Archives for My Top 5…

My top 5… literary adoptees

Since I started writing about adoption, my brain seems to be hard-wired to literary tales of adoption. So here are my top 5 literary adoptees …I am still reading, so the list may change. ‘Great Expectations’ by Charles Dickens: After the death of his parents, Pip is brought up by his sister and her husband. “My sister, Mrs Joe Gargery, was more than twenty years older than I, and had established a great reputation with herself and the neighbours because she had brought me up ‘by hand’. Having at that time to find out for myself what the expression meant, and knowing her to have a hard and heavy hand, and to be much in the habit of laying it upon her husband as well as upon me, I supposed that Joe Gargery and I were both brought up by hand.” ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ by JK Rowling: Harry, and his cupboard under the stairs, is probably the most famous literary orphan of modern times. “We swore when we took him in we’d put a stop to that rubbish,” said Uncle Vernon, “swore we’d stamp it out of him! Wizard, indeed!” ‘Peter Pan’ by JM Barrie: Peter, the
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Categories: Book Love, My Top 5..., and On Writing.

My Top 5… books about writing

When I first made the switch from journalism to fiction, I did what journalists do; I researched, I read books. So here are my top five books about writing fiction, the ones on my bookshelf which I still turn to. ‘Story’ by Robert McKee [UK: Methuen] If the number one book is to be quantified by the amount of underlining and number of Post-Its, then this is my ‘most-used’ book on my shelf. The sub-title reads ‘Substance, structure, style, and the principles of screenwriting’. Yes, it’s a book about writing screenplays, not novels, but it is full of wisdom about storytelling. For example: “If you make the smallest element do its job, the deep purpose of the telling will be served. Let every phrase of dialogue or line of description either turn behaviour and action of set up conditions for change. Make your beats build scenes, scenes build sequences, sequences build acts, acts build story to its climax.” And this, on risk: “We’d all like to have our cake and eat it too. In a state of jeopardy, on the other hand, we must risk something that we want or have in order to gain something else that we want
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Categories: My Top 5... and On Writing.

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 when he smiles. Something about speed too, his athleticism, his ability to run without crashing into trees. Ilyana Kadushin, the actress who reads the audio CD, has a most unnervingly sexy voice for Edward. ‘Twilight’ by Stephanie Meyer [UK: Atom]   Mr Rochester Rejection again [Mr Darcy, again]. This is the same story curve as The Sound of Music – Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer – the unwilling governess with no other employment alternative, the handsome but flawed older man, the authoritative boss, the emotional connection. ‘Jane Eyre’ by Charlotte Bronte [UK: Penguin]   Jamie Fraser Where do I start? Strength
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Categories: Book Love and My Top 5....

My Top 5… the Booker winners I re-read, and why

All lists are completely subjective, and I am not claiming to have read every Booker winner. So this list is a little like a celebrity’s ‘Desert Island Discs’, it has changed in recent years and will no doubt change again. There are more recent Booker winners which I love, Hilary Mantel for example, but have yet to re-read and so strictly they do not belong here. In no particular order, my current Top 5 are:- ‘Possession’ by AS Byatt [UK: Vintage] The plaiting together of storylines and points of view in two centuries, it showed me how to plot. ‘Life of Pi’ by Yann Martel [UK: Canongate] The sheer magical ambition of it, a tiger in a boat. ‘Midnight’s Children’ by Salman Rushdie [UK: Vintage] The scope, the exotic setting, what a way of recounting the birth of a new country. ‘Moon Tiger’ by Penelope Lively [UK: Penguin] Perhaps my all-time favourite, for its gentle romance, its clever manipulation of point of view, the handling of death and grief. And she gets the dialogue spot-on too. ‘Oscar and Lucinda’ by Peter Carey [UK: Faber] The first Peter Carey I read, the first of many, and picked up on impulse because it had won
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Categories: Book Love and My Top 5....

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 classical CD on my shelf, replacing the old cassette bought as a first exploration into classical music. ‘Sense and Sensibility’ by Patrick Doyle [Sony Classical] Soundtrack to Ang Lee’s uplifting film. A must for Austen fans like me. ‘Lord of the Rings’ by Howard Shore [Rhino] The standout track for me is the male voice choir when the Fellowship are fleeing through the Mines of Moria. … and not forgetting:- Verdi’s Requiem Holst’s Planets And anything by Jacqueline du Pré, I have The Complete EMI Recordings. Do you agree with my other ‘Top 5’ choices?:- My Top 5… books about
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Categories: My Top 5... and On Writing.