Sorry for the Absence…..

Many apologies for my online absence – my computer broke on Tuesday and so I have been unable to do any blogging. My television was also broken for the duration and so I enjoyed several technology-free days. I highly recommend that you indulge in short breaks from the media as it is amazing how much more can be fitted into each day.

Normal service will resume shortly.

2010 Recommended books

The Nobodies Album – Carolyn Parkhurst

The Nobodies Album is described as a murder mystery, but it is so much more than that. It is an insightful look into the relationship between a mother and her grown-up child, but it is also a clever piece of meta-fiction – questioning whether a story ever really ends and what rights an author has to a book once it has been published.

The Nobodies Album begins with Octavia Frost, a famous novelist, discovering that her son has been arrested for murdering his girlfriend. She dashes across the country to be with him, despite the fact that they haven’t seen each other for years. Scared and emotional she waits to see if she will be accepted back into his life and begins the painful process of discovering whether or not he is guilty of the crime. I thought that the book perfectly captured the emotions of parenthood – covering the nature versus nurture debate as well as the guilt experienced when a child behaves inappropriately. The meta-fictional style made these emotions seem all the more honest and realistic.

Now that the moment is here, it’s not what I expected at all. That’s the fundamental flaw in the illusion that writers like to maintain, the idea that we can craft anything approaching truth. No matter how richly we imagine, no matter how vividly we set the scene, we never come close to the unambiguous realness of the moment itself.

Interwoven with the narrative are snippets from Octavia Frost’s novels. Life experiences have altered the way she views the world and so she has decided to create a new book in which she rewrites the ending to all her previous novels. The snippets didn’t come across as realistic endings as each contained the sort of information that normally begins a novel, but I’m willing to forgive this because each of the stories was so interesting in its own right. I could easily have read full-length versions of most of them – especially the one in which people forget everything that is too traumatic.

It is difficult to explain just how clever this novel is. There is so much going on, but Carolyn Parkhurst’s skill as a writer ensures that the reader is never lost. It could easily have felt gimmicky, but the emotional rawness of the text lent an authenticity to it.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in parental responsibilty or how the writing process changes with experience, but also to anyone looking for a gripping narrative with an original, thought provoking style.


The thoughts of other bloggers:

….the writing is stellar. It is smart, insightful, and real. You’ve Gotta Read This!

….an incredibly creative novel that I definitely recommend. S. Krishna’s Books

……accessible and thoughtful. The Literate Housewife

I think I may have discovered a new favourite novelist!

Have you read any of Carolyn Parkhurst’s earlier books?


Mr Chartwell – Rebecca Hunt

William Churchill often spoke of his “black dog” of depression. Mr Chartwell imagines what might have happened if that black dog had been real.

Black Pat is the man-sized Labrador responsible for Churchill’s depression.

‘Sometimes I drape across his chest. That slows him down for a bit. And then I like to lie around in the corner of the room, crying out like I have terrible injuries. Sometimes I’ll burst out at him from behind some furniture and bark in his face. During meals I’ll squat near his plate and breathe over his food. I might lean on him too when he’s standing up, or hang off him in some way. I also make an effort to block out the sunlight whenever I can.’

The book begins with Black Pat replying to an advertisement for a room to rent – surprising the landlady, Esther. Bemused, she offers him a room and begins a difficult relationship with the over-sized dog.

Black Pat has to be one of the best characters I’ve come across recently – I loved the originality of the talking, giant dog and enjoyed his attempts at fitting into human society. Some of his scenes had me crying with laughter (especially the one where he tried to barbecue a coot), but despite the comedy of several sections I found this book to be unsatisfying overall. I thought that the book contained a series of fantastic scenes, but thought that the plot was quite weak and some of the connecting sections failed to grab my attention.

Mr Chartwell was short and easy to read and so I flew through it in a couple of sittings, but I felt that the lightness and humour took something away from the subject matter. I never felt Churchill’s depression or saw Black Pat as anything more than a giant mischievous animal. This book should have had darker undercurrents and some insight into depression, but instead it just skirted around the real issues.

Overall this book had a fantastic premise and some sparks of genius, but it didn’t quite work for me.


The thoughts of other bloggers:

I loved the opening chapters of this book but started to lose interest a little bit as I got further into the story. She Reads Novels

I completely fell for this book; it was a single sitting read. It’s original, compelling, poignant, witty and rather dark too – a perfect mixture. Savidge Reads

I came away from Mr Chartwell feeling that it hadn’t quite achieved what it seemed to be aiming for. Follow the Thread


Fact or Fool?

It’s April Fools’ Day so I thought I’d test your ability to spot the facts from the fools.

Five of the following statements are true, five have been invented by me.

EDITED 2nd April: I’ve now included the answers. How many did you get right?

Charles Dickens once had his clothes ripped off by fans.

TRUE! He is apparently the only author who has had his clothes ripped off by fans!

David Mitchell spent one month shearing sheep in Australia.

FALSE! He has travelled around a lot, but I invented this one.

Haruki Murakami used to run a jazz club.

TRUE! Murakami ran a jazz club until 1981 – it was called Peter Cat. This page contains many more Murakami facts that are well worth browsing.

D.H. Lawrence could play the trombone


H.G. Wells married his grandmother.

FALSE! He actually married his cousin!

Marilynne Robinson has a pet snake called Jake.


Chris Cleave grew up in Cameroon.

TRUE! He went to a French school in Cameroon.

Stephanie Meyer has a black belt in karate.


The man who registered José Saramago’s birth was drunk and so wrote his name and date of birth down incorrectly.

TRUE! I discovered this when researching a blog post about him last year. He is a fascinating man!

J.K Rowling once taught English in Portugal.

TRUE! She moved there and in 1992, she married Jorge Arantes, a Portuguese television journalist.


Happy April Fools’ Day!