Tag Archives: Truman Capote

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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Filed under Book Group, Books of 2009, Penguin Classics, Review, Truman Capote

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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Filed under Penguin Books, Penguin Classics, Review, Truman Capote

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

Breakfast At Tiffany’s – Truman Capote

I haven’t read any Capote before but have always wanted to, so when the lovely people at penguin sent me a few as part of their gorgeous new modern classics range I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep myself away from them for long, but which one should I read first? I plumped for Breakfast at Tiffany’s because I had seen the movie, which is the opposite way to how I normally do the whole book to film routine, but with a new author as Capote was to me I thought that it might actually help with the reading and in some ways it did.

The story itself is much darker than the one in which Audrey Hepburn starred. Holly Golightly (which I think is a fantastic name) is a much darker and more ruthless and naughty character than the one in the film. I could instantly see how the narrator of the tale was drawn to her, her first scene is arriving a little drunk with a gentleman caller waking the neighbours by forgetting her keys, and she then causes quite a scene on the stairwell. I knew from then on I was going to enjoy the book a lot. She is ‘irresistibly top banana in the shock department’. I also didn’t realise how tragic she is in her own way. Once again the book is better than the movie which is of course a classic.

I found the way Truman uses her to describe people and social etiquette and climbing in New York in the 1940’s really insightful. You can of course see that in people today, I just wasn’t expecting it to be so dark, and I like a novel with dark parts mingled amongst cocktails parties and wonderful characters. There is no doubt in my mind that if you haven’t read the novel then you should and you should get this one.

Not only does it have possibly the best ‘film cover’ I have seen on a book, as most of them lets be honest can be pretty horrid, but there are three more stories there two of which I was completely taken with. My least favourite was ‘The Diamond Guitar’, I kept thinking of Fitzgerald’s story ‘A Diamond as Big as the Ritz’ for some reason. Though it wasn’t a bad story and the relationship and friendship between two prisoners was impeccably written it didn’t get into my head as much as the title story or the other two.

‘A Christmas Memory’ is delightful told from the eyes of an unnamed seven year old who bakes cakes every year with his sixty plus year old cousin and sends them to various people including the president. It is as it says simply a memory but one that made me think of all the special times I have had with different members of my family. However the gem hidden away (again bar the title story) for me was the story ‘House of Flowers’ which tells of another lady of the night like Holly called Ottilie.

Ottilie, who despite her job in a house of ill famed repute, desperately wants to fall in love. She is told that when she does she will know because she will be able to pick up a Bee and it won’t sting her, for a while she gets stung until she meets the unlikely love of her life Royal. She leaves the brothel to move in with him where she meets his bitter mother. I won’t say anymore than that – oh apart from the fact that it’s like a dark modern fairy tale. It’s brilliant as is the collection and I know I will be revisiting this collection again and again.

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Filed under Books of 2009, Penguin Classics, Review, Short Stories, Truman Capote

Some More Incoming…

If I have missed any then I apologise to the publishers I have just been swamped with new books but here are the most reecent, I won’t put the blurb of everyone as I think that might make for dull reading! But heres whats come of late…

Child 44 – Tom Rob Smith
The Stone Gods – Jeanette Winterson
The Confessions of Max Tivoli – Andrew Sean Greer
State of Happiness – Stella Duffy
In Cold Blood – Truman Capote
The Swimming Pool Library – Alan Hollinghurst
Death in Venice & Other Stories – Thomas Mann
The Secret Scripture – Sebastian Barry
Hotel de Dream – Edmund White
Me Talk Pretty One Day – David Sedaris
Breakfast At Tiffany’s – Truman Capote
The Indian Clerk – David Leavitt

How should I order them on my TBR, which ones can you recommend? Actually I should really concentrate on getting my current reads all finished.

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Filed under David Sedaris, Edmund White, Sebastian Barry, Stella Duffy, Tom Rob Smith, Truman Capote

The Reader (Again)

On Sunday I went to the cinema with The Non Reader to see The Reader (that’s confusing) which I have been aching to see. I have to admit I am always very cautious when a book is turned into a movie however my fears were completely unfounded with this wonderful adaptation. The movie is stunning the landscapes, backdrops the works are just wonderfully filmed and the delicate parts of the film were dealt with so well and so sympathetically. No dramatics!

Kate Winslet is simply superb as Hannah Schmidt, I thought her acting was completely effortless whilst being heart breaking and moving. It’s difficult to say too much about the film without giving the twist and turns away. I will say that after speaking with my Gran you should read the book as you understand Hannah a lot better and the main reason as to why she has done what she has in the past. I did feel that wasn’t made clear enough in the movie. If you see it then it will make sense. I also thought that the boy who played the younger Michael Berg was fantastic as was Ralph Fiennes as the elder Michael Berg; the younger just stole it away from him at the end of the day. The scene of the film, without giving anything away, invovles the word ‘the’ and I dont think there was a dry eye in the cinema including me and the Non Reader! This is the must see movie of the year so far. I predict (we will see if I am right later in the year) that from this film there will be a shift in sales of a few books but one in particular The Lady and the Little Dog by Chekhov… watch this space!

Anyways I am putting up the review of the book for you all again from last year. Do get the book, only not the movie tie-in version, you know my thoughts on those…

After having read some amazing books on the holocaust and WWII in the past twelve months or so like Marcus Zusack’s astounding ‘The Book Thief’ and John Boyne’s superb ‘The Boy in the Stripped Pyjama’s’ I didn’t know if ‘The Reader’ would live up to the brilliant reports that I had heard not from blogs but from some friends, one in particular who I was in my old book group with who told me that ‘you simply have to read it’. This book has actually been around now for ten years and that was when book blogs or blogs in general weren’t around (how did I find what I wanted to read lol) but is resurfacing with the film coming out in January. This book is just as good as the aforementioned and yet totally different.
Michael is ill during his fifteenth year with hepatitis when he first realises he is sick he collapses in the street and with help from a lady in the street he gets home saftely. After making most of his recovery he walks to thirty six year old Hannah Schmitz to thank her for what she did. This becomes a regular visit as he is intoxicated by her and eventually is seduced by her, then starts a love affair involving Michael reading to her before and after their intimate relations, and eventually just reading before one day Hannah suddenly vanishes from his life. However one day Hannah comes back into his life in a totally unexpected way. I will say no more than that as this book has a incredibly thought provoking twist and I don’t want to spoil it for you.
Schink’s novel (beautifully translated by Carol Brown Janeway) looks at the Holocaust and things that happened during it in a way I haven’t seen before fictionally. This book is all about the generations after the war and how it felt to carry the burden of Hitler’s regime and destruction. I had never thought of what it would be like to have that as part of your history, especially in this case so recent. Through one of the characters actions he asks how people you perceive to be good could possibly do unspeakable things in unspeakable conditions. It also looks at love and emotions in a time where a country and its people were damaged and scarred.This is simply a wonderful novel, moving, shocking, and thought provoking. If there is one book you read in the next few months make it this one. Mind you with some of the fabulous books I have gotten through in the last twelve months of blogging I have said that a fair few times, but in this case I seriously recommend it and cannot recommend it enough.

Oh and not a book to film but a film about an author (or two as the synopsis shows) Capote arrived through my door today. I will be interested to see how I take to this as I don’t like Philip Seymour Hoffman and the accent I saw in the trailers might grate on me we will see. Am also looking forward to seeing how they portray his relationship with Harper Lee as some people say they were one and the same and that Capote did in fact write To Kill A Mockingbird under the pseudonym, I am not sure I believe that. I might wait until Novel Insights comes round.

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Filed under Bernhard Schink, Harper Lee, John Boyne, Marcus Zusack, Orion Publishing, Review, Truman Capote

Collecting The Classics

Only six days into the New Year and I am going to have to edit one of my resolutions already. It was that tricky one of not really buying anymore books. I think what I should change it to ‘not buy anymore new books’ or ‘only buy classics from charity shops’. Or maybe a mix of the two, I’ll work it out later? Anyway on my way to Sainsbury’s to stock up on post holiday food and happened to stumble into my two favourite charity shops. By the time I left I had bought five ‘classics’ and all for under £3, now really how could I say no?


Cider With Rosie – Laurie Lee
I didn’t know very much about this when I saw it on the shelf and yet I instantly knew the name. However looking at the blurb it sounded quite interesting. A memoir of life in a Cotswold village in the 1920’s before cars or electricity revealing what life was like in the not so distant past that is also like another world. I can’t wait to read this book.

Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
Another book that I know very little about but have seen so many times on peoples shelves (well we all like a nosey don’t we) and have been recommended is this one. So I decided that with a classics year ahead it was time for me to bite the bullet and read this one. I didn’t realise that it was funny, or is meant to be, what’s always put me off I think is that its labelled as a ‘war novel’ and sometimes you just have a bit too much war.

The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Another book that I have always wanted to read but have yet to, I do hope it’s better than ‘Tales of the Jazz Age’ which I didn’t enjoy at all. This is meant to be one of the great, great modern classics. In my head I am going to love this as much as I did Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey
I always got this and Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ mixed up and having read one I was delighted to find the other in a very short space of time. The biggest thing that made me want to read this apart from it being ‘groundbreaking’ and set in a mental institution was the ‘tyrannical Big Nurse Ratched’ that character sounds far too promising and fascinating. Plus I haven’t seen the film so have that to look forward to afterwards.

In Cold Blood – Truman Capote
I actually owned this for a while but never read it and as it had a coffee stain and was given to me I gave it to charity. I managed to find a new pristine copy, but may also have to go back for another 70’s edition that Novel Insights wants and we may do this as a Rogue Book Group choice in the future. This caused controversy on its release due to the fact it reconstructed the murder of a farmer and his family in Kansas in 1959 exploring the investigation and everything that happened to those involved. After devouring Kate Summerscale’s ‘The Suspicions of Mr Whicher’ I though this would be right up my street.

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Filed under Book Spree, Book Thoughts, Evelyn Waugh, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Harper Lee, Kate Summerscale, Truman Capote