Tag Archives: Sadie Jones

The Uninvited Guests – Sadie Jones

It isn’t really the time of year to curl up with a truly spooky ghost story, and yet sometimes I do want something a little surreal and supernatural to escape into. Having heard various reports about Sadie Jones third novel ‘The Uninvited Guests’, and having kindly been sent a spare copy from Simon of Stuck in a Book a while back, I thought this would be just the kind of book for me at just the right moment.

Chatto and Windus, hardback, 2012, fiction, 272 pages, kindly sent by Simon T of Stuck-in-a-Book

In the country house of Sterne, somewhere on the outskirts of Manchester, it is the last day of April 1912; it is a big day for the Torrington family. Firstly it is Emerald’s, the middle child of the family, 20th Birthday and she is lost in the preparations of what she hopes will be her most fabulous birthday party yet. It is also an important day for the family as Edward, the head of the family, is off to Manchester on urgent business, business that could save the family. As day progresses into night there is an awful train crash nearby, the survivors of which are sent to Sterne filling the house with rather odd strangers, one in particular who will make himself especially well known to the whole family with some rather ulterior motives.

That is all I can say for the premise without giving anything away, well, apart from the fact that the youngest daughter of the household, Smudge (a rare delightfully precocious fictional child), has also seen this night as the perfect night for her ‘Great Undertaking’ which adds much humour to the novel, rather than the sinister possibilities the title conjures. Smudge was one of the characters that really made this book for me, even if the storyline was utterly farcical and it is the characters that set this book alight for the reader. Charlotte, who is rather at the crux of the story, is the mistress of the house and is utterly wonderful to watch as she starts gaily making merry of the day only to become more bitter and bitchy as the day goes on and on.

This is the other aspect of the book that I really admired. Nothing is initially what it appears. The Torrington’s themselves are not straight forward, Smudge is indeed the only child of Charlotte and Edward, Clovis (the only character I didn’t care much for) and Emerald being from Charlotte’s previous marriage and while Sterne initially seems a grand Edwardian estate it is in fact crumbling all around the edges, facades are slipping left right and centre and I don’t just mean with the house. Also with the mysterious stranger I started guessing just who he was from his arrival, changing my mind continuously and by the end having been proven wrong every time.

Sadie Jones also throws in a wonderful sense of humour to the book, occasionally dark and biting sometimes light and a little camp, yet the book never slips into a full blown farcical camp bit of nonsense which it could easily have done in the wrong hands.

I love ghost stories and I love books set in rather crumbling old houses. ‘The Uninvited Guests’ really does hit the spot on both levels. It isn’t a book that will have you shaking with fear, though there are some uneasy sinister parts to the book, but it might have you shaking with laughter at the barbed words between its characters and the situation as it gets more and more surreal. Like Julian Clary’s ‘Briefs Encountered’, which I read earlier this year, this is a ghostly book one set out to entertain rather than scare. I saw someone review another book very positively recently calling it an ‘entertainment’ and now I know just what they meant.

I haven’t read any of Sadie Jones other novels yet. I have heard that this is a very different novel to her previous ones though, I am intrigued. Have any of you read this or have you read, and would recommend, any of Sadie Jones’ other novels? I am rather keen to give them a whirl after this one.

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The Actual Orange Prize Longlist 2010

So here it is the actual Orange Prize List and ok so it doesn’t really resemble my list from yesterday (and before anyone asks I have no idea whats going on with images on the site today – apols) in anyway shape or form but I did actually guess 6 and mentioned ‘The Little Stranger’ and am indeed kicking myself as I thought that ‘Black Mamba Boy’ might get in there and didn’t pop it in my final 20. I would have guessed 8 then… though that still isn’t half the list, ha!

Anyway in the name of fun I have popped the ones I actually guessed in italics and the ones that I have actually read, all two and a half of them, in bold and then the ones I own (though I think a couple of these I don’t are on the way to Savidge Towers) and might read, no pressure if I don’t, before the winner is announced have stars next to them.

Rosie Alison – The Very Thought of You (Alma Books)
Eleanor Catton – The Rehearsal (Granta)
Clare Clark – Savage Lands (Harvill Secker)*
Amanda Craig – Hearts and Minds (Little, Brown)
Roopa Farooki – The Way Things Look to Me (Pan Books)
Rebecca Gowers – The Twisted Heart (Canongate)
M.J. Hyland – This is How (Canongate)
Sadie Jones – Small Wars (Chatto & Windus)*
Barbara Kingsolver – The Lacuna (Faber and Faber)
Laila Lalami – Secret Son (Viking)
Andrea Levy – The Long Song (Headline Review)*
Attica Locke – Black Water Rising (Serpent’s Tail)
Maria McCann – The Wilding (Faber and Faber)
Hilary Mantel – Wolf Hall (Fourth Estate)*
Nadifa Mohamed – Black Mamba Boy (HarperCollins)*
Lorrie Moore – A Gate at the Stairs (Faber and Faber)
Monique Roffey – The White Woman on the Green Bicycle (Simon and Schuster)
Amy Sackville – The Still Point (Portobello Books)
Kathryn Stockett – The Help (Fig Tree)*
Sarah Waters – The Little Stranger (Virago)*

What do you think of the list? It’s given me food for thought.

Do you think Wolf Hall will just clear up again? Could Lorrie Moore’s first full novel win? Is this Sarah Waters year? And what about those left off? I am gutted not to see Evie Wyld on the list and could actually have a small wobbly about it, but I shan’t – its not dignified. What about Margaret Atwood’s lacking presence? Which other books would you have loved to see on there but haven’t?

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Guessing The Orange Prize Longlist 2010

I do like a good guessing game, I can almost guarantee I will always be pretty much wrong but I still like to have a go anyway. The last bookish year saw me trying and failing (though I did better than the previous year) to guess the Man Booker Longlist (I did guess the winner though) and the winner of the Orange Longlist both of which I got wrong. It is my dream to one day be on a book prize panel of some sort and as it will never be the Orange I thought I would list you what I would put forward before the actual 20 are announced tomorrow. I haven’t read them all but really want to, all bar two I haven’t read are on my TBR.

It was quite hard choosing though as the books can’t be translated, have to have been published in the UK between the 1st April 2009 and 31st March 2010 (one book in my list is due out on both the 31st of March and 1st of April depending where you look so it may not make it, I went under the assumption that the 31st was correct) and all must be novels, no novellas. 

I have popped them all alphabetically in order of author surname so as you can’t guess my favourites…

   

Ms. Hempel Chronicles – Sarah Shun-lien Bynum
The Rehearsal – Eleanor Catton
War on the Margins – Libby Cone
Isa and May – Margaret Forster

   

How To Paint A Dead Man – Sarah Hall
Blueeyedboy – Joanne Harris
Dog Boy – Eva Hornung
Small Wars – Sadie Jones

   

The Long Song – Andrea Levy
Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel
The Confessions of Edward Day – Valerie Martin
A Gate At The Stairs – Lorrie Moore

    

White is for Witching – Helen Oyeyemi
Where The Serpent Lives – Ruth Padel
The Boy Next Door – Irene Sabatini
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand – Helen Simonson

   

The Help – Kathryn Stockett
Trespass – Rose Tremain
Dancing Backwards – Salley Vickers
After The Fire, A Still Small Voice – Evie Wyld

I will say another two titles were fighting for a place in the top twenty and they were ‘Black Mamba Boy’ by Nadifa Mohamed and ‘The Rapture’ by Liz Jensen so if the judges pick either of these then I will be kicking myself. I also originally had ‘A Beginners Guide To Acting English’ by Shappi Khorsandi not realising it was a memoir (have now seen the very tiny word on the back of the book, thank you Justine! You see it started off being quite tough and then I kept thinking of ‘just one more’ several times.

You might notice some big contenders of last year are missing from my list, titles such as Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood’, Sarah Water’s ‘The Little Stranger’, Audrey Niffenegger’s ‘Her Fearful Symmetry’ and A. S. Byatt’s ‘The Children’s Book’ (though I don’t think she allows hers to be put forward) all four of which I read last year and thought were very good I just think they have had enough publicity already. You could say the same for Wolf Hall but I adored it more than very much liking it so it made my selection. It wouldn’t be a shock or a scandal to see any of those on the list though. 

So will I be anywhere near right? Quite unlikely, would be hilarious if I was though. What about all of you, what do you think might be seen on the Longlist this year? I am not planning on intentionally reading whatever the final twenty or even the short listed titles are, is anyone else?

Note: This was a post I scheduled the other week and I didn’t realise Jackie was doing one too which you can see over at Farmlanebooks if you havent already. Let me know if any more of you are doing this!

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Elementary Dear Oscar

Last night was my first visit to the goings on at Wimbledon Bookfest. Now believe it or not I have never been to a book festival before, I know isn’t that shocking for someone who loves books so much? So I didn’t really know what to expect or what the whole thing would be like. I was intrigued, excited and as The Converted One had refused to come feeling slightly like a sad billy no mates. However when you are in a theatre people aren’t there to look at you are they, they are there to look at the stage. I always say this about going to the cinema alone which is something I love doing, oh dear painting rather a sad picture of myself, some people hate it.

I couldnt take a picture of him talking as theatre rules dont allow!

I couldn't take a picture of him talking as theatre rules dont allow!

So my first event at a book festival had something of a sensational era twist about it which I thought was just perfect both for my current reading and just because the whole late 1800’s fascinates me. It was a talk by Gyles Brandreth, at the Polka Theatre, all about his Oscar Wilde mysteries. I have only so far read the first in the series Oscar Wilde and The Candlelight Murders but have had the second one, Oscar Wilde and The Ring of Death, waiting in the wings for quite a while.

I wondered just how a modern author could put themselves into that historical era and make everything so real. Gyles admitted he had trouble and actually Oscars grandson phoned him after reading the first book and said ‘Oh Gyles why oh why have you done this, you have done something dreadful’ which of course left Gyles very worried ‘you let Oscar drink Bollinger… it wasn’t made until the 1920’s and he only drank Perrier Jouet’ which made us all laugh, and showed how much research needs to be done into the era. Laughter was a theme as Gyles Brandreth discussed his diaries which are soon to become a memoir ‘Something Sensational To Read On The Train’.

The part I was there for was all things Victoriana and it soon came as Gyles discussed how reading The Trails of Oscar Wilde had lead him to find a real hero as well as having his fictional hero Sherlock Holmes as a young man. When he went to boarding school he became a friend of the founder who he played Scrabble against once a week and who turned out to be one of Oscar Wilde’s oldest friends and illuminated him to the life of Oscar without the scandal and painted a portrait of a man many could not say they had met.

It was when a few years ago reading a biography of Arthur Conan Doyle that he found the two had met in a hotel invited by an American publisher looking for murder mysteries to publish. The two became great friends and two legendary books were created ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ and ‘A Study In Scarlet’. The friendship and that evening is what inspired Gyles to write the Oscar Wilde Mysteries where Conan Doyle plays sidekick to Wilde’s amateur detective role which has now spawned a series.

Why the Victorian era for the basis of his fiction apart from the two main characters? “I love being lost in it. It was such a time of great change and great drama. It was a time when six men would meet at a table, some unpublished at the time, for a dinner club. These six men included Arthur Conan Doyle, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, and J.M. Barrie. What was it in that fog of London during that time that made it such a creative era, it must be what makes modern authors go back and live it in order to be even more creative themselves.”   

A fascinating evening and a delightful first taste of book festivals. I am now very excited about Kamila Shamsie on Friday and Tom Rob Smith on Saturday, also annoyed missing Chris Cleave tomorrow and Sadie Jones on Wednesday but focus on the positive. I definitely need to go to more and shall do, which are the best ones? I also managed to get my copy of the second in the series signed and should really stop typing and get on with reading it…

A Savidge Reads Signed Oscar Wilde Mystery

Now before I do dash off I have something of a competition for you which involves the Bookfest. I have a spare ticket on Friday night to see the wonderful Kamila Shamsie talk about the wonderful, wonderful ‘Burnt Shadows’ and wondered if any of you would like it? It does mean spending about two hours with me which could be a downside ha! So if you can be in Wimbledon for 7pm and have read it and loved it, could read it by Friday but haven’t yet or are desperate to read it then do enter in comments either with a link to your review (I will be checking your reviews were positive – or why would you want to be there ha) or saying why you are desperate to read the book and The Converted One Will do a draw by 9pm tomorrow! Good luck, I may cry if no one wants to spend a few hours with me though! Ha!

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Should Have Reads 2008

So whilst putting the final touches to the Savidge Dozen (or my version of the best books of 2009 in my humble opinion) I have been going through the books I have read and been sent or bought and of course the ones that I haven’t managed to read. So I thought I would do my own top ten of books that I haven’t managed to read but will be showing their faces in the first few months of 2009. I wonder if any of them will be in the Should Have Reads 2009, what a depressing thought, swiftly moving on…

The Top Ten Should Have Reads 2008

1. The Secret Scripture – Sebastian BarryThe

2. Child 44 – Tom Rob Smith
3. Love In A Cold Climate – Nancy Mitford
4. Story Of Forgetting – Stefan Merrill Block
5. The Outcast – Sadie Jones
6. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
7. The Little Friend – Donna Tartt
8. My Cousin Rachel – Daphne Du Maurier
9. Bonk – Mary Roach
10. Company of Liars – Karen Maitland (as didn’t finish it this year)

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Filed under Book Thoughts, Daphne Du Maurier, Leo Tolstoy, Mary Roach, Nancy Mitford, Sebastian Barry, Tom Rob Smith