Today I am pleased to welcome novelist, Shelley Weiner who will share her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read.
“Tiring of a well-worn book is like outgrowing a friendship, or a fashion statement, or a taste for cheap confectionary – depressing but, sadly, a fact of life. We change, our tastes change, the priorities that seemed so immutable ten years ago can alter or become irrelevant And so, having scoured my bookshelves to find a ‘Porridge & Cream’ read, I had to conclude that the old faithfuls by the authors I chose (sorry Carol Shields, apologies Jane Smiley …) no longer moved me.
I might have darted back to Dickens, to Austen, to Tolstoy, for classics of that calibre are beyond fatigue. Instead I consoled myself with a movie – the excellent screen adaptation of Colm Tóibín’s Brooklyn – and a large tub of popcorn. And as I sat in the darkness imbibing salty kernels and Irish angst, I recalled the spare beauty of Tóibín’s prose and resolved to return to the novel.
Which I did.
And – relief upon relief – it’s as I remembered it; as simple and quiet and engrossing as when I devoured it on publication eight years ago. It’s the kind of writing I identify with and aspire towards, confirming for me the power of understatement.
Brooklyn focuses on young Eilis, who ventures from the limitations of small-town Ireland to the strangeness and dislocation of New York. It’s a story of immigration, a rite of passage tale that reminds me how the deepest and most important universal truths can resonate through discipline and restraint. Tóibín has the rare ability to disappear into the heart and mind of his character; his lack of authorial ego means that no point does the reader stop to admire his turn of phrase or philosophical astuteness. We’re with Eilis entirely – feeling for her, laughing and crying with her, identifying in the most profound way with her plight. Tóibín revisits the same small-town community in the excellent Nora Webster – a more recent and slightly darker work, satisfyingly alluded to in Brooklyn.”
About ‘A Sister’s Tale’ by Shelley Weiner [Constable]
Mia is dumpy, earthy and responsible, while her sister Gabriella is flighty and spoilt – a prima donna. Middle aged, their lives in a mess, they find themselves alone together in a parched Israeli town. Is it the promised land or a last resort? As the sisters wait together in the sultry heat for something, anything, to happen, they watch each other and remember. They think back to their isolated Jewish childhood in London; the devastation of their father’s sudden death; their mother languishing hopelessly in bed. They conjure up Mia’s Irish Catholic romantic lover, father of her child; and Gabriella’s well-heeled and ‘suitable’ husband. Meanwhile, at the entrance to their flat, an unexpected visitor arrives in time for a fish supper. A Sisters’ Tale is a wicked yet poignant story about the complex and powerful bond between sisters.
Shelley Weiner’s Bio
Shelley Weiner’s novels include A Sisters’ Tale, The Last Honeymoon, The Joker, Arnost, and The Audacious Mendacity of Lily Green. Her 60-minute guides to writing fiction are published by The Guardian. She is a regular tutor for the Faber Academy and trusted mentor on the Gold Dust Mentoring Scheme. She has presented workshops for Guardian Masterclasses, Norwich Writers Centre, and the Cheltenham Literary Festival. A former Fellow of the Royal Literary Fund, Shelley has also taught fiction for – among others – Birkbeck College, Anglia Ruskin University, the Open University, the British Council, and Durham University Summer School.
What is a ‘Porridge & Cream’ book? It’s the book you turn to when you need a familiar read, when you are tired, ill, or out-of-sorts, where you know the story and love it. Where reading it is like slipping on your oldest, scruffiest slippers after walking for miles. Where does the name ‘Porridge & Cream’ come from? Cat Deerborn is a character in Susan Hill’s ‘Simon Serrailler’ detective series. Cat is a hard-worked GP, a widow with two children and she struggles from day-to-day. One night, after a particularly difficult day, she needs something familiar to read. From her bookshelf she selects ‘Love in A Cold Climate’ by Nancy Mitford. Do you have a favourite read which you return to again and again? If so, please send me a message via the contact form here.
‘Brooklyn’ by Colm Tóibín [UK: Penguin]
And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Why does author @shelleyweiner love BROOKLYN by Colm Toibin? via @SandraDanby #books http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1QZ