In my quest to read all the Booker prize winners I was convinced that this tiny book would be one of the quickest, easiest reads. It is only 184 pages, long, but the type and size of the book make it appear even smaller. Unfortunately, the content of the book made it feel as though it would never end. I was bored from page one, and it took enormous effort and determination for me to complete it.
The central character, Edith Hope, is sent to recuperate in a quiet Swiss hotel after becoming involved in a scandal. Whilst staying in the hotel Edith works on her new romance novel and observes the people around her. There is no real plot – this is one of those quiet, reflective books that I don’t enjoy reading.
I found Edith’s character to be slightly odd and I didn’t seem to find the same things amusing as her. The humor was lost on me and I became increasingly irritated by her passive nature. There was far too much thought and hardly anything happened in the entire book.
The pianist, sitting down to play, gave her a brief nod. She nodded back, and thought how limited her means of expression had become: nodding to the pianist or to Mme de Bonneuil, listening to Mrs Pusey, using a disguised voice in the novel she was writing and, with all of this, waiting for a voice that remained silent, hearing very little that meant anything to her at all.
This book reminded me of Home by Marilynne Robinson and I am sure that if you like one, then you will enjoy the other.
I’m afraid this just wasn’t for me.
I know that a lot of people love the quiet beauty of this book.
The longlist for the Giller Prize 2009 was announced yesterday. The Giller prize is awarded annually to the best Canadian fiction. The titles to make it through were:
The Year of the Flood – Margaret Atwood
The Incident Report – Martha Bailie
The Disappeared – Kim Echlin
The Heart Specialist – Claire Holden Rothman
The Color of Lighting – Paulette Jiles
The Factory Voice – Jeanette Lynes
The Golden Mean – Annabel Lyon
The Bishop’s Man – Linden MacIntyre
Fall – Colin McAdam
The Winter Vault – Anne Michaels
Valmiki’s Daughter – Shani Mootoo
The Mistress of Nothing – Kate Pullinger
The only authors I had heard of were Anne Michaels and Margaret Atwood, but a quick browse through the list of previous books to make the shortlist revealed a lot of ones that I not only recognised, but also loved. Although I am not planning to read the entire longlist, or even the shortlist when it is announced on 6th October, I am going to pay much more attention to this prize in the future.
I am planning to read a few books shortlisted for the Giller prize soon.
Next week I am going to read De Niro’s Game by Rawi Hage. This was originally recommended to me by Claire from Kiss a Cloud. It won the 2008 International IMPAC Literary Award, but I didn’t realise it had been shortlisted for the Giller as well.
I am also planning to read Alligator by Lisa Moore soon. I discovered it at a car boot sale and loved the cover and blurb. I have never heard anyone mention it before though – have you read Alligator?
On twitter yesterday we were discussing the Giller prize; Nymeth recommended Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson and Claire recommended The Garneau Block by Todd Babiak. I ordered both, so I’ll get round to reading them at some point too.
I’d like to remind you that my favourite book won the Giller Prize in 2001. If you haven’t read A Fine Balanceby Rohinton Mistry yet – you are missing out!
Do you follow the Giller Prize?
Which is your favourite book from the Giller Prize shortlists?
Twitter has taken off this year and has been utilised by many bloggers, both as a way of getting to know others and as a marketing tool for their blog. I have often seen posts encouraging people to sign up to Twitter, implying that it will make you a better blogger, but I’m not sure I agree with that.
Twitter has helped me to build a better relationship with some people and made me more aware of the bigger issues affecting bloggers, but I don’t feel it has made me a better blogger. I know many wonderful bloggers who have not signed up to Twitter and I do not feel that the quality of their posts is any different to regular tweeters.
Arguably Twitter leads to becoming a better commenter, as you are led straight to the source of the latest debate, but without Twitter I’d probably find 90% of the posts eventually, even if it is only via some-one’s weekly link round up.
Earlier in the week I was invited to join the ‘Online Blogger Book Club’ for the sequel to Alexander McCall Smith’s novel Corduroy Mansion’s, The Dog Who Came In From The Cold. I love the opportunity to read along with other people, so I decided to go for it! I hadn’t read the first in the series, so had to find a copy and read it as quickly as possible!
I have to admit that I have only read one Alexander McCall Smith novel and I wasn’t very impressed. I found The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agencyto be too light and fluffy for my taste. I am always willing to give authors a second chance though, and was interested to find out what his new series would be like.
Corduroy Mansions is set in London and describes the lives of the people who live in the run-down block of flats that gives the series it’s name. The central characters are father and son, William and Eddie. William is desperate for his adult son to move out, so he can finally have some independence and find some romance. The interactions of the residents of the building with the outside world are observed, but although I enjoyed reading small snippets of their lives, I felt that the book didn’t work well when read quickly over the course of just a few days. Corduroy Mansions was originally published online by the Telegraph, one chapter a day, over several months. I can see that by reading this book slowly, allowing the characters to gradually filter into your life, they would have had much more appeal.
I loved the detailed character observations, but found the plot to be almost non-existent. The large number of characters meant that I didn’t really connect with any of them, but I did enjoy the numerous witty anecdotes.
“You may conclude only one thing from my shelves,” he said, noticing the direction of his guest’s gaze, “and that is that I have not bothered to organise the books according to any accepted patterns.” William accepted the mug of tea offered him. “It’s difficult. I find that – ” Manfred, lowering himself into a chair opposite the sofa, cut him short. “Alphabetical arrangement is not the only option,” he said. “And I’m always slightly suspicious of people whose books are arranged alphabetically. OCD issues. One isn’t a bookshop, you know. Nor a library.”
Here is a short video clip, which gives you a rough idea of where the book is set and Alexander McCall Smith’s thoughts on writing serialised fiction:
Overall, I found Corduroy Mansions to be mildly entertaining, but I really hope that the sequel builds from the character building of the first book to produce something with a more interesting plot.
The first chapter of The Dog Who Came In From The Cold will be published tomorrow on the Telegraph website. You can read it for free, but I am more excited about being able to hear the audio book. I think the light, entertaining nature of this series will make it perfect for listening to. I am pleased to see that Andrew Sachs is reading the book, as I think he is an excellent narrator. You can subscribe to the podcast (also free!) from the same page.
Have you read Corduroy Mansions?
Are you planning to read The Dog Who Came In From The Cold?
The Boy Who Kicked Pigs wasn’t a book I had ever heard of, but it happened to be in with a box of books I bought, and the title intrigued me. I had a quick flick through and ended up reading the whole thing in one sitting. It is a very short book, containing an illustration on each page. It isn’t quite a graphic novel, but I think it would appeal to people who love to read them.
The only word to describe this book is bizarre! The title is an accurate description of the plot, as the book follows a young boy who loves kicking pigs. The writing is easy to read and mildly amusing, but I found I was cringing at the puns as often as I was laughing at them:
After that little experience, whenever he saw a pig or a flitch of bacon he used to go quite red in the face and everyone would laugh. But Robert was cured. He never kicked so much as a packet of pork scratchings ever again.
The illustrations are quite cute and add to the charm of the book, but the plot was too basic and weird to appeal to me.
I think this book would probably appeal to teenage boys who aren’t big readers, or completest Dr. Who fans who want to read everything written by the 4th Doctor!
Recently a few people have been impressed by the speed I discover posts in which I am mentioned. My secret is that I have subscribed to my blog links in google reader, so the moment someone links to me it pops up as an unread message.
It is quite a simple thing to do, but it isn’t very obvious, so I thought I’d give you a step-by-step guide.