Tag Archives: Vintage Classics

Vintage Pride – A Giveaway

This weekend sees the launch of the UK’s Pride season (which seems all the more apt after the news in America today, well done United States you should be very proud) where the cities, towns and all sorts of places celebrate everything LGBT up and down the country over the (hopefully sunny) summer months. To coincide with this, the lovely folk at Vintage have decided to proudly (see what I have done here) celebrate some of their classic novels both by LGBT authors and with LGBT themes. The books they have chosen are Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness, Alan Hollinghurst’s The Swimming Pool Library and Rita Mae Brown’s Rubyfruit Jungle.  None of which I have read yet, shame on me. They look gorgeous and I happen to have a spare set…

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I couldn’t even line them up straight, ha!

So I thought I would do a giveaway of a set to some lucky person. All I want to know is which book with an LGBT theme you have most loved and why, without spoilers? That simple. Now because postage of books across oceans is so expensive, as I have discovered trying to get some books I want from America, I’m afraid I can only send these to a lucky winner in the UK or Europe*, sorry but the Hall is huge so it’s a bulky set to post – *unless you are coming to Booktopia Petoskey and can wait until September in which case I can pack them in my luggage. Right, get recommending. and good luck. You have until end of play Sunday the 28th of June.

Oh and in case you’re wondering mine would be a tie between Catherine Hall’s The Proof of Love or Bethan Roberts’ My Policeman. If you’ve not read either or both of those then you really must!

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Filed under Book Thoughts, Give Away, Random Savidgeness

The Book Buying Ban… The Update (Part II)

Only earlier this week I mentioned that though it was in many ways painful and was taking some serious avoidance my month of no book buying hasn’t been quite as difficult as I thought it would. This is both thanks to ReadItSwapIt and the Library as I mentioned in the earlier post. I also said I had received some lovely parcels from some lovely publishers and would let you know what had arrived and so I thought as its a Saturday and book shopping is so tempting I would tease you with these delights that you could run out and buy; as none of you are doing anything as silly as a self imposed ban like I am hopefully!! First up some classics…

I have been making a concerted effort to read more classics and two publishers you cant go wrong with are Vintage Classics and Oxford University Press. When a rather large thud resounded through the building from the letterbox I came down and found ‘The Bronte Collection’ which includes Wuthering Heights, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Villette and Jane Eyre. I will admit I didnt love Wuthering Heights but after reading The Taste of Sorrow by Jude Morgan which is all about the sisters earlier this year I think a Bronte-Binge is on the way and the season after New Year seems perfect for this don’t you think? Might be a good Xmas pressie for relatives this Christmas maybe. (Hang on did I just mention the C word before December starts – I should be ashammed!) They also sent The Wapshot Chronicle by John Cheever and a huge collection of his letters. I havent read any Cheever but am thrilled about these two delights. Oxford University Press kindly sent the last of the Sensation Season novels (don’t cry they may be back again next year) in the form of Charles Dickens ‘Great Expectations’ along with George Moore’s ‘Esther Waters’ which hit my attention waves on BBC Radio 4’s Open Book show when they looked at neglected classics. Be warned – the neglected classics are dangerous list of books which could lead to a huge spree.

From the people at Harper arrived a very diverse collection of books in one big parcel, the postman is not a fan of this address – his arms certainly aren’t, quite an eclectic mix indeed. Two of the books are from thier new imprint Blue Door ‘The Ballad of Trench Mouth Taggart’ (great title) by M Glenn Taylor and Mots d’Heures: Gousses, Rames by Luis d’Antin Van Rooten the latter can only be described by a post on their new blog. Sounds bizarre but will give it a go. They also sent me Snow Hill a thriller by Mark Sanderson, who has written a memoir so heartbreaking I have owned it for years and never able to read, Mark will be doing a Savidge Reads Grills very soon. Last but not least by any means as actually this is one of the books I have been most excited about in weeks (as you know I am having an Agatha Christie binge) is ‘Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks’ compiled by John Curran, I had to stop myself reading it as soon as it arrived. It’s a treat for a very lazy Sunday.

Now in a few weeks I will be doing a piece on the books to look forward to over the next year, you can see the predictions I made for this year here should you wish. Already some are coming through the letter box and Sceptre have done some very clever marketing with a collection of three books and three characters “you simply must meet in 2010”. They are called Nevis Gow, Lindiwe Bishop and Jack Rosenblum and I shall tell you more about them in the forthcoming weeks. I just love how they have packaged it all, no titles or authors on the cover, intriguing.  Books already out arrived too and they are The Sorrows of an American by Siri Hustvedt, which I think has a stunning cover, and Incendiary by Chris Cleave and you all know how I loved The Other Hand.

Another massive parcel has arrived from Orion. I have succumbed to the latest in the Twilight Saga and it seems more Vampire delights await me with the first two of Charlaine Harris’ series about Sookie Stackhouse (great name) which have become the incredibly successful True Blood tv series. I haven’t heard much on the blogosphere on these but am very much intrigued by them as have seen tonnes on the tube.  The final tome that you can see is one thats not out until June next year but I have been priviledged enough to be asjed to take a very early look at. ‘The Passage’ by Justin Cronin is massive, comes with very little, though intriguing blurb and has already had the film rites bought by Ridley Scott, more on that soon too as I think this is going to be huge (and not just in size) next year. And finally…

It’s always nice when a publisher emails you be they big or small. I have to admit I hadn’t heard too much about Honno Press when they emailed me asking if they could send me a catalogue. Honno Press is an independent publisher of Welsh Women’s fiction (so a bit like a welsh version of Persephone if you are a fan) and they have a wonderful selection of books, they also go the extra mile as they went through my blog and picked three books they thought I would love. A welsh sensation novel ‘A Burglary’ by Amy Dillwyn, a book where “each generation looks back into the tragic past, loves, secrets and lies are hauled into the open with surprising consequences for all” in ‘Hector’s Talent for Miracles’ by Kitty Harri and finally a collection of witty, wry and sharply observed stories about women with ‘Stranger Within The Gates’ by Bertha Thomas. Sounds like they have got me spot on!!!

Blimey. Now over to you… are Bronte’s and other classics the perfect pressies for Christmas and reading as Spring… erm… springs up? Who has read the Charlaine Harris books, are they like Twilight? Who has tried Honno Press and what did you think?  What will you be curling up with this weekend? What books have you accumulated of late?

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The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde

I have recently felt that ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ is a book that deep down had the traits and darkness of a sensation novel and so decided that as I am doing The Sensation Season I would give this book a go. I have to admit I had tried and failed with this book before. I didn’t like the characters; I thought the book to wordy and filled with too many additional characters with too much to say. I also just didn’t believe it, aged 21 I put the book down after page 30(ish) and left it thoroughly unimpressed by this “Oscar Wilde”. Six years later, and reading it in Oscar Wilde’s old room, would I again be defeated by what I think I once deemed shamefully ‘a very silly short book’?

Though The Picture of Dorian Gray is a short book it has hidden depths and very dark undertones. We first meet the image of Dorian Gray in a painting which Lord Henry Wotton sees at his artist friend’s house, Basil Hallward and falls in love with the painting as he thinks the person depicted may be one of the most beautiful and alluring people he has scene. When Dorian then arrives Henry sees in the flesh he is even more so. Soon the two people Bail is closest too and never wanted to meet have struck up an unlikely friendship and under Henry’s influence Dorian comes to believe youth and beauty are the only thing that matter. He then makes a fateful wish as he wants never to grow like the painting of him. He soon notices that indeed the picture does begin to age and as it does so it gets crueller looking as if the painting is the true Dorian himself.

Now if the plot wasn’t enough the book is also very much about society and which on a first read years ago I didn’t care for I completely and utterly loved. Looking at the upper classes who have endless money to burn and too much time on their hands other than to ‘chase the dragon’ or embark on affairs the thing they go very well is gossip and discuss. I could easily write endless wonderful quotes from the book as to what they say “he is sure to be furious and I couldn’t have a scene in this bonnet. It is far too fragile” and also how they are described “she was a curious woman, whose dresses always looked like they had been designed in a rage and put on in a tempest” in fact so many quotes it would probably make up 98% of the book.

I found the whole book a truly dark and delicious read. It doesn’t quite fall under the exact ‘sensation’ definition but I definitely think its great reading if you like books like that or a classic from around that era. Have you read the book, I would imagine quite a lot of people have and I am very, very late reading this now. If you have, what did you think? Is it on anyone’s TBR pile or wish list?

I have also found it really interesting to try a book again that only six years I really didn’t like and now think is brilliant. It’s interesting to see how my opinions have changed and my book likes and dislikes seem to have changed in various ways. Are there any books you started at one point in your life and hated only to then go on and fall completely under the spell of after a second chance later on? I would love to know!

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Filed under Oscar Wilde, Review, Sensation Novels, Vintage Classics

Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie

So finally I have conquered the Booker of Booker’s Salman Rushdie’s epic novel Midnights Children. Like Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin I have been finding it difficult to review such an epic and complex novel (seriously this about the fourth time I have sat down and tried to review it so I hope that I get it right this time). I did wonder if reading the Booker of Booker’s was a wise decision when I had only read about five other Booker winners. Would it be too much of a mission?

Midnights Children, let there be no doubt, is a huge novel and not only as it is a grand 675 pages long. Though what is essentially the tale of a mans life in India growing up born on the hour of its independence and all that follows it’s a book that looks at our families life before us, our environments, genealogy, culture and how all of these things make us who we are. It also takes us into the surreal, as the narrator himself is certainly not the most reliable of narrators you will ever come across in fact he sometimes worries himself with the order of events in his mind when he knows they can come out wrong as he crafts his tale and his history.

Our narrator is Saleem Sinai also known as Snotnose, Baldy, Buddha and Piece-of-the- Moon. He is born on the exact stroke of midnight on August 15th 1947 also the exact moment that India became independent after British Colonisation. This makes him special as only he and one other boy of the 1001 born in the first hour of independence actually arrived dead on the midnight hour. However before you find out just why Saleem is so special Rushdie takes you through his heritage and his family background and looks at the question ‘are you born with all your ancestors baggage attached to you before you have even drawn your first breathe?’ I found this idea absolutely fascinating. Not only does he look at that huge question, through Saleem’s family history and indeed through the years that Saleem tells us of his growing up Rushdie shows you how the landscape, religious and political tensions and society changed in India.

Before I get to the ‘surrealism’ I should also mention that one of the other things that makes Saleem so special is the fact that he can get into peoples mind’s read their thoughts and even see through their eyes. In fact as it turns out all of the ‘midnight children’ have some sort of powers that make them unique and also very different from any other children born the day before or the hours after. Which opens up even more interesting tales and made me think that Rushdie might just have had his idea’s “borrowed” for a certain ‘heroic’ TV series, maybe?

Now one thing that scared me off the book before I read it, bar the length – as long books and myself have a funny relationship, was the dreaded ‘surrealism’ word. Now I don’t personally hold anything against books that use surrealism the whole point of fiction to me is to escape. What I don’t like is when it is done to be ‘out there’ or get noticed. I didn’t think that this sudden twist in the tale, there are quite a few unexpected twists in this novel making you wonder just how much genius there must be in Rushdie’s head, did anything other than make the book even more enthralling and fantastic. I admit it I was completely hooked.

It’s not just the extreme storylines that are surreal though its some of the paragraphs of prose which to me read almost like fairy tales throughout the book and who out there didn’t love fairy tales as a child? For example the love story of Saleem’s Grandparents who met when he was a doctor and she his patient only he could only see her via a small hole in a sheet used to cover her modesty when she needed to be examined. They fall in love without ever seeing each other, beautiful. It’s almost a shame she becomes such a sour faced old lady in the end… only it isn’t because what wonderful characters those are.

That is another thing that teems throughout this book. The characters, not only is Saleem himself a great character so are his family, especially his sister ‘Brass Monkey’ in his childhood along with his tempestuous Grandmother. His alcoholic father and adulterous (though not in the way you would think) mother are wonderfully written, in fact his mothers story like his Grandparents love story could have made two more books just by themselves. There is his wonderful wife Padma ‘Godess of Dung’ and possibly my favourite all the cat shooting, bicycle stunt loving American new girl on the block Evelyn Burns who in Saleem’s pre-teen years becomes a femme fatale and young tyrant all in one. Every character is fully formed in this book even if they only show up for just one page.

Overall I think this is a complete masterpiece. Some people will of course hate it, some will find it hard work and some will be taken away by the beautiful prose, the fairy like quality of a true epic tale. (I have to add here this last few years I have read some wonderful fiction based in India or from Indian writers that I am simply going to have to go there – I have quite fallen in love with it.) The latest Rushdie novel The Enchantress of Florence has just jumped about twenty places up my TBR pile, I only hope its as good as it does seem I have started with his best work! Let me know if his others are as good and what your experiences with Rushdie have been like!?!

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Filed under Books of 2009, Man Booker, Review, Salman Rushdie, Vintage Classics

The Name of the Rose – Umberto Eco

So… the latest Savidge Reads Big Reads (nee Savidge Big Weekenders) and one which as I mentioned on Monday I very nearly came to give up on. However despite my initial struggles with The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco I carried on (struggling) right until the end. Was it worth it? In honesty the jury is still out on that for me to be I don’t think I have ever felt so confounded by a book or so annoyed that I found a book so difficult.

The Name of the Rose is set in 1327 in an Italian monastery where Monks are dying in mysterious ways. In a time where the Catholic Church is dividing and differing Catholic communities are accusing each other of heresy emotions are running high. Brother William of Baskerville and his companion, and the narrator, Adso arrive after the first death and turn detective and sidekick as they try to unravel the mystery. Now this makes it sound like your average historical murder mystery but it is so much more than that.

Umberto Eco’s novel is undoubtedly a masterpiece, however for me it was an alienating one. Unlike when I read The Blind Assassin a few weeks ago the hard work didn’t seem to pay of with The Name of the Rose. I am not a religious person, I have nothing against it at all – the Non-Reader is Catholic, but I do find the history of religion interesting. However when the history of it is told for five pages a chapter and the same stories of heretics and the anti-Christ are reworded and repeated making what would be a great 250 page mystery into a 500 epic even a die hard theologist would have trouble with this book.

The prose is stunning though in all honesty I think Eco might work by the rule of ‘why use one word when I can use a paragraph’. The interspersed Latin I found slightly pretentious and a bit ‘look how clever I am and you aren’t’ which slightly alienates a reader, well it did me anyways. I don’t want a book to make me feel stupid. Now bare in mind I know some Latin, my mother being a Latin, Classics and English Literature teacher, I am not even someone who has no knowledge of it and I found it grated on me and to only then be reworded in English just seemed like more words to bulk up the book.

I also never felt I got to know the characters as there were so many of them and though I did really like Brother William of Baskerville and Adso as characters I never quite felt on side with them because sure enough one of them would soon be spouting paragraphs of Eco-isms and I would be put of them for a fair few pages. As for all the other characters well with all the similar names I would sometimes think that they were talking to a character that I would suddenly realise had been dead for a few pages. Back to the positive however I thought the book had moments of genius, the mystery and suspense was wonderful when it was in the book and not being shrouded by Eco-isms. Joining William and Adso as they ventured through the dark twisting labyrinth of corridors, secret passages, turrets and the amazing library of the monastery did have me on the edge of my seat. I just wish the whole book had been like that, that would have been superb.

I would give the book 2.5/5 it wasn’t awful (I hate giving bad reviews – I try and see the best in all books, especially when I have always wanted to read them and when the Non-Reader has bought me a book… a very rare event) and had moments of spell binding brilliance but to me it was as my mother (it’s normally my Gran that is famous/infamous on this blog) said only yesterday “oh I thought that book was a really good mystery surrounded by pretentious twaddle” and I have to say I think she was right. Though don’t tell her that I wouldn’t hear the end of it! She also said “it’s one of the rare books that is better as a film” I shall find out as I have ordered it from Lovefilm to see if it makes more sense that way.

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Filed under Review, Umberto Eco, Vintage Classics

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through The Looking Glass – Lewis Carroll

I have one particular person to thank for my reading of this classic, even though when I said I was going to read this many of you delightfully said that I simply must in your comments, and that person is a fellow book mad blogger of the name Simon… Simon Stuck-in-a-Book. Had he not done his post on the wonderful images taken from various imprints of the book then it wouldn’t have become such a need to read it so soon. That and the fact I managed to find such a wonderful old copy (I have pictured the Vintage one because I think out of all the modern covers it’s the best) in a second hand store within days of his post made it all feel like the reading fates were trying to tell me something.

Now believe it or not not only have I never read these two tales of Alice before, I have also never seen the Disney version. I know it appears I had a very bereft childhood, I didn’t actually I just wasn’t really a very Disney kid and I read lots but not children’s classics oddly as my mother is an English and Classic teacher. I do remember reading a lot of Greek Myths as a child though. Anyway, I digress.

For those of you who like myself have somehow missed the treats that are Lewis Carroll’s stories of Alice I will try and sum up what happens, though if you have read the book then I am sure you will appreciate that it is quite some feat to some it up easily because frankly both stories are quite crazy. As I think is Alice. Her first Adventures in Wonderland start when out with her sister she sees a white rabbit running and talking to itself. Bizarrely not thinking anything much the matter with that it takes him pulling out a pocket watch for her to take interest and follow him down a hole which ends up in the bizarre and brilliant Wonderland. Through The Looking Glass sees her return to Wonderland… through a looking glass, I didn’t need to explain that so much, where she becomes a pawn in a very bizarre and entertaining game of chess across endless lands.

Now though I had never read the books before I found myself knowing the characters and some of the crazy plot lines and can only think that randomly throughout my life somehow I have taken these all in by osmosis. I don’t think that I can say I originally knew how unusual the book would be will plots, characters and settings changing in a sentence or even in mid sentence. Despite it being slightly confusing you understand that its because Wonderland is a place of no rules where things don’t make sense and I was totally drawn in and can see why so many children (and adults) have enjoyed it so much.

Amongst all of the nonsensical there are lessons being taught and games being played by the author. He plays with words and meanings. “Don’t all authors do this?” I hear you cry, no actually they don’t. He looks at language and plays with it turns it on its head and makes it even more bizarre and interesting all at once for example how many ways ‘I beg your pardon’ as an expression can be taken. I did feel there was a darker side to the book, the Cheshire Cat for example in my mind is frankly up to no good and shouldn’t be trusted an inch. That for me really was what made the book, I loved the characters some were rude, some were delightful but all of them were wholly believable, be the a wailing unhappy Mock Turtle, a rude Queen, a Mad Hatter, or the terrible twosome Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum I wanted to join in with Alice on her adventures.

Oh just for Simon’s benefit here are some lovely pictures from my version of the novel, sorry they arent amazing quality…

Overall if you haven’t read this book then you should I cant see anyone not falling in love with it though I would say it will be most enjoyed by those who like escapism, can completely suspend their believes and have a high imagination. If you have all those as a reader then I defy you to dislike it. It’s also getting the movie make over and as we all know that means next year everyone will be reading it and re-reading it so do it before the trend sets in. I only hope they don’t give it a new horrible movie tie-in cover, but then the idea of that happening is far more unlikely than any of Alice’s Adventures.

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Filed under Lewis Carroll, Review, Vintage Classics

The Turn of the Screw – Henry James

Hmmmm, I don’t know what to say about this book. I have heard it being called ‘the greatest ghost story ever written’ I am unsure. On publication apparently Oscar Wilde said that it was ‘a most wonderful, lurid, poisonous little tale’ and maybe back then it was. I found it a little dull though actually I did physically jump twice, I can’t say when for ruining the suspense if you choose to read this.

The tale is that of a governess who comes to look after two children Flora and Miles, who at first seem like dear little children. As strange things and sightings start to happen in the family mansion it appears that the children might know more than they are letting on. The last scene of the book is disturbing though it did take a few reads for the penny to drop. I just wasn’t as spooked as I wanted to be. I would say give it a go, its very short and it’s a good read for when your alone in the house one winters night!

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Filed under Henry James, Review, Vintage Books