Thursday, 27 September 2007

Yet again

Work has been totally crazy over the last couple of weeks, and I'm absolutely shattered. I've hardly written anything, hardly read anything (though am enjoying 'The Book Thief' by Markus Zusak) and just want to go to sleep in the corner. I am still around, and hope that this weekend I'll get enough time to catch up on my blogging and writing, but might be unconscious on the sofa for most of it!

Friday, 14 September 2007

The Meaning of Night - Michael Cox

The atmosphere of this book reminded me of 'The Historian' by Elizabeth Kostova, with hidden tales of a secret life revealed through books, letters and diaries, bringing new dangers and worries on every page. I was up until 12.50 last night, frantically trying to finish this, knowing that if I put it down I would never manage to go to sleep without know how it ended up. When I finally read the last page, I was pleased to note that while I had guessed a few key twists, the crucial surprises had really surprised me.

Although I'm not an expert, the vocabulary the author used seemed to match the period the book is set in, with lots of interesting nuggets of Victorian gold. The resulting primness is juxtaposed with the darkness at the heart of the tale; enormous loss, bitter secrets and violence leading through the murkier side of the mid-19th century to the climactic clash of the sworn enemies. This absorbing debut was nominated for the 2006 Costa First Novel Award, which was eventually won by 'The Tenderness of Wolves' by Stef Penney. I honestly don't know how they chose between them.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Contemplating coffee

Gods Behaving Badly - Marie Phillips

Marie Phillips and Terry Pratchett have both written about gods whose power wanes without believers, though the similarities between them really end there. In 'Gods Behaving Badly', Phillips describes the pantheon of Greek gods, but after a move to North London in massively straightened circumstances. With eternity to play with, the gods are bored and feisty, but nothing seems to be working out for them until a mortal cleaner comes along to tidy up their festering home.

I read this on a lazy Sunday, and it really fit my mood - I needed something humorous, original and well-written but not too taxing. I already knew a little about Greek gods (thank you Classics GCSE!), and the characterizations from the mythology seemed perfect, very human but exaggeratedly so. This lovely hard-back signed copy will find itself with a different owner on December 25th - I don't normally read presents in advance, just couldn't resist with this one -and I hope the recipient enjoys it as much as I did. And be impressed that I've bought some Christmas presents already, something that is normally reserved for December 23rd-ish...

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Calling all book addicts

Waterstone's has just launched a loyalty card! Now it will be even easier to justify expanding my library...

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Now I believe the hype...

I've been struggling with the structure of my WIP for a while, and it has been feeling more and more like a 1000 piece jigsaw of baked beans. Different forms have occurred to me, I've fiddled around with my ideas, jotted notes, mind mapped and gone back to the drawing board so many times that I was beginning to feel a bit down-hearted, and was contemplating pushing this to the bottom of my pile, and start on something new until it all fell into place. I've also cynically raised an eyebrow while watching the Virgin Trains advert about being inspired and having big ideas in their shiny red coaches (too many people wearing noisy headphones so the only inspiration I usually have involves cutting their wires with the scissors I luckily never have with me...). But this morning was different. I got on my train to work, sat down, read a few pages of my book and had my Big Idea. I know how to make it work. I think. (I hope)

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Atonement - Ian McEwan

I'd been meaning to read this for ages, but had never got round to buying a copy. When I saw it in the Vintage Twins edition with 'What Maisie Knew' in a 3 for 2 at Waterstones I knew I could resist no longer. The opening evoked a parched summer which, for Briony, is without distraction other than her abortive play with her troubled cousins. On the brink of stumbling through the initiations of early adolescence, she knows enough to completely misunderstand every interaction she witnesses between her sister Cecelia and Robbie, an old friend. Her disastrous suppositions have grim repercussions, for which she still feels the need to atone many years later.

The pace of the writing is somewhat slower than many modern novels, taking in every thought fluttering through the protagonists' somewhat self-absorbed minds. The gradual building of momentum towards the key scenes can be a little frustrating - there's only so long you can peep through your fingers at the car crash you know is about to happen - but the tension keeps rising, and you do get there eventually, with the exquisite minutiae of the previous pages often increasing the impact. I'll be interested to see whether the forthcoming film, with its growing Oscar buzz, is faithful to the atmosphere of the novel, and the complex inner lives of its characters.

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