2011 Booker Prize Recommended books

A Cupboard Full of Coats by Yvvette Edwards

A Cupboard Full of Coats Long listed for 2011 Booker Prize

Five words from the blurb: mother, murdered, guilt, memories, violence

I’m pleased to announce that this year’s Booker long list has finally rewarded me with a wonderful book. I wouldn’t have discovered A Cupboard Full of Coats if it hadn’t been on the long list and so my efforts of trying them all have finally been rewarded.

A Cupboard Full of Coats is an emotional book describing the life of Jinx, a woman haunted by the thought that she was partly responsible for the murder of her mother.

Jinx suffered from a violent childhood and finds it hard to connect with her five-year-old son. I found their endless misunderstandings heart-breaking to read:

I caught up with him he had ripped three or four heads off the crocuses planted along the thin bed that ran the length of the path from the gate to the door.
‘Ben, don’t do that please,’ I said as he started tearing off another. Ignoring me, he yanked it off anyway, adding it to the collection in his other hand.
‘Will you bloody stop!’ I said.
When he looked at me, those enormous eyes were filled with tears. He held out his hand. His voice was tiny. ‘These are for you,’ he said.
And I looked at the small, fresh, squashed bouquet held out to me, and for a second I could have taken his gift and smiled, then cuddled and whispered to my son, Forgive me. I love you.
But the words that came out of my mouth instead were:
‘Great! Why don’t you kill every single flower you can see?

I was gripped by this book from the very first page. I flew through it, desperate to know what part Jinx had played in the murder of her mother and how everything would be resolved.

I found the characters well formed and realistic, and the descriptions of life as a Caribbean in East London were evocative and atmospheric. Details of food preparation were particularly mouth-watering.

The writing isn’t perfect and I spotted a few typographical errors (for example, see the first line of the quote) but I was so absorbed in the story that these didn’t bother me.

If you enjoyed Chris Cleave’s, The Other Hand, then I’m sure you’ll love, A Cupboard Full of Coats. I don’t think the writing quality is good enough to justify its place on the Booker long list, but it will gain a spot in my list of favourite books published in 2011.


The thoughts of other bloggers:

…an elegantly structured story of guilt and redemption. Literary License

…a very worthy idea that has been badly executed. Kevin from Canada

I was sucked into the world of the novel and the mind of Jinx, the main character. Revcherylreads



Book Blogger Appreciation Week and the Best of Farm Lane Books

Book Blogger Appreciation Week is an annual event celebrating the work of book bloggers and I’m pleased to announce that my blog has been long listed in the Best Literary Fiction Blog category.

Thank you to all who nominated me!

It is lovely to know that you appreciate the work I put into my blog and to see that I am amongst such wonderful company on the long list.

I thought this would be an appropriate time to introduce myself to new readers of my blog and highlight some of my favourite posts from the last three years.

About Me

My name is Jackie and I live in Surrey, England with my husband and two young sons. When my first son was born I gave up my ‘proper’ job as an analytical chemist to stay at home and look after him. To make a little bit of money I set up an online business selling second hand books. This gave me the excuse to create my own library at home (take this in the loose sense of the word – imagine wobbly stacks of books, rather than a posh room lined with ordered book cases!), allowing me the pleasure of being surrounded by thousands of books.

I have always loved reading, but spending so much extra time at home allowed me to indulge in my hobby a lot more. This led me to discovering book blogs and eventually starting my own nearly three years ago. Since then blogging has enabled me to do many things I never dreamed of. I’ve met lots of lovely bloggers and have been lucky enough to attend many publishing events in London. I’ve even met some of my favourite authors. All this is wonderful, but what I love most is discussing the books I’ve read in the comfort of my own home. I wouldn’t continue blogging if I didn’t receive all your wonderful comments. So thank you for making my blog what it is today!

My Favourite Posts

My favourite posts are those that generate a lot of discussion. I have written a lot over the years, but my favourite remains:

Does the age of the author matter?

I still notice that I tend to favour authors who are slightly older than me and think this is a more important indicator of how much a person will enjoy a book than most people realise.

I also think my post  Has Reading Ruined Your Facial Recognition Skills? is one all avid readers should ensure they read.

You can see more of my favourite posts by clicking on the ‘My Favourites’ tab in the box of my side bar.

You can see a post listing My Favourite Books, but all the books I’ve reviewed on my blog can be found under the ‘Books Reviewed’ tab in the top right-hand corner of my blog. These can then be sorted either by Author Surname, Book Title or by My Rating, allowing you to easily see my taste in books.

For those interested, I submitted the following posts for the BBAW award:

If you’d like any more information about me or my blog, please ask below.

Enjoy browsing my blog!


The Proof of Love by Catherine Hall

The Proof of Love

Five words from the blurb: Lake District, atmospheric, farm, labourer, secrets

I lived in the Lake District for several years so always enjoy reading books based in the area. The Proof of Love provided me with everything I needed to reminisce about life in the Lakes, but I question whether it will appeal to those unfamiliar with the area. 

The book is set in a remote village where people are surprised and faintly amused by the arrival of Spencer, a mathematician from Cambridge University. Spencer agrees to work as a farm labourer and he slowly adjusts to life on the fells. The villagers tend to leave Spencer to his own devices so it is only when a ten-year-old girl called Alice befriends him that he begins feel at home in this lonely place. Their strange friendship leads to the exchange of secrets and some beautifully tender moments.

The descriptions of life in the Lake District are spot-on; the hills and lakes are perfectly described. The dialogue is also authentic and the fact the characters are normally talking to an outsider means that the colloquialisms are toned down enough for most people to understand.

Half a mile along the narrow track was a humpback bridge, arched high above a river. They stood on it, looking down into a dark pool flanked by great hunks of granite rising out of the water.
‘You stand in’t middle, Spence, and jump,’ said Hartley. ‘But get it right, mind. It’s narrow. You wouldn’t want to hit the rocks. You’d smash up your legs.’ He laughed as he saw Spencer’s face grow pale.
‘You’ll be all right. No-one’s done that since Jack Porter in 1963. And he was properly drunk at the time. You haven’t had that much. Nowt to worry about.’

The only problem I had was that the plot was a bit too slow for me. It could almost be described as gentle, but that might mislead you into thinking that this is a happy book. It isn’t. There are many tragic, sometimes disturbing, scenes sprinkled through the text, but woven between them are details of domestic chores, church services and village fetes. These will either charm you, or bore you, depending on your level of interest in the every day life of Cumbrians.

I’d recommend this to anyone with an affinity to the Lake District, but if gentle tales of sheep farming and village gossip aren’t your thing then this probably isn’t for you.


The thoughts of other bloggers:

(An) exceptional novel which will be flying into my top five books of the year….  Savidge Reads

This is not a straightforward case of intellectualism versus physicality; it’s more about showing how the farming lifestyle has taken over the Dodds family. Follow the Thread

 …intense, atmospheric, muted and with a heavy stillness. Cornflower Books

2011 Booker Prize Novella

The Sense of an Ending – Julian Barnes

The Sense of an Ending Winner of 2011 Booker Prize

Five words from the blurb: retired, memory, imperfect, insight, past

The Sense of an Ending is a quiet, reflective book and if you know me then you’ll immediately hear the alarm bells ringing. This book has virtually no plot and, unlike the fabulous Anne Enright, Julian Barnes failed to to engage me in his slow tale.

The story is seen through the eyes of Tony, a retired man who is suffering from loneliness and the depressing knowledge that his life won’t go on forever. He reflects on his life, worrying that he hasn’t achieved anything noteworthy.

There are some plot elements, but I wont explain them here for fear of spoiling this brief book; all I can say is that they didn’t excite me.

On a positive note The Sense of an Ending is quick and easy to read. There are also lots of little snippets of wisdom.  

The less time there remains in your life, the less you want to waste it. That’s logical, isn’t it? Though how you use the saved-up hours…well, that’s another thing you probably wouldn’t have predicted in youth. For instance, I spend a lot of time clearing things up – and I’m not even a messy person.

I can see why this made the Booker long list, but I’m probably just too young to appreciate this sort of book.


2011 Books in Translation

The Last Brother by Nathacha Appanah

The Last Brother  Translated from the French by Geoffrey Strachan

Five words from the blurb: boy, friends, island, prison, Jewish

The Last Brother caught my attention earlier this year when several of my favourite bloggers started to rave about it. I’m really pleased that I acted on their recommendations as this is a fantastic little book that deserves a wider audience.

This short book is very hard to review without giving spoilers and so if you are sensitive to them I suggest that you avoid reading all reviews and dive straight in. The blurb on the back of the book also explains the entire plot so I recommend that you avoid that too.

The Last Brother is set on the island of Mauritius and tells the story of Raj, a nine year-old boy, who has had a difficult childhood. His abusive father gets a job as a prison warder and this leads Raj to discover that WWII is being fought on the other side of the world and Jewish exiles are being shipped and detained on his island.

Now that I knew who was hidden there within the darknes of the pathways, knew the walls that towered around them, heard the sound of the grass beneath their feet, heard their singing in the evening, I viewed them with great sadness…

I had no idea that Jews were imprisoned on Mauritius during WWII so it was good to be educated about this lesser known piece of history.

The book was beautifully written; the prose simple, but engaging. I quickly connected with Raj and felt enormous sympathy for his situation. In many ways this book reminded me of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, but with a more realistic plot.

I liked the way the book was narrated by a 70 year-old Raj. This allowed an adult perspective to be given, whilst still allowing the childhood innocence to shine through.

My only criticism is that the book was very predictable.  I knew exactly what was going to happen from the beginning and I’d have liked a few extra snippets of information to add to the impact of the inevitable ending.

Overall this is a quick, easy read with an emotional undercurrent. Recommended.


The thoughts of other bloggers:

…a powerful novel that packs a huge emotional punch. Devourer of Books

…a haunting novel which has been beautifully translated from the French. Caribousmom

It’s a beautiful treatise on the need for love and the scars inflicted by loss. S. Krishna’s Books

1950s Classics Fantasy

Titus Alone – Mervyn Peake

Titus Alone (Gormenghast trilogy)

Five words from the blurb: escapes, city, zoo, traitor, home

Titus Alone is the third book in the Gormenghast trilogy, but whilst the first two are amongst the best books I’ve ever read, Titus Alone was a big disappointment.

Titus leaves the wonderfully atmospheric surroundings of Gormenghast castle and arrives in a modern city. Both the city and the people that he meets there lack the vivid descriptions of the previous books. I struggled to connect with the characters and was bored by plot. Reaching the end was a real chore and I only finished the book because I was hosting the read-along.

There were a few paragraphs that grabbed my attention, but overall I found the writing choppy and unconvincing. The world of Gormenghast wasn’t realistic, but somehow Peake made the happenings of the first two books entirely believable. This wasn’t the case with the third book. I wasn’t able to immerse myself in the city of Titus Alone; the fantasy elements jarred and the plot seemed ridiculous.

He strode to the forest verge, his head in his hands, then raised his eyes, and pondered on the bulk and weight of his crazy car. He released the brake, and brought her to life, so that she sobbed, like a child pleading. He turned her to the precipice, and with a great heave sent her running uopn her way. As she ran, the small ape leaped from his shoulders to the driving seat, and riding her like a little horseman using the best equipment from western saddlery Australia.
Ape gone. Car gone. All gone?.

I’m sure that there are some wonderful messages beneath the surface of this book, but it didn’t work for me.


Did you enjoy Titus Alone?

Which bits did you enjoy most/least?