Wednesday 8 August 2012

Definitely recommended...

Packing my 15 holiday kilos recently, playing see-saw with my ToBeRead pile, as I begrudgingly acknowledged  that there could be a place in my life for a Kindle, I decided that whatever doom and gloom we hear about the publishing industry, the quality of accessible writing is just as good as it ever was. I packed:
* A Cupboard full of Coats by Yvvette Edwards - lovely writing style, this one’s to finish
* A Parachute in the Lime Tree by Annemarie Neary - I liked the look of this under the guise of research into the war period for a novel I might write
* The Sacrificial Man by Ruth Dugdall - because I’m a big fan of The Woman Before Me (see below)

* Love Gudrun Ensslin by Simon Corbin - no, I don’t really understand the title either but my respected writer-friend wrote it and he’s waited long enough for my thoughts.
I shall let you know what I think of this little collection, but for now, here are just some of the books which have blown me away over the years.
The Devil’s Music by Jane Rusbridge
Oh dear. How destructive family secrets can be. Andrew's had a difficult life at the hands of his angry father and grieving and absent mother. He isn't the easiest of characters himself but the peek into his life shows that he deserves some happiness. Will he achieve the closure needed to affect this?
One word springs to mind: lyrical. This tale is so beautifully descriptive and emotional, the characters incredibly complex and believable. I read this twice which is unheard of for me.

Room by Emma Donoghue
So much has been written about this Man Booker and Orange, amongst many other awards, nominated novel that I only really need to say that I feel its adulation is absolutely justified. Seeing five year old Jack’s captivity through his eyes is not as distressing as it may seem because his young and equally damaged mother has done such a good job of trying to give her child an acceptable existence in the most disturbing of circumstances. I’m not generally a fan of sequels but I would love to know how Jack and his mother got on in the ‘real’ world.

Simon’s Choice by Charlotte Castle
I read the first part of Simon's Choice on the writer's site, Authonomy, and once I could get my hot little hands on it, read the book in two nights. The premise is so clever. It's such a ridiculously illogical answer to give a child, particularly when you think that most parents will try not to lie, just give answers as tactfully as possible. But how on earth would you answer a dying child's desperate and scared plea for a hand to hold in the unknown world to which they're headed? Simon said what so many of us would have said and then he had to fathom out how to deal with his promise.

This is a gripping read with an ending I found very satisfying.

Alphabet by Kathy Page
A wonderful psychological drama. In-mate Simon is terrifyingly pleasant some of the time, the rest he's just terrifying. He admits he committed the crime and he's trying so hard to find redemption but he, and those trying to help him, are struggling to get into his mind. I was blown away by this book and when I learnt that author Kathy Page was a writer in residence in a men's prison it wasn't a surprise. Her attention to detail is brilliant, the picture she draws of prison life in the 80s in Britain is enlightening.

Glasshopper by Isabel Ashdown
Talk to anybody who’s read Glasshopper and they will pout and remember wistfully how adorable 13 year old Jake is, and how they wish they could give him a hug. Told expertly through Jake’s voice and that of his troubled mother, Mary, Glasshopper is the story of her descent into alcoholism. Jake tries his best to care for her while coping with the fact that his father and older brother have left home.

If you are someone known to weep at novels, you will not escape wet eyes with this one. However, the way most characters deal with, and accept, their own and each other's demons and failings makes this a strangely upbeat kind of read.

Also great in this genre: Hide and Seek by Clare Sambrook.

The Woman Before Me by Ruth Dugdall
Cate, newly returned to work as a single mum after a period of depression, is the ultimate decision maker in whether convicted murderer, Rose Wilks, will be let out of prison early. Cate must decide if Rose shows remorse for her crime but this requires Rose to take responsibility for a crime she claims she did not commit. Fragile Cate’s few unsatisfactory meetings with Rose and the people from her past form the basis of a terrifyingly subjective decision process. Will she make the right choice? Rose is pivotal in her getting it right but she’s playing games.

This is a page-turner with heaps of character observation to chew over. Wait for the twist at the end before you decide if justice has been done.

Another favourite psychological drama is, Chosen by Lesley Glaister.

Flying Under Bridges by Sandi Toksvig
I’ve sneaked this one in as one of my all-time favourites, I just checked to see that it’s still in print, which it is, and Amazon tells me that I bought it in May 2003. As you might expect, it’s absolutely riddled with dry humour and wry observation – even though the central character is talking to us from Holloway. It’s satirical writing at its best.

Tea With Guppies by Marika Cobbold is a similarly witty-serious drama I’d highly recommend.

I’ve also read and loved the mind-messing, Defending Jacob by William Landay, the beautifully atmospheric, Rook by Jane Rusbridge, the desperately sad and yet uplifting, Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward and the ‘Marmite’ book of, Before I go to Sleep by SJ Watson but as reviews of these are due to be published in Chase Magazine soon, I shall let you read them there first ;)

I’d love to know your favourite reads.  Until my TBR pile reaches the ceiling, I’m always open to suggestions.


  1. Oh dear, Jackie.
    From your wonderful eclectic mix I've only read Room, which I loved,. We bought all the Man Booker short list that year, and I have struggled with some, but Room was fabulous. Also The Long Song by Andrea Levy - I think I'll look out for more of hers.
    I'm also a huge Terry Pratchett fan. The humour and inventiveness are so satisfying, and so clever that I tend to re-read bits as I go along.
    Number one daughter has just bought a kindle, which means she can now read in bed without disturbing her partner. I will pass your suggestions on to her, as she says she feels lost without being able to raid Mummy's bookshelf.
    Keep up the good work. I'll take your list with me to Waterstone's when I collect the new JK Rowling. :)

    1. Thanks Pauline, someone else recommended The Long Song to me, I think I should have a look at it! And can you believe I've never read any Terry Pratchett? I heard him speak once and he was hysterical and have meant to read some ever since - another one for the TBR list! It's a funny thing a Kindle, isn't it? So practical when you can't raid Mummy's bookshelf - and yet there's something very lovely about raiding someone else's bookshelf and indeed, having someone else raid yours. I guess there's room in the world for both types of book - I hope.

  2. Read IQ84 by Murakami recently - fantastic, but it would definitely add to your tonnage ;)


    1. Thanks Eden! Maybe that's one to read after the holidays??

  3. Will get looking at those! Have read Room and thought it ok!

  4. Would love to know what you think, Tonia. Please report back! Thanks for reading.

  5. Consider this – if you buy a Kindle or other reading tablet then you could store much loved books and older free books so increasing reading material whilst still buying paperbacks – when I mentioned this to my sister-in-law, during her recent visit, I saw the light bulb go on in her head! She loves reading & is running out of room at home to store more books and this limits how many books she buys when back home…

  6. Thanks Kay! I know a Kindle is logical but my heart's still with books. I keep tabs on my shelves, just about, by lending and giving them away. I love to be able to give someone a book I've loved, I'm not precious about keeping them. I just hope that we'll always have the choice. Thanks for reading.

  7. I loved both Rook and Before I go to sleep! Have just read Open by Andre Agassi which is fabulous. Very very well written and so much more than an autobiography or a tennis book. Go on , give it a go when (?) you have a bit of time to spare.

    1. Both fabulous books, aren't they! Although Before I Go to Sleep is definitely marmite, I've had some great discussions on it...I do have to be persuaded into biographies and Open sounds interesting but I still have McEnroe's on my list. Have you read both and if so, do you have a preference?

    2. It is a long time since I read McEnroe and have been to sleep a few times since then but I think although it is good Andre Agassi is better as I think it would be interesting even if you didn't especially like tennis.

    3. Ha ha! Love the cross reference :) I should read both really as I am fascinated by McEnroe, having really not been a fan growing up, after having a complete sense of humour failure about his outbursts, yet now he seems so, well, human when he comments for the BBC. But everyone keeps recommending Agassi's... let's add them both to the list, sigh!

  8. Alphabet sounds great! love the cover

    1. Ah, well the cover is very, very clever so (I'm trying so hard not to give anything away), even more reason why I strongly urge you to read it. I read Alphabet years ago and still remember it vividly which is the acid test for me. I'd love to know what you think of it! Thanks for popping over to the blog.


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