Monthly Archives April 2017

Great Opening Paragraph 96… ‘The Secret History’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“Does such a thing as ‘the fatal flaw,’ that showy dark crack running down the middle of a life, exist outside literature? I used to think it didn’t. Now I think it does. And I think that mine is this: a morbid longing for the picturesque at all costs.” ‘The Secret History’ by Donna Tartt  Amazon Read my review of The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Herzog’ by Saul Bellow ‘In Cold Blood’ by Truman Capote ‘The Murder Room’ by PD James And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: THE SECRET HISTORY by @DonnaTartt #books via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-2qp
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Book review: The Perfect Affair

This is a deceptive read. It is a meandering tale of two love affairs – one today, one in the Sixties – which unfolds slowly, step-by-step, as these things do in life. The Perfect Affair by Claire Dyer is about love, how it appears and grows, and how it fades. Rose has divided her house into two flats, she lives upstairs and rents the downstairs space to Myles, a writer of detective novels. Rose’s regular visitor, Eve, is like the grand-daughter she never had, and is a connection to Rose’s past. In the Sixties, Rose shared a house with Eve’s grandmother Verity. One day Eve and Myles meet. There is a spark of attraction which shocks them both and makes each examine the state of their own marriage. As they come to terms with what this means, Rose watches from afar. In love and seeking the perfect love affair, Rose remembers when she fell in love in the Sixties. Finally a decision must be made. Dyer writes with a gentle hand, small details showing her understanding of the emotions involved. After meeting Eve for the first time, Myles is disorientated: ‘He’d been OK when he’d left home earlier but now
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: The Witchfinder’s Sister

The horror which man can visit on his fellow man, or woman, on anyone slightly different or strange, is explored in this richly-written debut novel. The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown is a fictional telling of a real seventeenth century witchfinder, Matthew Hopkins, and his invented sister Alice. It is a novel steeped in historical fact, with excerpts of documents including real people and trials. It is 1645 and the Civil War in England is into its fourth year. There is a sense of brooding danger from the very beginning, and not just because of war. It is a time of religious fervour. A short prologue contains a list of women named as witches, their descriptions and accused crimes. Then in chapter one we meet Alice who is confined to one room. This novel is the account of her life. When Alice’s husband dies in London in a work accident, she returns home, newly pregnant, to the Essex village where she grew up. Upon entering the home of her younger half-brother Matthew, she discovers he has become obsessed with punishing women for witchery. As her worry about his activities turns into fear, she is unable to escape his influence and
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Categories: Book Love.

First Edition: The Sea The Sea

The Sea The Sea by Iris Murdoch [below] won the Booker Prize in 1978. This hardback first edition, signed by the author, also features an inscription. Published by Chatto & Windus in 1978, the inscription is to Martyn Goff, administrator of the Booker Prize from the early 1970-2005. The distinctive cover features ‘The Great Wave off Kanagawa’ by Hokusai. The story Charles Arrowby withdraws from society to the seaside to write his memoir. There, he meets again his first love Mary Hartley Fitch. Again, he idolizes her and tries to persuade her to elope with him. When she won’t, he tries to kidnap her. This is a tale of obsession and arrogance To read the opening paragraph of The Sea The Sea, click here. The film The film Iris was released in 2001. Murdoch was played in youth and old age by Kate Winslet and Judi Dench, her husband John Bayley was played by Hugh Bonneville and Jim Broadbent. About their lifelong romance and then the sad descent of Iris into dementia. Watch the official trailer here. The current UK edition Still in print as a Vintage Classic edition, this is the current cover. Buy at Amazon Other editions My Triad Granada edition
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: An Unsuitable Job for a Woman

When Cordelia Gray’s boss at the Pryde Detective Agency dies, he leaves her the business… and an unregistered gun. And so begins An Unsuitable Job for a Woman by PD James, with a female private detective who is a long way away from Adam Dalgliesh, James’s famous creation, but who has been trained by an ex-copper who worked for Dalgliesh. And so the tentacles of ‘the Super’ stretch to Cambridge where Cordelia Gray undertakes her first case. She is not a female private detective in the busybodying, gossiping style of Miss Marple or Agatha Raisin, but a liberated, independent woman who is financially motivated to make a success of her business. Employed by a Cambridge scientist, Sir Ronald Callender, to discover why his son Mark dropped out of university and committed suicide soon after, Cordelia takes up lodging in the rundown gardener’s cottage where Mark died. So much is unclear. Mark left a stew uncooked and a garden fork stuck in half-dug earth. His friends feign friendliness to Cordelia but dance around her questions. Sir Ronald’s assistant/housekeeper is superior and unhelpful. The Marklands, who employed Mark in his last few weeks, are shadows on the edge of the story. Something is
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Categories: Book Love.

My Porridge & Cream read: Laura Wilkinson

Today I’m delighted to welcome contemporary novelist Laura Wilkinson. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is the classic The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. “It’s so long ago I cannot recall with any degree of accuracy when I first read The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The crumbling copy, pictured with my newer edition, was always around; it was my grandmother’s, then my mother’s. I was fascinated by the colour plates scattered throughout and would stare at them long before I could read the words. My hunch is that I was eight or nine – certainly during a period when I devoured Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers series! Whilst I forgot Blyton’s characters and plots almost instantly, Mary Lennox, Colin and Dickon have stayed close. An angry, lonely orphan is sent to live in a remote manor with a walled, prohibited, garden. The garden is the catalyst for her transformation, and in cahoots with a local boy she uncovers the secret not only of the garden but of the crying which wakes her every night. The story resonated then and still does. Each time I find something new to admire. I turn to it when I need to be reminded that
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Categories: Book Love and Porridge & Cream.

Book review: Quartet

Quartet is the first, slim, novel by Wide Sargasso Sea author Jean Rhys. Published in 1928 it is its very different from its famous older sister which was not published until 1968. Semi-autobiographical, Quartet tells the story of Marya, marooned without money in Paris after her chancer husband Stephan is jailed for theft. It is a novel about loneliness and vulnerability and where that can lead. Marya is taken under the wing of the English couple, the Heidlers. They are spoken of as a unit, he is referred to as HJ, his wife is Lois. It is Lois who persuades Marya to move into the spare bedroom at their studio. HJ, she tells Marya, likes to ‘help people.’ But as days pass, Marya is drawn into their emotional and sexual influence. Not an accurate judge of character, Marya is let down but seems incapable of getting away. Visits to her husband in prison are fleeting and unsatisfactory, husband and wife face their own dilemmas and deal with them alone. This is a melancholy story told beautifully. Marya is intelligent but weak, recognising she is trapped but unable, or unwilling, to extricate herself. ‘You see, I’m afraid the trouble with me
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Categories: Book Love.

Great Opening Paragraph 95… ‘Perfume’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“In eighteenth-century France there lived a man who was one of the most gifted and abominable personages. His story will be told here. His name was Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, and if his name – in contrast to the names of other gifted abominations, de Sade’s, for instance, or Stain-Just’s, Fouché’s, Bonaparte’s, etc. – has been forgotten today, it is certainly not because Grenouille fell short of those more famous blackguards when it came to arrogance, misanthropy, immortality, or, more succinctly, wickedness, but because his gifts and his sole ambition were restricted to a domain that leaves no traces in history: to the fleeting realm of smell.” ‘Perfume’ by Patrick Süskind  Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Mara and Dann’ by Doris Lessing ‘A Bouquet of Barbed Wire’ by Andrea Newman ‘The Last Tycoon’ by F Scott Fitzgerald And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: PERFUME by Patrick Süskind #books via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-2ql
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Book review: Sometimes I Lie

At the beginning of Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney, Amber is in a coma. What happened to her and why she is there, is told in three strands – a series of flashbacks of the previous few days, her childhood, and her trapped-in view of life from her hospital bed. ‘I’ve been returned to my factory settings as a human being, rather than a human doing.’ I’m not sure how to describe this book. It starts off as a study of young women, sisters and friends, and turns into a pacey psychological thriller. At times I forgot the title of the novel, a timely reminder that Amber may be an unreliable narrator. What starts off as a puzzle turns into a sprint, as a mystery visitor to Amber’s hospital bed may be trying to drug her. Her husband is being questioned by the police, it is days before her parents visit, and her sister and husband are arguing at her bedside. Amber is a radio presenter with a touch of OCD, her repetitive checking of things increases as she is stressed. There are problems at work, her husband keeps disappearing, and an old boyfriend turns up out of the
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Categories: Book Love.