March Book Haul

March Book Haul

March was a fabulous month for reading – cold and windy days followed by cold and wet nights. The only thing for it was to cosy up under the blanket, pour a cup of tea or a glass of red wine depending on the mood, and tuck into a book. Continue reading

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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

Girl Reading by Viktor Hanacek

5 lessons learned from Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

I don’t know what it is in my nature that makes me distrust the incredibly successful. But I was comforted recently by Iris Murdoch’s The Black Prince to know that it’s not a perspective wholly unique to me.

In Murdoch’s novel, Bradley Pearson is a writer almost without publication, who has been saving his gift for the one book that will be his life’s crowning achievement. He is jealous and slightly resentful toward Arnold Baffin, a younger writer he ‘discovered’ who churns out a book a year, and who is, in Bradley’s opinion, squandering his talent on minor works and who moves too quickly to ever write anything worthwhile.

In the same spirit I’ve avoided novelists with huge repertoires simply because I assumed a wide appeal pointed to a diluted art form that would leave me a) wishing I could recover the time wasted on a poorly written book or b) feeling guilty for not slogging my way through something more challenging and meaningful to the human experience. Continue reading

Book Review – Toni Morrison’s Home

Stylist Magazine ran an interview with Toni Morrison in a recent issue, and I realised that, though I knew of her, I hadn’t yet read her. It felt like an unforgiveable oversight that needed to be remedied immediately.

Conscious of my ever-increasing Kindle bill, I went to the library and borrowed her 2012 novel Home. I was gripped from the first chapter to the last.

Morrison’s themes of racial conflict, women’s repression and the effects of war are hefty. She doesn’t flinch from raw violence and the darker side of humanity. But throughout this small book, we see redeeming qualities: faith, courage and kindness. The hope in the story far outweighs the despair and keeps you turning pages.

Well, that, and Morrison just writes so damn well. Continue reading