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

Saturday, 31 March 2012


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- run by= @Wandapops

Please find links to the LeedsBookClub play lists here!

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll:
Listen on Spotify 


 as a 

YouTube playlist 

The HitchHikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams:

Listen on Spotify 


as a 

YouTube playlist (make sure you watch the final one – its a stuffed singing turtle!)


Persuasion by @BookElfLeeds

Persuasion by Jane Austen:

Listen on YouTube - Playlist 

If you fancy joining in, drop a line to @LeedsPlaylist

Don't forget to tweet using the following! #LeedsPlaylist 

Thursday, 29 March 2012

A Feast For Crows

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I was going to include this in Mount TBR, but that wold have been cheating, as this isn't my book! I borrowed A Feast For Crows from R MONTHS ago and never got round to reading it past the first third, so I'm including it on the Once Upon A Time Reading Challenge and you can decide if that's cheating or not.

This is the fourth book in A Song Of Ice And Fire, but to be honest, it's not is it? It's the fifth, the third being in two parts of 700 pages each. When a separately bound tome of 700 pages stops being a book I shall start a strictly hat based diet. But the purists (of which there are many, and they are terrifying) will say it's the fourth, so fourth it is.

So I've now read 3,500 pages of GRRRRRR Martin, and all I can say is... WHAT THE ACTUAL F**K IS GOING ON???????


Right. First of all. Cersei. What is going on? I get that after the gore filled blood bath Hammer House of Horror terror-on-toast fest of A Storm of Swords (wolf's head stitched onto a man's body? really?) you'd be a little, shall we say protective of your offspring but her deranged scheming is so obvious. I spent a large part of this book wanting to kick Cersei Lannister in the face. Also, the lesbian thing was ridiculous. Hilariously so, but ridiculous.

Brienne. Bless her cottons. I love this woman, even though, again, I did spend a good percentage of the book shouting at her. She's so trusting and yet so fierce. The best bits of the book were Brienne's chapters, the one in the middle with Septon Meribald (best character in the book) describing his childhood as a soldier and how war creates broken men were genuinely moving, and with child soldiers big news at the moment very poignant to read. I was distraught at what happens to her and now must read A Dance of Dragons IMMEDIATELY.

Sansa and the Vale; am I wrong for having the slightest thing for Littlefinger? Just because he's so sly. I do feel sorry for Sansa, she has been dealt a bad hand throughout all of this, and now has to put up with the Brat Of The Year (whilst Tommen continues to be the cutest child possible 'when I'm King, I'm going to outlaw beets' made my ovaries twist a little bit, not gonna lie).

My favourite thing about this book, however, was the story of Arya. Arya has always been my favourite character, even though she has spent a good third of the books going round the same fifty mile radius in circles. In this one, she really came into her own. Braavos, the Venice of this world, is a fascinating and beautifully described place and I love love love the idea of the House of Black and White. I also have to admit to a little squeak of joy when Sam and Arya face each other-though would she not be slightly more eager for news of Jon?

Speaking on Jon.... I missed him in the book. There have been many many complaints about the lack of Tyrion/Jon/Daenerys in this book. I don't think it was a lesser book for the lack of them, I enjoyed it a hell of the lot more than the first part of A Storm Of Swords, but I was wondering what the hell was going on at the Wall, and in Meereen. Also, these reports of the death of Davos 'going to be played by Liam Cunningham snarf snarf' Seaworth are making me nervous....

Anyway, Season Two of A Game of Thrones (also known as A Clash of Kings, still my favourite of the books) starts on Sunday. This series is probably the only fantasy series apart from Terry Pratchett to have got me excited enough to read as much of it as I have. The amount of people I know who love it, the number of people reading it on the bus, and the popularity of the TV series show that, actually, sometimes, fantasy is a Good Thing.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Mount TBR 2# Forbidden Fruit: From the letters of Abelard and Heloise

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I'm including this book, which I bought Many Many Moons ago as part of a Penguin 'Great Loves' set that was going cheap on TheBookPeople, in my Once Upon A Time Reading Challenge. Although technically not a folktale, as Abelard and Heloise did actually exist, the story of their great forbidden love affair shaped the Medieval Courtly Love tradition and influenced songs and culture across Europe for hundreds of years. To be honest, I was shocked they were French, having believed for years that this was an English love story, which shows how cultures shape each other and how little I actually know about where the stories come from.

Peter Abelard was the eldest son of a Bretton knight, who gave up his rights of inheritance to study and became one of the most respected, if controversial, philosophers of 12th century Europe. Heloise was his pupil, and later his lover. When the affair was discovered, Heloise's uncle, Abelard's patron, forced them to marry before sending his men to castrate Abelard in the night. The lovers separately joined religious orders, and Abelard continued to teach and publish his writings. He was accused variously of heresy and stirring up trouble within the Church, exposing corruption in the religious houses he belonged to and questioning the Holy Trinity. He was tried for blasphemy and his works were burned in front of him. Eventually he was forced to flee the religious community he had set up, asking Heloise, who was now a prioress, to run it for him. He remained on the run from authority for the rest of his life.

The letters in this abridged text are written firstly from Abelard to 'a friend' whilst he is on the run, describing his life's history, the affair with Heloise and it's aftermath, and his trials and tribulations. There then follow a series of letter between Heloise and Abelard in which she begs him for comfort and he tells her to pray for him, as he is sure to die. I read this book in a day, sitting in various pubs, and had a great time doing so, as the three pints of porter only aided my utter utter hatred of Abelard and disgust at the text; if I'd had anyone to rant with, I'd have been ranting my brains out.

Firstly; Abelard is a knob. He could be the dictionary definition for the opposite of self effacing. He repeatedly showers himself with compliments and his apparent wisdom and logic knows no bounds. He excels at everything; when an adversary points out he is arguing about a text he has not studied his answer is that it doesn't matter, because he is so incredibly clever he doesn't need to study everything. He reads the entire Bible in a week and is suddenly the world's greatest Spiritual Scholar. The man is infuriating and also a massive racist, I don't give a shit if he's a 12th century monk.

His opening description of Heloise starts promising, she is up there on beauty but top of the league on intelligence. He likes her for her brain. This pleased me muchly until I realised that he actually likes her for her reputation, having never met the woman. He has decided that he might has well be shagging somebody and she sounds like a safe bet. PLUS he comes with an arrangement with her Uncle that he can be given sole charge of her education, including punishing her. So even if she doesn't want him back, he can beat her into submission! Nice!

And Heloise puts up with this shit. She goes on and on and on about how unworthy she is of him, how marrying her will damage his reputation. There is one very slight girl-power moment where she argues against the chains of marriage, and that's all well and good, but she repeatedly asks him to confirm that he loves her, rather than just lusts after her which is what everybody thinks and what he obviously does, and then continues to put up with his crap years after they've stopped being together! It's like, girl, I know you're options are limited and all that, but you're a very very clever, powerful woman who rules your own religious community. Cut your ties and be done with it!

He writes her love songs, he makes her name famous, he ruins her reputation, and then he fucks her over for his precious career. And this is the greatest love story of the middle ages? Purlease, give me the She Wolf of France ANY day of the week!

I suppose this shows that you can't look at something 700 years old with modern eyes without being frustrated. Is there such a thing as hindsight privilege? All I know is, if this is the great love we're all supposed to aspire to, I'll stick to being single thanks!

Purchased: The Book People, at some point in 2009.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Once Upon A Time Reading Challenge 2012

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For the past two years, I've taken part in the brilliant Once Upon A Time Reading Challenge. This challenge encourages readers to try something new by expanding on the genres they read, and for a reader like me who tends to stick to what I know I'll like (historical fiction, girly romance novels, and Scandinavian Crime) the challenge of reading a fantasy/SF, a myth, a folktale and a fairytale in three months is always a good one.

This year, because I'm woefully behind on my Mount TBR Challenge I'll be combining the two. Again, I have no excuse but I work in a library and we've been getting some incredibly tempting fiction in for the past month or so-hey at least I'm doing my stats some good, might be failing on my blog, but work loves me!

I've had some mixed results from doing this challenge, but hopefully this year will finally read some fantasy that doesn't make me foam at the mouth, and finally finish Angela Carter's fairy tales.

Happy Reading!
BookElf xxx

Friday, 16 March 2012

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

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This is a love letter, not to New York, but to a New York specific to 1938, the jazz era-end of depression, Gatsby reborn, where the opportunities were just beginning again to be endless.

I loved this book.

The story of Katey Kontent, who Mira Ward would have been if she'd been born ten years earlier and not married Norm, this book had everything the could possibly entice me to love it. Beautifully structured and paced, the moods of the novel were so well played out you could see the lighting. If ever a book was more screaming to be well shot, this one is.

Katey-I can't even begin to describe how much I wanted to be her. Secretary and sometime redhead, she is witty, sharp, well read and acidic and proof that even the most amazing women alive Fall In Stupid on occasion. If you wanted to be Flora Poste at 19, you'll want to be Katey Kontent at 26.

On New Year's Eve 1937 Katey and her roommate, gust of MidWest wind Evelyn, are broke, but happy, sitting drinking martinis in a seedy jazz club when seemingly wealthy playboy Tinker Grey walks into their lives. Evelyn, the happy consummate flirt who knows exactly what she's doing and appears more childlike for being so, is the sort of character that one instantly loves; think Prue from The Land Girls mixed with a bit of Scarlett O'Hara-before-the-war. Katey, who is far too clever for where she is but having fun, goes along with her friend's schemes with epic results. Over the course of the next year, both women change fundamentally, and Katey starts her own mesmerisingly brilliant path.

What I loved most about this book, apart from how incredibly real it felt, was how well Katey came across as a female character written by a man, which I know is a dreadful thing to say. The book has been criticised as being too asexual- critics cannot believe that women and men and alcohol would be together and not try and get in each others pants- to them I say Ha! You clearly don't get What Women Want at all! When Katey wants to get laid, she gets laid. When she wants to get drunk and talk about Charles Dickens, she gets drunk and talks about Charles Dickens. Starting to see why I love her?

This book made me want to drink gin with olives in it, buy some silk knickers and dye my hair even redder. It made me want to light my cigarettes with matches and throw them over my shoulder for good luck. When I read Gatsby, the wealth and the snobbery annoyed me because it was so taken for granted by the narrator; with Rules of Civility you're seeing it from Jay Gatsby's eyes and suddenly it becomes ridiculous, but natural. Of course you'd wear diamonds in your ears if you could get away with it! Of course you'd spend twenty dollars on steak! Yet you'd still have just as good a time dining in some forgotten Explorers Club as at a seedy party of a part-time glamour girl drinking cold beer that's been left in buckets on fire escapes.

This book, more than anything, encapsulates being 26. When you're young enough to get away with some mistakes, but old enough that the decisions you do make will impact on the rest of your life. The author acknowledges this in a beautifully written way and I was sobbing at the end of this. I don't know if it's because I've just turned 27 and am therefore reading this book at the exact right time-like reading On The Road at 18, but this book has really really made me happy and sad at the same time, I read it in a day, and I cannot tell you enough times to PLEASE, DO YOURSELF A FAVOUR AND DO THE SAME.

5/5. Wonderful.

Happy reading!

BookElf xxx

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Guest Blog - Sparks Fly Upwards by Lisa Morton

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Mark Swain - friend of Leeds Book Club and writer of short fiction here - is a huge fan of the horror genera, and will be providing us with some reviews!
Feel free to drop him a line on twitter - you'll find him @DemonHeadClash

* * * * *HERE BE SPOILERS* * * * *

Sparks Fly Upwards is a story about Sarah. Following the zombie apocalypse, she now lives in a fortified community. When she becomes pregnant she is informed that the community can't afford another mouth to feed and she must have the pregnancy aborted at an outside clinic. Unfortunately the undead corpses of those who - when alive - protested the clinic await her there.

As you can no doubt tell from the description this tale revolves around the question of abortion which is by definition a social hot topic and has been for quite a long time. Having read this story I am in no doubt that the author has a very heavy political and moral bias towards pro choice and unfortunately that message quite regularly interferes with the story telling. The author’s decision regarding the severity of how hard she pushes her point of view makes the tale more of a personal political statement than the thought provoking horror tale it might have been.

This is a great shame as the picture the author paints of a fortified community one year on from 'the end of the world' is interesting and delving into the issue faced by such a community is the best part of the story.

Another criticism I would have with the story is that it is written in a diary format and told strictly from the protagonists’ point of view. Any conversations she has with other characters are only seen from her perspective and of course, given this is a diary, these conversations are being remembered rather than taking place in front of the reader, so to speak. I am not a huge fan of this format for short story telling as the reader does not get much information regarding the main characters background and how other people view her which can lead to the reader failing to connect with the character. Also the lead being a bit of an 'every women' with no defining characteristics doesn't help with this lack of connection either.

As previously stated this story does quite often read like a propaganda piece for pro choice, which I haven't an issue with in of itself. After all I believe horror and science fiction, when used correctly, are excellent at taking what is going on around us and extenuating these problems - which in turn can make us view the world around us differently. 
However such subtext should always be both subtle and open to the reader's interpretation. This author has an agenda towards the abortion question and she sets her stall out fairly early on in the piece but never lets go of it. 
Subtlety is not this story’s strong suit especially in the final third where the point is rammed home to such extent that the description of the main character leaving the clinic, which could have been a fantastically tense and nervy affair, is instead constrained to 3 short paragraphs. This totally destroys any atmosphere which might have been building up in that sequence and seems to have been heavily shortened to articulate more pro choice rhetoric.

I have no personal strong feelings regarding abortion and can understand the author wanting to make a point with the story but occasionally this is pushed far too hard. 
I would like to read more of the author's work which is out and out story telling but if this piece is an indication of her overall style that I can't say I was that impressed.

Sparks Fly Upwards is available for free online here and is part of 'The Living Dead’ anthology as edited by John Joseph Adams.

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Read more of Mark Swain's writings here!

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Table of Contents - Guest Stars

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Coffee & cake with Mary Shelley (An interview with Kristin Atherton)

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Daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft.
Lover of Shelley.
Author of Frankenstein...

From the WY Playhouse website
For a woman who achieved so much during her lifetime; it seems almost sacrilegious that Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley is usually referred to only as she relates to other people. 

  • Her mother; one of the pioneers of the feminist movement.
  • Her father; a distinguished political philosopher and author. 
  • Her husband; well he happened to be one of this country's most lauded romantic poets and finest ever lyricists. 
However Mary Shelley was herself a talented and prolific author - of novels and short stories, biographies, poetry and travel stories. She was also a daughter, wife and mother. It is only relatively recently that her true value and worth to English literature has been recognised.  

It seems fitting that it falls to three talented, determined and creative women to re-introduce Mary Shelley to a modern audience. 
The playwright Helen Edmundson (Swallows and Amazons, Anna Karenina and The Mill on the Floss), Director Polly Teale (Artistic Director of the Shared Experience theatre company, author of Bronte and Fallen) and actress Kristin Atherton (Charlotte Bronte in Bronte) are working as part of theater group Shared Experience to bring Mary Shelley to life this life at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. 

And I have been fortunate enough to steal a coffee with Kristin and find out a little bit more about this production. However, as I work very close to the Playhouse, I can't help but see her 'in character'. It's not many book clubs that are fortunate enough to have a chat with a literary hero like Mary Shelley!

Unassuming and friendly with a throaty and infectious laugh; it becomes obvious when watching her discuss the play and preparations that Kristin's steely intensity comes to the fore - so necessary when portraying a historical character such as this. Kristin is focused and vibrant, seeming to be as enthralled by Mary Shelley the woman, as readers around the world are for her creations. 

A recent graduate of LAMDA; this is Sheffield born Kristin's second Shared Experience production - last year she portrayed Charlotte Bronte - the eldest sister and near-maternal figure in Bronte to critical acclaim. She considers herself very fortunate to have been able to prepare so thoroughly for this role. 

The chocolate chips in the cookies 
(or Interview Nightlights!)
On the production...
"I actually won the role a year ago, while working on Bronte - so I've been able to immerse myself in the period, to try and discover more about this writer and her family and motivations. It's almost unheard of to have five full weeks of rehearsals, let alone a year to prepare, so I consider myself very lucky. Though it is an additional pressure to make sure that we get it right. 

This production focuses very much on a specific period of time, a relatively short period - 2 years - Mary from 16 years of age to 19, but one that was hugely important in Mary's development. I mean on the one hand, this is a love story - and there is something very sweet in Percy's wooing of Mary, impressing her with boastful tales of his pamphlets, but on the other it's about a young woman going through a very tumultuous phase in her life, one that will ultimately define her."

On Frankenstein...
"Helen has done an extraordinary thing, which I really love - which they did in Nowhere Boy (John Lennon biopic), where they never ever mention the name the Beatles, and the second that you think they will; they don't - and Helen has done the same thing with Frankenstein here. It's always being hinted at - what Mary is writing - a lot of the themes and images and the wonderful classic moments from the book sort of bleed in but at no point does it ever become overt - at no point does she say the name. The closest it gets is the very final scene where it's actually used more as a metaphor for her relationship with her father. I think this is [the heart of] Helen's take on the book

Frankenstein is a very easy book to misinterpret. Mary was a very subtle author and there are a lot of people who miss that this is more than a horror story. Due to Boris Karloff, a lot of people think that the monster is stupid, or slow, but actually he taught himself to read, it is an articulate creature. And the books that he reads are so significant. I mean the monster identifies so much with Paradise Lost [by John Milton] but the character of the devil. Helen pulls out the fact that Mary uses this book to reject her father's philosophy. And her husband's actually."

On Mary...
"You could research for hours on this woman's life. We only have 2 or fingers crossed 2 and a half hours to look at this woman - these two years of isolation. She was so molded by her father, her isolation from him had a huge impact on her psyche. She thought that Percy was the fulfillment of a great deal of her fathers philosophical ideals. 

I think this is a great shock for her. Being cut off from her family really wounds her. I think this really echoes within her most famous book. She was completed underestimated from the moment that her father died, though not so much in her own time. She very much becomes hers mothers daughter - not merely because she is raised to be, but because of the way she lives those philosophies. And Helen works all these facets into the play.

On her father and mother...

"Mary's relationship with her father is so very significant here - Helen has really drawn upon this and her relationship with her stepmother. Her poor relationship with her stepmother was probably a result of her affection for her father. Goodwin tries to create a sort of mini-Mary Woolstonecroft, and as soon as she becomes that woman [and falls in love with Percy] he rejects her. And this devastates her. She becomes monstrous to him. 

In describing the story that she is writing [Frankenstein], Mary Shelley is identifying what her father has done to her. At one point she actually tells him 'I don't believe in the infallibility of man...I think your philosophy is dangerous.I believe we have to own our deficiencies'. She is no longer a pupil, they are not father and daughter, they are equals. This book was structured to show him what he had done to her, to show him what he had to acknowledge before they could ever go back to the relationship that they had before. If indeed they ever could. I suspect that they could ever go back to the relationship they'd had before." 

On her sisters...
"Fanny [Mary's sister is a huge part of this play. She was so in love with Percy - you just feel for her. And she just doesn't have the confidence. Her relationship with Mary forms a huge crux of the play. Mary tries - in our version - to draw her in, explaining that Fanny would be so much more free or liberated if she read Mary Wollstoncraft, if she embraced their mothers ideals but Fanny isn't like that, she doesn't want to be that person. 
Instead Mary finds a shared spirit...or what she *thinks* is a shared spirit in her sister Jane (often referred to as Claire)."

On Shared Experience...
"We actually just ran act 1 and 2 for the first time. I mean given the scope of her life, I can't really draw on my own experiences. We just finished and we're all gasping and exhausted, dragging ourselves off the floor. Every SE show is like running a marathon. It's a very physical process. It's quite abstract!"

On the Brontes...
"Though there are only a mere 20 years between Mary Shelley and Charlotte Bronte, they could not be more different characters - indeed the social worlds that they inhabited were utterly disparate. But where Charlotte was the daughter of a clergyman and Mary...well her mother was a very different sort of woman. I think that a modern audience has this view of Mary Wollstonecaft as being a rebel...totally controversial, but in her time, she was controversial but not half so much until Goodwin's memoirs. 
The literary fans in the audience will hopefully recognise little nods throughout the production - from references to Percy Shelley's pamphlets to mentions to her family."

On other interests...
"I do write, Helen is always so supportive, always asking 
It would always be fiction. My thoughts are not nearly organised enough to write anything like this."

Mary Shelley - Drowning Scene 
(Shared Experience on Youtube - the closest thing to a trailer I could find!)

Interested in learning more?
Venue: West Yorkshire Playhouse
Dates: 16th of March until 7th of April
Writer: Helen Edmundson
Commisioned by: Shared Experience
Director: Polly Teale


Mr Godwin - William Chubb
Percy Shelley - Ben Lamb
Fanny - Flora Nicholson
Mrs Godwin - Sadie Shimmin
Jane - Shannon Tarbet

Saturday, 10 March 2012

White Swan - Book 2 Review

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White Swan LBC

Date:  Sunday 5th February 2012
Time:  6:00pm
Address: Swan Street, Leeds

Discussing: The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova

* * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * *
* * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * *
 * * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * *  

Only our second meeting, but already we felt at home! A few new members joined us this month (huzzah for new faces) many of whom hadn't had the chance to finish the book. 

THE BLURB (from goodreads)
Psychiatrist Andrew Marlowe has a perfectly ordered life--solitary, perhaps, but full of devotion to his profession and the painting hobby he loves. This order is destroyed when renowned painter Robert Oliver attacks a canvas in the National Gallery of Art and becomes his patient. In response, Marlowe finds himself going beyond his own legal and ethical boundaries to understand the secret that torments this genius, a journey that will lead him into the lives of the women closest to Robert Oliver and toward a tragedy at the heart of French Impressionism. Ranging from American museums to the coast of Normandy, from the late nineteenth century to the late twentieth, from young love to last love, THE SWAN THIEVES is a story of obsession, the losses of history, and the power of art to preserve human hope.
THE BLURB (from the publisher)

Robert Oliver, a renowned painter, has brutally attacked a canvas in the National Gallery of Art. What would compel an artist to destroy something he values beyond all else? From the confines of his hospital room, Oliver maintains a stubborn silence, offering only the briefest explanation before he stops speaking altogether: “I did it for her.” 

Following in what is now becoming a glorious Leeds Book Club tradition, this was one of mine...and I sort of wish that it wasn't...

The Historian was one of those books that left me gasping for more. I loved it and waited with bated breath for another offering from the author. By the time Ms Kostova actually released one, I was too busy to devote the necessary time to reading it. 
But if it were a book club choice...I'd have to find the time!!

This book is a time jumper - set in the present and the past. A thriller of sorts and an homage to impressionism - everything about it should enthrall and delight.

The Swan Thieves is a very easy book to read. The language is fluid and the descriptions used - particularly in relation to the art works referenced - were powerful. Many of us found ourselves poring over the t'interweb to find images of the paintings being described. Indeed it was very disappointing to find that the central painting was fictional.  
However, it was also just too long - sucking up huge amounts of time. We agreed that if we'd been able to devote a weekend on the beach to it, we'd have probably been less frustrated, but most of us lost momentum along the way. It's not as though it was a mammoth book for a reason; the editor had clearly skipped out for a cig.

As for the story itself...well, as one member put it...
It's a lot like a Dan Brown but without that vital hook that makes it so interesting. 
For such a big book; the characters are surprisingly thin. Robert  Oliver was a shadow of a man - silent only because with two sentences there would have been no need for the book - the plot was not the most complex ever. 

The psychologist was (for me) the biggest let down. He seemed to be an ethics free zone. Marlowe was also apparently incapable of meeting a woman without fancying her. From the ticket seller in the art gallery, to Oliver's wife and mistress, Andrew Marlowe can't seem to stop himself from perving. Rather than make him appear lonely - which we thought was probably the intention - he just seemed a bit two dimensional - so different from the rich characterisation present in her former novel. 
The two primary female characters - the wife (Kate) and girlfriend (Mary) were shocking. Purely written as objects and never intended to be people. 'No, I don't want to see you...oh alright then I will...no I don't want to talk to you...oh OK them, here's my entire life in painstaking detail - from love life to day to day activities...'  

And all of them were pretentious to the point of pain. Nothing is a simple task - every action is portentous and meaningful. The dialogue in particular is smug and self satisfied. 

Indeed there was only one character throughout the entire book that seemed warm, engaging and human - Andrew's father, who appears in maybe two chapters at the most. 

Having said that, we all of us responded much more positively to the story within the story. The myth of Leda is a horrible one, but Beatrice and her Olivier story was just lovely if somewhat predictable. (Though we did have a giggle at how frequently she thought of his age - not flattering!) We wondered if perhaps Ms Kostova would have been better off writing this as a short story without attaching the cumbersome modern day setting to it. 

Ultimately we concluded that the book failed to connect to us emotionally - with one or two exceptions. Beautifully written but cold. As one put it 'You won't care about any of them but its grammatically perfect'. What a recommendation eh!

Score - 5/10

Some interesting suggestions music wise this month. Mike Oakfield and Underworld being the two that seemed to inspire the most conversation.  

Read it? What music would you pick? 

If this book were a cake...
Interesting new thought. 
One of the  LBC crew made the observation that if this book were a cake it would have been a (redact popular supermarket name here) vanilla Swiss roll - it looks good, but is actually huge and somewhat tasteless. 

I love it!

Thanks to the fabulous @WoodsieGirl for the delicious Peanut Butter Cookies. The recipe is now up on the Sweet Tooth Section

For further details, please email me at leedsbookclub@gmail.com or tweet me @LeedsBookClub

The Pub can be contacted on @WhiteSwanLeeds
And feel free to let us know your thoughts using #WSwanLBC!

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17 - Jun - The Fire Gospel - Michel Faber
16 - May - The Eyre Affair - Jasper FForde
15 - Apr - The Waterproof Bible - Andrew Kaufman GUEST
14 - Mar - The Book Thief - Marcus Zusak GUEST
13 - Feb - Weight - Jeanette Winterson GUEST
12 - Jan - Revolutionary Road - Richard Yates

11 - Nov - Lighthouse Keeping - Jeanette Winterson
10 - Oct - Winter's Bone Daniel Woodrell
09 - Sep - The Wind Up Bird Chronicles - Haruki Murakami 
08 - Aug - The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ - Philip Pullman
07 - Jul - American Gods - Neil Gaiman
06 - Jun - The Travelling Hornplayer - Barbara Trapido
05 - May - Atomised - Michel Houellebecq - GUEST

I'm just full of good ideas...WSwanLBC  

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Book Club - Table of Contents

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Friday, 9 March 2012

O Level Poetry - They Walked and Talked - Uche Okeke

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1974 The Crescent Moon - Uche Okeke

As part of my ongoing "School Days Over" poetry project; I have been racking my brain trying to remember the names of the poems and poets that we studied for my O Levels (in Zimbabwe). 

I spent so long wishing and wanting and waiting for those exams to be over; even managing to successfully forget everything I had learned as soon as they were over. 
Then...years later... I end up scouring the internet trying to find them all again.

Life's a funny old thing isn't it?

(As I try to always be totally honest with you; I feel obligated to tell you that while I do remember the poem, I can't remember a thing about the poet. So the following has been taken from an internet search. I have actually bought the text book we used so will be able to confirm in a few days!)

Uche Okeke is a Nigeria poet, artist and sculptor and one of the founders of the Nsukka group. Considered the father of the modern Nigerian art tradition; he was instrumental in over turning the British Artistic tradition within the educational system and was a pivotal momentum in determining (with others) the art program at the University of Nigeria.  
Throughout his career, Okeke has been influenced by the stories told by his mother and sister and the region he originated from. He was also greatly inspired to find that his mother was an Uli artist.   

They Walked and Talked
Uche Okeke

They talked and walked,
Walked and talked and talked –
Talkative homing dames;
Mothers, grandmother, all homing,
Returning from a distant mart
Baskets on heads, words on lips-
Gossip or tall tales of folk at home.

They clapped their hands;
They screamed from time to time;
They moved their hands in most expressive ways –
Their hands spoke even louder than their tongues –
As they swept like a great Saharan wind
Along the winding beaten tracks
Before them, silent, deserted.

Not even the discordant croaking of the toad,
Not even the noise of insects here and there,
Not even the songs of birds everywhere,
Were heard above the noise of these homing folk
Who (forgetful of the ancient saying
That even blades of grass are living ears)
Could not restrain their long and wagging tongues.

* * * * *
School Days Over

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Headingley Literary Festival 2012

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Just down the road from #ArcadiaLBC!

Started in 2008, this LitFest is run by the Headingley Network - a community organisation that - 
 works to improve the environment and facilities for the local community. The LitFest is run by a group of people who are local to Headingley and our idea is that we develop a literature festival that draws on the strengths of our local community to entertain, enlighten and delight us all. But, while our roots lie in our community, it is also our pleasure to invite and offer hospitality to people of the word from around the country and the world.                                    (from their website!) 
Programme of Events!

With so many different events and activities planned, I'm unlikely to be able to attend as many as I'd wish. Having said that, I'll probably be floating around before our book club on the 18th. 
If you're out and about, drop me a tweet!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

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Works by Mary Shelley

In honour of the upcoming West Yorkshire Playhouse production on Mary Shelley (more details soon!), I'd like to pass on some invaluable links!

While not all of this incomparable author's works are available online (for free!) I've found the following for your reading pleasure!


Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus

NOTE - there are a number of different versions of this novel - with radical changes between them. Personally I prefer the 1818 text as it seems to include necessary context re scientific and philisophical thoughts of the time. 
Unfortunately; I'm not a 100% sure if this is *that* version, but it's a free copy regardless!

The Last Man

For Children:  
Proserpine and Midas

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