Monthly Archives September 2014

Famous people, reading… Gregory Peck

“Inside of all the makeup and the character and the makeup, it’s you, and I think that’s what the audience is really interested in… you, how you’re going to cope with the situation, the obstacles, the troubles that the writer puts in front of you.” Actor, Gregory Peck Is he reading To Kill a Mockingbird do you think? I’m not sure about the pipe, but Atticus Finch regularly appears in those ‘Most Popular Father’ lists which appear around Father’s Day. Peck seems to have been a thoughtful man, here’s another quote: “I’ve had my ups and downs. There have been times when I wanted to quit. Times when I hit the bottle. Girls. Marital problems. I’ve touched most of the bases.” Seems to make him well-qualified to be an actor, or a writer.   ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee [UK: Arrow] Buy now See these other famous people, reading:- Vincent Price Madonna Benedict Cumberbatch And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Gregory Peck: is he reading TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD? #books via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-15e
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Categories: Book Love.

Writer, dearest

I love blog awards, everyone likes to be appreciated and blog awards are a nice way of spreading love around amongst bloggers and readers. The Liebster, for me, means love. Not sure why, perhaps because it sounds like ‘liebe’ which takes me back to my German classes at school: ‘Ich liebe dich’. So I’ve always assumed the ‘Liebster Award’ meant roughly the ‘We Love You Award’. Wrong… a quick check with Google Translate tells me that Liebster means ‘Dearest’. So, thanks to April at April4June6, for nominating me for the Dearest Award! April has asked me 11 questions:- Do you think we should adapt our demands to our means, or the other way around? If we don’t adapt our demands to our means, the planet will be bankrupt. What does writing mean to you? Everything. It is who I am, I cannot imagine ever not writing. What are you doing on a sunny day? Ideally, sitting in the sun, reading. Really, sitting inside, writing. What future memory would you like to create? Looking back to the day my first novel, Ignoring Gravity, was published. The first of a successful eries. Would you date yourself were you a person of the
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Book review: The Soul of Discretion

Lafferton, England. A naked child wanders down a street. A woman is raped at a black tie Freemansons’ Dinner. This is the beginning of The Soul of Discretion by Susan Hill. Detective Simon Serrailler is coming to terms with his girlfriend moving into his flat which now seems very small and confined, no longer his own private space. His widowed sister is struggling for money and must decide what to do about it. His stepmother is struggling to deal with the detective’s increasingly irritable and irascible father. Serrailler’s girlfriend feels like the lodger in her boyfriend’s flat. And then Serrailler is posted undercover. This is the eighth novel about detective Simon Serrailler and as far as I’m concerned, Susan Hill can continue writing them until kingdom comes. I have read them all over the years, but this is the first I have reviewed [something I will remedy over the coming year]. Serrailler is a thoughtful, solitary-minded detective, surrounded by a family which, in The Soul of Discretion, has its own crises. But the central thread of the book, which kept me reading late into the night, was Serrailler going undercover. In this book, you wonder if he will live or
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Categories: Book Love.

New books coming soon

Sarah Hall The Wolf Border, the latest novel from Sarah Hall, one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists 2013, will be published by Faber in April 2015 and by Harper Press in the US. Set against a background of political tumult – Scottish independence, land reform, and power struggles – The Wolf Border investigates the fundamental nature of wilderness and wildness, both animal and human. It explores our concepts of ecology and evolution, re-wilding projects and the challenges faced by modern rural landscapes. Faber Social’s creative director, Lee Brackstone, said: “Sarah Hall [above] is rightly thought to be one of the most original literary talents of her generation and each new book confirms and builds on the promise of her great early novels. The Wolf Border is a novel with enormous narrative and contemporary urgency. In some ways it marks a return to the world of her first novel, Haweswater, but here is a writer in full maturity, at the top of her game.” For Sarah Hall’s website, click here. Renee Knight Disclaimer, the debut psychological thriller by Faber Academy alumnus Knight, is to be published by Transworld in Spring 2015 as hardback and paperback a year later. How would
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: The Sunrise

I’m a big fan of the previous three novels – The Thread, The Return, and The Island – by Victoria Hislop, so was expecting a lot from the new one, The Sunrise. I was a little disappointed and it’s difficult to pin down why. The Cyprus setting is great, the historical setting is stirring, the characters… I didn’t connect as well with them as I did with Alexis and Eleni in The Island. Finally, I decided that the difference between The Sunrise and the Hislop’s earlier books is that it wears its history a little too heavily. That said, it is a fascinating period and one I knew little about, except a memory of a distant cousin who lived near Kyrenia at the time. He and his family were forced to flee their house, empty-handed, running across open countryside towards a cave, dodging bullets being fired from an airplane. The Sunrise tells the story of three families in Famagusta from the sunny days of 1972 when tourism brings riches to Cyprus, to 1974 when a Greek coup forces the island into chaos. Greek Cypriots flee in one direction, Turkish Cypriots flee in the other, and the Turkish army invades to protect the
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Categories: Book Love.

My favourite paperweights

Like most writers I know, my desk is covered in piles of paper. I have seven paperweights on my desk; all in use, all hold some particular memory for me. Newest is the SFMOMA ball-storm [below]: a rubber balled filled with liquid and coloured bits of plastic which swirl like a snowstorm when shaken. Bought at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art two years ago, it reminds me of a wonderful museum in a wonderful city. Click here for the SFMOMA website. I love stones and two large ones sit on my desk as constant reminders of my second novel, Connectedness. Both stones [above] were selected off the beach at Flamborough Head in East Yorkshire, a few miles from where I grew up, on a beach where I imagine my protagonist Justine Tree walking. For artist Justine, who as a child lived in an isolated house on top of these cliffs, the sea and the wildness of the Yorkshire coast are a constant presence in her art. Minty is an old name from the UK furniture trade and this wooden foot [below] was given to me many years ago by the company as a gift when I was editor
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Categories: On Writing.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘Not Waving but Drowning’

I remember the title of today’s poem by Steve Smith from my schooldays but have no strong memory of reading the poem until many years later. But it always made me smile, then feel guilty for smiling. Because of copyright restrictions I am unable to reproduce the poem in full, but please search it out in an anthology or at your local library. ‘Not Waving but Drowning’ Nobody heard him, the dead man, But still he lay moaning: I was much further out than you thought And not waving but drowning. Stevie Smith [1902-1971] was born in Hull, East Yorkshire, and knowing that made a big impression on me: born in East Yorkshire, 1960. The fact that her family moved to London when she was three didn’t stop me seeing her as a Yorkshire role model. Her poetry never seemed to fit a label and she seems to have been rather overlooked. I love her rather dry wit. My copy of Selected Poems was bought in October 1981, I know this as I have written my name and the date on the inside front cover. The green cover design [below] is still a favourite of mine. To watch a 1950s
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Categories: Book Love and Poetry.

Book review: One Step Too Far

I became aware of this book by word of mouth, often the best kind of recommendation. Google the title and you will find literally hundreds of blog reviews of One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis. It is certainly a page turner. I sat down to read it one hot sunny day and raced through it. The theme is running away. What place a woman has to be in to leave everything behind, the desperation, the guilt, the expectations for a new life, the logistics of running. Emily runs, and runs one step too far. The reason for her running is dangled in front of the reader like a carrot, hints, deceptions, and this is why you keep reading. Is it something she did, or something done to her? Is it criminal or emotional? The story of Emily’s escape, and the story of the reason for her escape, are told in parallel. I had my suspicions about her reason, and I was almost right. Almost, but not quite. One of the intriguing things in the narrative mix is that Emily is a twin, and the two twin sisters do not get on. This added welcome spice to the tale of
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Categories: Book Love.

Great opening paragraph 59… ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“The letter that would change everything arrived on a Tuesday. It was an ordinary morning in mid-April that smelt of clean washing and grass cuttings. Harold Fry sat at the breakfast table, freshly shaved, in a clean shirt and tie, with  slice of toast that he wasn’t eating. He gazed beyond the kitchen window at the clipped lawn, which was spiked in the middle by Maureen’s telescopic washing line, and trapped on all three sides by the neighbours’ closeboard fencing.” ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ by Rachel Joyce Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Perfume’ by Patrick Suskind ‘Original Sin’ by PD James ‘Illywhacker’ by Peter Carey And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A 1st para which makes me want to read more: THE UNLIKELY PILGRIMAGE OF HAROLD FRY by @R_Joyce_Books #books http://wp.me/p5gEM4-kt via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

I agree with… Sarah Waters

Sarah Waters “I tend to write about houses quite a lot… I’m very interested in the dynamics of relationships [that occur] within houses and it seemed like a bit of a pressure cooker – bringing these two households together with their very different agendas in life and the class tensions between them, and adding this element of desire between the two women and seeing what happened.” [interview in ‘The Bookseller’ magazine, June 13, 2014] Waters is talking here about plotting her new book, The Paying Guests. It is set in London in 1922 and the house she refers to above is the villa in Champion Hill, Camberwell. Spinster Frances and her widowed mother Mrs Wray take in lodgers in order to make ends meet. From this, Waters spins her magic: a tale of class and sex. The quote reminded me immediately of a new creative writing book by my former creative writing tutor, Shelley Weiner. In Writing Your First Novel: A 60-Minute Masterclass, Shelley describes the ‘desert island’ plot used by writers such as Thomas Mann [The Magic Mountain], Agatha Christie in numerous whodunits, William Golding [Lord of the Flies] and Daniel Defoe [Robinson Crusoe]. According to Shelley, Ann Patchett,
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Book review: Found

September. A sunny day in Paris and I needed a book to read on the Eurostar train home. I needed a page turner. I searched my Kindle. What was required was Harlan Coben. I started to read Found, Coben’s latest UK release, which I thought was the new Myron Bolitar story. Except, it isn’t. It is the third in the Mickey Bolitar YA [young adult] series. I didn’t know this series existed. Mickey Bolitar is Myron’s nephew. I guess the two M’s got me confused… oh well. Found may be a YA novel but that doesn’t stop the story from being gripping, in true Coben fashion this really rattled along. Ideal for a train journey. Mickey is Myron Bolitar’s nephew who, surprise surprise, is a basketball player and amateur detective. This is story three in the series, and I did need to know the back story. But Mr Coben [below] is very efficient at filling that in without stopping the story moving forward. Two storylines are woven together. On Mickey’s basketball team, one player moves away suddenly, another is dropped from the team for taking steroids. Mickey investigates. Meanwhile, continued from book two in the series, one of Mickey’s friends
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Categories: Book Love.

Dealing with reviews… the Robert Graves way

I’ve been reading poetry by Robert Graves recently, an anthology bought on impulse because of his war poetry. I knew little about his other works. ‘Tilth’ stands out because of the inspiration, as follows:- From a review in a New York critical weekly: “Robert Graves, the British veteran, is no longer in the poetic swim. He still resorts to traditional metres and rhyme, and to such out-dated words as tilth; withholding his 100% approbation also from contemporary poems that favour sexual freedom.” ‘Tilth’ Gone are the drab monosyllabic days When ‘agricultural labour’ still was tilth; And ‘100% approbation’, praise; And ‘pornographic modernism’, filth – Yet still I stand by tilth and filth and praise. Now that is how to answer the critics with style! ‘Selected Poems’ by Robert Graves [Faber] Buy now And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: How to deal with reviews… the Robert Graves way #poetry via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-Kp
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Categories: On Writing and Poetry.

Book review: A History of Loneliness

I don’t normally start a book review by talking about a completely different book, but I will today so bear with me. John Boyne is probably best known for The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, a book about a young German boy during World War Two who moves to a house in the country where he makes friends with Schmuel, a boy who lives at the other side of a wire fence. Written for ‘younger readers’ it is the story of Bruno’s transition from childhood innocence to horrific understanding, the book was made into a film starring David Thewlis. Despite the label ‘for younger readers’ this, and Boyne’s more recent First World War novel Stay Where You Are & Then Leave, provide food for thought for adult readers too. So with that in mind I came to A History of Loneliness, Boyne’s latest adult novel, expecting a harrowing storyline which tackles emotional and difficult issues with honesty. I was not disappointed. When I look back at the books I’ve most enjoyed reading, so far this year, Irish writers rank highly – particularly A Long Long Way by Sebastian Barry. The History of Loneliness is a depressing title – it has
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Categories: Book Love.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘Cloughton Wyke 1’

John Wedgwood Clarke writes about the edges of North Yorkshire, the forgotten bits, the ugly bits, the hidden bits. He is a new discovery for me. His latest pamphlet, In Between, was written for the York Curiouser Festival, and is inspired by the snickets and alleys of old York. Because of copyright restrictions I am unable to reproduce the poem in full, but please search it out in an anthology or at your local library. ‘Cloughton Wyke 1’ Iron light. Fulmar and kittiwake laugh in Anglo-Saxon, ripple quick shadows over the beach. It transports me instantly to the North Yorkshire cliffs where I grew up, and the constant presence of seabirds. Cloughton Wyke [below] was one of many destinations for the Danby family explorations on Sundays, sandwiches wrapped in foil, trifle in colour-coded Tupperware bowls, orange squash. I cannot read this poem enough. For John Wedgwood Clarke’s blog, click here. To find John Wedgwood Clarke’s poems around York as part of the York Curiouser Festival, click here for a map. To listen to John Wedgwood Clarke read his poem ‘Castle Headland’, click here. For more poetry published by Valley Press, including In Between, click here.   ‘Ghost Pot’ by John
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Categories: Book Love, On Writing and Poetry.

Book review: Pop Goes the Weasel

Fog creeps up the Solent and into the city from the sea, casting a shroud over the streets, driving the population indoors at the end of the day and pulling the streetwalkers out into their night domain. Empty backstreets, dirty abandoned industrial estates, overgrown riverbanks. Murder will take place this night. Pop Goes the Weasel is a great follow-up by MJ Arlidge to his first novel about Detective Inspector Helen Grace, but please read Eeny Meeny first or you will be a bit baffled by the back story. These two books tick a lot of boxes: gritty realistic drama, lead female detective with a raw damaged personality, in fact a lot of female characters, set in Southampton [not London, not Edinburgh] with flawed heroes and damaged villains. Arlidge [below] is an accomplished TV writer and author; whether he is writing about police procedure, or the nasty druggy backstreets of a port city where the population rises and falls with the tide, I believe him. The murder scenes are graphic and anatomical, a bit too much for me, so I admit to skipping a few paragraphs. I don’t like blood and gore, but I do like Helen Grace and DC Charlie Brooks.
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Categories: Book Love.

I agree with… Deborah McKinlay

Deborah McKinlay “I can say now that the lean years focussed me on what I really wanted – in that nothing-to-lose way that is often motivating. But I am in no rush to repeat them. I hope, if you’re still battling through, that you find yourself with a packet of smoked salmon in your grocery basket when you least expect it. I did.”  [in an interview with ‘We Love This Book’, March 12, 2014] McKinlay [above], a published non-fiction author and journalist, wrote a novel The View from Here. After a struggle to find an agent in London, she sold it herself to a small New York publisher. Struggling for grocery money, she continued to write. Now describing herself as “not only mid-career; I am also mid-life – too old for a girly agent pal,” she returned to the agent trail in New York, feeling the American characters in her new novel That Part Was True would be more attractive to a US agent. She found one, who promptly sold the novel back to the UK where it is published by Orion. So, a circular trail. I took two lessons from Deborah’s experience:- don’t give up, and be true to
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Book review: The Fair Fight

Bristol. A brothel. The late 1700s. In The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman, two sisters squabble and scrap, watched by an interested gentlemen visitor. The older sister becomes his molly. The younger sister, Ruth, he sets to boxing professionally at a local pub The Hatchet. It changes Ruth’s life. I abhor boxing, I hate to see it on television and so I hesitated over this book. I’m glad I didn’t. From page one the book is alive with late 18th century Bristol, everything about it is believable. Most of all I liked Ruth, I wanted to know her story. This meant I got a bit irritated when the story left her and transferred instead to the gentlemen who act as boxing managers and who gamble every night at fights. I had no patience with them, and turned every page wanting more of Ruth. At the heart of this book are two women trapped by their circumstances, their birthplace, their positions in society. I wanted Ruth to better herself, to see her break away from her origins. Ruth is brothel-born, Charlotte is destined to embroider samplers. Surely they can have nothing in common? Will they meet and what will happen if
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Categories: Book Love.