Why do you stop reading a book?

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Recently I struggled to finish a newly published book of short stories, which surprised me, as it had received reasonable reviews. The storylines were okay, but weren’t dynamic, and the characters didn’t draw me in. I just didn’t like all twenty of the stories, apart from one.

I was bewailing my dislike of this book to a writing friend, who told me I’d love Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies, a collection of short stories, and lent it to me.

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The Elegance of the Hedgehog

We were thrust into level 4 Covid lockdown and I found myself without a book to read, and, libraries were closed. The thought of it! Thank goodness for Gabby, who said she would swap books with me. I put The Midnight Library (recently read) into a wee bag and walked (mask on) the few blocks to her letterbox and popped it inside. That afternoon, she did the same for me, and left The Elegance of the Hedgehog at my front door.

The title was intriguing. The setting was Paris, a favourite city. It didn’t take me long to start reading. Except the ruminating on Marx at the start almost made my head spin. But when the protagonist Renée introduced herself on page 15, I was hooked. 

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The Boy With No Shoes

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A friend recommended this book to me knowing that I was interested in memoir. She said it was beautifully written, as the caption on the cover also says. As individuals, we all come to reading with our own agendas, a particular way of viewing the world. I hoped that I would be captivated by William Horwood’s story, as I had found myself not engaging with many recent books I had read. But, this one, was so engaging, so compelling, I didn’t wish it to end.

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The Tally Stick

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Tally Stick: historical piece of wood scored across with notches for the items of an account and then spit into halves, each party keeping one. 

I had been aware of the stack of Carl Nixon’s latest book every time I visited Paradox Books, a terrific bookstore just across the road from my home. I had a backlog of books to read, and was at the end of that pile when I decided it was time that I took The Tally Stick home. And was I pleased that I did! 

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Ephemera

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Sketch by Vivienne Lingard

Imagine life seven years after a virus (an electronic one, the Crash) has taken down all electronic services world-wide. So, no computers, no devices, no plane towers, no planes, power or petrol. The only access to food is to grow your own; the only way to get around is by foot, bicycle, boat, or horse. That’s the premise of Tina Shaw’s latest novel, Ephemera. Continue reading

Those who leave and those who stay

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Water-soluble pen, wash and pencil

Sketching the cover of the book you are currently reading was on the list of suggestions that our sketch tutor gave us, to keep students busy while in lockdown for a month. It’s been a great motivator, and occupation, while (mostly) confined to our homes. Continue reading

My Brilliant Friend

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I may have not read My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante if my friend Liz hadn’t passionately recommended it to me. I was down at the library to borrow it immediately. My reasons for haste were because I was going to stay with her in a couple of weeks and I wished to be prepared for the discussion about books and writing I knew we would have. Liz and I met as young teens, at school in the sixties, two clever but disaffected kids. Not unlike Lia and Lenù the main characters in Ferrante’s book, the first in her Neapolitan series, Book One: Childhood, Adolescence. Continue reading

Everyone should read this

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“Everyone should read this,” my friend Betty said, handing me a book she’d been telling me about. I glanced at the tile The Choice, noted it was an International Best Seller, and immediately slotted it in the popular novel category I mostly stayed away from. “It really is worth reading,” she emphasised, no doubt sensing my scepticism. I needed something to take my mind off my husband’s illness and my stressed state, so thanked her for the read and left.

That night, I couldn’t sleep and began reading The Choice. The author, Edith Eger, is a Holocaust survivor, but before I reach that part of her story, the introduction has captured me. Continue reading

What should have been on my bookshelf.

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‘Do Not Say We Have Nothing’  is not a title supported by my new bookends, sadly enough, but it was on loan from my book group. The author of this moving novel is Canadian Madeleine Thien, and I am pleased that I was given the opportunity to read her work.

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Reading someone new to me

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My husband bought this book for me, having read a review online praising the writer. I have read many collections of short stories in my time, including the likes of  Katherine Mansfield, Doris Lessing, John Steinbeck, Janet Frame, Raymond Carver, and Alice Munro. Until I unwrapped the book and read the cover, this was the first time I’d met this author. Continue reading