Book Review: The Horseman by Tim Pears

On the Devon-Somerset border in 1911, twelve-year-old Leo Sercombe watches the world with dark eyes, a silent tongue and the desire to see and understand things for himself. As the year unfolds, keeping only to the timetable set by the seasons and the requirements of the land, Leo follows in the footsteps of his father, a carter on Manor Farm, one of the farms belonging to the estate of Lord Prideaux.

There were six farms on the estate. No two fields among them were of like size or configuration. No tracks ran straight but dipped and wove around the tumps and hummocks of land. Some hedges were laid, others left tall and wild. Conifers grew in neat yet oddly shaped plantations. Oak and ash and beech trees seeded themselves in hidden combes. Streams meandered in no discernible direction, cutting deep narrow gullies here, trickling over gravel beds there. Erratic walkways criss-crossed the estate. The boy’s father Albert told him that when God created this corner of the world He’d just helped himself to a well-earned tipple. His mother Ruth derided that blasphemy and said that much of their peninsula was so contoured, her husband had seen little of it.

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Book Review: The Boston Girl

‘Ava, sweetheart, if you ask me to talk about how I got to be the woman I am today, what do you think I’m going to say? I’m flattered you want to interview me. And when did I ever say no to my favorite grandchild?’

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant (Simon and Schuster, 2014) is the life story of Addie Baum, as recounted by the 85-year-old woman to her youngest granddaughter. A descendent of Russian Jews who immigrated to America before the turn of the century, Addie was born in Boston in 1900 and her story touches some of the major events of the 20th century – World War I, the flu epidemic, Prohibition and the Great Depression – as well as the more quotidian experiences of women at that time. Told in first person narration, Addie tells Ava about her early struggles as a girl growing up in a Boston tenement, her introduction to love, her pursuit of meaningful work and self-sufficiency and the relationships that defined her. Continue reading

Book Review: A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

“In the Whitshank family, two stories had travelled down through the generations. These stories were viewed as quintessential – as defining, in some way – and every family member, including Stem’s three-year-old, had heard them told and retold and embroidered and conjectured upon any number of times.”

It is, in a way, this mythmaking that all of us take part in that A Spool of Blue Thread is all about. Anne Tyler’s twentieth novel is also – simply – about family. But that is a subject at once so ordinary in its familiarity and at the same time extraordinary in its unique complications and dramas, that it takes the deft hands of an author like Tyler to raise it above the commonplace or maudlin. Continue reading

Book Review: Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood

When cold weather draws in and the lights are extinguished from mid-afternoon on, I long to hibernate. To be warm and cosy at home, baking or reading or catching up on recorded episodes of Strictly. But there are times I can be coaxed into a detour on my way out of the office, and the chance to discuss Margaret Atwood’s Stone Mattress (Bloomsbury) with the lovely crew over at the Society of Young Publishers was one such recent occasion.

The opening line

‘The freezing rain sifts down, handfuls of shining rice thrown by some unseen celebrant.’ Continue reading

NYC Skyline by Philipp Henzler

Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

Like so many others, I came to know Breakfast at Tiffany’s through the Audrey Hepburn film, which I first watched as a teenager and have replayed incessantly over the past two decades. For me, Audrey is incomparable. Never mind Clara Bow; Audrey is the it girl I have always aspired to.

When I learned that London’s National Portrait Gallery was opening an exhibit dedicated to iconic portraits of Audrey paired with screenings of her films (including Breakfast at Tiffany’s), I decided it was high time to read Truman Capote’s book and discover the original story behind Holly Golightly. What I found surprised me. Continue reading

Stars

The Fault in Our Stars, John Green

At a recent writing session, I heard about a new publishing house that was looking for female authors writing about female protagonists with an emphasis on YA novels.

I immediately started brainstorming my pitch.

But the fact is, I’m sadly out of touch with YA fiction, aside from vaguely remembered paperbacks from my tweens and the obligatory Harry Potter novels I swallowed whole after moving solo to Denver in my early twenties.

Like all good writers, I decided the first step was a little research. A trip to Waterstone’s in London’s Piccadilly Circus (one of my favourite hangouts) revealed a mind-numbing selection sprawled across an entire floor.

Where to start? Continue reading