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March Summary and Plans for April

March was a mixed month, mainly due to me trying the final books on the 2014 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction Longlist. Overall it included a fantastic range of books and it was nice to see the variety, despite the fact they weren’t all to my taste.

I also read a lot of solidly good reads and I particularly recommend Cold Skin by Albert Sánchez Piñol, a beautifully creepy book with a gripping plot that raises interesting questions about humanity – and it includes giant humanoid toads!

Book of the Month

Cold Skin 

Books Reviewed in March

Cold Skin by Albert Sánchez Piñol 

The Night Watch by Sarah Waters 

The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt 

Eleven Days by Lea Carpenter 

Labor Day by Joyce Maynard 

Good Kings, Bad Kings by Susan Nussbaum 

Prayers for the Stolen by Jennifer Clement 

Reasons She Goes to the Woods by Deborah Kay Davies 

The Dogs of Littlefield by Suzanne Berne 

The Shadow of the Crescent Moon by Fatima Bhutto 

Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen 

Plans for April

On Friday the longlist for the Desmond Elliott Prize (for debut fiction) will be announced. I’m going to be trying all the books on the list with Dan from UtterbiblioKaite WelshHeather from Between the Covers and Sarah Noakes. It will be interesting to compare notes and see if we reach the same decision as the real judges.

I’m currently reading two chunksters:

From the Fatherland With Love by Ryu Murakami
The Quick by Lauren Owen

They couldn’t be more different, but I’m loving them both so far.

I probably won’t have time for much else, but I’m sure I’ll be able to squeeze a random read in some where.

Have a wonderful April!

6 replies on “March Summary and Plans for April”

I like the idea of the Desmond Elliott Prize, as I tend to read a fair bit of debut fiction and think it’s great that there is a prize that both acknowledges and encourages new writers, but I almost never agree with their shortlists or winners! Still, it is one I keep my eye on and it does usually prompt me to try a couple of books each year which I might otherwise have overlooked, so I’ll look forward to seeing what you make of the longlist.

March was a bit of a ho-hum month for me with no real standouts. A few very good books and no terrible ones though so it wasn’t a bad month.

I read a trio of modern ‘classics’:
Joan Lindsay’s ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’ (1967) I read whilst suffering from a chest infection and I think the high temperatures, sleepless nights and pounding headaches may have affected my reading of it, but it was a weird, otherworldly and rather disjointed book that seemed to veer wildly in tone from murder mystery to farce to a documentary style and I couldn’t make my mind up if I liked it or not.
‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’ (1961) was my first Muriel Spark and I liked it enough that I’d try more by her but I wasn’t bowled over by it – the acerbic wit is wonderful, but I’d have preferred some more character development.
Wallace Stegner’s ‘Angle of Repose’ (1971) won the Pulitzer Prize and I feel like a bit of a philistine for not completely loving it – there are aspects of it that are superb but it is also incredibly tedious in its detailing of life lived day by day. The writing though was good enough that I want to read more by Stegner and hope his other novels have a bit more narrative drive.

Two new novels: Tim Pears’ ‘The Light of Morning’ about a British army officer working as a liaison with partisans in WW2 Slovenia is fascinating but is another book that dragged due to its focus on the day-to-day, and where Pears usually writes compelling books with characters you care about, this one was a bit dry – a romantic subplot is there (I think) to pull the reader through but he never really convinced me of the connection between his two characters.
Charlotte Randall’s ‘The Bright Side of My Condition’ is far better and it is a shame it is so far only available in New Zealand – based on the true story of four convicts who escaped Norfolk Island only to be stranded on a tiny and uninhabited island for ten years it is really well written and full of philosophical musings contrasting with the (sometimes brutal) business of survival.

Although I have still to get around to ‘The Orenda’ I did read Joseph Boyden’s first novel, ‘Three Day Road’ in March, about two Cree Indians serving in Belgium and France as snipers during the first world war. The scenes in the trenches are really well done and you feel as though you are there, but it was also nothing I hadn’t read before. The sections set in Canada though are fantastic – there is a chapter about a forest fire that had me with my heart in my mouth. I can’t wait to read his other two novels.
I read lots of short stories too (six collections) which I won’t bore you with.

I don’t really have any plans for April – I’ll probably read Damon Galgut’s new book and Siri Hustvedt’s. I’ll also try and get to another Pulitzer winner as that seems to have become an enjoyable little project for me and I have a few here to be going at (‘Gone with the Wind’, ‘A Death in the Family’, ‘The Caine Mutiny’, ‘Middlesex’, ‘The Known World’…).

Hope you have a great April.

David, I love debut fiction – it normally has to be of a far higher quality to get published than second/third novels. I never agree with the judging panel on any award, but I still like to see which books they select.

Picnic Rock is a book I’ve been meaning to try to a long time. I’m not sure I’ll love it either, but I want to find out about it.

I wasn’t that impressed by Jean Brodie either. Her style just doesn’t work for me – I need to stick to darker stuff!

I think you’ll love ‘Blazing World’ – the writing quality is outstanding. I might also try the Galgut so we can compare notes at the end of the month! I hope you have a wonderful April and find more books that standout.

You had a very good March Jackie. I had the same reaction to Still Life with Bread Crumbs…meh…

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