Tag Archives: Roald Dahl

Other People’s Bookshelves #32; Clare Axton

Hello and welcome to the latest in Other People’s Bookshelves, a weekly series of posts where you get to have a nosey at other book lovers bookshelves. This week we are back ‘oop’ north in England in Nottingham (which will instantly have you thinking of Robin Hood) where we join Clare and get to have a nosey at her shelves not a million miles from my old hometown of Matlock Bath. So grab a cuppa and a few biscuits which Clare has kindly laid on and have a rummage through her shelves…

My name is Clare and I live in Nottingham. I have a great and very deep love for books and even more so for bookshops my long held dream to be the owner of one. I think I can trace my love for books back to my Great Grandad who had a wonderful library in his home that I loved to spend my time perusing. I am also a collector of original Penguin books and copies of Punch magazine, the oldest I have is 1908. The best way I can think to spend a day is finding somewhere nice for tea and cake then bookshopping of course. I am currently discovering London and it’s bookshops too also love Lincoln and it’s wonderful bookshops.

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Do you keep all the books you read on your shelves or only your favourites?

I have recently had a sort of my shelves so now I do have sections for my favourites especially for example my Penguin originals together and classics together. I normally carry a book or two with me for those moments when I can find a quiet spot,the table next to my bed holds one or two or maybe more of my favourites which usually have bookmarks trying to remind me to finish them before I start another.

Do you organise your shelves in a certain way?

Only very recently before it was very haphazard but now I hope there is some sort of structure to my shelves. I do like the spines of one author to be together especially when they are a classic author for example I have my Dickens all together and including the very lovely spine of a Sketches By Boz edition of 1904.

What was the first book you ever brought with your own money?

I think that would be Charlie and The Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. We had a wonderful bookshop in my village when I was little and a lot of my pocket went on Dahl and Beatrix Potter Books which are all still happily on my shelves.

Are there are guilty pleasures on your bookshelves?

Maybe Lady Chatterley’s Lover obviously considered such a scandalous books at the time of its trial it does feel like a very guilty pleasure although Lawrence is one of my favourite writers.

What is the first grown up book you brought?

Well the book was actually on my Aunt’s shelves and it was “Forever” by Judy Blume. I felt very grown up when I read it in my teens and now it does have a special place on my shelves.

If you love a book but have borrowed it do you find you have to then buy the book?

I have found many wonderful books through the library first, for example my love for Thomas Hardy started when I borrowed Far From The Madding Crowd read it at least three times before it went back then quickly visited the nearest bookshop to buy it and many more of his novels and poetry.

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What was the last book you added to your shelves?

I think it would have to be two books… Where’d you go Bernadette by Maria Semple and On The Road by Jack Kerouac both wonderful novels. My next purchase needs to be The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt which I have seen people raving about and I’m very much looking forward to reading.

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

I have always wanted a complete set of novels by Nancy Mitford a writer whose life and family I find fascinating. Also original penguin copies of Lucky Jim and the James Bond books these I hope to find on my next London Trip.

What do you think someone perusing your shelves would think of your reading taste?

I think they would see my book tastes as quite eclectic and I hope they would find something on each shelf that they would enjoy too.

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A huge thanks to Clare for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves, who is off with me to go and have a hunt through the caves under Nottingham Castle before heading to Sherwood Forest?  Don’t forgot if you would like to participate (and I would love you to – hint, hint, hint) in the series then drop me an email to savidgereads@gmail.com with the subject Other People’s Bookshelves, thanks in advance. In the meantime… what do you think of Clare’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that she mentions?

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Other People’s Bookshelves #29 – Anne Coates

Hello and welcome, to the latest in the series of Other People’s Bookshelves. In the grand scheme of things we have now gone from a post on porn, well sex, in books to book porn as we all nosey through someone else’s book shelves. This week we are in finally joined by Anne Coates. I say finally as we have been trying to get Anne’s shelves shared with you all for quite some time but technology has been defeating us until now! So without further ado here is Anne to introduce herself and her shelves…

Books have been a constant in my life for as long as I can remember. After graduating in English and French, I worked in publishing and this was wonderful for reading and learning about contemporary fiction and different genres. As a freelance editor and writer, I have been involved in non-fiction as well. I have always written short stories which were published in women’s magazines. Endeavour Press have recently published two ebook collections Cheque-Mate & Other Tales of the Unexpected and A Tale of Two Sisters as well as two parenting books linked to my family website, Parenting Without Tears. As you may imagine Roald Dahl is one of my favourite authors and as an antidote to my work in non-fiction, there’s nothing I like better than a good murder!

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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?

Obviously I keep all my favourites but every now and again I have a cull. Once I kept every Reader’s Digest book I’d worked on then thought – why? So out they went. Also some non-fiction books become outdated/superceded so they go too. A lot of the non-fiction books on my shelves were for review or research. I love re-reading books I’ve enjoyed but Twitter has introduced me to a whole world of new writers and the “books to read pile” has become a tower or rather several towers if you include my ebooks!.

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?

My bookshelves tend to evolve organically and they have moved around the house. Used to have all my fiction in the dining-room but then needed the space there. Having looked at my shelves for this article, I’ve realised what a mess they are in. Fiction used to be alphabetical with a separate shelf for French texts and plays and poetry together. However the shelves are rather chaotic at the moment – time for another cull? On the other hand sometimes, when I’m looking for one book, I find another I’d forgotten about and that’s always a joy.

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

I remember being given some money when I was about nine or ten and I went straight out and bought a maths book! However I’ve no idea what happened to it.
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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?

I don’t harbour any guilty reading pleasures (she said in her best Lady Grantham voice) but I don’t like westerns or erotica. However on my shelves is a copy of Joy in Love translated from French by one Anne Dante (!). My mother read it without comment but she had read The Story of O. I probably wouldn’t want anyone to think I’d read it but I just can’t bring myself to throw away or hide the first book I translated.

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?

I love having books that members of my family (who are now dead) have owned. My paternal grandmother won a copy of Mrs Beaton’s Family Cook Book (second prize for a Victoria sponge) which contains notes and comments and some of her recipes. So I’d certainly want to save that. Plus I’d grab Mum’s Shakespeare knowing that she had held the book and read the plays. I also have her copy of Andrew Marvell which I bought her as she loved his poetry. Whenever I read those poems, I smile thinking of my mother. I also have books signed by authors I have worked with which are very special to me.

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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 are they on your shelves now?

My parents didn’t own many books (although my mother was a voracious reader and went to the library every week) but I do remember As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner, The Essential Hemingway and Sticky Wickets by Lionel Lord Tennyson. I still have their Pears Encyclopaedia. I did read the first two but am not that interested in reading about cricket.

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?

I used to buy every book but then had to reduce expenditure so use the library and share books with friends. Having a Kindle has made a huge difference as I buy books on special offer.

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

The latest book has literally just arrived: The Unquiet Grave by Steven Dunne. I shall be reading it to see if I am hoodwinked by Steven’s perfect plot twists. A lovely challenge.

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

Am looking forward to the latest from Peter James and Mari Hannah –Dead Man’s Time and Monument to Murder – they’re on my Christmas wish list.

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

I hope they’d think here’s someone who loves books and reads widely. Some of my books are “well-thumbed” and some have notes written in them which would probably say more about me than the book. Observers might wonder at some of the non-fiction titles … but all in the line of duty.

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A huge thanks to Anne for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves! Don’t forgot if you would like to participate (and I would love you to – hint, hint, hint) in the series then drop me an email to savidgereads@gmail.com with the subject Other People’s Bookshelves, thanks in advance. In the meantime… what do you think of Anne’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that she mentions?

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Incoming Thoughts…

It has been about a month since I shared some of the highlights of the books that have come through the Savidge letterbox and so I thought I would share some of the books (as I am being very tough on books that now come through the door unsolicited) that I will be reading over the next few months as the mood takes me. Though I have been thinking about how I might change things on Savidge Reads in the New Year, but more on that after I have mulled it further. Anyway back to the books that have come to Savidge Reads HQ and have made themselves most at home. First up some books which have come out quite recently…

Out Now

First of all, I have to mention the book that is causing some big buzz here there and everywhere at the moment and that is S by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst. I have to admit that initially I was a bit sceptical about the book because of all the hype. I knew it was written by ‘the man behind Lost’ and if I am honest I wasn’t sure about it because I stopped watching Lost after the first series as I got, erm, lost. However as I saw people discussing it and how the book houses postcards, napkins with maps on, letters and much more my interest was officially piqued. When it arrived in the post last week I will admit I did do a little dance of glee. As yet I haven’t dared open it, I am planning on spending the day with it next weekend – as I don’t want to lose the pieces inside or put them in the wrong order. This is partly why I still haven’t opened Building Stories by Chris Ware, it is still wrapped on the top of my bookshelves.

Elsewhere in that pile are some new to me authors such as Ismail Kadare (who won the International Man Booker Prize, and its short so worth a punt), Jorn Lier Horst (who I was recommended I would like for giving a very different twist on the cold crime genre) and Nadifa Mohammed (whose Black Mamba Boy I have always meant to read and haven’t and is one of the Granta Best Young British Novelists), all of whom I am going to give a try.

There are authors I know too of course. M.R.C. Kasasain’s The Mangle Street Murders was one of the books I mentioned in my ‘books to look out for in the second half of 2013’ on The Readers, I love a Victorian mystery and this looks like a great start of a new series with a duo with a new dynamic and looks at the roles of women in Victorian society, ace. Val McDermid I have been a big fan of for ages and am very excited to read the next Tony Hill and Caron Jordan series after how she left us with The Retribution, this time Tony is prime suspect in a crime. Kishwar Desai’s series is one I often tell myself off for not reading more of, this is her third so I really must read her second.

The last two books are from more famous authors I suppose you would say. Donna Tartt really needs no introduction at the moment as The Goldfinch has had more press and social media buzz than I have seen in a book in ages. It has really put me off and after hearing the last episode of The Readers, her publishers sent me this to see if I could be tempted. We will see. I loved The Secret History so I am not sure why I am so anti this one. Finally there is the memoir of Anjelica Huston (who I like to call Jelly Who-Who, and have been slightly obsessed by since she played the Grand High Witch in the adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Witches and as Morticia in The Addams Family) I can be a bit funny about celebrity memoirs but I find her a fascinating woman and apparently her mother was a great writer and it runs in the family by all reports. Actually a bit giddy about this one.

Next up, some more books to keep your eyes peeled for in 2014…

Coming 2014

Oh actually Essie Fox’s latest The Goddess and the Thief, another Victorian delight, is out at the start of December my mistake. Louise Welsh is back with A Lovely Way To Burn the start of a new trilogy which sounds like a crime set in a dystopian London from the blurb. Tim Winton is back with Eyrie a novel of a man who has shut himself off from the world and whose past comes to haunt him through some neighbours he meets. Kinder Than Solitude by Yiyun Li (who I have meant to read for some time) also sees the past coming back to haunt three friends, now living continents apart, who were involved in a mysterious accident in their youths that saw a woman poisoned.

Eat My Heart Out is meant to be the debut of the Spring as Zoe Pilger has apparently written The Bell Jar meets The Rachel Papers, intriguing – Sam Byers loves this book. Lost tribes are hunted in 1950 in Hanya Yanagihara’s The People in the Trees which Ann Kingman of Books on the Nightstand has been raving about. If you like your books with a dark disturbing twist and sense of malice The Bear by Claire Cameron looks amazing as a camping trip goes horribly wrong and five year old Anna is left to fend for her and her three year old brother as her parents have disappeared and something is lurking in the woods.

Ray Robinson’s Jawbone Lake is one that will intrigue me personally as it is set in the Peak District, which is of course my homeland, and you know I love a good tale set in the countryside and a literary thriller, which apparently this is. I actually spent some time with Ray when he was writing it and we hunted murderous spots in Matlock – though I’ve noted there are no thanks for this tour in the author’s acknowledgements, the bugger, ha! This is probably going to be my next read.

Finally, blimey I have gone on, three books I bought when I fell into a second hand bookshop the other day…

Second Hand Treats

You will read my thoughts on A.M. Homes May We Be Forgiven in the next few weeks and suffice to say I am a bit on the fence with her. I think she’s an incredible writer but almost too good. That might sound crazy though it will make sense when you see my review; I decided to grab Jack as I want to try more of her work. Tove Jansson is an author many people, especially Simon T of Stuck in a Book, have recommended so I thought I would try her short stories. Paul Bowles The Sheltering Sky I know NOTHING about but it was a silver Penguin Classic and so I thought ‘oh why not?’ and snapped it up.

Phew – that is more chatter than I had planned, I do apologise. So do tell me your thoughts on any of the books that are out, the ones that are coming and any of the authors mentioned. Oh and if you think this is a showy off post go here and see my thoughts on that. Also do let me know what books you have got your hands on lately or what you are keen to read, I look forward to hearing all about them.

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Other People’s Bookshelves #9; David Dean

As Thursday rolls round again it’s time to take a nosey look through someone else’s shelves and this week we are joined by book cover illustrator, and commenter extraordinaire on this blog, David Dean. David is an illustrator, mainly of children’s books (you can see some of his work here, my sister Mim loved ‘Dead Man’s Cove’) which means he can combine his two passions – books and painting – and get paid for it, which, he says “seems to me to be pretty ideal. Getting to go off and play in authors’ worlds all day is just the best job”. He lives with his two cats, Button and Ptolemy, to the east of Manchester, in the foothills of the Pennines where he loves to go walking. Book-wise he reads mainly contemporary fiction, though lately he is trying to read older books. He has a particular fondness for Canadian literature and is slowly starting to explore Australian fiction too. So let’s have a look through his shelves and find out more…

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?

I used to keep everything on my shelves, read and unread, but I ran out of shelf space a few years ago and now all my shelves are double-stacked. So behind what you can see in the photos there is essentially the same number of books again. The books hidden behind are ones I haven’t read and don’t immediately plan to read (though I have recently been having fun by rooting around in there amongst books I’d half forgotten to select my next read), but there are also quite a few back there which I have read but which I maybe didn’t like all that much but don’t want to get rid of. Typically this will be because they’re by an author I otherwise like – as an example ‘The Testament of Mary’ by Colm Toibin went straight to the back, whilst ‘Brooklyn’ is still on display. As for ‘one in, one out’ – ha! I wish I could be that tough, but I really struggle to part with books. The number of times I’ve put books in a charity bag only to wish I still had them years later.

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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?

Alphabetically (for fiction anyway) – I can never understand people who don’t alphabetise books and CDs. And then each author’s books are organised by publication date. I have all my fiction books in one room, though my Folio Society editions are in boxes rather than out on the shelves – cloth bindings (especially if they’re faux Victorian looking) seem wrong to my eye when put next to modern dust jackets. And then in what I laughingly refer to as my ‘studio’ (in reality the box room) I have all my art and design and travel books. These are not filed in any particular order, just by the most efficient way to get as many on to the shelves as possible, a system that drives me mad, but needs must I’m afraid.

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

Goodness, I don’t know. I’ve always read but I wouldn’t say I was an avid reader as a child (I read comics more than books) and I spent my pocket money on toys rather than books. Books we got from the mobile library. I remember having and reading copies of Roald Dahl and Alan Garner, but I think my Mum probably bought those for me. I didn’t become a big buyer of books until I was about 13 and I started reading Star Trek novels, of which I must have had well over a hundred. But I suppose with my own money it might have been this from 1985. It doesn’t reside on my shelves but I think it might be in my Mum & Dad’s loft somewhere.

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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?

Guilty pleasures? Not really. Most of the books on my shelves are contemporary literary fiction and boringly respectable. I do have a full set of Dan Dare books (reprinting the original stories from the Eagle of the 50s and 60s), some collected editions of the Transformers comics I loved as a kid, a few graphic novels, but nothing I’d be embarrassed by.

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?

I think most would be replaceable, and there are other things I’d save first in the event of a fire. I’d perhaps save my copy of ‘King of the World: The Padshahnama’, a very nice art book on the paintings produced for the Mughal Emperor Shah Jehan. The pictures have been a huge influence on my own painting so it has been an important books to me.

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 are they on your shelves now?

I don’t think I ever borrowed anything from my parents’ shelves. Their tastes didn’t really appeal to me at that age, though me and my Mum now regularly lend each other books. I do remember looking through a couple of my Mum’s for the rude bits!

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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?

I pretty much just buy what I want to read, and far more than I ever actually COULD read!

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

A handful bought this week: Olivia Manning’s ‘The Rain Forest’ (I want to read her two trilogies, but thought a single novel might give me an idea if I like her writing before embarking on a huge tome); Alyson Hagy’s ‘Ghosts of Wyoming’, Dylan Nice’s ‘Other Kinds’ and David McGlynn’s ‘The End of the Straight and Narrow’ (I’ve grown to love short stories over the past year and a lot of my favourites have been by American authors) and Lucy Wood’s ‘Diving Belles’ because Simon has raved about it so often on his blog!

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

Yes, lots! My wish list on Amazon currently contains 327 books and my wish list on Book Depository runs to 15 pages.

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

That I read too much?

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A big thank you to David for letting me grill him. Don’t forgot if you would like to participate (and I would love you to) in Other People’s Book Shelves series then drop me an email to savidgereads@gmail.com with the subject Other People’s Bookshelves, thanks in advance. In the meantime… what do you think of David’s responses and/or any of the books he mentioned?

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Other People’s Bookshelves #6; Kate Gardner

For the latest instalment of other peoples book porn bookshelves we get to have a nosey through the lovely Kate Gardner’s shelves this week. Kate blogs at Nose in a Book for three years, she says “I still feel like I’m just discovering how it all works and how many great book blogs are out there. I’ve always been an avid reader – I remember many a mealtime as a child being told to put my book down just long enough to eat! I live in Bristol with my boyfriend Tim and I’m originally from the Forest of Dean, which is beautiful but rural so maybe my book love comes from a lack of anything else to do? Or maybe it stems from me having glue ear when I was six, which made me almost deaf for about a year and as a result super shy. Or maybe it was a love that was always destined to be! It was a glorious moment for me when in 2011 we turned our dining room into a library/games room. Sadly it’s currently full of boxes while we’re redecorating other parts of the house but I look forward to getting it back soon!” So let’s find out more about Kate and through her shelves shall we?

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?

I try to be strict with myself and only keep books that I thought really good and/or want to read again. That’s probably a bit more than half of the books I buy, so I am fast running out of space!

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?

I keep my TBR books separate in their own half a bookcase (and they’re overflowing that…) and I don’t organise them at all. But my other books are strictly alphabetical order. There’s just too many to be able to find the book I’m looking for otherwise. I have sections for general fiction, poetry/plays/philosophy, literary non-fiction, reference, children’s, comics/graphic novels, SF and fantasy. Most of those last three genres aren’t my books anyway, they’re Tim’s. Not that I object to muddling our books up together, it’s just an easy separation to make.

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

I don’t remember for certain. I do know my favourite present from an early age was book tokens. When I was quite young (about 7?), there was a competition in the local paper to be the first to go into the town bookshop and sing this song they’d made up to the tune of “Oh my darling, Clementine”. I studiously memorised the words (I still remember the opening: “Down in Coleford, there’s a bookshop…”) then rushed down into town and sang it at the shop. I think they were a bit surprised by my eagerness! The prize was a book token and I think I spent it there and then, possibly on Roald Dahl books? I certainly still have all those, with my name scrawled inside the covers because you know, sibling rivalry and all.

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?

Not really. Although I must admit I wouldn’t read Anais Nin outside the house, but somehow it’s fine to have her on the shelves!

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?

Tough one. I suppose some of my old kids’ books that I loved and have held onto – especially Alpaca by Rosemary Billam – but it’s the stories that have meaning for me, so if I lost them and had to buy replacements I’d be okay with that. I mean, I’m sure I’d be upset, but not over any specific book.

children's books NIAB

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 are they on your shelves now?

I was encouraged by my Mum to read any books available to me from pretty young so I don’t really remember a specific transition at home. Certainly I know Mum was passing her Jean Plaidy and Victoria Holt books on to me when I was really too young for them! But I do remember the transition at school quite clearly. In third year infants (so I was 6 or 7) I had finished all the infant readers but the teacher didn’t want to start me on junior books yet so she opened up her special book cupboard for me. It was amazing! In there I found Mrs Pepperpot, Mr Majeika, all sorts. The teacher retired soon after that so it was literally a whole career’s worth of collecting great kids’ books together. We all loved her.

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?

No, borrowing is fine…until I get an urge to read it again. Usually I spend a while hunting for it before I remember I don’t own it!

library in summer NIAB

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

The newest And Other Stories turned up in the post last week – Black Vodka by Deborah Levy. I’m excited to read that as I really enjoyed Swimming Home. (Which I may well have bought on your recommendation, Simon, so thank you! It was so good, I subscribed!)

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

Oh, far too many. My wishlist is at least 100 titles long and that doesn’t count all the books I want because they’re pretty. Ahem.

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

Reasonably eclectic, quite literary but with some unusual stuff thrown in there, like my collections of the Modesty Blaise comic strips. I must admit that some of the more impressive titles, such as the Iliad and the Odyssey, I haven’t actually read, but I totally intend to. There will be time one day.

bedside book stack NIAB

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A big thank you to Kate for letting me grill her. Don’t forgot if you would like to participate (and I would love you to) in Other People’s Book Shelves series then drop me an email to savidgereads@gmail.com with the subject Other People’s Bookshelves, thanks in advance. In the meantime… what do you think of Kate’s responses and/or any of the books she mentioned?

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Savidge Reads Books of 2012 – Part One…

I was going to try and be really brave and break the habit of this blogs and just do a single top ten books of the year. I tried and tried and tried, and I failed. I simply couldn’t only have ten, in fact I actually had a top thirty roughly, but then I have read 167 books (Green Carnation submissions always bump this figure up, what will next year be like without them) this year so maybe that will make it slightly more understandable. So what I have done once again is have two top tens, one of the books published for the first time in the UK in 2012 and another with all the other books published before that – it is the latter we are focusing on today. For the full review click on the link, I have chosen a highlighting paragraph to tempt you for this post.

10. The Claude Glass by Tom Bullough

I really liked the fact Bullough creates this sense of place and people and wants you to work with him on building the bigger picture and using all the things unsaid along with tiny tensions to create the full narrative tale.  I think by now you will have probably guessed that I thought ‘The Claude Glass’ was an unusual and incredibly accomplished piece of writing, silently impressive and one that rewards you in many ways.

9. You’ll Be Sorry When I’m Dead by Marieke Hardy

‘You’ll Be Sorry When I Am Dead’ is one of those books which manages to make you laugh out loud, feel ever so uncomfortable at its honesty, possibly makes you want to cry and then makes you laugh all over again. When someone writes their memoirs it isn’t necessarily that the full truth doesn’t come out, just that the author tends to look at things in a rose tinted way, highlighting their best bits – not so in the case of Marieke.

8. Days of Grace by Catherine Hall

What I also really admired and loved about the book is that even though we have one narrator we have two stories. These are told in alternating chapters throughout the book. This device is one that is used often and normally I have to admit one story will overtake my interest as I read on. Not in the case of ‘Days of Grace’. I was desperate to know what was going to happen with Nora and Grace as the war went on both in idyllic Kent and the roughness and danger of London but I also wanted to know, just as much, what was going to happen with Nora in the present, her health and the relationship with Rose and her baby. Both stories had me intrigued and I think that was because Catherine Hall very cleverly has the stories mystery foreboding the past tense narrative and shadowing the present without us knowing what it is until the last minute.

7. The World That Was Ours – Hilda Bernstein

‘The World That Was Ours’ shows the power of books, writing, journalism and memoir. When it was published back in 1967 it was a dangerous book to release and there were many people who would have liked to see it destroyed. Thank goodness it found a publisher back then and thank goodness Persephone have chosen it as a book to reprint for us to discover because it is just the sort of book that everyone should read. I will be re-reading this again for definite.

6. Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan

You can feel the sense of unease on almost every page, both in a combination of the mystery of Hiero unraveling and war drawing nearer does give the book a slight thriller twist. If you think that is a negative thing it is not I promise you because Edugyan merges the literary elements of the novel with the tension and pace perfectly… and it stays with you long after you read it.

5. The Bottle Factory Outing by Beryl Bainbridge

There were so many things that I loved about Beryl Bainbridge’s writing that it might be hard to encompass them all, I will endeavour to try though. First of all is how much is in such a small book. At a mere 200 pages, and in fairly big print which could be devoured in a few hours, so much happens that when you have finished you find yourself recapping it all and thinking ‘did that all just happen in this book?’ There are funerals, hilarious seductions in cellars, hilarious seductions in a shared bedroom and a shared bathroom, a mother in law with a grudge to bear and a gun in her handbag, a fight in Windsor Castle, horse riding with the Queen’s funereal regiment, something awful on an outing which leads to a strange trip to a safari park, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

4. Never Mind by Edward St Aubyn

I always admire an author who can write beautifully and simply, an author who can create the most understated of melodramas will win me over. I also always admire an author who can write a passage that chills you before one that makes you laugh out loud and then another which horrifies you all over again. All these things are encompassed in Edward St Aubyn’s first Patrick Melrose novel ‘Never Mind’.

3. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

I don’t think I have yet read a piece of fiction which seems to encapsulate the entire breadth in which cancer can affect people and not just those in the eye of the storm it creates. Ness looks at the full spectrum of emotions for all those involved, from Conor, his mother and grandmother to those on the periphery such as Conor’s teachers. He takes these feeling and reactions, condenses them and then makes them readable, effecting, emotional and compelling in just over 200 pages. The monster itself is also an incredible character being utterly evil in many ways and yet having hints of goodness amongst the chaos he creates so that you are never quite sure if he is friend or foe.

2. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

I wouldn’t normally say that I was a reader who subscribes to adventure stories or love stories and yet Madeline Miller’s debut novel ‘The Song of Achilles’ is easily my favourite read of the year so far. The reason for this is simple, she’s a bloody good storyteller, a great writer and I think the enthusiasm she has for classics becomes contagious somewhere in the way she writes. Madeline Miller has made me want to run out and read more books with this book, what more can you ask from an author than that?

1.  Kiss Kiss by Roald Dahl

I think ‘Kiss Kiss’ will undoubtedly remain one of my favourite short story collections, and one that I will happily dip in and out of again and again in the future. It has that delightfully dark, yet awfully darkly funny, essence to it that I just really enjoy. It has made me want to go out and read all of Dahl’s other adult work (especially with the covers in this new series by Penguin) and also dig out my old childhood favourites which I am sure I will now see in a whole new light. I would definitely recommend that you read this collection if you haven’t, they are mini macabre masterpieces.

So that is my first top ten of 2012 and all the books I really, really loved published before this year that I read this year. Make sense? I do also want to mention ‘Now You See Me’ by S.J. Bolton, ‘Packing For Mars’ by Mary Roach (both of which I read for The Readers Summer Book Club and adored), ‘Persuasion’ by Jane Austen and ‘Great Expectations’ by Charles Dickens (both have been part of Classically Challenged and the latter of which I will be talking about tomorrow), all highly recommended.

So what about your what are your post-2012 books of 2012? Which of these have you read and what did you think? Any other books you would recommend you think I might like having loved the above? Do pop back for Part Two on Monday!

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Kiss Kiss – Roald Dahl

For years and years and years and years and years and years (you are getting the picture I am sure) people have been saying to me that I “simply must read some of the adult short stories by Roald Dahl”. For years and years and years and years and years and years I have been ignoring them. Why? Well I am not too sure. As a child I absolutely loved his stories and so in some weird way I think I had assumed that any adult fiction he had written might have a childish edge to it, oh how I am kicking myself now. It was after an episode of the Readers where I was waffling on, as usual, about a story I read as a kid that freaked me out about a man living in a house smelling of almonds that I got an email from a listener telling me it was probably ‘The Landlady’ by Roald Dahl from his collection of short stories ‘Kiss Kiss’. I looked it up and saw it was a collection of dark, disturbing, macabre and haunting tales and whoops I had clicked and bought it. I am so, so pleased that I did.

Penguin Books, paperback, 1960 (2011 edition), fiction, short stories, 303 pages, from my own personal TBR pile

‘Kiss Kiss’ is a collection of eleven of Roald Dahl’s tales, the only thing that really links them is that they are all really rather dark and have twists, some gory, some jaw drooping, some shocking, at the end that even if you loathe the main character will leave you wanting them not to get whatever awful comeuppance is coming to them, yes even when they might actually deserve it. What I wasn’t expecting, and what I really loved about them all, was just how dark they would be.

In a collection of eleven short stories you might, well if you are a bit of a cynic like me, expect there to be maybe one or two that you don’t like as much or ‘get’. I thought that pretty much every single story in ‘Kiss Kiss’ was a corker. Now I just have the mission of explaining why without giving anything away so that if you haven’t read them you will go and do so.

For me the best stories in the collection are the ones that I started reading with an initial sense of ‘hmmm this doesn’t seem new’. I won’t mention specific names as that might spoil them. There were tales, for example, starting with cheating wives, or doormat wives who lead meek lives under their husbands watchful gaze (which comes up in a few of the tales actually) yet what Dahl does is take these familiar tales or characters and completely turn them on their heads. I have discovered with a book or two this year is something I really enjoy and must find more books that do this for the wonderful surprise they give you.

I should really mention, before we go any further, the fact that after about three stories I had a strange feeling of déjà vu. I knew I had read ‘The Landlady’ at school in my first year of secondary school, and it was a memory of this tale that made me get the collection, and felt like ‘William and Mary’ was very familiar when an old school friend reminded me that we had in fact studied the lot. Somewhat understandably between the ages of eleven and almost thirty-one I had forgotten them all pretty much and so it was nice to have the twists still waiting for me and I could see why I would have loved them so much at that age as that sense of the macabre is clearly something I simply like and always have done. And what twisted endings these tales do have…

‘Pig’ left me feeling a little nauseous and also with my jaw placed firmly on the floor, simply never saw that coming. ‘Royal Jelly’ really surprised me with its twist, and oddly fascinated me with all the facts about bees Dahl threw in, and I was left wondering what happened next. I cheered for the comeuppance of some very naughty/underhand people in ‘Parson’s Pleasure’ and ‘The Way Up To Heaven’ despite how unpleasant it might have been.

I will admit that ‘Edward the Conqueror’ left me a little cold until the last paragraph, but that might have been the point though it seemed a lot of work for little reward unlike the others, and ‘The Champion of the World’ (which is indeed the original idea for the kids classic ‘Danny, The Champion of the World’) didn’t really set me racing through them like the others, but I did enjoy them.

I have to say in terms of favourites ‘The Landlady’ remains up there, even if it is not the very best tale, just for the nostalgic feeling and creeps it continues to give me in a slightly delicious way. I also thought that ‘Georgy Porgy’ (which is what we used to call a next door neighbour, now I know why) was one of the funniest tales and had a wry sense of humour that made me laugh out loud, and then giggle a lot. It was also another tale that made a joke of spinsters and men of the cloth which seemed a theme along with down trodden wives in this collection throughout. My very favourite though for the fact it is pure genius was ‘Genesis and Catastrophe – A True Story’; a tale of a woman whose babies all die but one survives and the twist blew my mind. Brilliant!

“The next day it was Miss Unwin. Now Miss Unwin happened to be a close friend of Miss Elphinstone’s and of Miss Prattley’s, and this of course should have been enough to make me very cautious. Yet who would have thought that she of all people, Miss Unwin, that quiet gentle little mouse who only a few weeks before had presented me with a new hassock exquisitely worked in needle point with her own hands, who would have thought that she would ever have taken a liberty with anyone? So when she asked me to accompany her down to the crypt to show her the Saxon murals, it never entered my head that there was devilry afoot. But there was.”

I think ‘Kiss Kiss’ will undoubtedly remain one of my favourite short story collections, and one that I will happily dip in and out of again and again in the future. It has that delightfully dark, yet awfully darkly funny, essence to it that I just really enjoy. It has made me want to go out and read all of Dahl’s other adult work (especially with the covers in this new series by Penguin) and also dig out my old childhood favourites which I am sure I will now see in a whole new light. I would definitely recommend that you read this collection if you haven’t, they are mini macabre masterpieces.

Who else has read ‘Kiss Kiss’ and what did you think? Which of his other collections or adult novels would you recommend I try next?

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Filed under Books of 2012, Penguin Books, Review, Roald Dahl, Short Stories

Books By The Bedside #6

I am just sorting out which books to take with me back to Matlock while I go and look after Granny Savidge for a while and thought it might be quite timely to share with you the books on my reading periphery at the moment. I have noticed that reviews are piling up at rather an alarming rate at the moment, especially now I can talk about any of the Green Carnation Prize books submitted apart from the shortlisted ones. So while you might not see my thoughts on the books below for a while here is what I am getting my reading tackle around currently…

The first was a book I ran out and bought (okay, I didn’t run I just went online and got it for a bargain) as on the Halloween special of The Readers I waffled on about a short story, about a man who moves into a house that smells of almonds, that really freaked me out but I had no idea what it was. Big thanks to Goodreads member Kristin who knew it was Roald Dahl’s ‘The Landlady’ and I have read it and been freaked out all over again and am really enjoying ‘Kiss Kiss’ as a very odd collection. More on it soon…

Second and third up are books that might seem a little morbid with all that is going on and yet I think will be proof that books can help you in difficult times. ‘Mortality’ by Christopher Hitchens is a book that AJ has raved about and then Karyn recommended I try with everything going on, as it is Hitchens’ memoirs/essays that he wrote for Vanity Fair after he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Here he shares everything he goes through from that point and I have heard that whilst I might not agree with him and his views his writing is incredible. Another book that has recently arrived is ‘The End of Your Life Book Club’ by Will Schwalbe, this is an account of the conversations he had with his mother as she was having treatment and then dying of cancer about books as something else to discuss and yet at the same time use to address what was going on. Oddly Gran and I mainly talk about books at the moment, sometimes books really can mirror your life.

The book I really want to pick up after these two is ‘Gossip from the Forest’ by Sara Maitland. I hadn’t heard of the book until I caught up with a recent episode of the BBC Book Cafe where she took one of the presenters around a wood talking about the history of forests and fairytales and where the two meet and how forests inspired the latter. This is exactly what this book is all about and as a big, big fan of both forests and fairytales this sounds like one of those rare non-fiction books I might actually ‘get’.

The final book on the bedside is one that I mentioned in my library loot vlog post. If there is one thriller that I have noticed seems to have the word of mouth buzz, rather than publisher hype, then it is ‘Gone Girl’ by Gillian Flynn which sounds like an ideal escapist thrilling read which I could do with right now. So I think I will be packing all of these for my trip to Grans where we have already agreed we will have some reading time together as she isn’t getting enough. Like I would say no to that!

So which of these titles have you read and what are you reading right now? What have you been reading and what might you read next?

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What Were You Doing On World Book Night?

Sorry for a belated World Book Night post, I meant to post last night but I was rather shattered after the wonderful event that Waterstones Deansgate, in the heart of Manchester, put on last night. It was a night of book readings and book swapping… And quite a lot of booze!

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This was all good with me as I needed some Dutch courage before I got up as the sixth person to read, naturally I was reading from Daphne Du Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’ which I was giving some copies of away. I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous. I’m glad I did it though.

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I also ended up getting my hands on a book myself. I loved Roald Dahl as a child but interestingly I have never read his adult novels or short stories, and now I will.

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So what did you get up to?

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Thanks Mum, For Making Me Read

If I am honest I do think that Mothering Sunday, which is upon us here in the UK, is actually a big mass of cash spinning marketing. If you like your Mum, tell her when you see her or speak to her, if you don’t like her then don’t tell her, or see her. Ha! Anyway, that aside I thought it might actually be a nice idea to do a post about my mother considering without her influence I wouldn’t be the reader I am today and I am not sure I have ever thanked her for that in person, so I thought I would do it publically. She’ll be embarrassed but that is what sons are for or is that what parents are for? Either way…

My mother (that’s her there —>) had me at the age of 16 years old back in 1982, in fact almost 30 years ago to the week how apt (apparently she is ‘fine, yes fine, why do you ask’ about being 46 and having a soon to be 30 year old son). Not that it was the dark ages, but at that time not only was it a rather shocking occurrence it was also one that could curtail your studies and career, especially if you were going to be a single mum, as my Mum was even though she had the support of my grandparents. This wasn’t to be the case with my mum, she carried on her studies and took me with her to Newcastle where she gained a degree in Classics. I always say that having been to university from the ages of three to six is why I didn’t feel the need to go myself, excuses, excuses.

It is at university that my first memories of Mum reading to me are the strongest. I can vividly remember, after me throwing matchbox toy cars at her head to wake her up at 6am, the joy of getting into bed with her in the morning and being read children’s classics like the Ladybird Fairytales, Roald Dahl, Jill Murphy and the seminal works of ‘The Adventures of He-Man’ or ‘The Adventures of She-Ra’. It was also at this point books really took on a life of their own when she would read me the stories my granddad wrote and illustrated for me, which even featured me in them (and a certain Novel Insights who I had befriended aged 4), about the tales of a witch called Esmeralda and all her friends. You can see them below and read about them further here.

Studying Classics meant I also got the entire myths and legends from the Greeks and indeed the Romans regularly, I don’t know if it was because of her enthusiasm for the subject or if it helped her revise, in fact most nights. I seem to remember this is when ‘The Saga of Erik the Viking’ by Terry Jones appeared on the scene and was read often along with the nonetheless epic ‘Flat Stanley’. However it was an illustrated edition of the story of Persephone which I vividly remember from the time and would read over and over. I lost the love for Classics when I became a teenager and my Mum was teaching it at my school, odd that, but it’s nice to see it has recently been awakened by Madeline Miller’s ‘The Song of Achilles’ where the joy of reading about the gods, goddesses and monsters (I had a moment of utter joy when a centaur first graced the pages of this book) has been reignited. More on that tomorrow…

The library was a  place we always went regularly, as were charity shops. I remember once buying a new version of the story of Perseus from Oxfam for 50p, Mum opening it impressed and then seeing the joy drain from her face as she swiftly returned it, it seemed it was a rather over racy (Perseus does porn kind of thing) version of the story and not really appropriate for a young boy of eleven. Sherlock Holmes was though, and as my great uncle memorised them on walking holidays to stop me being bored, we would pop to Waterstones (a real treat) on the way home after she had picked me up to get a new collection, this was also when we fell upon Robin Jarvis and ‘The Whitby Witches’.

A year or so later Mum gave me my first proper grown up book in the form of ‘Perfume’ by Patrick Suskind, I wonder if my Nancy Drew obsession that summer when we went to Africa had made her worried I would end up with no taste – I still like a crime. Her attitude was if I was going to start reading grown up literature it had to be the good stuff. This was followed by attempts to lead me to Margaret Atwood but I wasn’t biting. I was studying books, and whilst my Mum might have become a good English teacher, my English teacher (one of her colleagues, oops) was slowly taking all the joy out of reading and after I left school early I avoided books like the plague. Mum had laid the foundations though.

In fact looking back whenever I ended up living back at home, which happened a few times after some particularly bad relationship decisions I made and their tumultuous endings, Mum would let me have a good cry and suggest ‘maybe pick up a book’. This could have been to show me books are always there for you, or it could have been to provide some escape, or she maybe just wanted me to stop crying and leave her alone, ha. Whatever the reason though at times of turmoil bookshelves and books would be in my head, even if I wasn’t rushing out to buy them, and they still are. When things have turned to the proverbial, pick up a good book, or a bad one.

Nowadays of course when we see each other books are one of the main things we talk about – who cares how the other one of us is, what we have been reading is far more important. Our tastes can be bang on (Anne Tyler, Margaret Atwood, Samantha Harvey) or completely polar (Susan Hill, owning a Kindle) but we both love books and really that’s down to her, with some help from Gran too of course. It’s nice seeing she has done the same with my thirteen year old sister (though Twilight, really?) and eleven year old brother (Harry Potter ‘which he is reading quicker than me and won’t wait’) and she continues to do so as an English teacher, in a school where kids aren’t generally fans of books but they will be, or else.

So thank you Mum for giving me the gift of books, the encouragement to read and forcing me into the library when sometimes I didn’t want to go. Look what it lead to. Happy Mothers Day.

You can read my Mums favourite books here and see her get a readers grilling here.

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The Daydreamer – Ian McEwan

After the joy of reading the ‘cross-over’ book Tuck Everlasting I had been wanting to try another one and see if it got to me in the same way. I am not talking Twilight which I know is all the rage, I am talking crossover books that take me back to my childhood favourites such a Roald Dahl. I had turned for another one of the short reads I have been reading amongst the sensation season novels of late and saw that not only was one of them by one of my favourite authors it was also another ‘cross-over’ book and had the quote, by Vogue, “as far fetched and funny as anything by Roald Dahl” so I thought ‘well, why not?’

The Daydreamer is actually Peter Fortune a young boy who though people might see as quite and a little bit subdued, dull and distant is actually a boy who has such an over active imagination he often vanishes off into the land of daydreaming. In fact Peter does this so often that he tends to forget everything around him, what the time is, what day it might be or even who he actually is. In fact it is this part of his personality that makes people label him difficult when really what he is harbouring is actually quite a talent.

After being introduced to Peter which is a comic little opener to the book we then in the following chapters, which read like individual short stories, get to see just how his imagination goes off with him in some wonderfully surreal tales. One day his sister Katie’s evil dolls one day turn on him and try and make him one of them when he gets his own room. One day he swaps places with his very old cat and goes around showing the local cats just who is boss. One day he manages to get rid of all of his family. One day he manages to catch the local burglar causing a suburban wave of fear during a crime spree down The Fortunes road.

In fact what the book is also looking at is things from the eyes of children for adults that read it and through the eyes of others for children that read it. For example The Cat looks at loss and mortality (it is quite sad be warned), The Baby looks at things through a babies eyes and tries to deal with jealousy of older children and The Grown Up looks at the future and sort of touches on puberty and trying to understand adults a bit more which for a child must be a mystery. You could call these modern fables in a way but all done with a human angle whilst being sometimes quirky, sometimes surreal, sometimes humorous, sometimes sad, sometimes disturbing and yet always very entertaining.  

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would actually recommend that you all give this a go especially if you think you don’t really like McEwan, he appears to be a bit of a marmite author I personally am yet to read anything by him I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed. It shows just how much thought McEwan puts into all of his works in terms of getting into differing characters heads.

This book is actually now ten years old but seems incredibly fresh and undated and was a work of his that I hadn’t heard of before and so has been a delightful little find. Which in a way links with my post from the other day about all works by an author… isn’t it lovely when you discover that they have published a book that a) you didn’t own b) hadn’t read and c) had never even heard of? Lovely stuff! Has this ever happened to you with one of you favourite authors? How do you rate cross-over fiction and indeed the author Ian McEwan?

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Filed under Books of 2009, Ian McEwan, Review, Vintage Books

The Boy in the Dress – David Walliams

It’s always a bit worrying when a celebrity decides to write a novel, firstly are they actually writing the novel and secondly just because they are famous does that mean that they can actually write? Well in the case of David Walliams yes he did write the book and yes he can indeed write and very well too.

The Boy in the Dress is a tale about Dennis, he is different, and why is he different? “Well a small clue might be in the title of this book.” I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Dennis is not only dealing with the fact that his Mum left the family when he was young, his family don’t talk about her and they don’t really communicate or show emotion as it’s not deemed as manly. Dennis also likes dresses and when he finds Vogue things really change.

Walliams deals with the subject very sensitively whilst also with great humour and most importantly in a way that kids (and adults) will enjoy. It isn’t just the fact that the illustrations are by Quentin Blake that whilst you’re reading it you are reminded of a modern version of Roald Dahl. The humour helps but it’s the way the book progresses with the hero’s and the villains and the school mentality which in some ways reminded me of Matilda. I loved Roald Dahl as a child and think that legions of children will love this book. I only hope that Walliams doesn’t stop the book writing at novel number one.

A short review I know but it’s a very short book and at the same time I don’t want to give too much away. All I will say is that I was touched by this book and found myself laughing the whole way through. I would recommend this to anyone who has kids or who wants a read that cheers you up in the few hours it will take to read.

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