Tag Archives: Sarah Winman

Have You Won Some Books? Finally I Catch Up With Give Aways

This post has been far too long in coming, please forgive me that I have taken so long to sort out catching up with not one, not two, not three… but four book giveaways. So without waffling on here we have the winners, is one you?

Mr Chartwell – Rebecca Hunt

Caroline
Mother Etc
Ruthiella

The Novel in the Viola – Natasha Solomons

Harriet Devine
Kate (Scribbling Sea Serpent)
Pippa
Kimbofo

When God Was A Rabbit – Sarah Winman

Reading With Tea
Mary Jones
Christina (Rochester Reader)
Kim (Winterlief)

Gillespie and I – Jane Harris

Tracey (Chase The Crayon)
Hayley (Paper Plane Reviews)
Verity

So if you are one of the lucky winners, please drop me an email – which you can find on the about page, with the book title in the subject line and including your details and I will pass them onto the publishers and you will have a lovely parcel winging its way to you in due course. Congrats! If you haven’t won fear not there are more give aways coming in the next few weeks.

Oh and Polly and I will be announcing the winners of the ‘Discovering Daphne’ reads next week, so keep your eyes peeled.

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Give Away… When God Was A Rabbit – Sarah Winman

I love getting new books and as you can see I am very lucky as a lot wing their way to me. This also has its benefits as it means that with building relations with publishers means that I can pass on the book getting by giving some away, and today I have 4 copies to give away of a book I read and loved in May which was ‘When God Was A Rabbit’ by Sarah Winman.

I am so pleased I can give you all the chance to win what is a wonderful, wonderful read. Like with the Natasha Solomon’s give away this is open until June the 3rd, its open worldwide and all you have to do is simply stick a little ‘yes, please’ in the comments. It’s that simple. Good luck!

P.S I will be doing a big giveaway catch up next weekend, so stay tuned as I have lots and lots of books to do the draws for.

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When God Was A Rabbit – Sarah Winman

I normally do long intro’s into my book thoughts, but I am trying some new things with my blogging and so decided I wouldn’t meander introducing ‘When God Was A Rabbit’ by Sarah Winman and would just cut to the chase and say please give this book a whirl, its really rather good, and read on to find out why you should, there’s lots of reasons so be warned you might find yourself instantly buying the book by the end, which is a good thing…

9780755379309
‘When God Was A Rabbit’
has been described as a love story between a brother and sister. Now if you are like me you might be worried that this is headed into incest territory, but fear not, it is nothing of the kind. I would describe this book as a coming of age meets family saga in which we follow the lives of Eleanor Maud (aka Elly) and her big brother Jo as they grow up with secrets they share, and discover the highs and lows of life both together and separately and the special bond they have between them. I would also says it’s a book of friendship and the people who come into our lives no matter for how long or short a time and make an impression. This might sound like a vague summing up of the book but one of the joys I found, and I did find this a really good read, whilst turning the pages was discovering who or what was around every corner.

It’s also about time, and as we follow the family we too see the world events unfold around them from the late 1960’s until more recent years and covers things from family secrets, loves and loses and such subjects as John Lennon and Diana’s death to 9/11. So it’s really about two people through time. It sounds so simple yet it is a book that has been meticulously crafted, not so that we see the authors hard work, but in the sense that the people we follow seem to step off the page. In fact I kept thinking of David Nicholls ‘One Day’ and the nostalgic feeling and so real you feel like you’re their best mate lead characters. Only these are of course siblings, not on-off lovers.

Sarah Winman is without question a very exciting new writer that I think we all need to keep our eyes on. Her prose is rhythmic and I found the first hundred pages simply unputdownable (cliche alert, sorry) as we meet Elly and her family and the cacophony of characters in her life. Seriously, the characters are marvellous. I did wonder if Winman, being from an acting background, has simply created a list of the sort of characters she has wanted to play. Winman’s swift way of summing them up in a is genius. No matter how little time a character is called into this world they are fully fleshed out be it in a single sentence or paragraph. There was one scene between Aunt Nancy and one of her movie obsessed girlfriends, who has renamed herself Katherine Hepburn and is hardly in the book at all, which had me in hysterics and showed the full genius of Winman’s ability to characterize in a minimal way.

“’Sorry I’m late!’ shouted Nancy one day, as she rushed into a café to meet her.
‘Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,’ said K.H.
‘That’s alright then,’ said Nancy sitting down.
Then looking round, with a raised voice, K.H. said, ‘Of all the gin joints in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.’
Nancy noticed the people in the café staring at them.
‘Fancy a sandwich?’ she said quietly.
‘If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill, as God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.’
‘I’ll take that as a yes then,’ said Nancy picking up a menu.”

In fact the level of humour in ‘When God Was A Rabbit’ was something I wasn’t expecting and is a tool Winman uses well particularly if things are getting quite dark, which the book does do quite a lot. In fact it was a rabbit named ‘god’ who stole the show  in terms of bittersweet humour in the first half of the book as Elly uses his ability to ‘talk’, which only she can hear, to deal with horrid moments, so when she has heard some bad news she will go and pet god who will then say something like ‘ouch you little, s**t’ (this has me laughing as I type) and again shows how Winman effortlessly gets into the head of or protagonist Elly, especially in her formative years and in times where she doesn’t quite know what to do with herself or how to copewith life’s twists and in many ways escapes.

I did find it interesting that the opening line is ‘I divide my life into two parts’ because to me this is a book of two halves and is also where it becomes telling that this is a debut novel. Debut novels tend to have a real thrust and drive to them, as this book does (though its technically Winman’s second, the first didn’t get published) for the first half which bowled me over. They can also want to say a lot, sometimes too much. Whilst Winman doesn’t do this I did find that when a friend of Elly and Joe’s was kidnapped in Dubai (in the middle of the book) and plastered all over the news, I started wondering just how much could happen to one family even in the most random or distant of ways. This happened again when John Lennon gets shot… on Elly’s birthday, and this occasionally seemed a touch too much. Then again sometimes that is life isn’t it? It by no means ruined the book at all, it just took a tiny bit of the magic off. I should comment Winman on the ending too as it was a risk, and one the reader sees coming, possibly as in my case with some trepidation, but which I thought actually paid off when in some cases it could have gone the other way. I will say no more on that though.

My only other slight criticism would be that ‘When God Was A Rabbit’ pushes its point home too hard on occasion especially in its gay sensibility. I think the fact that every other character in the book happened to be gay was brilliant and I could see what Sarah Winman was doing, but that isn’t the way it is in real life is it? It’s meant to be one in ten people, not one in every two. I also wasn’t sure how I felt, in terms of stereotyping, about some characters for example Arthur, who comes into the book about half ay through, is a wonderful character lovely older gay man on the whole but did then fall into a cliché by screaming or saying to our narrator ‘popularity, my dear, is as overrated as a large member’. Whilst yes it did make me laugh, that fact it’s said to a girl of twelve seemed a bit wrong, it reflects that rather archaic view that old gay men can be rather pervy and inappropriate and one we should be stamping out. Maybe I am being too critical there?

Those criticisms might seem a little harsh, or make me sound a little like the Grinch of books trying to see flaws; I just want to give it a full rounded review and in doing so had to point out some of it’s pitfalls too. You see initially after reading it I was a little conflicted about it, however with time for the dust to settle I realised I really, really liked it. There’s a warmth in this novel which is quite unlike any other I have read and it lingers. So as I was saying all in all I really, really, really enjoyed ‘When God Was A Rabbit’. It’s a book you gulp down for the first half and then watch unfold more delicately in the second. It’s one that deserves to be read, so I hope you will. It’s a book you won’t forget and, if you are like me, will grow and grow on you after it finishes. 9/10

This book was kindly sent by the publisher.

I am actually rather surprised this didn’t make ‘The Orange Longlist’ this year but it was one of the Waterstones 11 and has been picked up by Richard and Judy latest book club (and might just have been submitted for another award – I think I can share that with you, oops maybe not) so I am sure it will be getting much more attention and it deserves it. It is definitely one to read if you loved ‘One Day’ by David Mitchell, as I mentioned, and also if you like the bittersweet. Which debut novel have you read recently which has rather bowled you over? Has anyone else read ‘When God Was A Rabbit’ and what did you think?

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One Book, Two Book, Three Book, Four… and Five…

Well Simon of Stuck in a Book is something of a genius in the book blogging world isn’t he? He’s always coming up with great bookish bits and bobs on his blog and the latest meme he has created has taken the blogosphere by storm. I might be the last to the party but I simply couldn’t miss taking part as it looked like so much fun. So here are the five books that are or have been on my ‘reading radar’ at the moment, its made me realise just what an eclectic reader I am which I don’t ever see myself as…

The Book I Am Currently Reading…

I have not long started it but my latest read is ‘Apartment 16’ by Adam Nevill. It’s a little bit of a departure for me as I haven’t read a modern horror novel before so I don’t really know what to expect, I have been wanting to try new genre’s though. I shall report back in due course, is it wrong I am hoping this one makes me scared at night? I really fancy something really scary at the mo.

The Last Book I Finished…

‘When God Was A Rabbit’ by Sarah Winman which has been chosen as one of the Richard and Judy Summer Reads this year, along with ‘The Novel in the Viola’ by Natasha Solomons and ‘The Return of Captain John Emmett’ by Elizabeth Speller. Why mention those three particular books well…  I only found this out last night and am a bit spooked as I have these three books scheduled for reviews on the blog next week… how weird!!

The Next Book I Want To Read…

Well I am going to bite the bullet and finally read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen. I am yet to read any of her work which always surprises people. I would normally have found this book the hardest to call however I have a special reason to have started it before the weekend, more on that soon.

The Last Book I Bought…

Well I simply couldn’t resist this old 80’s Penguin edition of ‘The Group’ by Mary McCarthy when I saw it at the local second hand book store only yesterday. It was a little bit naughty as I have just got the new edition out of the library but I wanted one of my own, although the print is very small so I might read the new one and have this one on the shelves. Isn’t the old cover wonderful? I love, love, love the tagline “Eight eager, innocent girl graduates starting life in 1933 – pioneering their way from sex and interior décor to cooking and contraception…”

The Last Book I Was Given…Well before book group on Monday my friend the author Paul Magrs kindly gave me a copy of his new book ‘Enter Wildthyme’ which is going to be a foray for me into some Doctor Who-esque sci-fi (I love a bit of Doctor Who) and should be interesting, especially as the companion to Iris is called Simon. I hope I will like it, though Paul did say ‘you know you don’t have to review this’ so if I don’t who will know? Ha, ha, ha. I think with the tag line ‘Time and space. Good and evil. Gin and tonic.’ this is going to be a treat.

Isn’t this a lovely way of having a nosey through everyone’s reading sights in a short space of time? You can see other people’s five books, if they have popped their links down, just here… do have a gander. A big thank you to Simon for coming up with this, I think its ace. Let me know if you have a go, or if indeed you have already. Any thoughts on my selection?

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April’s Incomings…

Where oh where do the months seem to be going? Can you believe that a third of the year has already been and gone? Well it has! So being the last day of April its time to share with you all the latest incomings that have arrived at Savidge Reads temporary HQ in the last month, however they might have gotten through the door.

First up are the gifts that I have bought myself, or indeed exchanged at the lovely local café, and my reasons why. I think you will find I have been rather reserved this month…

  • Deja Dead & Death Du Jour by Kathy Reichs – I have seen reviews all over the shop about Kathy Reichs and have been meaning to read her forever, especially as I have been told she is on a par with Val McDermid and Tess Gerritsen. A review of another of Reichs books by Harriet Devine made me pick these up at the book exchange.
  • Nocturnes by John Connolly – I loved, loved, loved ‘The Book of Lost Things’ (pre-blogging) and rather liked ‘The Gates’ so this selection of short stories is sure to be right up my street.
  • Fresh Flesh by Stella Duffy – I have recently read the second, review pending, of the Saz Martin crime series by Stella Duffy and they are rather hard to get hold of so this one was snapped up the moment I saw it.

Up next are gifts that have been kindly sent/lent by people that I know. I realised I forgot to include some of the books I had for my birthday from people in my March Incomings which is rather shoddy of me, so…

  • Bedside Stories (a birthday pressie), and two treats of a World Book Night edition of Erich Maria Remarque’s ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ and ‘Cloudstreet’ by Tim Winton all from the lovely Kimbofo when she came to stay.
  • ‘Bel Canto’ by Ann Patchett from Lou of I Hug My Books as she loved it and thinks I will, we do have quite similar taste.
  • ‘Miss Buncle Married’ by D.E. Stevenson, a get well/birthday pressie from the Persephone purveyor herself Claire of Paperback Reader.
  • After seeing her review of ‘Love in Idleness’ by Charlotte Mendelson and letting Harriet know I loved the author she kindly offered me her copy of the only Mendelson I don’t have.
  • ‘The Middle Age of Mrs Eliot’ by Angus Wilson was a lovely old edition for my birthday from Paul Magrs. I haven’t heard of the author, but from the title I am guessing it might just be perfect for my love of books about women of a certain age.

So onto the books from the lovely publishers and lets start off with the paperbacks, a big thanks to Vintage, Virago, Picador, Myriad Editions, OUP, Hodder and Headline for these books…

  • Deloume Road by Matthew Hooton
  • What The Day Owes The Night by Yasmina Khadra
  • The Stars in the Bright Sky by Alan Warner
  • In-Flight Entertainment by Helen Simpson
  • The Death of Lomond Friel by Sue Peebles
  • Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead
  • The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall
  • The Return of Captain John Emmett by Elizabeth Speller
  • Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco
  • Hurry Up and Wait by Isabel Ashdown
  • Ruth by Elizabeth Gaskell
  • Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for a Murder by Catriona McPherson
  • Touch The Stars by Jessica Ruston

And thanks to Headline, Macmillan, Atalantic, Serpents Tail, Harvill Secker, Picador, Portobello and Simon & Schuster for this joyful collection of an audiobook, trade paperbacks, proofs and hardbacks…

  • When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman
  • Scenes from Village Life by Amos Oz
  • Embassytown by China Mieville
  • The Fox in the Attic by Richard Hughes
  • The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore by Benjamin Hale
  • Walking on Dry Land by Denis Kehoe
  • The Reinvention of Love by Helen Humphries
  • The Winter of the Lions by Jan Costin Wagner
  • The Sly Company of People Who Care by Rahul Bhattacharya
  • The Proof of Love by Catherine Hall
  • The Rest is Silence by Carla Guelfenbein
  • Agent 6 by Tom Rob Smith

Phew, quite a loot. Without showing any preferential treatment I have to say that the new Tom Rob Smith is really, really exciting me. Which of the books and authors have you tried and tested? Any you would recommend or would like to see me get too sooner rather than later?

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Guessing The Orange Prize Longlist 2011…

It seems that the day when the Orange Longlist is announced for 2011, which is today and will be in a couple of hours of this post going live I am sure, has taken a really long time to come around and then has suddenly swooped down on us fast. In fact I commented pretty much that very thing on Dovegreyreader the other day. You see I always think it gets announced in February and then there is a big lead up to June. I do wonder how my head works sometimes. Anyway… soon we will know what the twenty books that make the Orange Prize Longlist for 2011 will be, and so it’s my annual Orange Prize guess also known as ‘Simon shows how wrong he can be about women’s writing in the last year’ (see my 2010 guesses for more)…

Initially I started off getting competitive with myself over trying to come up with a list which contained the winning lot. Then I sat back and thought that seriously who else apart from the judges would know what these might be as the options are endless as are the books that could have been put forward. This year I went through all the books eligible, books written in English in print in the UK between April 1st 2010 and March 31st 2011, and came up with my twenty based on what I had read (in blue as you can read my thoughts), what was on my TBR/on loan from the library (in italics) and books I have been wanting to get my mitts on and haven’t yet (in bold – as a birthday, which is 8 days away, hint). So without further waffle here is the Savidge Orange 20 in alphabetical surname order to make it fairer…

   
Started Early, Took My Dog – Kate Atkinson
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake – Aimee Bender
True Things About Me – Deborah Kay Davies

Scissors, Paper, Stone – Elizabeth Day

   
Room – Emma Donoghue
Theodora – Stella Duffy
The Cry of the Go-Away Bird – Andrea Eames
A Visit From The Goon Squad – Jennifer Egan (which I would have but it went missing in the move)

   
The Cookbook Collector – Allegra Goodman
We Had It So Good – Linda Grant
T
he History of History – Ida Hattemer-Higgins 
Mr Chartwell – Rebecca Hunt

   
The Report – Jessica Francis Kane

The Hand That First Held Mine – Maggie O’Farrell
The News Where You Are – Catherine O’Flynn
The Tigers Wife – Tea ObrehtDark Matter – Michelle Paver (which I would have but it went missing in the move)
The Fates Will Find Their Way – Hannah Pittard
Mr Rosenblum’s List – Natasha Solomons
When God Was A Rabbit – Sarah Winman

   

I did umm and ahhh about putting ‘Grace Williams Says It Loud’ by Emma Henderson on the list but I have seen that in the Orange Book Group displays in Waterstones (where I got the new Books Quarterly) so assumed that it would be off the list. I have it and will be reading it any way. I know that maybe Kate Atkinson is a random pick as its essentially a crime novel as I mentioned yesterday if Val McDermids latest is as good as ‘The Mermaids Singing’ that would be a welcome entry, I wondered also if Susan Hill’s ‘A Kind Man’ might be too short?

I wonder how I will do with this lot, can I bet my 8 out of 20 best from last year? In a weird way I hope I do the same as the last or a little worse, as one of the joys of a longlist is learning about the books you werent aware of. Which books would you bet on being in the list? Will anyone, sadly I don’t think I could, be trying to read them all?

I have of course updated the blog with the actual longlist now.

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January’s Incomings…

I haven’t done a post on the latest incomings at Savidge Reads for quite a while. In part because my new temporary HQ didn’t seem to get any post for a while, and then it got deluged which was lovely, and also because I have had too much to natter about instead. I then thought ‘ooh hang on maybe I should do something different in 2011’ and so at the end of each month I will pop a picture of just what comes to Savidge Reads be it bought, a gift, an unsolicited proof or a request etc. I know there is a divide of opinion on these posts and I fall into the ‘love them camp’ as I really like seeing what everyone else gets so am assuming a few of you feel the same. I also like getting your feedback on what you have read that’s in the mix and how you felt about it, or what you might want me to read in the future should my whim take me.

So here are the paperbacks…

 
Hallucinating Foucault by Patricia Duncker – I have to admit that I asked for this one from the lovely Alice at Bloomsbury after it came up in conversation loads over Christmas and New Year with several new bookish northern friends saying I simply had to read it. I have and thoughts coming soon.

Even The Dogs by Jon McGregor – another treat from Bloomsbury as one of my bags of books got lost in the move, seriously I can barely talk about it hence why I haven’t on here, and I had arranged a mini rogue book group between myself and the author Isabel Ashdown on it but couldn’t find my copy so will also be discussing this soon.

The Birth Machine by Elizabeth Baines – I got an email from Elizabeth seeing if I wanted to give her book a whirl and after seeing “Out of print for some years, “The Birth Machine” is now reissued in a revised version (which first appeared in 1996). Still very relevant today to modern Obstetrics and Medicine, “The Birth Machine” is however more than that: it is also a gripping story of buried secrets and a long-ago murder, and of present-day betrayals” I thought ‘yes I do’.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett – This turned up as quite the surprise from OUP and I am delighted as I loved her novel ‘The Shuttle’ but have never gotten around to this children’s classic of hers.

Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe – I read this classic romp a few years ago but OUP are reissuing it so I might give it another whirl, or it can replace my rather battered old copy on my shelves for a re-read in the future.

Down Among The Dead Men by Michelle Williams – I have a strange fascination, though not too morbid a one, with death and since reading the wonderful ‘Stiff’ by Mary Roach I have wanted to read a few more along these lines and Michelle’s year as a morgue technician will make an interesting non fiction read. I saw it on amazon and had to send an email to the lovely Constable and Robinson who publish my favourite ‘Agatha Raisins’.

The Oracle of Stamboul by Michael David Lukas – This was a surprise parcel, I know nothing of it except the fact it’s got a lovely cover.

When God Was A Rabbit by Sarah Winman – Really excited about this one as a few people I know have already read this debut novel (which is getting a lot of press already as a Waterstones 11 choice) and I have heard some great things. The font though is shocking so I might struggle which worries me a little.

Living Souls by Dmitry Bykov – I really want to read more translated fiction from all over the globe in 2011, a mini whim challenge if you will, and this Russian translated book published by Alma Books looks set to be right up my street. “Living Souls follows the lives of four couples struggling to escape the chaos and stupidity of the war around them: a teenage girl who adopts a homeless man, a poet turned general separated from his lover, a provincial governor in love with one of the natives, and a legendary military commander who is sleeping with the enemy.”  

A Room Swept White by Sophie Hannah – I bought the latest in one of my favourite crime series in a charity shop virtually brand new for a mere 50p so that simply had to be bought!

Now onto the hard backs…

 

A Kind Man by Susan Hill – You will all know by now how much I love Susan Hill so this new novella has been devoured and will be read in due course.

The Devil’s Garden by Edward Docx – I know nothing about this, I think the author has been shortlisted for the Man Booker before, other than its set deep in the Amazon which is slightly bittersweet for me at the moment as I didn’t get to go thanks to everything that’s gone on with health etc lately.

The Cry of the Go Away Bird by Andrea Eames – A tale of a young girl in 1990’s Zimbabwe as Mugabe takes presidency; I think this surprise treat will be a perfect read for me.

To The Devil A Diva by Paul Magrs – Paul gave me a spare copy of this, one of his earlier novels, when he was cleaning his desk on his last day of work. I am looking forward to reading this in the near future.

Scissors Paper Stone by Elizabeth Day – Another surprise book that I have heard little about and so can’t really report on!

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller – Now this isn’t out until September but seems like its going to get a lot of coverage. I might have to get my Mum to read and review this one as she is a classicist and might give better thoughts than me.

Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman – This is another of the Waterstones 11 and one that I think could be one of the most exciting debuts of the year. This is a tale of immigration and knife crime told from the perspective of a young boy in a new inner city world.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness – I think this book is going to explode everywhere, an adult tale of witches and wizards and a mystery at the Bodleian Library, I will either love or loathe this, I am hoping its love.

Some of these I have read already, some are up at the top of the TBR. Which ones have you read and which do you fancy or have heard great things about?

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