For popular science book fans …

WhatWonderfulWorldblogtour2A little bit of advance publicity. Marcus Chown writes for New Scientist, and has a new book coming out on October 3rd. It’s called What a Wonderful World: One Man’s Attempt to Explain the Big Stuff, and I’m delighted to be taking part in his blog tour.  You can see all the blogs taking part here – Chown Blog Tour poster.

Chown is one of my favourite science writers, and I did a Q&A post with him when his previous book We Need to Talk About Kelvin: What everyday things tell us about the universe was published. Click here to see the Q&A, and here for that book review.

I’m currently in the middle of his new book, and I’m enjoying it very much.  The review will follow in due course, and I hope you’ll join me on the tour on October 12th.

From Here to Eternity – first thoughts …

One of the books I’m currently reading is James Jones’s doorstop of a novel From Here to Eternity.  First published in 1951, it’s set in Hawaii, and follows the peacetime exploits of G company in the months immediately preceding Pearl Harbor and the USA’s entry into WWII in 1941.

here to eternityIt has just been republished with many excisions restored. The military language is also peppered with the vernacular, and many swear-words were cut – Jones apparently had to bargain hard to keep each one in, some cut scenes have also been restored.

The basic story follows two of the men in G Company. G is known for its boxing, and when career soldier Private Prewitt transfers in, they hoped he would become a new champion. Prewitt, however refuses to box and gets poorly treated by the NCOs as a result. The other strand follows Sergeant Milt Warden who has an affair with his Captain’s wife.

Milton Anthony Warden was thirty-four years old. In the eight months he had been topkicker of G Company he had wrapped that outfit around his waist and buttoned his shirt over it. At intervals he like to remind himself of this proud fact. He was a veritable demon for work; he liked to remind himself of that, too. He had also pulled this slovenly organization out of the pitfalls of lax administration. In fact, when he thought about it, and he often did, he had  never met a man who was as amazingly adept at anything he put his hand to as was Milton Anthony Warden.

I’ve now reached page 160 of over 950, and am finding it very dense, and slightly hard-going – yet Jones really understands the plight of the enlisted man, and that makes it fascinating. It’s incredibly detailed too – I’ve just read a scene where the guys are playing poker for dimes in the latrines – and that is around twenty pages of banter.The writing is driven by dialogue and observation rather than description. It rather reminds me of Elmore Leonard minus the humour, for it is really a relentless life for these guys – the endless fatigue duties for those who won’t box …

I am beginning to enjoy reading this book. I’m glad I’ve persevered past the difficult ‘I’ve read 50 pages, do I really want to read another 900?’ point.  I’m also glad that I’ve never seen the 1953 movie in full – just clips – usually of the scene where Burt Lancaster (Warden) rolls in the sea with Deborah Kerr.  This doesn’t actually happen in the book; I know that. But not having seen the film properly, my vision of what’s going to happen hasn’t been spoiled either.

logoI hadn’t been planning to write a blog post so early into the book, but was prompted to by an article in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph about Tim Rice’s latest co-venture with Geordie composer Stuart Brayson – a musical of From Here to Eternity, and based upon the book not the movie!

The musical promises to straddle the eras of swing and blues as exemplified by Tommy Dorsey and Elvis – so the music could be rather good, and Rice’s lyrics are always excellent.  It previews from Monday in the West End. I’m not rushing to book my tickets yet, but I shall definitely follow the reviews and see…

One last thing – the title of the novel comes from Kipling’s Gentlemen-Rankers, in Barrack-room Ballads

Gentlemen-rankers out on a spree,
Damned from here to eternity,
God ha’ mercy on such as we,
Ba! Yah! Bah!

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Source: Amazon Vine review copy. To explore further on Amazon, please click below:
From Here to Eternity (Penguin Modern Classics) by James Jones – this edition published 5th Sept. Paperback 976 pages.
From Here To Eternity [DVD] (1953) starring Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr

“Echoed voices in the night she’s a restless spirit on an endless flight”

Babayagaby Toby Barlow

babayaga

Toby Barlow’s debut, Sharp Teeth, which I capsule-reviewed back in the early days of this blog should have really appeared in my Top novels I’ve read by men post from a couple of days ago. His Sopranos-style story of gang warfare amongst the werewolves in LA, written in the form of a prose poem has stayed with me ever since I read it, however back then I only gave it 9/10 and it didn’t make the cut for that list.

When I read he’d written a new novel, I couldn’t wait for the UK publication and ordered a copy of the American hardback, and for the past few days I’ve been totally absorbed in reading Babayaga.

The Baba Yaga of Eastern European folklore were supernatural and ferocious women, said to live in a hut on chicken legs, typified as a sorceress/mid-wife/fortune-teller style character with a large pestle and mortar, who had a close relationship with nature and could be benevolent – or more often not.

The Babayagas of Barlow’s new novel are definitely sorceresses. The setting is Paris in 1959. The book starts with Zoya, a beautiful young woman of Russian extraction, who has realised that Leon, her lover of fifteen years, is starting to question why she’s not looking any older.  Time to get rid of him – she didn’t quite mean to impale him on a railing though.

Meanwhile, Will Van Wyck, an American working in the Parisian branch of an advertising agency, is despairing over the big ideas of his last remaining client, and wishing that he didn’t have to put together those company profiles for Mr Brandon who would appear to be linked to the CIA. Two years in Paris, and he still doesn’t really understand the city and its inhabitants, but neither does he want to go home to Detroit.

Zoya turns to Elga, an older woman, a more traditional wicked old witch (although she wasn’t always thus as we eventually find out). These two have been working their way around Europe for centuries, always moving on when trouble looms. Elga is fed up of Zoya’s misfortunes with men though, and when Zoya unwittingly puts Elga in the frame for Leon’s murder, the old crone starts to dream of vengeance.

As for Inspector Vidot, he gets the case – and following the trail Zoya leads to Elga nearly meets his own end, instead being transformed into a flea.  Hopping from host to host, he will continue to try to unravel this mystery in true Kafkaesque style.

Soon Will meets Zoya, and it is love at first sight, but Will also gets mixed up with Oliver, another American under Brandon’s umbrella. Oliver is Gatsby to Will’s Nick, and leads him a merry dance through Parisian high-living and lowlife contacts. At last together, Will and Zoya get to know each other a little better. She encourages him to talk about his work in advertising…

‘What do you think works?’
Even though Will had answered this in presentations to clients a hundred times before, it made him blush to answer the question now. ‘Seduction.’
‘You seduce them?’ Zoya thought about it for a second and then her eyes brightened. ‘Yes, I see, so this client of yours believes it is a kind of war, but you think you can win with love. Maybe you’re both right. People can be conquered, certainly, but your idea is more like those pretty women I hear they have put to work in the airplanes now.’
‘The stewardesses?’
‘Yes,’ Zoya said. ‘You see, it’s not enough of a miracle to be flying high up in the air, even all the way across the entire ocean, that magic isn’t enough, so they put someone pretty and seductive on the plane, now there’s a possibility of sex or romance, a temptation to lure you in. It’s right out of a folktale, a beautiful girl with a fool in a flying ship.’
‘Well, I don’t – it’s a little more simple than that.’ Will stammered, her mention of sex making his heart skip a beat. ‘You really only have to show them a bit of life they admire or desire, a story they want to be a part of, paint them a picture and then invite them into it.’
‘Ah, I understand.’ She smiled, almost to herself. ‘So it’s not love, it’s merely a spell. So, then what? Tell me, what happens after these victims of yours buy your product and the spell is broken? When they awaken to find their life is as empty and sad as it was before, only now a little poorer too?’

Isn’t advertising spin ‘magic’!

We’re all set up for a fantastic, in all sense of the word, multi-stranded adventure combining witches, spies, gangsters, murder, sorcery and romance. It is complicated, and in a few places, a little slow paced, but that’s a small price to pay for finding out how it all comes together.

Ruby-Tandoh-5Will is such a sweet character – an innocent abroad, and a little wet. This adventure arrives at the right time for him, but he is put into so many tricky situations, you can’t help but feel for him. Zoya can be rather irritating though – I was watching The Great British Bake Off  just before finishing the book the other night, and I couldn’t help identifying her with Ruby of the puppy dog eyes! But then as she’s survived all that time (Zoya that is), it’s not surprising that she’s a bit self-centred! Elga is a proper witch, ancient and so cunning, a formidable opponent to anyone who crosses her. I really loved Inspector Vidot though, who has to employ all his resources to stay alive and solve the case.

Although ostensibly set in 1959 at the height of the Cold War, this novel felt as if it was much earlier – the twenties, or even a little earlier. Artefacts and events to anchor the book to the late 1950s were few and far between – and indeed much of the Paris described would have been there already in previous decades.

Most essentially in this novel, the magic works. The way the women make their spells is quite realistic and combines, like British magician and mentalist Derren Brown, “magic, suggestion, psychology, misdirection and showmanship”. Their magic, however, isn’t the stage kind, and there is a physical cost involved keeping it real, which is so important to help you suspend your disbelief.

One nice touch linking back to Sharp Teeth, was the inclusion of some prose poems between the chapters in the form of witches songs.

Ghosts, they say, stay for three simple reasons:
they love life too wholly to leave,
they love some other too deeply to part,
or they need to linger on for a bit,
to coax a distant knife
toward its fated throat.

This novel is funny and fun, always quirky, yet dark and romantic too. A perfect autumnal read – I loved it. (9.5/10)

I shall leave you with the source of the quote at the top of the post. It’s from Witchy Woman by The Eagles.

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Source: Own copy. to explore further on Amazon UK, please click below:
Babayaga by Toby Barlow, pub August 2013 by Farrar Straus Giroux (US), hardback 383 pages.
Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow, paperback

Top Novels – part two

Following on from my post yesterday on my top-rated novels by men, here is part two featuring novels by women. This listiness was inspired by Thomas at My Porch.

The books listed are those scoring 9.5 or a perfect 10 on my spreadsheet which I’ve kept since 2005. It’s a much shorter list, there are 35 titles this time …  do share your thoughts.

My Top-rated Novels Written by Women

birthday boysBainbridge, Beryl – An awfully big adventure (1989), The Birthday Boys (1991), Every man for himself (1996)
Barker, Nicola – Clear (2004)
Chevalier, Tracy – Girl with a pearl earring (1999)
Delafield, EM -Diary of a Provincial Lady (1930)
DeWitt, Helen – Lightning Rods (2012)
Evaristo, Bernardine – Mr Loverman (2013)
Grushin, Olga – The Concert Ticket (2010)
Harris, Charlaine – Dead until dark (2001)
Hoffman
, Alice – The Ice Queen (2005)
What did you do in the war Mum?Ivey, Eowyn – The Snow Child (2012)
Jackson, Shirley – We have always lived in the castle (1962)
Jensen, Liz War – Crimes for the Home (2002)
Klaussman, Liza – Tigers in Red Weather (2012)
Martin, Valerie – Property (2003)
Mazetti, Katarina – Benny & Shrimp (2008)
Metalious, Grace – Peyton Place (1956)
Ogawa, Yoko – The Housekeeper and the Professor (2009)
Pearson, Allison – I think I love you (2010)
Proulx, Annie – The Shipping News (1993)
Roberts
, Bethan – My Policeman (2012)
200px-TheSecretDiaryOfAdrianMoleSmailes, Caroline – Like bees to honey (2010)
Smith, Alexis M – Glaciers (2013)
Stewart, Mary – The crystal cave (1970)
Tearne, Roma – Brixton Beach (2009)
Townsend, Sue – The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole age 13 3/4 (1982), The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole (1984)
Vickers, Salley – The Cleaner of Chartres (2012)
Waters, Sarah – The night watch (2006)
Watson, Winifred – Miss Pettigrew lives for a day (1938)
Westbrook, Kate – The Moneypenny diaries: For her eyes only (2005)
Whipple, Dorothy – Greenbanks (1932)
Xinran – Sky burial (2004)
Ziervogel, Meike – Magda (2013)

Top Novels

I should be reading (or ironing, cleaning, or insert word *here*), but I was browsing through a load of blogs I follow, and I read Thomas’s latest posts over at My Porch in which he has analysed the books he’s read to find his top novels by women and his top novels by men. He sorted all the novels that he has rated 8 and over and listed them. We have a few titles in common, but not that many. List-geek that I am, I couldn’t resist doing a cut-down version of this for myself – Thank you Thomas!

I’ve been keeping records of my reading on a spreadsheet since around 2005, and nearly 900 books are catalogued and rated on it. So I did a quick sort to separate all those that scored a perfect 10, and the few rating a 9.5 – it came to 129 books. Adding those that got 9/10 would have added another 180 to the list.

Then I sorted them into fiction by men (67), fiction by women (34), novels for children and teens (20), and non-fiction and memoirs(8). It was no surprise to me that fiction by men outnumbered fiction by women, but the factor of two did take me back a little bit!

If you can bear to read lists, here is part one of my list, women tomorrow.  Do let me know your views on any of these!  You’ll see that several authors get two or more mentions. There are no links, some books were read pre-blog – to search out titles mentioned, use my categories look-up on the right.  Here goes …

 

My Top-rated Novels Written by Men (since 2005)

wasp factoryAckroyd, Peter – Hawksmoor (1985)
Auster, Paul – The New York Trilogy (1987)
Banks, Iain – The wasp factory (1984)
Bates, HE – The Darling Buds of May (1958)
Beaumont, Sebastian – Thirteen (2006) & The Juggler (2009)
Bennett, Alan – The uncommon reader (2007)
Brookmyre, Christopher – The sacred art of stealing (2002)
Bulkgakov, Mikhail – The master and Margarita (1938)
Carillo, Charles – My ride with Gus (1996)
Chbosky, Stephen – The Perks of Being a Wallflower (1999)
Connell, Evan S – Mrs Bridge (1959)
Connelly, Michael The concrete blonde (1994), The last coyote (1995), The Poet (1995)
Defoe, Gideon – The Pirates! In an adventure with Scientists (2004)
sisters brothersDeWitt, Patrick – The Sisters Brothers (2011)
Fforde, Jasper – Shades of grey (2010)
Fitzgerald, F Scott – The Great Gatsby (1925), Tender is the night (1934)
Golding, William – Lord of the Flies (1954), Rites of passage (1980)
Greene, Graham – Our man in Havana (1958)
Grey, Zane – Riders of the Purple Sage (1912)
Griffiths, Neil – Saving Caravaggio (2006)
Grossi, Pietro – Fists (2009)
Haig, Matt – The Humans (2013)
Hardy, Thomas – Tess of the D’Urbervilles (1912)
Harris, Robert – The ghost (2007)
Hornby, Nick – High fidelity (1995)
Ishiguro, Kazuo – Never let me go (2005)
Keyes, Daniel – Flowers for Algernon (1966)flowers
Larsen, Reif – The selected works of T.S. Spivet (2009)
Le Carré, John – The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1963)
Lemaitre, Pierre – Alex (2013)
Lethem, Jonathan – Motherless Brooklyn (2000)
Magrs, Paul – Never the bride (2006)
Martin, Valerie – Property (2003)
Maupin, Armistead – Tales of the City (1979)
McCarthy, Cormac – The Road (2006)
Meek, James – The people’s act of love (2005)
Mills, Magnus – All quiet on the orient express (2000), The Scheme for Full Employment (2003), A cruel bird came to the nest and looked in (2011)
Mosley, Walter – Always outnumbered always outgunned (1997)
electricityNobbs, David – Cupid’s Dart (2007)
Paling, Chris – Newton’s Swing (2000)
Peake, Mervyn – The Titus Books (Gormenghast Trilogy) (1967)
Portis, Charles – True Grit (1968)
Preston, John – The dig (2007)
Pullman, Philip – The Good Man Jesus & the Scoundrel Christ (2010)
Roberts, Adam – Yellow Blue Tibia (2009)
Robinson, Ray – Electricity (2006), The Man Without (2008)
Saramago, Jose – Blindness (1995)
Shakespeare, William – Hamlet
Shaw, Ali – The Girl with Glass Feet (2009), The Man Who Rained (2012)
Sheriff, R C – The Hopkins Manuscript (1939)winters bone
Simenon, Georges – Dirty Snow (1948)
Siodmak, Curt – Donovan’s Brain (1942)
Smythe, James – The Explorer (2013)
Thompson, Jim – The Killer Inside Me (1952)
Waugh, Evelyn – Brideshead revisited (1945), The loved one (1948)
Woodrell, Daniel – The death of Sweet Mister (2002), Winter’s bone (2006)

Books Are My Bag

DSCF1910

It’s a very rare occasion for me to allow my photo to be taken, but the lure of being put in a draw to win book tokens was enough to be photographed with my ‘Books Are My Bag‘ bag at Mostly Books, my favourite, and local indie bookshop in Abingdon.

If you’re not already aware of it, Books Are My Bag is a UK campaign that launched last week from the Booksellers Association. It is celebrating books and bookshops and will run up until Christmas. While stocks last, if you buy a book in a participating bookshop, you can go orange and snaffle one of their free tote bags.

* * * * *

Posts about books will resume soon – I’m in the middle of about four books at the same time at the moment – which isn’t my usual way of reading, so bear with …

Blogbirthday Giveaway Winners …

Dear all,

Thank you so much to everyone who commented and joined in on my blog’s fifth birthday giveaway. Your support is much appreciated.

Yesterday my daughter performed the draw for me, and the three winners were …

Sakura

Kaggsy

Heavenali

Well done!  They will each receive the book of their choice from my list of 2013 five star reads.  I’ll be in touch to get addresses.

I hope you all have a great weekend.

A tale of two Richards …

Lion Heart by Justin Cartwright

lion heart

Richard I was a king I know very little about. The sum total of my knowledge comprises little more than knowing that he went on the crusades to the Holy Land, his mother was Eleanor of Acquitaine, and the minstrel Blondel was supposedly involved in his release from imprisonment in an Austrian castle after the third Crusade, and that Tim Rice co-wrote a musical about him – the troubadour that is.

So I was looking forward to reading Justin Cartwright’s new novel.  Although I’d not read any of his other books, Cartwright has a good pedigree having previously been Booker shortlisted, and friends have recommended his previous book Other People’s Money to me.

Lion Heart is the tale of two Richards. First, the historical one – recounting Richard the Lionheart’s later days and his attempts to get the relic of ‘The True Cross’ to safety from the Holy Land. The second is set in the present, the story of Richard Cathar who is researching the former.

Cathar’s late father Alaric had been obsessed with Richard I and in particular his supposed meeting with Robin Hood, but he was never able to prove it.  His son saw him as a hippy who didn’t take it seriously enough.  There was little love lost between father and son, particularly when young Richard is packed off to boarding school – a nautical college …

At the end of my first term, my father asked me, with that old roué’s pointless smile on his threaded face, his fair flapping winningly over his brow and coursing in two wavelets back over his ears, how school had been. I said, ‘Oh, fucking marvellous, I have learned how to wash the inside of a lavatory with my head. Thank you, Pater. I’m sure it will come in handy when I join the Navy.’
He laughed: life is after all really just one cosmic joke.
‘That’s cool, man.’
I hit him, knocking him off his chair. From the floor he appraised me for a moment. I was only fourteen but had been doing a lot of rowing on the Thames, the college’s one and only area of excellence. He was against violence. He stood up, blood streaming from an eyebrow, and walked towards the door. He stopped.
‘I will write to the Commodore and tell him that all shore leave should be cancelled indefinitely. I won’t see you again until you write me an apology.’
‘I had shit in my mouth and hair.  Can you imagine what that was like? And then they rubbed my balls with Cherry Blossom shoe polish.’ (It was oxblood brown.) ‘You should be writing me an apology.’
I was sobbing, but my father was already on his way upstairs to rummage in his bathroom, whistling – I seem to remember – ‘Light my Fire’. He was probably stoned. …

Yet Richard ends up equally obsessed with Dick I – is it a compulsion to prove his father wrong?  Or, might he end up understanding him?

A discovery of some papers gets Richard to follow the paper trail to Jerusalem, a city he starts to fall in love with …

What the adhan speaks of in this mad, beautiful, violent, restless city is the human longing for certainty. And why wouldn’t you want certainty if you lived here? This is a place where horrors, all of them in the name of a higher authority, have been committed for thousands of years a place where countless people have died for their religion, where the walls have been built and destroyed and rebuilt constantly, where Armenian, Syrian and Orthodox priests sail blandly about – Quinqueremes of Nineveh – where observant Jews with side-locks wear their painful blank devotion on their pale faces, where creased Bedouin women in embroidered dresses and triangular jewellery sit patiently outside the Jaffa Gate to sell vegetables, where young Arab men, in strangely faded jeans and knock-off trainers, push trolleys of food stuffs, where in countless cafés men contemplate what might have been, their hair failing, there faces turning to yellowed ochre, as though the tea they drink endlessly is staining them from the inside. Or perhaps it’s the water-cooled smoke from their hookahs that is doing it, smoking them from the outside.

Richard meets Noor – an Arab-Canadian journalist, and they fall madly in love. But just a few weeks later, Noor is kidnapped in Cairo when on assignment and Richard’s life is thrown into turmoil. All is not what it seems with Noor, and Richard ends up having to throw himself into his work whilst waiting for her situation to resolve – just being her boyfriend means he is very low down in the chain of communications.

The author alternates sections of pure history telling Richard I’s story as told by Richard, or is it Alaric?, with the present day one. I found these historical sections rather dry, long and over-factual – but then, they are presented as extracts from a history book. Thus, I did learn a bit about Richard’s great foe Saladin, and all the French castles they besieged on the way home, but this wasn’t the fashion I’d have naturally chosen to read about Richard Coeur de Lion.

By contrast, the present day narrative veered back and forth from Richard’s quest, via his romance, to a spy thriller. I love spy thrillers, but this wasn’t enough of one.  I also enjoy dual narrative novels with historical strands, but the historical part here was too boring, and the present day part was too bitty because of the spy business, although the relationship drama between Richard and Noor was quite gripping.

The result was that it didn’t feel as if it were clear which audience it was aiming at, and it didn’t grab me enough. This is a real shame as Cartwright’s writing is rather good – as in the Jerusalem quotation above. I ended up feeling that the author had tried too hard to distance his quest novel from Dan Brown territory (something he has Richard acknowledge in the text), and ended up by marginalising it.

Lion Heart for me was a missed opportunity for a big, intelligent quest novel with a medieval theme, or it could have been a missed opportunity for a big, intelligent spy novel, both with added romance. I would try reading Cartwright again though, as I’m sure this is quite different to his previous novels.  (6/10)

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Source: Review copy from Amazon Vine. To explore further on Amazon UK, please click below:

blondelLion Heart by Justin Cartwright, pub by Bloomsbury. Sept 12 2013. Hardback, 352 pages.

Other People’s Money by Justin Cartwright (2011)

Blondel Original Cast Album

“… Five years, what a surprise”

… it is always a surprise when you realise that another blogging year has come around. This time it’s a small milestone for me – Five years!

countdown-5

As always, I’d like to thank everyone who visits, links, downloads, feeds and especially comments on my blog. Although I started it to document my reading, I’d be misleading you if I said I didn’t strive to keep it up because of you lot! Thank you again.

What have I learned from my fifth year of blogging?

Again, it has confirmed that I am totally pretty useless at long-term challenges: This year, I planned to read the whole of Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles, half a book per month, but I got waylaid before I could get stuck into the second volume Queen’s Play. Likewise, despite Iain Banks being one of my favourite authors ever, I only managed to read two books here and here – but my plan to gradually (re)read all of Banks’s output remains in place as an ongoing occasional project.  I don’t like to read too many similar books together these days, and I don’t plan to change.

 Vive la variété!

* * * * * BLOGIVERSARY GIVEAWAY * * * * *

I always like to celebrate my blog’s anniversary with a giveaway, and this year is no exception. Going by the number of books I’ve given 10/10, or five out of five stars so far in 2013, I’ve chosen well for me and had an exceptional reading year to date.

So, I am offering three readers each one of my five star books. Just choose from the list below (with review and affiliate links) and say in commets why you’d like to read that book. The giveaway is open to any countries that The Book Depository cater to (or new/as new copy from Amazon if cheaper), and will close at noon on Friday, giving you five days to enter.  Here are the choices:

      • The Shipping News by Annie Proulx (re-read)  – Review Buy
      • Mrs Bridge by Evan S Connell   – Review Buy
      • The Explorer by James Smythe  – Review Buy
      • Diary of A Provincial Lady by E.M.Delafield – ReviewBuy
      • Magda by Meike Ziervogel  – Review Buy
      • Tigers in Red Weather by Lisa Klaussmann  – Review Buy
      • The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks (re-read) – Review Buy
      • The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald (re-read) – Review Buy
      • The Cleaner of Chartres by Salley Vickers  – Review Buy
      • Alex by Pierre Lemaitre  – Review Buy
      • Glaciers by Alexis M. Smith – Review Buy
      • The Humans by Matt Haig – Review Buy
      • Mr Loverman by Bernardine Evaristo – Review Buy

Good luck in the draw.  I shall leave you with the wonderful song quoted at the top of this post, (although it is a bit depressing when you examine the lyrics). From David Bowie’s landmark Ziggy album – I give you Five Years from The Old Grey Whistle Test back in 1972…

There was I, ready to cull some books …

… when I got totally distracted after only consigning one book to the charity shop pile by this little gem…

Pistache by Sebastian Faulks.

pistacheOriginating from the BBC Radio 4 literary quiz, The Right Stuff, each week contestants would do a little party piece at the end of the show as one writer attempting the style of another author, book or genre etc. – they were usually terribly comic, and always very clever.

Sebastian Faulks was one of the team captains, and he retooled his party pieces into this expanded collection of his pastiches, or pistaches. Once I’d started leafing through for some of my favourites, all thought of book culling went out of the window.

So we have Ernest Hemingway writing a Christmas round robin, Jane Austen in the 1830s – sorry 18-30 holiday, Richmal Crompton’s Just William grows up into an estate agent, and so on.  One clever one that grabbed me particularly was:

Dylan Thomas writes a cereal advert …

The force that through the green gut drives the food
Is each morning taken mortal fibre, tockticking,
Clockworking, regular in motion
Of day and wind and
Under milk good soaking of rough husk
Of hill-high rough-age in tough
Tock-ticking, regular,
From the farm in the blossoming hill through the mill
From bole to bowel to hwyl
Where gesture and psalm ring-
It is your thirtieth day to heaven
Consecutive,
In all dark, all black,
All brown, all Bran.

We also have George Orwell confronting the real 1984 – ‘It was a bright cold day in April and the miners were striking. …’   and hilariously – Sherlock Holmes has a conversation with Motson  (John ‘Motty’ Motson, was a wonderfully verbose football commentator).

I chuckled my way through these, wishing there were more (there will be a second volume next year), and now I have to go and cook dinner – no more time for book-culling today!

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Source: Own copy. To explore further on Amazon UK, please click below:
Pistache by Sebastian Faulks