Archives for books

I agree with Lucian Freud…

Lucian Freud “I think half the point of painting a picture is that you don’t know what will happen. Perhaps if painters did know how it was going to turn out they wouldn’t bother actually to do it. Painting is rather like those recipes where you do all manner of elaborate things to a duck, and then end up putting it on one side and using only the skin.” [excerpt from ‘Man with a Blue Scarf: On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucian Freud’ by Martin Gayford] It reminds me of a quote I picked up years ago about writing that has stuck with me. I copied it onto a Post-It note and stuck it on the whiteboard behind my computer. ‘If the chapter’s about what you think it’s about, it’s rubbish.’  I may paraphrase so apologies to whoever it was that first said it, but I think I’ve got the meaning about right. Part of the enjoyment of writing, for me, is creating characters then putting them into situations and seeing how they react. I do write a story plan, but it is constantly being revised as my characters take charge of their lives. If the story plan remains
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Categories: On Writing.

Love books? Carry a handbag book

Check out designer these clutch bags by Olympia Le-Tan, for every book-loving girl. My favourites are:- The Catcher in the Rye Love Story… ah, Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw, that takes me back to my teenage years. I’m not sure about the purple and pink colour scheme for Jane Eyre though. The list of titles at her website is endless, lots of French novels, plus Moby Dick, Dracula, and A Streetcar Named Desire.   ‘The Story of O.L.T.’ by Olympia Le-Tan [UK: Rizzoli] And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: If you love #books you’ll love these bags by @olympialetan http://wp.me/p5gEM4-cc via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love.

I agree with Dorothea Brande…

Dorothea Brande “The unconscious is shy, elusive, and unwieldy, but it is possible to learn to tap it at will, and even to direct it. The conscious mind is meddlesome, opinionated, and arrogant, but it can be made subservient to the inborn talent through training. By isolating as far as possible the functions of these two sides of the mind, even by considering them not merely as aspects of the same mind but as separate personalities, we can arrive at a kind of working metaphor, impossible to confuse with reality, but infinitely helpful in self-education.” ‘excerpt from ‘Becoming a Writer’ by Dorothea Brande]  I’m still working on isolating the two sides of my mind. Being a journalist by training does have its benefits – writing as a daily routine, working to a deadline etc – but freeing my unconscious mind is still a work in progress. But I have come a long way from that first creative writing class where I struggled to write a description of a bridge [belated thanks to my tutor Nina Rapi for her patience!]. If you agree with Dorothea Brande, perhaps you will agree with:- Janice Galloway – write about the credible now and the implied
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Categories: On Writing.

If books were real, Mattie Ross…

Mattie Ross …would be a women’s rights lawyer with a secret Stella McCartney habit.   How would other fictional characters behave, if they were real? Torak in ‘Wolf Brother’ Bella Swan, vampire, in ‘Breaking Dawn’ Jackson Brodie in ‘Case Histories’ To read the first paragraph of True Grit, click here.   ‘True Grit’ by Charles Portis [UK: Bloomsbury] And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: If #books were real, Mattie Ross would become a lawyer: TRUE GRIT by Charles Portis via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-az
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Categories: Book Love and If books were real....

A book I love… The Wind in the Willows

One of the reasons I still love my copy of The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, is the actual edition: a green cloth-covered hardback with a green paper cover.  I can remember the excitement at being given a hardback book which in 1969 was expensive. I was more used to devouring as many Famous Five and Secret Seven books as possible that we could pick up secondhand at the school fete: my reading at that age was voracious. The book was a birthday gift from my parents for my ninth birthday, the birthday greeting inside is written in my elder sister’s neat italic script. It never dawned on me that the language was old-fashioned – Oddsboddikins! – I just lapped it up. Today the book sits on my bookshelf between Kate Grenville’s The Secret River, and Stamboul Train by Graham Greene.   ‘The Wind in the Willows’ by Kenneth Grahame [UK: Wordsworth Editions] And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS by Kenneth Grahame http://wp.me/p5gEM4-cZ #bookreview via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love.

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....

If books were real, Adam Dalgliesh…

Adam Dalgliesh would secretly eat a whole 100g bar of Maya Gold Green & Black chocolate in one sitting. 55% cocoa with a hint of orange and spices. ‘Devices and Desires’ by PD James [Faber] How would other fictional characters behave, if they were real? Bilbo Baggins in ‘The Hobbit’ Jack Ryan in ‘Patriot Games’ Jackson Brodie in ‘Case Histories’ And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: If #books were real, Adam Dalgliesh would eat chocolate: DEVICES AND DESIRES by PD James via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-e0
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Categories: Book Love and If books were real....

I agree with Lynn Barber…

Lynn Barber “At Vanity Fair I had to ‘pitch ideas’ and then go through layers of editors, all of whom asked what my ‘angle’ was going to be. I have always deeply hated and resented this question. If you have an angle on someone, it means you have already decided what to write before you meet, so you really might as well not bother interviewing them.” [excerpt from ‘An Education’ by Lynn Barber] As a journalist, I hated that question too. And I find the same principle applies to writing fiction. It’s good to have a vague plan at the beginning, but it is good to change that plan as you write as the characters and story develop. Predictable = boring. It’s good when your characters start surprising you. If you agree with Lynn Barber, perhaps you will agree with:- Truman Capote – learn the rules then re-arrange them to suit yourself Roddy Doyle – learn the rules then re-arrange them to suit yourself Sarah Hilary – research can become an obsession – and a distraction   ‘An Education’ by Lynn Barber [UK: Penguin] And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Don’t
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Categories: On Writing.

A book I love… Swallows and Amazons

What a heady mix: adventures on a lake, sailing, camping on your own island, a battle with a pirate. I did so want to be Nancy, though I admired Titty’s night alone on the island. I eventually went to the Lake District on a school trip, and learned to sail in Filey Bay with my brother. I never fought a pirate though. After this book I read all the other adventures of the Swallows and Amazons, and the Big Six. ‘Swallows and Amazons’ by Arthur Ransome [UK: Vintage Children’s Classics] And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: SWALLOWS AND AMAZONS by Arthur Ransome http://wp.me/p5gEM4-dQ #bookreview via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love.

I agree with… Hilary Mantel

Hilary Mantel “I remember the first time I read Jane Eyre: probably every woman writer does, because you recognise, when you have hardly begun it, that you are reading a story about yourself.” [excerpt from Giving up the Ghost by Hilary Mantel] I remember the first time I read Jane Eyre too. I must have been about 12 or 13, and I still retain a clear picture in my mind of Jane and Helen cuddled together in a hard wooden bunk. I’m not sure I thought it was a story about me, though. If you agree with Hilary Mantel, perhaps you will agree with:- Frederick Forsyth – all authors are separate, taking notes, watching Antony Gormley – everybody says what does it mean, but what does life mean? Deborah McKinley – the lean years focussed me on what I really wanted   ‘Giving up the Ghost’ by Hilary Mantel [UK: Fourth Estate] And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Do you remember the 1st time you read JANE EYRE? Hilary Mantel does #writing via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-cQ
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

A book I love… Stig of the Dump

To my sadness, I haven’t got my original copy of this book. I read Stig of the Dump by Clive King it when I was about 9 or 10, I guess, and it opened up a new world of possibilities to me. That you could be free to live your own life, free of adults, free of rules, free to imagine, free to believe.  The writer Clive King grew up in a house near a chalk pit, so I’d like to think he did actually meet Stig. I re-read it recently and the story was just as fresh. It was published 40 years ago but it hasn’t aged at all. ‘Stig of the Dump’ by Clive King [UK: Puffin] And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: STIG OF THE DUMP by Clive King http://wp.me/p5gEM4-7f #bookreview via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love.

Great opening paragraph 5… ‘Moon Tiger’ #amwriting #FirstPara

” ‘I’m writing a history of the world,’ she says. And the hands of the nurse are arrested for a moment; she looks down at this old woman, this old ill woman. ‘Well, my goodness,’ the nurse says. ‘That’s quite a thing to be doing, isn’t it?’ And then she becomes busy again, she heaves and tucks and smooths – ‘Upsy a bit, dear, that’s a good girl – then we’ll get you a cup of tea.’ ” ‘Moon Tiger’ by Penelope Lively  Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Spies’ by Michael Frayn ‘Room’ by Emma Donoghue ‘After You’d Gone’ by Maggie O’Farrell       Here is my old copy of Moon Tiger, well-read and much-loved. And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: MOON TIGER by Penelope Lively via @SandraDanby #amreading http://wp.me/p5gEM4-7w
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

A book I love… The Language of Flowers

This book was picked up from a supermarket bookshelf in Moab, Utah, during a tour of South-Western USA in 2012. I didn’t realise when I bought it that the story is set in San Francisco and the countryside north of the Golden Gate Bridge, somewhere we would visit later in the same holiday. It’s about a damaged young girl Victoria who leaves the foster-care system with minimal social skills but a deep understanding of flowers and their meanings. Hydrangea, to Victoria, means dispassion. She struggles with intimacy until she meets a man who tells her that Jonquil means desire. Thoughtful, gently-paced but with emotional power. ‘The Language of Flowers’ by Vanessa Diffenbaugh [UK: Pan]       Left, is my American copy. I think I prefer this cover. And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS by @VDiffenbaugh http://bit.ly/2bdZACF #bookreview via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love.

Reading for research: Man with a Blue Scarf

I am writing this in Spain where our internet connection has been intermittent for the last few days. We live in such a rural place that our telephone and internet are by satellite not land line and both are unpredictable. So, unable to blog, there should be no feasible distractions from the process of writing. The weather here is foul – cold and wet, yes in Andalucía! – so I hunker down in front of the fire with a book that’s been sitting on my bookshelf here for a while. I’m reading about art and artists, as on-going research for my current novel, Connectedness. Having read last summer The Yellow House by Martin Gayford, the story of Van Gogh’s stay at Arles in the South of France when he painted the Sunflowers series, I would read anything he writes. Man with a Blue Scarf: On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucian Freud is a diary kept by Gayford as he sat for a portrait in Freud’s studio from 2003-2005. The book made headlines when published in 2010 because Freud was initially dissatisfied with the portrait. He couldn’t get the blue of the scarf right. Gayford finally admitted there were two scarves he
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Categories: Book Love, On Researching and On Writing.

If books were real, Elizabeth Bennet…

Elizabeth Bennet would read Grazia, subscribe to Granta and secretly fancy Benedict Cumberbatch.     ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen [UK: Penguin] How would other fictional characters behave, if they were real? Katniss Everdeen in ‘The Hunger Games’ Mattie Ross in ‘True Grit’ Jo March in ‘Little Women’ And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: If #books were real, Elizabeth Bennet would read Grazia magazine: PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austen via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-5N
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Categories: Book Love and If books were real....

Great opening paragraph 4… ‘Sophie’s World’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“Sophie Amundsen was on her way home from school. She had walked the first part of the way with Joanna. They had been discussing robots. Joanna thought the human brain was like an advanced computer. Sophie was not certain she agreed. Surely a person was more than a piece of hardware?” ‘Sophie’s World’ by Jostein Gaarder Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘The Heart is a Lonely Hunter’ by Carson McCullers ‘The Sense of an Ending’ by Julian Barnes ‘That They May Face the Rising Sun’ by John McGahern And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: SOPHIE’S WORLD by Jostein Gaarder http://wp.me/p5gEM4-4S via @SandraDanby #amreading
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

I agree with Stephen King…

Stephen King “Let’s get one thing clear right now, shall we? There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognise them when they show up.” [excerpt from ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King]  He’s right. Ideas come at me all the time, doing the most prosaic things. Doing the washing-up, queuing to park at the supermarket, wandering around an art gallery, sitting in a traffic jam. The fun starts when I realize two [or three] bits belong together. It doesn’t work if I force things to fit, so I’ve had to learn to be patient and let things be for a while. Some of my ideas have been kept for years until they find the right home. When a character finds a setting, a setting finds a story, a name in the newspaper fits a so far unnamed character, the resulting buzz is incredible.   ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King [UK: Hodder] If you
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Categories: On Writing.

If books were real, Mikael Blomkvist…

Mikael Blomkvist …would have a white Eames chair and stool in his flat, but rarely sit in it.     ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ by Stieg Larsson [UK: MacLehose] How would other fictional characters behave, if they were real? Hercule Poirot in ‘Death on the Nile’ Mr Wickham in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ Torak in ‘Wolf Brother’ And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: If #books were real, Mikael Blomkvist would own an Eames chair: THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TAGOO by Stieg Larsson via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-5u
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Categories: Book Love and If books were real....

Great opening paragraph 3… ‘Herzog’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“If I am out of my mind, it’s all right with me, thought Moses Herzog.” ‘Herzog’ by Saul Bellow Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Enduring Love’ by Ian McKewan ‘Lord of the Flies’ by William Golding ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ by Rachel Joyce And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: HERZOG by Saul Bellow http://wp.me/p5gEM4-4G via @SandraDanby #books
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

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 air seems strange. “I feel when I am in it as if the air around me has shifted and is not the same air I breathed and moved in back in England, but is some other substance,” she writes to her parents. Chevalier does her research thoroughly, but feels no need to wave the depth of her research in her reader’s face. Instead it informs every simple description. Woven throughout the book is Honor’s sewing of quilts. Even this is different in Ohio where Honor’s calm nature and precise sewing is admired by the local hat-wearing ladies, but her needle
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.