Thursday, 12 June 2008

The Truth About Modern Fiction

Last night my super friend 'Gordon' and I had a lovely girls night out - we escaped the children, and husbands, and went to Mr B's reading event.

This week's guest was Ed Docx, author of 'The Caligrapher' and 'Self Help' (the latter published in America under the title 'Pravda').

I have to admit we made the effort to attend in part as a result of Mr Docx's fiendishly good looks....and as we arrived a little late, we ended up being squeezed into the front seats, only a yard from the rather scrummy Docx!

photgraph: Monica Curtain

Looks aside, he gave a very interesting talk, both about the construction of fiction and of the basis of the story itself - any frustrated writers would have enjoyed his description of the axis of writing - 

The 'X' axis being character, and the 'Y' axis being plot...he admitted in a slightly embarrased tone that he liked getting a balance of both, various members of the audience made clucking noises, as if plot was a dirty word - hurrumph - so it transpires that reading a book, which actually has a story is now considered low brow!

Having just finished "Either Side of Winter" which was well written, but had no 'Y' axis whatsoever, the truth is I don't care if plot is low brow. 
I want to be taken on a journey, made to feel emotion, care about the characters, and I simply can't do that if there is no plot!

There are too many books now, which are conceited, try to give the impression of being intellectual, but the truth of the matter is, books are there to challenge, dare I say entertain, not posture and preen.

I appreciate that each person may have their own opinion of what is high or low brow, but I struggle to understand why you would wish to wallow in words so deeply that you deprived yourself of a storyline altogether.
I would find it tragic if plot became less and less used, just because authors were afraid of committing the 'literary gaff' of actually including a story in their story!

Fortunately Docx ( did I mention that he's devastatingly attractive?) seems to have more balls, the way he passionately spoke about writing, made it very obvious that both words, and plot are terrifically important to him.

photograph: Nicky Willcock

I felt rather sheepish, I hadn't already read 'Self Help'....but I am really looking forward to, I just wish that I could have the entire book read to me by him (Mrs G he could be another prospective secret boyfriend for you).
The extracts he read to us last night were seductive - he deliberately writes with rhythm - a train journey in the book, described in words which made the sound of a train on tracks, the sensation assisted by Docx tapping out the rhythm on the cover of his book.

After having (the delicious) Docx sign our books, Gordon and I left Mr B's to go and find a bite of supper.....and discuss the rip in his jeans!  We're not low brow at all!

I'm sure I will!

photo: Nicky Willcock

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Either side of Winter

Our choice for the next read is Benjamin Markovits' 'Either Side Of Winter'.

I started reading it at the weekend, and it's looking promising!

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Let's go over to Yo's for Mexican Time.

This post comes from Yolanda -

May was a busy month. April was a busy month. I can't believe May is almost over and I still haven't posted the review.
So..... welcome to my house. I had to do a little cleaning up. I do apologize.

Follow me down the path to the patio.

Ahhhh.... that's better.

In honor of On Mexican Time, I made enchiladas

and margaritas. (Now I really want enchiladas. In real life.)

Yum. Let's lounge by the pool that overlooks the ocean and discuss the book.

Or we can lounge by the pool that overlooks the vineyard.

Either way, lounging must lead to a siesta, in true Mexican form. I don't know who these chicks are, but one of them stole my hat.

And this guy? I don't know who this guy is, either.

It's getting late.

Let's sit at the patio and have some coffee and really discuss the book.

I loved loved LOVED the colors of the book. I loved the warmth. It was hard to get into at first. I didn't know if I'd be able to finish it. It took me a while, and I actually read The Lovely Bones and The Handmaid's Tale (highly recommend both) in the same month that I plodded through Mexican Time. Such a great book. It was all about adjusting. Slowing down. They couldn't do anything on their time. They wanted to redo the house? They had to wait for the workers to get to it. And that's just how it was. This afternoon could mean three days. (A book review for May could mean the last week of May.)

It was hard to get into, but relaxing once I did get into it. Now go vote for next month's read.

images: google and restoration hardware.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Next Book on the shelf....

I nipped into Mr B's today for booky inspiration - they were in celebratory mood having WON the Independant British Bookshop of the year!!!!!! They deserve no less as  they are quite fabulous.

Caroline from Mr B's runs another book group and suggested the following - which of these appeals the most?

Self Help author Ed Docx is doing a 'gig' at Mr B's in a few weeks time - he looks utterly GORGEOUS - not that that should cloud our descision!
But I could force myself to go meet the author!!!! Hahahaha!

Alone in her native St Petersburg, Maria Glover send an urgent summons to London and New York. Her son and daughter arrive too late to see her, but the end of their mother's life marks the beginning of their own story: one of secrets, strangers and the ultimate retelling of everything they thought they knew.

ISBN: 978033044614 published by Picador

Set in Manhatten over the course of one year and executed with exquisite sympathy, tenderness and emotional nuance, Either side of winter moves through a series of linked events and characters, season by season. Touched by a wry humour, it is a lyrical and moving picture of people whose lives are inextricably linked by circumstance, community - and a need to be loved.

ISBN: 0571226663 Published  by Faber and Faber

A lost little girl with her notebook and toy monkey appears on the cctv screens of the Green Oaks shoppping centre, evoking memories of junior detective, Kate Meaney, missing for 20 years. Kurt a security guard with a sleep disorder and Lisa a disenchanted deputy manager at Your Music, follow her through the centres endless corridors - welcome relief from the behavior of customers, colleagues and Green Oaks mystery shopper. But as this after hours friendship grows in intensity, it brings new loss and longing to light.

ISBN: 0955138418 published by Tindal Street Press

This last book comes highly recommended as Caroline's book group's favourite read to date, and has just won the Costa First Novel award, shortlisted for the Guardian, Man Booker and Orange prizes.

Please vote on the book you would like to read next month.

Images courtesy of

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

On Mexico Time - who is joining us this month?

Thank you Yo for choosing this month's book - we are looking forward to coming round to yours at the end of the month to have a good chin wag, and drinkie poos! What day is good for everyone?


Thursday, 27 March 2008


I have posted my little thoughts...what do you think? Now I'm having a 'Chelsea Rose' - what would you like?

Ahhhhh, that's better!

So far, On Mexican Time looks like next months read....

Monday, 17 March 2008

Yolanda's suggestions for April.

The Handmaid's Tale: A Novel by Margaret Atwood

In the world of the near future, who will control women's bodies?
Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are only valued if their ovaries are viable.
Offred can remember the days before, when she lived and made love with her husband Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now....
Funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing, The Handmaid's Tale is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and tour de force.

The Road (Paperback) McCarthy, Cormac

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don't know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food--and each other.

The Road is the profoundly moving story of a journey. It boldly imagines a future in which no hope remains, but in which the father and his son, "each the other's world entire," are sustained by love. Awesome in the totality of its vision, it is an unflinching meditation on the worst and the best that we are capable of: ultimate destructiveness, desperate tenacity, and the tenderness that keeps two people alive in the face of total devastation.

On Mexican Time: A New Life in San Miguel (Paperback) Cohan, Tony
In the mid-1980s, Tony Cohan and his artist wife, Masako, decided they had had enough of the hectic pace and inherent insecurities of life in Los Angeles and made tracks for the historic town of San Miguel de Allende in central Mexico. At first they rented rooms in a hotel. Then, when the hotel became less appealing, they graduated to renting an apartment. Almost inevitably, they eventually found themselves buying a 250-year-old hacienda on the verge of collapse, with wonderfully elegant Spanish colonial architecture and a garden brimming with papayas, avocados, and custard apples.
What followed was a love affair with a country and its people that has endured. On Mexican Time is a lyrical attempt to capture the Mexican magic that bewitched the two of them. Cohan introduces us to a quirky cast of Mexicans and expats, including murderers, idealists, philanderers, and writers. Spanning 15 years, the book conveys something of the curiously intangible passage of time, as we watch girls become mothers, marriages drift apart, and friends come and go. The text is rich with sensuous details, and Cohan is excellent at conveying the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of a country that he clearly adores.

On Mexican Time is much less of a glib chronicle than other books of the "charming new life in paradise" genre. Although he is not averse to the odd moment of portentousness, Cohan makes a gentle and elegant guide through the experiences of expat life in San Miguel. --Toby Green

Please vote for your favourite!

We look forward to 'virtually' meeting at Yolanda's at the end of April!

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

The Pagan Nun Discussion - 27th March

Hope you are all enjoying the Pagan Nun, I'm about a third of the way through, and like last time I am marking lots of pages!

Thursday, 28 February 2008

FEBRUARY - Eat Pray Love - Discussion.

Welcome, come in! Glad you could make it to our first meeting!

I've had a bit of a funny morning - I wanted to bake an Italian cake, to make us all think of Liz's wonderful time in Rome, I was making Torta di Nocciole -

I put the hazelnuts in the Aga, then the phone rang! It was my best friend 'Gordon' - we had lovely girlie chat....then I smelt the familiar scent of Aga cremation - sorry chaps - I chatted so long the nuts were blackened bullets! I threw them out of the window to stop the smoke alarm going off! Can you spot them?

Well, must dash into the kitchen - and concoct something else....see you in a minute...

I think it's going to be OK - here have a slice of Espresso cake!

Now let's have a drink and a chat....

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Vote for the March read! - Winner - The Pagan Nun!

It's really thrilling that everyone is savouring Eat, Pray, Love, and we're looking forward to our discussion on the 28th...very excited to hear your thoughts.

I was so excited about us all reading together, that I hadn't planned how we would choose future reads!
I think the best way would be to take turns in suggesting a shortlist (in order of joining), and then the rest of us can vote for our favourite.

Jo chose Eat, Pray (brilliant choice, so I'm feeling the pressure!) so here is my shortlist for March -

Miss Pettigrew lives for a day - By Winifred Watson (published by Persephone) ISBN 190315510X

Miss Pettigrew is about a governess sent by an employment agency to the wrong address, where she encounters a glamorous night-club singer, Miss LaFosse. 'The sheer fun, the light-heartedness' in this wonderful 1938 book 'feels closer to a Fred Astaire film than anything else' comments the Preface-writer Henrietta Twycross-Martin, who found Miss Pettigrew for Persephone Books. The Guardian asked: 'Why has it taken more than half a century for this wonderful flight of humour to be rediscovered?' while the Daily Mail liked the book's message - 'that everyone, no matter how poor or prim or neglected, has a second chance to blossom in the world.' Maureen Lipman wrote in 'Books of the Year' in the Guardian: 'Perhaps the most pleasure has come from Persephone's enchanting reprints, particularly Miss Pettigrew, a fairy story set in 1930s London'; and she herself entertained R4 listeners with her five-part reading. And in The Shops India Knight called Miss Pettigrew 'the sweetest grown-up book in the world'.

Mister Pip - By Lloyd Jones (published by John Murray) ISBN 978-0-7195-6994-4

Isabel Allende described this books as "One of the best books of the year. Poetic, heartbreaking, surprising. Matilda is a young girl in Bouganville, a tropical isalnd where the horror of civil war lurks. Mr Watts, the only white person, is the self appointed teacher of the tiny school where the only textbook is Dickins' 'Great Expectations'. An extraordinary book."
This book won the 2007 Commonwealth Writers Prize and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

Confessions of a pagan nun - By Kate Horsley (published by Shambhala) ISBN1-57062-913-7

Cloistered in a stone cell at the monestry of Saint Brigit, a sixth century Irish nun secretly records the memories of her pagan youth, interrupting her transcribing of Augustine and Patrick. But disturbing events at the cloister keep intervening.
Library Journal called it "A beautifully written and thought provoking book".
I can't take the credit for choosing this one - Jo found this - so it comes with a good pedigree!

We look forward to seeing your votes

If you would like to choose - put your thinking caps on....and remember to choose cake and drinks!
Would you be happy to do -
April - Yolanda
May - Katie
June - Life as
July - Gordon's my tonic

If anyone else would like to join us, you are very welcome - leave a message in comments!

Saturday, 2 February 2008

February - Discussion day 28th Feb!

Our first book is 'Eat Pray Love' by Elizabeth Gilbert

Do join us for a virtual latte and cake to discuss what you thought of it ... looking forward to hearing your views!