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

Sunday, 31 July 2011

The Chester Beatty Library

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In the heart of Dublin, situated in the gardens of Dublin Castle, a treat for all book lovers awaits. 
A library, rare book collection, museum and art gallery in one; this much lauded library offers treasures from all around the world for free. (Though the signposting is a bit feeble and you need to know where to look for it!) 

The Chester Beatty Library  holds the considerable collection of Sir Alfred Chester Beatty (1875-1968). A collector since his formative years when he gathered minerals, stamps and snuff boxes; as an adult, he expanded into all manner of artefacts. From Egyptian copies of the Qur'an, to Japanese and Chinese paintings and books from all time periods and locales, he developed a collection that is as impressive in its scope as in its preservation of treasures. 

A. Chester Beatty - as he preferred to be known (he disliked his first name you see) lived by one mandate 'quality, Quality, QUALITY'. He didn't want to have the first of a set; he wanted to acquire the finest copy available. His goal was to ensure that his collection would protect and preserve for future generations. As a wealthy man, with resources and ties to America, the United Kingdom and Ireland, it is unlikely that modern day collectors will ever quite match the capacity and range Beatty did. He opened his library in Dublin in 1954. Three years later, he became Ireland's first ever honorary citizen.  

On display are some wonderful manuscripts, books, papyrus and prints - with explanations of the processes used and a brief history of each work (look out for the Egyptian piece worked on during World War Two - a fascinating history). 

We visited the library in order to view the Art Books of Henri Matisse - an exhibition which runs from the 29th of May until the 25th of September this year. This - the first such exhibition in Europe - features four of Matisse's illustrated books, including the much celebrated Jazz. The Chester Beatty Library also displays two Matisse books from its own collection - the illustrated Ulysses by James Joyce and the collection of poetry that Matisse released by Charles d'Orleans. Matisse was a friend of Beatty and is believed to have presented the latter book inscribed to him in 1950. 

His bold use of striking colours and deceptively simple images instantly capture the eye and the imagination. If you're visiting Dublin in the near future, do pop in!!  

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Libraries Table of Contents
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Sunday, 17 July 2011

Blood-A-Thon Book 1 - Dead Until Dark

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As I've wasted more time than I like to acknowledge looking up info on the new season of True Blood on the t'interweb, I've decided to re-read the Southern Vampire Mysteries (otherwise known as The Sookie Stackhouse or True Blood Series) by Charlaine Harris.

Inspired by BOOKELF, I'm making a 'thon' out of it!!


Book 1 - Dead Until Dark 

Anna Paquin as Sookie
Sookie Stackhouse - the narrator of the books - lives in a small town known as Bon Temps in Louisiana. Her world is almost identical to our own (so much so there are frequent cheeky little pop culture references) save one important detail. In the late 1990's, the Japanese perfected a synthetic blood source, one that fulfilled all the nutritional requirements a vampire would need. 

Finally free from their 'unfortunate' need to use humans as a food source, the Vampire Community came out, with varying degrees of success. In the U.S., they became citizens, with almost all of the rights that entails.  

Stephen Moyles as Vampire Bill
An outsider in her own community due to a strange curse - or gift depending on your perspective - Sookie has the ability to read the minds of those around her (making dating a bit tricky). She is keen to meet a vampire and so, when Vampire Bill walks into Merlotts's, the bar she works at, she couldn't be more thrilled!

She eagerly waits on the vampire and later that evening has to save him from two of her less scrupulous neighbours who attempt to drain him of his blood. Vampire blood - it transpires - is a potent aphrodisiac, with many drug like qualities. It can also be lethal, dependent on the person who takes it. To her shock, while Bill recuperates Sookie realises that she hears nothing from the vampire's mind. The following night, Bill saves Sookie from those self same drainers, by sharing his own blood with her. 

Naturally, a sort of sweet (and occasionally rather ribald) love story begins to emerge. 
However, things are somewhat complicated firstly by two violent murders in Bon Temps, seemingly designed to implicate vampires and secondly by vampire politics.  
The blood really hits the fan when Sookie's beloved grandmother is brutally murdered, supposedly for her pro-vampire stance.

At first Bill is the natural suspect. Then her extremely slutty brother Jason is arrested - he had been foolish enough to leave videos of himself with the victims in their homes. 

Sookie is forced to explore the vampire world more closely than she ever wished to try and clear his name.

Yummlicious as Eric
Visiting the vampire run bar Fangtasia, Sookie attracks the interest of an old and powerful vampire Eric. They strike a deal that Sookie will work for Eric, using her unique talents to identify an embezzler and he will answer her questions for her. 
She points the finger at a vampire, while Eric confirms to her that the first two victims were fang-bangers; and regulars at his bar.

Bill - concerned at Eric's clearly not even a little tiny bit platonic interest in Sookie - decides to improve his own status within the VC, leaving Sookie in the protection of a sort of half witted vampire - Bubba ( trust me - you'd rather find out his story on your own!).

Sookie - left alone - brings a stray dog home and is shocked the next morning to find out that the mutt is actually her boss - Sam Merlott. The supernatural world contains far more than vampires, with other groups not yet willing to reveal themselves to the human world. 

At this point Sookie is heading towards overload. Her world is spinning wildly out of control, her family has been decimated and she seems to attract trouble like flames attract moths. 

Naturally she too is attacked, making her likely the original target when her grandmother has been killed. Unlike the other victims, she is able to use her ability to ward off the attack and is horrified to discover that the killer is one of her brothers close friends. She is badly beaten, but manages to hold off her attacker until the law intervens. The next day - too late to be of any use whatsoever - Bill returns. He has become an investigator for the vampires, under Eric, but more powerful than before.

This is a very silly, pacy and enjoyable book. I really liked the new take on the mythos, which, although simply written, is quickly established. Having Sookie narrate can sometimes become a little tedious. Her angle is interesting but can occasionally veer into twishite terriotory as she elaborates on her feelings for Bill. 
If I hadn't been gifted the first 4 in the series, I'm not entirely sure that I would have continued with them, but as I had onwards and upwards!!

Score 5/10 

Blood-A-Thon Reviews
Book 1  - 2001 Dead Until Dark
Book 2  - 2002 Living Dead in Dallas
Book 3  - 2003 Club Dead
Book 4  - 2004 Dead to the World
Book 5  - 2005 Dead As A Doornail
Book 6  - 2006 Definately Dead
Book 7  - 2007 All Together Dead
Book 8  - 2008 From Dead To Worse
Book 9  - 2009 Dead and Gone
Book 10 - 2010 Dead in the Family
Book 11 - 2011 Dead Reckoning

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Guilty Pleasures? I feel no shame!

I made this: Unknown at 1:16 pm 1 comments Links to this post

Totally necessary -
topless Eric
The fourth series of True Blood has just started in the U.S.  Based on the tremendously popular Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris; this bonkers, bloody and barmy series can't make it to our shores soon enough for me!

And as I've just finished two 'heavy' reads - The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst for our book club, and Shanghai Nights by Juan Marse, lent to me by a book clubber (cheers L!) - this is the perfect time for me to sit back and  reflect on some of my favourite vampiric books!

Night World Series - L.J. Smith (who will NEVER finish it off now that the Vampire Diaries has taken off...sigh...)
A real solid starter here, these 9 YA books had me gripped in my younger years (and during a re-read about 3 years ago!!) and no doubt much of my affection for the genera can be laid at this door. The Night World is the world hidden beneath our own - witches and shifters and vampires all living out their lives right under our noses. And no one ever knows. Well, other than the teenagers these books are all about obviously!!

My personal favourite was Ash - bad boy gone good. Oh yeah, all the night world-ers were named after trees. I thought that was sooo cool. Still kinda do actually.

While the first 3 or 4 were only loosely linked, a thread began to emerge during the later books. THAT WAS NEVER RESOLVED AS BOOK 10 WAS NOT RELEASED!!! Ahem, I'm over it now, naturally, but oh the agonies my best friend and I went through!!

Anita Blake Series - Laurell K Hamilton (1993 - )
While I really enjoyed these books during my teenage years, I also feel totally betrayed by them.
The first 10 in the series are pretty awesome - a blend of supernatural/detective/thriller sort of thing - with one of the most kickass characters ever Anita Blake (nicknamed the Executioner by terrified vampiric hoards!!). These earlier books explore a society almost identical to our own, but where vampires and werewolves have been granted civil rights. And hellooooo Jean Claude!
However, in book 10 Anita becomes possessed with a really shoddy excuse to need sex every very hours. My beloved series became smut. Pure and simple. And I don't mean that there are occasional sex scenes. I mean the story was replaced by increasingly improbably graphic sex - with vampires, werewolves, shifters in mid-change, the underage and often regardless of consent. Nothing against erotica, it just doesn't do it for me {ahem}, I was also a bit too young for what the series became and I really missed seeing Anita kick ass, rather then ...you know...that other thing. 
I resent not being able to follow Anita's adventures any more. Well, that's a lie - the friends that I forced the series on way back when who still enjoy it have promised to lend their copies of the books to me if Anita ever gets back on her feet...[insert smutty pun here]

{Interesting sidebar - I am not alone in my disappointment about the direction that the series has taken. The author was forced to confront negativity from her fans on her blog. I was rather shocked when she advised those of us who didn't enjoy any more to stop reading. Then told people off for being vocal about it. But I took her advice and passed the books en masse onto a mate I thought would enjoy them.}

The Sookie Stackhouse Series - Charlaine Harris (2001 - )

I discovered these books riiiight before the TV series was announced, while looking for something to help me with my Buffy cravings (SPPPPPPIIIIIIKKKKKKKEEEEE). And I'm so glad I did! Telepaths, were-wolves, shifters, vampires - heck - even faeries get an outing here! While there are some scenes of an adult nature {blushes}, the focus is much more on the characters and the momentum of the plot never falters for a second. Break neck speed throughout!
And violence. There's some really good violence here - blood and guts and torture and with the screaming and shouting and moaning -  it's good to get away from the slightly anaemic tortured en-souled vampires for a bit. Eric and Bill are manipulators, and I love it. The eternal triangle of the tv show is less so here too, which is a handy way of separating out the fandoms!

In fact, I've made these the subject of my first read-a-thon - find the Blood-A-Thon here!

Two other series that I quite enjoyed, but not as much as the above are -
Rachel Morgan/Hollows - Kim Harrison (2004 - )
Women of the Otherworld - Kelley Armstrong (2001 -

Maybe it was my fault - reading too many similar stories all at once - but these never quite stood apart for me.

And for those looking for books with a little less sizzle and a little more bite (OK, OK, I'll stop now), you can't do better than:

Dracula - Bram Stoker (1897)
Building on the Byronic image of Vampires; this is a Gothic love/horror story with all the elements that now define a classic in the genera. In my humble opinion, this remains a must read for anyone with the vaguest of interests as it provides the definitive template for vampires, their traits, mythology (though I'll accept deviations when well written) and their interactions with humans.

Only slight downside is that the story is terribly familiar to new initiates. You'll have to take it on faith - there's a reason every one uses it! Love it, Love IT, LOVE IT!!!

The Historian - Elizabeth Kostova (2005)
One of the first books out book club ever read together; this is a [fictional] biography of the real Dracula[Vlad the Impaler]! The man behind the myth. Who is probably a monster! While the subject is ostensibly vampiric; this book is more of a love letter to the legends and myths of the noble dead that abound throughout Europe. OK, so it gets a little bogged down in places. Occasionally characters fail to sound unique or distinct from one another, but as historical romps go, this one is a delight!

I am Legend - Richard Matheson (1954)
So, I enjoyed the Will Smith block-buster a few years ago but the story it told suuuuure didn't fit with my reading of the book! This is one of the most influential zombie books ever (where the infected have a vampiric disease). It's focus on humanity and society - even when the human race seem to resemble neither - is a true head spinner. It was also - as far as I'm aware - one of the first books to regard vampirism as a disease, offering a scientific-ish explanation for the transformation from human to vampire.

And on my still-to-be-read-even-though-I've-lent-it-to-loads-of-people pile

Forever - Peter Hamill
An immigration tale with a twist...

(No list can be complete without the Queen of Vampires herself - Anne Rice. But this one will have to be. No insult here intended - but I've actually only read one of her Chronicles {Interview with a Vampire} and I didn't enjoy it at all. The story was cool enough but the writing style really turned me off. It's like Terry Prachett - you either love him or you don't. Enjoyed the movies though.)

For my (piss) take on the Twishite Twilight Series [and recommendation instead for the Saga of the Noble Dead books by Barb and JC Hendee], please see here!

Coz what's the point of a post on vampires without a cheeky pic of my favourite?
Spike from Buffy.
Blondie Bear!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

I made this: BookElf at 11:33 am 0 comments Links to this post
Oh this is a good book. This is a very good book. There are many many things that are good about this book so I'm going to devide it up as it is so multi layered otherwise I'll get all confused.


Oh shit, it's the vampires
Parts of this book are just disgusting. Parts are really very scary. Other parts are beautiful. All three of these descriptors apply to the vampires.
I loved Eli. The combination of childlike innocence and great power was really well played. It was strange to feel truly sorry for a vampire, but Eli, a true victim of circumstance, was such a strangely sympathetic character. yes, ze emotionally manipulates people into doing hir will, and kills and eats the living in order to survive, but ze is the survivor of horrific abuse and the person ze is manipulating is abusing hir-the way in which Hakan (sorry can't figure out how to add the dots) justifies his abuse because he 'loves' hir- oh it's just so well done. This made me really think about the 'who abuses who' arguement for the condoning of sex work- in fact doesn't Tommy compare his experience of selling his blood to Eli with his friend's description of her experience of prostitution? I need to have a long an involved talk with someone who has also read this book who knows more about the theories of power than I do please.

The actually way the vampire myth is used, again, its just so well done. The idea of the heart growing it's own brain, I've never read that before but it was creepy but also made so much sense-that's why you have to stake the heart. The impracticalities of having an 'infection' transferred through blood (it's set in the early 80s, so relevent, you could read this book on so many ridiculous levels) that means sunlight burns you and you have to kill others to survive-that bit where Virginia has fantasies about her daughter's giving birth and the blood was so incredibly creepy because your brain does go in weird places sometimes and you do have to stop yourself from thinking certain things, is he humanising the monster or revealing the monsters within us all?

And that's what I loved the most; the monster isn't Eli. The truely monstrous acts in the book are committed by people; the bullies at school, the peaodophile ring that knocks out young boys teeth. Yet even they do these things because part of their brain is damaged, or othered by events in their lives. I think the main villain of the piece is in fact...

I've worked in pubs with regulars tables. The dynamics between the group in the Chinese Restaurant are again, spot on. The reserach in human behaviour that Lindqvist must have done...

Alcohol destroys all the relationships within the book; Osker's parents, his relationship with his father, the drunks in the bar, especially the sad sad story of Lacke and Virginia. Tommy's poisen is infact glue rather than booze but the basic message that addiction affects us all, and that that is all that vampirism in it's basic form is. By turning an addiction into an infection that can be caught, is Lindqvist saying that alcoholism is catching, especially in the circumstances in which these people live?

The comparisons with Stephen King are obvious throughout. The idea of an area being a sysmptom of the crimes that take place in it, making vampirism another add-on to the broken-windows symptom list? Genious.
Much as it is the alcoholism, rather than lack of money, that prevents Lacke leaving, this is a direct parallel to Eli's situation; they have plenty of money but cannot 'leave' because of a disease that means them immortal. The only way of breakng this immortality is through a painful, prolonged suicide. Eli is trapped in hir situation, just as the rest of the cast are trapped by their's. Again, the monster is comparable to the human, and the monster is therefore humanised.
I also loved the idea of the place having no roots, much as Tommy and Jimmy the school bully, and Oskar himself to a certain degree, are fatherless. Eli's father is never mentioned, hir 'creator' is an absent figure now, the memories of whom are painful and yet precious.

At some level, this book is purely about what friends will do for each other. Oskar and Eli's deepening friendship was so sweet, innocent whilst at the same time having a sexual element to it. I especially liked Eli's sexuality or gender. Because I am cis, and I am far more ignorant on this subject than I ought to be I have tried to keep this piece as gender neutral as possible in relation to Eli, but if I've got it wrong please berrate me and correct me.
How family ties can be not as important as friendship too is marvellously looked at. Oskar would quite happily leave his mother, who came accross as loving and supportive, if a little ignorant of Oskar's needs, for Eli. Tommy's situation with his mother and proposed step-dad leads to him making massive errors of judgement, because his mother acts as his friend rather than authoratative figure.
In fact in is when the figures of authority in the book try to become friends or family that problems start; the school teacher trying to get closer to Oskar is punished by a student being hurt. It is almost as if, combined with the great equaliser of poverty and situation that Lindqvist is saying that we need to higher power, some, not God, but leader of some form. Eli is almost the only leader, or respected figure of authority there is throughout the book and ze is a diseased child who kills people in order to survive.

There is so so so so so much more I could say about this book. If you've read it, and want to talk about it PLEASE let me know as this is the sort of thing that deserves a very long conversation!

If you haven't read it, and read past the spoilers notice, a) why? and b) don't let my ramblings put you off, it's amazing, honest, 5/5 stars.

Happy Reading!
BookElf xxx

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

A Response to 'Date a Girl Who Reads'- by a Girl who Reads

I made this: BookElf at 4:25 pm 1 comments Links to this post
Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who doesn't spend her money on books because she's a member of three libraries, and works in one, and runs three book swaps a month so has money left over for clothes but doesn't spend money on them either, but instead spends it on beer and fags. She has problems with her closet space because she doesn't have a fucking closet, she has a wardrobe, and most of that is on the floor. Date a girl who hasn't got a list of books she wants to read, she's got a list of books she has to read because she writes for two book blogs and is in a book club and is behind, damn it. Date a girl who has had a library card since she was three. Find a girl who reads, you'd be hard pushed seeing as a third of adults in the country don't have a reading level over a level 3. You'll know a girl that reads because she'll be fucking reading. She'll be the one lovingly stroking Waterstones front tables, she doesn't necessarily have an orgasm every time she sees a book she wants, but doesn't do 'quiet'. You see that weird chick spending all her fucking time trying to get other people to talk about reading for pleasure to normalise it in the popular conscious so she doesn't always get labelled 'weird'? That's the reader. She's the girl reading in the pub down the street, she's not waiting, she's having a pint and reading her book, why not massively interrupt and harass her? She might look pissed off, like the few hours of the week she gets to do what she wants instead of kow-towing to other's demands are precious to her and she doesn't really want to have some one talk to her about Mura-fucking-kami, but that's a front, she's actually really quite lonely on the inside and you should definitely try and put your willy in her. Ask her if she likes the book and if not why is she spending her down-time reading a book she doesn't like and when she tells you its for a dare don't look at her like she's some sort of freak that reads books for dares in pubs. See if she got through the first chapter of a book you've read, whilst completely ignoring the fact that she's probably read more books this year than you have in your entire twenties. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce's Ulysses she's actually using the old 'bluestocking' tactic to get you to fuck off. Don't fucking mention Alice in Fucking Wonderland.

It's easy to date a girl who reads, because they are one big homogeneous mass with exactly the same tastes and experiences. In fact, you should just put a mass order out on Amazon for some totally predicable shite 90s classics that your housemates read for his English degree so you can give her them randomly as gifts as make her think you care. Let her know that you understand words are power. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but you're not actually Captain Wentworth, and she's got another year before she's Too Old to be Anne and you should respect that and come back when she's thirty and run out of Austen heroines to emulate. Lie to her, that'll get her hot. If she doesn't get that sometimes you need to lie you can always claim she doesn't understand syntax and use it against her to form the beginnings of a controlling, abusive relationship with no trust. Fail her. In fact, why don't you just sit around all day spending her money, sleep with her best friend and steal from her. She'll be gagging for it then. Girls who read have no basis for self-confidence so will always let you back, you see. Life is meant to have a villain or two, how much better when the villain is the person who claims to love you? Girls who read base their entire basis for what people are on one series of books. If you find a girl who reads, keep her close by lying to her, being a villain, and failing her. When you find her up till 2am clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and go back to fucking bed, if she wanted to be held she'd have come to you. She'll talk as if characters in books are real because you've made her friends loose their rag with her for staying with someone who psychologically manipulates someone to the point where the characters in the books are the only basis for friendship she really has left. You'll propose in some outdated predictable way, or really offhandedly, and then expect her to get down on her knees in gratitude that someone, someone, cares enough about her to want to be with her, even though she was great before she met you. You will smile so hard you will wonder why she hasn't knifed you through the chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, she will stand behind your shoulder and compliment you on your skills with words. Your kids will resent you for what you've done to their mother, who always looked so happy in the photos, reading, who introduced them to Matilda, The Paper Bag Princess and Pippi Longstocking. You will walk the winters of your old age together and occasionally she'll remember that she used to dream of someone who knew Keats.

Girls who read, don't date someone who "deserves" you. You deserve the most colourful life imaginable. If you can only get monotony, and stale hours, and half baked proposals over Skype, you're better off alone. If you want the world, and the worlds beyond it, read. Or better yet, write.

Richard Nottingham Book One - The Broken Token

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Leeds, 1731.

On the dark and violent streets of Leeds, a gruesome double murder has taken place.
Almost worse than the crime itself was the positioning of the deceased - male posed upon female - mimicking a sex act. The Chief Constable - Richard Nottingham - is called in to investigate, ably assisted by his dependable deputy - John Sedgwick. 
 To his horror, he finds that one of the victims is a former maid and family friend; while the other was a controversial visiting preacher. A conscientious man anyway, this personal connection only deepens his determination to uncover the truth and bring back order to the city he loves.  

Making his job more difficult is the political tide of the time. Though he has been the Chief Constable for many years; his position is only as secure as his usefulness to the Mayor. The most recent recipient of this annual position is ambitious, demanding and not above threatening those who work with him for speedy (if not necessarily accurate) resolutions. As Nottingham is forced to more up the social ladder for answers; his relationship with the City Council is destined to become ever more tenuous. When a second couple are found murdered in the same way, Nottingham must use every connection, ally and even enemy to uncover the truth.

Just to add to the pressure, the Nottingham family are rocked by internal pressures. One of his two daughters is proving to be as independent a spirit as her father, despite considerable societal restraints. And the cherry on top? A near invisible pick pocket with the gift to be everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Maintaining control on and off the streets will stretch the Chief Constable to the limits of his patience.   
1725 Map of Leeds

From the blurb above, I know that The Broken Token sounds like a straightforward mystery/thriller. It really really isn't.  
It's so much more than that.

Chris Nickson manages to near effortlessly weave social context into the tapestry of the story. Richard Nottingham has risen from the lowest depths of society. His mother was caught in an affair when he was a child, resulting in his father abandoning his wife and rejecting their son.
With no other recourse left open to her and a young boy to provide for; she took to the oldest profession of all. Raised the son of a prostitute, this background provides the primary protagonist with a unique insight into the lives of those he most often investigates.

At no point during the book are we allowed to lose sight of the difference status makes to a person. The rich must be protected, even from their own misdemeanours. They control the trade and the city. The poor, though vastly more numerous, are granted no such liberty. There is one pathetic character - a drunk - who emphasises this difference between the haves and have nots so much (I'm deliberately not describing him in too much detail. He's worth discovering yourself).

Leeds is as much as character within the book as the setting for it. Despite being described as dirty, dark and dangerous, there is a hint of the economic rise that was starting to take root. Leeds was becoming more successful and prosperous thanks to the emergence of the wool market. The pre-industrial setting focuses on an era that I'm not familiar with at all which becomes all the more fascinating when one takes the time to wander around the city and attempt to seek out those few buildings that survive from that period, or try to visualise how the streets I walk across every day would've looked. 
It is also a city bordering on legal anarchy. The wealthy minority in charge have not had any incentive up until this point to invest in the structures of law and order. Certainly the way the major responds to the constabulary demonstrates this point very well.  

As a resident of this fine city, the maps at the beginning of the book were beyond useful - I think I thumbed through them at least once every few chapters - just to make sure I still knew where I was in terms of the plot! I also particularly enjoyed the references to villages and outlying areas outside the city proper - such as Chapel Allerton - which sounded like another country in the book!

I read this book rather too quickly, and re-read it about a week later, taking the time to properly appreciate it. Perhaps the murder-mystery itself is a little straightforward on a second reading. However, at no point does the book feel lacking. There is enough to distract you - be it family, the pick pocket B storyline, the city itself or the political machinations - to ensure that I finished the book feeling more than satisfied.

As a novel, it's impressive and more than holds its own against contemporaries such as Anne Perry's William Monk series. As a debut, it leaves me excited and delighted to have *found a new author! I look forward to the next book with glee! 

Score: 4.5/5 

The Author
Chris Nickson was born and bred in Leeds. Although The Broken Token is his first fictional work, he is no stranger to the written word. A music journalist by trade - specialising in world and roots music - he lived in the States for many years, honing his art. He has also written many biographies for such stellar talents as Ewan McGregor, Emma Thompson, John Martyn and Christopher Reeve, and continues to contribute to many magazines and websites.
He is also an avid (and very entertaining) twitter user - find him @ChrisNichson2 . Tell him I say hi!!

Any more?
The Broken Token is the first of his Richard Nottingham series. The second - Cold Cruel Winter - has just been released (May 2011), with the third expected for release in 2012.

*Technically, Chris found me!

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Chris Nickson

Richard Nottingham - Book 1 - The Broken Token Review
Richard Nottingham - Book 2 - Cold Cruel Winter Review

Christmas Short Story - Annabelle Atkinson and Mr. Grimshaw

Richard Nottingham - Exclusive - Short Story - Home
Richard Nottingham - Exclusive - December

Chris Nickson - Interview

Follow Chris on Twitter - @ChrisNickson2
Best Book of 2001 - Library Journal Award

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Chris Nickson Table of Contents
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Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Tiger Hills by Sarita Mandanna

I made this: BookElf at 11:35 am 3 comments Links to this post

I do love a big fat saga, and this book, with its stunningly beautiful embossed cover in greens and yellows with running children, and a blurb that contains the phrase ‘forbidden love that will last for generations’, promises nothing less, and completely delivers.

Possibly the most depressing, yet lyrical book I’ve read this year, this is the story of Devi, the beautiful and cherished daughter of a middle class family in late 19th century South India.

Mandanna apparently ‘belongs to the Coorg’, which I would take the piss out of for ridiculous sentimentality, but that’s how I feel about Yorkshire, so I won’t. Certainly her evocative, almost too sumptuous descriptions of this lush mountain region I’ve never even heard of make her have good reason to be proud. Like Love in a Time of Cholera, this book makes you smell the jungle. Heady, gorgeous, full of flowers and elephants, leads to what for my boring Western eyes brought up on finding heather impressive is an exotic tantalising land.

If the country is beautiful, the people are more so, apparently. The Coorg are ‘known’ for their women’s beauty and class, beauty in this world meaning pale skinned, high cheek boned, and curvy. They are also known for their ‘honour’, and it is with this addition of a national characteristic that this book becomes more than just a beach read.

It is this idea of ‘honour’ that pervades the people’s lives that eventually leads to every single thing falling apart. Devi and her childhood friend Devanna are inseparable, with Devanna’s crush on Devi growing into an all consuming obsession by the time he gets into medical school. Devi, on the other hand, decides she’s in love with a local hero, ‘The Tiger Killer’, after seeing him once. Because that’s exactly how love works.

And now I’m going to insert some MASSIVE SPOILERS… because there are parts about this book that I have ‘feelings’ about that I want to get off my chest. It is, however, really really good, would make a cracking holiday read (its really fucking long, so an investment for t’beach me thinks) so READ IT, and then come back to me…

…right, have you now read it? Good. OK.

Does she not, you know, massively excuse rape a bit? I know I’ve been a bit Bad Feminist about Stuff Like That on here before (see my The Foutainhead Roark-Gush from a few months back) but when the Massively Tragic stuff starts happening obviously its all terrible, and I’m not saying the Devanna’s experiences in medical school aren’t horrifying and abusive and he, naturally, is traumatised from them but I’m sorry that doesn’t excuse raping someone. Even if it is the woman he’s been in love with for his entire life.

When they married off Devi and Devanna afterwards I was really really gutted and angry for her, her rapist is rewarded by being given status within the family- I’m sorry but feeling really sorry doesn’t excuse your behaviour, he should have been jailed, not married.

Much as I found the relationship between Devi and Machou absolutely bollocks (‘to love you is to fly’, oh really, flying on the wings of the massive amounts of time and energy you’ve spent actually getting to know each other rather than spending your entire time staring into each others eyes? Because that’s the recipe for a long and healthy relationship right there isn’t it, staring) (sorry, if you can’t already tell, feeling a little but cynical about the whole ‘love’ bollocks right now), I also was really gutted for the pair of them. But neither of them makes it any easier on themselves by never actually having a conversation. Devi doesn’t tell him until its too late, to preserve the honour of the man who raped her? Pur-lease that is some twisted shit right there.

It’s this ‘honour’ thing which ruins every single person in the books lives. How can that which makes everyone unhappy, leads to two people killing themselves, one person trying to, one person never again seeing the child he loves, and one person faking their own death be a good part of a culture, one you should definitely, definitely keep?

Also, by the last third of the book, I did kind of want every single character apart from Nanju to just fuck off, and he’s the only one who did.

And then the ended was so contrite, oh Devi, the whiney obsessive who got everything she wanted basically by being a cow and ruining the son she was supposedly giving a better life to (whose mother kills herself because of Devi’s obsession, and she feels bad about that for, what, a day? Cow) just happens to bump into a doctor who went to college with Devanna who just happened to see the ragging (colonial import that once again made me so proud of my Mother Country. I fucking hate being British sometimes I really do) and so she forgives her rapist. And how does she show she has forgiven him? By giving him a cuddle? What evs.

So yes I did love this book, couldn’t put it down and shall be recommending it heartily, and I have given it 4/5 because, you know what, it’s a debut, and for a debut it is outstandingly better than some of the so called ‘literary’ shite I’ve read this year. But I feel a lot better having got all that off my chest.
Happy Reading!
BookElf xxx

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