So as the year draws to a close I think it is only right that I give a nod to the books that have kept me up all night, made the hairs on my arms stand up and had me glorying in the beauty of a well turned sentence. To not over load you (as, you know me, I could talk about A LOT of books here!) I will be posting a handful of titles at a time and I won’t be giving a full review, just a nice little flavour so you can see if they have you wanting to take a nibble. With no further ado, let’s get on!
As a fully-fledged, bona fide member of the ‘oh my goodness, I ADORE ‘I Capture the Castle’ fan club, I cannot begin to explain my delight when I happened upon one of Dodie Smiths memoirs (for she has several!) ‘Look Back with Love’. This edition is published by Slightly Foxed and their usual love and attention has gone into it, sewn with french flaps, a booklovers delight. With a thick, cream jacket adorned with a wonderful sketch of a family spilling out an open top motor car, this book is a pleasure from start to finish. I never dreamed I could get back that feeling of reading ‘I Capture the Castle’ for the first time, surely no book could create that feeling inside me again, but more fool me for not trusting in Smith. She only covers a small part of her childhood in this edition but oh, what a childhood it was! Equally as eccentric as the Mortmain family, her home in the Manchester suburbs is filled with an endless cast of too good to be true characters, as the precocious young Smith gives us her take on the adult world around her. This book begs to be devoured!
‘Look Back With Love’ by Dodie Smith £12.00 (Slightly Foxed)
Taking me back to the 1920’s and the whirlwind presence of the Fitzgerald’s, Hemingway, Picasso and the gang was Villa America. Liza Klaussman has turned her gaze to Sara and Gerald Murphy, the darlings of the social scene. Hosting the parties to be seen at, the great and the good flocked around them. Despite the apparent halo over the couple, their life and marriage were not quite as perfect as it seemed, the story lets us peep behind the scenes of the golden duo. Fitzgerald went on to write ‘Tender is the Night’ about the Murphy’s and apparently they were not too happy about this, who knows what they would make of ‘Villa America’ but I was fascinated by their world of extremes. After finishing the novel I carried on reading the notes provided by Klaussman on her research and can report that this is the only book that has ever made me want to dig out every reference book mentioned to do some further reading myself! Grab a copy and be transported to the South of France.
‘Villa America’ by Liza Klaussman £12.99 (Pan Macmillan)
I am naturally drawn to fiction set in India and that which concerns those who have crossed land and oceans to make their home on new shores. ‘The Year of the Runaways’ was, therefore, a book I was always going to pick up with or without its Booker nomination (making it to the final 6 but being pipped to the post by Marlon James). This novel is quite the tome and appeared to fit in with an unspoken Booker rule this year that each read on the short list should take quite the toll on your emotions. Do not let this put you off, the book is a rewarding read as we quickly become loyal companions of the four voices telling their story from within the pages – three Indian men and one woman who is British/Indian. We meet them in Sheffield and it is quickly apparent that none of the above are having the easiest of times, everything they have in life is fought for, and it makes the reader question whether it is really all worth it. Looking for some kind of explanation as to how these four have ended up in such a bleak world we jump back in time to their lives prior to this every day struggle for existence. We head to India and watch how life can unfold to take us places we could never imagine. I had never read Sunjeev Sahota before ‘The Year of the Runaways’, but I now have his first book ‘Ours Are The Streets’ on the ‘to read’ pile, his writing is understated yet powerful and I cannot imagine anybody questioning his standing on the Granta list of best young authors. This to me felt like an important piece of writing that is made all the more relevant by the current refugee crisis.
‘The Year of the Runaways’ by Sunjeev Sahota £14.99 (Pan Macmillan)
So, have any of those first three wet you whistle? Do let me know if you like the sound of any of them and also what your reads of 2015 have been! I will be back before you know it with the next instalment, until then…