Blog Tour Review – The Man Who Saw Everything – Deborah Levy

Deborah Levy is a writer unlike no other.

This strikes me, even as I write it, as a sentence that feels over used and some what stale. But that doesn’t stop it from being true.

There are so many authors out there that I admire but Levy’s work is always immediately identifiable as hers. Her work is consistently insightful, always complex and raw, and always magnificent.

I am thrilled to be part of the blog tour for her third Man Booker long listed novel, The Man Who Saw Everything.

The novel centres on Saul Alder, a young historian and opens in 1988. Saul is knocked over on the famous Abbey Road crossing, and despite a rather confusing encounter with the driver who hits him, seems physically unharmed. Immediately after the accident he visits his girlfriend, Jennifer Moreau, a talented American art student and fiesty independent women, who has imposed clear rules on their relationship.

This evening is a crossroads in their relationship. Saul is about to embark on a research trip to the German Democratic Republic (GDR), Jennifer is finishing her studies and moving on. Saul proposes marriage, Jennifer ends the relationship. The theme of misremembering, misinterpretation and conflict begins, and we get our first glimpse of the nature of Saul Alder.

For Levy has created a character that is intelligent, beautiful and articulate. Having lost his mother at an early age Saul seems emotionally tied to the past. At odds with his working class father and bully of a brother, refusing to remove his mothers pearls, Saul Alder is self absorbed, often selfish, but certainly not self aware. A man with an incredible eye for detail in the world around him, he is woefully lacking in his understanding of his own character and behaviour.

As his relationship with Jennifer ends Saul travels to the GDP. He is assigned a translator, Walter Muller, with whom he begins a relationship, one which comes to dominate his life despite it’s breivity. He also becomes involved with Walter’s sister Luna, a young woman looking for her key to the west.

The second half of the book takes place in 2016. Saul has again been struck by a car, again on the infamous Abbey Road crossing. This time he is seriously injured and the second half of the book is an account of his time in hospital. A time where the threads of his life come together and Saul begins to face the man he is.

Throughout the novel there runs an overwhelming sense of history; personal history and world history, particulary that of Europe. It is not a linear presentation, rather it is fragmented, appearing in snapshots, interpreted and misrembered by individual characters each adding their own version of events.

Levy continually plays with the concept of time. There is a fractured and fragmented feel to the novel as elements from each part of Saul’s life appear in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Personalities from the past appear in the future and vice versa, creating a running commentary on the complexity of what makes a person and what defines our experiences and choices. There is an inflated sense of deja vu as the echoes of the past affect the future and back again.

Saul feels like a conduit within the novel, a way of drawing together the past, the present and the future. A feeling embodied by Luna, when she says…

But you must.” she said, firmly. “You are history”

Pg 89

Continually the lines of time are blurred. Whilst in the GDP Saul is able to give Luna an accurate prediction about the fall of the Berlin Wall, bringing the future to the present. Equally we feel that the grief he holds, literally around his neck, for the loss of his mother, is what drives Saul to his study of German policital history. Again Levy is playing with and breaking through the barriers of time to create the sense of a novel seeped in history but unconstrained by it.

Throughout the novel there is a sense of haunting. The image of spectres appear again and again, particularly as Saul is hospitalised after his second accident. Levy points out that events in our lives continue to contribute to and define us as we move forwards. Similarly the motif of wolves, dogs and predators stalk the narrative, in the way that his grief for his mother and his guilt surrounding his relationship with Walter stalk Saul’s own life.

Yet Saul is the ultimate unreliable narrator. Taking into account the moving and fractured time frames, his own lack of self awareness and his two accidents, there is a continual sense of story and an author shaping and rediscovering themselves. At times this feels very insular and persoanl to Saul’s story, at other times this feels very much like a wider metaphor for the historial and polictical times we currently find ourselves in.

For this is a novel steeped in the history of Europe. There are continual references to various European countries and influences, woven skillfully into the narrative. The history of Europe and it’ s division and subsequent reunification through the fall of the GDR is central to the novel. It doesn’t feel coindicidental that Saul’s second accident is firmly in the time frame of the EU referendum result. There is a feeling that whatever our future relationship with Europe, we are still bound to it through the past and the present. Nothing is as linear as we would like to believe.

It feels so trite and unimaginative to call this novel complex and orginal. But it truly is. Every review I have read has come up with a different perspective and focus. For it is a novel that lends it’s self to interpretation and discussion. There is so much more to this work than I could ever hope to include in these short paragraphs. It is a work to be read debated and then reread. And I guarantee that much like the narrative structure adopted by Levy your perception will shift and you will find new angles, new motifs and new meanings upon each reading. I have read this book twice in 5 days and each time I have taken something different away from it.

The Man Who Saw Everything is an incredible book. There is no doubt it is a novel for our time; it is a novel for all time. And I am predicting a third Man Booker short listed book for Deborah Levy.

Book Review : The Wayward Girls By Amanda Mason

I am pretty sure that in the few short months that I have been blogging I have managed to mention my innate love of ghost stories, at least once or twice!

So when The Wayward Girls by Amanda Mason, due for release on 5th September hit my radar I suspected I was in for a treat.

The Wayward Girls by Amanda Mason

Set in the long hot summer of 1976 this is the story of a family living in a remote farmhouse whose world is turned upside down by strange and quite frankly terrifying happenings. Excited yet ?

Well you should be. Because if like me you like to be just a little bit scared by your reading matter this is one not to be missed…

When the Corvino family move to Iron Sike Farm it is in search of an alternative and simpler life. Cathy, a rather harassed Earth mother and Joe a struggling artist arrive with their five children Dante, Lucia, Bianca, Florian and Antonella in the spring. But by early summer the cracks are starting to show.

Dan and Bee, the elder children resent being ripped away from the city and their friends. Loo is struggling with the new regime of home education and home cooking. Cathy is drowning in housework and child care and Joe’s creative muse has left him.

When Joe disappears, allegedly ‘working away’ the frustration and boredom on all sides of the family reaches fever pitch, suddenly to be replaced by something much darker.

The haunting began quietly once the Corvino family had settled into their new home; the girls heard it first, the knocking inside the walls.

Extract from A Haunting at Iron Sike Farm by Simon Leigh

(Chapter 1 – Now)

Beginning with unexplained noises, missing property and uneasy feelings, events at the farm rapidly lead Cathy to seek outside help. When local press photographer Isobel gets wind of things it isn’t long before the farm becomes the focus of a team of paranormal investigators. Experienced Professor Michael Warren and rookie Simon Leigh are fascinated and excited by the unexplained events, all of which seem to be centred around the two girls Bee and Loo.

As the summer heat intensifies events soon spiral out of control, changing the lives of those involved forever.

The telling of the story divided across two time frames. As well as concentrating on the summer of 1976 we join the grown up Loo. Now Lucy, she has spent the intervening years trying to put the events at the farm behind her. But as her Cathy begins to decline the past returns to haunt both of them. And when Simon’s daughter Nina makes contact, determined to pick up her late father’s investigation, Lucy finds herself back at the farm and is forced to confront a past she hoped was firmly behind her. Will the new teams findings shed further light on what resides at the farm? It are somethings just best left alone?

All the hallmarks of a great ghost story are firmly stamped on this novel. From the moment I picked it up I was drawn in and held in it’s grasp. Right from the start there is an an air of inevitability and urgency, an uneasiness with past events not yet settled.

The structure of alternating time frames is used to create the palpable feeling of tension within the novel. As we move from the past to present and back again, the story seems to builds with a life of it’s own. Each event and revelation slowly adds another layer of anticipation and pulling the reader further in.

The girls Loo and Bee are undoubtedly the focus of the seemingly paranormal activity. They are girls, on the edge of womenhood, who suddenly find themselves the centre of all kinds of attention. Michael is convinced that the girls have attracted a poltergeist, their teenage energy acting a a conduit.

Yet continually the author allows doubt to creep into the narrative. The girls are clearly unhappy. Bee especially is seeking adult attention, and both girls are drawn to the young and attractive Simon, possibly seeking a father figure after Joe’s departure. Simon becomes a source of tension between the two, revealing the strength of feelings of Bee in particular.

And if Bee is at times reckless in her behaviour, she isn’t the only . Caught up in the unreality of the situation there is a feeling that all normal rules and conventions have been forgotten or at least disregarded. It is as if a spell has been cast over the farm, a place where adults are pushing the boundaries as they seek answers, playing a dangerous game and overlooking the risks.

A long unbroken summer is not the traditional weather to accompany an ghost story. There are none of the swirling fogs or crashing storms of other gothic tales. And yet the juxtaposition between light and dark works. The unrelenting almost mythical heat reflects the air of unreality created by events on the farm. It is as if real life is suspended and people have lost touch with reality.

And who is in control? Who can be trusted in this place? Indeed who can we the reader trust in this tale?

Right to the last page the sense of unease continues. As a reader we swing between time frames and view points continually questioning and reassessing. This may sound like a cliche but this one really will keep you on your toes until the very last page.

The Wayward Girls is an accomplished and complex novel, and as a debut it is a stunner. Look out for this one when it is published on 5th September by Zaffre Books.

I can’t wait to see what Amanda Mason does next…

Blog Tour Review : The Oshun Diaries by Diane Esguerra

Today I am taking my turn on the Blog Tour for The Oshun Diaries by Diane Esguerra. Many thanks toRachel @ Rachel’s Random Resources for the opportunity to read and review this individual and iluminating book.

The Blurb…

High priestesses are few and far between, white ones in Africa even more so. When Diane Esguerra hears of a mysterious Austrian woman worshipping the Ifa river goddess Oshun in Nigeria, her curiosity is aroused.

It is the start of an extraordinary friendship that sustains Diane through the death of her son and leads to a quest to take part in Oshun rituals. Prevented by Boko Haram from returning to Nigeria, she finds herself at Ifa shrines in Florida amid vultures, snakes, goats’ heads, machetes, a hurricane and a cigar-smoking god. Her quest steps up a gear when Beyoncé channels Oshun at the Grammysand the goddess goes global.

Mystifying, harrowing and funny, The Oshun Diaries explores the lure of Africa, the life of a remarkable woman and the appeal of the goddess as a symbol of female empowerment.

My thoughts…

As a teacher I am a big believer in the fact that your education never really ends. You spend your whole life acquring knowledge, sometimes from the most unlikely of places. This desire to learn and grow is a huge factor in my love of reading. And I enjoy nothing more than learning about completely new things.

It was this philosophy that drew me to The Oshun Diaries. I do read non fiction, but usually about subjects that I have some prior knowledge of; this book pushed me completely out of my comfort zone. And I am so pleased that it did.

The basis of the Ifa culture is one bound up in the importance of women and the empowerment of the female form. A religion with many Gods and Goddess where gender stereotypes are challenged and the roles are fluid, it is a culture that was margianlised and virtually destroyed by the Colonial Power Structure imposed by the West. Diane explores throughout the book the ways the West have cheated and robbed the African nations and left countries in chaos in their wake.

Nigeria is presented as a beautiful country but one that is filled with complexity and often danger. It is against this backdrop that an incredible Western woman is seeking to reinstate and preserve the Sacred Groves of the Ifa culture. It is a complex story of cutures coming together, one which many find hard to understand. When seeking to find a place for her documemtary about Adunni’s life and work Diane comes up against fears of cultural appropriation and questions about the validity of the culture in today’s world.

Her relationship with Adunni, protector of the sacred shrines is fascinating. Adunni was born Suzanne Wenger. An Austrian Artist who fell foul of the Nazi regime, she join the Resistence, helping marginalised groups during the war by providing safe havens. As with many things about Suzanne/ Adunni her past is unclear; did she, for example serve time in a German Concentration Camp?

This was a fascinating read for me, unlike anything I had read before. It was refreshing to read about a belief system that was so firmly rooted in the female form. It was empowering and enlightening and made me aware of just how narrow, how mainstream, how Western my view of the world’s religion’s is.

This book gave me the reminder that I sometimes need of how much there is to see out there and just reaffirmed my belief that you have to push out of your comfort zone at times, because you never, ever stop learning.

About the author…

Diane Esguerra is an English writer and psychotherapist. For a number of years she worked as aperformance artist in Britain, Europe and the United States, and she has written for theatre and television. She is the recipient of a Geneva-Europe Television Award and a Time Out Theatre Award.

She is previously the author of Junkie Buddha, the uplifting story of her journey to Peru to scatter her late son’s ashes.

She lives in Surrey with her husband David.

Diane Esguerra

Giveaway to Win 5 x PB copies of The Oshun Diaries (UK Only)

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494265/?

Links to purchase The Oshun Diaries

Readers can order the book from the Lightning Books website at 30% off (with free UK p&p) if you enter this code at checkout :

BLOGTOUROSHUN

http://eye-books.com/books/the-high-priestess-of-oshun

or Amazon links for UK can be found here and US here

And there is more…

For other’s thoughts on The Oshun Diaries check out the blogs listed below.

Book Review : The Art Of Dying by Ambrose Parry

Hands up, it is confession time!

Before we go any further I need to say…

I haven’t read The Way of All Flesh, the celebrated prequel to the The Art Of Dying, but rest assured I will be sorting that out pronto!

The reasons me wanting for getting my hands on a copy of the The Art Of Dying were numerous. Regular readers of the blog will know that I love historical fiction, love a bit of mystery and jump for joy at the prospect of reading about strong female characters.

The Art Of Dying has all this and more.

But what really intrigued me and sent me cap in hand to Jamie Norman at Canongate Books, (Many thanks for my copy!) was the intriguing prospect of not one but two authors.

For Ambrose Parry is the pen name for Chris Brookmyre, bestselling novelist and his wife, Dr Marisa Haetzman, consultant anaesthetist. They have pooled their many talents and come up with a winner!

The story is set in Edinburgh in 1848. Will Raven, a promising young doctor returns from his European travels to rejoin the household and practice of Dr Simpson, celebrated medic and pioneer of the use of chloroform. Will’s return is overshadowed by events abroad, previous local skirmishes and the unwelcome news that his previous love interest, Sarah Fisher has married in his absence. It has to be said that Raven is an entirely fitting name for this young man with something of the devil about him.

Sarah is Dr Simpson’s former housemaid. An intelligent young woman, her skills have been acknowledged and encouraged by Dr Simpson. In a move entirely against the grain of the male dominated medical world, he has made her his assistant. Sarah is also married to a progressive man Dr Archie Banks, who encourages her medical ambitions. Archie, however, is dying and their time together is destined to be short.

And Archie is not the only person dying in this story. Around the city it seems that whole families are succumbing to strange new symptoms. One such case reaches the attention of Sarah and Raven, as Dr Simpson is slandered by rival doctors. Determined to clear the good Doctor’s name the pair find themselves embroiled in the mystery of the deaths.

Is this a new, as yet unrecorded disease? Or is something or someone more sinister at work?

The city of Edinburgh at this time was at the forefront of medical provision and progress. Throughout the novel we are faced with a whole series of medical professionals who are on the cusp of new ground breaking discoveries. There is a continual battle between those who want to push the surgical boundaries and move forwards, and those who cling to older more traditional, and sometimes down right dangerous ideas.

This story is set in a time when often medicine is for the rich. In Victorian Edinburgh death, is all around, through illness, accident and poverty. Life is not certain; death is quite simply the over riding theme of the book.

The authors have cleverly crafted a tale which continually highlights the fragility of life. The specialism of both Dr Simpson and Dr Raven is Obstetrics, and the Victorian era is a dangerous time to give birth. It is quite symbolic that a mass removed post-mortem from a patient contains teeth and bones. This tumour seems to embody the closeness of birth and death.

And pregnancy and birth are seen as having other implications for women too. Sarah ponders at length what will happen to her medical knowledge and daily work when she herself is a mother. She fears that one life will end when she produces another.

The emancipation and advancement of women is another powerful message within the novel. Sarah longs to be a doctor, yet despite being recognised as equally intelligent and diligent by those around her she is unable to seek a professional qualification.

Sarah is a canny young woman taking charge of her life, hankering for some of the power and status medicine provides. She is determined to develop her skills for her own empowerment but also for the greater good.

But within the novel there is another strong intelligent woman at work, again skilled in medicine and again thirsting for knowledge and certainly power. But her motivations and actions are in direct conflict with Sarah.

Indeed the two characters provide a powerful juxtaposition, Jekyll and Hyde in it’s nature, casting gothic shadows across the plot.

There are so many elements in this book I admire and which conjure other books I love. The battle for female physicians brought to mind Sarah Moss’ brilliant Bodies Of Light. The dark but clever female character weaving her spell in plain sight reminded me of Jane Harris’ superb Gillespie and I. The impeccable historical detail and sophisticated plotting is perfect for fans of C.J. Sansom’s Shardlake series.

The Art Of Dying was a truly engrossing and intelligent read and it is absolute to delight to discover more fantastic authors. Holding my breath to hear more from Ambrose Parry…

Rachel

The Art Of Dying by Ambrose Parry is published on 29th August by Canongate Books.

Man Booker Review #Two : Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson.

If I could write for just 5 minutes like Jeanette Winterson I would die a happy woman.

Over the years I have continually been amazed by her intelligence, insight and biting wit. Since reading Oranges are not the only fruit in my mid teens, a complete revelation to a young some what sheltered girl (!), I have been completely hooked. No two Winterson books are the same, such is her rare versatility and style, both setting her apart from the crowd.

In that respect Frankissstein is no different.

But it all other respects Frankissstein is completely different.

It is unlike anything I have read before.

To the point where I am actually not sure where to even start with this book.

It is such a feat of fact, beautifully woven with fiction, that encompasses so many relevant and current themes. Winterson’s discussion and consideration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) takes the reader both into the past, the present and the future.

Here is a dual narrative so cleverly employed. Finding ourselves in the company of Mary Shelley, creator of Frankenstein, we see Shelley’s influences and hear her stories. As an observer of ongoing discussions between Mary, Percy Shelley and Byron the reader witnesses the new and emerging thinking of great these minds , debating what is the nature of a human. There is a tangible feeling of excitement and hope as they stand on the edge of advancement, but also a fear and apprehension about what the future holds.

We are then thrown into the present with the transgender protagonist, Dr Ry Shelley, and his lover Victor Stein pioneer of AI. Ry has changed his body, making it a place his mind feels at home. This character introduces and embeds the idea that as a race we are constantly redefining our understanding of what makes us who we are. It is a debate that has raged throughout history and is explored throughout the novel, in both narratives.

This is an treaty on, amongst other things, what it means to be human and how this debate should be guiding some of our thinking as we progress ever further in our quest for advancement and knowledge.

Winterson opens the discussion, raising question after question. Are we more than a sum of our parts? What is the essence of ourselves, and does this lie in our minds or is it part of our bodies too? And if our sense of self lies within our mind, then is the way to eternal life to download our minds and live within an alternative body? Or maybe not even a body? And would we be happy with this, or is our body important after all?

Winterson draws no conclusions but skilfully uses a cast of characters, both past and present, to shape both the potential and the pitfalls of Al and all that goes with it.

Stein is the champion of the technology, pushing it’s boundaries, seeing it’s potential. He is focused on it’s possibilities and is willing to accept any disadvantages for the greater good.

Ry is a moderating presence, open to ideas and possibilities but questioning how far we as a race should go.

Ron Lord, millionaire sex bot creator, sees the commercial advantages of AI, extols the virtues of commitment free sex but also asks the layman’s questions, questions that have a crucial validity in their simple insightful nature.

Enter Claire, American and far right religious, trying to make the moral case for AI, sometimes with twisted logic, making what she sees fit into ‘God’s’ plan. Here we see shades of Darwin and the up roar his theories caused, similarly AI takes us further from long held and traditional views, views which have underpinned belief systems and societies.

Winterson has opened the debate on AI, showing us just how far we have come, where we currently are and questioning how far we can and crucially should go. We are challenged to discuss how AI will benefit the human race, but also what it may cost us. We should question who benefits from these potential advances. Is the progress universally enhancing or does it have the potential to compromise or even destroy that which we hold dear?

The dual narrative shows us that as a race we have always been on a continual journey. Questions that we are asking in this era of advanced technology, Brexit and Trump are questions that were debated by the Romantics in the Villa’s of Florence and Geneva and others throughout time. You can’t stop humans discussing, progressing and push boundaries; there is an inevitability here.

Frankissstein is a book that challenges, that encourages questions, discussion and debate. It’s not a cosy, ‘keep it to yourself’ read. It’s one to push the boundaries, be argued over at dinner parties. It is a book bursting to get off the shelves and out into the big wide world.

A book with a voice that needs to be heard.

I, for one, can’t get this book out of my head. It’s ‘food for thought’ is still being digested and I can’t wait to feast again when I see Winterson at the Manchester Literature Festival on 5th October. (Link for tickets right here !)

I am left with a feeling that this is a book with a very important message in our rapidly changing world.

Rachel

Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson is published by Jonathan Cape.

Book Review: On Chapel Sands by Laura Cumming

I seem to be continuing my entirely unplanned literary trip back to the landscape of my youth. This time we are on the Lincolnshire the coast Chapel St Leonard’s in fact, just along the way from Skegness and all it’s seaside paraphernalia.

It is the setting of the beautifully crafted On Chapel Sands by Laura Cumming, published by Chatto and Windus. It is the telling of a family history, moreover it is the telling of a family mystery, one that has remained in the shadows for many years.

Before I start I need to say that I nearly didn’t review this book.

Not because I didn’t enjoy it. I was utterly entranced. The story captivated me in that special way that only true stories can, as I listened to my constant inner voice repeating ‘My God, this actually happened…’

I hesitated about reviewing because I was worried that I would give something away.

For this is a story that needs to discovered. Piece by piece, layer by layer, just as the author and her family have uncovered, assessed and redefined their truth. I knew I needed to tread lightly.

So in terms of ‘plot’, ( and using the word plot feels wrong when you are dealing with someone’s life !) I will give you the merest hint. Just enough to whet your appetite, but trust me this is a feast waiting to be discovered.

The story begins in 1929, a young girl Betty is playing in the warm autumn sunshine on Chapel beach. She is 3 years old. Her mother, Veda, is sitting near by. Her father, George, a travelling salesman is away from home.

In the blink of eye she is gone.

Vanished.

Betty is missing for 5 days. She is finally discovered unharmed, dressed in new clothes, in a house a few miles away.

Restored to her family, Betty’s life continues and, although the ‘kidnap’ is common knowledge within the tight knit community, it is never discussed.

But the reasons behind it and the effects it has on this family will define not only this but generations to come.

And so begins the telling of a complex tale. A tale that is told with remarkable skill and originality. At no point does the reader feel lost in the tangle of truths. There is a structure and fluidity to the retelling which drives the tale onwards, not withstanding it’s many twists, turns, even dead ends that appear along the way.

This is a unique family story and it needs to be told in a unique way. Laura Cumming harasses all her skills as an art critic, systematically analysing family photographs taken through out her mother’s childhood, almost exclusively by her Grandfather George.

These photographs are the chronicle of her family, and Cumming assesses each one, looking to discover the subject’s intent and their emotion. Timelines, settings, clothing and scribbled captions are all scrutinised to build a picture of her mother; her childhood, her beginnings and the very essence of identity.

Throughout there is that familiar feeling of trying to make sense of the past. The way we all grasp at the scraps others have left behind. The way we try to fill in the gaps with ancestors thoughts, feelings and motivations. Cumming and her mother are trying to join the dots on a masterpiece, and it is a process that will take the whole of the book.

Art is a constant ribbon running through the fabric of these words. Beyond the carefully crafted photographs of George, both Laura’s parents were artists, she herself has made her life in artistic circles. Art in this book is a mirror and sometimes a magnifying glass, offering escape, clarity and a whole new perspective on an intriguing and sometimes painful puzzle.

Cumming’s voice throughout is one of intelligence and integrity. Her love for her mother seeps from the pages and yet she allows others in this story their voice. One of the most poignant elements of her work is the fact that the perspective and viewpoints we encounter are not static. In true art critic style we are encouraged to throw off our preconceptions and look at this from all angles.

And the story and it’s conclusion are all the better for this.

I have no doubt that this book will stay me for a long time. For anyone who has ever looked back at their own family story and wished for a second of clarity, for anyone who has unanswered questions, quite possibly lost to the mists of time, this book will hold a special charm.

See you on the sands.

Rachel.

My Summer Reading Plans* (*please note these may be subject to sudden change!)

This blog post started life as a #20booksofsummer post. It was going to be really easy to write…

Then I realised that 20 books were definitely not going to Be enough, so it expanded to 30 books of summer…

Now it is completely and utterly out of control! The lists and notes have been rewritten so many times. Every time I have opened my emails, checked my Twitter and said hello to the Postman the plans have changed…

But school finished on Friday . It might be raining in Cumbria, but my summer is officially here. I can delay this no longer.

So here goes, tentative summer reading plans, which are very likely to expand at a moments notice!

And I will begin with…

Beautiful proofs just begging to be read…

Having just devoured Don’t Think a Single Thought by Diana Cambridge in almost a single sitting, I can’t wait to get my teeth into The Naseby Horses by Dominic Brownlow. Both books are published by the very talented Louise Walters, and Naseby Horses is set in the Fens, my childhood playground. With a ‘silent and mysterious setting’ and a local curse to boot this one is right up my street. And who can resist a proof that comes bagged up in lavender!!

Next up is The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow. I have had this gorgeous looking proof winking at me for a good few weeks now and I am so excited to be on the blog tour for this one, leading up to it’s publication on 12th September with Little Brown. Set in a ‘sprawling mansion filled with exotic treasures’ and billed as being perfect for readers of The Night Circus, The Thirteenth Tale and The Binding, my hopes are high.

The next two books in this category are late entries, having just come to my attention in the last week and for that I am very grateful!

The first was so beautifully reviewed recently by Amanda @BookishChat, the intriguing Witches Sail in Eggshells by Chloe Turner, published by Reflex Press. After rediscovering my love for short stories in the past 12 months I can’t wait to embark on this one. Thank you David Borrowdale for my gifted copy.

The second is the long awaited sequel to Bluebird Bluebird by Attica Locke. Having discovered this huge talent at the end of last year I was thrilled to be offered a proof of Heaven, My Home. Set in Texas against a backdrop of racial violence following the election of Donald Trump, a black man is implicated in the disappearance and potential murder of a white boy : the son of an Aryan Brotherhood captain.

This book feels like an important and timely read and I am very grateful to Hope Ndaba at Serpent’s Tail for sending this one my way.

American Dirt by Jeannie Cummins has been getting a whole lot of love on Twitter recently and I am so grateful to Louise Swannell for her super speedy response to my begging for a proof. This is (I think!!) my first 2020 proof. The story of a mother’s love and desperate efforts to protect her son as circumstances force them to flee Mexico, riding the ‘la bestia’; dangerous freight trains crossing the US – Mexican border. Published by Tinder Press this too feels like an important novel of it’s time.

Now I am very definitely a ‘physical books’ kind of a gal, however when I really, really, really want to read something I will turn to NetGalley!

Currently waiting for me on my shelf are four crackers which I am planning to devour on the long car journey to France in a couple of weeks time!

Let’s begin with the incredible talent that is Laura Purcell and her upcoming release Bone China. A historical thriller set in Cornwall and inter woven with superstition and intrigue, this one is just brimming with promise! Published on 19th September by Raven Books this one looks like a gem.

The Underground Railroad launched Colson Whitehead into my reading consciousness with a bang. His latest work The Nickel Boys is set in 1960’s Florida and, just like Railroad finds it’s foundation very much in reality. Here is the story of a Reform School that twists and destroys the lives of the boys within it. I am not anticipating an easy read but certainly an important one.

Tracy Chevailer‘s new offering is up next! A Single Thread is set between the Wars. Focusing on Violet, mourning the loss of her brother and fiancé, one of a generation of women unlikely to marry, she strikes out alone. Looking for independence and seeking a purpose in her life, this book seems full of promise and empowerment! Published by HarperCollins UK on 5th September

And finally Jeanette Winterson has held me under her spell since discovering Oranges are not the only fruit as a wide eyed teenage. To have a digital copy of her latest book Frankissstein seems like a true honour! Within these pages Winterson tackles the thorny issue of AI and asks the difficult question of what will happen when humans are no longer the most intelligent creatures on the planet? Published 1st October by Grove Press.

New, shiny, recently released books that are singing to me…

First on this list has to be The Moss House by Clara Barley. Just published by BlueMoose Books and hot on the heels of the fabulous Gentleman Jack, this is the book for anyone looking to immerse themselves once more in the story of the awe inspiring Annie Lister and her lover Anne Walker.

(And interesting fact Clara Barley and my good self shared an A level English teacher, the wonderful Linda Hill of Linda’s Book Bag.)

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo, Bloomsbury is quite literally EVERYWHERE this summer. Already a Sunday Times #1 bestseller this imitate portrait of the lives and desires of three very different women is widely tipped as the nonfiction read of the summer.

On Chapel Sands: My Mother and Other Missing Persons by Laura Cumming, Chatto &Windus is about as compelling a family history story you will find this year. With the story of her mother’s kidnap in childhood at it’s heart this is Cummings exploration of a Lincolnshire coastal hamlet and it’s secrets.

And the finally – Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann, Galley Beggar Press. I have made absolutely no secret of the fact that this book scares me and intrigues me in almost equal measure. Approximately 1000 pages long and largely told through a single sentence, it is certainly unique. It’s on order…I am waiting with bated breath

Books that I have missed…

These are books that have been published for a while now, books the world has been raving about but books I haven’t quite caught up with yet.

The first had been recommended most heartily by Claire @yearofreading and who am I to disagree! Swan Song by Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott was long listed for this year’s Women’s Prize and is the story of Truman Capote and his ‘Swans’, the wealthy, beautiful women he courted but ultimately betrayed.

And continuing the theme of hedonism, let us look next to Daisy and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. It feels like every single person in the bookish world and beyond has read this tale of a 70’s band rise and fall. And I want to join the party!

Heading in a completely different direction now, for I can’t go long without venturing into the world of Victorian England. Particularly the grimy streets of London where there is a mystery to be solved. The House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O’Donnell looks like a promising way of scratching my Dickensian itch. This first hit my radar through the Backlisted Podcast and I have been running to catch up with it ever since.

Sneaking another one in here, let me introduce Heroes by Stephen Fry. Around this time last year I read and thoroughly enjoyed Mythos. Heroes is the last of my Christmas present books and it seems a perfect read for basking (please God!) in the summer sun!

And finally…my blasts from the past my TBR pile…

Blogging has thrown up so many welcome literary discoveries that I have, inevitably been cheating in my ‘To be read pile’. So in no particular order below are the books I am determined to get to this summer!

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke – This has been by my bed for a least two years! Another one that scares me a wee bit. Time to face my fear I think!

Stoner – John Williams – I have been meaning to read this for time immemorial. Who thinks the time is right?

Do Not Say We Have Nothing – Madeleine Thien Everyone has read this tale of revolutionary China, right? Wrong!! Need to sort it out!

Frankenstein– Mary Shelley Strictly speaking this is a reread, having read this many years ago at University. Having just completed the brilliant Arguing with the dead by Alex Nye, which focuses on Mary’s tangled relationship with Percy Shelley, and having access to Winterson’s Frankisstein, it feels the time is right to reacquaint myself with the monster!

And so there you have it..

…my somewhat tentative summer reading plans.

There are, however, any number of things which might just sway me off course.

At this moment, for example I am very aware the Man Booker Prize long list announcement is looming. I would like to say I won’t be affected…

…it would be a lie!

Every time I log on to Twitter I will make new golden discoveries, be tempted into requesting proofs and just generally feast myself on the loveliness of fabulous books floating in the ether!

Lovely publishers will hopefully continue to be in contact sending me goodies, (again, Please God!)

And I will wander into beautiful book shops and rescue poor unwanted books… for their own good…naturally!

But I promise that one thing that will definitely happen is that I will read lots of lovely books…

…and it’s always good to have a plan!!!

Happy reading!

Rachel x