Tag Archives: Peter Ackroyd

Other People’s Bookshelves # 81 – Susan Davis

With Savidge Reads being back up in action it seems only right that the Other People’s Bookshelves series returns almost instantly. If you haven’t seen them before these are a series where a guest takes over the blog and feeds into the book lust we all feel by sharing their shelves. This week we are off to Shropshire, just down the road from my mum, to join author Susan Davis and have a nosey through her shelves. Before we do Susan has kindly put on a lovely afternoon tea for us all and is going to introduce herself before we rampage through her bookshelves…

I write in a converted coal shed in Shropshire which sometimes feels like an anchorite’s cell. If I stand on a chair I can just glimpse a slice of Wenlock Edge through the tiny window. Back in the nineties and noughties I published Y/A fiction along with short stories under my real name, Susan Davis. I now write psychological thrillers under the pseudonym Sarah Vincent, most recent of which is ‘The Testament of Vida Tremayne.’ When I’m not writing my own stuff, I work as an editor and mentor for ‘The Writers’ Workshop.’ I don’t have any cats, just a terrier who likes to chase them.

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Do you keep all the books you read on your shelves or only your favourites, does a book have to be REALLY good to end up on your shelves or is there a system like one in one out, etc?

They need to be special to earn a permanent spot these days. ‘Special’ would mean: Virago classics by old favourites like Elizabeth Taylor, or Barbara Comyns. Also contemporary fiction that gets better with every re-read like Sarah Water’s ‘The Little Stranger’ or ‘Gillespie and I’ by Jane Harris. All books written by friends and acquaintances. You can’t very well give them away, unless you’ve fallen out! Books with gorgeous covers – can’t resist the Scarlett Thomas books, although for me ‘The End of Mr.Y’ was the one that really lived up to its cover. Non-fiction and reference books which feed into my fiction, art books with lots of lovely pictures – a refreshing break from words. Otherwise books that have that read-and-let-go quality, are likely to be shipped off to charity shops when I’ve finished or passed around friends.

Do you organise your shelves in a certain way? For example do you have them in alphabetical order of author, or colour coded? Do you have different bookshelves for different books (for example, I have all my read books on one shelf, crime on another and my TBR on even more shelves) or systems of separating them/spreading them out? Do you cull your bookshelves ever?

Mostly by category. There are three main bookshelves in the house and a few smaller ones. The study bookshelves go something like this: top shelf for poetry and writer biogs which I’m addicted to. When I’ve got a dose of tortured artiste syndrome, I dip into Sylvia Plath’s journals for reassurance. A few Viragos up there also.  Second shelf: esoteric tomes and all the fiction I’ve published over the years, including anthologised stories. Also the teen trilogy ‘The Henry Game’ – their bright sweetie coloured covers do jump out a bit. Third shelf down: Art books, more weirdo esoteric stuff, reference, and so on.

Upstairs bookcase is all fiction, novels written by friends, some children’s books and short story collections. Living-Room book shelves are a mess. Which is odd when you consider that they are the only shelves on public display. This is because I share them with my husband – so the top shelf harness-making, birdie and crafty books are all his. Honest. No categories on my second shelf down. They just loll about together in a drunken fashion. I’m keeping a space for my daughter’s overflow of books as she’s moving house shortly.

I had a major book cull around four years ago in a mad de-cluttering moment. We were moving to a tiny cottage by the sea, or so we thought, so I had to be ruthless. Whole shelves were cleared, and I invited friends to come and take their pick from the boxes. They gaily carried off some gems, which I now regret chucking out. Sadly, our house sale fell through, leaving me with huge gaps to fill. I now cull regularly in case we decide to move again. Trouble is, every time I take books to the charity shop, I come back with another bag full.

What was the first book you ever bought with your own money and does it reside on your shelves now?

It’s a toss-up between ‘Teach Yourself Astrology’ which I think I bought with money for my 11th birthday, or it could have been ‘The Lord of the Rings’ in hardback when I was 12, having just been introduced to ‘The Hobbit’ at school. I think my son must’ve nabbed that one when he left home because it’s not on the shelves now. Here I should perhaps explain that I grew up in the fifties, in a working class household where buying books was considered a dreadful extravagance. Why buy them when you’d only read once and could go to the library and read for free? My parents were avid readers, bless them, so the Saturday trip to the library was the highlight of my week.

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Are there any guilty pleasures on your bookshelves you would be embarrassed people might see, or like me do you have a hidden shelf for those somewhere else in the house?

No, nothing to hide!  If I had I’d be more likely to have them on Kindle. I’d probably have squirmed a bit about the esoteric books at one time, books about ley lines and fairies and so on. Would people think me strange? Nowadays, I know they do, so I don’t care!

Which book on the shelves is your most prized, mine would be a collection of Conan Doyle stories my Great Uncle Derrick memorised and retold me on long walks and then gave me when I was older? Which books would you try and save if (heaven forbid) there was a fire?

That has to be a dusty black hardback, a first edition of Ursula Bloom’s ‘Wanting to Write’, published in 1958. It was published well before the Creative Writing Industry took off, and is full of gems like: I have always found that the ordinary pen which requires dipping in the inkpot is far more helpful than the fountain pen or ballpoint which today is so much to the fore. When I stumbled upon it in a junk shop in the early seventies, I was a young mum bashing out novels on a Remington typewriter in my kitchen, and feeling almost ashamed of my compulsion to write. Bloom made me feel less alone. I do have a special shelf for these early ‘writing’ books which I collect, (which I haven’t included in the pics.) Which books would I save in a fire? I wouldn’t. I’d be more likely to try and save old photo albums. Books can always be replaced.

What is the first ‘grown up’, and I don’t mean in a ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ way, that you remember on your parent’s shelves or at the library, you really wanted to read? Did you ever get around to it and is it on your shelves now?

I discovered copies of ‘Fanny Hill’ and ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ in my dad’s dressing table drawer once, but they seemed dull at the time. When I searched again as an adolescent they had magically disappeared. I suppose the first ‘grown-up’ book must have been ‘Little Women’ which was one of the few books my mum actually owned and was much prized on her shelf. Is that grown-up enough? Followed closely by the usual suspects, classics like ‘Jane Eyre’ and ‘Wuthering Heights’ which I loved.

If you love a book but have borrowed the copy do you find you have to then buy the book and have it on your bookshelves or do you just buy every book you want to read?

Yes, occasionally. I’m more likely to do that with non-fiction books, often about rural life or travel, like Robert Mcfarlane’s wonderful ‘The Old Ways’ which I originally borrowed, then treated myself to. The same thing happened with ‘The Morville Hours’ by Katherine Swift, a beautiful book which is of local interest so good to dip into.

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What was the last book that you added to your bookshelves?

Peter Ackroyd’s ‘Albion’ ‘the origins of the English Imagination.’ Brand new and a bargain find in an Oxfam shop. Looks stunning on the shelf but I haven’t got around to reading yet.

Are there any books that you wish you had on your bookshelves that you don’t currently?

Hundreds. I’m looking for a copy of George Borrow’s ‘Wild Wales’ which I first read on my Kindle. However I’d rather have the real thing to take on trips to Wales with me. Oh, and there’s a beautiful new edition of Elizabeth’s Taylor’s Complete Short Stories. I plan to treat myself to that one soon.

What do you think someone perusing your shelves would think of your reading taste, or what would you like them to think?

What would I like them to think? Hah, what an interesting person, she clearly possesses exquisite taste. Seriously, they’d probably be left scratching their heads. Who knows?

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And a huge thanks to Susan for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves, apologies again for the delay but it was so worth the wait. If you would like to catch up with the other posts in the series of Other People’s Bookshelves have a gander here. Don’t forget if you would like to participate (and I would love you to – hint, hint, hint as without you volunteering it doesn’t happen) in the series then drop me an email to savidgereads@gmail.com with the subject Other People’s Bookshelves, thanks in advance, I am catching up with all the latest volunteers. In the meantime… what do you think of Susan’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that she mentions?

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Vicariously Through The Victorians…

As I mentioned a few weeks ago I really do love the autumn, especially for reading. I have been going through my TBR pile on and off over the last week and with certain worrying matters going on off the blog I have been looking for thrilling yet comforting books which will keep me reading. I tend to get readers block when lots of things are going on, I am sure this happens to all of us, and so these reads should combat this. However my version of thrilling yet comforting might not be the same as yours, as mine tend to involve the foggy, mysterious and dark streets of Victorian London, as the hoard I pulled down shows.

Now because I was being all arty-farty by having them on my ever-so suitable Victorian reading chair in the lounge you might not be able to make them all out. Well, it is quite a mixture. First up we have the fiction from the time in the form of ‘The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes’ by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, which I think sums up Victorian London at that time wonderfully, along with ‘The Odd Women’ by George Gissing which I have to admit I really bought (ages ago) because of the title, it just sounds quite me. I am also planning, through my new venture ‘Classically Challenged’, on finally reading two of the authors that many say are the literary greats, Anthony Trollope and the Charles Dickens.

I have thrown in some non-fiction into the mix too. I really struggle with non-fiction, it has to have a narrative and drive or I just get bored. In the case of ‘Beautiful Forever’ by Helen Rappaport (which I think my mother bought me two maybe three Christmas’ ago, oops) there should be no worry at all as it is the tale of Madame Rachel of Bond Street who ‘peddled products which claimed almost magical powers’ ripped people off and blackmailed them. I cannot wait for this, why have I left it so long. The same goes for Mary S. Hartman’s ‘Victorian Murderesses’ which I found in a book swap cafe last year. I don’t tend to mention that I like true crime writing, well I do, and this one looks great. Finally, non-fiction wise, I have ‘Wilkie Collins’ by Peter Ackroyd (I should have read this in the spring) which I am hoping if isn’t a narrative based non-fiction book will hook me in because I am such a big fan of Wilkie, full stop.

Finally I have thrown in three neo-Victorian novels, interestingly all by female authors about fictional women who stood up to Victorian ethics by all accounts, ‘The Journal of Dora Damage’ by Belinda Starling, ‘Little Bones’ by Janette Jenkins and ‘Beautiful Lies’ by Clare Clark. So there is some really exciting reading to look forward to. Yet before I start all these I am going to be meeting some very special ladies who I will be asking for more recommendations from as I will be discussing Victorian books, why they are so tempting to read and to write with them on Tuesday at Manchester Literature Festival

 

Yes, Jane Harris of one-of-my-all-time-favourite-ever-novels ‘Gillespie and I’ fame, who has also rather luckily become a lovely friend and the lovely Essie Fox, who did a special Victorian episode of The Readers and has written ‘The Somnambulist’ and has ‘Elijah’s Mermaid’ coming out soon (which I have read in advance and cannot wait to tell you all about at the start of November. I will be asking them for recommendations from the period, about the period and set in the period – and reporting back of course.

Now… do you have any recommendations of books about/set in the times of/written by Victorians and if so what? Oh and if you have any questions for Jane and Essie let me know and I will ask them especially.

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What Happens When You Move & Don’t Update Publishers With Your New Address?

Well, you go and visit the lovely family members you were staying with after a few weeks of being in your own little new world and find they have had an avalanche of parcels for you, which you then have to lug all the way back to your new abode. Let me illustrate that for you…

Oh and…

I stopped doing ‘incoming posts’ but know some of you like them so see this is a random special return. (I’m not going to list all the books just some highlights, you can click on the pics for a bigger image I think.)

There was some delightful parcel opening once I had dragged several ‘bags for life’ (and really tested them to see if they live up to their name) brimming with parcels home, as some of the finds were wonderful. In general these were unsolicited copies, but I had asked for a few. Maura at Riot PR had sent some of the Waterstones 11, so I think I have almost all of those now, as I don’t have relationships with all of the publishers on the list. I have been very excited about them all but both ‘Care of Wooden Floors’ by Will Wiles and ‘The Lifeboat’ by Charlotte Rogan in particular, but didn’t think those two would be appearing via my postman, I was wrong as I had a copy from Little Brown, so I might give one away when the book comes out. ‘The Art of Fielding’ by Chad Harbach I asked for with the clause that I would try it but I might not finish it, I am being honest, and so I will at some point.

I am beyond excited about Peter Ackroyd’s biography on ‘Wilkie Collins’ and the new short story collection ‘Guilt’ by Ferdinand Von Schirach as I greatly admired ‘Crime’ when I read it last year. I think William Boyd’s new book, which Alice at Bloomsbury had signed for me as I couldn’t make the Bloomsbury Blogger event, ‘Waiting For Sunrise’ might be the next from these piles I read, though it is getting a lot of mentions on blogs, we will see. It could have some stiff competition from ‘Love From Nancy’ (which is more Nancy Mitford letters than I could dream of) as to who makes it from the TBR to the bedside table, we will see.

Pretty much all the other books came unsolicited as I mentioned but there are some titles there that I am intrigued by, I will have a proper sift over this weekend, and so am pleased arrived. I have yet to read Peter Carey, ‘Oscar and Lucinda’ just looks so looooong, but ‘Chemistry of Tears’ looks shorter and sounds very interesting so I will give this major Man Booker winner a whirl finally. I am also thrilled with two of the recovered (in a team up with the V&A) and soon to be reissued Vintage Classics which turned up, ‘The Sea, The Sea’ by Iris Murdoch and ‘The French Lieutenants Woman’ by  John Fowles. They are authors I have read one book by before and then I said I will return to and then haven’t. Both look very good, and I fancy some more chunksters this year, and I had no idea ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’ was neo-Victorian until recently so I am definitely going to give that a whirl soon.

What books have you bought/been sent/been given lately? Which of these would you like to see me give a whirl on a whim? What are you reading now?

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Victorian Based Books…

One of my favourite things to read, which Essie Fox’s ‘The Somnambulist’ reminded me of especially after talking with her about it, is a good Victorian novel and yet weirdly I have seemed to have strayed from them in the last few years. I don’t just mean the originals like the wonderful Wilkie Collins who I have binged on in the past (though I have been considering some of his novels I haven’t yet read and as you will see I have been debating trying Charles Dickens again what with his birthday having come and gone) but also the contemporary novels by authors like Sarah Waters and many more. I did have a brief binge on one after reading Essie’s, which I will be discussing tomorrow, but I think once I have finished of the wonderful letters between Nancy Mitford and a bookshop I think it is time to gorge myself on all things Victoriana. I love the dark atmosphere and sense of mystery that the period brings and it seems perfect at the moment as Britain seems to be having a big freeze. I already have three books lined up for the weekend…

‘The Sealed Letter’ is the only Victorian fiction, though contemporary, I have at the top of the TBR so far. I had to get this from the library as I forgot I had lent it to someone and suddenly fancied it. It will be my second and a half read of any Emma Donoghue, I got half way through her short story collection ‘The Woman Who Gave Birth To Rabbits’ when someone selfishly (joking) ordered it for themselves and so back to the library it went. ‘Room’ is obviously her most famous novel but with ‘Slammerkin’ and others it seems Emma likes this period so I am hoping it is good.

The other two books are non-fiction. ‘The Maul and the Pear Tree; The Ratcliffe Highway Murders, 1811’ by P.D James and T.A. Critchley was been inspired read by the fascinating experience that listening to the audio book of Judith Flanders ‘The Invention of Murder’ is proving to be. In the first several chapters I have listened to the case of the Ratcliffe Highway murders and not only how they were the case of the first real serial killer, but also how they changed the way the police worked. I couldn’t get enough and so pulled out this book dedicated just to that and seeing the wonderful P.D James playing a cold case detective for real, fabulous.

‘The Autobiography of Jack the Ripper’ either the official memoirs of Jack or simply the mad ramblings of James Carnac arrived by surprise the other week. I am one of those many people fascinated by this case because of course no one ever found out who Jack the Ripper was – in the case of James Carnac’s writing it could be that he really was him or that he was a bit mad and wrote a very grisly and almost too knowing novel about Jack. I am going to play detective and try to decide the truth, I have ordered a few Jack the Ripper books to read alongside this one. Does that make me a bit morbid having a grim fascination with it all?

Oh and if you are wondering what I will be reading all these on, check out this reading chair (which the books were photographed on) below, doesn’t it look like a wonderfully modern contemporary version of a Victorian chaise longue? It’s very comfy I have many wonderful hours ahead.

I am now mulling over which classic Victorian novel to dip into at some point too. I have some of Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s lesser known works, some more Wilkie Collins (and I believe his biography by Peter Ackroyd is on the way) or do I take the plunge into Dickens? After all Susan Hill makes a compelling case on Dovergreyreader today, do visit. What would you recommend? Are you a fan of books set or written in the Victorian era and which are your favourites? You may inspire me.

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The English Ghost – Peter Ackroyd

Happy Halloween to one and all! I think this might actually be one of my favourite days of the year, yes even more so than Christmas, because I really do love all things spooky that go bump in the dark. I am a Most Haunted addict; love a good horror movie that makes me jump and love curling up with a good ghost story too. With the dark and chilly autumnal night’s drawing in (even more since the clocks changed yesterday) I am in my element curled up late at night with the curtains open in my warm room, wanting to be lost in a terrifying tale. Therefore I thought that I would really enjoy ‘The English Ghost’ by Peter Ackroyd, and in many ways I did. Yes, you are right, there is a ‘but’ coming.

Vintage Books, paperback, 2011, non fiction, 288 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

Because of Peter Ackroyd’s reputation for fiction as well as non fiction preceding him before I had even read a word I had very high expectations from this book. I wanted a really interesting and eye opening dialogue with Peter about the ghost stories that he had collected all over the UK and why indeed the British Isles seems to be a place where hosts are seen far more than in any other country in the world. I did get this… in the introduction, which I loved.

The problem was that from then on we simply had a collection/anthology of all the ghost stories that Ackroyd had found, and while I happily admit I enjoyed them I did want something more. The more I read the opening words in each tale like ‘the following letter by…’ or ‘the following report appeared in the ‘X’ newspaper’ the more I was thinking ‘hang on, is this a bit of a cut and paste job. Is this all research and no real revelation or conversation?’ It was a conversation with Ackroyd about the ghost stories and the facts and people involved with them that I wanted not really an encyclopaedia.

This makes me sound really ungrateful I know, and I did actually read it in just a few days because it is great to dip in and out of. I should have just thought ‘wow, what a collection of tales from the infamous Borley Rectory, to smaller unknown stories’ (I was excited that the Blue Bell Hill story was included as my Great Aunty Pat told me that tale as a kid as she knew the people involved) and some of the stories are genuinely unnerving (weirdly the more modern ones) as from the witness accounts you know several people saw these events happen and it does make you ponder on what on earth is really out there. I did also really like Ackroyd’s retelling of the stories when there were no ‘official’ accounts too, I just wanted more dialogue with him, more banter. There isn’t even an afterword or really any note on why he wanted to do this particular paranormal project.

I am aware this is rather a short set of book thoughts, and one I feel I have come away doing Ackroyd a slight disservice in writing. If you want a collection of true life, well it depends on what you believe – but I do, ghost stories then this would be an ideal read for you. If you are looking for a book that tells the tales and discusses why these might have happened or any other subjective thoughts and reasoning’s you might want to try elsewhere. I liked ‘The English Ghost’ a lot, I just expected more, so maybe the fault lies with me?

If you are hankering after more ‘spooky shenigans’ then do pop and listen to the ‘spooky special’ fourth episode of The Readers here. Me and Gav are in halloween costumes and everything!

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That Lovely ‘What To Read Next’ Feeling…

Having finished my latest read last night before I went to sleep I awoke this morning and stretched with that lovely feeling of ‘ooh I can browse my bookshelves at whim and read whatever I want to next’. Sometimes that can be a daunting prospect when you have a rather massive Mount TBR however this morning it feels much more like I have a world of endless characters, places, situations and stories ahead of me and that is the perfect feeling on a chilly, yet sunny October morning.

In fact as yet I have still not decided what I want to read next (and people have been very helpful in adding to the TBR of late which you may see in a separate post today or later in the week) thought there are about five major contenders at the moment.

   

  • Hawksmoor – Peter Ackroyd
  • Purple Hibiscus – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Still Missing – Beth Gutcheon
  • The City & The City – China Miéville

I don’t want to rush to choose what my next book will be yet (so it might not be any of the ones I am mulling over) or even rush to start another, though I am not in a reading funk; I just want to enjoy this feeling for a little longer instead. Sometimes I really think this is one of the loveliest feelings in the world, don’t you?

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Would Love To Read…

I thought I would introduce a new little feature on Savidge Reads which is along the lines of ‘Would Like To Meet’ only a bit of a bookish version. I have said I want to get to some older books in my new guidelines for the blog, however no matter how many books we have… we always want more. Or is that just me? These aren’t books I am unsure about, like my ‘Do I Want To Read’ series these are books I would be devouring the moment I got to them. So I thought I would let my friends (hint), family (hint, hint) and all of you know of some titles that have appeared on my bookish radar every now and again which have not popped through the Savidge Reads letter box and which if I wasn’t on a self imposed book buying ban I would be running off to the shops to get my mitts on.

Interestingly I thought that my first ‘Would Like To Read’ would be filled with fiction as it’s what I assume I read the most yet its non fiction that has been grabbing my attention in the main over the last few weeks. The first of which is the highly timely, with Halloween just around the corner, is ‘The English Ghost: Spectres Through Time’ by Peter Ackroyd which sounds like a wonderful collection of true tales of the supernatural as the blurb describes much better than I could;

“The English, Peter Ackroyd tells us in this fascinating collection, see more ghosts than any other nation. Each region has its own particular spirits, from the Celtic ghosts of Cornwall to the dobies and boggarts of the north. Some speak and some are silent, some smell of old leather, others of fragrant thyme. From medieval times to today, stories have been told and apparitions seen – ghosts who avenge injustice, souls who long for peace, spooks who just want to have fun. “The English Ghost” is a treasury of such sightings – which we can believe or not, as we will. The accounts, packed with eerie detail, range from the door-slamming, shrieking ghost of Hinton Manor in the 1760s and the moaning child that terrified Wordsworth’s nephew at Cambridge, to the headless bear of Kidderminster, the violent demon of Devon who tried to strangle a man with his cravat and the modern-day hitchhikers on Blue Bell Hill. Comical and scary, like all good ghost stories, these curious incidents also plumb the depths of the English psyche in its yearnings for justice, freedom and love.”

The first of the fiction is actually short stories, again not my normal regular reading material, but the collection ‘The Empty Family’ not only has a wonderful intriguing title its also by Colm Toibin and after reading ‘Brooklyn’ I simply want to get to every single one of his books at some point and its always the ones that you don’t have that you want the most.

“’I imagined lamplight, shadows, soft voices, clothes put away, the low sound of late news on the radio. And I thought as I crossed the bridge at Baggot Street to face the last stretch of my own journey home that no matter what I had done, I had not done that.’ In the captivating stories that make up “The Empty Family”, Colm Toibin delineates with a tender and unique sensibility lives of unspoken or unconscious longing, of individuals, often willingly, cast adrift from their history. From the young Pakistani immigrant who seeks some kind of permanence in a strange town to the Irish woman reluctantly returning to Dublin and discovering a city that refuses to acknowledge her long absence each of Tobin’s stories manage to contain whole worlds: stories of fleeing the past and returning home, of family threads lost and ultimately regained.”

Could  my second non fiction title today ‘Chocolate Wars’ by Deborah Cadbury be this years most perfect Christmas read (its only just over two months away)? I think it could! I heard about this on a podcast last week and it was all I could do not to run out and buy it and break my ban. Fortunately it’s not out yet so I simply can’t. It will be as tempting as a box of Cadbury’s when it is out in the shops.  

The delicious true story of the world’s most famous chocolate firms by award-winning writer and a descendant of the Cadbury chocolate dynasty, Deborah Cadbury In ‘Chocolate Wars’ bestselling historian and award-winning documentary maker Deborah Cadbury takes a journey into her own family history to uncover the rivalries that have driven 250 years of chocolate empire-building. In the early nineteenth century Richard Tapper Cadbury sent his son, John, to London to study a new and exotic commodity: cocoa. Within a generation, John’s sons, Richard and George, had created a chocolate company to rival the great English firms of Fry and Rowntree, and their European competitors Lindt and Nestle. The major English firms were all Quaker family enterprises, and their business aims were infused with religious idealism. In America, Milton Hershey and Forrest Mars proved that they had the appetite for business on a huge scale, and successfully resisted the English companies’ attempts to master the American market. As chocolate companies raced to compete around the globe, Quaker capitalism met a challenge that would eventually defeat it. At the turn of the millennium Cadbury, the sole independent survivor of England’s chocolate dynasties, became the world’s largest confectionary company. But before long it too faced a threat to its very survival, and the chocolate wars culminated in a multi-billion pound showdown pitting independence and Quaker tradition against the cut-throat tactics of a corporate leviathan. Featuring a colourful cast of savvy entrepreneurs, brilliant eccentrics and resourceful visionaries; ‘Chocolate Wars’ is the story of a uniquely alluring product and of the evolution, for better and worse, of modern business.

I adore Dawn French as she really, really makes me laugh and ‘A Tiny Bit Marvellous’ is her debut novel. I have to admit I have high expectations of this for being laugh out loud funny or a piece of bittersweet genius. I am not sure if the fact the family’s dog is called Poo is really funny in a childish way or really not… hmmm, I would like to find out. I enjoyed her autobiography ‘Dear Fatty’ though I know autobiographies and fiction are very different, well with some people they are.

“Everyone hates the perfect family. So you’ll love the Battles. Mo is about to hit the big 50, and some uncomfortable truths are becoming quite apparent: She doesn’t understand either of her teenage kids, which as a child psychologist, is fairly embarrassing. She has become entirely grey. Inside, and out. Her face has surrendered and is frightening children. Dora is about to hit the big 18 . . . and about to hit anyone who annoys her, especially her precocious younger brother Peter who has a chronic Oscar Wilde fixation. Then there’s Dad . . . who’s just, well, dad.”

Finally there was another book which I have forgotten so will have a dig through my memories or maybe note books would be better to find out what it was. I was inspired by a review I read yesterday on lovely Kimbofo’s blog regarding ‘Nothing To Envy; Real Lives in North Korea’ by Barbara Demick which sounds incredible. I am intrigued and mystified by North Korea and this sounds like a really insightful look into the world that we know so little about other than what we are shown, which isn’t often. You can read Kim’s marvellous review on Reading Matters it sounds fantastic and one I would love to read too.

North Korea is Orwell’s 1984 made reality: it is the only country in the world not connected to the internet; Gone with the Wind is a dangerous, banned book; during political rallies, spies study your expression to check your sincerity. After the death of the country’s great leader Kim Il Sung in 1994, famine descended: people stumbled over dead bodies in the street and ate tree bark to survive. Nothing to Envy weaves together the stories of adversity and resilience of six residents of Chongin, North Korea’s third largest city. From extensive interviews and with tenacious investigative work, Barbara Demick has recreated the concerns, culture and lifestyles of North Korean citizens in a gripping narrative, and vividly reconstructed the inner workings of this extraordinary and secretive country.

So those are the books I most fancy, that I don’t own, right now and am eager to get my mitts on. What books have you added onto your ‘wish list’ of late? Any other books you have read of later that I simply must add to mine that I have missed this time round?

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