Book review: The Last Runaway

Tracy Chevalier is so skilled at getting under the skin of the protagonist in a specific period whether it’s a 19th century fossil collector or a 15th century Belgian weaver, you always believe her. Honor Bright is a real person from page 1 of The Last Runaway and you are rooting for her. The book tackles a difficult subject: the rights and wrongs of helping escaping slaves, and the moral issue this poses for Ohio’s Quakers. Honor struggles to understand this sometimes frightening new country with its huge skies and geometrical roads, forthright people and different social rules. Even the
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‘I Am Not a god’, a short story*

It was difficult pretending to be a god. Dion looked in the mirror and there was a new spot on the end of his nose. Dealing daily with the weight of expectations was rubbish. He opened his front door to find a group of weirdos camped out beside the wheelie bin. He tried to sneak out, but they sank to their knees and chanted: “Dionysus the beautiful.” “I’m not Dionysus, I’m me. And I’m not beautiful.” Then he ran away. At work, he took out his thyrsus. Like everything else at Godsworld, the fennel stick was falling apart. Its pine
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If best-selling albums were books instead

This week’s Bookseller magazine has just arrived and there is a gem in Bent’s Notes on the back page. Graphic designer Christophe Gowans has re-made rock and pop albums as if they were classic book jackets. My favourites are:- Patti Smith’s ‘Horses’ as a DK Eyewitness Guide to Horses Level 42’s ‘World Machine’ as Catch-22 Adam and the Ants’ ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’ as a Wild West book for children ‘What’s the Story Morning Glory’ by Oasis as a religious pamphlet Check out Christophe’s blog. © all photos Christophe Gowans And if you’d like to tweet a link to
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My Top 5… Music to Write to

Music with lyrics messes me up when writing, so I stick strictly to classical. My current Top 5 albums of Music to Write To are:- ‘Coppélia’ by Delibes [Decca] I’ve just bought this after hearing it on Classic FM while driving in the car. The first track took me straight back to seeing the ballet as a child: something of a coup in 1960s East Yorkshire! ‘The Armed Man’ by Karl Jenkins [EMI Classics] The journey to war, the rhythm of trudging of feet and marching drums, never fails to be poignant. Mozart’s ‘Requiem’ [Deutsche Grammophon] This is the most-played
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Not all books are good

I can’t remember the specific book which caused the epiphany: not all books are good. I grew up devouring books. All books. Any books. From my father’s James Herriot to my mother’s Mary Stewart [This Rough Magic and The Moon-Spinners being particular favourites] via Agatha Christie loaned from the library, Shakespeare and Kingsley Amis at school, EM Forster and Virginia Woolf at university, I read it all. The epiphany of realizing that not all books were good was disappointing, almost a betrayal. A little like the realization that Mendelssohn was not English and that Fingal’s Cave was not in Scotland. No-one warned
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Great opening paragraph 2… ‘Middlesex’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974. Specialized readers may have come across me in Dr Peter Luce’s study, ‘Gender Identity in 5-Alpha-Reductase Pseudohermaphrodites,’ published in the Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology in 1975. Or maybe you’ve seen my photograph in chapter sixteen of the now sadly outdated ‘Genetics and Heredity.’ That’s me on page 578, standing naked beside a height chart with a black box covering my eyes.” ‘Middlesex’ by
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‘Clap Your Hands if You Believe’, a short story

The sign on the door says ‘Miss T Bell – Consultant’. I pour the third of the four glasses of wine required for courage before I go on stage, then hide the glass at a knock on the door. “Yes?” “Miss Bell, can we come in?” I wave them in and three members of the chorus settle on the couch in my dressing room, tidying the beech leaves of their skirts. “What do you want?” “I’ve read that all fairies were angels in another life,” says the petite blonde. “But Celandine over there has read that fairies are spirits trapped
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Book review: All Points North

For me, as a Yorkshirewoman, there are many laugh-out-loud moments in All Points North by Simon Armitage and other moments which make me feel fond of my home county. But the piece that stayed with me longest was the page on ‘Writing’. Writing, he says, is “a form of disappearance. Burglars watching the house from outside for four or five hours would think it empty. There isn’t another human activity which combines stillness and silence with so much energy.” I know exactly what he means. I will be upstairs in my attic study, writing all day, my husband out, my
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Great opening paragraph 1… ‘1984’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him.” ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ by George Orwell  Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Catch-22’ by Joseph Heller ‘Room’ by Emma Donoghue ‘Jack Maggs’ by Peter Carey       It is 38 years since I first read this paragraph, here’s my old
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‘Procreation’, a short story

The packet was 20 years old, the use-by date was before the law changed. Jessie tore the Predictor packet into pieces and flushed them down the toilet. Then she shoved the white plastic paddle to the bottom of her handbag and went back to her desk. The Predictor still worked, at least it looked like it did. She’d followed the instructions and it had done everything it said on the packet. The space in the box had turned blue: she was pregnant. Her hand shook as she reached for the computer mouse. The time monitor on her pc had noticed
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