Monthly Archives November 2018

Great Opening Paragraph…112

“3 August 1873. I was never so frightened as I am now. They have left me sitting in the dark, with only the light from the window to write by. They have put me in my own room, they have locked the door on me. They wanted Ruth to do it, but she would not. She said ‘What, do you want me to lock up my own mistress, who has done nothing?’ In the end the doctor took the key from her & locked the door himself, then made her leave me. Now the house is full of voices, all saying my name. If I close my eyes & listen it might be any ordinary night. I might be waiting for Mrs Brink to come & take me down to a dark circle, & Madeleine or any girl might be there, blushing, thinking of Peter, of Peter’s great dark whiskers & shining hands.’ ‘Affinity’ by Sarah Waters [UK: Virago] Amazon Click here to read my review of The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters. Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Illywhacker’ by Peter Carey ‘Sophie’s World’ by Jostein Gaarder ‘Goldfinger’ by Ian Fleming And if you’d like
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

#BookReview The Indelible Stain by @wendy_percival #genealogy #mystery

When the key character of a novel goes on holiday or visits a picturesque place, you know something is going to happen. Genealogist Esme Quentin in The Indelible Stain by Wendy Percival goes to Devon to help a friend archive the records of a local charity for underprivileged children. Second in the Esme Quentin genealogical mysteries, this is an enjoyable story of convict history set in a beautiful Devon location. But beneath that beauty lurk fraud, lies and revenge. Hatred and bitterness reach from the past to the current day. Up early on her first morning, Esme takes a walk on the wild beach and finds a body. The woman, just alive, seems to have fallen from the cliffs. Her last words, spoken to Esme, are key to the mystery which follows. “I lied,” she says. Beside her body is an old sepia photograph. The police don’t take seriously Esme’s concerns that the woman’s last words combined with the mystery photograph indicate foul play, so Esme decides to identify the family in the photograph. Meanwhile, Neave Shaw is worrying about her mother who has disappeared after sending a confused, possibly drunken, email. Worried and not understanding her grandmother’s dismissive attitude
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Categories: Book Love and Family history research.

#Bookreview ‘The Silence of the Girls’ by Pat Barker

What a tumult of emotions this book unleashes. The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker is a re-telling of the Trojan War from the viewpoint of Briseis, a captured Trojan queen who is enslaved in the Greek camp and claimed by Achilles as a prize of war. No matter that he killed her husband and brothers; that was the way things worked. Women were chattels without a voice, without feelings. This is not a simple retelling of a myth, it is a comment on the danger of male-dominated warfare fuelled by anger, hate and a sense of competition while the women are treated as possessions. The first action of a conquering army was to slaughter all babies and pregnant women, to prevent more males being born which may be future enemies. Barker has long written about war, and about women; now she combines the two with a microscopic focus on Briseis. It is an emotional story, overwhelming at times. Some women adapt, others collapse; some fall in love with their captors. The details of daily life are steeped in realism – the butchering, the piss, the blood – and Barker makes you believe it all. Structurally, the [albeit, short]
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: The Only Story

I seem to be developing a Marmite relationship with Julian Barnes. I loved his early work and The Sense of an Ending, but had difficulty with his last novel The Noise of Time. So I approached The Only Story with trepidation. My stomach sank as I read the first page. The first paragraph poses a question: ‘Would you rather love the more, and suffer the more; or love the less, and suffer the less? That is, I think, finally, the only real question.” A pertinent question to which each of us has our own private answer. My difficulty with the first few pages is the lack of characterization; because it is told in the first person, we do not know who is speaking, there is no context. That of course comes later, and a few pages in its starts to warm up with the description of a tennis match. But ultimately I could not shake the perception that it was Julian Barnes the man speaking, not a fictional character, in the way American authors such as Wolfe and Roth seem to become characters in their own novels. But this is a lesson in patience. I read on and the story started
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Categories: Book Love.

#Bookreview ‘The Love Letter’ by @lucindariley #romance #suspense

Lucinda Riley is a new author for me and she has become an instant favourite. The Love Letter is a tightly written combination of mystery and romance unravelling the truths of a long ago love affair. Nothing and no one are as they first seem. As one secret is unveiled, so is another mystery. When 95-year old actor Sir James Harrison dies, journalist Joanna Haslam attends the memorial service where an incident with a frail elderly lady sets this story in motion. When a few days later Joanna receives a package from the lady, Rose, she visits her to ask questions only to find Rose has died. Is there a story here to write which will win her promotion on her tabloid newspaper? Untangling the truth from the lies turns out to be much more complicated and dangerous than Jo could ever have imagined. Meanwhile Zoe Harrison, the actor’s grand-daughter, carer, and now facing life as a single mother with her son Jamie, receives a call from the former love of her life, Art. It is a while before the storylines of Jo and Zoe combine. The real identity of Art remains secret for quite a while though I had guessed
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Categories: Book Love.

My Porridge & Cream read: @authormaryg #books #womensfiction

Today I’m delighted to welcome contemporary women’s novelist Mary Grand. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet by James Herriot. “My mum introduced me to James Herriot’s books in my early twenties. Fresh out of college I was living in a bedsit in Bethnal Green in London, cycling to work each day through heavy traffic to the school where I was teaching. These books were my escape into a different world, a different time. This was the world of 1930’s rural Yorkshire that was disappearing even as James Herriot wrote about it, although thankfully the hills and dales he describes with such love remain. He tells his stories with humour, charm and honesty; he is not frightened to talk about his mistakes and laugh at himself. When I was taking a picture of my copy of this book I realised this is quite an up to date cover…my early paperbacks have sadly collapsed! “I have read and re read these books throughout my life. In particular, when life has been difficult; after weeks of sleepless nights with babies; when my parents were very ill; when I had to stop work because life temporarily overwhelmed me. Gosh, as
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Categories: Porridge & Cream.

Book review: ‘The Burning Chambers’ by Kate Mosse

The story starts in winter, 1562, in the South of France. In a prison in Toulouse, a man is being tortured, while in Carcassonne a young woman awakes from a bad dream, a sad memory. The Burning Chambers by Kate Mosse is heavy on atmosphere and historical detail and, like Mosse’s Languedoc trilogy, is slow to start. Despite my confusion, and I admit to being confused in parts for two-thirds of the book, I read on because Mosse is an expert storyteller who spins a tale and reels you in so you sit up late at night reading just one more chapter. Sometimes though, I wished she would cut some of the detail. This is a story of religious war, of prejudice and violence, of loyalty and love, and principally a woman and a man who find themselves on opposite sides of the religious divide. Minou Joubert is a Catholic, the daughter of a bookseller who believes in selling books of all faiths for everyone to buy freely. When she receives an anonymous letter, sealed with a family insignia she does not recognize and comprising only five words ‘SHE KNOWS THAT YOU LIVE’, she is mystified. That same day, fate crosses
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: Gilead

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson is a read like no other. A slow, contemplative journey through the memories of one man’s life, as he waits to die. In 1956, the Reverend John Ames writes a letter to his young son. It tugs the heartstrings. Robinson writes with a clear unadorned style drawing heavily on biblical texts but it is not a religious tract, it is the story of a man’s life, his memories, his regrets and loves. The first few lines grabbed me and didn’t let me go. Do not start reading this book if you are feeling impatient. Some passages are easy and quick to read, others deserve more thought. It unwinds slowly like a length of thread, telling us the story of John Ames, his father and grandfather, the legacy of the Ames family which has been inherited by the Reverend’s seven-year old son. I am not religious and some of the references will have passed me by. In the first half of the novel, I would think ‘oh no not another section about religion’, but as I read deeper into the book I became drawn into the stories of John Ames and his forebears and how their beliefs shaped
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Categories: Book Love.

#Christmas is coming… give someone a signed paperback

Are you planning your Christmas present list yet? If you know an avid reader who loves the touch and smell of real books, why not give them a signed paperback copy of ‘Ignoring Gravity’ or ‘Connectedness’? Simply click the link below to order at my website. Payment is quick and secure by PayPal and you can specify your personalised dedication. It couldn’t be easier! Available in the UK only. Order ‘Ignoring Gravity’ Order ‘Connectedness’ And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Give a signed copy of IGNORING GRAVITY or CONNECTEDNESS as a #Christmasgift https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3A2 via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love.

How Philippa Gregory writes

Philippa Gregory “What is so wonderful about fiction, especially if you write it as I do, in the first person, is that you are there. In a sense it’s not as though I’ve taken the history and given it to the reader. It’s as if I’ve taken the reader and put them into the history… If a historical novel is successful then the reader isn’t saying ‘Hang on a minute, I know this,’ or ‘I’ll look this up’, they are caught up in the narrative.’” [in an interview with ‘The Bookseller’ magazine, May 5, 2017] All great novels take the reader and put them into a world, a world they come to care about. Writing tension into a novel about any historical event is a challenge, when the ending of the event is well known. Philippa Gregory has made an art of this but she also chooses her history cleverly. Many of her main characters are women whose history is not so well known to non-history buffs, even if the larger political events of the day are. So the tension does remain. Her remark about viewpoint is spot-on. The author’s choice about third person or first person is key to
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Categories: On Writing.

#Bookreview ‘The Fire Court’ by Andrew Taylor #Historical #Drama

In order to fully appreciate The Fire Court by Andrew Taylor, you need to read The Ashes of London first. Otherwise, references and subtleties will pass you by. This is definitely a trilogy to read in order. The threats and risks are not always clear on the page and I had a couple of ‘oh, now I get it’ moments. But as with the first book, Taylor writes about post-Fire London with all the smoke, heat and rotting smells vivid on the page. The first chapter sets up the central mystery to be solved. James Marwood’s elderly confused father wanders in the city and follows a woman he believes to be Rachel, his deceased wife. He is brought home by a kindly roadsweeper. Marwood listens to his father’s confused ramblings and fears his wits are disappearing. The next day, Nathaniel Marwood is dead and his son attempts to recreate his father’s movements to see if there was truth in his ramblings; into the heart of the rookery at Clifford’s Inn to see if there really is a chamber of the ant and inside it, a sinful woman. Instead he meets an objectionable man called Gromwell. Two women are key to Marwood’s
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Categories: Book Love.

FlashPIC #33: feet beneath the table

Two pairs of feet, and knees, and legs. Unidentified. Anonymous. Gender undetermined. What is happening here? This is a writing tip from the Writers’ BLOCKbuster series. Try this picture to kickstart a flash fiction story about a meeting between two people. Or use it as a dialogue exercise for your novel. They could be strangers, or lovers having an argument, or husband and wife splitting up. Or are they planning a murder? Decide on the gender of each person. Give them a name and sketch out an identity. Imagine how their voices sound when they speak. Next write some sample dialogue for each person, conducted with a stranger. The subject matter is unimportant. You should concentrate on the character’s speech pattern; is there something distinguishable about this person’s voice? An accent, a mannerism or verbal tic, foreign pronunciations? Decide on the general subject area to be discussed at the table in the photograph then make your two characters polarised in their opinions, taking opposite positions on the subject in hand. Now give them a problem to solve or a confrontation. Start writing the dialogue. © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more inspiration? Try these other FlashPICs:- How thirsty are you? Hotel corridor
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Categories: On Writing, Writers' BLOCKbusters, and Writing exercises.

First Edition: Mrs Dalloway

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf was published in 1925 and was actually created from two short stories – Mrs Dalloway in Bond Street, and The Prime Minister. It is one of Woolf’s best known novels as all the action takes place on one day in June 1923. The story moves backwards and forwards in time, and in and out of character’s minds, as a picture of Clarissa’s life is constructed.  A first edition of the Hogarth Press 1925 edition [above right] is for sale at Peter Harrington, at time of going to press, for £1,750. Around 2000 copies of the first printing were produced. A rare first edition of the American book [below] with the Vanessa Bell dust jacket, published in 1925 by Harcourt, Brace and Company, is for sale at Raptis Rare Books for $5,500.  The story Clarissa Dalloway is making preparations for a party she will host that evening. The day reminds her of her childhood spent in the countryside at Bourton and makes her wonder at her choice of husband. She married reliable Richard Dalloway rather than the demanding Peter Walsh. When Peter arrives, the tension of her old decision resurfaces. The film A 1997 film starred
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Categories: Book Love.