Yesterday I came home, or should I say I came back to my homes as the move still hasn’t finished, and was greeted by a parcel from America. I was lucky enough to recently win a copy of ‘Olive Kitteridge’ by Elizabeth Strout from the delightful C.B. James.
I have been hankering after this book for ages especially after it won this years Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (I have loved the Pulitzer winners I have read more than the Man Booker winners I have read as this goes to print) so its is a most welcome book to the TBR pile though I don’t think it will be on there for very long as I am itching to read it already.
The cover is what has lead to today’s blog main topic however. I think its beautiful very understated and classic, and I love the gold stamps that they put on certain books in America. I mean if you compare the American cover to the British cover the winner is clear.
I then noticed, with everything so easy to find on my new shelving system, I have been unintentionally swapping some of my TBR books from British cover to American cover like I have just done with a wonderul copy of both Nancy Mitford’s books in one volume ‘The Pursuit of Love’ and ‘Love In A Cold Climate’ my new cover (bought for 50p second hand but a new American copy) is so much nice than my old ones.
Then I noticed that I had done this with another two books that I own, one which I have already read ‘Empire Falls’ by Richard Russo…
And the other which I haven’t read yet but am planning on reading very soon ‘True History of the Kelly Gang’ by Peter Carey…
None of these purchases have intentionally been a swap from a British to American cover though they have all been an intentional (but only when they are 50p to £1.50 max) swap for a nicer cover but then come on some of you must do that surely? They also feel nicer, the covers and the pages themselves, which I only noticed last night. has anyone else found this to be the case or is it just me?
Also is it wrong that I have been eyeing up a copy of ‘The Blind Assassin’ by Margaret Atwood which I have already read but have seen the American version of. It has the same cover, only with the added gold stamp, but its softer and somehow much thinner which is great for the bookshelves… Or is that just greedy?
The latest Book Group Book ‘Empire Falls’ by Richard Russo has not only won the Pulitzer Prize in 2002, it has also taken me ages to read but with book group books I have made myself read to the end (I have only not done this on two books London Fields and Suite Francaise both of which I loathed, the latter will shock people I am sure) in the hope that once I had managed it would be one of those books where you feel immensely rewarded and are thoroughly grateful that you persevered. Can I at this pint as its so near say I didnt have this cover and think they need to rethink it as this english cover is so boring looking.
In some ways I am but let’s start with the setting. Empire Falls is a sleepy and slowly failing town in Maine (but as we all know sleepy town have dark secrets) a town that is predominantly owned by the Whiting Estate, the head of whom is now Francine Whiting, sadly the story isn’t based on her as it should have been – more of her later. One of the many buildings and enterprises she owns is the Empire Grill, run buy our protagonist Miles Roby.
Miles is stuck in a rut, after coming home from his degree to look after his dying mother he has never left Empire Falls again. He is going through a divorce with the warped Janine, his daughter Tick is a typical teenager, he has an ongoing feud with an old school friend who is now the law, he’s doing up a church, his father is a money grabbing semi-alcoholic and is played like a puppet by Francine whose cat wants to kill him and crippled daughter wants to marry him. That’s quite a character isn’t it? Bizarrely Miles plays second fiddle to almost every other character in the book.
Francine is undoubtedly for me the star of the show and sadly doesn’t feature in the book as much as she should I wanted so much more of her back story. Her cat Timmy (who is a girl) certainly needed to be in it more as it made me laugh which was much needed fabulous light relief. Janine is a wonderful slightly bitter slightly reminiscent ex-wife who has just discovered sex again which led to her affair and shes not letting the object of her new sex life get away and wants to be heading straight down the aisle once more. The women characters were actually by far the best and I think had the novel been written from their aspects the whole way through I would have enjoyed it so much more. But then there wouldn’t have been quite so many twists in the end.
There is one big twist that though there are some seeds of thought dropped along the way was much more dramatic and in many ways darker than anything I could have come up with which has little to do with Miles Roby at all and did make me re-read the page. The other twists involve flashbacks of both the Whiting family and Miles himself and give the book an extra depth in a way. Sadly though despite a wonderful host of characters (Russo from reading reviews is a wonderful character author in general) and the invention of a clever town setting with its mysteries and shock endings the book is far too long and at points became a real effort to read, thank fully the cat would appear during some of these.
I guess the test with a book, and with a new author in particular (by new I mean one you’ve not read before) is if you would read them again. Would I read Richard Russo again, at the moment I would say probably not, however the more I think about the book the more I realise what a clever writer he is and how observant. So maybe he is someone to add to my TBR in 2009 pile, I guess time will tell.
Yes I have fallen off the wagon once again, however not as badly as normal. I have indeed been book shopping and swapping and today this is what the results of this hard labour of book addiction produced.
Point of Rescue – Sophie Hannah
I have only been introduced to the work of Sophie Hannah this year through her short stories and the first of her crime or ‘fiction with a crime twist’ writing ‘Little Face’. This was quite a find as the paperback isnt out for another week! You could tell it was a sneaky leaked review edition as some of the pages needed trimming.
Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
We were discussing this at book group and it was second favourite to be the book we read but lost to the below… However with all the fuss about Rushdie and the Booker of Bookers and the Man Booker Loglist this year (I admit I have joined in the fuss) so feel I should see what all the fuss is about. A readitswapit book.
Empire Falls – Richard Russo
This won the vote for next months book group book. I have never heard of the author ever, even though this book won the Pulitzer Prize back in 2002, its been a nightmare to get hold of but I managed to find a second hand American import in one of the shops on Charing Cross Road today (I almost bought another ten but settled with just this and Sophie Hannah) I will be visiting thes shops much more often.