Lately I’ve been reading a lot of new publications and keeping bang up to date on what is coming out in the book world, but this last week or so, well, that’s gone out the window. A lot of books on my shelves who have been nestling there quite comfortably and quietly for some time began shouting to me all of a sudden, demanding their time had come to be read. As you may have seen in the previous post, this didn’t necessarily always work out for the best and some of those books should have blummin’ well shut up, but there we go, we live and learn.
So I thought for this weeks instalment we’d have an overview rather than anything to in depth, my spring scattering of reads as it were.
Let’s start with a book I read today in one sitting and that I heard a lot of fanfare about but for some reason didn’t rush to. More fool me. ‘Thornhill’ by Pam Smy is a combination of graphic novel and text chapters, alternating between the two forms, two different time lines and two stories as you go along. This might sound confusing but Smy has made it completely seamless. The illustrations are beautifully creepy, complimenting the dark story line of a young girl being tormented by a fellow resident in a care home.
Smy was inspired by dilapidated, eerie looking buildings, The Secret Garden and Jane Eyre, and the nods to these classics are clever and clearly made by a true book lover. I thoroughly enjoyed this and the last few pages sent tingles through me, but hey, don’t take my word for it, PHILIP PULLMAN has only gone and endorsed it so what more do you need?!
Thornhill by Pam Smy £14.99 (David Fickling Books)
I went quite a few years back with the next story, a retelling of The Turn of the Screw, this gothic horror homage is executed well, enough connections to make the original inspiration clear but enough twists and changes to make it worth the read. Florence is an unreliable narrator at her best, although be warned, as she tells us of her story she uses some of her own ‘language’. Although easy to understand I did find it jarring at first, but after a couple of chapters it became second nature and I was unaware of its effect going forward.
Florence and Giles by John Harding £8.99 (Harper Collins)
Next up is actually a newbie, the latest offering by Amy Sackville, ‘Painter to the King’. Now this ticked many boxes for me, historical fiction, based on a true story and then art thrown in for good measure, but this box ticking all sounds terribly clinical, one thing this novel certainly isn’t. The two words I would use to describe it are rich and fluid. You may ask what I’m on about but bear with me. We chart the career of the great artist Velázquez from the moment he was summoned by King Philip IV of Spain in 1622 and his progression within the court both professionally and personally. His close encounters with the King mean that we also learn about the struggles of the royal family to produce an heir and keep control of a country with problems arising from every possible angle.
As I say I found this book to be rich, in both lavish historical detail but also the masterful way in which Sackville describes the act of painting itself, smells and textures all but have you peering over shoulders looking at the canvas yourself. Fluid may seem an odd description but the prose was just that for me, every now and then our narrator changes and we skip to an unnamed woman looking at these art works in their current settings, but there is no real distinguishing between speakers, just a dash used to indicate a new viewpoint. This often reminded me of the great Hilary Mantel and her style in Wolf Hall, perhaps not for everybody but for me certainly making it an immersive experience.
Painter to the King by Amy Sackville £14.99 (Granta Books)
Last but by no means least a huge shout out to ‘Me Mam. Me Dad. Me.’ Now I promise there was no bias here, I may be a Geordie and this Newcastle based tale is chocker full of lush, local dialect, but I did not allow this to sway my opinion, this is just a bloody excellent book. It’s a slim little read and I don’t want to give away too much, but we have a 14 year old called Danny who quickly had me as a fan with his heart of gold. His mam has just recently got herself a new boyfriend and before he can blink they’re being moved in to his much bigger, much fancier house. It quickly transpires that this new addition to their family isn’t the blessing he first appeared however, and as Danny begins to learn about just how dangerous this could be to his beloved mam, he decides to take action. This is one of those books where the author hasn’t put a word out of place, a total gem.
Me Mam. Me Dad. ME. By Malcolm Duffy £10.99 (Head of Zeus)
So there we go, a summing up of a handful of my recent reads, I hope they intrigued and tempted you to go look them up! Let me know if any particularly takes your fancy and what you have been reading lately in the comments below!
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