Tag Archives: Sarah Hall

Man Booker Prize 2015 Longlist Predictions…

Sorry I couldn’t come up with a more snazzy title than that this morning but having just spent a good hour or two going through my bookshelves, both of the books I have read this year and the ones I have yet to (which made me have a moment of weeping from the shame), so my brain is slightly frazzled. The reason I was doing this exercise was to see which books I thought would make it onto the Man Booker Longlist tomorrow, always a fun game which many people have joined in with already. I must say, before I reveal the list, there is no way on earth I think I am a) anywhere near right b) in a position where I feel I should be c) am not sure I want to be anywhere near right as I like the surprise of new to me books. How can any of us, unless we are one of the judges or the administration team, have a clue? I have just gone on books I have read and loved and books that I really want to read that I can see as being ‘Booker’ books, whatever that is – let’s not open up that can of worms! So here goes…

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A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara
All Involved – Ryan Gattis
The Good Son – Paul McVeigh
Girl At War – Sara Novic
A Brief History of Seven Killings – Marlon James
TheWallcreeper – Nell Zink

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I Saw A Man – Owen Sheers
At Hawthorn Time – Melissa Harrison
The Wolf Border – Sarah Hall
The Well – Catherine Chanter
Tender – Belinda McKeon
Us Conductors – Sean Michaels

Note, I am missing one and that is because I don’t have it. I think The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma could also be on the list, it is one I am very eager to read at some point. Now you may be thinking ‘hang on a minute sunshine whatabout x, y or z’ well these lists are tricky and you can only go with your gut but I did have another 11 that I could have had on that list which at the moment I purged I thought could go either way…

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Yes, I know those are a pile of nine books but I cannot find my copy of The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan and Kate Atkinson’s A God in Ruins is on a very high shelf (yes those shelves in the picture above go on up very very very high) and I couldn’t reach it without getting chairs involved and all sorts. I loved A God in Ruins but I wonder if the clever sneaky very subtle twist will be a marmite effect as I know lots of people who (because clearly they have hearts made from coal surrounded by ice, ha) were left slightly unmoved by it. Anyway, any of the above and aforementioned, if not pictured, I would like to see on the list very much indeed. Though as I have mentioned part of the joy of it is the surprise that may await us.

Would I have a tantrum if any of these weren’t on the list? Possibly with A Little Life, which might be one of my books of a lifetime, and All Involved because I think Gattis has written a fascinating insight into gang culture which puts you on a roller-coaster from start to finish (unputdownable would be the cliche I would use if I could, oh… I have) and is crafted and characterised beautifully, and A God In Ruins will ruin you, if you have a normal person’s heart – hehehe. Annoyingly I have only reviewed the Atkinson as the other two will be on You Wrote The Book in due course so am holding off till then. Oh, I am rambling, let us wrap up. What I can say is that I am very excited about tomorrows list and will be awaiting it with much interest.

If you would like to see more guesses there are some at A Case For Books, A Life in Books, Farm Lane Books and over at Neil D. A. Stewart’s blog. Oh and if you want a whole different list you can vote on then check out the Not The Booker Longlist 2015 too. Now over to you, what do you think of the books I have chosen (have you read any?) and which books are you hoping will make the list and why? Let me know if you have had a go at predicting tomorrows list.

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The Long Weekend; What Are We All Reading?

Here in the UK we are about to have the first of our Bank Holiday weekends (I don’t count Easter as a Bank Holiday, in fact I have never looked up why we have Bank Holidays and simply enjoyed them, maybe I should?) meaning we have an extra day off, which naturally is used by the sane of us to do lots more reading than we normally would. Yes, even those of us who have been judging books like crazy. Whilst I am still in reading mode for Fiction Uncovered (get ready for a longlist next week) I have decided to use this Bank Holiday as a holiday from those books and catch up with some books I have been meaning to read since they arrived here at Savidge Reads HQ. After rummaging through my shelves I have decided on this selection of books to keep me company over the next three days…

Some light weekend reading, guarded by Henry the Cushion Cat

Some light weekend reading, guarded by Henry the Cushion Cat

Now I might not read all of them, especially as one of them is ******* huge and another pretty large, but as The Beard is away working the whole three days I thought that I would go for a couple of epics. Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life has been getting some serious chatter over in America (Ann Kingman who I trust implicitly, along with Michael Kindness of course, has raved about it with no spoilers here) and while not out here until August the proof has been daring me to read it for a good few weeks now. The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall is another I have been meaning to read for a while, set in countryside of the Lake District this is a tale of a woman who has come back to the old home town she fled a very different person than when she left, oh and is trying to bring wolves back into their former habitat… sounds right up my street.

Long time visitors of the blog will know I love Kate Atkinson and A God in Ruins is the ‘alongside/accompanying’ novel to Life After Life which I thought was bloody marvellous. It is out next week and I want to get to it before it is talked about too much. Speaking of talked about, Elena Ferrante has been an author who has becoming something of a cult with lots and lots and lots and lots of the people I trust around the booksphere, My Brilliant Friend is the first of her much acclaimed Neapolitan Novels and frankly I wouldn’t mind escaping to Italy, so time to try her out. I will report back on what I manage to get through in due course, before all that though I am off to see Child 44 (the book is so good, I hope the film is so good too) tonight…

What about all of you? What are you reading or planning to read over the weekend, be it a long one or not?

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Mrs Fox – Sarah Hall

I was discussing the idea of my reading shorter fiction over the summer with a colleague recently when they asked ‘but what can make a short story better than a novel?’ Now of course any answer to any bookish question is going to be subjective to every reader, I was flummoxed though. I couldn’t give a definite answer. Then I happened to read Mrs Fox, after rediscovering an old interview I did with Sarah Hall and was going through her bibliography and getting a copy almost immediately as it sounded like another foxy tale I had read, and was vividly reminded of why (in the right hands) it is sometimes the shorter a book is the more intense the experience.

Faber & Faber, paperback, 2013, fiction, 48 pages, bought by myself

Mr Fox is in love with his wife, as any husband should be. However love sometimes seems to almost go to the level of obsession as he ponders the woman who is his and yet remains somewhat distance and unattainable because there is an air of mystery and the unknown about her no matter how intimate they are. Their life is a contained, comfortable and routine one, though like all the best stories we know that a change is coming, quite literally, to the Fox household and routine will soon be a thing of the past.

He wears nothing to sleep in; neither does his wife, but she has showered, her hair is damp, darkened to wheat. Her skin is incredibly soft; there is no corrugation on her rump. Her pubic hair is harsh when it dries; it crackles against his palm, contrasts strangely with what’s inside. A mystery he wants to solve every night. There are positions they favour, that feel and make them appear unusual to each other. The trick is to remain slightly detached. The trick is to be able to bite, to speak in a voice not your own. Afterwards, she goes to the bathroom, attends to herself, and comes back to bed. His sleep is blissful, dreamless.

Sarah Hall has a wonderful way of describing all this. There is the almost erotic compulsion as Mr Fox thinks about his wife, along with a feeling of something being rather out of place from the start as if she shouldn’t really be with him and if not why not? There is a matter of fact tone, and I don’t mean monotone, throughout the tale which makes it seem all the more real even though something magical and unusual is around the corner. There is also a real charge to the writing too, it’s very earthy and raw which I really liked.

There is of course a transformation coming which no matter how inevitable it seems as you read on (and you can probably guess what this might be) which is deftly crafted by Sarah Hall. For a start you don’t want the lovely Mr Fox having his life broken into pieces, you empathise with him and how much he loves his wife. Yet at the same time without knowing Mrs Fox, who remains a real enigma throughout, you feel life and nature should take their course. When it does it is wonderfully creepy and rather sinister, which naturally I liked rather a lot.

She turns her head and smiles. Something is wrong with her face. The bones have been recarved. Her lips are thin and her nose is a dark blade. Teeth small and yellow. The lashes of her hazel eyes have thickened and her brows are drawn together, an expression he has never seen, a look that is almost craven. A trick of kiltering light on this English autumn morning. The deep cast of shadows from the canopy. He blinks. She turns to face the forest again.

As well as being unnerving I found the book incredibly moving. To watch as Mr Fox’s idyllic (to him, you are never sure of Mrs Fox’s view on things really) suburban household is torn apart as nature takes over and his world destroyed it heart breaking. Obsession and luck turning to grief and despair especially when he sees his wife again (no spoilers, but it is very moving) is pitch perfect, Hall playing with all our experiences of loss and subtly ramming it home – if that is possible.

It also brings up the age old, and always fascinating, question of how well we know our partners. What secrets do they have to hide? Can we ever really know someone or what they are thinking? Can we get too comfortable with our lives and too routine, taking everything for granted. It also seemed to particularly bring up the question of who we end up with and if we can ever really believe someone wants to spend the rest of their life with us? Are we worthy? Much to ponder indeed.

Mrs Fox of course reminded me of the equally marvellous Lady Into Fox by David Garnett which it is loosely based on. Now Lady into Fox is short but Mrs Fox is even shorter and I think that makes the book all the more intense as you read on. I am not saying that this is a ‘better’ version, because I would recommend you read both frankly, but there is something much less twee in Hall’s description which sits it all the more in reality whilst of course still being very magical and other.

I loved Mrs Fox. It has reminded me how much I enjoy a really well written (it should be noted that this won the BBC National Short Story Award 2013, I can see why) and crafted short story, the power and the intensity they have. It has also reminded me how much I loved Sarah Hall’s writing when I read her short story collection The Beautiful Indifference which for some reason I never reviewed, giving me the perfect opportunity to go back and re-read them all again. So all in all highly recommended! I believe some bookshops still have it in stock as a (very) small standalone book, if not I believe it is also available on the devil’s device for a small sum, which would be well spent.

Which short stories would you recommend because they pack as good, if not better, a punch as novels? Any particular authors who are stand out for shorter fiction? Which Sarah Hall novel should I give a whirl after I have re-read The Beautiful Indifference – which incidentally you can hear Sarah talking to me about here. All recommendations and thoughts welcome as always…

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When Did I Become A Multi-Reader (and the Reading Conundrum)?

Once upon a time if someone told me they read more than one book at once I would always be astonished, if I am totally honest a slight wince or sneer might even have been seen to pass like a shadow across my face, they could do it. I could never understand how anyone could keep up with that many books, until now that is…

You see since the start of 2012 I have not completed many novels (not that reading is ever a race but I do have a general reading pace) yet I have read a whole host of short stories and essays.

For example at present I have four books on the go at the moment, though only one of them is a novel, and they are as shown…

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Both Dan Rhodes ‘Dont Tell Me The Truth About Love’ and Sarah Hall’s ‘The Beautiful Indifference’ are collections of short stories. I was just reading Sarah’s on and off but then I started reading ‘Bereft’ by Chris Womersley, the only novel in the mix, and something about the settings was a little too similar and yet I wanted some short fiction for random short reading moments on the train (only ten mins to town and ten back) etc and so I picked up Dan Rhodes on a whim as I haven’t read anything by him for ages and I really like his books. Sarah will be being restarted once ‘Bereft’ is finished, yet that may be some time as I am enjoying it so much I am savouring it and waiting for the mystery at its heart to unfold slowly. Savouring is also the reason why Marieke Hardy and her memoir essays ‘You’ll Be Sorry When I Am Dead’ are still only midway through completion. I love them so much I am only reading one or two a week.

Actually with the last two it feels like an odd reading conundrum, should I just go for it or simply take as long as I like? As its a year of whimsical reading I am going for the latter, unless suddenly something takes hold. It may make reviews thin on the ground for a while but it’s really enjoyable reading at the moment. Who would have thought I would find multi- reading so enjoyable?

Who else out there multi reads and who definitely doesn’t? Do you ever find yourself at the point of wanting to greedily devour a book in one sitting and spreading out the joy over weeks? Which books have left you in such a reading conundrum?

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Books on the Bedside & the Great British Book Off…

This morning I woke up, stretched, wiped the sleep out of my eyes and as I looked to my left was greeted by a bedside table covered with books. It suddenly gave me some inspiration for a new random feature for the blog, but as (if you are like me) you are a fan of a bit of book porn I took a picture of the mass of fictional worlds I am in or have ahead of me, apologies it’s a little grainy it was early…

I was looking at them and realised in a weird way this almost like a snapshot of the inner workings of my bookish mind. You have three books I am reading (yes I have taken up multi reading, more on this unusual turn of events soon) currently; ‘Bereft’ by Chris Womersley, ‘You’ll Be Sorry When I Am Dead’ by Marieke Hardy and ‘The Beautiful Indifference’ by Sarah Hall – these naturally need to be close to hand as I am a dreadful sleeper at the mo and so they are the perfect company in the middle of the night.

The rest of the books are those on my periphery reading vision. I won’t explain all the reasons for all iof them now in fear of boring you (the Agatha Christie, Truman Capote and Dan Rhodes have all just been pulled out mount BR as I have been graving some friendly fiction faces, Elizabeth Jolley as an Australian Literature Month possible read) but I will give you a slight over view to explain what I mean. Sophie Hannah’s ‘Kind of Cruel’ proof has just arrived so it’s time to finally read ‘Lasting Damage’ as I like to read in order.  The same with the proof of Matt Haig’s new YA novel ‘To Be A Cat’ which one of the events guys at Waterstones sent me after I discussed YA the other day, so I pulled out ‘The Radleys’ –which I wish I had the hardcover of, so much darker. ‘Disputed Land’ by Tim Pears was on hand for a mention on this weeks recording of the Readers which has been postponed and Elizabeth Haynes and ‘Into The Darkest Corner’ has been lingering since the last recording of the Readers when we discussed the TV Book Club vs. Richard and Judy.

This might not interest you at all but I thought I would test the waters because it could become a future feature instead of my incoming book posts which I have decided to dump. I thought it might give people a small book porn fix whilst also showing you all the books new, old and in-between on my reading horizon, a bit like being even more in my reading head. What do you think?

Also I want to do something with the title ‘The Great British Book Off’ before someone else pinches it (this could already have happened 0f course) as this also popped into my head this morning, but I am stuck on what it could be. Might need more mulling though, what do you say?

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Boxing Day Books (The Savidge Reads Advent Winners)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sarah Hall – The Savidge Reads Advent Calendar Day 14

One of the books I had hoped to have finished, until all started to go wrong with my laptop was, and pop my thoughts on in conjuncture with this post was ‘The Beautiful Indifference’ by Sarah Hall which is a collection of short stories I have been dipping in and out of. They have been the perfect bit sized reads whilst there has been computer chaos around me as while something tales a few hours to download I have immersed myself in the tales.

I read Sarah’s novel ‘How To Paint A Dead Man’ when it was listed for the Man Booker, but any review I write didn’t do it justice so it never appeared on here sadly, I think she is an incredible writer (and lovely in the flesh as I met her a few weeks ago) and so far this collection is only boosting my opinion of her further. I have been meaning to pick up one of her other novels for ages, and then this arrived and so I decide to give it a whirl instead. My small review of it would be ‘gritty but beautiful’ at the moment.

I am only half way through (I promise to report back on it when I have finished) but I can tell you know, unless something goes horribly wrong which I doubt, this is quite a masterful collection of short stories. I therefore thought you might like a copy and so it’s become today’s give away for two of you. All you need to do is tell me your favourite short story, or short story collection you have read in 2011 and why? You have until 11am December the 16th. Good luck.

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