A Room of Charl08's Own: Feminist Penguins #6
This is a continuation of the topic A Room of Charl08's Own: Feminist Penguins #5.
This topic was continued by A Room of Charl08's Own: Feminist Penguins #7.
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The Women's Prize winner for 2018 is announced on the 6th June.
From the women's prize website:
I love penguins, both this kind
And the book kind.
Every year, increasingly tenuously, I attempt to shoehorn these two themes into one thread.
My theme book for January was one by Jill Liddington,
I'll be working my way through the others here, (*hopefully* mostly on my TBR shelf already) through the year. I'm half way through Hearts and Minds: the real story of the Great Pilgrimage and Helen Pankhurst"s new book about the history of UK progress on gender equality.
Books read in 2018 127
For January Feb and March see https://www.librarything.com/topic/289897#6443853
April 25 (Running total 83)
The Grass Dancer (F, US, fiction)
A Rogue of her Own (F, US, fiction)
Force of Nature (F, Australia, fiction)
Psychoanlysis: the impossible profession (F, US, non-fiction)
Lovecraft Country (M, US, fiction)
The lost Duke of Wyndham ((F, US, fiction)
H(a)ppy (F, UK, fiction)
Magpie Murders (M, UK, fiction)
See what I have done (F, Australia, fiction)
The lost (F, UK, fiction)
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (F, UK, fiction)
Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves (F, UK, fiction)
Imagine Wanting Only This (F, US, graphic memoir)
Prussian Blue (M, UK, fiction)
Mrs Weber's Omnibus (F, UK, comic/ fiction)
Sight (F, UK, fiction)
A Boy in Winter (F, UK, fiction)
When I Hit You (F, India, fiction)
The Beige Man (F, Sweden, fiction)
The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock (F, UK, fiction)
Memento Mori (F, UK, fiction)
Swallowing Mercury (F, Poland, fiction)
The Dead Ground (F, UK, fiction)
The Savage Dead (F, UK, fiction)
A Bold and Dangerous Family (F, UK, non-fiction)
May 29 (running total 111)
The Fire Court (F, UK, fiction)
The World Gone Mad (F, Sweden, non-fiction - diary)
Chicken with Plums (F, Iran, graphic memoir)
Home Fire (F, UK, fiction)
Something New (F, US, graphic memoir)
A Midsummer's Equation (M, Japan, fiction)
Illegal (Multiple authors, GN)
Meatless Days (F, Pakistan, memoir)
Bad Girls: a history of rebels and renegades (F, UK, history)
The Green Hollow (M, UK, poetry)
The Man Died (M, Finland, fiction)
California Dreamin' (F, France, GN)
Forget Sorrow (F, US, GN - Memoir)
The Librarian (F, UK, fiction)
Rebel Girls: the fight for the vote (F, UK, history)
My Favourite Thing is Monsters (F, US, GN)
Ten Things I Love About You (F, US, fiction)
The Trick to Time (F, UK, fiction)
Heroic Measures (F, US, fiction)
Sirens (M, UK, fiction)
The Bedlam Stacks (F, UK, fiction)
Autumn (Reread) (F, UK, fiction)
Lady with a Cool Eye (F, UK, fiction)
A Savage Hunger (F, UK, fiction)
Kudos (F, UK, fiction)
Dark Paradise (F, Finland, fiction)
The Merchant's Tale (F, UK, fiction) - audio
Zinky Boys (F, Belarus, non-fiction history)
The Story of the Night) (M, Ireland, fiction)
The Bookseller (F, US, fiction)
Too Wilde to Wed (F, US, fiction)
Radical reformers and respectable rebels: how the two lives of Grace Oakeshott defined an era (F, New Zealand, non-fiction history/ biography)
Hidden Figures (F, US, non-fiction history/biography)
Blood Tide (Paula Maguire) and The Killing House (Paula Maguire) (F, UK, fiction)
You think it I'll Say it (F, US, Short stories)
Turning: a swimming memoir (F, Canada, Memoir)
The Cactus (F, UK, fiction) (Netgalley)
The Troubador's Tale (F, UK, fiction) - audio
White Houses (F, US, fiction) (Netgalley)
The Mercy Seat (F, US, fiction) (Netgalley)
Maigret Travels (M, Belgium, fiction)
A Shot in the Dark (F, UK, fiction) (Netgalley)
The Kiss Quotient (F, US, fiction)
In the Skin of a Lion (M, Canada, fiction)
Gender This Month F 14 M 2 Joint 0 Running Total F101 M 28 Joint 1
Fiction/Non? This Month Fiction 15 Non-fiction 1 Poetry Running Total Fiction 95 Non-fiction 28 Poetry 4
Source This Month Library 6 Mine 10 Running Total Library 56 Mine 71
This Month: Africa 0, Asia , Australasia 1, Europe 6 (UK 5), Middle East , US & Canada 9, Other Multiples .
Running Total: Africa 1, Asia 4, Australasia 6, Europe 72 (UK 52), Middle East 3, US & Canada 39, Other 1 Multiples 1.
2018 PopSugar Reading Challenge -31 down!
4. A book involving a heist
8. A book with a time of day in the title
9. A book about a villain or antihero
11. A book with a female author who uses a male pseudonym
13. A book that is also a stage play or musical
18. A book by two authors
19. A book about or involving a sport Reading The 1908 London Olympics
23. A book about time travel
24. A book with a weather element in the title
25. A book set at sea
27. A book set on a different planet
28. A book with song lyrics in the title
31. A book mentioned in another book reading Christ Stopped at Eboli
35. A past Goodreads Choice Awards winner
Broad Strokes: 15 women who made art
38. A book with an ugly cover
Advanced Reading Challenge
1. A bestseller from the year you graduated high school
2. A cyberpunk book
3. A book that was being read by a stranger in a public place
4. A book tied to your ancestry
6. An allegory
10. A book recommended by someone else taking the POPSUGAR Reading Challenge
Happy new thread, Charlotte! I loved all your lists at the end of the last thread :-)
Happy new thread, Charlotte. Are you able to sit outside and read your books now?
Happy new thread, Charlotte. If Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves ever arrives, I''ll let you know. I've got a couple of weeks where I can still ask for a refund via Abe's books. You might recall, apparently they lost the book in transit, I told them please send a refund and the bookseller replied with " we have sent you another copy and should be with you in 3 - 4 days ." We'll see . Very confusing to me, yes.
I read The Green Hollow last night, which is Owen Sheers' response to the Aberfan tragedy - over a hundred children and their teachers were killed when a spoil pile collapsed on a school in a small Welsh town. Told as multi-voice poetry it is a moving look at lost hope and grief.
>23 charl08: Wait, let's see. The Big Book of Pirate Romance. Well, that doesn't seem to be working. But it might not actually be a book. Um, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk. Hmmm, that *is* a book, and it doesn't come up. So I am also having problems with them :-)
Also, you overlooked me up there in >12 susanj67:...
I'm rather disappointed the big book of Pirate Romance doesn't exist. Have you ever considered being an editor, Susan?
Sorry about missing you out in >12 susanj67:. Especially since I suspect you're the only one who noticed all those lists I buried on the last few posts!
No, I am not done. Right now I am procrastinating and visiting LT. Oh well, I'd better get back to it. I let students turn things in online, so there is a lot of staring at the screen, which gets old for me. My goal is to have all grading finished and turned in by Sunday evening.
I love Sarah Sands' comment about the Women's Prize shortlist: "...all are blazingly good and brave writers."
>23 charl08: I've been less active on LT lately but I have also had more problem with the touchstones than usual. I'm starting to let them go....
Happy New Thread!
>31 charl08: Thanks Ellen. Watching your moving adventures with interest.
I think Sands is right, too. Well, maybe not the author of The Idiot.
My touchstones seem to be back this morning, not sure why!
The Man Who Died
Finnish crime fiction in translation with a great concept - in the opening pages of the book you learn that the protagonist is dying from poisoning. Who killed him? Lots of dark humour as Jaako tries to work out whether it was his competitors, his employees, or even his wife.
Happy New Thread Charlotte and Happy Friday!
>31 charl08: Now that's a promising plot idea. Hit by BB....
>32 Deern: Hope you like it Nathalie - I think I got it from Chelle's thread. It did make me want to visit Finland, which I wasn't expecting!
>31 charl08: That one sounds good, Charlotte. Onto the WL it goes.
>34 BLBera: Hope you like it Beth: roll on Sunday!
I got two kids to register for a library card today. Possibly the best thing that happened the whole week. Well, that and the conversation about how adults get to need glasses. Apparently it involves some kind of green shiny things that you rub out of your eyes. (No, I have no idea either).
I ordered this slim GN after really loving her other book Brazen: rebel ladies who rocked the world a collection of comics about a wide range of women (if you haven't picked it up yet...). This is quite a bit darker - Bagieu doesn't whitewash the Cass story, from the uppers to the rather twisted band relationships. But the enthusiasm in the illustrations, especially when she's shown as a teen,
*Ed to try and make sentence work.
>31 charl08: Put it on my library list. It looks like he has written other books. Have you read them?
>36 charl08: ouch, the title intrigued, and I just clicked... thanks for that Charlotte ...
Thanks for the recommendation of Brazen: rebel ladies who rocked the world too - it turned into the perfect birthday present for a friend... although of course because I went and had it sent directly to her, I still haven't read it myself. She loved it though!
>31 charl08: Ooh, The Man Who Died sounds like fun!
I have ordered Brazen: rebel ladies who rocked the world and look forward to reading it. It looks like California Dreamin' is a worthy work by the same author. I love it when an author suddenly (it feels that way to me) bursts onto our collective LT radar!
Charlotte, I imagine the likelihood of my being called to judge the 2019 Women's Literature Prize is as about as likely that you are having a party at your place in honour of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding. Even I am not excited about the wedding. Great that you were able to influence a couple of people into getting a library card. I was quite chuffed when I talked my husband into getting a library card a couple of years ago. Only took me about 33 years of marriage.
>35 charl08: Excellent news about the library cards! And I wear glasses and I just checked my eyes and don't have any shiny green things in them, so those kids could totally be on to something.
>37 Ameise1: I'm not sure Barbara, but I don't think his other books have been translated into English. Sounds like they might have made it into German though? The author's note in the end of my copy says that he wrote the book after wanting to head in a 'less dark' direction, so goodness knows how dark those early books are!
>38 BLBera: Me too. After the first chapter, the action shifts to Hermanus, a fishing town near(ish) Cape Town which I've been to. Reading serendipity.
>39 Caroline_McElwee: You're welcome! Did I mention it's a series? No?
>40 evilmoose: Glad to hear that Megan. Hope you get to read a copy though!
>41 Carmenere: Thanks Linda. I must visit your thread, I haven't been so good at getting to everyone recently.
>42 EBT1002: Me too Ellen. I think / hope this means more of her work will be accessible to us English speakers :-)
>43 vancouverdeb: Yup, I'm not the world's biggest party thrower, it has to be said! But if LT members turned up, I'd make an exception :-) And kudos on the library card persuasion techniques.
I'd not come across Belle Yang, a GN / children's book author before, and as I'm trying to read more women authors this year, and I am endlessly intrigued by memoirs of migrants, this was right up my alley. Yang writes about being trapped in her parents' home after college by a gun wielding stalker, writing her own present and her father's past.
To try and escape the stalker's persecutions, she had travelled to China to work but been caught up in the repression that followed Tiananmen Square. Her father had had a dramatic past, having left China escaping the Communists via Taiwan and Japan before arriving in SF with his young family. This is also the account of his father, and his father's father, atmospheric stories of family feuding, as his grandfather's many sons disagreed on family business. Buddhist and Taoist beliefs play a big role too, and there is a magical realist depiction of predicting future destinies. This is all set amidst dramatic social change, from comparative wealth to being victimised for 'landlord' status under the communists.
Guardian Reviews - fiction
The Valley at the Centre of the World by Malachy Tallack reviewed by Ian Sansom
"The tone of the book is quiet and serious, the prose throughout restrained, the pace steady, certainly compared with the lyrical and romantic drift of his earlier books. A typical unhasty description: “He poured a bowl of cereal and set coffee on the hob to boil. He ate at the table, then stood by the window to drink the coffee. From there he could see the valley laid out in front of him, the brown thread of the burn unspooling through the crook of the land.” "
Hmm. Might read this for the bit of the popsugar challenge about a book about your heritage (Scottish).
The Lifters by Dave Eggers reviewed by Tony Bradman
"A dangerous, wind-like magical power called The Hollows is carving out tunnels beneath the town. This creates massive sinkholes into which houses fall, as well as most of the school. The town’s – possibly the world’s – only hope is a force of guardians, the “Lifters” of the title. They use magical handles, known as lifts, to enter the tunnels and prop up the ground, but they’re fighting a losing battle. Granite decides he wants to be part of the struggle, although it means having to persuade his spiky classmate – and secret Lifter – Catalina Catalan that he’s up to it. "
I wonder if this would make a good gift for an 8-12 year old reader I know?
A Shout in the Ruins by Kevin Powers reviewed by Andrew Motion
"Six years in the writing, it contains two narrative threads – one set in Virginia in the 1860s before, during and after the American civil war, and one in the same region in 1956. It is a book of epic sweep, although a significant part of its achievement is to create the sense of a large scale within a tight format: it’s only 272 pages long. Another success is to handle the same themes of conflict, oppression and reconciliation as the first book, but to do so in such a strikingly different context as to create a strikingly different effect."
Story of a Marriage by Geir Gulliksen reviewed by Andrew Anthony
"...gives exquisite voice to the universal pain of failed love."
Kudos by Rachel Cusk reviewed by Kate Clanchy
"...a fine novel that deserves to receive – and probably will, given the limping nature of literary kudos – a heap of awards in recognition of the vast achievement of the trilogy. Nevertheless, I was sorry it ended here..."
Other reviews have been (a lot) more positive, and I was pro the first two, so yes.
The Drunken Sailor by Nick Hayes reviewed by Rachel Cooke (GN)
"In essence, Le Bateau Ivre is an anthology of images that may be read in a dozen different ways. I’m not sure how much of it Hayes has used – I’d be lying if I said I knew it well – but one thing that can be said for certain is that he has done a wondrous job, matching a line sometimes only to one illustration, and sometimes to half a dozen or more. Thanks to this, his visual narrative has an intense, restless pace: at times, it feels almost syncopated. When our sailor – the poet, whom Hayes depicts with a head shaped like an onion – is lost in far-off lands, there is crowdedness; when he is far out at sea, there is boundless space. "
West by Carys Davies reviewed by Justine Jordan
"In her slim first novel, again not a word is wasted; the canvas is as wide as her brush is fine. It opens abruptly, as though lights are coming up on a dark stage: “How far must you go?” “That depends.” “On where they are?” “Yes.” Gradually we orient ourselves; we are in Pennsylvania, 1815, where settler Cy Bellman is jolted out of grief for his dead wife by a curious notion: that the animals whose gigantic bones have recently been dug out of a Kentucky swamp might still be wandering about in “the unexplored territories of the west”. "
>48 LovingLit: Very good so far, although I have no idea where it's going next.
I had no idea abalone farms existed either.
>49 Ameise1: Look forward to hearing what you think Barbara.
>50 PaulCranswick: The Kevin Powers looks interesting - quite a change from the setting of his previous book (which didn't tempt me at all).
Hi Charlotte: The Yang graphic memoir looks good. The Powers, Cusk and Davies also caught my eye. Thanks for posting the reviews. Happy Saturday.
I read the first in Cusk's trilogy and liked it. I keep meaning to get to the second.... And now the third!
The Valley at the Centre of the World sounds interesting. Noted for future reference. Thanks for the reviews, Charlotte.
>52 BLBera: It's maybe not so smooth as some other memoirs I've read, but the family history in China fascinated me, and some magical realism I think (still not quite sure when mysticism / religion becomes MR though).
>53 katiekrug: It's been widely reviewed - even getting space in the (really sometimes ridiculously male) TLS, and views seem to vary, but I have found Outline and Transit memorable, so really want to pick this up.
>54 susanj67: >44 susanj67:
So sorry Susan! Ineptitude my end / not refreshing laptop. Perhaps the jury is out on the green things... Still patting myself on the back re the cards, not so much over the failure to pick up the verso books I ordered at the beginning of the month yet. Hey ho.
>55 vancouverdeb: I like the sound of that one too Deborah.
This was such a beautiful looking book, and it started so promisingly: a young woman moves to a new town as the children's librarian, starts to get to know the community. I was thinking it would be something like Helen Humphreys or maybe Barbara Pym, but after a chapter or two I wasn't sure where it was going.
I'm not sure that Vickers really knew where she was going with this either though: on the one hand, she seems to be wanting to write about the benefit of books and reading and against library cuts - the second (short) section that cuts to the present day makes this overt. But then there's a weird undercurrent about 'the stuff that wasn't talked about back then' which felt jarring, when alongside it was what seemed to be aimed to be a coming of age storyline. Referencing I Capture the Castle really didn't help, as from that point, I was thinking that I would rather have been reading that.
Lovely looking book though.
>57 charl08: Great comments, Charlotte. I think I'll pass. Thanks for not making my WL any larger.
>57 charl08: what a shame, I love Salley Vickers normally, so this should have been a winner.
Thanks Beth. So disappointing: just didnt work for me.
Now reading My favourite Thing is Monsters.
My Favourite Thing is Monsters
This wasn't what I was expecting either - I think I must be in a funny reading mood.
I liked the way the child protagonist was drawn as a small monster, and the way the author developed the story to explain her choices (spoiler avoidance) - and the design of the book to look like an exercise book full of doodles was really clever. The story-within-a-story, the neighbour's Berlin past, was fascinating but I could have happily read that on its own. I think partly the reason I didn't 'get' this one is that the 1960s horror theme does nothing for me (I'm not even sure what the right term is for it - retro horror?). I'd pick up her other work, she's very talented, but not quite a hit for me.
Interview with the author:
It could be a film?
Ten Things I Love About You
See the above comment re weird reading mood. This was diverting, third book in a regency romance series.
>56 charl08: LOL :-) What a handsome fellow he is.
Sorry you're suffering from Weird Reads. I am too, slightly. Not weird as much as I just feel I should be making more progress but keep getting diverted. I have finished the final three episodes of Civilisations, though (OK, I switched the final one off early because there's only so much of Simon Schama I can take) so that's something. I saw the David Olusoga book at the library the other day, but I have the e version reserved so I decided to keep that one going rather than borrow something else I don't have time for.
I watched some of the Mary Beard ones, but my Schama threshold is low, and watching Olusoga makes me feel guilty that I still haven't read his book, so..!
Now reading Map of a Nation and amidst all the Jacobite history feeling rather impressed at someone who can turn their thesis into a popular book. Although A.N.Wilson's 'blurb' seems something of a backhanded compliment 'it's astonishing that no one has thought of writing it before...'
I thought the Schama were the strongest of the series. But I can agree that you'd not want to have too many of them at once.
>63 charl08:, >64 Helenliz: I liked the Olusoga ones the most, I think. And I liked the Mary Beard one (maybe there was another one - OMG have I missed one and become dis-orderly?!). I was disappointed to read that she won't be appearing in the PBS version of it, though. She says it's because she's not glamorous enough for US TV. The PBS one sounds like it's going to be fairly different. https://www.rts.org.uk/article/mary-beard-cut-us-version-civilisation
^I missed the opening of your new thread but I am here now! Yah! Glad you finally got to My Favourite Thing is Monsters. Sorry, it didn't fully work for you. I thought it was fantastic. The 2nd volume is supposed to come out this year.
I hope you had a good weekend.
>64 Helenliz: Glad you enjoyed it Helen. Will you read his book from the series (or the others)?
>65 susanj67: I thought there were two Mary Beard ones. Maybe I just watched the same one twice though.
ETA: from wikipedia (Phew!)
Episode number Episode title Presented by Description Release date
1 "The Second Moment of Creation" Simon Schama 6 February 2018
2 "How Do We Look?" Mary Beard 6 February 2018
3 "Picturing Paradise" Simon Schama 6 February 2018
4 "The Eye of Faith" Mary Beard 6 February 2018
5 "The Triumph of Art" Simon Schama 6 February 2018
6 "First Contact" David Olusoga 6 February 2018
7 "Radiance" Simon Schama 6 February 2018
8 "The Cult of Progress" David Olusoga 6 February 2018
9 "The Vital Spark" Simon Schama 6 February 2018
And Boo, frankly, to that PBS decision. Their loss.
>66 msf59: Well, the news that there is a second one explains why there were so many loose threads! Thanks Mark.
Hi Joe, they can't all win, can they?
Powers' new one is not on my library's e system yet. Disappointing!
Still reading Map of a Nation which has eye wateringly small type in my paperback edition.
Knock me over with a feather, Charlotte, but today Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves arrived from the seller at Abe's books. They had noted that they were a " Texas seller" and you recall that supposedly they lost my book in transit. Sure. Anyway, today a tracked package arrived from Ireland. Was I ever surprised that book arrived at all. At least a copy of it finally made its way here.
Glad it turned up (in the end) Deborah!
The deadline for my paper is approaching so I am sitting in a cafe and
ETA it is sufficient to eat the dinner. Things aren't *that* bad!
Thanks Meg. I've ticked off some of my list so that was good progress :-)
Thanks Beth. Although the book piles are getting out of control!
I finished The Trick to Time this evening (with a very full belly after a delicious meal out with my family). A lovely, but very sad book about grief and loss.
So is that the last Women's Fiction Prize book? I think you've read all of them now, right?
I can't even see a hardback version: this is one occasion where one of those enormous paperback editions you get in the airport would be nice.
I've read Map of the Nation and didn't remember the small print. Just pulled my copy off the shelf and I see what you're on about now!
>82 Helenliz: Oh dear, I fear this might be a sign of Age. (Mine, not yours, she hastens to add)
I've been combining the LRB browsing (looking at the adverts) with watching the wedding after I hung up the washing and realised there was no sunshine left in the garden (small / bijou: you decide!) That's my 'excuse' anyhow :-)
Reading Heroic Measures about an elderly couple selling their flat (apartment) in New York.
Happy Saturday, Charlotte. I hope those books are treating you well. You might like one of my current reads, The Parking Lot Attendant. Just sayin'...
The Best European Fiction Coming Your Way... (looks like fun!)
White Houses by Amy Bloom reviewed by Jane Smiley
"...short, but dense and affecting. Hickok, known as “Hick”, is a smart, self-made newspaper reporter raised by a cruel and sexually abusive father in Nebraska. She is also deeply in love with Eleanor Roosevelt, who reciprocates her love when she can, though she is beset by many distractions, including her unpleasant children, her faithless husband and her predilection for always doing the moral and generous thing. Hick is a compelling narrator; she tells the reader a few things that she doesn’t tell Eleanor, including that her sexual awakening came when she was working for a travelling circus. "
Break.up by Joanna Walsh reviewed by Sarah Ditum
"...goes further still than Walsh’s previous work in challenging genre boundaries. The contract between reader and writer is as uncertain as the one between the woman and the man, who never agreed what kind of relationship they were forming together. It’s a novel, because it says fiction on the jacket. But this is a novel that is very strangely written, with quotes from other writers in the margins (Michel Foucault, Sigmund Freud, an unexpected appearance from Nazi architect Albert Speer, a line from Chris Kraus’s I Love Dick – another novel in which a female writer turns a consuming crush into fiction)."
The Burning Chambers by Kate Mosse reviewed by Stephanie Merritt
"The Burning Chambers is vastly ambitious and in the early chapters the reader may feel dazzled by the sheer number of characters and viewpoints, but Mosse has an instinctive feel for narrative momentum and the pace rarely falters as she moves between the intimate, domestic world, and the jostling for political power that shapes the lives of ordinary men and women. From the unprovoked massacre of a Huguenot congregation at Vassy that ignites the conflict, to the bloodshed in Toulouse, Mosse weaves historical events and figures seamlessly with her own characters, and wears her considerable research lightly, though readers unfamiliar with the period may be grateful for the author’s explanatory note."
Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao reviewed by Hannah Beckerman
"...there is much to admire in Rao’s debut novel: it is a timely and harrowing portrayal of human trafficking, cultural misogyny and the battles still fought every day by millions of women worldwide."
The Shape of the Ruins by Juan Gabriel Vásquez reviewed by M John Harrison
"Ironic one moment, earnest the next, Vásquez presents himself as the central character of his own book. We learn about his career as a novelist, the state of his marriage, the birth of his daughters; we learn to be uncertain about what is fiction and what is not, what’s history and what’s debatable. Doctor Benavides, one of his two guides to the mysteries, is an amiable, compassionate and intelligent man whose only weakness seems to be the “irrational interest in objects from the past” that has turned his family house into a museum of crime. The other guide is the paranoid Carlos Carballo, who claims to have discerned stylistic parallels not just between the two Colombian crimes but between them and the deaths of John and Robert Kennedy."
The Outsider by Stephen King reviewed by James Smythe
"Then, as so often in King novels, the rug is pulled out from beneath the reader’s feet..."
Last Stories by William Trevor reviewed by Julian Barnes
"This pattern of readerly doubt and misprision is typical of a William Trevor story. We will be presented with an event – an accident in the street, a death, a funeral, a chance meeting, an abandonment – that will widen into a situation between two or more characters. There are only a limited number of fictional beginnings, and so we feel as if we have been here before. Automatically, we predict where the story might be going. But it doesn’t go where we predict, because, in a way we sense rather than observe, it has ceased to be a story. It has become life, and life wrongfoots us in stranger ways than fiction can."
Pops by Michael Chabon reviewed by Fiona Sturges
"...it stands as a heartfelt and thoughtful meditation on what parenthood asks of a man. Rather than focusing on the next generation, the book is about the experience of being in the previous one, and observing one’s slow-burning irrelevance. In Chabon’s view, irrelevance is a worthwhile price to pay in exchange for those sweet moments of intimacy and bonding where, in so many instances, children show us something about ourselves."
Cringeworthy by Melissa Dahl reviewed by Katy Guest
"I read part of this book in somebody else’s reserved seat on an overbooked train; do train companies have any idea of the anxiety they cause when they suddenly announce that all seat reservations are suspended? As each stop triggered another mortifying conversation about seats, the book explained what was going on in our brains to make the situation feel so painful, why that matters so much to us and what we can learn from it."
(I don't usually copy the first paragraph on principle: I want you to know I read beyond the first few lines(!). This one was so British I felt I had to!)
Behold, America by Sarah Churchwell reviewed by Robert McCrum
"...shows that this “dream” has little to do with a nostalgia for a golden past, but is really about a fierce ongoing argument about the nature and practice of US democracy."
Modernists & Mavericks: Bacon, Freud, Hockney and the London Painters by Martin Gayford reviewed by Rachel Cooke
"This is a panorama, one that feels in some senses definitive (largely, perhaps, because he has the guts to turn periodically away from the most famous figures of the time, the better to allow other names – David Bomberg, say, or Victor Pasmore – a look in). But it also swirls excitingly. Even the long, drawn-out conflict between abstraction and figuration appears here not as some dry, academic thing, but as the very air artists breathed – and on which some of them would end up choking."
How Britain Really Works by Stig Abell reviewed by Gaby Hinsliff
"...aim was to come up with a modern, adult version of those children’s encyclopedias a pre-Google generation grew up dipping in and out of, a sort of Schott’s Miscellany of Britain. But while there’s an endearingly old-fashioned air to the idea of a book containing actual facts, rather than grand provocative theories about Britishness, it takes on an interestingly new light in an era of fake news."
Butterfly by Yusra Mardini reviewed by Aida Edemariam
"The Arab spring rumbles in the distance, comes closer and closer, until it spills into Syria. They wait for it to pass, “and while I wait, I swim,” Yusra writes. “Swimming is the best distraction.” But one day they turn into their street to find three tanks squatting at the end of it, and a soldier takes direct aim at their car. "
Shapeshifters by Gavin Francis reviewed by Brian Dillon
"...is interested in physical changes wrought by time, illness and accident – hormonal slumps and rages, anorexia’s chilling progression, the fantastical inventions of a florid psychosis – but also in the bodily metaphors that have “preoccupied poets, artists and thinkers for millennia”. While his literary reference points are mostly classical, he includes Borges on memory, Ursula K Le Guin on menopause and the essayist Anatole Broyard on the black comedy of his prostate cancer. In a consideration of the ambiguities of human gender, Francis turns to TS Eliot’s version of Tiresias, “throbbing between two lives”. Poetry, myth and fiction connect easily with some of the more extravagant transformations Francis considers – though it is sometimes hard to say which came first: the symptom or its abstraction into word and image. Take the werewolf. As he reminds us, the first transformation described by Ovid is of man into wolf. It seems that 70% of mental-health professionals today think the full moon influences certain of their patients, but there is no credible evidence for the belief..."
As always, lots more here: www.guardian.co.uk/books
^Hi, Charlotte! You may have missed me up there, with the flurry of Guardian reviews and the lovely poppy.
I didn't notice you there! Sorry Mark. I do try to take some pics of our bird life, but I'm not quick enough!
This short novel told over one weekend is the story of two pensioners trying to sell their flat in New York. It touched upon lots of subjects I found interesting: ageing, art, and the impact of McCarthyism, but only briefly and gently. Charming, and an easy read, but I'm not sure I'll remember it next week.
Read for my local author part of the popsugar challenge, this crime novel set in gritty modern Manchester's nightlife raced through urban scenery (some of which I recognised) as the young policeman protagonist tried to bring down a drug dealer, whilst also trying to solve a murky runaway story. Dirty cops, lots of drinking, drug taking and violence made this a bit more in the face than I usually like, but it was gripping.
I think the last line is a nod to Chandler, but would stand to be corrected.
Me at Liverpool words festival.
Reni Eddo-Lodge interviewing Akala about his new memoir.
Fascinating night: such an erudite and compelling speaker.
Looking forward to reading his book: Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala
Popping in late, Charlotte. Didn't do much visiting while I was sick, I fear.
Hope you're feeling fully recovered Roni. Your picture did make me laugh.
Now reading The Bedlam Stacks (as fast as I can, because five books have turned up all at once at the library: grateful + anxious = granxious?)
Came across this advertised in the LRB - interesting idea
The Second Shelf: rare books, modern first editions, manuscripts, & rediscovered works by women
The Bedlam Stacks
Not like the fiction I usually read at all, but I really enjoyed it. Harry has been badly injured and is stuck in the overgrown garden of his family house in Cornwall. But then a former navy colleague turns up and asks him to go with him to Peru: the quinine supply has all but run out and the British government want them to steal some quinine trees. Strong doses of magic makes the plot veer off in a different direction. I was reminded of the weeping angels in Dr Who!
ETA Thanks to Chelle for recommending this one.
>87 charl08: Congratulations on the poppy Charlotte!
>87 charl08: So many of those look tempting...but when I return a book at lunchtime and pick up two reserves I will have the maximum number of items out (12). And I still have ten reserves. What should I do, please? Apart from not clicking on any links on LT, I mean.
>94 charl08: That looks like a great talk! But I'm not going to click the link to the book, because see above.
Susan, I am rather pleased with the poppy, but at the same time cross, because my purple / blue / white colour scheme is now completely up the creek with the bright red poppy and the hot pink lupin. Since this happens every year, I'm not sure why I'm surprised.
Good luck with those reserves. I have three waiting on the shelves at the time of writing.
Was amused to pick up the Jo Nesbo 'Macbeth' - not exactly stressing the Hogarth Shakespeare aspect, are they?!
I tried for a long time to get a cheerful "pink with accents of yellow" thing going in our front garden and it is now a wild riot of color. Oh, well. Even the hydrangeas decided to change - the one under the oak tree to blue and the one next to the driveway starts white, then turns red. I know it has to do with the soil minerals, but still feels like they're doing it just to spite me.
>101 RidgewayGirl: Pink is my nemesis. It pops up everywhere: free plants from (very kind) neighbour, lupin my mum bought, and this year a blow in plant which seems to have taken the local gardens by storm. I do love the sound of a wild riot of colour though.
>102 ChelleBearss: Nope? Oh dear. I apologise to whoever I have forgotten!
Hope you enjoy the new King.
I love poppies, used to have a whole bed of them in a previous house. Nowadays they don't match the blue/purple/white colour scheme in the front garden.
It was the stretch to one side of the driveway, next to a wall and probably less than a foot wide. Bushes would be too wide, too narrow and inconvenient for grass, a real what to do with it space. Poppies standing to attention by the wall worked really well. They were the tall ones, so flowers at ~ 3 ft off the ground. Really effective and dead easy...
>106 Helenliz: Sounds lovely! I still aspire to a colour themed garden.
>107 FAMeulstee: Thanks Anita - go with what makes you happy :-)
I've been rereading Autumn this evening, as today I got an email from our bookgroup person saying would I lead it as she can't make the meeting. Needless to say I now have Many Post-it notes...
(From Penguin's reading group guide)
1. How is the story rooted in autumn? Why do you think Ali Smith decided to write a quartet of books about the seasons, the changing of the seasons, and the passing of time? Why did she start with autumn?
2. How is the book obsessed with time? “Time travel is real. We do it all the time. Moment to moment, minute to minute.” (p. 175)
3. Ali Smith stated in an interview with her British publishers, “The way we live, in time, is made to appear linear by the chronologies that get applied to our lives by ourselves and others, starting at birth, ending at death, with a middle where we’re meant to comply with some or other of life’s usual expectations, in other words the year to year day to day minute to minute moment to moment fact of time passing. But we’re time-containers, we hold all our diachrony, our pasts and our futures (and also the pasts and futures of all the people who made us and who in turn we’ll help to make) in every one of our consecutive moments / minutes / days / years, and I wonder if our real energy, our real history, is cyclic in continuance and at core, rather than consecutive.” Do you agree with the author that our history and thus our stories, individual and collective, are cyclical rather than chronological? Discuss this description of time.
4. The novel proceeds with flashbacks interspersed with the present rather than in a consecutive, chronological narrative. Why? And how does this connect with the author’s view on how we perceive time?
5. Describe the friendship between Elisabeth and Daniel and how it evolves through time and the novel. How is their relationship at the heart of the novel? Why does he always ask her, “What are you reading?”
6. How does their friendship revolve around stories, art, and literature?
7. What is the novel saying about creativity and creating and about witnessing and experiencing art and literature? And what is the novel saying about nature and our interactions with it?
8. Describe the relationship of Elisabeth and her mother. How does the relationship blossom by the end of the novel? Why does it change?
9. In Autumn, what is the importance of art and the human connections that come out of art and creativity? Give some examples.
10. How is Autumn collage-like and thus similar to the art of Pauline Boty?
11. Why do you think the author has chosen this real-life artist as a character and inspiration in this novel? What do Boty and her vision and art represent for Daniel and Elisabeth and how does she connect to the themes of Autumn?
12. Continuing with the collage theme, discuss Daniel’s wordplay and intermixing of college and collage. What do you think of the idea of college being a collage of different classes and experiences?
13. Why does the book open with a reference to Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities, and then there’s a longer reference to a divided country filled with polarities: “All across the country, people felt legitimized. All across the country, people felt bereaved and shocked”? (p. 60) What are the two cities or polarities in the novel?
14. Smith alludes to and mentions many other authors and literary works as well: William Shakespeare, John Keats, James Joyce, Aldous Huxley, George Orwell. Discuss them and why they are relevant to this novel.
15. Many reviewers have called this novel the first post-Brexit novel. What does this mean? How has England changed after the Brexit vote? How does this tie into the United States’ 2016 election, or does it?
16. Find instances of tree imagery throughout the novel and discuss the various descriptions. How do the imagery and arboreal allusions connect with autumn and the changing seasons theme?
17. What is the novel saying about storytelling? “There’s always, there’ll always be, more story. That’s what story is.” (p. 193)
18. Daniel tells Elisabeth, “So, always try to welcome people into the home of your story.” (p. 119). Does this show that our stories don’t belong to us alone? Do you think this is a call by the author for inclusion and diversity rather than building fences and keeping people out?
19. Why doesn’t Daniel tell Elisabeth about his experience during World War II? “I know nothing, nothing really, about anyone.” (p. 171) Can we ever know everything about another person?
20. How does Autumn fuse the present with the past?
21. What is the importance of politics and the effects of politics on the layperson in this novel? What does the fence and defying the fence represent?
22. Both Daniel and Elisabeth’s mother talk about lying and being lied to. Daniel: “The power of the lie . . . Always seductive to the powerless.” (p. 114). Elisabeth’s mother: “I’m tired of people not caring whether they’re being lied to any more.” (p. 57) What are both of them talking about? And what is the connection of lies and truth in the novel?
23. On what note, despair or hope, does the novel end and why?
Well, it was a bit of a disappointing turn out (three to start off with, which was embarrassing as a) one of them was me and b) another one was someone I'd invited). Two more people came later though, which was a mighty relief. We did have an interesting conversation, despite Noone Agreeing with Me. Which clearly is not right (!)
Penguin's reading group questions were useful, although I could have done with more time to think about them (!) We talked about how the sequence worked - Why Autumn first? (and I tried to explain the floating head in Winter, which didn't go well because I didn't really understand it at the time). The structure of the novel came in for some criticism: we noted the collage / art theme, but I'm not sure that anyone but me thought that it worked and was compelling. We all liked the relationship between Elisabeth and Daniel and the way that Daniel engaged with Elisabeth in such a creative way. I hadn't thought about the relationship between Elisabeth and her mother (and what is left out) very much at all - one person said she thought that
Mixed news: the university have decided to go with the big read idea, but are suggesting Eleanor Oliphant. I didn't mind it that much, but not sure what the gain is to have everyone read it.
Charlotte, you are very brave leading a book club. Far beyond my abilities. Clearly if no one agreed with you, something was very wrong. I confess I've not read Autumn nor Winter so I've no answers or advice, just my support.
Post office passports? You mean you don't have to go a government passport office for a passport? Of course, over here, I think all of the post offices ( maybe not all ) have been privatized, though not Canada Post itself. Just the post offices are run by clerks at 7/11 or drugstore or that sort of thing.
Deborah, the group pretty much led itself, I think the official person just wanted someone there as a nominal head. Support is always welcome.
Post offices here do a thing called 'check and send' where staff (for a fee) will make sure your passport has all the right boxes ticked and that your photo fits the criteria. The idea is that it saves the passport office time so your passport is processed more quickly. As the criteria gets more and more specific, the potential for comedy is rich: at one point the official in the book says something like your hair can't be so close to your face, and Elisabeth says but it has to be close to my face, it's on my head. Given all the stuff about how useless most facial recognition technology is, I'm not sure why they bother. Smith refers to 1984 and Brave New World, and I can see where that dystopian perspective makes sense.
I read about ten pages of Macbeth and I'm going to give up and return it to library. I'm not into it, and there are lots of people waiting for it (and lots of books waiting for me too).
Random orange flower appeared in the border this morning. Colour scheme is officially gone!
>110 charl08: Your book group sounds interesting! Different perspectives are a good thing.
I haven't read Autumn but would like to do so now, if only for the passport at the post office scene. I have to renew my passport soon, but have been postponing doing so because of the ado about the photo having to be just right :-(
Hope it goes without a hitch: I live near the passport office in the UK, so very handy for a quick service. (And of course, I agree- a bit of different opinion is great).
>114 charl08: Charlotte, sorry to hear that Macbeth didn't work for you. I haven't seen it at the library yet, although they have a couple of copies of the last one (about King Lear). That's probably just as well right now.
I just wasn't in the mood yesterday Susan: I'd been working on a handout to go with the new suffrage exhibit, and had thought I'd get it done by 12. I finally hit send at about 7 pm , having just had Enough! And I just thought why flog through a novel when some people are clearly v keen. I've never wanted to pick up a Nesbø so probably not a bad choice either.
I'm reading Lady With a Cool Eye for the popsugar challenge written in the 70s. It does feel very old, a different time with no mobiles and the "scandal" of an affair for a business...
Amusing moment from volunteering this week. I asked small boy I had been playing with to help me tidy up. He doesn't chat in English a lot, so I was impressed when he told me without missing a beat "I'm tired".
Lady with a Cool Eye
A book from the decade I was born. My favourite bit was when the retired lady did some night time cliff climbing whilst being shot at. Some of the other bits seemed a bit dated.
Sorry that the Nesbo Macbeth didn't work for you! I was looking forward to it.
Rhonda I think it was just that I wasn't in the mood for a version of Macbeth but wanted something familiar / unchallenging after a fairly heavy day at work. I also felt a bit guilty - lots of people waiting for it at the library. I will probably pick up a paperback copy when that comes out.
A Savage Hunger continues the Northern Irish crime series featuring the psychological profiler Paula Maguire. Paula is investigating the case of a missing young woman with a history of eating disorders, who became obsessed with a relic of a fasting saint who was credited with preserving the local area from potato bight during the famine. Things happen between the recurring characters. They are very compelling. None of them can be revealed without spoiling the earlier books. And a gigantic cliff hanger. Again. Gah.
Now reading Kudos by Rachel Cusk. I have so enjoyed this trilogy of hers. This quote made me laugh.
'Hesse is completely unfashionable now,' my publisher said with a dismissive flick of his hand. 'It is almost an embarrassment to be seen reading him.'
I've just bought Outline, Charlotte, and expect to pick it up in June.
Happy Sunday, Charlotte. I hope you are having a nice weekend. Sorry, Nesbo's Macbeth isn't ringing your bells. It seems to have been well-reviewed, here in the states but it is a big book, so bailing early, is probably a good idea. Hope your next choice is much better.
Caroline I hope you get as much pleasure from these books as I have.
Mark, sometimes we just pick them up at the wrong time, I think! The nice thing about a bestseller is that I don't worry I won't ever be able to find it again. It's hopefully winging its way to another reader already.
Kudos was just what I wanted to read today. Cusk reflects on gendered roles, parenthood and freedom (and much else) as Faye attends a literary festival in an unnamed European town. She listens to similarly disparate voices as the previous two books, from the man on the seat beside her in the plane (who has to be repeatedly asked to move his legs from the aisle), over elaborate interviewers with their own theories about her life and for the most cutting bit for me two women discussing their partners' bitter response to divorce.
>113 vancouverdeb: >114 charl08: You can do your passport online now, so you don’t need to even go to the Post Office. As long as your appearance hasn’t changed dramatically then you can upload a photo file - it needs to be pretty good quality though. The one I got Mr SandDune to take on my iPhone didn’t cut it, so I ended up getting one done in a photo shop. And then if you need a new driving licence, they can automatically pick up the photo that you’ve got for your passport so that can be all done on line as well. I was quite impressed when I did mine a couple of months ago.
Beautiful poppy! I'm one of the every-color-in-the-rainbow gardener. It's not that I don't appreciate color schemes; it's just that I'm color-scheme challenged. I can't even organize a color scheme for a flower box. For some reason, even when I try, I end up with yellow, blue, red, orange, and white, all mixed together.
You've been doing some great reading lately and have hit me with a number of BBs - actually too many to list here.
I already have Brazen: Rebel Ladies on hold at the library and will have to see if our library has California Dreamin'. Sadly, despite all the rave reviews, I have to agree with you on My Favorite Thing Is Monsters. I just could not get into it.
Thanks Caroline and Rhian.
Spent today at the beach, super busy (until you got away from the bit by the planked walkway).
Read When Grandad was a Penguin and The Hungry Caterpillar.
Discovered many topics which I do not have answers to, from tides to driving.
Collapsed at home and read rather bizarre Finnish super short fiction (some stories just a paragraph long). Lots of unexplained deaths, mental health problems and alcoholism.
Now reading The Story of The Night. I do like Colm Toibin.
Ooo, which beach is that? Yup, hot bank holiday weekend=crowded beach.
I like Toibin too. I still have his latest to read. I liked his little tribute volume to Elizabeth Bishop.
ETA: ordered a book just because he recommended it in Saturday's review magazine as in his opinion, the most underrated book.
>131 Caroline_McElwee: It's this one - https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/formby
We usually go in the winter when it's us and three dog walkers :-) (and lots of wind)
I was a bit blindsided by it not being set in Ireland, but there's something about the rhythm of what he writes where I just get lost in it.
I missed the review on Saturday (ironically, too busy book shopping).
>132 Helenliz: It's such a cute one. The flat cap is priceless.
I've been looking at the books due out in May/ June on the Millions website
Really rather tempted by the new Michael Ondaatje, Warlight, which sounds wonderful.
>134 charl08: Didn't know about the millions website. This is a gem! Thanks.
Finished Zinky Boys - Alexievich continues to impress, here looking at the experiences of those involved in the Aghanistan - Soviet war, from grieving mothers to the soldiers themselves. Hard hitting stuff, that clearly earned Alexievich more criticism (she includes it as an afterword) for dismantling some of the myths about the war. From the afterword:
Then there were the phone calls:
I had to laugh when you congratulated yourself for waiting to get a book until it was in paperback. It is hard with new and shiny ones, isn't it?
>129 Storeetllr: So sorry Mary, I missed your post altogether - it hadn't appeared when I posted.
Glad I'm not the only one about the monsters book, and I'm hoping that Brazen comes into the library for you soon!
>138 Familyhistorian: Well, if I didn't congratulate myself, who would (!?)
I went to put the handlist on the exhibition I co-organised today, and one of the pictures had already fallen off the wall. I'm trying hard not to see this as a metaphor for something...
>133 charl08: lovely.
The book Toibin recommended Charlotte, was Eugene McCabe's Death and Nightingales, and I'll aim to read it in June. My copy landed today.
>134 charl08: yup, the Ondaatje will definitely be acquired. Reminding self I still have a Waterstones gift card to spend. Hmm.
The English Patient is still one of my favourite novels, it's the tone. It's due a reread (fourth I think).
>140 Caroline_McElwee: I've not heard of that one Caroline, will be interested to hear what you make of it. Ooh, a voucher. Have fun deciding! I haven't reread the English Patient, but perhaps I should, although I've still to read his Anil's Ghost.
>141 FAMeulstee: One of the points she made Anita, was how much the Soviet Union controlled the news so young people (and their parents) believed the stories about what the troops were doing in Afghanistan. They were told people were building schools and responding to a request for Soviet support, rather than wiping out villages in a war that seems to have been more about the USSR's borders than anything else.
I liked The Last of the Soviets but I think the Chernobyl book is still my favourite. There seems to be a memoir of her childhood she wrote too, but it doesn't come up when I try to add it, so maybe out of print? Penguin have re-translated Zinky boys as Boys in Zinc, which I think makes more sense!
Tempted by the Penguin Classics cover. Again.
I'm still reading Radical Reformers and Respectable Rebels: How the Two Lives of Grace Oakeshott Defined an Era - amazing how someone's family life could be so international. The author is studying the family around Grace, including an amazingly harsh life of one part of the family in Canada as CMS missionaries.
Had today off because I'm working tomorrow.
Finished two very different pieces of fiction
The Story of the Night, a Toibin novel I have had on the shelf for a while, but finally got to this week. I am not sure if I am overreaching but I think Toibin is rather smartly drawing parallels between people ignoring the Argentinian disappearances and ignoring the AIDS crisis because things were too difficult to deal with. His young protagonist grows up sheltered by his mother, then encounters two CIA agents who enable him to access a very different life in Buenos Aires. Toibin creats a compelling perspective on gay life in Argentina, transition politics as well as the nationalist fervour during the Malvinas / Falklands 'crisis'.
'They know what's in store for you, so they keep smiling and making polite, friendly noises at you. They're going to watch you going blind, they're going to have to tell you the news that your brain seems to be diseased, or you've got skin cancer, or you'd better tell your parents real soon. So they smile at you. When I meet an AIDS doctor who's rude, I'll know this plague is over.'
The Bookseller (F, US, fiction)
I think this one suffered because I worked out 'the twist' early on (only because I've read something similar before). A middle-aged single woman running a bookshop with a friend keeps having dreams about her 'perfect' married life... Very easy reading story though, glad I picked it up.
(I'm counting this one for the 'halloween' part of the popsugar challenge: it's not exactly focussed on halloween, but it does turn up as a plot point).
Guardian Reviews non-fiction
Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier reviewed by Zoe Williams
"His most dispiriting observations are those about what social media does to politics – biased, “not towards the left or right, but downwards”. If triggering emotions is the highest prize, and negative emotions are easier to trigger, how could social media not make you sad?"
I think I ought to read this. Although I like the US cover with the cat more than this one.
See What Can Be Done by Lorrie Moore reviewed by Claire Messud
"...incisive, often mordant yet exhilarating pieces illuminate the trajectory of a literary artist’s aesthetic evolution, and enhance an understanding of her fiction. "
Have loved everything I've read (which isn't a lot) that she's written, so will add this one to the wishlist along with a reminder to look out for more of her fiction.
Mistaken Identity by Asad Haider reviewed by Ben Tarnoff
"Armed with the explanatory power of the black radical tradition, and Marxism more broadly, (...Huey...) Newton connected the dots between different injustices. Haider follows this example, wielding the same tools to advance his critique of contemporary identity politics and make his case for a radical alternative. He draws on a wide range of sources, examining an interracial uprising in colonial Virginia and the riots in Newark three centuries later; exploring the ideas of WEB Du Bois, Judith Butler and Barbara Fields, among other great thinkers. And he regularly loops back to recent history, to analyse Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter and the other mobilisations that have moulded our political moment. The result is riveting."
Hadn't heard of this one, will look out for it.
Girl With Dove: A Life Built By Books by Sally Bayley reviewed by Rachel Cooke
"I understand, in a world where memoirs about reading are currently 10 a penny, the need for singularity in terms of voice – and Bayley’s is nothing if not that. I grasp, too, her desire to get as close to her childhood self as possible, the better to animate the unique intensity of reading as a child, an experience Graham Greene described in his essay The Lost Childhood as a form of fortune-telling (in later life, Greene said, we often find in books a confirmation of what is in our mind already, whereas in childhood, “all books are books of divination, telling us about the future”). But someone should have taken this narrative in hand; I read it with a sense that all of its potential power had been dimmed, subsumed into something at once too indulgent and too coy."
As the reviewer says, the interesting story here is how did she become the first child in her area's "care" (ie foster) system to go to university? (and why isn't it told)
The Ashtray by Errol Morris reviewed by Steven Poole
"There’s a really big problem with Morris’s account, and it’s right there in his book’s subtitle: Kuhn did not, in fact, “deny reality”. He simply insisted that we could ultimately never know the fundamental truth about reality, but we could, he thought, make ever more useful predictions about it with scientific theories..."
The Lost Boys by Gina Perry reviewed by P D Smith
"...social psychologist Muzafer Sherif was conducting very similar experiments involving groups of warring boys. Unlike the novelist, though, the scientist was an idealist. Rather than blaming human nature, he believed that environments created the conditions in which conflict and violence flourished. In short, he believed hate was learned. Laudable though these aims were, Australian psychologist Gina Perry’s fascinating study shows that Sherif’s methods were deeply flawed."
Sounds interesting, but probably a bit specialist interest for me.
Natives by Akala reviewed by David Olusoga
"Natives is not an easy book to categorise and for some it will not be an easy book to read, full as it is of uncomfortable statistics about the effects of race and equally disturbing truths about British history. It has been described as a polemic, which in certain respects it is, but it is also a form of biography, a work more interestingly and experimentally structured than any out-and-out polemic. Its more introspective passages create the impression of someone who walks through the world thinking, and for whom self-education and self-awareness have long been survival strategies."
The description of 'a man who walks through the world thinking' - captures brilliantly for me the experience of listening to Akala speak at a book event.
Lots more reviews:
Including children's books -
You’re Safe With Me by Chitra Soundar looks beautiful.
"What baffles me – and I have written about this before – is that you can read only male authors and somehow consider yourself well read. Lots of feminists didn’t like Philip Roth, but my God, they read him. Female readers do not have the same myopia, perhaps because male authors claim a universality of which women writers tend to steer well clear. As Anne Enright once wrote: “If a man writes ‘The cat sat on the mat’ we admire the economy of his prose; if a woman does we find it banal.”
Let’s be honest: you are not “well read” if you don’t read women. You cannot consider yourself a man of letters if you leave the women of letters on the bookshop shelf. "
Now reading Turning: a swimming memoir. I want to go swim in some German lakes.
Well this is awkward: I'm at a book launch event and the panel is currently larger than the audience...
>148 charl08: Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier looks like something I need to read.
>149 charl08: Exactly!
>151 charl08: Awkward indeed. I hope more people arrived eventually!
Happy Saturday, Charlotte!
>152 katiekrug: Hopefully this will get through to the Penguin Classics people - so few 'Classics' by women, apparently.
>153 Storeetllr: They did, eventually turn up, although it was sad - 30 people registered but only 12 turned up. The publishers of Nasty Women were great to listen to though, and two of their contributors were there too who read from their essays. What was a bit frustrating was the previous panel had been four academics who studied business practices with a particular focus on gender - if they had brought the two together, there could have been some interesting stuff about the difference generations make, as the publishers and writers were young - late twenties, I think. Added their book to the wishlist though.
Just a small audience for the exhibition I helped coordinate, but rather gratifying to have *any* visitors, especially given the time-slot.
I can't even comment on all the wonderful things I have just found on your thread..... Rachel Cusk, Colm Toibin, poppies, rabbits (I've been seeing lots of rabbits in the park I pass on my way to the light rail in the morning - they are so cute!).
And >149 charl08: regarding which I agree with Katie. :-)
Happy Sunday, Charlotte. I always enjoy watching your current reads. Always something interesting and off the beaten path. It gives us fresh ideas.
I agree with >149 charl08: too. It's too bad that all the people who registered for the book launch didn't show up 18 out of 30 sounds high.
>155 EBT1002: Aw, Ellen, you say the nicest things. Hope your move is going well.
The rabbits on campus are so tame, they even wait for me to take a picture :-)
>156 msf59: I think Joe said my reading was "eclectic" which was an equally tactful way to describe 'all over the place'!!
>157 Familyhistorian: Good to hear! I'm quite pleased with the stats for my reading this year, but each time I go out of my way to read female, I am struck by how many men make it through the publishing process.
I think when events are free there is this issue with commitment, but I was surprised more people didn't come along - it was quite a coup for the organiser to get the speakers up, as they hadn't spoke elsewhere in the NW.
The LRB came yesterday, and the whole issue is dedicated to a long investigative piece on the Grenfell Tower disaster.
In contrast the paper version of the Guardian review has lots of contributors from Hay talking about the books which help them to feel hopeful. I'm adding Rage Becomes Her by Soraya Chemaly to the wishlist.
I bought the LRB because I really like O'Hagan's writing Charlotte, but it may be a while before I read it. Not the thing for a weekend away (next weekend)!
I have, and have read a few of the books from the Guardian piece.
>159 Caroline_McElwee: I skimmed (partly to see if it was the whole thing) but no, not the thing for a weekend away I would think.
Contrasting reading today - a newish Eloisa James, Too Wilde to Wed which was up to her usual standards, although the 'moppet' factor was quite high. I've taken ages reading Radical reformers and respectable rebels: how the two lives of Grace Oakeshott defined an era. It's a fascinating book although I think the title is a bit misleading. Grace was an active member of a group of volunteer women in the early 20th century who surveyed and campaigned for better working conditions for working class women. Then she disappeared in a swimming accident in 1907, and tributes were paid to her. Except she didn't die: she ran away with her lover to New Zealand, leaving a husband behind.
Lacking direct personal sources, Robson uses the wider historical detail (for example of working conditions in factories in the period, details about schooling and life in the London suburbs) to flesh out the book. It was full of fascinating gobbets of information (I had no idea that more people were orphaned by flu in New Zealand than in the Gallipoli casualaties) but if looking for a clear account of just how and why a young woman enjoying work success would abandon her family, the book stops shy of suggesting what she would have felt or believed.
Hey Charlotte - love the garden pictures - even though the orange has wrecked your color scheme!
Lots of good reading, good recommendations, good links, etc.
The link to the Best European Fiction coming was great - it gave me several to add to my list.
Thanks for the visit Beth. The European book link was a bit eye opening - hadn't heard of most of them!
I unintentionally let my subscription of the LRB lapse, but I'll have to renew it, and get a copy of that issue this coming week. I was on holiday in London when it happened, and stayed in a hotel in Shepherd's Bush, not far away from the tower. I couldn't see the fire from my hotel room that morning, but it was plainly visible from the elevated Hammersmith & City Line tube trains I took while I was there.
I think the visibility you mention, Darryl, is one of the reasons why this has had such an impact: people who might otherwise have wanted to ignore it haven't been able to do so.
Look forward to hearing Caroline and your thoughts on what is, effectively, almost a short book on the tragedy.
I am working at TATE Liverpool this week, which is rather amazing, as we are in a small workshop space in the middle of their 'exchange' space, full of spectacular art and welcoming visitors from around the world.
I am reading Hidden Figures, pushed into picking up my paperback copy because of the Popsugar challenge. I'm so glad I did - I loved the film, but this goes so much deeper into the women's experience before they worked on space flight.
(This cover isn't that great, but it's better than my 'film tie in' one)
>118 charl08: Charlotte, I meant to say that I was impressed with your tired young person up there :-)
>149 charl08: I'm going to add a tracker for male writers v female ones (ooh, a new tracker!) Co-incidentally, in light of the Roth mention in that piece, my elibrary seems to have just added everything he's ever written. But isn't he supposed to be horrible? Should I feel obliged to read them?
>158 charl08: The entire article from the LRB seems to be available at that link, which is odd (unless they routinely do that). I agree that it's an important subject, but it seems a strange thing for a paper reviewing books to do.
>160 charl08: I must get hold of that one! Actually maybe both of them :-)
Enjoy the Tate! It sounds like a great atmosphere.
>165 charl08: I will take any original over a film tie in cover!! *go you*
I loved the film, and am not surprised the book is better- well, more detailed. That is what I felt the film was missing...more of the women's lives!
Charlotte, it's nearly time for the Women's Fiction Prize to be announced. I'll try to get back on here tomorrow. I'm pulling mainly for Home Fire, with When I Hit You as my second choice. I'm so frustrated with Canada Post. This time it's not a book- though I have book coming from the UK, but I ordered some sample sized shampoo and conditioners etc for my hair - four different products. So , yesterday I got a key in my community mailbox to the parcel mail box - but inside the parcel mailbox was nothing! Oh that makes me so mad. At least the parcel was tracked by the sender, but getting hold of Canada Post is just about impossible. Argh, Charlotte. A " community mailbox" is like one you'd have in rural area in the US, or perhaps the UK, or if you lived in a building with apartments ( flats? ) you would have one in the lobby , but here in Canada, whether you live in house or townhouse that was built after 1988 or so, you get a " community mailbox." The Post Person gets mixed up more often than I'd like. First world problems, I know. We got our two nieghbours bank statement a couple of weeks ago. Sigh. I need Mark as my post person. I know he'd never mess up.
" See" you tomorrow for the Women's fiction announcement.
I'm glad to know that Hidden Figures is as good or better than the movie. It's one of the few times I've seen a movie before reading the book. I'll add it to my summer reading pile. :)
I've never seen TATE Liverpool - how lucky to get to spend time there! I'm still sad that the uncertainty around Brexit had us decide on university in the US over my daughter's desire to study in Manchester or Bristol. In the end, she didn't want to get a few years in and have to leave (she has German citizenship, making British universities affordable - the cost of her going as an American are nuts.)
>166 susanj67: I have almost been swayed by all the Roth love, but not quite. I might dip my toe in just to say I tried.
Maybe I will do that next year.
I think the LRB thing is a special one because of what they're trying to help with re the Grenfell Tower. They do seem to quite often have free articles each month though not that length!
Hope you are feeling more the thing now. Did not sound like a good weekend.
>167 LovingLit: I could have done with a longer book! But more than the film, so that was good. I think the film merged some characters for a clearer narrative (and the computer bit seems to have been wishful thinking on someone's part - she did learn programming, but wasn't made manager).
>168 vancouverdeb: I have no idea which is going to win - interesting to see which one it goes to. Sorry about your post - I agree, Mark should definitely be in charge of all LT deliveries.
>169 BLBera: I would like to gift it to young women thinking about careers, Beth. It talks about achievements in the face of discrimination so clearly, whilst retaining a sense of the joy that many of the engineers felt in their work.
>170 RidgewayGirl: I am lucky! If you ever fancy a quick tour of Liverpool, give me a bell. One of the nice things has been the fascinating conversations with international visitors touring the gallery. Sorry about Brexit (in so many ways, but especially how it has affected your daughter in this case)- I am surprised that the unis aren't offering to guarantee fee levels at 'entry' criteria. So many must be caught in a similar situation. (Although having said that, Not Edinburgh? Boo! lol I am shockingly partisan to that place, remain convinced it is a lovely setting to be a student)
I finished Hidden Figures - just a brilliant piece of well written popular history. Shetterly uses her own family connections with the women of Langley to create a narrative that is engaging and powerful. She shows how black women fought for opportunities to use their maths skills, were limited when hired by NACA (later NASA) both by sexism and racism, but were able to take on formidable roles as part of the aeronautical, and later space race. Highly recommended!
I guess the bloggers were right - Kamila Shamsie has won it! I'm sure Kandasamy has more books in her though, so hopefully she will be recognised in future years too.
>172 charl08: I have it on my Kindle Charlotte, and will add it to my 'hope to read this year' list. I loved the film.
>177 Caroline_McElwee: Worth it Caroline - I thought a very readable addition to the small number of popular science books I've picked up.
I have been thinking of reading Hidden Figures. (loved the movie!) Thanks for the positive review.
>178 charl08: Lovely pictures, Charlotte!
Have you had a chance to look around at the Tate?
You realize we brought the sun to the UK; it was sunny almost every day while we were in Ireland. :)
Congratulations to Kamila Shamsie! Home Fire was one of my favorite novels of 2017, and it was my top choice for last year's Booker Prize.
Now reading the fifth book in the crime fiction by Claire McGowan, set in post-Troubles Northern Ireland Blood Tide (Paula Maguire)
This series sounds great. I'm going to have to purchase them, though, because my library doesn't own them. I'm really interested about reading things set in Northern Ireland after visiting. People seem really worried about what will happen with Brexit.
>189 charl08: That series sounds great! (not that I need yet another series!)
All caught up here, Charlotte, and just in time to wish you a Happy Friday! I just got Warlight, which you mentioned upthread, for my birthday, and I cannot wait to get to it. Also the first book in that Claire McGowan series is only $.99 on Kindle right now, so I snapped it up. *grin*
Guardian Reviews Non-fiction
The Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah reviewed by Colin Grant
" lists among his greatest achievements that he reached 30 “without being shot”."
Trans-Europe Express by Owen Hatherley reviewed by Lynsey Hanley
" Hatherley’s theory, which this book not so much tests as pummels furiously for signs of weakness, is that for all its evident problems, belonging to Europe means – or meant – committing to an idea that everyday life can be made better for the vast majority of people with planning, humility and a good measure of collective provision. Europe, he reckons at the outset, reminds him of fast, comprehensive public transport, generous and affordable rented housing and public spaces that you want to spend hours in rather than hurry through."
Reporter by Seymour Hersh
" the point Hersh makes about journalism and self-censorship early in these pages echoes again in the last. His anger now cooled, he sums it up: “editors get tired of difficult stories and difficult reporters”"
Asperger’s Children: The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna by Edith Sheffer’ reviewed by
"... gives a long-overdue and gripping analysis of Asperger’s own writing before, during and after the Third Reich. She details his wartime denigration of the cognitively and physically disabled children in his care. She frames him as complicit in “negative eugenics” and a careerist. Jewish doctors were forbidden to practise public medicine during the Anschluss. While never a Nazi party member, Asperger did not protest about his more senior Jewish colleagues’ exclusion. "
Making Oscar Wilde by Michèle Mendelssohn reviewed by Rachel Cooke
she gradually came to understand that Wilde, however singular a man, was, in many ways simply a cog in the wheels of a larger machine. Nineteenth-century America might well have been a land of immigrants, but it had a social hierarchy all the same – one that clumped Irishmen (like Wilde) and blacks together right at the bottom. The poster wasn’t the half of it. The Washington Postdubbed the Irish visitor “the Wild Man of Borneo”; Harper’s Weekly published an image of a monkey dressed as Wilde....all this came as a shock. His mother, Jane, AKA the poet “Speranza”, was something of a white supremacist. "
The World As It Is: Inside the Obama White House by Ben Rhodes reviewed by Peter Conroy
"At every point, the contrast with Obama’s successor goes without saying. "
The Immeasurable World by William Atkins reviewed by Gavin Francis
"... it’s in the chapters set in the US that the book takes off, perhaps because cultural affinity between the UK and the United States is such that Atkins’s travel writing cedes to something more like anthropology.
Wandering in the Arizona desert with the No More Deaths charity, he leaves survival packs out for illegal Mexican immigrants, then follows them into the courthouse where, 60 at a time, hundreds per day, they are sentenced to repatriation. He makes explicit parallels between their own journeys and those of refugees crossing the Mediterranean: “There it was again: the sea, the desert; to die due to water or its lack. Geography enlisted as both cordon and executioner."
Finished Blood Tide (Paula Maguire) and The Killing House (Paula Maguire) which means I am Done with this series. I don't know whether to be happy or sad about that!
How exciting that you got to work at the Tate Liverpool, Charlotte. >178 charl08: Those are nice sunshiny pictures. I wish there was sun here - I am in Ontario on vacation and the weather has only been warm and sunny for a few days while I have been here. Not ideal holiday weather.
>196 Familyhistorian: Thanks Meg. It was a lot of fun, some great conversations. Although I feel like I have used up my store of sociability for the next few weeks, which is unfortunate timing as I have a conference to attend!
The garden is a real source of joy at the moment.
Now reading You think it, I'll say it
Sittenfeld on fine, sparky form here: short stories that make me think.
Love the garden photos, Charlotte.
The Sittenfeld stories sound great.
The Paula Macguire series must be wonderful if you can binge read them. Another series...
Thanks for the reviews. I'm resisting this week.
Thanks Beth. It made me laugh, I came back to the picture at the top and thought: oh, that needs weeding, that needs moving. I do the same in real life too. Several things that I was sure had been killed off by the repeated frosts we have are (slowly) making their way back, which is lovely too.
Finished some books - some short reviews.
Blood Tide (Paula Maguire) and The Killing House (Paula Maguire) were the final ones in this short series set in Northern Ireland. Quite admire the author for creating a story arc and sticking to it (although given the Bernie Gunther experience, who knows what will happen in a few years). Paula is a believable character: she is good at her job, has a passion for it even, but makes mistakes. Her situation in a small NI town which has a great deal of personal pull on her, feels credible too.
Turning: a swimming memoir I've reviewed over on the non-fiction challenge thread. I've read a few of these now, and I think this one suffered as a result. Kerry (avatiakh) talked about how some GN's are basically a young person trying to work out some stuff about their lives (except she explains it better), and this felt a bit like that. When compared to Waterlog or Swimming Studies or Swell; a waterbiography this one just wasn't as involving. But I have wondered since putting it down if that's because it would be more appealing to a younger reader who might identify more with the author.
Great maps though.
You think It I'll Say It
I am an out and out Sittenfeld fan - I have all her books, I press them on others. Knock her attempt at rewriting P&P at your peril (actually, that one's just ok, but the main point stands). These short stories kept me reading past my bedtime, and I picked them up again the following morning. She riffs on Hillary's experience with an interviewer, pulls apart our ideas about celebrity in two stories about the difference between knowing someone growing up and what you do with that knowledge when they enter 'the public eye'. There's a lot here about middle age, second chances and reflections on the choices made before. I'm still thinking on a killer last line to one of them about being a Trump supporter.
Please pick this up!
(This also counts for the 'celebrity book club' category on the Popsugar challenge, as Reece Witherspoon included it recently as a recommended book)
I loved the Sittenfeld collection, too. It's not at all a given that a great novelist will be equally talented at writing short stories, but Sittenfeld definitely is.
>200 BLBera: Good stuff Beth!
Glad to hear you liked Eligible - that was a close call...
>201 RidgewayGirl: I think her second book was more like interlinked short stories too, at least in my memory (The Man of My Dreams) (a bit like Elizabeth Strout maybe?).
Another super hot day today. Could do with some rain, otherwise the garden is going to struggle a bit.
I know what you mean about the rain - my water butt must have been empty for ~ 2 weeks now. Feels odd to be wishing for a good downpour, but it would come in handy...
We have a very misty start, but by the time I'd walked back from my morning spin class, it was a beautiful clear day. On the plus side, I have got 3 loads of washing dried on the line today, so it's not all bad.
You probably already know about this, but just in case, it looks pretty well up your street:
First Women exhibition at the Royal College of Art starting in June to August.
Thanks Helen - I've not come across that at all - book looks good too.
I'm at a conference for the next two days - I've only been in two sessions and already my head feels like it's going to explode with lots of ideas about things I would like to copy / borrow / 'steal' for my own institution and projects. I had come across this digital project before, linking the histories of the 'seven sisters' (elite US colleges for women), but hearing those involved in setting it up speak has been really thought provoking.
I've also been listening to specialists from closer to home, and finding (or being reminded of) yet more exhibits I want to see in the UK, including this one, looking at a famously 'working class' group of women.
Hi Charlotte - your conference sounds great. Wonderful exhibit ideas.
I just finished Eleanor Oliphant - it was a nice light read, not an prize winner, in my opinion. I think you were underwhelmed by it as well?
Thanks Beth. I didn't think it was prize level either, but it was a quick read. As you said, some of her comments about office life were priceless. I'm reading The Cactus at the moment, which I think is similar territory: less sure of the voice I think though.
Well, I finished The Cactus: the digested review is, it's a lot like A Man Named Ove except (for me at least) not quite so effective at being charming.
Susan's mother has died, and she has to handle the funeral with her brother: they don't get on. She is a bit of an odd bod, with very determined Views, but determined that she is happy with her (largely) solitary life. However, a Big Change is about to happen, heralded by nausea. Nausea in the mornings.
The women all looked youthful and radiant, glowing with the delight of appropriately timed procreation. I was at a loss to see what these instinctive breeders had in common with me; I felt like someone attempting to infiltrate a fundamentalist group with a less-than-believable cover story.
>210 charl08: Well, Charlotte, it looks like this is one I can safely skip.
Via twitter today. For the young man in the GP surgery who insists on referring to me as 'Miss'. Argh.
>212 charl08: I am sooo stealing that one!
You can tell how arsey I am feeling by how much i insist on my title >;-)
*Sniff* - I can't see the Twitter thing on any of my gadgets. What does it say?
It's a picture, rather than a twit link. But let me describe.
Left: young lady throws a man over her shoulder and he lands on the floor on his back (Flip). She is saying "I thought I told you--"
Right, same young lady has a knee to same man's chin (BAM) and she is saying "-- I am a Doctor!".
Printed and stuck on my desk already.
>215 Helenliz: Haha - I have a friend who will love that :-) I'll google and send it to her. Thanks Helen!
>213 Helenliz: >214 susanj67: >215 Helenliz: >216 susanj67: Thanks Helen - and hope your friend did like it Susan.
I finished The Troubadour's Tale last night, on audio - I really like this medieval mystery series, although the author does insist on carrying on with the will they won't they romance. It's very gentle, full of detail about making books, living on a farm, relationships within the village and even what it was like to travel in medieval Oxfordshire. In this one, the bookseller travels to his home village, but becomes involved in foiling a French spy plot.
(Yes, another one)
There's no sixth book showing on Audible, sob!
>217 charl08: Just put the series out of your mind for a while, Charlotte, and hopefully you will be surprised later with a further entry.
>218 Familyhistorian: Thanks Meg. I'm not thinking about the elephant/ series.
Went to the LRB bookshop and picked up Dreams must explain themselves which the intro says is a special British edition (whoo!), but that I picked up because people have been raving about her essays and I thought I want to try that.
In the Skin of the Lion, which I think Anita read, and a book I'd not come across before Whatever happened to Harold Absalon.
I started the Le Guin essays. V. good. From 1973:
"the problem of communication is a complex one, and that some of us introverts have solved it in a curious, not wholly satisfactory, but interesting way: we communicate (with all but a very few persons) in writing, but indirectly in writing. We write stories about imaginary people in imaginary situations. Then we publish them.... And then people read them and call up and ask us But who are you? tell us about yourself! And we say But I have! It's all there, in the boook. All that matters. - But you made all that up! - Out of what? "
Wanted to share this picture of the campus I was visiting in Surrey- really beautiful old building, not really captured by my photo! The planting was beautifully done too, lots of purples and greens, but my photos (ie the cameraperson) clearly couldn't cope with how sunny it was... (it is a bit unusual, to be fair)
Guardian reviews - fiction
The best recent crime novels – review roundup
This Is What Happened by Mick Herron, The Blood Road by Stuart MacBride, The Quaker by Liam McIlvanney, The Poison Bed by EC Fremantle and A Shot in the Dark by Lynne Truss
Florida by Lauren Groff reviewed by Lauren Elkin
"...she shows ...a heroic pushback against the way we live now, against waste, against the artificial environments in which we find ourselves maintained by corporations, but equally against the pressures on women to be flawless, effortlessly excellent mothers, wives, sisters, lovers, friends, within this dire state of affairs."
The Paper Lovers by Gerard Woodward reviewed by Alfred Hickling
"The story yields all the expected verities of middle-class infidelity: furtive afternoon assignations scheduled between lecturing and childcare commitments; slightly disappointing trips to nearby seaside resorts; the perpetual fear of discovery. What sets the novel apart is the particularity of Woodward’s observation."
Never Anyone But You by Rupert Thomson reviewed by Elizabeth Lowry
"Thomson has drawn on the biographies of two pioneering female French surrealists to create a poignant fiction about same-sex love and self-transformation, set at a time when women’s voices were only just beginning to be heard."
The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer reviewed by Eva Wiseman
"... asks us to consider the state of contemporary feminism and the ways we use pedestals."
Small Country by Gaël Faye reviewed by Anthony Cummins
"...standard coming-of-age material, until, in an escalation of the feud between the country’s majority Hutu and minority Tutsi populations, the president is assassinated, sparking civil war and – across the border in Rwanda – genocide. Here Gabriel narrates from the perspective of his 11-year-old self. It’s a technical challenge that’s even trickier if your reader needs political context. Faye sets the scene courtesy of “endless explanations that nobody had requested” from Gabriel’s father and Gabriel’s habit of eavesdropping, which allows the novel to discuss how violence kicked off despite “the presence of so many UN peacekeepers” in Rwanda."
Hi Charlotte! Thanks for the reviews, which have led to three reserves so far, and it would have been four except the Groff is short stories, it seems. I'm most looking forward to the Lynne Truss :-) I've got The Times today, because it's free at Waitrose with a £10+ spend (I can never quite believe that and expect it to stop at any time without warning) so I'll see what they're recommending later.
Thanks for the reviews, Charlotte. I've already read The Female Persuasion - loved it although I know some people don't care for Wolitizer.
Have Florida and Small Country from the library and am preparing to start the Groff stories right now.
>220 charl08: I think it is beautiful.
The Le Guin essays sound good; onto the WL they go.
>212 charl08: It would be funny if it weren't so true.
>222 susanj67: Look forward to hearing what the Times recommends, Susan. I enjoy the Lynne Truss radio series this is linked to too, so will see if it is available in the library. I anticipate an early night after a fairly lengthy journey today.
I gave my friend's eldest this one, which she impressed me mightily by reading fluently, despite some harder words which her mum had to help with. Fantastically Great Women from Around the World includes some more well known names as well as some who were new to me - lovely illustrations too.
>223 BLBera: Sounds like you are way ahead this week, Beth! I've only dipped into the Le Guin but the ones I picked up are lovely, and she has written footnotes amending / changing things, which is even more interesting to me - how someone acknowledges their thoughts and ideas have moved on.
There is a debate on twitter about the dr thing. Apparently the BBC have decided that they're only going to recognise medical doctors in their reporting of people with titles. I'm not sure what I think about that.
Oh I loved this - small little book about the relationship between Eleanor Roosevelt and the journalist Lorena Hickok - told from the perspective of 'Hick'. A sweet account of love despite FDR's infidelity and the problems caused by being unable to be open about the relationship due to Eleanor's sense of duty, as well as the law. Hick navigates poverty, fairground life, and being a 'newspaperwoman', living her life in her own way in plain sight before she meets Eleanor and is smitten.
You are not just my port in the storm, which is what middle-aged women are supposed to be looking for. You are the dark and sparkling sea and the salt, drying tight on my skin, under a bright, bleaching sun. You are the school of minnows we walk through. You are the small fishing boat, the prow so faded you can hardly tell it's blue. You are the violet skies, rain spattering the sand until it's almost mud, and you are the light to come.
Happy weekend, Charlotte! White Houses sounds fun, maybe I will suggest it for my book group.
The Mercy Seat
Impressive fiction set on the night before a man is killed by the state for "raping" a white woman in the 1940s South. Through the perspectives of different opponents to the killing, the author builds a picture of characters who fwel trapped, from the "trusty" brought from the local jail to work the Chair to the wife of the prosecutor.
The French detective gets frustrated with rich people.
Happy Sunday, Charlotte. I have not dropped in awhile, so I thought I would pop in. I hope life and the books have been treating you fine. I want to read the latest by Groff and Wolitzer. I am a fan of both authors.
The Mercy Seat sounds great, Charlotte. Darn it, another one for the list.
>228 Caroline_McElwee: I knew I had seen it somewhere round the threads - thanks for the reminder Caroline. I wish I had kept better records of which Bloom short story collections I've read, I'd like to 'complete the set' but my memory of her titles is poor.
>229 msf59: Love the penguin reading Mark. I think you have been busy with trips and birding, no worries! I did not get on with Groff the last time I read her, but I guess we can't agree all the time...
>230 BLBera: It was Beth, one I thought avoided some of the cliches of this kind of topic and also the unlikely, too- neat resolutions.
A Shot in the Dark
Lynne Truss' new novel was included in the Guardian reviews round-up (above) - I have listened to the radio series which the book is linked to (if not based on - things are not quite the same). I'm not sure how you'd categorise this book - comedy-crime? Inspector Stein (pronounced Steen) is the bumbling, but somehow celebrated, head of police in Brighton, England. Twitten is the new PC who has been kicked out of several jobs already for being 'too bright'. Despite all evidence to the contrary, Stein is convinced that all crime in Brighton ceased after a mass shoot-out amongst the criminal underworld, which the entire Brighton constabulary missed due to stopping for an ice-cream. On his first day, Twitten thinks he might have found a crime or two, though... Plenty of references to Brighton Rock for the Graham Greene fans, too.
>231 charl08: Hmm - this sounds interesting. I might have to check it out. I didn't know Truss was a novelist.
>232 BLBera: Me neither. I just knew about her books about grammar and manners. Wow just looked up her list and Lynne Truss has written A LOT.
>232 BLBera: >233 mdoris: She does a lot of radio stuff too: I've been listening to a series following the different lives of the residents of flats (Meridian Cliffs) near Brighton recently. Oddball, but weirdly gripping.
I've always meant to read her book about becoming a sports reporter. Must get round to that at some point. (Get Her Off the Pitch)
Possibly worth it for the cover image alone?
(The guy is a former footballer, now pundit)
Work (or the Creative Writing bit of it) have announced their Short Story prize shortlist:
"Bad Dreams by Tess Hadley (Jonathan Cape) is a collection of gripping and unsettling stories where the real things that happen to people turn out to be as mysterious as their dreams.
Madame Zero by Sarah Hall (Faber) is a collection rich in the mythic symbolism of wilderness and wasteland.
All the Beloved Ghosts by Alison MacLeod (Bloomsbury) is an acutely observed collection of stories which hover on the border of life and death.
Basket of Deplorables by Tom Rachman (Riverrun Books) is a series of witty, cutting, and addictive tales of Trump times.
Come Let Us Sing Anyway by Leone Ross (Peepal Tree Press) is a frank and witty collection which engages the intellect as well as the heart."
>231 charl08: Charlotte, the Lynne Truss one looks like fun :-) I don't think I can bring myself to read the sports one, though.
>236 susanj67: It was wonderfully dry, Susan. She wrote back in the days before the Times paywall, so I read some of the articles.
(Either that, or the Guardian serialised it). My memory is shocking sometimes.
>237 jnwelch: Joe, I was so pleased that it seemed to go down well with the 'target market' :-) , as I had been unsure during purchase.
One of those days today. Hoping for a break in the clouds tomorrow :-)
>239 LovingLit: I think the Truss is a wee bit dated, but it still made me laugh. Partly it reminded me of how far we've come (just from reading the intro) - she's describing being the only woman amongst sports reporters, whereas this has (thankfully) changed a little in terms of sports presenters and reporters (at least on the main TV/ radio channels - I'm not sure about print media).
I read this yesterday: one of those summer reading articles and this got me to pick up the book:
"In the author’s note appended to THE KISS QUOTIENT, Helen Hoang writes that as she was researching the book, about an autistic woman who hires an escort for lessons in the bedroom, Hoang came to understand not only her main character but also herself, finding a framework that explained the struggles she’d faced her whole life. As she writes, “Sometimes instead of confining you, a label can set you free.” And indeed, Hoang writes Stella with insight and empathy, especially when Stella’s actions are inscrutable to the people around her. Stella’s aware of that disconnect, too, and her frustration is a sharp sadness in an otherwise gentle, frothy book." I wasn't aware that autism is a gendered thing, but this book makes me want to know more about that.
>235 charl08: Basket of Deplorables might be fun -- or just depressing. We've been watching the whole immigration thing, and my daughter said, "I don't want to live in this country anymore." It's amazing how people can stand up and say, in front of other people, that tearing babies from their mothers is OK.
It's mind bogglingly bad. But we imprison children here, also. For the "crime" of coming here with their family. Our "detention centres" (prisons) keep people inside without much protest at all, it seems.
Some light relief. Out in July:
Wasn’t White Houses good? I need to read more Amy Bloom.
>243 charl08: And doesn’t that look like fun! My library even has it on order so I put it on hold. I could use a little political silly right about now.
>242 BLBera: Just hearing a report now of 239 girls being held in NYC...how will they ever get them back with their parents. It’s sickening.
>244 BLBera: And this is why I volunteer.
>245 Copperskye: Political silly sounds like the ticket to me too.
I finished the Michael Ondaajte as recommended by Anita In the Skin of a Lion last night. Just one of those books that somehow manages to combine beautiful writing with challenging ideas. Although it's not a new book, the themes about protest, poverty and migration seem very relevant just now.
>247 Caroline_McElwee: I'm on the list for an ARC Caroline. Fingers crossed!
>246 charl08: Glad you enjoyed the Ondaatje, Charlotte, but it wasn't me who recommended.
>249 FAMeulstee: oh crumbs. My memory really is shocking! Sorry Anita.
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