Reading spaces

My own book choices or for the book club

Starting to catch up

I was totally shocked to see that it looks as if I haven’t read any books since January 2008 – more than a year ago. Of course, that’s not true. It’s just that I’ve been very lazy about putting anything on this blog. So now I’ve got a lot of catching up to do if I’m going to keep a record of my own literary travels (which will probably be of no importance whatsoever to anyone else, but it makes me feel slightly more important so it’s worthwhile).

I can’t really remember the order in which I read them, but I’ve read at least these (there were more than likely more):

  • May Contain Nuts John O’farrell
  • The Two of Us: My life with John Thaw Sheila Hancock
  • Incompetence Rob Grant
  • Watching the English Kate Fox

OK – so now that I’ve listed them I’ll take a wee break til I think about what I’ll write about them …

Meanwhile, I’m currently reading Asta’s Book by Barbara Vine (a pen-name of Ruth Rendell’s), which I sneakily acquired on a recent visit to friend and fellow-reader Cairine.


May 26, 2009 Posted by | crime, easy reading, history, main character female | Leave a comment

Until I Find You – John Irving

I’ve now read quite a few books by John Irving. The first was A Prayer for Owen Meany, which for me still remains the best of his books. However, I like his style (although the topics are sometimes a bit too off-the-wall for me) and what I find totally brilliant is the way he manages to bring together the loose ends until everything makes sense. I couldn’t help thinking from fairly early on that there’s some kind of remake of Great Expectations happening here.

In Until I Find You there are the same kinds of little incidentals which pop up early on and then come back to add to the final scenes towards the end. In this story, it’s the tattoos that wind their way in different forms and guises throughout the book that in the end bring things together (but I’m not going to say how, cos that would spoil it).

Another thing I liked about this book was the way Edinburgh becomes part of the story. At the outset, we realise that Alice and William both had connections to Edinburgh, and then at the end Jack returns there for a very different purpose. It’s fun when you recognise the places that are mentioned.

It’s clearly (for me) not as good as Owen Meaney, though. Irving obviously (too obviously?) tries to find something slightly bizarre to base his stories around, and the idea of a Scottish tattoo artist travelling across Europe is definitely bizarre. The main character, Jack Burns, is not half as compelling as his other characters, and although it’s possible to feel some sympathy for him, more often that not I found his character and outlook a very laughable male fantasy (not helped by Irving’s utter conviction that real men are wrestlers).

Other reviews of this book:

January 12, 2008 Posted by | personal reading, recommended | 2 Comments

September’s book (25th September)

Just in case you were wondering – no Book Club in August! This is partly because people will be away on holiday at various times, but also because the Book Festival will be on, and we could organise an outing to that …

September’s book is One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson

One Good Turn

July 13, 2007 Posted by | Titles | Leave a comment

July’s book (31st July)

It was decided that for July the theme would be “a good holiday read”, so you can choose whatever you wish to read and then share your views with the group.

Add some comments here if you like!

June 29, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

June’s book

At May’s book club meeting both books were felt to be a success and felt that they covered mental health conditions in a sensitive manner.

June’s choice of books are –

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: 25th Anniversary Edition by Robert M. Pirsig

Book Description
Acclaimed as one of the most exciting books in the history of American letters, this modern epic became an instant bestseller upon publication in 1974, transforming a generation and continuing to inspire millions. A narration of a summer motorcycle trip undertaken by a father and his son, the book becomes a personal and philosophical odyssey into fundamental questions of how to live. Resonant with the confusions of existence, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a touching and transcendent book of life.

The narration of a summer motorcycle trip undertaken by a father and his son becomes a text which speaks directly to the confusions and agonies of existence, detailing a personal, philosophical odyssey.

Interview with Pirsig in The Observer, 2006

Wikipedia entry

podcast and pdf version

The Apologist
by Jay Rayner
The Apologist of Jay Rayner’s novel is Marc Basset, a restaurant critic known for his scathing reviews. When his review of one establishment leads the chef to commit suicide, Basset finds himself apologising to the chef’s family. They took his apology so well and he felt so grand about it, that he begins to apologise to everyone he’s ever wronged. This leads to a job as Chief Apologist for the United Nations, and he travels the world apologising for everything from slavery to colonialism to the Holocaust. This gathers his own fame and celebrity, but perhaps Basset will be forced to apologise for his apologies. Jay Rayner’s satire has received positive reviews with the Observer saying, “Rayner has taken an impossible synopsis and somehow turned it into something funny, clever and ever so slightly chilling.”

We are hoping that we can entice Mary Porter as a special guest to June’s meeting as The Apologist is one of her favourite books.

It was decided that we would not read the book “Letter Home” by Karen Alanizi. I have a copy of the book and have read it, so if anyone wishes to borrow it please let me know and I will bring it to the next meeting. [Fiona]

June 6, 2007 Posted by | Titles | Leave a comment

May’s book

May’s Book
After the success of April’s meeting where most of us had read a different book (only two of us had read the same book!) we thought we would continue the idea.

The suggested titles are –

Human Traces by Sebastian Faulks (2005)

What is it to be human? This question, as in Birdsong, is at the heart of Human Traces.

The story begins in Brittany where a young, poor boy somehow passes hismedical exams and goes to Paris, where he attends the lectures of Charcot,the Parisian neurologist who set the world on its head in the 1870s. With afriend, he sets up a clinic in the mysterious mountain district ofCarinthia in south-east Austria.

If The Girl at the Lion d’Or was a simple three-movement symphony, Birdsong an opera, Charlotte Gray a complex four-movement symphony and On Green Dolphin Street a concerto, then Human Traces is a Wagnerian grand opera.

The Observations by Jane Harris (2007)

This book is in paper back and has been shortlisted for the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction.


So there I was with two pens, my two titties, Charles Dickens, two slice of bread and a blank book at the end of my first day in the middle of nowhere. Except as it turned out it wasn’t quite the end …Scotland, 1863. In an attempt to escape her not-so-innocent past in Glasgow, Bessy Buckley the wide-eyed Irish heroine of “The Observations” – takes a job as a maid in a big house outside Edinburgh working for the beautiful Arabella. Bessy is intrigued by her new employer, but puzzled by her increasingly strange requests and her insistence that Bessy keep a journal of her most intimate thoughts. And it seems that Arabella has a few secrets of her own – including her near-obsessive affection for Nora, a former maid who died in mysterious circumstances. Then, a childish prank has drastic consequences, which throw into jeopardy all that Bessy has come to hold dear.

Caught up in a tangle of madness, ghosts, sex and lies, she remains devoted to Arabella. But who is really responsible for what happened to her predecessor Nora? As her past threatens to catch up with her and complicate matters even further, Bessy begins to realise that she has not quite landed on her feet.

Dates for 2007 meetings –

Tuesday 26 June Letter Home Karen Alanizi
Tuesday 31 July
Tuesday 25 September One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson
Tuesday 30 October
Tuesday 27 November

You will notice that there is not a meeting for next August – as we will be busy with the Festival.

General suggestions –

June’s reading
Letter Home Karen Alanizi
The author contacted our blog site, so we thought we should read it….Would your book club members like to read something a little different? My book ‘Letter Home’ is about my experience as a British woman married to a Kuwaiti, during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990. I would love to get any feedback from you and would be happy to answer any questions you may have about the book. You will find more information about the book at the link below. It is also available from major on-line bookstores.

The compelling true story of Karen Alanizi, and her Kuwaiti husband Salem during the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Based on a letter written to her family in England her story reveals the heart-wrenching emotions, fears and the often amusing and sometimes bizarre side of life during the Iraqi occupation. She describes the desperation of their separation, and the journeys that eventually re-unite them in England. As the Gulf War unfolds they fear for their family and friends left behind in Kuwait and wait impatiently for the Liberation of the country that they love so much.

September’s reading
One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson
Synopsis- It is summer, it is the Edinburgh Festival. People queuing for a lunchtime show witness a road-rage incident – an incident which changes the lives of everyone involved. Jackson Brodie, ex-army, ex-police, ex-private detective, is also an innocent bystander – until he becomes a suspect. With “Case Histories”, Kate Atkinson showed how brilliantly she could explore the crime genre and make it her own. In “One Good Turn”, she takes her masterful plotting one step further. Like a set of Russian dolls, each thread of the narrative reveals itself to be related to the last. Her Dickensian cast of characters are all looking for love or money and find it in surprising places. As ever with Atkinson what each one actually discovers is their true self. Unputdownable and triumphant, “One Good Turn” is a sharply intelligent read that is also percipient, funny, and totally satisfying.

May 16, 2007 Posted by | Titles | 3 Comments

Who wrote this?

I’ve just been browsing a friends blog and she pointed out that according to a website, she writes like a man. Is this good or bad? So far there’s one comment from a man, saying that apparently he writes like a woman. I got the impression that he was distinctly not pleased …

Want to try it?

Here’s the website. You need to have an example of your writing that you can paste in (it could be fiction, non-fiction or a blog entry).

May 16, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

April’s book

April’s Book
After the last meeting it was suggested that rather than we all read the same book, we read a book from the following list. We don’t tell what we’ve read until we share it the next meeting. We are sticking to the theme from the East.

The suggested titles are –

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

Sour Sweet by Timothy Mo

The Secrets of Jin-Shei by Alma Alexander

Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min

Fragrant Harbour by John Lanchester

Tears of Blood: A Cry for Tibet by Mary Craig

See the comment for more information about the books

April 13, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Flashman Stories

At our January meeting Olwyn mentioned the “Flashman Stories”. Cover of Flashman from wikipedia

It was pretty easy to “google” this, and I found that there’s an entry in wikipedia about them

January 30, 2007 Posted by | favourites | 1 Comment

The Glass Palace

The book for February is The Glass Palace, by Amitav Ghosh. I managed to find a review of the book online.

The story starts in Burma, just before it lost independence (1880s), and tracks the story of a family as they live through upheaval and change.

There’s also an official website about the author.

January 30, 2007 Posted by | Titles | Leave a comment