In my outbox this week are The Cuckoo’s Calling (Cormoran Strike) by Robert Galbraith / JK Rowling and The Colour of Magic: The First Discworld Novel by Terry Pratchett. I’ve already reviewed the former and I’ll no doubt review the latter in the next few days.
In my inbox are To Kill A Mockingbird: 50th Anniversary edition by Harper Lee which I started last night and which I’m ashamed to admit I have never read before.
The blurb says:
‘Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.’
A lawyer’s advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee’s classic novel – a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with exuberant humour the irrationality of adult attitudes to race and class in the Deep South of the thirties. The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina of one man’s struggle for justice. But the weight of history will only tolerate so much.
To Kill a Mockingbird is a coming-of-age story, an anti-racist novel, a historical drama of the Great Depression and a sublime example of the Southern writing tradition.
The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford which is my Book Club book for the month.
Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love is one of the funniest, sharpest novels about love and growing up ever written.
‘Obsessed with sex!’ said Jassy, ‘there’s nobody so obsessed as you, Linda. Why if I so much as look at a picture you say I’m a pygmalionist.’
In the end we got more information out of a book called Ducks and Duck Breeding.
‘Ducks can only copulate,’ said Linda, after studying this for a while, ‘in running water. Good luck to them.’
Oh, the tedium of waiting to grow up! Longing for love, obsessed with weddings and sex, Linda and her sisters and Cousin Fanny are on the lookout for the perfect lover.
But finding Mr Right is much harder than any of the sisters had thought. Linda must suffer marriage first to a stuffy Tory MP and then to a handsome and humourless communist, before finding real love in war-torn Paris. . .
Burnt Island by Alice Thompson which has kindly been sent to me by Salt Publishing and which I’m very much looking forward to reading and reviewing.
Struggling writer Max Long arrives on Burnt Island to work on his next novel. There he encounters bestselling author James Fairfax, whom Max suspects of not being the real author of the book that has made his fortune Furthermore, Fairfax’s wife has gone missing.
In a desperate bid for success Max decides to compromise his talent by writing a horror bestseller. Recently divorced and increasingly mentally unstable, he witnesses disturbing visions that take the form of the horror he is attempting to write. Is Max losing his mind – or his soul? What is the truth about Fairfax? And what is the secret of Burnt Island? An ironic satire on literary ambition, Alice Thompson’s sixth novel turns into something much darker.
Author interviews I’ve heard this week include…
Jung Chang on her internationally renowned epic novel of Japanese life told through three generations of women – her grandmother, her mother and Jung Chang herself. Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China was published in the early 90’s and is still banned in Japan. It has been on my shelf for some time but at 720 pages needs some considerable time devoted to it.
Julian Barnes on his fictional account of the life of the famous French novelist, Flaubert in Flaubert’s Parrot. I enjoyed Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending and already have Arthur & George on my shelf. I enjoyed his interview but it didn’t make me want to rush out and buy this one. Which is a bit odd actually as I studied Flaubert’s Madame Bovary (Wordsworth Classics) for my degree and loved it. Maybe after Arthur & George…
Frederick Forsyth on the action packed The Day Of The Jackal and the films made of the same name since its release 40 years ago. It is a book about a top assassin (The Jackal) and his plan to kill a famous Head of State. Not my normal kind of read but his interview was enough for me to think I should give it a go. The novel was the first of its kind in that Forsythe makes it clear from the very beginning that the assassin is unsuccessful in his attempt and I am intrigued to see how he maintains the suspense and tension as a result.
Isabelle Allende on her multi-generational family drama, The House Of The Spirits. I had never heard of this novel nor the Peruvian novelist before but will certainly be looking out for not only the book but the film that goes with it – check this out: House Of Spirits  [DVD]. It stars Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Winona Ryder, Keanu Reeves, Vanessa Redgrave, Antonio Banderas and my hero, Jeremy Irons. What a cast! From the interview, I gather that this is a novel where the boundaries between reality and spirituality are often blurred.
AS Byatt on her 1990 Booker prize winning novel Possession: A Romance. I have yet to experience Byatt but already have The Children’s Book
on my shelf and having dug into Possession as a result of the interview I heard, this quote was enough for this one to earn a place on my Wishlist:
‘”Literary critics make natural detectives”, says Maud Bailey, heroine of a mystery where the clues lurk in university libraries, old letters and dusty journals’…
I’m ashamed to admit that I’d assumed the author to be male until I heard the interview.
Tracy Chevalier on Girl With a Pearl Earring. Also now a famous film with Scarlett Johansson and another favourite of mine, Colin Firth: Girl With A Pearl Earring  [DVD]. This has been on my shelf for ages – I have a feeling it’s my mums copy. Not sure why I’ve not read it yet but I didn’t even know it was based on Chevalier’s interpretation of the painting by Vermeer until I heard this interview.
The hilarious Roddy Doyle on his very famous novel The Commitments. Again a very famous film which I’ve seen many times without realising it was based on a book! The Commitments  [DVD]. I remember my mum reading Doyle’s Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha many years ago. I vaguely remember trying it myself and not ‘getting it’ but I think I may have been too young for the humour. I will definitely give him another go.
Anita Desai on her novel Fasting, Feasting. Another new author and novel for me. Anita Desai is an Indian novelist, born in 1937 and living in America. From the sounds of it this novel is a family drama in two halves – part Indian and part American. Definitely one to read.
The amazing, magical, Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho on The Alchemist – 10th Anniversary Edition. Possibly the most life changing book ever written, translated into over 60 languages and which has sold over 30 million copies worldwide. I have read other Coelho but only read the Alchemist all the way through recently. Coelho is said to have magical powers. His writing is other-worldly and The Alchemist is one of the few books I have kept.
Other Wishlist additions
Orange Is the New Black: My Time in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman is the story of a woman who commits a crime and believes she got away with it. Over ten years later however, and living a completely different life, she is caught and sent to prison. This is her true life account of life inside. Now made famous by the series on Netflix.
Tampa by Alissa Nutting is causing waves all over the place. It is the story of a school teacher who is sexually attracted to pre-adolescent school boys and who sets out each year to seduce one of her pupils.
So many books, so little time…