Book review: The Lady of the Rivers

Yet again, Philippa Gregory brings history alive. Her story of Jacquetta of Luxembourg, from her first encounter with Joan of Arc, kept me riveted. She is so attuned to the period and the language that her writing is seamless. At no point does the research show itself. And there is a lot of research, Gregory herself admits she does four months of solid research before starting to write. She also says that she often finds the idea for a different novel when she is researching another. It may seem to the outsider that Gregory re-invents the same story – ‘what
Read More

My favourite library… Hunmanby Library

Sadly, my childhood library at Hunmanby, North Yorkshire, closed in 2012. The property was sold in February not, as first feared, to a housing developer, but to a local businessman who plans to move in his existing company. Local councillor Michelle Donohue-Moncrieff was relieved that the property had been bought by someone local who planned to use the existing building, rather than demolishing it to make way for nine new homes. Hunmanby Library was a magical place for me, before its opening I had been used to visits to the village by the library van. Eight local libraries were threatened
Read More

Memoir: Istanbul

“From a very young age, I suspected there was more to my world than I could see: somewhere in the streets of Istanbul, in a house resembling ours, there lived another Orhan so much like me that he could pass for my twin, even my double. I can’t remember where I got this idea or how it came to me. It must have emerged from a web of rumours, misunderstandings, illusions and fears. But in one of my earliest memories, it is already clear how I’ve come to feel about my ghostly other.” So opens Orhan Pamuk’s poetic portrait of
Read More

New books coming out this autumn

William Boyd’s ‘Solo’. James Bond is 45 and in Africa. Stephen King’s ‘Doctor Sleep’. Danny Torrance from ‘The Shining’ is now middle-aged. ‘The Story’ is a compilation of 100 short stories, written by women, and edited by Victoria Hislop. A ‘whydunnit’ from Mark Lawson, ‘The Deaths’ combines social commentary and crime. Jhumpa Lahiri’s ‘The Lowland’ is about two brothers growing up in Calcutta.
Read More

Great Opening Paragraph 26… ‘Midnight’s Children’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“I was born in the city of Bombay… once upon a time. No, that won’t do, there’s no getting away from the date: I was born in Doctor Narlikar’s Nursing Home on August 15th, 1947. And the time? The time matters, too. Well then: at night. No, it’s important to be more… On the stroke of midnight, as a matter of fact. Clock-hands joined palms in respectful greeting as I came. Oh, spell it out, spell it out: at the precise instant of India’s arrival at independence, I tumbled forth into the world. There were gasps. And outside the window,
Read More

My Top 5… fictional heroes to follow on Facebook

Everyone has their favourite fictional heroes, the ones we want to read about again. We watch them in films, debate the casting, but always remain loyal to the book. Mr Darcy Rejection in the first place does increase mystique. In the films he comes over as one-dimensional whereas in the book there is always the hint of hidden layers, plus Austen’s delicate inferences that Lizzie’s assumptions are a little presumptive. ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen [UK: Penguin]   Edward Cullen Rejection [see Mr Darcy], plus golden eyes and that olden cadence of speaking, manners, loyalty, the way his mouth crinkles
Read More

If books were real, Jean Brodie…

Jean Brodie… would agree and disagree with Michael Gove [below] when he was the UK’s Secretary of Education. She would deplore his plan to build a free school on playing fields in Brighton, and celebrate his U-turn this week… … but support his focus on spelling, grammar and punctuation. “Deep in most of us is the potential for greatness or the potential to inspire greatness.”     ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’ by Muriel Spark [UK: Penguin] How would other fictional characters behave, if they were real? Elizabeth Bennet in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ Sarah Burton in ‘South Riding’ Adam
Read More

My favourite library… The London Library

Every time I go to The London Library, it feels like an enormous treat. Why? Well for one, it’s a private library and there is a membership fee which I feel I must justify by regular use. But mostly it feels like a treat because it feels like a library should. It is hushed, the bookshelves are full, floor to ceiling. It has one million books dating from the 16th century to today. I have my favourite workstation, except it’s just a ledge beside a window looking across the rooftops of St James, where no-one else ever seems to walk
Read More

Writing Exercise – the five senses

When the imagination is sluggish, it sometimes pays dividends to take it by the hand and lead it towards creativity. This writing exercise has worked for me in the past. It can seem a little time-consuming when all you have to show for it at the end is a paragraph of text, but I have found the mini-brainstorms on the senses useful in other places. For example… SIGHT Blue sky – azure blue, the Maldives, a hot summer’s day, an icy winter’s day, white puffy clouds like cotton wool. A car park – red cars, blue cars, large and small, dirty and
Read More

Great opening paragraph 25… ‘Super-Cannes’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“The first person I met at Eden-Olympia was a psychiatrist, and in many ways it seems only too apt that my guide to this ‘intelligent’ city in the hills above Cannes should have been a specialist in mental disorders. I realize now that a kind of waiting madness, like a state of undeclared war, haunted the office buildings of the business park. For most of us, Dr Wilder Penrose was our amiable Prospero, the psychopomp who steered our darkest dreams towards the daylight. I remember his eager smile when we greeted each other, and the evasive eyes that warned me
Read More