www.foyles.co.uk

Back to me and my unofficial thoughts… I really like the list. Yes, there is a lack of women on the shortlist but as someone who was sat in the meeting watching (with slight glee) the judges having the nightmare of shortlisting, from a cracking longlist, the discussions went past genre, gender, race and was just about which of the final six books resonated and were the best of the best. I have no idea how they are going to choose the winner in a couple of weeks, poor things.

I have read three of them in full (without being a judge, obviously) and half of two of them and can see why it was so tough as they were corkers. I will be sharing my thoughts after the winner is announced at the start of December. In the interim, have you read any of these books and what did you make of them?

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The Green Carnation Prize Longlist 2015

The twelve strong longlist of titles celebrating LGBT writing have been announced after hours of debates between the judges over an exceptional list of submissions, the most the prize has seen in its history to date. Once again with a list including fiction; from debut novelists to well established literary faces, non-fiction; from poetry to investigations into the drugs world, the Green Carnation proves itself as one of the most diverse prizes. I would say all this (and I did as I wrote the press release) because as regular readers of the blog will know, I am one of the founders and now Honorary Directors of the Prize. What some of you might not know is I find out the longlist very last minute and this year (what with never being anywhere long in the last few weeks) I found out a while after the meeting. The list is a very strong one I think…

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  • Blood Relatives – Stevan Alcock (4th Estate)
  • Deep Lane – Mark Doty (Jonathan Cape)
  • Sophie and the Sibyl – Patricia Duncker (Bloomsbury)
  • Artwash: Big Oil and the Arts – Mel Evans (Pluto Press)
  • A Place Called Winter – Patrick Gale (Tinder Press)
  • Chasing the Scream – Johann Hari (Bloomsbury Circus)
  • A Brief History of Seven Killings – Marlon James (Oneworld)
  • The Gracekeepers – Kirsty Logan (Harvill Secker)
  • Mrs Engels – Gavin McCrea (Scribe)
  • Stammered Songbook – Erwin Mortier (Pushkin Press)
  • Don’t Let Him Know – Sandip Roy (Bloomsbury)
  • The Curator – Jacques Strauss (Jonathan Cape)

To prove how out of the loop I am with the books, apart from the fact that I chase the submissions, I have only read five of the books and so have rather a lot of wonderful reads in the next month before the shortlist is announced on Thursday the 5th of November. I have shockingly only reviewed two of the five I have read, which I need to sort out sharpish. Yet at the moment book reviews seem like some elusive thing that I dream of doing, or sometimes have nightmares of people screaming down the phone at me for not doing, as I don’t seem to be able to find the time at the moment. But I will, I really will. anyway, you can find out more about the Green Carnation Prize and the longlist on the website.

Do I have any favourites? Were there any I was sad not to see make the list? Well, that would be telling. What I would love to know are your thoughts on the list and which of the books you have read and what you thought of those?

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Savidge Reads Books of 2011 – Part I

I always struggle with this every year, which books will go into my top books of 2011 and why? I am following the form of the last few years and giving you my top ten books actually published in 2011 and, in this first post, the top ten books I have read this year which were published prior to 2011. I was going to try and rewrite the reviews in a succinct paragraph but in the end have decided to take a quote from the review and if you want to read more pop on the books title and you will find yourself at the full book post. So without further ado here are the first ten…

My Cousin Rachel – Daphne du Maurier

“…the psychological intensity du Maurier weaves through the pages along with the constant sense that she could pull the rug from under you at any given moment is incredible. Before Rachel even appears herself, around 80 pages in, she is quite the presence and the reader has quite possibly made up their mind about her through Philip’s utter jealously and then suspicion of this woman. Daphne then brings in a character quite unlike the one we would imagine. It is this game of Rachel being a misunderstood sweet if tragic innocent or magnificently manipulative calculating monster that makes you turn the page, are you right about her or utterly wrong?”

Cat’s Eye – Margaret Atwood

“I myself was bullied at school, I think most kids are at some point, so maybe that’s why this rang so true with me, but I simply couldn’t shake the feeling of it and it really, really got to me. To me, though rather uncomfortable, that is the sign of a wonderful book and a wonderful writer. Through Elaine’s often distant and removed narrative I was projecting my own experiences and emotions and it, along with Atwood’s creation of course, drove ‘Cat’s Eye’ and hit home. I can feel the emotions again just writing about the book, it’s the strangest and most emotive reading experience I have had in a long time, possibly ever.”

Moon Tiger – Penelope Lively

“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.”

Love in a Cold Climate – Nancy Mitford

“What I love about all of Nancy’s writing (and I have also been reading the letters between her and Evelyn Waugh alongside) is her sense of humour. Some may find the setting rather twee or even irritating as she describes the naivety of the children, which soon becomes hilarious cheek and gossip, and the pompous nature of the adults in the society that Fanny and Polly frequent, I myself haven’t laughed so much at a book in quite some time.”

Up At The Villa – W. Somerset Maugham

“…a perfect book when you want something slightly familiar and yet something that completely throws you. There is a comfort in Maugham’s writing that is rather like finding a wonderful black and white film on the telly on a rainy afternoon. That probably sounds ridiculous, or a big cliché, but it sums up my experience of this book the best way I can. You can’t help but lose yourself in it and find you are left wanting to turn to the next one as soon as you can.”

Hallucinating Foucault – Patricia Duncker

“From the opening pages Duncker pulls you into a tale that at first seems like it could be one sort of book and then becomes several books rolled into one whilst remaining incredibly readable. She also shows how many tools a writer has, the book is written in first ‘unnamed’ narrative for the main but also features dream sequences, letters from Michel to Foucault and newspaper clippings and reports. It’s like she is celebrating language and its uses.”

Blaming – Elizabeth Taylor

“Her writing is beautiful yet sparse, no words are used that needn’t be. Initially though there doesn’t appear to be a huge plot there is so much going on. We observe people and what they do and how they react to circumstances learning how there is much more to every action, and indeed every page, than meets the eye. along the lines of Jennifer Johnston and Anita Brookner, whose books I have enjoyed as much, Taylor is an author who watches the world and then writes about it with a subtly and emotion that seems to capture the human condition.”

The Queen of Whale Cay – Kate Summerscale

“It is not only the life of Joe that is so fascinating, the fraught relationships with her parents, the sham marriage for inheritance, her role driving ambulances in the war (her I wondered if she was the inspiration for Sarah Waters ‘The Night Watch’), the endless affairs including with some very famous women, the obsession with a small doll called Lord Tod Wadley (who even had his named engraved on the front door so people would actually call for him), the buying of an island ‘Whale Cay’ and it ruling… I could go on and on.”

84 Charing Cross Road – Helene Hanff

“As Hanff and Doel’s friendship blossoms she starts to send packages of food to him and the other workers in the store during the war, getting friends to visit with nylons etc, thus she creates further friendships all by the power of the pen. Initially (and I wondered if Frank himself might have felt this) Hanff’s lust for life, over familiarity and demanding directness almost pushed me to annoyance until her humour and her passion for books becomes more and more apparent along with her thoughtfulness during the war years as mentioned. I was soon wishing I had become Hanff’s correspondent myself.

The News Where You Are – Catherine O’Flynn

“It would be easiest to describe ‘The News Where You Are’ as a tale of a local tv news reader, who is obsessed with the past and lonely people being forgotten, trying to discover the mystery behind his predecessor, and now friend’s, hit and run whilst also trying to deal with his parental relationships I would make it sound like modern day mystery meets family drama. It is, yet that summation simply doesn’t do this superb novel justice. This is a novel brimming with as many ideas and characters as it brims with joy, sadness and comedy. It’s a book that encompasses human life and all those things, emotionally and all around it physically, and celebrates them.”

So that is the first half of my list. Have you read any of these and what did you think? The next lot of lovely literature I have loved this year will be up in the not too distant future…

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Boxing Day Books (The Savidge Reads Advent Winners)

Hello one and all, I do hope you have a lovely Christmas Day? Thank you for your festive wishes. Mine was very nice; I had goose for the first time and found it rather delicious. I have also been playing card games (mainly spite and malice, which my thirteen year old sister has been teaching me), scrabble, drinking rather a lot and worn my party hat all day long. Oh and I had presents, no books but I got a really funky set of psychedelic proper chef knives for my new pad (I am moving at the end of Jan, oh the books are going to have to be sorted), lots of Jelly Belly – too many is never enough and my favourite present so far has been three pairs of Mr Men lounge pants (Messy, Tickle and Bump) so there was one present with a literary twist. I have been reading but not as much as I would have expected, that is normally left for today, Boxing Day, my favourite Christmas Day.

There is something about Boxing Day that I have always found rather joyous, and not just the left-over’s from Christmas dinner which normally end up in a sandwich (though my Mum is currently off making pastry for a pie this year) and the endless supply of crisps and chocolates that we all buy for Xmas day and then don’t eat because we are too full. I love the fact it’s a delightfully lazy day, well at Savidge Christmas’s it is, we generally spend most of the day lounging around reading before a big TV fest in evening (Miranda Hart going trekking with Bear Grylls will be my Christmas TV highlight) so I am looking forward to that, I have already recorded an episode of The Readers so I feel I can now slob – that was my hard work of the day, now it’s time for my good deed of the day. It’s time for present giving…

Boxing Day can be another day of presents as the family you didn’t see might pop round, we won’t be seeing any other family members so today I have plucked all the Savidge Reads Advent Calendar winners from a random number generator and here are the winners…

Day 1; The Complete Nancy Mitford – Reading With Tea
Day 2; Burned by Thomas Enger – Harriet and Ellen B
Day 3; Smutt by Alan Bennett & Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan – Steel Reader and Gaskella
Day 4; Godless Boys by Naomi Wood & Snowdrops by A.D. Miller – Louise and Dog Ear
Day 5; The Great British Bake Off Book – Dovegreyreader and Janet D and Novel Insights
Day 6; Jennifer Egan books – TBA
Day 7; The Proof of Love by Catherine Hall – Rhonda Reads and Simon Saunders and Belinda
Day 8; Shes Leaving Home by Joan Bakewell  – Gaskella and Mystica
Day 9; Sophie Hannah’s series – Emma
Day 10; In Other Worlds by Margaret Atwood & China Mieville books – Louise and Ragamuffinreader
Day 11; Sue Johnston autobiography – Sue and Simon T and Ann P
Day 12; Wait for Me by Deborah Devonshire – Janet D and Dominic
Day 13; Selected Agatha Raisin books – Kirsten and Victoria
Day 14; The Beautiful Indifference by Sarah Hall – Janet D and Ann P
Day 15; When God Was A Rabbit by Sarah Winman – Femke and Ruthiella and Alex and Joanne In Canada
Day 16; all David Nicholls novels – Sue
Day 17; Patricia Duncker novels – Gaskella
Day 18; A Tiny Bit Marvellous by Dawn French – Ann P and Gabrielle Kimm
Day 19; all the Yrsa Siguardardottir novels – Kimbofo
Day 20; Frozen Planet & White Heat by MJ McGrath – Emma and Mystica
Day 21; A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cosse & The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey – Nose in a Book and Novel Katie
Day 22; The Hunger Trace by Edward Hogan – Jenni and Ann P and Femke
Day 23; Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series  – David
Day 24; Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli and Isles series – Harriet

Merry Christmas to both those of you who won (and some of you won a few times) and those who didn’t. If you did email me savidgereads@gmail.com with the book/s you have won in the subject and your address and I will make sure these are sent out in the first week of January. Right, I am off to go and pick at some stuffing before curling up with my book. Hope you are all having a wonderful time, what did you get for Xmas?

Oh and a MASSIVE thank you to the publishers who got involved: Penguin, Faber and Faber, Profile Books, Hodder, Picador, Atlantic, Serpents Tail, Ebury, Corsair, Constable and Robinson, Portobello, Little Brown, Virago, John Murray, Headline, Bloomsbury, Europa Editions, Mantle, Macmillan, Simon and Schuster & Transworld

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Patricia Duncker – The Savidge Reads Advent Calendar Day 17

One of the authors I have discovered in 2011 and would recommend everyone read is Patricia Duncker. I utterly loved ‘Hallucinating Foucault’ and thought ‘The Strange Case of the Composer and his Judge’ was marvellous (which I read for the Green Carnation Prize so didn’t review but utterly loved) so I thought I should share the love and give one of you her back catalogue away of five novels including…

  

All you need to do is tell me which author you discovered this year with rather a back catalogue (so no debuts or second novel authors) you now can’t wait to read. You have until 11am GMT on December the 22nd. Good luck.

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The Readers; Double the Delight & We Want To Hear From You…

I am dubious about writing too much about all the other book based projects that I do on the side of Savidge Reads. For example if I go on about the Bookmarked Literary Salon that I was doing (its taking a sabbatical for a while) in Manchester I worry it comes across like self promotion rather than me telling you about a bookish project that I love . The Green Carnation Prize is another project I have been quieter about on here this year for the same reason. Plus with Bookmarked there is the fact that as Savidge Reads is read all over the world, which thrills me but I find very odd (hello to you all), not many of you can physically come so is it really of any interest? I had the same worry with The Readers, the podcast I have started with the lovely Gavin of Gav Reads, though with the joys of it being on the internet (and iTunes) the likelihood of you being able to listen in and join in is much greater, and that is what we want.

We have popped up two episodes this week; one is a Manchester Literature Festival Special and includes some behind the scenes nattering as well as interviews after I was whizzing round the festival to report back on events starring (and where possible interviewing them afterwards) the likes of Colm Toibin, Alan Hollinghurst, Sarah Dunant, Patricia Duncker, Catherine O’Flynn, Kishwar Desai , KO Dahl and many more. The second is a ‘Sherlock Holmes Special’ and sees Gavin and I nattering away about Holmes, interviewing Anthony Horowitz on his novel ‘The House of Silk’ which sees Sherlock return.

Holmes and Watson... Or is it Gav & I planning Episode 8 of The Readers?

So what for the episodes going forward? Well we will still be covering book news, doing an author interview here and there; reading a book together and discussing all thing books based which we can banter about. We really want you involved though, and not just to listen to us nattering on, we want you to help us shape and be part of the podcast. How? Well…

We really want to hear from all of you who either read this blog, and Gavin’s of course, or who listen in. We would like to know what we are doing right, what we could do better and more importantly we would like you to join in with all the fun. We have already got a few bloggers in on the act, some who have sent us recordings of their top five books which we will be including in the future and one who is joining us as a special co-host for an episode, and we would love more of you to do the same whether you have a blog or not – yes publishers you too. The show is called ‘The Readers’ after all and that is what we want it to be all about, all readers! Do you fancy it?

If you want to record a voice memo with any suggestions for topics of discussion, or you top five books, then do feel free to email it (because it costs nothing ha)  to bookbasedbanter@gmail.com or if you simply want to leave us some thoughts and/or tips do so on the website or in the comments below.   

P.S Do you want to hear about these bookish projects that I do on the side of the blog? I don’t want Savidge Reads to become a place of promoting anything other than my love of books, and I don’t want you thinking I am some shameless self promoter either. Just so you know! Thoughts welcomed…

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The Green Carnation Prize Shortlist 2011

After several hours of interesting and passionate discussion and debate we have the SIX titles which make the Green Carnation Prize Shortlist 2011 and they are…

  • The Strange Case of the Composer and his Judge – Patricia Duncker (Bloomsbury)
  • The Proof of Love – Catherine Hall (Portobello)
  • Red Dust Road – Jackie Kay (Picador)
  • Remembrance of Things I Forgot – Bob Smith (Terrace Books)
  • Ever Fallen in Love – Zoe Strachan (Sandstone Press)
  • The Empty Family – Colm Toibin (Penguin Books)

These are six brilliant reads that I cannot recommend highly enough. But who will win? Have you read any of them and what did you think? Will you be picking any up?

You can find out more about The Green Carnation Prize here

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The Readers, The ‘Difficult’ Second Podcast Was Easy, The Third Not So…

…But it is here, as it finallywent live yesterday. I have to say Gavin has done wonders with editing the whole thing and it actually sounds like we know what we are on about but after chatting away for over three hours (yes that is how long it takes to get a decent hour to make an episode) we listened back to it and it was an absolute mess. Tangents left right and centre, another rant from me which hopefully won’t ever see the light of day and much swearing that needed cutting. But it is definitely a learning curve; we have some wonderful bloopers for a special random episode in the future though. Even iTunes had an issue with the episode as it wouldn’t upload it for ages, a message perhaps?

Anyway this week’s episode features us discussing the Man Booker winner, which you may have noticed that I have been quite silent about, you can hear me interview Ian Rankin (I was seriously over excited) and here us discussing short stories with recommendations from Sam Jordison from The Guardian and Patricia Duncker, as well as lots of you. In fact a huge thank you to any of you who tweeted your recommendations for short stories, or messaged me it’s lovely to have your thoughts. We would love much more of your input and recommendations. We are recording our ‘spooky special’ on Sunday so if you have any spooky recommendations let us know. What are your favourite spooky tales?

Oh and you can listen to Episode Three here. Do let us know your thoughts on how we are doing too. We were rather in a funk about it earlier this week but are gearing up for a fabulously haunting Halloween epsiode. Any thoughts on how we can do better? Honestly it’s just ask, ask, ask from me isn’t it? Right I am scurrying off to read lots more, am gripped by two brilliant ghostly books, one fictional, one not!

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Manchester Literary Festival 2011

Today is the opening of Manchester Literary Festival and I am rather excited about it. When I was in London I did the Jewish Book Festival as well as Wimbledon Book Festival, but that was it. Weirdly the bigger festivals (no offence to the above two) seem to happen outside of London. I’ve always found that odd, and odd they always happen at the same time of year! How can readers get to all of them?

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Anyway I am going to be reporting on the Manchester Book Festival for the blog and also for ‘The Readers’ (a podcast me and Gav Reads launched today) so I am very excited. Tonight’s opening event looks to be a real treat as Colm Toibin and Alan Hollinghurst are in conversation with each other, I can’t wait to see how that plays out. I will be reporting back in due course, I have my trusty notepad at the ready…

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I’m planning on seeing as much of the event as possible including Michael Frayn, Emma Jane Unsworth, John Niven, Tahmima Anam, Dipika Rai, Kishwar Desai, Thomas Enger, K O Dahl, Yrsa Siguardottir, MJ Hyland, Patricia Duncker, David Lodge, Catherine O’Flynn, Anthony Horrowitz and Jeffrey Eugenides. Oh, and have a team at the Literary Quiz. Phew. The next few weeks are going to be great.

Let me know if you have any insights on the authors above, or would like any questions put to them, or if indeed you will be there. Would love to say hello to you all!

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The Green Carnation Prize Longlist 2011

Sorry I have been off blog for a few days. Brussels completely relaxed me, though I didnt get as much reading done as I would have liked, and then I have come back to the whirl of books and been in the final discussions (through email, skype, phone, face to face meetings – you name it) and deliberating over the mass of submissions we had to make the Green Carnation Longlist 2011. So a drumroll please as here we have the thirteen books that have made this years rather diverse longlist…

  • By Nightfall – Michael Cunningham (Fourth Estate)
  • The Strange Case of the Composer and his Judge – Patricia Duncker (Bloomsbury)
  • The Proof of Love – Catherine Hall (Portobello)
  • Red Dust Road – Jackie Kay (Picador)
  • The Retribution – Val McDermid (Little Brown)
  • Purge – Sofi Oksanen (Atlantic Books)
  • There But for The… – Ali Smith (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Remembrance of Things I Forgot – Bob Smith (Terrace Books)
  • Ever Fallen in Love – Zoe Strachan (Sandstone Press)
  • The Empty Family – Colm Toibin (Penguin Books)
  • Role Models – John Waters (Beautiful Books)
  • Before I Go To Sleep – S.J Watson (Doubleday)
  • Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? – Jeanette Winterson (Jonathan Cape)

I am very pleased with the list indeed, despite a few of my favourites not quite making it through and I am looking forward to getting back to all the titles as the re-reading starts before the shortlist on November 2nd 2011. You can find out more on the website here.

So what do you think of the longlist? Any questions (I will try and answer any I can without breaking the submission clause) you have? Which books are you suprised to see on there, which are you surprised aren’t on there? Which have you read and what did you think? Any that you particularily fancy giving a whirl? As ever I would love your thoughts.

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Hallucinating Foucault – Patricia Duncker

I seem to have had rather a run of good luck with my reads over the last week or so as it seems that everything I have picked up has been brilliant and ‘Hallucinating Foucault’ by Patricia Duncker is no exception. I have to admit that had it not been for the fact that over the Christmas and New Year period I was recommended this book by three separate people as ‘a great novel about books, writing and reading’ I am not sure I would have looked it up or even picked it up. Thank goodness for recommendations hey?

‘Hallucinating Foucault’ is told from the perspective of an unnamed narrator who is researching the work and lives of the mysterious author Paul Michel. A project that starts whilst he is studying in Cambridge soon becomes an obsession and a quest that takes him to Paris and the south of France. Really that’s the best way that you can sum up the plot, however ‘Hallucinating Foucault’ is so much more than that, yet of course trying to place all its themes and idea’s in a review is quite a challenge, as it soon becomes a page turning (I know, I know it’s a cliché to say that, sorry) piece of literature.

As our narrator meets his lover, ‘the Germanist’, as he calls her (who is a rather interesting and deceptive character who keeps you on your toes) in Cambridge and afterwards his initial admiration for Paul Michel takes an obsessive turn when he hears the mysterious tale of Michel’s incarceration into a mental home. The Germanist and her gay father, Michel the fictional author in the novel also happens to be homosexual, then push him to go and uncover just what happened and why a man who meant so much to many has ended up in such a situation. What could it have been that drew this man to madness? Could it be to do with the great, and real, Michel Foucault (the French philosopher who I now want to learn much more about) himself?

What follows, without giving too much away, is a thrilling tale (though not in the way you might think ‘thrillers’ stereotypically are) and journey of self discovery. Duncker uses this tale not only to discuss sexuality, which becomes a key part of the novel, but also to look at the relationship between the people who write the book and those who read them. In fact it’s a wonderful discussion of how reading and writing work yet rather than being a long boring ‘lit-crit’ non fiction tome we have a slim novel that really packs a punch and if you love books and reading you will become totally lost in it.

 “The writing then becomes the wager of a gambling man, the words flung down in one colour, win or lose, for the reader to take up. We are all gamblers. We write for our lives. If, in my life or in my writing, there was anyone who could be described as my Muse, ironically enough, it would be you. But I suspect you would rather be acknowledged as my master than my Muse. You are my reader, my beloved reader. I know of no other person who has more absolute a power to constrain me, or to set me free.”

‘Hallucinating Foucault’ is a deceptively slim looking book. I don’t mean that when you start reading it its so heavy and full of things that it bogs you down from the start, in fact quite the reverse. From the opening pages Duncker pulls you into a tale that at first seems like it could be one sort of book and then becomes several books rolled into one whilst remaining incredibly readable. She also shows how many tools a writer has, the book is written in first ‘unnamed’ narrative for the main but also features dream sequences, letters from Michel to Foucault and newspaper clippings and reports. It’s like she is celebrating language and its uses.

I was quite shocked to discover this was her debut novel from 1996 as it reads like a book written by an author well into their writing life. This is an incredible fictional book about books and the relationship between reader and writer. It’s also a book I can’t recommend highly enough. 10/10

I want to thank everyone who recommended me this book, you know who you are – and I know you read this, and can only hope that all several of you take on the recommendation from me to give this seemingly undiscovered book a whirl. I am now naturally desperate to read more by Patricia Duncker and was thrilled to discover she has another four novels and two collections of short stories for me to get through. Have any of you read them? Any thoughts?

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Filed under Bloomsbury Publishing, Books About Books, Books of 2011, Patricia Duncker, Review

January’s Incomings…

I haven’t done a post on the latest incomings at Savidge Reads for quite a while. In part because my new temporary HQ didn’t seem to get any post for a while, and then it got deluged which was lovely, and also because I have had too much to natter about instead. I then thought ‘ooh hang on maybe I should do something different in 2011’ and so at the end of each month I will pop a picture of just what comes to Savidge Reads be it bought, a gift, an unsolicited proof or a request etc. I know there is a divide of opinion on these posts and I fall into the ‘love them camp’ as I really like seeing what everyone else gets so am assuming a few of you feel the same. I also like getting your feedback on what you have read that’s in the mix and how you felt about it, or what you might want me to read in the future should my whim take me.

So here are the paperbacks…

 
Hallucinating Foucault by Patricia Duncker – I have to admit that I asked for this one from the lovely Alice at Bloomsbury after it came up in conversation loads over Christmas and New Year with several new bookish northern friends saying I simply had to read it. I have and thoughts coming soon.

Even The Dogs by Jon McGregor – another treat from Bloomsbury as one of my bags of books got lost in the move, seriously I can barely talk about it hence why I haven’t on here, and I had arranged a mini rogue book group between myself and the author Isabel Ashdown on it but couldn’t find my copy so will also be discussing this soon.

The Birth Machine by Elizabeth Baines – I got an email from Elizabeth seeing if I wanted to give her book a whirl and after seeing “Out of print for some years, “The Birth Machine” is now reissued in a revised version (which first appeared in 1996). Still very relevant today to modern Obstetrics and Medicine, “The Birth Machine” is however more than that: it is also a gripping story of buried secrets and a long-ago murder, and of present-day betrayals” I thought ‘yes I do’.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett – This turned up as quite the surprise from OUP and I am delighted as I loved her novel ‘The Shuttle’ but have never gotten around to this children’s classic of hers.

Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe – I read this classic romp a few years ago but OUP are reissuing it so I might give it another whirl, or it can replace my rather battered old copy on my shelves for a re-read in the future.

Down Among The Dead Men by Michelle Williams – I have a strange fascination, though not too morbid a one, with death and since reading the wonderful ‘Stiff’ by Mary Roach I have wanted to read a few more along these lines and Michelle’s year as a morgue technician will make an interesting non fiction read. I saw it on amazon and had to send an email to the lovely Constable and Robinson who publish my favourite ‘Agatha Raisins’.

The Oracle of Stamboul by Michael David Lukas – This was a surprise parcel, I know nothing of it except the fact it’s got a lovely cover.

When God Was A Rabbit by Sarah Winman – Really excited about this one as a few people I know have already read this debut novel (which is getting a lot of press already as a Waterstones 11 choice) and I have heard some great things. The font though is shocking so I might struggle which worries me a little.

Living Souls by Dmitry Bykov – I really want to read more translated fiction from all over the globe in 2011, a mini whim challenge if you will, and this Russian translated book published by Alma Books looks set to be right up my street. “Living Souls follows the lives of four couples struggling to escape the chaos and stupidity of the war around them: a teenage girl who adopts a homeless man, a poet turned general separated from his lover, a provincial governor in love with one of the natives, and a legendary military commander who is sleeping with the enemy.”  

A Room Swept White by Sophie Hannah – I bought the latest in one of my favourite crime series in a charity shop virtually brand new for a mere 50p so that simply had to be bought!

Now onto the hard backs…

 

A Kind Man by Susan Hill – You will all know by now how much I love Susan Hill so this new novella has been devoured and will be read in due course.

The Devil’s Garden by Edward Docx – I know nothing about this, I think the author has been shortlisted for the Man Booker before, other than its set deep in the Amazon which is slightly bittersweet for me at the moment as I didn’t get to go thanks to everything that’s gone on with health etc lately.

The Cry of the Go Away Bird by Andrea Eames – A tale of a young girl in 1990’s Zimbabwe as Mugabe takes presidency; I think this surprise treat will be a perfect read for me.

To The Devil A Diva by Paul Magrs – Paul gave me a spare copy of this, one of his earlier novels, when he was cleaning his desk on his last day of work. I am looking forward to reading this in the near future.

Scissors Paper Stone by Elizabeth Day – Another surprise book that I have heard little about and so can’t really report on!

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller – Now this isn’t out until September but seems like its going to get a lot of coverage. I might have to get my Mum to read and review this one as she is a classicist and might give better thoughts than me.

Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman – This is another of the Waterstones 11 and one that I think could be one of the most exciting debuts of the year. This is a tale of immigration and knife crime told from the perspective of a young boy in a new inner city world.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness – I think this book is going to explode everywhere, an adult tale of witches and wizards and a mystery at the Bodleian Library, I will either love or loathe this, I am hoping its love.

Some of these I have read already, some are up at the top of the TBR. Which ones have you read and which do you fancy or have heard great things about?

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