Archives for novels

How Rose Tremain writes

Rose Tremain “The people who dismiss the idea of plot and character, who think you can dispense with them, I’d really suggest they find out how difficult it is. It just doesn’t happen. One of the seductive things of the novel is that you are borne along by it. What bears you along is the ‘what happens?’ Is the character going to be lost or saved? Happy or unhappy? All those human things we think about in our lives. If you’re not setting up jeopardy, if you’re not setting up conflict, love, humour you [will not] be borne along.” [in an interview with ‘The Times’, May 23, 2016] I agree wholeheartedly with Rose Tremain about the necessity of plot and character and have no love of experimental novels. A novel without plot and character is like a skeleton without a spine. A novel is, presumably, written to be read, to be enjoyed, to be re-read and recommended eagerly to friends. For this to happen the readers must care about your protagonist. If the reader doesn’t care, isn’t interested in the person – why he or she is as they are, what happens to them, why they take the decisions they
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Categories: On Writing.

Book review: An Officer and a Spy

Robert Harris is a master storyteller. Whether he turns his attention to a volcano exploding, ghost writing the memoirs of a questionable politician, the deathly politics of Rome’s Senate, or the Nazis winning the Second World War, you know you can rely on him to tell a rollicking tale based on sound handling of the historical facts. An Officer and a Spy has so many echoes of today it is uncanny, the true story on which it is based took place in 1895. Don’t let the historical basis of the story deter you; this is a good old-fashioned spy story complete with forgeries, eavesdropping, surveillance and murder. The spy of the title is Captain Alfred Dreyfus, convicted as a military spy and sent to Devil’s Island. The captain is Georges Picquart, who witnesses the humiliation of Dreyfus in front of a baying mob. Picquart, who after this opening scene is promoted to run the Statistical Section of France’s Ministry of War, discovers evidence that puts Dreyfus’ conviction in doubt. His superiors dismiss his concerns and tell him to forget them. He doesn’t forget, instead undertaking his own investigations which uncover evidence of a new spy. His efforts lead him to
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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....