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“Let us read, and let us dance;
these two amusements will never do any harm to the world.”

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Booker Challenge 2011

I made this: Avid Reader at 12:24 pm 0 comments Links to this post
Our little book club was set up with a few core aims and goals in mind - cake and books (naturally) were probably the primary focus, along with the chance to chatter with fellow book lovers about a book we had all read (rather than our more usual very diverse cross section discussions), but included somewhere near the top of this virtual list was the desire to seek out and read 'better' books (though to be honest, we were all a little vague as to what exactly constituted a 'better' book).

During the year that we've been reading and blogging, there have been a few outstanding books that captured the imagination, made us think about the world with a new perspective, and were beautifully written - such as The Book Thief (Marcus Zusak) and The White Tiger (Aravind Adiga) - inspiring passionate debate and conversation. My new working definition of a 'better' book.

The White Tiger was also a Man Booker Prize Winner, which got me to thinking (a dangerous pasttime, I know) about setting myself a little challenge.
While accepting that there are many great books that never make in onto award lists for a variety of reasons, I happen to have read three Booker winners recently (and a nominee - just in case I decided to expand my focus at a later date) and have been very impressed by the diversity and quality of the works. I'm sure that not every book will be a 'better' one, but I hope that quite a few will surprise me!
So I've decided to try and read the lot over the next few years, aiming for at least one book a month.

Fancy doing the same? Then just tweet me(@LeedsBookClub), drop me an email (LeedsBookClub@gmail.com) or leave a comment at the end of the blog. I don't mind whether we read the same book at the same time (mostly as due to finances, I hope to work through what I have or can borrow from the library or a mate), I more fancy having some company on the way, some one to poke and prod me when I'm feeling lazy.

There are 45 books on the Man Booker list in total, with two years producing joint winners, and as I am not planning on re-reading the books I've just finished, that's 42 books to get through! I'm going to try to read every one, including 9 books that I have already read, as that was quite a while ago.


COMPLETED SO FAR

2008 Aravind Adiga - The White Tiger - June 2010


2009 Hilary Mantel - Wolf Hall - December 2010

2010 Howard Jacobson - The Finkler Question - November 2010






THE FULL LIST

1969 P. H. Newby - Something to Answer For


1970 Bernice Rubens - The Elected Member

1970 J. G. Farrell - Troubles

1971 V. S. Naipaul - In a Free State

1972 John Berger - G.

1973 J. G. Farrell - The Siege of Krishnapur

1974 Nadine Gordimer - The Conservationist

         Stanley Middleton - Holiday

1975 Ruth Prawer Jhabvala - Heat and Dust

1976 David Storey - Saville

1977 Paul Scott - Staying On

1978 Iris Murdoch - The Sea, the Sea

1979 Penelope Fitzgerald - Offshore

1980 William Golding - Rites of Passage

1981 Salman Rushdie - Midnight's Children

1982 Thomas Keneally - Schindler's Ark

1983 J. M. Coetzee - Life & Times of Michael K

1984 Anita Brookner - Hotel du Lac

1985 Keri Hulme - The Bone People

1986 Kingsley Amis - The Old Devils

1987 Penelope Lively - Moon Tiger

1988 Peter Carey - Oscar and Lucinda

1989 Kazuo Ishiguro - The Remains of the Day

1990 A. S. Byatt - Possession: A Romance

1991 Ben Okri - The Famished Road

1992 Michael Ondaatje - The English Patient

        Barry Unsworth - Sacred Hunger

1993 Roddy Doyle - Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha

1994 James Kelman - How Late It Was, How Late

1995 Pat Barker - The Ghost Road

1996 Graham Swift - Last Orders

1997 Arundhati Roy - The God of Small Things

1998 Ian McEwan - Amsterdam

1999 J. M. Coetzee - Disgrace

2000 Margaret Atwood - The Blind Assassin

2001 Peter Carey - True History of the Kelly Gang

2002 Yann Martel - Life of Pi

2003 DBC Pierre - Vernon God Little

2004 Alan Hollinghurst - The Line of Beauty

2005 John Banville - The Sea

2006 Kiran Desai - The Inheritance of Loss

2007 Anne Enright - The Gathering

2008 Aravind Adiga - The White Tiger


2009 Hilary Mantel - Wolf Hall


2010 Howard Jacobson - The Finkler Question

Lost in a good book

I made this: Avid Reader at 10:49 am 1 comments Links to this post
Somewhere along the line, I've confused myself hopelessly over the book club dates, meetings, choices...all of it, basically.

So, I'm going to have a bit of a tinker with the reference section, and try to sort out the entries etc.

If, for some inexplicable reason, anyone DESPERATELY needs to know the rating system, drop me a tweet, or an email (LeedsBookClub@gmail.com), and I'll send you the info.

While I'm at it, I might as well have a look at some of those slightly not working parts of the blog too, huh? You're a slave driver!

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Warning: contains gush *

I made this: BookElf at 7:39 pm 0 comments Links to this post
This year is either hence to be know the Year of the Swedish Detective or the Year of Discovering Books. Like 'A Thousand Acres' by Jane Smiley, which I loved, I have read soooo many books this year that otherwise would have passed me by had it not been for a)relentless buying of them in charity shops And The Like and b)the Travelling Suitcase Library book swaps, which have become integral to my reading lists.

The Far Pavilions, of which I shall now be spewing praise upon, came from the former road. I was in Poverty Aid and had £2 so decided to treat myself. The book was approx two inches thick, had a picture of a naked man on the cover, and cost 50 p. Bonus.

I didn't read the book for about six months; like many 'readers' I have to work, eat, wash etc so cannot devote my days entirely to my favorite pastime and therefore result in piles upon piles of to-be-reads. And I get donated approx thirty books a month to the TSL, which it would be wrong to thrust upon my public unsavored, so you see where the dilemma lies in the reading of/reducing the pile.

I then started the book. It was brilliant, but very very very heavy. There are 950 pages and the copy is older than me. So it became a 'bed-time read', relegated to the status of a hardback or book I'm too embarrassed to take on the train to work (porn). Then I went and bought Heartstone (ohmygosh N hurry up and READ THE BOOK so I can rant about how VERY VERY GOOD IT IS) and THEN I read a whole load of books that I just couldn't put down so it was a while before I came back to the book. Then I realised what a fatal mistake I had in relegating it thus, cut it down the middle (strike me down all you want, I've repaired it now) and read it properly.

This book is Epic. Starting (and that's the only word you can really use!) with the Indian Mutiny of 1857 (I think, one of the only things this book falls down on is not providing much in the way of dates. Or maps. Which is annoying), the story is Ashton Pelham Martyn's, who is born in India to British parents, who both die when he is young. Left to the care of his maid Sita, he he brought up a Hindu after she decides it is too risky for the boy to be an Angrezi at a time of such hostility towards them. Sita and Ashok, as is becomes known, live for a time in the mountainous state of Gulkote, where Ashok finds work in the palace of the young Yuveraj (crown prince, I think) Lalji. Lalji is a spoilt bad tempered brat whose life is in constant danger due to the jealousy of his step mother and her children, and Ashok and Sita are forced to flee one night when he uncovers a plot to kill the young prince, leaving behind his only really friend, the young princess Juli.

And that all happens in the first 200 pages.

More like four books in one, the scope of this novel, considering it is only the life of one man and one country (apart from a little bit when Ash returns to Blighty upon finding out his true identity) is just huge. We see peasants and princes, Calvary and seamen, sahibs and sultans, the back streets of Kabul, the horror of the suttee, elephants, tiger hunts, the beginnings of Polo, friendship, religion, love, loyalty, patriotism, what it means to be "from" a place, or not from it as the case may be, passion, war, death, birth, betrayal, and above everything else, adventure and a quest for the self.

I had to come up for air, during parts of this book, and was very very rude to an old friend I had not seen for a long time on a train because I was in the middle of the most exciting bit. Sorry, Daisy.

This is my only criticism; the most exciting, dramatic and well written (apart from the first 100 pages) is in the middle of the book. But that is only because I like romance stories that involve a bit of history and am not massively into battles and such. For Sharpe fans, or possibly Master and Commander/Flash addicts, the last section would be your favorite. That is how good this book is. Like the scene in Black Books where the couple come into the shop and look for a book for their holidays and Bernard sells them both the same one under the line "She's a temp, she can't get a boyfriend, oh my God. And She's got 24 hours to stop nuclear war with China", this book ticks all the boxes. Read it. It will take you forever, but is so worth it! Cannot believe it has escaped my notice before now. Thank you Poverty Aid.


Happy Reading!
BookElf xxx

ps try as I might I cannot get a picture of *my* front cover, with the naked man on it. This leads me to believe it is very rare. Slightly regretting cutting it in half now. Oh well.



* not the gush, that would be gross.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

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‘The Help’ by Kathryn Stockett has been looking at me in my work library for the past six months, from when we bought it as part of the Richard and Jody summer book club selection. The cover of two women in maid uniforms and a baby, plus the gurning reviews front and back, plus the massive amount of coverage online about this book put me off, along with the massive pile of to-be-reads but the other day I ‘accidentally’ sped-read the end of ‘Bog Child’ (wonderful YA book set in the North of Ireland border during the troubles in 1981 that will def be lending N (N’s mum might want to acquire a copy for her own) once her pile goes down a bit) on my lunch hour and had nothing to read on the way home. I tried to take out Neil Gaimon’s latest that won the Carnegie Gold this year.

Inexplicably, though, ‘The Help’ ended up in my handbag, and I’m very glad it did. This is the story of racial prejudice, privilege and poverty in the Deep South, Jackson, Mississippi, in the early 60s. Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks aside, this is still a time where the head of the Women’s League campaigns for black maids, working way below minimum wage, raising white babies for ungrateful mistresses, to be forced to use separate toilets to their employers, to prevent them spreading their ‘germs’. This book made me so angry, mostly because people like this still exist. I have met ignorant, scared women living in the deepest darkest folds of Yorkshire (cos there really ain’t no racism quite like North Yorkshire racism) who regard anyone who isn’t as white as a threat.

The three main characters, whose voices guide us through most of the story, are as sassy and brilliant a group of women as you would hope to meet. Our heroine, Aibleen is the gentlest, most intelligent women, raising her seventeenth white child, the daughter of the despicable Miss Leefolt, childhood friend of Skeeter, who has just returned from college surprised to find her maid and best friend Constantine has been inexplicably sacked. Determined to find out what has happened to her, Skeeter strikes up a friendship with Aibleen. As her understanding of the way black women are treated by their mistresses grows, Skeeter steals the idea of Aibleen’s deceased son and begins to write a book about the conditions for black people working for whites in Jackson at the time. The atmosphere of racial tensions happening in 1961 is sure to make the book a sensation, and both Skeeter and Aibleen, together with the amazingly bold and brilliant Minny, must keep their friendship, and the book, secret at all costs.

My favourite character has to be Skeeter; though she begins her quest to tell the maid’s stories for her own self interests, in order to get a job as a writer and leave her over-bearing mother, she gradually realises her privilege and learns from this. At the beginning of the book she is a mouse, who cannot stand up to either her parents or her best friend, the town snob and society girl Hilly (possibly one of the most evil and compelling villains I’ve ever read. Whoever gets that part in the film adaptation-and they’re fools if they don’t adapt this book- is onto a winner as she would be a joy to play). Over the course of 450 pages that simply flew by we see her transform into a free-thinking radical, who grows her hair and shortens her hem and stands up not just for her rights, but those of other peoples. Loved her.

The book really is one of the best debuts I’ve read, not because of its literary merit, but because of its accessibility and the writer’s obvious passion for the subject. Not knowing anyone from Jackson, Mississippi, and being shamefully ignorant of the times there I cannot comment on the book’s accuracy or use of dialect. Like ‘Welcome to the World Baby Girl’ by Fannie Flagg, whose last book was written in the Deep South, parts of this book I felt uncomfortable with, as a white woman I understand my massive privilege and have no idea if the portrayal of the racism and ignorance in this book is even half as horrendous as it was, and still is, for black women. However, I would recommend this book without question, especially to readers who maybe wouldn’t be turned on by a more “literary” novel, but like a good yarn and want something to curl up with this winter.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Wolf Hall - finally finished

I made this: Avid Reader at 2:38 pm 0 comments Links to this post
As regular readers to the blog will know, I've been alternatively loving and loathing Hilary Mantel's epic tome 'Wolf Hall' for the last fortnight...and the rest.

Well, I've finished it.
Finally.

What an all consuming story - covering one of the most fascinating periods of history. When I wasn't hurling the book away from me in disgust (no, BookElf, I never actually physically threw your book!), I was gripped down to the tips of my toes.

The characters, settings and events were depicted with a near frightening eye for detail, and I absolutely loved, in particular, Mary Boylen - whom the author managed to bring to life, making her far more than the anaemic depictions that have become fashionable recently. Of all the women described, I found her to be the most contemporary, and her flirtation and ambition (or lack thereof) could translate perfectly to today.

As is not always the case with historical novels, the balance between the 'famous' people and those lesser known secondary characters is practically perfect here. Naturally, we see Anne, and the Queen, and the King up close and personal, but the action is driven by lesser men. The manipulators and instigators here are the key players - those whose names are known to history, but whose deeds are somewhat more murky. This change of focus brings additional layers to an already complex book.

The pacing was also a thing that inspired fear and wonder, with so many people and events happening side by side, though the book is told in a very linear format. Cromwell is, as it were, 'our man', and the tale is told through his eyes, with very few deviations. Even when he learns something from another character, it is almost always revealed to us in the format of a conversation.

Also hugely enjoyable were the slight nods to the reading audience. Though Jane Seymore is barely mentioned and features only briefly, her mere presence instantly highlights to the expectant reader that almost all of these important people will end up dead by the end of that decade, however beloved of King Henry they might once have been. The realisation of which tickled my morbid sense of humour in a gross and thoroughly thrilling way.

With regards to the story, to the subject matter, I can have no complaints - intrigue, nobility, underhand dealings, and an on going feud with 'those' Europeans - who could want for more? However, in the structure and writing, I was somewhat less satisfied.
I'm not going to repeat my earlier criticisms about the lack of clarity, occasional need to create unique identifiers, and an unashamed over-reliance on pronouns - without any appropriate context to ground them; though I believe that these remain relevant throughout the book. Now that I've finished, I think that using pronouns as the near sole descriptor for Cromwell was indeed a form of literary affectation, which in my case did not work and took considerably from my enjoyment of the book.

The greatest success of this book is that I want to read more, I will definitely be working my way through the sequel, desperate for more from these characters. Where the writing flowed for me, it carried me away, and I will look out for the author in future.

However, as I said before, I would be very slow to recommend this to friends who did not have an avid interest in the time period, or in literature that is determined to be considered literary. While this is a lean book with regards to an avoidance of flowery descriptors, despite its size; it does suffer from the same self importance Cromwell was so often accused, most particularly where the persistence of an affectation is allowed over the substance of the book - surely a move unworthy of an author of this calibre.

So, I guess I'm suggesting that you give it a go, but feel free to throw in the towel if you find the present historic style of writing to be grating, or you can't figure out who is who, and treat yourselves to the Shardlake series instead. It's a totally different kettle of fish, but for me, fair more pleasant fishing grounds.

Man Booker

Book 3 - Wolf Hall - Hilary Mantel - 2009 - Part 1


Book Rating: 6/10 (Would've been higher if based on story alone)

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Wolf Hall - a book in progress review

I made this: Avid Reader at 4:22 pm 1 comments Links to this post
As I fell instantly in love with the Tudor setting while reading C.J. Sansom's Shardlake series ( Dissolution, Dark Fire, Sovereign, Revelation and, as yet unread, Heartstone),  I requested, and received, this tome from my local ever friendly BookElf.

Although I had never read any of Hilary Mantal before, her previous works - most notably Fludd and her short stories Learning to Talk - had been lauded by various friends and relatives. I knew nothing about Wolf Hall, save two facts. The first was that it had been the 2009 Man Booker Prize winner, and the second was that the plot focused on the life on Thomas Cromwell.
Well, I say focused, but BookElf was spot on when she noted on twitter that the author seemed to have found the means to travel back in time and stalk the leading players - there is such detailed and - apparently - accurate research on all the players!

The book covers a thirty year time period, from 1500 to 1535, and at 650 odd pages is a somewhat intimidating read. It's not really a comfortable bus book - purely down to its blocky size, and I have to admit that at the moment, I have stalled, exhausted and a little broken, somewhere around the 400 page mark.

This book is wonderful. It really is - the characterisations are superb, the language and setting all have an authentic air and the swiftly changing  political environment keeps those pages turning.
For the most part.

However, despite the impressive pacing, the intriguing plot, the compelling characters and the beautiful prose, I'm finding it difficult to read due to a lack of clarity, especially during scenes revolving around conversations (which seems to be most situations!). The author seems to be trying out a style of prose that deliberately tries to avoid naming characters during interactions. Perhaps this does indeed serve some higher literary purpose, but it makes a fantastically interesting book a chore to work through.

There again, it's only fair to point out that even when names are used, it can be just as unclear - everyone of the time period seemed to be called Richard or Thomas or...you know... one of those other clearly Tudor names.

Nonetheless, the book has hit a spot where I seem to re-reading every page twice just to figure out who is saying what and to whom. In my head it reads -
'He said this to him and he did not approve. He left, while he entered - they nodded as they passed. He, on the other hand, agreed wholeheartedly, though in his secret heart of hearts he wondered what the right honourable him would think of it. And of course he had to make sure that he never heard about it. For then he would not trust him.'
A gross exaggeration?
Perhaps...but I know that I'm not alone in this complaint. On twitter, a few very book-y friends have noted the same complaint, and, in one case, indicated that it had put her off completing the book. Rather flatteringly, another has said that my struggle has inspired her to give it another go, as I am a 'Reader'(!) and if I was having difficulties, she was certainly allowed to!

Now, I am going to finish this book. In fact, I am determined to, and the sooner the better. I will also probably read the sequel - as I've said, I'm really enjoying the book itself, it's merely the mode of writing that I seem to have an issue with.
On the other hand, I'll be careful recommending this book to others. I am not a person of below average intelligence, and I do have the facility to retain unusual names, or similar sounding ones in books (heck, I made it through Wild Swans with barely a flicker of hesitation), but I am left confused and a bit depressed in places with this book - I'd hate to make anyone else feel this way.

This is not a book written just for those who have memorised the locations, personality types and personal histories of every significant Tudor of the time, it unfortunately just feels like it is.

Anyway, back to the toil, I'll let you know how I get on.

Man Booker

Book 3 - Wolf Hall - Hilary Mantel - 2009 - Part 1

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Never let me go Review

I made this: Avid Reader at 2:29 pm 0 comments Links to this post



****LIGHT SPOILERS****


Whilst on holiday last week, I took the opportunity to catch up on some light (!) reading, as recommended to me by my mum.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro was one of those books that I always knew I'd need to read. Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, nominated for the Arthur C Clarke Award, and Time's book of the year - its science fiction, and dystopian science fiction at that! Yet for some reason, I delayed actually picking it up and getting stuck in.

 Now that I've read it, I rather perversely understand my reservations much better. It isn't what this book is that I find somewhat unappealing, instead it's what it has been associated with. Less this authors interpretation of the concept, more the way in which the concept has been handled in the past.


To illustrate the point - the same year this book landed, that shocker of a film 'The Island' (Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson's best assets) was released. Contrary to press reports, it was by no means a 'new' story, or even a 'new take' on the story, and everyone from Philip K Dick's family to Michael Marshall Smith complained about plagiarism. And the product placement. And the terrible pacing. And the dialogue...I'll stop here.

So, although I was excited about Ishiguro's handling, I kept prioritising other books, lesser books or re-reads in many cases, but fresh in a way that cloning for profit just didn't seem to be.

The book is split into three distinct chronological phases, all differing in geographical locations, narrated by Kathy H, a 31 year old woman, who is knowingly nearing the end of her life.
The first section outlines her early life, at - a beautiful example of one of those great staples of British fiction - Hailsham, a boarding school in an undisclosed location in England. Her early life consists of routine and education, with a heavy emphasis on creative pursuits. Escaping or attempting to escape from the school grounds results in death. There are no parents, and few outside influences of any kind.
Kathy becomes especially close to two other boarders - the manipulative, overpowering and occasionally deceptive Ruth, and Tommy, the passionate boy with a temper. All the time, they are becoming more aware of the unique circumstances and responsibilities of their lives, but in small incremental steps to lessen the blow.
As is the authors wont, this section infers the tragedy to come, without ever baldly stating it, and I found it to be all the more powerful by the air of heavy tragedy hanging over what the narrator obviously considered to be a more innocent time in her life.
The second third dissects the initial time period after Hailsham, when Kathy, Ruth and Tommy are sent to the Cottages. At this point, Ruth and Tommy have been in an on and off relationship for some time, with Kathy playing the field. The Cottages are obviously a sort of halfway house - a place for the inmates? residents? to learn to interact with the outside world, and embrace their relative freedom. The Cottages differ from Hailsham in a number of vital ways - the most obvious to me was that in these dilapidated hovels our three friends began to first see the true value that was placed on them. They are aware that they are to be donors (harvested for organs as many times as possible before they die, usually no more than 4 operations), but up until this point enjoyed a fairly comfortable existence - a feature near unique to Hailsham students. Yet they seem to have no desire to escape, or kill themselves, or try to blend with the general public *.

During this period, Ruth encounters her possible original - the source of her genetic makeup - causing some consternation for all in the group, and she drifts further away from Kathy, both lying to her, and taking care to distance her from Tommy. It is also during this phase that the three hear the rumours of putting aside their donations for a few years - purely because of their Hailsham connections - which is hugely significant as it was the first indication that they might actually wish to survive.

The final chapters cover Kathy's years as a carer - a person who sees to the needs of donors, to allow them comfort between operations. As she has had an unusually long 'career' (in the only position available to her), she is allowed the freedom to choose whom to work with. Naturally, she picks Ruth - who is unlikely to survive her next operation - who manages in the shortest space of time to ignite the affection between Kathy and Tommy, and also offer an intriguing prospect for their future...

Right, to the review.

I loved loved loved this book. It is beautifully written, with descriptive passages building up an alternative world, but in a dreamlike and magical way. It is also a very grounded book, with each person behaving consistently in each section. However, there were some aspects that really left me grinding my teeth in frustration.
Tommy, in my opinion never really evolved after the first third of the book. During this, he has a new way of living revealed to him by a guardian, struggling to live with her conscience, and moved from being an angry boy into a sensitive, self aware teenager. However, he never moves on from this, and by the final section, he seems positively petulant to me. I'm not implying that he didn't have a right to feel angry about his circumstances, but his actions felt less like a response to these and more his default view of the world.
I never really warmed to Kathy throughout the book, finding her to be less of an observer, and more a passive recipient of whatever was thrown her way. Her only goal really seemed to remain friends with her Hailsham buddies, only moving away from this when Ruth forced her to it. Her relationship with Tommy, apparently evident to all for years, was weak enough that at no point does it ever occur to her to do anything about it, to attempt anything with him outside of Ruth’s wishes. This passivity and lack of introspection didn’t actually take from my affection for the book – I don’t need to like the main character to enjoy a book, but her blandness, in my eyes did make it difficult every now and again.
Ruth, on the other hand, is a positive dynamo in comparison to the other two. She is flexible, has dreams and ambitions, and when faced with the truth of her origin, she leaves it behind, focusing instead on her future, albeit in an occasionally self-delusionary way. Sure, she lies, cheats, breaks hearts, possibly steals and lashes out at others, but heck she lived! Of the three, she’s the only one I thought could have potentially survived – she was the only one really trying to!

The final third of the book is where Kathy and Tommy learn the truth about Hailsham, their origin and their future. In Kathy’s mind, this knowledge separates Ruth from the other two, that Ruth in someway lacks, by not being fully aware. I think that Kathy has missed the point. In fact, I would almost see it as Ruth’s final revenge. She sends them to Madam, providing all the necessary information and incentive, but never felt the need to do it herself. I think that this is because she knew which of her delusions were possible, and which were not. She never made the journey because she had figured it out – she didn’t need the verbal confirmation, but she knew that Kathy and Tommy would. No, that’s not fair, she knew that Tommy needed to hear it, and preferably from a person in a position of authority (who better than the former head of the guardian’s) and that it wasn’t in Kathy’s make up to even consider such things. Her victory, in my eyes, is that she died with her hope intact, while the other two have their peace shattered.

As I said, I really enjoyed this book, and would not hesitate to recommend it. Go, read, then comment and let me know if you thought similarly, or you took something else entirely.
Just don’t blame me if you end up with thoughts about this at odd and unexpected times. You’ve been
warned it is that sort of book!
*I have to admit, this mystified me to the point of distraction. If there was a survival gene and it was removed, why not say so? I get that this isn't hardcore SF, but there seemed to be a determined effort to avoid indicating how this parallel, similar yet so starkly different world exists. No explanation at all for any science involved in the creation of a world parallel to our own, similar in many ways, and so starkly different in others. Or, if there was, it was explained in fantastically opaque ways, and totally went over my head!

There is also a film out, and as soon as I've seen it, I'll stick a note up to let you know what I think!








Wednesday, 10 November 2010

In praise of... Sarah Waters

I made this: BookElf at 6:28 pm 0 comments Links to this post
This is a piece I've wanted to write for *ages*, but having not finished all her books I always felt it would be wrong to. Now I have, so I can. Hooray!

I loved Tipping the Velvet. Loved it. Every single sentance was like a petal falling off a rose. The evolution of Nan, one of my favourite charactres ever, from seaside town oyster girl to roving Tom in Victorian London giving speaches on human liberty in Hyde Park, via music hall star, rent boy and a whole other world was like watching a sapphic Amber StClare, thrust three hundred years into the future; just as beguiling and just as much fun, though slightly less thick!

Next came the equally bewitching Fingersmith. Again, set in the Victorian criminal underbelly this is the (slightly unbelievable but that doesn't matter cos its brilliant)story of the adopted daughter of a gang of thieves and forgers living in LahnDahn who is used as part of an intricate plot to steal the fortune of a country lady, who is also an orpahn living with her uncle in a bizarre house in the middle of no where. The plot is full of more twists than a curly wurly, and although just as beautifully written, not half as accassable for me as Tipping the Velvet.

Affinity is probably my least favourite of Waters' books, in fact I'd go as far to say it bored me stupid and if this was the first of hers I'd read I probably wouldn't have bothered with the rest. A Victorian gentlewoman spends her time doing 'good works' like visting in prisons. She is captivated by the story of one paticular prisoner, the ghostly pyscic Selina. I'll be honest, I skim read this one. Not even a fifth as good as Tipping the Velvet.

Night Watch, which I have just read, was fantastic. Taking a break from Victoriana Waters uses a lovely device of telling the story backwards, firstly in 1947, then 1944 and 1941. In this way she reveals the character's raesons for being in certain situations. The book wouldn't have been half as good without this device as it is deffinatly a character rather than a plot driven piece. Definately a 'feminist' writer, this book makes a stronger case for the legalisation of abortion than any other fiction book I've read in the past few years. It was also nice to see the difference in societies attitudes to homosexuality; the lesbian couples lived together, though in seppearate rooms whilst in the male prison the effeminate gay proisoners are known by female names and referred to as 'she'. Waters does seem to recycle her charactres slightly, Kay, for example, was like watching Nan but born 100 years later. I really liked that though, as I have often wondered how different charactre types would ahve reacted to being presnet during different historical periods. I really really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.

Her final book, that was, like her last three books, nominated for the Booker Prize, is so very very different. Anyone critisising Waters range as being all 'lesbian gothic' must have eaten a lot of words upon it's publication. Narrated by (male and straight) Dr Faraday, this is the story of a aristocratic country family going to the dogs after the end of the second world war. Dr Faraday is one of the most intrigueing characters to be released upon the world and the ending of the book brought a real chill down my spine. Remeniscent of Turn of the Screw, this is a "ghost" story, that is really an exploration as to relationships between people. This is craftsmanship in writing at its very best- unreliable narrating to the point of beauty. Fans of Remains of the Day will love this book, as will fans of Henry James and Wilkie Collins.

I love Sarah Waters, and know I am not alone. As a writer of interesting, varied, sexy fiction that is not afraid to experiment or bend the rules she is up there with the best. Anyone with an interest in historical fiction should definatly seek her out.

Happy Reading!
BookElf xx

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Remember Remember

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Anyone who has trouble placing the whereabouts of their keys, or can't quite grasp the current East Enders plotlines has their work cut out in November. What with Rememberence Day (which is also my Book Club month choice, and have a highly appropriate book I think...) on the 11th and Bonfire Night on the 5th, like elephants, we can never forget this month.

In the North, Bonfire night is always something of an oddity. What with it celebrating the discovering of a plot against a King that almost bankrupted half the country, and the hanging drawing and quartering (they strangle you for a bit until you almost pass out, then they slit your belly whilst your still alive, draw out all your inards and then cut you in four parts and bury you at four ends of the country so your soul will never be granted entry into heaven) of the conspirators, its hardly the most cheerful of festivals. Coming from Yorkshire, we never burnt Guys, just figurines of Margaret Thatcher (joke, obviously), and Bonfire Night for me was about gloves and sparklers.

But it is important to remember that people died trying to stop the debasement of a currency and the starvation of a populance, albiet in the name of religion rather than radical socialism. If you want a perfect way to remember the human cost of Bonfire Night I can think of no better than some lovely Historical Fiction set about the time.

Christie Dickason is a recent discovery of mine, and thanks to the lovely people at WH Smith last month I read one of her's, The King's Daughter. The first part of the book is not the best part by any means, however it does explore the Gunpowder Plot and its implications on the Royal House. I had no idea that part of the Plot was to kidnap the Princess Elizabeth, King James the I of England's daughter and put her on the throne as a figurehead. Elizabeth is completly obvlious to any plot and the description of how she is forced to watch the execution of the plotters is grisly and stomach tighteningly good.

Dickason has written several novels set in the Stuart era, which is in dire need of some publicity considering how interesting it was. I very much look forward to reading more of her work and encorage and historical novel fans out there to do the same.

For an actual history of the time, I cannot recommend 'Gunpowder Plot: Terror and Faith' by Antonia Fraser highly enough. She is an excellent bibliographer and historian and this is up there with the best of her works, after the seminal Mary Queen of Scots.

And Daisy Dalrymple fans will be delighted to hear that number 15 in the amazingly good detective series set in the 1920s is called The Gunpowder Plot! Spiffing!

Happy Reading!
BookElf

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Almost Gold-Star Books

I made this: BookElf at 9:37 am 1 comments Links to this post
You know sometimes you start a book and you think, yes, this is it, this is me for the next week happy as larry because I am going to be wrapped in fairy cotton bliss wool niceness that getting really immersed in a fictional world does to you. Then you get about 150 pages in and you start to feel the little elves that live in your hair start to make moany noises. Then after another 20 pages or so you can feel your jumper being dragged down at the hem, pulling on your neck as you realise the inevitable; the book est dull, and you're stuck with it.

It isn't always the books fault. I read The Historian, one of the scariest best written debuts ever, in summer whilst traversing Italian beaches...not a good idea. Hated the book, was bored stupid by it and only re-discovered it over a year later, when I should have read it, in November, next to a blazing gas fire. This is why, like with food and alcohol, readers should listen to their bodies. I was crying out for Erica James and I was stuffing myself with Kostova. This ends up with (for want of a better metaphor) trapped literary wind.

This is why I am not judging two of the books I've read this month yet. Not judging at all. No matter how pointless they seemed, clearly I've not been listening to my body that apparently only wants to read History Fluff (The King's Daughter by Christie Dickason- excellent book, or Needle in the Blood by Sarah Bower that I'm currently on now even though it wasn't even on my to-do pile two days ago, damn you Oxfam, damn you!) and have forced my way through two books that I know full well are very good, but that I just didn't enjoy.

The first was sent to me by the lovely lovely people at Penguin (thank you, please come again), Mr Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt was published this month and read on Radio 4. Looking for someone to rent her box room, Esther is more than a little surprised to find Mr Chartwell knocking at her door. Mr Chartwell is a large black dog.

The premise comes from Winston Churchill's famous analogy to his depression, and Churchill's relationship to the black dog is also explored in the book. Although the idea is an exciting and original one, one that had me looking forward to reading the book from the first I heard of it, the actual execution left a little something to be desired.

The book is fantastical in its portrayal of depression, and whilst the pre-coined metaphor of the black dog is a good and well established one, I did not always follow the high-brow dialogue or thematically driven prose. A very "good" novel, this brought no further understanding about depression, or grief, and left me exacerbated in that Hunt hadn't got it quite right. This novel will win literary praise (in fact has already been nominated for the Guardian's First Book award, previous winners including Zadie Smith's White Teeth and the utterly incredibly Stuart: A Life Backwards by Alexander Masters) because it is well crafted, but wasn't enjoyable to read, didn't lead me waiting impatiently for her next book and had me skimming pages, then forcing myself to re-read them in order to be fair to the highly elaborate, but altogether too intensive and superfluous style of writing. To be honest, this read like an over-long short story and I was bored by the end. To the extent that when trying to fill in my goodreads for the month I genuinely forgot I'd read it, always a bad sign.

The second book was The Girls by Lori Lansens, which I know N has read and enjoyed so it'll be interesting to see what she makes of it. I was given this at a recent Book Swap, and was pushed into reading it with the promise that it was 'better than the cover', which is a little Jodi Picaultesque, not that there's anything wrong with that, but you know what I'm saying.

Rose and Ruby are conjoined twins, craniopagus to be precise. This means they are joined at the head, sharing various blood vessels and what have you meaning a separation is impossible. Writing their life story together, yet apart, Rose on her laptop, Roby on her yellow legal pad, this charts the tale of small town Canada, and the twin's place in it.

Beautifully opened with a description of what how Rose sees her world, this book made me see the world a little differently. My favourite part of the whole book was how Rose described how her and Ruby were joined, take the heel of you palm, rest it against your earlobe and spread your hand fanned around your head, that is where her sister's head is. No one in the world could read that and not try it out, and this led to some odd looks on the bus I'm telling you.

The first few chapters were great, telling the story of the twin's birth, the tornado that swept the town killing their neighbour, and their adopted family of Aunt Lovey and Uncle Stash. The depiction of small town life is excellent, and I would very much like to read Lansens' previous work as she is a very good writer. Sadly, however, the book peters off quickly, pretty much as soon as the other twin Ruby's voice is introduced and although still a heart warming interesting read, did not live up to the promise of the first few chapters. There is an incident relating to Slovakia in the last third of the book that also made my blood boil in its depiction of the old Eastern block's superstitious "backwards" nature, and for that alone the book went down from 4 to 3 stars. Shame, as could have been excellent. Still, recommended, but does not live up to any more than the promise of the front cover.

Happy reading!
BookElf

Monday, 25 October 2010

Why Libraries in Leeds are so important.

I made this: Avid Reader at 11:41 pm 0 comments Links to this post
Ahem, as featured on today's Guardian Leeds


"Reading makes immigrants of us all. It takes us away from home, but more important, it finds homes for us everywhere..."
- Jean Rhys

For longer than I can remember, I have loved books. Not necessarily stories, but always books.

I think that my favourites are old, original artwork paperbacks that can be picked up in Leeds Market for mere pennies, but I am not a snob – while I prefer books with covers and pages intact, I'll take whatever is available, old and charismatic; new and crisp; hard backed and noble; or cheap and cheerful paperbacks, slightly grimy or warped from a drowning in the bath, shared via a book meet or charity shop.

Or, I'll take the transient, as in the case of library books. Borrowed books, social books.

Despite the solitary reputation that reading is sometimes allocated, I find that it is an intensely communal activity. Books are best appreciated, I find, when they are shared, not hoarded, discovered as a result of a recommendation, rather than merely picked up by chance.

Book clubs, travelling suitcase libraries, and meet ups to swap books are easily set up in a city like Leeds, but this is not the case everywhere.

At the age of nine, I moved to Zimbabwe with my family, and my whole relationship with books subtly changed. Already an avid reader, up until then, books had always been easily accessible – I had inherited plenty from my mother and aunts, the library back home had a large diverse range, and anything else could be picked up from a shop.

Available but not always affordable

This wasn't necessarily the case in Zimbabwe. Where books were available they were not always affordable – reference and school books in particular.

There was a thriving second hand trade, but no guarantee from week to week that you would find something that gripped you. The local library network became a haven for me, and other addicts … sorry, readers.
It was neutral territory (though it is necessary to note that Zimbabwe was not as divided then as it seems to be now), where readers could come together regardless of disparities of income, ages, genders and ethnic origin. The social aspect of reading came to the fore, while other political considerations receded, albeit temporarily, into the background.

This bond between book lovers extends far further than the local area where the library is located. A group of innovative teachers coordinated with Ranfurly library, in London. This library collects ex-school books from all over the UK to be distributed internationally – for free.

One of the teachers involved told me that she still remembers the thrill of trawling through these, the excitement for her pupils, as she tried to pick the books that would best augment those already available. After all, for her pupils, their only access point to any books at all would come via the school, and libraries. This was by no means unusual, and still seems to be the case in many countries across the world. Indeed, a quick search online finds a number of different groups and charities that provide this very same service around the world.

The Miss Honeys and Mrs Phelps of Matilda (Roald Dahl) do exist and I have been lucky enough to meet them in libraries wherever in the world I've been.

Libraries in the internet age

Libraries provide a wealth of knowledge to people who might not ever be able to access them otherwise. This obvious, and simple premise remains vastly important in the internet age – despite many having the viewpoint that no information is valid, if not presented to us on a shiny screen.

Yet, even in relatively affluent countries, there are still people whom have never acquired fundamental literacy skills. In the three countries I have been fortunate enough to live in – libraries have run literacy schemes, amongst others, to promote life long learning, and assist anyone with the desire to learn more.
Online collections, such as Project Gutenberg, are invaluable, allowing for whole collections of out of copyright books to be made available freely, to anyone with an internet connection.

Leeds libraries: 'an oasis of calm'

At the moment, before the cuts take effect, there are 53 permanent libraries in Leeds.
Many are small, with only basic facilities, others are mobile, consisting of a van, and enthusiastic librarian, while the Central Library – tucked between the Art Gallery and City Hall – is a majestic building and kitted out for a variety of tasks, with DVDs, CDs, technical manuals, educational tomes, outdoors chess (!) and fiction books available.
With bookshops closing down, belts tightening and life becoming ever more stressful, I consider my local libraries provide an oasis of calm, a peaceful environment, an escape as effective as books themselves.
"We read to know we are not alone."
- attrib. CS Lewis


* * * * *
Libraries Table of Contents
* * * * *

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Book Club the Ninth

I made this: Avid Reader at 6:25 pm 0 comments Links to this post
Book Club the Ninth  - AVIDREADER - 19-10-10
Agreed on:The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson (AvidReader)
Discussed:
- Everything you know by Zoe Heller 

A very short book club this time round, as we were all running around like lunatics, and then halfway through were maliciously distracted by a beautifully cooked meal!

BOOKN00B summed up all of our feelings succinctly 
-no point to this book whatsoever
-didn't like the characters, had no interest in the story and is  delighted to have forgotten everything by now
-doesn't know whether to ever try anything by the author again

BOOKELF
-pointless, pointless, pointless
-read it, found it to be terribly dull
-the only decent gag in it was stolen from £100 to read the Bible Evelyn Waugh letters


AVIDREADER
-diabolical tripe, made worse by some semi-passable writing
-horrific characters, horrendous narrator, cartoony plot




We actually disdained to score this book - it left us all so annoyed and frustrated.


A few days later, I texted the ladies my choice for the Christmas period - the just announced Man Booker 2010 winner - The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson
Original LBC

Meeting 08 - A Chat
Meeting 05 - Firman - Sam Savage

Friday, 1 October 2010

Book Club the Eighth

I made this: Avid Reader at 6:23 pm 0 comments Links to this post
Book Club the Eighth  -BOOKELF -
Agreed on: We by Yevgany Zenyatin was not working and to be discarded
Agreed on: Everything you know by Zoe Heller (BookElf?)


Think this was actually a phone call or non-book club related meeting decision. Anyway, however it came about, we were chatting about We and realised that two of the three of us were really dreading starting or struggling with the book. 
So, we've settled on a Zoe Heller, I think, merely because it lay close to hand. 
Original LBC

Meeting 08 - A Chat
Meeting 05 - Firman - Sam Savage

Friday, 24 September 2010

Danielle Steelathon XI - A Good Woman pub. 2008

I made this: BookElf at 9:07 am 0 comments Links to this post
I chose this one to read next especially because it was a historical one. Set after the sinking of the Titanic, the blurb promised 'from the glitter of Manhatten ballrooms to the fires of the First World War'. ooooo, I though, this'll be good...

And it would have been. This is the latest Danielle Steel my Grandma donated and I don't know if she's just been more in a hurry recently but the writing was so bland, co cliched and repetative, there were passages which I was convinced with copied and pasted. It was like reading a romantic Lauril K Hamilton, without the imagination.

The story was great; beautiful, clever New York heiress Annabelle is left greiving for her father and her brother after they are lost on the Great Ship, but this does not stop her from continuing her voluteer work on Ellis Island working with the recent immigrants to America. Her snobbish mother desperatly wants to marry her off (she's 19 at the start of the book, so clearly its a desperate situation) and is over the moon when she agree to marry her best friend, Josiah, a very successful, much older ex-collegue of her father's. Her life seems to be complete, until it turns out Josiah is gay, has been sleeping with his old college roomate on the sly, have sypallis and no longer wants to be married to Annabelle.

Now to be honest I saw this coming from the first, but it was handled sensitively and well, and if the writing hadn't been so dross I would have been very impressed. Annabelle is disgraced by her divorce, but by this time the First World War (do you have to capitalise that? Not sure) has started and so she packs herself off to France to voluteer in a hospital there. Whilst working in the surgery she is talent spotted and some how ends up at med school. She then returns to the hospital this time as a doctor. She is then raped by an English officer, who impregnates her, has the child on the sly, returns to med school, is happy for a bit, moved to Paris after the war, starts her own medical practice, gets engadged, is dumped by her fiancee when she confesses all to him, finds the Evil Rapist's mother and meets her and finds out he is dead, returns to New York, decides all her friends who dropped her after the divorce aren't worth the effort and returns to Paris with her daughter, meeting a Suitable nice Man on the way.

And then I breathe out.

All of the last paragraph happens in about 100 pages, of a 350 page novel. Its ridiculous, you can't skim read because you never know whats going to happen to her next. Its like watching an episode of Neighbours after missing it for a couple of weeks when your on holiday; all the characters are different, Harold Bishop is back, and Sky is pregnant.

Its such a shame this book is so shite, as it could have been a contender. Think I'll stick to her late eighties/ early ninties classics for the last three...

Last Three!

  Steelathon

Book 11 - A Good Woman

Book 10 - Lightning

Book 09 - Vanished

Book 08 - Fine Things

Book 07 - Five Days in Paris

Book 06 - No Greater Love
Book 05 - The Klone and I

Book 04 - Star

Book 03 - Heartbeat

Book 02 - Leap of Faith

Book 01 - Daddy

Monday, 20 September 2010

Danielle Steelathon X - Lightning pub. 1996

I made this: BookElf at 4:10 pm 1 comments Links to this post
Again, with this challenge I seem to be veering from unspeakable blinding rage to mild mannered simpering 'ahhhh'ness. This brought out the former, predictably enough, and by the end of the book I was almost stomping on it.
You might have noticed I have failed miserably in my 'book a day' ethos, but that is because I snobbishly predicted Steel's books to all be about 200 pages long in a fat type. No so. This book covered almost 500 pages at what I am guessing was a point 12, and took me a shameful three days to read, mostly because I was attempting to *have a life* at the same time, but there you go.

Alexs is a highly "successful" (by Steel's standards of success ie money/man/Immigrant Housekeeper at any rate) lawyer in her early forties, living with her financial whizzkid husband Sam and their sweet as pie daughter in New Yoik. Everything is going well for her, apart from not being able to get pregnant again, though not for enthusiastic want of trying.

Then 'lightning' (shameless insertion of slightly inappropriate title phrase- check) strikes. At a regular mamogram screening, a lump is found. Alex is diagnosed with breast cancer and has a mastectomy. This is followed by six months of chemotherapy where she looses her hair, gains weight and is incredibly ill, and yet continues to work throughout.

Now I know (touch wood) very very little about cancer, braest cancer or its treatments. Yes I've lost family members to it, but I don't *know* about it. So I have no way of sayign how Steel portrays the disease and how Alex copes with it is accurate or truthful but it is so unbeliveable affecting, and reads well researched and correct. I was in bits. Utter utter bits. First Steel to make me cry. Alex is the sort of woman that Diane Keaton used to play, and her trying to stay strong and be there for her daughter whilst she is almost loosing her mind as well as her body just made me weep small tears. If you have loved ones you have lost to this disease, don't read this book.

My sobbing was not helped by the other side of this book. Her husband, Sam, behaves like a complete and utter shit throughout. His mother apparently died of cancer when he was a boy, leaving him in the care of his alcoholic father. In his head then, when Alex becomes ill she is doing it 'on purpose' to make things more difficult for him. He does not come with her to any of her doctors, dissappears half way through her surgery, and when she shows him her scars for the first time, runs to the arms of his young sexually promiscuous mistress, the cousin of his dodgy business partner. The things he says to Alex during her illness, such as how she should cope with it and why should he be exspected to look after her (because you are her partner you fuck) made me so so so angry I kind of forgot he was a fictional character and started hating men again. I've stopped that now, as they can be lovely, but still *rage, unstoppable blinding rage*.

Alex however gets together with her lovely sweet kind generous caring protecting compassinoate colleague Brock. He is lovely. We like him. They are off holidaying together, he loves her daughter, all is well. I was getting ready for a big white wedding and then...

...SHE GOES BACK TO HER HUSBAND

And this is when I stopped having respect for anyone, really. I mean, wtf? He leaves you crying on the bathroom floor after berrating you for removing your wig so you can puke your guts up in more comfort, just in case you offend his sensibilities with your cancer, and you take him back? What is wrong with the world!

And thats when I discovered the main flaw with Steel's books; none of the protagonists have friends. They have lovers, and families, and collegues and Immigrant Housekeepers, but they never just have friends. If one of my friends was sick like this and her partner treated her the way Sam does I would smack him, pack her stuff up for her and lend her money for the dipposit on her new flat, because no one deserves to be treated with that little respect. If my partner did this to me I would expect my frieds to do the same. And then if I were to take them back, well I'd fully understand why we were no longer friends any more. I don't care how special or rare or perfect your love is *he was an utter utter shit to you once, which means he will be again and you don't stay with that* Period.

This book is also the one that made me crack. On Thursday last week I read the three opening chapeters of Pursuasion. Its one of my favourite books and just so beautifully written, and was looking at me so forcefully, I couldn't help myself.

So yes, I have failed. But I'm going to continue, because there is only four to go. And quite frankly I'm glad, because I could not take another book like this one.

  Steelathon

Book 11 - A Good Woman

Book 10 - Lightning

Book 09 - Vanished

Book 08 - Fine Things

Book 07 - Five Days in Paris

Book 06 - No Greater Love
Book 05 - The Klone and I

Book 04 - Star

Book 03 - Heartbeat

Book 02 - Leap of Faith

Book 01 - Daddy

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Danielle Steelathon IX - Vanished pub. 1994

I made this: BookElf at 5:52 pm 0 comments Links to this post
ooooooooo this ones a chiller..

This has been a great year for court room dramas for me. Setting a book in a court room can be a great writing tool (we did an exericise on it at uni) because its a structure most readers can relate to (not that you're all hardened criminals, but most have watched an episode of Kavanah QC at least once in their life), the drama is alreday in place and the characterisations are a dream- you can lpay good lawyer/bad lawyer, throw in shocks or red herrings left, right and centre, and the suspense and build up are already a given.

The best 'court room' scene I've read has to be the last third of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Steig Larsson, which if you haven't read yet then clearly you've just got in from MARS or something because it is excellent. I've also read one of the Anne Perry's lent my N, which was alright.

Steel Does Courtroom very well here; after a youthful marriage to Charles Delauney, Marielle is still grieving from the tragic death of their son together, and the fall out from this event. Now married to the Evil Malcolm (oooo, he's evil, great villain, we like this) her life collapses once again around her when their son Teddy is kidnapped. Malcolm blames Charles, and as the evidence piles up against him, its up to dashign prosecutor and inflamatory-haired reporter Eva to seek the truth...


Dum dum DUUUUUUUUUUMMMMMMM

It's actually a very good, gripping drama this, and as a beach/quick read I can't fault it. Not a romance novel in the slightest, really; the plot is fairly predicatble but still incredibly satisfying, and the character of Marielle is quite convincing-though I don't really buy the whole portrayal of her depression. She reminds me a lot of Irene Forsyth, but that might be because I've watched that this week, ooo its good. Slightly sidetracked, but how good the Forsyth saga be set in the modern East End? Kepep it in the fahmly etc etc.

What reading this, and a couple of the otheres, has taught me is that Steel can be very varied as an author. Its not all dark as midnight on a moonless night/ rainbows and joyclouds and mwah mwah love you forever, it can be just a good, easy read. And there is nothing wrong with that. I'd recommend this book to fans of, say, Anne Perry, or even John Galsworthy, enjoyed. Next!

  Steelathon

Book 11 - A Good Woman

Book 10 - Lightning

Book 09 - Vanished

Book 08 - Fine Things

Book 07 - Five Days in Paris

Book 06 - No Greater Love
Book 05 - The Klone and I

Book 04 - Star

Book 03 - Heartbeat

Book 02 - Leap of Faith

Book 01 - Daddy

Good Reads

I made this: Avid Reader at 1:37 pm 0 comments Links to this post
Just a very quick word to say 'hi' and 'thanks' to all those I'm linked with on GoodReads - while I've been a bit useless with the reviews, I'm really enjoying reading all of your thoughts!

So 'Hi!'

and

'Thanks for the bookie love!'

And I will be starting to do some reviews this weekend...after I fix the blog...and catch up on emails...and tidy up my twitter...

So yeah, first thing this weekend *ahem*

p.s. Happy Roald Dahl day (yesterday) and Agatha Christie's 120th (today) !!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Danielle Steelathon VIII - Fine Things pub. 1987

I made this: BookElf at 2:02 pm 0 comments Links to this post
This is more like it. I liked this one, which was a bit of a weepy. Its the first 'modern' one I've really enjoyed as well, which is nice.

Bernie Fine is the manager of a large departmnet store in New York. He is sent to San Francisco to open a new store there. Although to him moving to San Fran is purgery, things look up for Bernie when he meets Liz and her daughter Jane, and falls hopelessly in love with both of them. And you know what, it was believeable! Complely saw them as a couple, and a family, and was chuffed. When Liz is diagnosed with cancer after the birth of their son, I was in bits about it. You care about Bernie and his family, and are there with them every step of the way. Yes, the meeting of a new love at the end of the book is slightly predicatable, but it was just so nice. And this book was also, in parts, funny.

One of the main 'comedy' characters is Bernie's mother. Bernie is Reformed Jewish, and like most of Steel's non-WASP characters it apparently doesn't count as racism if you attribute to characters only the stereotypes that you're "aloud" to take the piss out of. So Irish Catholics have loads of children, red hair, and are really warm hearted with a story to tell, and Jewish mothers worry, moan and nag their sons to marry good Jewish girls. This botherd me a little bit, but this was written in 1987, and the book is made better for the inclusion of some light-heartedness amongst the seemingly endless tragedy from about 200 pages in, no matter how distatesful to my PC-lovin' eyes.

So yeah, not bad, not half as good as her historical romances, but again, I could see the attraction in reading another of hers,

  Steelathon

Book 11 - A Good Woman

Book 10 - Lightning

Book 09 - Vanished

Book 08 - Fine Things

Book 07 - Five Days in Paris

Book 06 - No Greater Love
Book 05 - The Klone and I

Book 04 - Star

Book 03 - Heartbeat

Book 02 - Leap of Faith

Book 01 - Daddy
 

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