Tag Archives: Truman Capote

Savidge Reads’ Top Ten LGBT Books…

As I mentioned yesterday I am in a little bit of a reading funk. So I was routing through my bookshelves, and preparing for the event I have coming next Tuesday, I thought that I would make a little video of my personal top ten LGBT themed books. This is by no means what I think are the best LGBT themed books, it is a list of the ones that have a special place in my heart from my young teens all the way to now. So have a gander if you fancy it…

I know there are some celebrated books and authors missing yet these are the ten books that I mentioned.

Pilcrow – Adam Mars Jones
The Song of Achilles – Madeline Miller
Running With Scissors – Augusten Burroughs
The Proof of Love – Catherine Hall
A Single Man – Christopher Isherwood
My Policeman – Bethan Roberts
In Cold Blood – Truman Capote
Skin Lane – Neil Bartlett
A Boy’s Own Story – Edmund White
Tales of the City – Armistead Maupin

I am aware I have missed some of my favourite authors like Stella Duffy, Sarah Waters, Geoff Ryman, etc, lots and lots of Green Carnation books, nonfiction and classics, the latter mainly as I am playing catch up with Larry Kramer and Radclyffe Hall etc.

That is of course where you come in… What are the books you love with LGBT themes? Which books have I missed and might I have read and need to re-read (I feel I need to pick up ‘Rough Music’ by Patrick Gale again at some point) or try for the first time? Which of you the books I mention have you read? Who is coming to Leeds on Tuesday for my scary solo event? Who is currently reading ‘Tales of the City’, which I will be picking up to re-read today, to discuss on Friday on the blog? Lots of questions for you there.

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A Blogging Breather; What I Was Up To…

And he is back! I didn’t intend not to blog for ages, quite the opposite, but sometimes life makes you stop and think, get some space, and then you realise you quite like having that imposed breather and so you self impose it for a little bit longer. I was at Gran’s from the start of last week and was thinking that post radiotherapy she might be quite tired and need lots of rest and reading time.  Therefore, in my head I was expecting lots of time reading together between chatting and the like, and then while she needed a rest I could blog… Erm, wrong!

It was non-stop! Gran is certainly making the most of life, as much as you can in a wheelchair, while she can and good on her. If there weren’t carers and/or physiotherapists and other health workers then there were visitors coming round. Then we had a day trip to Sheffield on a rare ‘no one is in the diary’ day, we had meant to go to see the Warhol exhibition but it was shut alas, so instead as she hadn’t had the joy for nearly five months we went and did some retail therapy, including a trip to John Lewis (or JL’s as its simply known in the Savidge family) which is one of Gran’s favourite places. Weirdly we didn’t go to any bookshops which I would have thought was a must. Gran did however treat me a lot, I felt like I was little again, with stops at a posh Museum restaurant (where I had the most amazing vegetarian fish and chips) and then a trip to Patisserie Valerie, she knows me so well.

 

We did do a lot of talking about books though. Since Gran’s prognosis she, understandably, has been having trouble concentrating on reading. She wants to re-read some favourites but alas the one she had picked, ‘The Birds Fall Down’ by Rebecca West, simply wasn’t gripping her. So we had fun going through all the books on the shelves in her dining room which is where she keeps all the books she has read as the ones she hasn’t read stay out of sight (now I know where I get that from) and seeing if any grabbed her. Truman Capote’s ‘In Cold Blood’ seems to have done the trick. This lead to some interesting chats about books and authors she hasn’t read any really wants to, and which I felt that way about, plus also reading habits and the life of a reader in general. It got me thinking and talking about reading and blogging and the pros and cons of both of them and between the two of us she has sorted me out. I won’t navel gaze in front of you all, as it is never attractive, but the gist is life and reading come first, blogging second and only when I feel like it and when I feel what I am putting out there is good enough. Many of you have been telling me this on and off for ages when I have had wobbles but Gran really clarified everything for me. So thanks Gran, the blog sort of restarts now.

Anyway, when I got back from Gran’s utterly exhausted, so how she isn’t is beyond me, I carried on with my break from reading and blogging and just had a bit of a breather. The Beard and I have been getting addicted to old black and white Joan Crawford movies, though we did have a break to see Breaking Dawn Part 2 which I thought was a bit of a dud and expected more from, and also got a little bit addicted to bowling – a sport I am actually good at! The Beard was shocked at how good I was, but they don’t call me Simon ‘Strike’ Savidge for nothing… ok, so they don’t call me that.

I have also been spending lots of time playing with Oscar. It seems the Bengal side of him is really coming out now as he is suddenly growing and exploring more places than he has been able to previously. He is also higher maintenance, everything is more extreme, when he is manic he is absolutely bonkers, when he wants a cuddle he sits on your face quite literally smothering you with love.

We have made a big decision though, we are getting him a playmate, most likely a younger girl that he can have rough and tumble and cuddly times with when we aren’t home as he doesn’t like going outside alone or without a lead, and when he has he ends up freaking out and running up tall trees to everyone’s dismay. Ha! Any tips on making them get on please let me know and of course I will introduce her when she arrives. But enough of cats for now, I can bore you all to death on them so must show restraint, ha!

The break has done me good though and the reading funk I didn’t realise I was in has well and truly gone as in the last three days I have read as many books and loved them all, interestingly they were all whim reads. It’s the way forward.

So that is me all up to date with you all. You have my news and latest on Gran, Oscar and other non bookish stuff. So now I shall go and curl up with Anthony Trollope’s ‘The Warden’ in time for Classically Challenged on Sunday. What have you all been up to and what are you reading right now?

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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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World Book Night 2012…

I was going to give the blog a day off but then I received an email about all this so thought that I would pass some of it on. I know that actually World Book Night is months and months away (April 23rd 2012 in fact) so some of you might not be interested but an email this morning reminded me about it and the fact that you can vote for your favourite books to be given away. I was also a bit over excited when I read this specific email as previous givers, and you can see what I gave away and how I did it earlier this year, two people could win a chance to be on the World Book Night Editorial Selection Committee (theres a mouthful), well of course how could I not want to do that?

So what did you have to do? Well, give them your details, tell them what you gave last year and name the “top 10 books you most love to read, give and share for 2012” now initially I thought  they meant books out in 2012 then twigged they just meant your favourites. You then had to write, in 100 words or less, an impassioned argument for your number one book. I did it in ninety-nine.  

I liked the idea of this list of ten books you would want to pass on and realised that not all my very favourite books would pass the test of being books I would avidly pass on, those tend to be books I have liked a lot but not enough to keep on my own shelves, this however is the list of ten books I would happily buy other people and pass them on in that way… 

  1. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
  2. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  3. Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin
  4. Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood
  5. Perfume by Patrick Suskind
  6. The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford
  7. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  8. Annabel by Kathleen Winter
  9. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
  10. The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark

I couldn’t choose ‘One Day’ (which I am desperately telling the Aunty Who Doesn’t Read So Much to read before she sees the film next week, will she listen…) or indeed ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ because both books were in the list last year and given away. I like the idea of some classics being given away in 2012, some corkers though, not necessarily the same old ones. You can guess which books I might mean but I will never tell, ha.

I am pretty sure that I won’t be picked as one of the World Book Night Editorial Selection Committee, though if it did happen I would just be over the moon, partly because I have blabbed about it on here. It gave me a think about books though, and a chance to give you all a list of books to try should you have not read them so far. You can find more out about World Book Night 2012 here. What would your ten be? What are your thoughts on the whole World Book Night idea?

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Are We Reading Eclectically Enough?

I don’t want to keep banding the cancer word about, yet I do think its interesting that since I was told that those evil cells were now firmly friends of mine I have been thinking differently about reading. I mentioned last week how I went from racing through lots of books and today I wanted to discuss how it made me wonder if I was actually reading eclectically enough, and eclectic reading in general, so I hope you will all offer your thoughts.

I was actually eavesdropping at the hospital waiting area where they have a book exchange, which I find an interesting idea in a hospital, I mean the NHS have been great but no one wants to be coming back and forth to a hospital do they really no matter how necessary – sorry I have digressed. So anyway I was eavesdropping as a couple were routing through the shelves. They came across a copy of an unnamed but incredibly pastel coloured book and the woman said ‘oh even I wouldn’t read that it looks like utter chick lit nonsense’. On a separate visit a different pair were routing through the books on the shelves and came across a book that she described as ‘dafty alien rubbish, that’s the kind of thing you would read’ before shooting an eyebrow up at him. I found this interesting as both assumptions I had made about the same two books yet hearing them out loud I thought ‘oooh what snobs’ and then thought ‘oh dear does that make me a snob?’

I am hoping it doesn’t as really I would classify sci-fi and chick lit not as books that I am snobby about but just ones that aren’t really to my taste. This used to be the same for non-fiction books, however I have slowly but surely started to convert myself, and the same applies to classics actually (though these were more books that English Literature lessons at school put me off rather than me being adverse to them in the first place) which I have been trying harder at… occasionally, in fact I should be making more of an effort with the classics again and finally read a Jane Austen, Charles Dickens or Thomas Hardy if I am honest.

Why don’t I think I like sci-fi, fantasy and chick lit? Well I have never been a huge fan of aliens in books, in films and TV it’s fine, I used to love The X Files and am still a fan of Doctor Who (though not to excess), but for some reason on the page its never quite washed with me. I have yet to read a book that has convinced me by an alien world. The same applies to fantasy, I tried Lord of the Rings when I was younger and just thought it was ridiculous and have carried that thought, without testing it again, ever since. Weirdly though I love a good tale of the supernatural or ghost story, not that they are the same but its interesting a spooky world can ignite me (yet I don’t tend to read horror either) yet an alien or troll filled one doesn’t seem to.

Chick lit and I used to be friends. Who hasn’t read Bridget Jones Diary, and what made people less sneery about that book than others? My friend Gemma has been telling me for ages I must read Marian Keyes and I have always winced a little and said ‘really?’ I have been told to read Jenny Colgan often by Paul Magrs and the same response has been given. Yet I used to read everything by Lisa Jewell, and ‘A Friend of the Family’ is still one of my favourite books, and yet I havent picked up another in years and years. Why not?

So maybe its time to challenge myself, I have pulled four books I have been sent (I couldn’t find any fantasy) out of the TBR and they are by the bedside and will be little tests, to be read on a whim of course, that will gently test the waters with my tastes once more (the Daisy Goodwin sounds up my street, I have seen the film of I Am Number Four, Jessica Ruston is Susan Hills daughter so have always wanted to try her and I have had success with China Mievilles crime novel so might with his full on sci-fi)…

But I think its time for a gauntlet to be thrown down and see if maybe I need to be a bit more adventurous. So I thought you could all help by suggesting your favourite books in various genres (because I am aware that while I love crime fiction books there are lots of you who don’t) and seeing if we could enlighten each other to what books we have loved that might open new reading paths for each other. So here are the categories and I have put my favourites in and left question marks in the ones I have no idea about .I have missed out literary fiction as I never really know what that means; I just think that’s general fiction isn’t it or have I opened a can of worms there? Have I missed any other genres?

Chick Lit: ?
Crime Fiction: Any of the series by Tess Gerritsen, Sophie Hannah or Susan Hill
Horror: ?
Fantasy:  ?
Non-Fiction: In Cold Blood – Truman Capote, Letters Between Six Sisters edited by Charlotte Mosely
Science Fiction: ?

Anyway it could be a fun little exercise for a Tuesday. If you don’t fancy giving it a go then do let me know your thoughts on eclectic reading (or do both) in general. Are there any genre’s out there you avoid and if so why? Do you often test the waters with genres you think you don’t like to see if your mind can be changed or do you think with so many books out there life is just too short and it’s best just sticking to what you know? Is all of this just a question of taste, can you be converted?

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Another Night With Novella’s

Just under a month ago I had the pleasure of a Saturday night on my own and spent it with some novella’s. Guess what? I am having another one tonight! Though some could see this as being a bit of a sad fact at 28 I would strongly disagree. This is in fact an ideal night for me when I can devote some serious time to some shorter fiction between Book Group reads, Green Carnation Longlisted books and some classics that I have planned ahead. So tonight I raided the shelves and have a host of shorter books to read…

  • 84 Charng Cross Road by Helene Hanff
  • A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh
  • The Swallows of Kabul by Yasmina Khandra
  • Ready To Catch Him Should He Fall by Neil Bartlett
  • Other Voices, Other Rooms by Truman Capote
  • The Magician by W. Somerset Maugham
  • Peace by Richard Bausch
  • Strangers by Antonia White
  • Strange Boy by Paul Magrs

I am going to go and get some tea (possibly a pot full) some biscuits now and then get under the duvet with a few of these delights. I might read one slowly, I might read a good fair few. Either way its going to be a treat of an evening. Let me know if you have read any or can think of any great novellas for future nights like these… I might make this a monthly event at Savidge Reads HQ! I honestly think this is a craze which could catch on.

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The Long and Short Listing of It…

Over the next few weeks, and realistically probably months, things might be a little bit different at Savidge Reads. So I thought that instead of doing one of my ‘Bookish Bits’ I would instead have a natter with you about some possible forthcoming changes to service with the blog and also to ask you for some recommendations of a certain kind of reading material, because you are all always very good with helping me out.

 As you may or may not know I have helped co-found (and am now a judge of) a new book award ‘The Green Carnation Prize’ and yesterday the deadline for submissions closed. I can’t tell you exactly how many we have had as until they all arrive in the next few days I won’t be 100% sure, I can say it’s more than 20 and less than 125. We have been really surprised, and I think if we admit it out loud even a little shocked, at the response that we have had to this, people are really getting behind it, in fact we have already had already had lots of books arrive before the submissions deadline closed…

Sorry about the green shroud (which is actually one of my favourite t-shirts – no expense spared here at Savidge Reads as you can tell) but myself and the other judges have all agreed that until the winner is announced we won’t comment on any of the books that come in for the prize, even after the long list, short list and winner are announced. Whilst this is great for scheduling posts while I am in Brazil for a few months it could mean things change a bit on Savidge Reads as firstly I will be lost in a mass of books which I can’t blog about and also I am going to be dedicating much more time to reading and less to blogging. There may be some radio silence now and again too.

I do want to read some books in between submissions though and as judges we were all talking about what we might fit in. I think Lesley was going to read some crime along the way, Paul might be reading some Dr Who and his treasured Crossroads books – both of them will also be working on new books, Nick is going to be reading kids and YA fiction. I am plumping for short books, novellas, guilty pleasures and short story collections. In fact I sorted out a possible pile of them for the bedside…

  • The Only Problem by Muriel Spark (the Queen of shorter books which pack twists and punches, my Mum lent me this out of print gem)
  • The Bone Garden by Tess Gerritsen (looks big but I will be so gripped in one of my favourite guilt free guilty pleasure it can get done and dusted in mere hours)
  • Agatha Raisin & The Love From Hell by M.C. Beaton (what can I say an Agatha Raisin mystery is always two hours of pure murder, mayhem and laughter)
  • The Thirteen Problems by Agatha Christie (apparently this is like a collection of short Miss Marple tales, perfect)
  • In Between The Sheets by Ian McEwan (another short book my mother lent me, I know nothing about this McEwan at all)
  • The Comforters by Muriel Spark (another Spark that’s due back at the library quite soon)
  • A Bit of Singing & Dancing by Susan Hill (I love Susan Hill’s work but have never tried her short stories)
  • Between Us Girls by Joe Orton (another library book I picked up purely because it was by Orton, looks delightfully caustic and is also massive print so that will be a quick treat)
  • Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd (always meant to read it, now I shall try)
  • Heartburn by Norah Ephron (I was at a meeting and someone else was reading this and raving about it, plus I remember seeing some buzz about it last year or the year before on the blogosphere)
  • In Other Voices, Other Rooms by Truman Capote (he’s a genius and I would like the spirit of Capote with me while I try and whittle down the submissions, he would be my dream 6th judge – well it would be a tie with him and Oscar Wilde)
  • Dancing Girls by Margaret Atwood (tried and loved her shorts in Good Bones, want to read more and couldn’t locate my copy of ‘Bluebeards Egg’)
  • Hector and the Search for Happiness by Francois Lelord (have renewed this far too many times from the library need to get it read)
  • The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis (this arrived in the post the other day and seemed to be great timing, never read her – or heard of her before this showed up)
  • 13.55 Eastern Standard Time by Nick Alexander (my friend Dom raved and raved about this and lent me a copy so must see if its as good as Dom said – could be awkward if not)
  • Dark Matter by Michelle Paver (I love a good ghost story now and again and this sounds like its going to be great from the early buzz its already getting – its not even out till October!)

I have just realised I didn’t include the third Peirene Press title and some Anne Tyler, drat. The latter in particular I really need to read more of as I have loved everything I have read of hers so far and have been telling myself to read for ages.

So what do you think of that possible selection of non Green Carnation reading? Are there any titles on there you would like me to get to first? Are there any you have read and what did you think? Can you think of any other short fiction or collections that I am missing out on and must try and squeeze in my reading over the next few months? What are your reading plans at the moment?

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Books for Book Groups…

After my previous post on a few things Book Group orientated and The Riverside Readers I said that I would come back with a post on my personal top Book Group reads as well as discussing my top Book Group tips. Those two things would actually make a bit of a Bible of a post and so I will do the top books today and a few tips and my own experiences for and of Book Groups on Thursday, so hopefully you are all still interested in all things Book Group related. Could I fit the words Book Groups in these previous sentences if I tried?

After seeing Novel Insights wonderful post on her personal top twelve books a group could read in a year I thought I would have a go. This isn’t plagiarism it’s simply joining in, ha. Having been in a few book groups (in fact I am currently in two though one is rather rogue and we only do one every so often when the whim takes us) I realised that I had a list of 38 books that I could choose from. Some of the books haven’t worked (Tales of the Jazz Age – we all had different editions which all featured a different selection of short stories), some have received indifference, some have been disliked and some have been loved, more on those in my list.

Though I haven’t featured the books that were indifferent or went wrong I have included one book which I didn’t care for but caused great discussion and that’s one thing I have noticed from book groups, I might not always like a book but that in itself when lots of people do can make for a great book group read as it causes debate. So what five things do I do in order to make a book group choice now, I may not have always done this in the past mind;

  1. Books you wouldn’t normally read – one of the main points of a book group in my mind – but which are accessible, you don’t want to alienate your other group members.
  2. Books which have been received with strong reviews/thoughts both positive and negative way when they came out, this could cause great debate.
  3. Books that make you think and cause all sorts of discussions with yourself in your own head though you can’t always predict these in advance.
  4. Authors you love and admire who other people might not have tried, though don’t be precious on these as they could get ripped to shreds.
  5. Books that challenge and push you as a reader, if they are going to do this to you they probably will be to others.

Looking back at all the book groups I have been part of in the past which book would I recommend the most? Well after some whittling of the 38 I have read with book groups I came up with the final twelve (like Novel Insights I have chosen a years worth) that I think have caused the greatest discussion in no particular order.

  • Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell
  • The Bell – Iris Murdoch
  • In Cold Blood – Truman Capote
  • On Chesil Beach – Ian McEwan (close tie with Atonement to be honest)
  • The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
  • To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee
  • Half of a Yellow Sun – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
  • Animal’s People – Indra Sinha
  • Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck (the one I didn’t like – discussion was great)
  • The Book of Dave – Will Self
  • Kafka on the Shore – Hariku Murakami

So there it is. You can see the full list of all 38 books now on the “new and improved” Book Group page where you can also see what the next book group read is. You may be wondering why some of the above list are in bold. Well my Gran wants a list of five books, as I mentioned on a previous post, she could put forward for her book group. I am actually going to send her a list of new books she and her group are less likely to have read along with the five above in bold. More book group musings on Thursday when I will be discussing Book Group decorum and what made me sensationally (love the drama of that word) leave a book group I started after two years! Let me know what you think of the final twelve too can you spot any themes in them? Also please do tell me of any great books you have done in a book group in the past.

P.S Sorry no picture on today’s post I am not a big fan of posts with no images, if it drives me to crazy will be the shot of The Riverside Readers again!

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The Saddest Reads

Today’s Booking Through Thursday carries on with the ‘recent theme’ and asks us “What’s the saddest book you’ve read recently?” I have had to really wrack my brains about this one as I don’t think I have read any particularly sad books of late. Though I will admit to having read a lot of books that I have been sad to close the final page on and could quite happily read again, but that’s not the sort of sadness we are after.

I don’t tend to hunt a sad book down. Which makes me wonder why do we read sad fiction? I think if I know a book is sad then it looses some of the effect that the author had intended, forewarned is forearmed as they say. It tends to be the books that surprise me by their sadness or shocking events that hit home the hardest.

A few books have disturbed me slightly and a few have made me ask a lot of questions about how people can behave in a negative way but nothing particularly sad. I am always banging on about this book, but the last book that actually made me cry was ‘In Cold Blood’ by Truman Capote. That was because there was one scene that was shocking but written with such directness yet filled with emotion it set me over the edge and I had a good old cry. I don’t think a chapter of a book has moved me that much in a very long time or made me feel so wrought with emotion. The one before that was ‘The Book Thief’ by Marcus Zusack back in the pre-blogging days.

I do have some sad books on the TBR though and thought that I would share those with you. I have them quite high up but because they all share the same theme (war) I think I will be reading them with quite a gap in between. They are…

   

  • Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally – The film made me cry, very recently, like I have never cried at a  film before so this could be quite the reading experience.
  • The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank – I think almost everyone knows the story and the ending of this book, I am yet to read it though which is a surprise as its been on my must read list for quite some time.
  • Sophie’s Choice by William Styron – I have no idea what happens in this one (no plot spoilers please) but have heard that it’s incredibly sad. I also have the movie at home; it was free in one of the Sunday papers once, but even though I love Meryl Streep am holding off until have read the book first.

What are your saddest reads recently? Why do we read sad books? Have you read any of the above and did they move you? Has any book actually reduced you to tears, not because it was so dire or frustrating, because it was so moving or emotional?

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Informative Reads… Fiction or Non Fiction?

Today’s Booking Through Thursday question asks ‘what is the most informative book you have read recently’ and my initial reaction was that all books you read inform you in some way. It could be on the authors thoughts on people/life/certain subjects, it could be the level of research they have put into it or it could be based on factual things that have happened.

If I go on the fact that fiction can be informative reading then without a doubt Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel would be the most informative read that I have had the pleasure of reading in a long time. The lengths that Mantel has clearly gone into researching Cromwell and the Tudor era (and in a way looking extra hard for new information and a different viewpoint to the era as many people have written Tudor based books in the last few years) was immense and you felt you walked the street, breathed the musty air and were actually there. Some people may say that fiction isn’t fact and I am aware fo the difference but when its based on fact, researched and thoroughly written I still think, with the right mindset, we can learn from it. I could also apply this to The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt, Daphne by Justine Picardie or the Taste of Sorrow by Jude Morgan I just haven’t read those as recently.

When it comes to non fiction, which I suppose is really the most informative books that you can read, then it’s a bit harder for me because I don’t read very much of it. My instant thought was The Letters Between Six Sisters all about The Mitford’s but that I read almost a year ago. Then looking back how could I have not thought instantly of In Cold Blood by Truman Capote which is one of the best books that I have read in 2009. Based on the savage murder of a family in rural America Capote writes the factual events (in such a stunning way you almost cant believe its not fiction) and looks at why people kill people, what makes people murder and how does it effect the surrounding village and population and their lives and how does it effect the families of the victims and the murderers themselves. It’s an incredibly insightful, moving and very informative and shocking book.

So what’s your most recent informative book? Do you agree or disagree that some fiction, or all fiction, can be informative in its own way? Have any fictional novels based on fact blown you away and made you feet like you were actually there? What fiction have you learnt from? What non fiction must I read?

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Belated Book Group Blog

Now what with moving house and all I have been lax on reporting back on Book Group last Thursday, and as the next one is a month today (August 6th) I thought that I should really get on with it as Kimbofo already has which puts me to shame. 

I had a few friendly faces from the Blogosphere as Jackie from Farmlanebooks and Claire from A Paperback Reader both turned up. Kim’s blog had drawn in two more and then some of my friends and a work colleague popped in too. It made a really lovely mix of eleven, with a diverse range of people, ages and genders and over a few drinks we all had a lovely discussion. There wasn’t actually a first book choice as we had decided to do an ice breaking group where we all brought along our favourite book. The choices were…

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier (Simon)
My Brother Jack by George Johnston (Kim)
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (Claire)
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry (Jackie)
Persuasion by Jane Austen (Michelle)
The Pursuit of Love/Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford (Dom)
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (Polly)

Diaspora by Greg Egan / Dawn by Octavia E. Butler (Kake)
Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson (Hattie)
A Place to Live: And Other Selected Essays of Natalia Ginzburg by Natalia Ginzburg (Armen)
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (Gemma)

I have highlighted the ones that I have actually read (I read half Behind the Scenes at the Museum and gave up so must retry that) and am going to get copies of the ones I haven’t. Of course mine had to be Rebecca, which Claire had actually guessed I would bring and is also her favourite but thought two same favourites might not be so interesting and so she brought another. Now I know I said that I would do a page of my favourite books on here but I have done something wrong with my coding and being mid move I haven’t been able to update it as yet, but its coming honest. I just need to have a big sort out and then settle in the new pad. I did ask you for your favourites but you weren’t too forthcoming and I would still love to know what they are. 

So what is the next book we are doing on August 6th?

Well it was my choice, after this we are going in alphabetical order, and so I decided to try ‘The Bell Jar’ by Sylvia Plath which sounds quite intriguing! “Renowned for its intensity and outstandingly vivid prose, it broke existing boundaries between fiction and reality and helped to make Plath an enduring feminist icon. It was published under a pseudonym a few weeks before the author’s suicide. Plath was an excellent poet but is known to many for this largely autobiographical novel. The Bell Jar tells the story of a gifted young woman’s mental breakdown beginning during a summer internship as a junior editor at a magazine in New York City in the early 1950s. The real Plath committed suicide in 1963 and left behind this scathingly sad, honest and perfectly- written book, which remains one of the best-told tales of a woman’s descent into insanity.”  Should be interesting! 

I will do a review and update on the group the day after we’ve met in the flesh, so you can join in with your thoughts then if you can’t actually make it. Well you can do it now actually… just no plot spoilers please!!!!

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In Cold Blood – Truman Capote

I am thrilled that Novel Insights is back in the UK (though I am not sure she is going back to blogging or not), after what has felt like absolutely ages as we have been friends for 24 years, she has come back from her travels around the globe and so it was time for us to catch up with ‘Rogue Book Group’. Only I had forgotten to read one of the books that we had chosen to do. We actually were a bit flummoxed as we were pretty sure that we had chosen five books and though we could remember Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Blind Assassin’, Linwood Barclay’s ‘No Time For Goodbye’, Daphne Du Maurier’s ‘The Parasites’ and the one book I hadn’t yet read Truman Capote’s ‘In Cold Blood’ we were stuck on the fifth. Then after much research we realised it was just the four… typical. Anyway in order to do ‘Rogue Book Group’ (we had a picnic in the park) I needed to finally read ‘In Cold Blood’ which was easy as I found I was unable to put it down! 

In Cold Blood is a non-fiction account of the mass murder of the Clutter Family in Holcomb, Kansas in 1959. Where Herb Clutter, his wife Bonnie and two of their four children Nancy and Kenyon were horrifically murdered for what seemed like absolutely no logical reason whatsoever. Capote writes of the events leading up to the deaths of this family, onto catching the killers, their trial and then their execution through the eyes of the people of Holcomb and some of the detectives in the case as well as having had many meetings with the murderers Dick Hickock and Perry Smith to try and work out why people could do this and how these people could get caught.

At no point does this book ever feel like a text book which some non fiction can do for me. All the characters from the family and villagers to the killers and all those involved in the case and the trial are fully formed. You know the types too for example many of the gossips in the village who start to mistrust each other and spread rumours. It shows how a village that was in the middle of nowhere with no crime record dealt with such a shocking event, so in some ways it’s a study of humans and how they react. You also get to feel that you know the family and this adds to the trauma of when the events that actually took place that night, from the mouths of the murderers, it makes the impact greater and also makes what is a very emotional and gruesome event even more so.

The characters that you do get to know the best, possibly because Capote was fascinated by their motives and what drive people to do something so callous (and in the end only for $40 which was all they found in the house), are the killers themselves. Capote has researched their backgrounds, gone through letters, diaries and interviewed family members to find out if someone’s background and environment can create a murderer. It does appear that Capote was more interested in Perry Smith than Dick Hickock as the former is a much more researched and mentioned during the novel (some people, including those who made the movie believe Capote was obsessed/besotted with the killer, I am not so sure) and you feel that you have much more insight and time with him.

What I think made this book such a fascinating, with a subject like this especially as its real I don’t think you can call it a wonderful book, book to read was how Capote wrote it. The day of the murder is written so vividly and the settings so descriptively you could almost have been there. Note for the faint hearted the same applies when Perry actually admits what happened on that horrific night (I actually got quite upset by it). Undoubtedly it has to be said that this is an absolute masterpiece both of non fiction and as a book as a whole and I would recommend this read to anyone and everyone, particularly if you like crime. It has stayed with me for days since I closed the final page.

Many people say that In Cold Blood was Capote’s finest work and after so far this year reading Summer Crossing and Breakfast At Tiffany’s I certainly think that that statement isn’t far from the truth, though I have many more of his books that I desperately want to read. However I don’t think you can judge it along side the other two as it is a work of non-fiction. I am not the biggest fan of non fiction, I like the odd autobiography, diary or selection of letters but it’s not a genre I am drawn to. If I found more non fiction like this I think that I would possibly overdose on it all as this was utterly fantastic.

Hmmm, that’s quite a gloomy post! Maybe I should leave you with a picture of me and Novel Insights when we were lying full to the brim with summery picnic food and had exhausted the discussion on all four books which we agreed we loved all of.

Novel Insights & Savidge Reads Full of Fiction (& Picnic)

Novel Insights & Savidge Reads Full of Fiction (& Picnic)

As well as the new Book Group which I have started with Kimbofo (and which Novel Insights is also coming too) I am going to be carrying on with Rogue Book Group too. The next book that we have chosen is Tess of the D’Urbervilles!

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Summer Crossing – Truman Capote

How delightful that as I type the words ‘Summer Crossing’ that the sun is actually streaming through the windows and I can see a cloudless sky, it oddly feels like we’ve skipped spring and summer is actually already here, well in London anyway. Mind you knowing the British weather it will be a rain filled thunderstorm we are greeted to when we wake up tomorrow. I don’t wish that by the way it’s just a thought. Anyway enough of that back to the book.

Summer Crossing is the newly discovered first novel by Truman Capote. It’s taken from four school notebooks and various additional notes in the New York Public Library’s Truman Capote Collection. Various experts and editors have then put it all together, and the part that doesn’t quite agree with me, edited it and added parts where it was illegible. Now this is a double edged sword. The negative is that you don’t know if Capote ever wanted this story read and it partly isn’t a story he totally read or finished (thankfully no one has tried to finish his final novel) and has been fiddled with. The positive is that we get to see more of his work and with this novel in particular we get to see what may have been the beginnings of Holly Golightly forming and Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Summer Crossing is a tale of first love. Grady’s parents leave her in New York City alone (her sister Apple lives not to far away but is easy to elude and avoid) aged only eighteen. Grady is a bit of a minx. Having previously fallen for her fathers married friend she has actually tried to seduce him when his wife was pregnant whilst also being his wife’s closest friend during her pregnancy. You can tell we have quite a feisty heroine pretty much from the start especially with the conversations with her mother as she stubbornly refuses to go away on a cruise with her or be paraded at any dances where she might meet a potential match.

As we find out Grady is already in love, though not with the sort of society boy her parents would wish for. Clyde is a Jewish Park Attendant who she is immediately attracted and devoted too. What follows is a hedonistic summer where drink and drugs are mixed with early freedom and desire proving a tragic, dangerous and dramatic mix. I loved Grady as a character I thought she was absolutely fantastic. I just didn’t feel I knew any of the other characters really and in that sense you could tell it was an unfinished work and possibly the vague plotting of Holly Golightly.

I kind of wish I had read Breakfast at Tiffany’s after this. Not because I was disappointed or didn’t like Summer Crossing more that it just never quite matched up. I do get the feeling that if Capote had finished it he would have made it a lot longer, taking more time to introduce some of the characters and their personalities and back stories. I also would have liked to have known if the end is the ending he chose (quite possibly as it’s quite shocking and dramatic) or if he had further plans for Grady who is a wonderful, wonderful character. I could have read a lot more about her and her adventures in the past and possibly beyond the book.

All in all I would say if you loved Breakfast at Tiffany’s or are a die hard Capote fan then this is a book you wont want to miss out on. For everyone else it’s a good read but on which you might find you drift away from as you turn the page.

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A Month in Books: February

Summing up their month of reading is something that I am seeing on a fair few book blogs now and there is something I really like reading so I thought ‘oh, I’ll join in’. It won’t be a really long blog as I have a manic weekend this weekend but I thought would be a little something to keep you all going.

Now having just finished Summer Crossing by Truman Capote literally a few minutes ago my total of books read this month is ten, I’d love to sneak another read in today but its not going to happen. This is despite having some really bad readers block during the month that sent my planned TBR and reading habits into a slight meltdown. Thanks to Susan Hill and some of her crime fiction I was soon sorted out. It also beats January as I read eight books in a slightly longer month and is also three more than I read in February last year.

This seems to have been an unintentionally crime based month with Susan Hill, Sophie Hannah and David Ebershoff. It has also of course been a month filled with Richard and Judy books which I know often get frowned upon for me however a fair few of this months best reads have come from their selection. I had read Kate Atkinson prior to this month so can’t count it, if I had read it this month it would have been my favourite book hands down. My TBR pile has gone crazy thanks to publishing houses and second hand shops, what was a pile of 702 books to read has in the space of a month gone to 754 which is verging on the excessive. Anyway here is a quick summary of my month, which from now on I shall do every month… it feels a bit like the Oscars.

New author I want to read ‘the works of’: Truman Capote (by new I mean one I haven’t read before)
Favourite character of the month: John Cromer from Pilcrow, Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s or Marianne Engel from The Gargoyle
Best crime: Hurting Distance – Sophie Hannah (so clever and so full of twists)
Best non-fiction: The Bolter – Frances Osborne
Surprise of the month: The Gargoyle – Andrew Davidson
Book of the month: The Bolter – Frances Osborne or Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Truman Capote, both were wonderful.

What about you? What were your highlights of a fiction filled February? What are your plans for March? Me, I think my aim is to get a few more classics under my belt. I was also going to say that I would try and restrain the number of books that come through my door (not from publishers) but it’s my birthday in March and that invariably means lots and lots of book vouchers… hoorah!

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Filed under Andrew Davidson, Book Thoughts, Frances Osborne, Sophie Hannah, Truman Capote