Monday, 25 November 2013

At the moment I am...

Reading...The Testimony by James Smythe for my book club tomorrow. I joined a dystopian book club a month or so ago called the Post Apocalyptic Book Club and this is second book I have read with the group. I've been loving this one and am at that point where I don't want to put it down. It's written from a million different perspectives and the big bad is something that will prompt much discussion (and debate) so I think tomorrow evening may be a good one. I will be reviewing this one too because I have SO MANY THOUGHTS.

Also, I've nearly finished Wilkie!

Writing...I'm collating a list of WW1 fiction at the moment which is actually a bigger job that I thought - there is so much. I'm also trying to whittle down a list of top 10 WW1 books - if any of you can think of a book that just has to be in a top 10, let me know.

Looking forward to...GLASGOW. Yes, it's here. I'm on a half day on Thursday then it's back to Somerset and then to the airport on Friday with my Ma. I've got my bobble hat and woolly socks packed...

Hankering for...a proper Sunday lunch. Bit of an odd one.

Listening to...a random mix of Deaf Havana and classical music. Deaf Havana for those times I need a good old sing and bootie shake and the classical for when I'm really focusing on my writing. Perfect. FYI I've gone for the singing and butt shaking today.

Christmas lights in Sloane Square


Friday, 22 November 2013

Review: At Least You're in Tuscany by Jennifer Criswell

At Least You're in Tuscany
Jennifer Criswell
Gemelli Press

'Living a dream is very different from having a dream'

I've never been the biggest reading of travel books/memoirs but I could not even try to resist reading this. Tuscany is one of my favourite places in the world and I will never stop revisiting its rolling hills and beautiful hilltop towns and cities. I have some wonderful memories of Tuscany from trips there with my family and with my bestie when we went travelling. Siena, particularly, has a ridiculously special place in the old heart*. 

At Least You're in Tuscany tracks the ups and downs (of which there are a considerable number) of the author, an American who ups sticks and decides to make her home in Montepulciano, Italy. It follows the first months of Criswell's life in Italy and the obstacles that she inevitably faces, as well as a few not so inevitable ones. All the while, Criswell repeats her personal mantra: 'at least you're in Tuscany'.

I love how candidly this book is written. Criswell doesn't romanticise her experiences, instead choosing to tell us the difficulties she faced in regards to jobs, friendship and romance. Her honesty also makes the book funny - not that we are laughing at her, but she is recounting the less glamorous side of becoming an expat in a way that makes us laugh along with her, very fondly. There is an incident in the winter with some washing that definitely made a chuckle or two escape from my lips and a few other incidents involving food and some veggie innuendo.

'I resisted the urge to find the manager and show him, since I was now a grown up of thirty-nine years.'

It was really interesting learning about Italian culture through the eyes of someone who is outside of it but also slightly within it. Criswell has a great perspective and it felt like I was learning the secrets of Italian life as she did. That, and the Italian language. I think I may have even picked up a few extra words to add to my hardly expansive knowledge of the language. entertaining and educational? What could be better than that?

Mostly I just think Criswell is heck of a brave. I mean really, how many 30-somethings would just take themselves half way around the world and move to a new country, with a completely different culture and a new language? Mental. It was so nice to be inspired by her positivity and coraggio (courage) and her ability to just do it, take the plunge and make a change. I think with an attitude to life like that, I will read anything that she comes out with.

My favourite thing about the book is the appearances of Criswell's dog, Cinder, a gorgeous Weimaraner. Cinder is almost a second main character (so to speak) and I was just as interested in how she coped with the move as how Criswell coped (well, it seemed, particularly when there was Italian ham to be had). 

This memoir doesn't finish with a fairytale ending with Criswell happily married to a wealthy Italian, friends all around her and the perfect job. It ends with reality - things are on the up but we still know that she has a way to go to truly 'make it' in Italy. I love that it isn't all hunky dory from the word go and that it isn't all hunky dory at the end. It is real life and reading about real life is far more interesting than anything else.

For an honest, exuberant and unexpectedly moving and inspiring memoir about one of the most beautiful places in the world, I would highly recommend At Least You're in Tuscany. It just made me want to sit back and relax with a glass of red in one hand and a bowl of pasta in the other and a tasty tiramisu calling me from the fridge. Love Italy? Read this. Enough said, really.

'"Chi la dura, la vince." He who endures, wins.'

* I visited Siena as one of my final stops in the tour around Italy I took when I was 20. As a home bird, I grew increasingly tense the longer I stayed away. I loved it, don't get me wrong, but I'm a short term traveller. Anyway, I spent the best couple of days in Siena, sitting in the Piazza del Campo with my book just watching the world go by. Since then I have wanted to go back to that chilled out, beautiful city, which made me feel calm and content even when I was a stressed out mess. 

Thank you to the publisher (via NetGalley) for providing this review copy.


Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Review: Down the Rabbit Hole by Juan Pablo Villalobos

Down the Rabbit Hole
Juan Pablo Villalobos
And Other Stories

Translated from Spanish by Rosalind Harvey

'Some people say I'm precocious. They say it mainly because they think I know difficult words for a little boy. Some of the difficult words I know are: sordid, disastrous, immaculate, pathetic and devastating.'
I came across And Other Stories when I signed up to Ellie's Translation Challenge. I was looking for interesting translated fiction previously unknown to me and I became completely enamoured with And Other Stories the minute I began browsing their catalogue. This novel by Juan Pablo Villalobos was the first to really catch my eye so when I stumbled upon a copy in an illicit trip to Foyles I could hardly resist. 

At only 70 pages Down the Rabbit Hole is a short novel and a quick read but it's brevity does not lessen it's impact. I devoured it in one day spread between my tube journey to and from work and my lunch break. It is short but full of detail, particularly when it comes to character.

This novella (or novel? What's the difference?) is narrated by Tochtli, the young son of a Mexican drug lord, from within the depths of their palace. Tochtli is, in his own words, a precocious child. He reads the dictionary every night, has a ridiculously large collection of hats and is fascinated by Samurai culture (he spends part of the novel walking round in a dressing gown). He also really wants a pygmy hippopotamus from Liberia. The action of the book is a snapshot of life from the eyes of someone who lacks understanding. Although many significant events occur, their significance is not recognised by Tochtli which makes it almost an odd reading experience. As a reader we are within and without - we can infer the seriousness of the events from what Tochtli says but it is difficult to ascribe any sense of danger or panic to the situations because of how they are narrated. I think this is a very powerful technique. I found myself worried, uncomfortable and amused in a strange way. It is dark and occasionally quite disturbing, given the subject matter and the age of the narrator. 

Simon over at Savidge Reads talked about confronting vs comforting fiction the other day and I think this novel encapsulates the ideas surrounding confronting fiction. There are themes in this (death, drugs, murder, mutilation and isolation) that are perhaps the epitome of confrontation but I would not have had the book any other way. I felt uncomfortable whilst reading it, yes, but I think that is the point of it. It is life. A sordid, destructive and not particularly delightful life, maybe, but a life nonetheless. I think that's why you can't just set aside fiction that happens to have themes you may not like because, in doing so, you miss out on all the intricacies of reality. The things that happen that just may not (thankfully, usually) happen to you. But knowing is important and that knowledge could help you at some point, somewhere.

For the writing I would highly recommend this novel and for the themes. Prepare to be confronted because if you do, it is worth it. I'm looking forward to what I discover next from And Other Stories.

'Mexico is a disastrous country, too. It's such a disastrous country that you can't get hold of a Liberian Pygmy hippopotamus. Actually, that's what you call being a third-world country.'


Tuesday, 19 November 2013

The Classics Club Spin #4

EDIT: Ok, so the number was revealed and that number is...10. Lucky me, I have a book from my 'No. Just no' category - Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. I must say, after various twitter conversations yesterday, I am now oddly looking forward to reading it to see which side I come down on. There seems to be quite a divide between those who love it and those who hate it. I wonder which side I will fall on...

Oh Classics Club, you sly temptress. Another Classics Spin! After a hatrick of complete winners chosen by the spin I am raring to go and add a fourth. I was going to go all out and use a random generator (inspiration from Sam and Riv) but I find that slightly stressful so I'm sticking with my categories from the last spin. They worked for me then so fingers crossed they'll work for me again.

The idea of the spin is to pick 20 books from your Classics Club list on your blog by Monday 18th November. A number between 1 and 20 will be announced on Monday and we are to read the corresponding book by 1st January. A risky business...

Please, please, oh pretty please!

1. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
2. Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
3. No Name by Wilkie Collins (give me the Wilkie!)
4. The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
5. The Illiad by Homer

No. Just no.

6. The Monk by Matthew Lewis
7. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
8. What Maisie Knew by Henry James
9. Parade's End by Ford Maddox Ford
10. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Well, if I must.

11. Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
12. Moon and Sixpence by W Somerset Maugham
13. The Women's Room by Marilyn French
14. The Rector's Daughter by FM Mayor
15. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Oh, go on then.

16. Story of an African Farm by Olive Schreiner
17. The Time Machine by HG Wells
18. Jacobs Room by Virginia Woolf
19. Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
20. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

I just can't get enough of the spin! It's a pretty perfect way to choose a winter read to savour.

Are you joining in? Which book are you dreading?


Sunday, 17 November 2013

#readWilkie: The Half-Way Point

This weekend marks the half-way point for The Moonstone read-along. And what a half! I'm loving it. On the first of this month, after a long wait, I finally picked up my copy of Wilkie's The Moonstone and opened that first page. Since then it has been like a non-stop party in my cranium with all the Wilkie loving going on. I decided a long time ago that Wilkie is one of my favourite authors and so far (and don't let me down) The Moonstone is confirming my love and nudging him up the leader board. 

The Moonstone starts in India where the slightly dodgy John Herncastle may or may not have done some really naughty things to get his grubby mitts on the stone. Nothing is clear. Zoom forward a few years and the stone is bequeathed to JH's niece, Rachel Verinder (who is perhaps a tad dodgy herself). BUT disaster strikes when the stone mysteriously goes missing overnight from a locked house and nothing looked to have been messed with. THE PLOT THICKENS. And there we have it, enter a bunch of awesome characters and some suspect ones and The Moonstone is underway.

I'm currently on page 336 out of 527, in the middle of the lawyer, Mr Bruff's narrative. Bruff is very different to the previous two narrators, just as Clack was very different to Betteredge. There are many things I love about Wilkie and his ability to write characters is one of them. Betteredge was just brilliant - someone (sorry, I forget who) described him as like a grandfather, albeit a slightly sexist but ultimately well-meaning grandfather. His love of Robinson Crusoe really is outstanding and even slightly persuaded me to try for a reread of that (ghastly) book. Then we move onto Miss Clack, the 'rampant spinster' who is determined to enlighten all those around her with her various religious tracts. She has some pretty impressive skills for spreading the word.

I must say, considering the title of the book and all, the actual moonstone gets forgotten a fair bit. I question whether they really want to find it or are more interested in the gossip and the excitement of talking about the missing moonstone. And the scandal. Who doesn't love a damn good scandal?! Still, tell me where the shiny is!

I'm actually dying to just sit down and devour the remainder of the novel but I am working hard to resist so that I can savour the experience. Reading a Wilkie biography is helping with that - I'm still getting Wilkie goodness but making it last at the same time. I have noticed one or two of you lovely participants have already finished. Clearly the Wilkster is hard to resist. 

So, hows it going? Is the Wilkie love contagious? I know I have certainly bought myself one (or two) of his other novels...


Tuesday, 12 November 2013

At the moment I am...

Reading...too many books at once. It's actually getting out of hand. I am currently making my way through:
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
Wilkie Collins by Peter Ackroyd
At Least You're in Tuscany by Jennifer Criswell
Between the Sheets by Lesley McDowell
Fighting on the Home Front by Kate Adie

Definitely getting out of hand...but, four out of five are non-fiction which kind of explains why I'm reading so many (I tend to read non-fiction in small bouts). It is also cause for a mini celebration because I rarely do read non-fiction. I've got a taste for it now clearly.

Writing...about War literature. In an exciting turn of events I have managed to get a voluntary role as Books Editor on a website about the Centenary (perfect job) so I am researching, compiling and basically doing everything I love. Amazing.

Listening to...the sound of phones ringing at work and slowly losing the will to live.

Looking forward to...the end of the month. My Mother and I are going to Glasgow for a couple of days at the end of November which is really exciting. We have already been checking out the art gallery/museum and bookshop situations for plenty of cultural adventures. I'm just dying for a couple of days away from work.

Hankering for...some Wilkie time. I put The Moonstone aside for a couple days to stop me from whizzing through it but now I'm feeling the need to get back to reading it. I'll be back with you this evening, Wilkie, don't fret...

Fireworks on the Southbank


Friday, 8 November 2013

5 Reasons to Love Wilkie Collins

We are one week in to The Moonstone readalong and, I have to say, I am loving it. I mean, I'm hardly surprised because it is Wilkie after all, but I am really and truly loving it. Sometimes the odd classic takes a minute to get in to (and by a minute, I obviously mean about 100 pages), but The Moonstone had me hooked from the get-go. I'm going to put that down to Gabriel Betteredge's narration. What a guy.

Anyway, to keep the Wilkie enthusiasm flowing I thought I'd share with you '5 Reasons to Love Wilkie'. I'm practising restraint here, there are so many more than five...

1. Marian Halcombe

Hello strong female character who is perhaps my role model (of sorts) in life. Need I say more?

2. Dickens and he were great chums

I own two books that these two delights co-authored: The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices and The Perils of Certain English Prisoners. I've read bits of 'The Tour' and it is witty and detailed and brilliant. I look forward to getting around to the prisoners. Also, these two were actors together. Yes, Wilkie was an actor. This guy just gets more and more exciting.

3. His grasp of the slightly freaky detective mystery story genre is impressive
The Haunted Hotel? Seriously freaked me out for a bit at the end there...And the opening to The Woman in White? Wow *shivers*.

4. He was a little eccentric and a bit of a womaniser
According to Peter Ackroyd's biography, Wilkie starting taking an interest in the ladies at quite a young age. Did someone say hound dog?

5. He was prolific. 

I had absolutely no idea how many novels/novellas/short stories Wilkie had actually produced in his lifetime. I am stunned and slightly worried for the welfare of my bank balance.

And a bonus #6 for good measure: Wilkie was an actual Barrister. Man of many talents much? Though he managed to never step foot in court or actually do any barrister-ing. It may explain, however, the focus on the law in a number of his novels.

Have you come across any interesting Wilkie related facts?


Wednesday, 6 November 2013

At the moment I am...

Reading...I'm immersing myself in Wilkie right now (I could think of worse things!). I'm maybe just over a quarter of the way through The Moonstone and completely addicted. Wilkie has this way of making the characters so alive and the story so intriguing that makes me not want to stop reading. I'm also reading Peter Ackroyd's recent biography of Wilkie which is written well and really interesting. Poor old Wilkie, he was a bit of an oddball but so darn lovely.
Saw this in Waterstones on Saturday. I resisted. It was hard, but I did it.
Writing...I'm working on a really exciting new voluntary project which hopefully I will be able to shout about soon but otherwise, much as ever.

Listening to...I've got a little bit of a thing for Walk the Moon at the moment. The album is so upbeat and cheering for these dark wintry nights.

Looking forward to...the weekend (as usual). My sister and I are planning on going to an 80s/90s night in Camden on Saturday night in celebration of the fact she has an entire weekend off (which never ever ever happens). 

Hankering for...a run. The dark evenings are really putting me off going at the moment. It's hard to find the motivation to go and high vis isn't the most flattering of clothing, particularly when it is lycra high vis (avert your eyes, people, save your sight). Although I am really tempted to try out the whole audiobook whilst running idea so maybe when I download an audiobook (any recommendations?), I will magically discover that lost motivation.

How is your week going? Reading anything good? Looking forward to anything?


Monday, 4 November 2013

Blog Tour Review: Gracianna

Trini Amador
Greenleaf Book Group Press
269 pages

'And he knew Gracianna was an energy mass that attracted like a gravitational pull - she was constantly moving ahead, gathering energy and emotions along the way.'

It has actually become increasingly rare for a book to have such a hold on me that I stay up until two in the morning to finish it. But that happened last week with Gracianna. What a book. It was worth looking a bit haggard and being completely exhausted the next day, without a doubt.

Gracianna tells the story of Trini Amador's great-grandmother Gracianna Lasaga:

'Gracianna bravely sets off to Paris in the early 1940s–on her way to America, she hopes–but is soon swept into the escalation of the war and the Nazi occupation of Paris. After chilling life-and-death struggles, she discovers that her missing sister has surfaced as a labourer in Auschwitz. When she finds an opportunity to fight back against the Nazis to try to free her sister, she takes it–even if it means using lethal force.'

The scope of the novel is quite huge - we get a sense of Gracianna's life and character from her time in Basque country through to her move to Paris and after. I really appreciated getting to know Gracianna as a person before she is flung into this crazy world of death and intrigue. It made her seem more of a whole person and therefore one I could empathise with. It also makes the events of the novel seem even more shocking. To see a young girl grow up in the country, move to Paris and then play a key role in the resistance reflected the truth of the matter and introduced me to a whole new side of the French resistance. As a character, Gracianna is more than interesting. She is strong, wilful and courageous but above all she is hopeful and optimistic even in situations that, to an objective outsider, seem entirely hopeless. I think if you want to be inspired and invigorated by one woman's courage then I'd recommend reading this.

There were a couple of little niggly things within the structure that came to the fore occasionally but, with a story as good as this, structural niggles can be overlooked. Some of the language was wonderful and the way Amador wormed his way into the heads of his characters was particularly delightful. Considering the family connection and the amount of truth in the story, I think it is a difficult task that Amador has managed with skill. 

Aside from reading one other novel that features Basque culture, I pretty much knew nothing about it before reading Gracianna. It seems that Basque is synonymous with so many different attributes, all of which are demonstrated in Gracianna and Juan. It was interesting to learn about a culture at the same time as delving into a story. All the basque proverbs quoted throughout were a joy to read and some I will apply to my own life: 'Those who don't look forward, stay behind'.

Perhaps the most heartwarming aspects of the novel are the sections involving Gracianna's great capacity to love and to love in such a flawed, human way. We all make mistakes in our relationships, be they family or romantic. The two great relationships in this novel are Gracianna and Juan's and Gracianna and Constance's. It is her relationship with her sister Constance that determines the action she takes and the unusual path she chose in the resistance. But it is her relationship with Juan and his unwavering devotion to her that really got me.

For an inspiring, heartfelt and courageous read I would rate Gracianna highly. I challenge anyone not to fall a little bit in love with Gracianna and her strength.

To see the schedule for the rest of the Gracianna tour, go to:

Blog Tour Interview: Gracianna

As a reader I am such a nosey nellie. I'm frequently just as interested in the author and the writing process as the book itself. My inclination to be nosey reached an almost all-time high as I read Gracianna. How could it not considering the premise - Gracianna is based on the life of the author's great-grandmother in Nazi occupied France. Read on to find out how Trini Amador, author of Gracianna, felt about writing his great-grandmother's story and how he feels it is important to chronicle the Holocaust.

I found Gracianna to be an inspiring book - I came out of it feeling a new sense of determination and courage. Is this a reaction that you hoped for? Was there something particular you wanted people to take away from the experience?

Thanks you so much for inviting me to LitNerd. I appreciate your comments about Gracianna. I hoped folks would think about the commitment and effort of past generations. They did not complain, they had it hard, they sacrificed. Facebook was one of the reasons for writing the book. I thought of about young folks (maybe a young girl around 19, Gracianna’s age in the book) that post pictures and socialize….what might they believe in, today, so completely, that they would act heroically like Gracianna? 

Did you face any challenges writing Gracianna's story given the family connection?

The challenges were many. Firstly, Gracianna never talked about the war or her past much in detail. She never spoke about it with me since I was just a young boy. For example, I did not know until the day I stated writing the book that Gracianna’s sister had been in a concentration camp nor that she has lived through it.  Families are complicated, meaning along with that comes the difficulties of communication and getting the complete story like in any other family. Overall I relied on my wits and own research to get the underlying facts that I needed to write the story. 

What inspired you to tell her story?

We had been working on our family wine brand for several years and had been thinking about her since we named the winery after her. When I was a boy she used to talk about being thankful…. “Be thankful…,” what does that mean to a five year old bay? Not much but it stick with me and as I grew older I better understood the meaning. 

I love how well researched this book is - particularly the details of Basque culture - how did you find researching the novel? Did you find anything particularly revealing about the past?

I went to the Basque Country to get a feel for where Gracianna was from. Lisa and I ended up in St. Jean Pied de Port – an ancient walled city. It was rugged but beautiful. The hillsides were steep and rocky. I read anything I could on the Basque. It was a wonderful awakening.  I had learned the Gracianna might be from Baigorri and it made sense that Juan was from Laxia (Laxague was his Basque given name). We drove all around the countryside in wide wonder. 

I know the story is based on the true events of Gracianna's life - how much of it is fact and how much fiction? Did you struggle creating fiction around the facts of your great-grandmother's life? 

The book is full of facts. It is hard to put percentages on it but I had no problem filling in the blanks. As a boy I had fantasized about the gun and how it had gotten in her night stand. There was not a long way from the lip to the cup to get it in her hand doing the impossible. She was tough. She was resolute. I had nearly fifty years to let the story roll around in my head – by time I was ready to write Gracianna it burst onto the page. 

I holed up in a hotel room in Asia for three days and wrote and wrote and wrote. The typical novel is 100,000 words, I wrote 12,000 words in three days. 

Many writers (both then and now) feel like writing about events such as the world wars and the Holocaust is important because they 'bear witness' to such atrocities. Did you feel like you were doing that with Gracianna? How important do you think it is to narrate these past events?

It was important to “chronicle” the war and the Holocaust. I went to Auschwitz as part of my research. I had no delusion that I could tell much new about the war or the atrocities but I did feel, when I got to it, that some of perspective might have been different. It was not easy to research. I learned more than I had expected. I am glad I did. It adds to my constant journey toward gratitude.

Does Gracianna have anything further to tell us or do you have something different in the pipeline?

Huh, funny you should ask. There is another story and my publisher has asked if I would be interested to write it. I will decide as we get into the New Year. I would LOVE to write again and hope to be able to do that. 

Finally, could you share with us your favourite reads of 2013 so far?

Favourite read is to go back for me, always: The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane. I love this story and come back to it over and over again. It was the first time that I understand that a “story” had a deeper meaning. It was not just the words on the page and the story itself but there is always a message…well good work has a message right?

Thank you to Trini for answering my questions so wonderfully! Read my review of Gracianna here.


Saturday, 2 November 2013

Review: Havisham by Ronald Frame

Ronald Frame
Faber & Faber
368 pages

'Our lives are fictions. How others interpret us. What we allow others to do with us. What we make of ourselves. What we fancy, make believe, we might do.'

This book was the final straw/last nail in the coffin for me in that it has finally proven to me that you cannot start reading a book with certain expectations. I've been wanting to read Havisham for ages and ages, all the while thinking I knew how it was vaguely going to go and how it was going to be written. In terms of plot, yes, my expectations were more or less fulfilled but in terms of writing - I was completely off the mark. I was expecting a run of the mill novel with all the usual character/plot devices and no funny business with the writing style. I hadn't expected it to be, what I can only call, experimental. And then, I hadn't expected it to be so beautiful. Lesson learned: don't have expectations.

Havisham, as can easily be inferred, tells the story of Dickens's Miss Havisham and how she becomes the infamous manipulator of Estella and Pip. The back story Frame creates for Catherine Havisham makes it hard to believe that she could have turned into anything other than what she does. She begins the story as a naive, curious, energetic and intelligent young girl aware of her standing in society but not taking much notice of it (she forms a very strong bond with a maid). But she is lied to, manipulated and used quite ferociously for the gain of others until she herself becomes a master manipulator intent on revenge (enter Estella).  

The best way I can describe the writing in Havisham is like a series of pictures. It flows and is a linear story but small things are focused on in detail and described with marvellous skill. It is a character study more than a plot-driven novel which I think explains this unusual style. Although the story is significant and obviously present, it felt like we were being introduced to Miss Havisham and elements of her personality slowly revealed to us through her actions and interactions. It is a series of pictures punctuated by quotes from writers, poets and philosophers which made the reading experience even richer and more enlightening. 

Havisham overlaps with Great Expectations quite considerably towards the end but it still sticks to the other side of the story, Miss Havisham's side, rather than trying to unrealistically weave in elements of Dickens's original tale. There are some wonderfully metafictional sections, though, around Pip as the author/narrator which would please any lover of Great Expectations.

For a new twist on an old story and some disarmingly beautiful writing, I would really recommend reading Havisham. I think whether you've read Great Expectations or not, or whether you even like it or not, Havisham is an emotive story about women's roles in Victorian England and what women will do to get by. 

'The engagement banns were read.

   I surrendered myself to everything, and became - 
   that cherry tree throwing its branches
   the flame leaping on the new wick
   the water tumbling joyfully over the weir
   the fragrant spring wind seeping trough the window cracks
   the yellow cart rolling down the street
   the vigorous hyacinths sprouting from their bulbs, after a dark cupboard-growing
   the old Roman bricks stuck into the flint wall at the bottom of the garden, when I would sit in the mild sun staring and staring in front of me.
   I was still trying to believe my luck.'


Friday, 1 November 2013

#readWilkie: The Start

'There are few higher, better, or more profitable enjoyments in this world than reading a good novel.' (Wilkie, 1856)

Well said, Wilkie...So, the day is finally here. Let the month of Wilkie begin! Thankfully I was out for most of yesterday evening otherwise I think I would have spent to whole thing fondling the book and becoming increasingly desperate to just start reading. Yeh. It's like that. Anyway, since I wasn't in close proximity to the book until late when I was too tired to do anything but catch some z's, I avoided that kind of over-excited (slightly worrying) behaviour. Phew.

To get me started today I'll be doing some tube journey and lunchtime reading before settling in (post-gym) with Wilkie this evening. It's going to be wonderful. It's November, it's cold and it's damp so for me it will be buckets of tea, blanket, snacks and reading.

Just to remind you all of the schedule for the is completely low pressure, so low pressure you could do it lying down (which I will be, at times):

1st November - START READING

16th/17th November - Mid-way catch are you getting on? What do you think?
30th November - The finish and review (though not necessarily on that date if you aren't able)

I'm going to be doing some Wilkie-related posts throughout the month just so I can have a bit of an outlet for my excessive Wilkie love. I'm planning on reading Peter Ackroyd's recent biography this month (it has been placed by my bed) which I'm hoping will shed some light on Wilkie the man and author.

There is a master Mister Linky below so add all your posts to that as and when you decide to write one. And don't forget the hashtag #readWilkie on twitter.

Given it's the first day today, how about sharing a picture of your version of The Moonstone on your blog or twitter? We all know that book porn is ridiculously addictive and I know there are some knee-knockingly gorgeous versions available so, please share!

Happy reading everyone and I hope you enjoy reading Wilkie!

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