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Posts tagged ‘Tracy Chevalier’

September Books

Last month I drew up a list of 93 authors to take with me to the library to help me choose what to read next. Thanks to everyone who helped get this list up to well over a 100. Finding something to read is easier with so much choice. All authors come from this list unless otherwise stated- there will always be a title or cover that intrigues me.

Tracy Chevalier- At the Edge of the Orchard- one of my favourite authors and this book as good as her others. Set in America between 1838 and 1856, we have mud,swamps,futility, apple trees, quilts, bad relationships, death, flight, survival, adventure, misadventure, gold prospecting, Redwood trees, birth and a happy ending.

Jo Baker- A Country Road,  A Tree- The course by Future Learn, How to Read a Novel,  used examples from four novels that Edinburgh University short listed for the James Tait prize. The only one that really interested me was this one. I sometimes struggle with books that win literary prizes, finding the style, language or plot, let us say – hard to appreciate. I had better hopes of this one.

Back in the day when I was a young and noisy teenager I attended a week-long residential course on drama in Chester, staying in what was then a teacher training college. but is probably now a university. We studied Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, and being a young and noisy teenager, myself and a fellow participant, one Lyn Edwards from Birmingham ( and if anyone knows a Lyn Edwards from Birmingham how marvellous that would be, we kept in touch for a couple of years , but pre Facebook this involved snail mail, so fizzled out).  I digress, both Lyn Edwards and I were most taken with Waiting for Godot, and began an impromptu play reading in the college grounds,to great applause, and being young and noisy teenagers, so taken with ourselves were we that we took to being strolling players and walked the city walls whilst we proclaiming the Wait. So I have a great fondness for dear old Godot.

If you don’t know the play, two chaps at a roadside wait for Godot who does not come. A play in which nothing happens, a bit like the novel The Crowded Room by Winifred Holtby which I read last month about a young woman who waits for her life to begin. So to Jo Bakers novel about Samuel Beckett and his mistress during the second world war which they spent in France, trying to keep out of harms way, write and help the resistance movement. They  have to keep moving and that involves a lot of walking along country roads and waiting for people to help them along the way, and quite a bit of nothing happening,thus providing the inspiration for Waiting for Godot.

I will be honest, I struggled with the book for the first 60 or so pages, style, language etc which seemed to be a bit flowery and a bit arty farty, pretentious maybe. But then something happened, either I got over the language style or it improves or it suddenly seemed to be right for the disjointed existence of the characters. The hand to mouth lifestyle of a country invaded by another nation. There is a sense of life seeming to go on, but not going on, of fear but of social gatherings, holidays, wine, but careful what you say, and who sees you, and of what happens to your communist and jewish friends.

Then the war ends, and Beckett goes home to  Eire alone, to his Mum and her new bungalow. His teeth are fixed having suffered from malnutrition they were in a bad state. But he knows he can’t stay there, he can’t write in the comfort that is home. The only way back to France is to accept a job to set up a hospital in France, which he does before returning to Paris, His mistress and his writing, which has changed forever.

I enjoyed the book, and if you like a book with a bit of a challenge then go for it. I think that one of the marks of a good book is when you start to google things as a follow-up, which I did, and I know that Beckett married the mistress, which is nice after all they went through together, and she does get a bit fed up with him and the danger he puts them in, and the writing.

This is Jo Bakers second novel, the first one is called Longbourne, I have bought it for my Kindle, for reading when I am not at home. It is the story of Pride and Prejudice from the viewpoint of the servants, shortly to be a film. Sounds promising.

I very nearly made this number 44 in my top  one hundred books. I really liked the centre section of the book, but not the start or end, and the middle bit not enough!. Let me know if you have read this, I would love to know your thoughts.

Graeme Macrae Burnett- His Bloody Project- this one was mentioned on the course as a good example of setting a story in context. For example, Bridget Jones’s diary the story is told through the medium of a diary. This novel is told through some “found papers” in the course of some family history research. I was apprehensive at first as I discovered from the cover of the book that it had been long listed for the Man Booker prize in 2016. I need not have been. The book is an enjoyable and accessible book. The first parts are some witness statements to a crime. The next the accused gives his account, which he is writing it at the behest of his council. At no time does he deny that he committed the crime he was charged with. Then comes the examination by a doctor, and then an account of the trial. It is very cleverly constructed, and the language is sufficiently archaic so that I had no trouble believing I was reading a historic document. The setting is a Scottish crofting community in the 19th century. It’s a good book and I suspect if I had Scottish roots it would make own top 100. A jolly good read. Look out for it.

Jessie Burton- The Miniaturist- not one from my 100 authors list, but found on the library shelves at the same time as the previous two books. It sounded familiar, on the front cover it says The Sunday Times Number One Best Seller. Maybe someone mentioned it, maybe it was reviewed on the Radio. An interesting book, set in Amsterdam in the 17 th century. Young girl from the country is married to an older rich merchant and travels to join his household in Amsterdam. In the house a sister who runs the household, a man-servant who may be a slave or a freeman, and a female servant from an orphanage.  The new wife is given a miniature house, resembling the one she has just moved into , as a wedding present. She sources a miniaturist to help her furnish it, but soon parcels she didn’t order begin to arrive, can this miniaturist foretell the future? Tragedy follows, there is love and death. It’s a strange book by no mistake, but not a bad read. Is that the same as a good read? No. Quirky, that’s the word I am looking for. For the first time I found myself able to stop reading and think, now why is the author doing this, what is the intention of this event or that. I am beginning to read a little like a Professor!

Donna Leon-Falling in Love- Opera singer in Venice has a scary stalker, friendly detective saves the day. A pleasant read.

Some good and interesting books this month. And by sheer coincidence I see that the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough is staging a production of Waiting for Godot. Perfect or what?

Love to know what others have read recently. Anything to recommend to me please? If you have written about books this month I would be thrilled if you left a link in the comments.

Now where is my book…

 

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June books.

It seems that June was a good month for reading, lots of really good books. And one gone from the heap by the bed. And something more for the 30 days wild challenge.

Alan Bennett- The Lady in the Van- extracts from his diary concerning Miss Shepherd who parked her camper van in his garden and lived there for the next 20 years. Also a film of the same name with Maggie Smith. (One from the heap by my bed).

Tracy Chevalier- The Virgin Blue- a thoroughly good read, which reminded me a lot of the books by Kate Mosse. Set in France and Switzerland. across two time periods, highlighting the religious conflict between Catholics and Huguenots.  One of the best books I have read this year.

Ann Cleeves- Cold Earth-she never disappoints, one from the Shetland series

Gerald Durrell- The Corfu Trilogy- My reading matter on the Kindle on holiday in Greece. Fitted in perfectly with my Go Wild Challenge. The books formed the basis of The Durrells, a TV programme. The books were very funny indeed and had me laughing out loud many ,many times. Lots of natural history , but, the Durrells lived in Corfu in the 1930’s when the attitude to natural history is very different to what it is now. The TV series completely changed this aspect of the book. Gerry in book raids birds nests for eggs, steals baby birds to hand rear, steals a tortoise egg and blows it for his collection, mounts butterflies and moths etc etc. Never the less a really good read and perfect for this holiday whilst taking the 30 days wild challenge.

Susan Hill-From the Heart-Really enjoyed this book, my favourite this year, so far. Set I think in the 1950’s and covering topics of female education, the love that dares not speak its name, birth and adoption.

Susan Hill- In the Springtime of the Year- This was written in 1970, and so is an early novel from this author. I found it languishing in the Yorkshire section of the Library, no idea why, it seems wrong as most people wouldn’t look in Local History/ walks/ countryside for a novel. I am so glad I found it lurking there. The protagonist is a 19-year-old bride. The book themes are love, grief and survival. I would guess the setting is between the wars or immediately afterwards. The writing is sublime, the lyrical quality of the descriptions of the countryside are beautiful. I loved this book, so much so it makes it onto my top 100 list. The best book, even better than the previous one, this year.. so far

I kept a diary during June for the 30 days wild challenge. I was no way as thorough as I was when I kept this nature diary for three school terms aged 11, eventually winning the nature diary prize which was open to the top two junior years. Mum kept it safe for me and it is rather a lovely thing to have and to look back on, during June.

So anyone read any good books lately? I am re reading The Mayor of Casterbridge on the Kindle. I studied it for A levels, and I must admit it is far more enjoyable to read for pleasure than to read for an exam.

After thoughts. Just want to say a big thank you for all the encouraging comments on Friday’s post. I am down in Wales at the moment, visitng my Mum and brother and feeling proud of myself in a B&B . Mr E is at home doing chap things, mowing the lawn, setting up minature railways at an agricultue show and going to car boot sales. He lent me his internet gizmo and after some effort tonight I have managed to get it working, ALL BY MYSELF, hence this post at a late hour by me. Had a super day today with Mum and brother who ( brother and sil that is, not mum) , has just moved into a new house but new bedroom furniture not yet delivered, hence the B&B. What I am really wanting to say is that I have spent the day watching buzzards and red kites. No photos, but what a way to end the 30 days wild challenge with. And there is hot chocolate to drink in the room. Hurrah.

 

 

 

Yarn Along!

I started to make this new jacket for Little Miss F at a nice leisurely pace. It has recently occurred to me that if I was a bit less leisurely I could get it finished in time for when I next see her in December and present it as a Christmas gift. The pins are flying. Now on the second sleeve.

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The novel I totally recommend. Dorset Quaker girl goes to America and hides runaway slaves. With chapter titles such as Quilt and Applique, what’s not to like. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Joining with Ginny for Yarn Along

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