Tag Archives: Tracy Chevalier

Women’s Prize for Fiction 2013 Longlist?

So tomorrow is the announcement of the first, yet technically eighteenth, Women’s Prize for Literature. As has become the routine in the last few years, I do love to have a go at guessing what books might be on it. This isn’t based on what people ‘in the trade’ might be thinking or any of that gubbins, though I love all the speculation, it is simply based on books I have loved, am desperate to read or simply think might be on the list, though I am sure I will be proven delightfully wrong once again this year and a million miles off in my guesses.

The first four of my guesses are some of my favourite books of 2012, well, those that fall into the submission guidelines, they are…

The Colour of Milk – Nell Leyshon
Tony Hogan Bought Me An Ice Cream Float Before He Stole Me Ma – Kerry Hudson
The Lighthouse – Alison Moore
The Age of Miracles – Karen Thompson Walker

Next up some books that I have read, or in the case of the Atkinson am reading, and am yet to review but have thoroughly enjoyed…

Life After Life – Kate Atkinson
Instructions for a Heatwave – Maggie O’Farrell
Past the Shallows – Favel Parrett
May We Be Forgiven – A. M. Holmes

Next up another four more books that are on the bedside table at the moment…

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie – Ayana Mathis
A Tale for the Time Being – Ruth Ozeki
Tell The Wolves I Am Home – Carol Rifka Brunt
Origins of Love – Kishwar Desai

Three more books that I am keen to read very soon and also one which I have been mulling over reading or not because of the Jesus factor, if it gets long listed will definitely read it…

The Palace of Curiosities – Rosie Garland
Tigers in Red Weather – Liza Klaussmann
Above All Things – Tanis Rideout
The Liar’s Gospel – Naomi Alderman

Finally a mix of four books that would cause some talking points if they were listed (well one would for me particularly)…

Bring Up The Bodies – Hilary Mantel
The Casual Vacancy – J. K. Rowling
Bitter Greens – Kate Forsyth
Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

I am pretty much sure that Hilary Mantel is going to be on the list and, unlike the general consensus I have heard of late, I have no grumbles about that at all. It has been really annoying me that people are now laying into her, everyone was really celebratory of her Booker double, after winning the Costa Prize too. Surely great books of the year should be able to win as many book prizes as they are eligible for, no? I can’t be doing with all the gripers, yes I know too much talk can put you off a book but don’t be mean about it. Rant over.

As for the other three, well I don’t think many people are predicting that J.K. Rowling will be on the list yet I would be quite chuffed if she was – it would get people talking, the book deals with current themes and it might get me to finally read it which I have been saying I will for ages. If ‘Bitter Greens’ gets on the longlist I will be talking about it to everyone because it is the retelling of Rapunzel and we all know that is my favourite fairytale and I named my duck after her when I was four. I have just had this in the post and have been sooooooooo excited, I am saving it for some long journeys I have coming up. Finally, the Flynn, why not? It has been a huge seller, everyone has been talking about it and the twists and turns and characters, even if you love to loathe them, are great. Though of course it is a crime novel and so may be written off for that, it could be a dark horse though.

I know I have missed out some of the big hitters like Barbara Kingsolver, Tracy Chevalier, Aminatta Forna, Nicola Barker and Rose Tremain (who I now desperately want to read the works of as though Gran and my mother love her I haven’t but The Beard’s mother yesterday was raving about her and we seem to be on an authorish wavelength) but I wanted to have a different and varied list overall. I wouldn’t be upset if any of them were on it. I also debated ‘The Friday Gospels’ by Jenn Ashworth, yet didn’t think there would be two books with ‘gospel’ in the title, why I don’t know and ‘Red Joan’ by Jennie Rooney. I mulled over some other debuts like  ‘The Innocents’ by Francesca Segal and I couldn’t work out if Katherine Boo was eligible, though I really want to read it but then decided I just couldn’t second guess it could I?

Yet that is part of the fun isn’t it, the fact that no one could guess the longlist because there are so many eligible books that have come out in the last twelve months and we have no idea how many books have been put forward. Plus how dull would it be if we could guess? One of the things that is great about the longlist is finding a whole new selection of books and authors you have never heard of before and want to go and find out more about. I am getting even more excited about the prize now.

I will report back when the list is announced at some point tomorrow, I am hoping really early. In the meantime which books do you think might just make the longlist, which ones would you be particularly thrilled to see?

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Why Don’t Men Read Books By Women… Or Do They?

Today’s post title might seem like a silly question initially but actually it is a rather pertinent one as it is a common fact that a lot of male readers will only read books by men. I can hear people here there and everywhere saying ‘pah, that’s not true’ and if that is the case then that’s great, but as I am one of the speakers on ‘Why Don’t Men Read Books By Women?’ at the Lucy Cavendish Woman’s Word Literary Festival in June this year, which I will also be reporting on from behind the scenes too, I thought it was a subject that we could have a good old natter about on Savidge Reads today please.

As I am sure you will have gathered by now I am definitely a man who does read books written by women, in fact I think I read more books by women than I do by men actually. I myself have a whole host of varied female authors in Mount TBR some of which, as pictured above, that I am going to be reading in the lead up to this event. I have chosen some modern crime, some classics (I didn’t feel that I could do this even having never read a full novel by Jane Austen, oops, it is frankly high time I did, I do think the reasons I have been put off are possibly rather like a lot of blokes I know – more on that in due course), some recently released contemporary novels (which nicely combine with my decision to read the whole of the Orange longlist, currently on hold at the halfway point as I have slight Orange overload at the moment) and some of the female greats I have loved in the past and want to read more of. Where oh where to start with a lovely loot like this?

I have noticed that apart from two modern debut novels and a Booker winner from many moons ago, I haven’t plucked out any books by female authors I haven’t tried before so any recommendations for those are welcome if you have any?

So in the name of research, and also because I am rather nosey and fascinated by other peoples reading habits, what about all of you? Which men will happily put there hands up and say that they too read lots of books by women? Any male readers of this blog who are happy to say they don’t and if so why not? And my lovely female readers what about your male relatives and partners do they read books by women or not and if so which titles have they particularly loved? Oh and let me know your thoughts if you have read any of the books pictured above and what you thought of them please. Oh and of course if you are a female reader, do you find you read more books by women than you do men, or vice versa? All thoughts welcomed and, as ever, most appreciated.

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Summer Read Suggestions – The Bloggers (Part Two)

So after yesterdays post which unveiled what some bloggers will be reading over the summer months and which books they have already loved during summers passed here are the second instalment of bloggers and their thoughts on summer reads.

Just in case you might be wondering why you didn’t get an email asking… check your spam, as I sent this out to loads and loads of bloggers who I enjoy but only got half the responses back. However as I have enjoyed these sort of posts so much (and hope you all have) I will be doing another one in the non too distant, a summery follow up I guess, so don’t worry about sending responses in late. Right, anyway on with the recommendations…

Polly, Novel Insights

My summer recommendation would have to be Peyton Place (starting out with that wonderful Indian summer passage and heady atmosphere).

As for what I am looking forward to reading this summer… A Room Swept White, by Sophie Hannah – I’d love to read this on holiday as her books are so gripping and I never fail to be surprised by her plot twists. I will also be heading to Sri Lanka so I might be taking some fiction set there or by authors from there if I can get my hands on some.

Simon, Stuck in a Book

People talk about beach literature as though it ought to be something trashy, preferably with the torso of an anguished woman taking up most of the cover.  I prefer to take something meaty on holiday with me, where I’ll have fewer distractions – a dense Victorian novel, say, or a tricky experimental novel which would confuse me if read in short bursts.  Having said that, my favourite summery read is actually The Summer Book by Tove Jansson.  These tales of summer on a Finnish island are wonderful wherever they’re read, but there’s something perfect about reading them on a windy beach with the sun in your eyes. For those of us who only have holidays in this Sceptred Isle, a touch of Scandinavian summer is welcome, if only vicariously.

Bearing in mind my answer to question 1, I am considering taking Fanny Burney’s Camilla off on my holiday this year.  It’s got more pages than I’ve had hot dinners, and a Yorkshire moor (for this will be a beachless summer for me) could be the perfect place to immerse myself in the dalliances of the eighteenth century.

Harriet, Harriet Devine’s Blog

I would suggest Tracy Chevalier’s Remarkable Creatures for a summer read. It would be especially apt for a beach holiday (and even more so if that was taking place in south west England) as it is set in beautiful Lyme Regis, on the Dorset coast, and much of the action takes place on the beach, where a couple of women are searching for fossils. This is much more exciting than it sounds — a real page turner, in fact! Set at the time of Jane Austen, this is a lovely, sensitive, thoughtful read, not too demanding for a relaxing holiday but intelligent and thought-provoking too.

Claire, Paperback Reader

It entirely depends on whether I am going on a summer holiday or not.  If I’m staying at home over the summer months then my reading won’t change all that much but if I am going to be in the sun then my reading choices tend to reflect that.  I usually go for something a tad lighter in content, nothing too heavy that will bring me down; however, I have also seen me take Vanity Fair by William Thackeray to the pool-side with me!  Sometimes I pack in the suitcase is a classic I’ve been meaning to read or a book I have been saving up for uninterrupted reading time. I do like books set in sunnier climes too for when I’m likewise baking in the sun or relaxing in the shade or air-conditioned room with ice-cream or refreshing watermelon.  The perfect examples I can give of my  favourite type of summer reads are those I read the last time I was in Florida; I took with me A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini; The Return by Victoria Hislop; The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak; The Rain Before it Falls by Jonathan Coe; The Private Lives of Pippa Lee by Rebecca Miller. All were perfect choices with none of them too literary but with more than enough substance to keep me immersed on long flights and the beach.

This summer I am not going abroad but will head home for a couple of weeks.  I intend to take The Passage by Justin Cronin with me because it’s long enough to keep me going although I foresee not having many free moments to read it and it extending out to a seasonal-long summer read.  I’m also going to pick up a couple of lighter books that everyone else seems to have read: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert before the film is released.  Depending what makes it onto the Man Booker longlist, I may include a few of those on my summer reading list; I say list metaphorically though as I’m going to try this year not to plan my reading too much and make my choices on a whim instead.

Dot, Dot Scribbles

The perfect summer read for me has to be a page turner, I need to be gripped by it so I can happily spend an afternoon in the sun with my book! These can vary from quite light chick lit type books to something a bit heavier, I always find Daphne du Maurier to be a good holiday author as you can be totally absorbed.

This summer my one holiday read that is already in the suitcase is actually down to the wonderful reviews from yourself and Novel Insights and that is Peyton Place, I wanted to read it as soon as it arrived but I decided that it would make perfect holiday reading. In terms of general summer reading I prefer books that are set more in that season, I find it really hard to read something in July/August that is talking about snow and the freezing cold! For some reason as well I tend to prefer to read mystery type books in the Winter but I have no idea why!

Jackie, Farmlane Books

The long list for the Booker prize will be announced on 27th July so I will spend most of my Summer reading time trying to complete the list. I don’t change the books that I read based on the seasons – I enjoy the same types of book all year round. If I’m going away then I prefer to take a few longer books with me – I’d hate to run out of reading material half way through a holiday! Fingersmith by Sarah Waters or Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel are great examples of long books that would be my favourite holiday reads.

This Summer I am looking forward to reading The Elephant’s Journey by Jose Saramago. Blindness is one of my favourite books and I hope that The Elephant’s Journey contains his usual blend of fantastic writing and original story telling. His recent death has made this book even more important to me.

Claire, Kiss A Cloud

The perfect summer read for me would be something that makes me feel lighthearted and young and happy to be alive, of which the perfect example would be Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle.

Although I would read anything in the summer, what I most look forward to is Maggie O’Farrell’s The Hand that First Held Mine. While I have never read her yet, I’m convinced that it’s going to be a wonderful experience, based on many blogger recommendations. The book is said to pull on our heartstrings, and this leaves my mind imagining a summer romance.

Tom, A Common Reader

Summer reads? Well, I’ve been thinking about that and in all honesty I don’t think I differentiate between summer and other seasons. The books keep rolling in, and I keep reading them! However, thinking of summer books, I suppose something like my recently reviewed Hundred Foot Journey by Richard Morais would be ideal combining humour, al fresco eating and France. I think most people would be happy to take something like that on holiday with them.

Or a book of short pieces like the one I’ve just read called ‘Are We Related?’ which is the New Granta Book of the Family. Perfect for dipping into but by no means trivial.

Karen, Cornflower Books

It so happens I’ve just finished a perfect, relaxing, summery read, Rosy Thornton’s A Tapestry of Love. It’s set in rural France (a mountain hamlet in the Cevennes, to be exact) and it was inspired by a visit Rosy made there on holiday some years ago. The novel takes you through a year in that beautiful, relatively remote spot, and its heroine has her ups and downs, but it’s a warm, gently uplifting book which will entertain whether you’re already drowsy with summer heat or stuck in the cold and damp and wishing you could get away from it all.

In ‘real life’ Rosy is a Law don at Cambridge, a Fellow of Emmanuel College, and – impressively – she manages to combine that academic career and a family with being a novelist, but combine them she does, and her intelligent, lively books are pure pleasure to read.

Frances, Nonsuch Book

Working in education, I still have summer vacation every year just like the small people so summer reading has special meaning to me. Reading on a whim, at odd hours, as much as I can ingest before falling asleep with a book. Also enjoy a bit of a fluff parade those first few weeks out of school. Nothing to task the brain too much and a little off course from my usual reading choices.

My only reading obligations this summer are to my Non-Structured Book Group. We are reading A Personal Matter by Kenzaburo Oe in July and In the American Grain by William Carlos Williams in August. I say “obligation” but that is a bit of a joke as no one in our group would give a fig if I decided not to read or gave up on a book and emailed everyone, “I quit. This sucks.” And this is just one reason I love my online book group. Others include big brains, great writers, and Olympian quality smack talking.

Looking forward to re-reading Agatha Christie books for the first time since I was a teenager, Lit by Mary Karr, Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English by Natasha Solomons, The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman, The Pregnant Widow by Martin Amis, and a whole bunch of Parisian inspired reads for the Paris in July event hosted by Book Bath and Thyme for Tea.

So that’s your lot, for now anyway, I am probably going to do a follow up post from a few more bloggers authors and co in the next few weeks. So what will you be reading over the summer season?

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Latest Incomings

Now before you all baulk at how many books have arrived you might want to pop and see an explanation of how such a backlog developed, there could actually be more that have simply vanished. The latter part of that sentence doesn’t bear thinking about. So here are what delights (though I took out quite a few cricket and celeb books – again see above post for my thoughts on those) have arrived in the last month, I have even organised them into two groups for you…

The Hardbacks and larger books…

  • Dom Casmurro – Machado De Assis (printed specially from OUP for my Reading for Brazil thing, too kind)
  • By Midnight – Mia James (a young adult book set in Highgate Cemetery)
  • Stories to Get You Through the Night – Various (have started this, its great so far)
  • The Invisible Bridge – Julie Orringer (not heard of the author before have you?)
  • Dona Nicanora’s Hat Shop – Kirsten Dawkins (another kind send for Reading for Brazil)
  • God Says No – James Hannaham (hadn’t heard of this but sounds very, very me am itching to start this one)
  • Ilustrado – Miguel Syjuco (I know nothing about this but adore the cover)
  • The Lost Books of the Odyssey – Zachary Mason (they also sent me a copy for my Mum who is a classicist which was very kind)
  • Repeat Today With Tears – Anne Peile (most annoyed this was delayed as wanted to go to the launch but as hadn’t read it didn’t feel I could)
  • The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas – Machado De Assis (another book printed specially from OUP – again too kind)
  • Beatrice and Virgil – Yann Martel (I loved The Life of Pi but am going to try not to compare them when I read this one)
  • The Radleys – Matt Haig (Vampires as next door neighbours sounds fun, mind you might hold out on this one a while before I get vampired out)
  • Tony & Susan – Austin M. Wright (a book I would never have known was being republished – or had indeed been published – after many years, which has a book within a book sent to a woman from her ex-husband, sounds intriguing. We read the book as Susan does.)
  • Grace Williams Says It Loud – Emma Henderson (a tale of love and the life after of two people in a Mental Institute, an interesting debut)
  • Inheritance – Nicholas Shakespeare (have never read him but always liked the idea of doing so)

And onto the Paperbacks…

  • Cousin Phyllis and Other Stories – Elizabeth Gaskell (I have never read Gaskell and so want to and short stories might be a nice way in)
  • Dear Mr. Bigelow – Frances Woodford (I think this will be an unsolicited joy. Woodford and Bigelow never met but wrote to each other from 1949 to 1961. I cannot wait to read these letters.)
  • The Book of Fires – Jane Borodale (Too late to try and get done before The Orange First Novel Award but one I am looking forward to no less.)
  • Tender Morsels – Margo Lanagan (a modern fairytale receiving very mixed reviews around the blogosphere, wonder which camp I will be in – love it or loathe it?)
  • Jezebel  – Irene Nemirovsky (I am one of the few people who didn’t love Suite Francaise maybe a short novel with such a tempting title will do the trick?)
  • Ménage – Ewan Morrison (never heard of him but sounds like he has quite the cult following)
  • The Kindest Thing – Cath Staincliffe (another one I have never heard of but “a love story, a modern nightmare” sounds like it might be just up my street)
  • City of God – Paulo Lins (another book for Reading For Brazil that the publishers kindly sent)
  • The Lady in the Tower – Alison Weir (I am a little obsessed with Tudors and Anne Boleyn in particular, so this will be a great summer non-fiction read – I have a mate who works at Hever Castle, maybe I should read it there?)
  • Little Gods – Anna Richards (am super chuffed this one arrived as I saw it in Kew Bookshop and just wanted it from these words “an adventure, a black comedy, a fairy tale of sorts and a romance” that sounds my perfect book, let’s hope the blurb isn’t lying!)
  • Remarkable Creatures – Tracy Chevalier (love, love, loved ‘Falling Angels’ and this is Victorian again, ladies on the hunt for fossils doesn’t sound thrilling but I have been recommended it is by lots of people)
  • A Death in Brazil – Peter Robb (a historical study of Brazil looking at the country after slavery was abolished)
  • Henry VII: Wolfman – A. E. Moorat (as much as I am unsure about the Jane Austen zombie books this could be fun, and the next on ‘Queen Victoria; Demon Hunter’ I am going to beg for)
  • Troubles – J.G. Farrell (the Lost Man Booker winner which instantly made me want to read it and hoorah now I can)
  • The Scouring Angel – Benedict Gummer (another part of history that fascinates me is The Black Death and the plague years so this is perfect. Sounds like have some great long non-fiction for the summer months)
  • The Blind Side of the Heart – Julia Franck (I know nothing about this and, from the cover or the title, I am not sure how me it will be but is good to give new things a whirl)
  • Stone’s Fall – Iain Pears (I didn’t like ‘An Instance of the Fingerpost’ very much but have heard this is a cracker, has also been chosen for The TV Book Clubs summer reads)

So that’s all of them. Have you read any of these? Are they on your radar or your TBR? Have you read anything else by any of the authors? Which ones would you like to see me read first and hear about?

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Simon’s Bookish Bits #24

Well after a little holiday my Bookish Bits are back with a catch up to some links around the blogosphere, my thoughts on a book everyone has been talking about, and an update on some of the places that you read and what sums up your reading tastes.

First up I want to say a thank you to all the people who commented on the post I did on ‘Where Do We Read’ (if you haven’t commented then do as I want to do a post on the results over the next few weeks) I am still waiting for some pictures from some of you of where you are reading at the moment or the strangest places you have read.

One picture I did get sent this week was from Norman in Australia, who asked for your advice on literature about men in cardigans, in response to Simon of Stuck-in-a-Books request to get us to find pictures that sum up our reading tastes. (You can see all the bloggers who have contributed so far here.) I asked for non bloggers to have a go and here is Norman’s which “depicts my interest in “calm loneliness”. Single men and single women managing bravely to survive outrageous fortune. Some writers who explore this empathetically are Anita Brookner, Barbara Pym, Elizabeth Taylor, Penelope Lively, E.M. Forster, Graham Greene, Camus, Kafka, Pinter, Patrick White, and Elizabeth Riddell (a little known Australian poet)”

Who else has any they would care to share? Send them to savidgereads@gmail.com and I will pop them up on ture Bookish Bits.

I thought that I would try something a little different with my bookish links this week and simply list a selection and see how that all goes with you all?

The last link brings me onto the book that everyone is talking about this week which is the winner of this years Orange Prize ‘The Lacuna’ by Barbara Kingsolver. I have to say I was a little surprised that it won. I am not sure about it being rigged, of course you never know. I do think that not letting a book win because its won other awards is a bit silly though – if a books bloody brilliant it should be allowed to win everything surely?

Myself, I am currently in the Kirsty of Other Stories camp on the book so far. I have been reading it on and off for about five or six weeks and I love it, then don’t and then just leave it with no desire to get started again. I am reserving final judgement though until I hit the very last word of the very last page. In terms of the Orange though this year seems to have been a weird one almost like no one quite knew what to do with it, or be ballsy? Am I being overly harsh?

I may well finish ‘The Lacuna’ this weekend as I am planning on a big weekend of ‘finishing off’ several books that I have been juggling. Book switching in terms of reading is not a talent that I am really blessed with and maybe that’s what a recent reading funk was slightly about?  What have you got planned this weekend both reading wise and in general?

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Simon’s Bookish Bits #22

Today I thought I would do a post on audience participation. Something that I have been a little lax at, as you will see from my sudden commenting splurge on Thursday, on the blogosphere and in comments because it’s been deadline week again.  Mind you the blogosphere seems so quiet (pins dropping anyone – hee hee) that maybe it has been unnoticed. Anyways while that madness has been going on I have been partaking in some audience participation myself whilst also planning more, which links into podcast of the week, and some of it links into books in general – you will have to read on to find out more…

I have seen two plays for work in the last week which I simply had to tell you all about (sorry f you aren’t in London to see them right now but they may tour etc) the first was ‘Love The Sinner’ which is a new play by Drew Pautz which is debuting at The National Theatre and really is something to see. In fact like the other play I have seen it’s a show which encompasses a rollercoaster of emotions dealing with a meeting of priests in Africa and something that happens there that will change one of the groups life forever. I won’t say more than that but it’s simply spell binding and left me and my friend speechless one minute and then roaring with laughter the next and back again. The cast was fantastic and in two hours subjects like modernism of the church, AIDS, affairs, poverty, IVF, sexuality and even squirrel trapping and cucumber sandwiches are all touched upon. It made me excited about the theatre again.

The second show that also has you crying with laughter one minute and moves you to tears of sorrow the next is ‘Holding The Man’ based on Timothy Conigrave’s book (see a book theme already) and adapted to a play by Tommy Murphy. This was a HUGE success breaking heaps and heaps of box office records in Australia, now having seen it I can see why. It’s the true story of Tim and his partner John and the effect the AIDS epidemic has on them in the 70’s and 80’s. Another unmissable show, the two leads were flawless and Jane Turner (of Kath and Kim – one of my fav shows – who I got to interview this week and was lovely, lovely, lovely) is superb.  I now simply have to read the book! Has anyone else read it or seen the play?

Not content with those shows I have also pencilled in some author and book talks and I thought you might like to hear about them in case you wanted to pop a long to anything (yes it’s a bit London-centric this post bear with it). The nearest, most pressing and probably most under advertised event in my diary (I am praying I have tickets) is happening at Highgate Cemetery on Wednesday this week coming – the 26th – when Audrey Niffenegger and Tracy Chevalier will be talking about their books based on and in Highgate ‘Her Fearful Symmetry’ and ‘Falling Angels’. It’s in the chapel costs £10 and is not to be missed though very limited seating I imagine. You can find out more here.

The next, which links to podcast of the week, is a recording of The World Book Club with the author Carlos Ruiz Zafon. If you havent already got this as a subscription on your iTunes then you simply must go and get it here, plus you can here this one in a few weeks! I thought, and still think actually, that ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ is an utter masterpiece of a book and one that if you haven’t read you simply must. I am actually debating reading it again myself as well as ‘The Angel’s Game’. The only thing is that I now have to come up with a question to ask… eek! This event is taking place at the Beeb on the 3rd of June and is sold out already. So why am I telling you, well guess what? I have a spare ticket! If you fancy it then email me! (I might not answer straight away as will probably be lying in the sun today.)

If that wasn’t enough I also have the ‘Orange Prize Readings’ and the author Andrea Levy in discussion coming up at the Southbank, more on those nearer the time though. So which authors or bookish events have you got lined up? And, as ever, what are your reading and non-reading plans this weekend? (I have two vampire books to finish, the last NTTVBG to help host and lots of lying in the sunshine planned! Plus its time for one of these!) Do divulge your plans please!

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Falling Angels – Tracy Chevalier

I am trying to think for the life of me why I haven’t read any of Tracey Chevaliers books before ‘Falling Angels’? I think I had gotten the impression they might be a bit historically twee. Where do we get these subconscious ideas from? However having been recommended it by some of you and by some of the other tour guides at Highgate Cemetery (which plays a huge part in the setting of the book) I mentioned it enough around the house for The Converted One to get a copy for me as a surprise belated birthday treat.

When opening the book I instantly got a shock. Wife swapping? In 1901 (well New Years eve of 1900)? Didn’t that all come in during the sixties with car keys and some such? Apparently not and Tracey Chevalier uses the opening of the morning after the night before to instantly put us into the deeply unhappy mindset of one of ‘Falling Angels’ main characters Kitty Coleman. Kitty married for love and yet now several years on and a daughter (Maude who is also a pivotal character) later on she isn’t quite happy with her lot and spends her time either in books or strolling round Highgate Cemetery. She is in essence bored and unfulfilled and it’s the changes in her that often as not move the story on but it’s not a story just about Kitty.

The day after Queen Victoria’s death all of England goes into morning and many head to their nearest cemetery and that’s where Kitty and her family meet The Waterhouse’s, a family not quite of the Coleman’s status, who have a family grave their with an angel that the Coleman’s object to. Being polite Victorian society they say nothing and make polite conversation. The families’ daughters however manage to go off and have an adventure, meeting gravedigger apprentice Simon, and become the best of friends drawing these two families into an acquaintance neither are sure they want. It’s these two families and the lives they lead after this and how they affect the others that the book follows and as we all know some families have some big secrets. Along with the domestic drama’s Chevalier also features the themes of a country in a time of change not just of monarchs but a whole era in which cars replace horses, fashions and customs change and a women’s movement starts (if you are interested in the suffragettes this is very much a book for you as it’s a huge plot).

Chevalier manages to fit a huge amount of change in a rather remarkable time in history effortlessly into this book. It could be too big and vast a period to cover because it’s so full and yet your divulging all this information easily because of the wonderful narratives. Yes, I said narratives and we aren’t talking one or two or even three here, I think by the end I counted ten from each member of the family (the two girls Maude and Lavinia are two wonderfully polar voices and very entertaining) but that of the gravediggers apprentice, the maids, the mother in law and the cook. Rather than being complicated each characters voice rings true and a full picture of these families is painted. I thought it was marvellously done.

I will admit before I started it I thought ‘Highgate better be in this a lot’ because I am slightly obsessed at the moment and didn’t know if the rest would interest me but it did greatly. I didn’t rush through it because I wanted to savour every page, every voice and I will admit I couldn’t have guessed the endings either. I am definitely going to read more Chevalier, where is good to head to next? Has she anymore set in the Victorian period as I could wallow with her there for ages all over again?

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Filed under Harper Collins, Review, Tracy Chevalier