Tag Archives: Margaret Atwood

Back from a Blogging Hiatus!

Memories of travelling: Sunrise at Changi Beach, Koh Samui April 2009, courtesy of the photographer boyfriend.

Over the last few months I’ve had a bit of a blogging hiatus, due to travelling, job applications and whatnot. Composing cover letters drains all the fun out of writing! But while I might have given the keypad a break I’ve been enjoying catching up on some great books.
There’s nothing like long plane, and bus journeys to give you some good reading time, in fact the only downside was fitting the books into my rucksack and making sure I didn’t have to pay excess! I even sacrificed a pair of shoes to make space for Margaret Atwood’s hefty novel The Blind Assassin. Below is my travel reading list (from which you’ll notice that I managed to get through quite a few on my ‘catch up list’).

  • The Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood – A big old pullitzer prize winner full of original ideas as the perfect escapism from cramped hostels in Tokyo.
  • The Parasites, Daphne Dumaurier – A dark little novel exploring the relationship between and the personalities of a group of self-centred siblings enjoyed in the sunshine in Bangkok.
  • No Time For Goodbye, Linwood Barclay – Unputdownable thriller / mystery about a girl who discovers her family have gone missing one morning. Beach reading for Koh Samui.
  • One Good Turn: A Jolly Murder Mystery, Kate Atkinson – Entertaining read about a curious collision of lives pilfered from a hotel bookshelf (I did leave the Parasites in return!) in Koh Samui.
  • Mudbound, Hillary Jordan – A moving story about the struggles of rural living and racial tension in the Mississippi Delta after the second world war, consumed mostly in a hotel room in Ho Chi Minh City.
  • A Case of Need, Michael Crichton – A fantastically battered copy of a 70’s novel about an abortion doctor and a heated legal case read in a very hot, fanless guesthouse in Siem Reap Cambodia.
  • Sovereign, C.J. Sansom – A monkish mystery set in Tudor times that now I think of it has lots of parallels with The Name of the Rose. Fitted in between lots of partying in Sydney!
  • In Cold Blood : A True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences, Truman Capote – An incredibly detailed journalists account of a gruesome murder of an all-american family that occured in Kansas in 1959. An instant favourite during my stay in Auckland
  • Just After Sunset, Stephen King – Awful and at times just plain wierd book of short stories, by a usually excellent horror writer.
  • The Body Farm, Patricia Cornwell – My first foray into the Kay Scarpetta novels was entertaining but I still prefer Tess Gerritson and Sophie Hannah
  • The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins – Such an enjoyable classic, I loved the over the top characters and the thick plot while staying on Rarotonga in the Cook Islands
  • The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco – A bit of a struggle to get through the theological philosophising to the actually very good plot while driving around sunny California!
  • The Testament, John Grisham – A multi-billionaire commits suicide and leaves the expected heirs nothing while pledging everything to a daughter who lives a life of a reclusive missionary! A recipe for trouble thoroughly enjoyed on a 2 night stint in an LA hostel.

The stand out novel by far for me was Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood which, on putting down thought ‘I think this might be the best book I have ever read!’. I found the depth to which Capote investigates the characters and the skill by which he conveys them to be truly extraordinary. It’s a book that really got under my skin and it is definitely my ‘new favourite’. Really I should have been organised and planned books for different countries (although I did read In Cold Blood in advance of visiting the States!) but I enjoyed picking up novels I might not normally have read in hostels and second hand bookshops along the way. For instance, I have never particularly wanted to read a Michael Crichton novel or a John Grisham having had some idea that they are the kind of books read by middle aged business-men, but actually really, really enjoyed them to my great surprise and found the writing style to be superb. It just goes to show how important it is to stay open minded about what does and doesn’t make a well written book.

‘Catch-up’ Book List 2009

Sitting at home with the sniffles and the last episode of Tudors series II on pause, I was suddenly inspired to have a look through my shelves and decide which of the books that I already own, I would really like to get round to reading this year. This is a particularly good time to decide, as I am moving out of my beloved flat in a couple of weeks. I have to say it’s a thoroughly cathartic process, organising myself down to the minimum of possessions to store at my boyfriend’s house before I go travelling next month. Of course I have tried (not really) and failed to actually get rid of any books, but I will be putting a few out of sight and out of mind for the time being. I’m thinking that the short (ish) pile left cluttering up my dressing table will consist of the following:

The Book Thief Markus Zusak

My next book group read, I’ve finally conceded that I need to put down the Never-ending Anna Karenina temporarily in order to meet Thursdays deadline for reading this. Luckily I’ve been hugely looking forward to reading The Book Thief , but I really don’t like starting one book while I’m reading another…grrr!

American Psycho Brett Easton Ellis

Oddly for me my desire to read American Psycho hasn’t been dampened by having seen the film beforehand. Perhaps it’s because I imagine it being different from the film, and because it is generally hard to put me off a bit of dark and gruesome fiction anyway. A gory gift from my ever benevolent book benefactor Savidge Reads, perhaps I will have to sacrifice a few pairs of undies so I can fit this copy into my rucksack for my travels.

Dorian: An Imitation Will Self

Having read both Great Apes and The Book of Dave, I know that I find Self’s writing to be tough going and pretty pretentious. However… I still enjoy reading his books… perhaps because I feel like he’s allowed to be pretentious because he’s so damned clever and original. When I read his books, I always feel as if my perception of things has been pushed around a bit and stretched which I like. Also, Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, is one of my all time favourite novels so I’m looking forward to reading this even more twisted version!

Hurting Distance Sophie Hannah

Having recently read The Point of Rescue in the wrong order (slap on the wrist!), I now feel compelled to go back and fill in the gap by reading Hurting Distance before The Other Half Lives is released. I do so enjoy Hannah’s clever plots, and suspenseful writing style.

Calendar Girl Stella Duffy

Another book gifted to me by Savidge Reads, after I joined a certain literary salon that is Polari and met the lovely Stella herself. Looking to forward to delving into this intriguing novel that promises a heady mixture of mystery and lesbianism. Oo-er!

The Blind Assassin Margaret Atwood

Ok, I don’t know much about this except that it’s got a great cover, a brilliant title and won the Booker prize. Sounds good to me!

I, Claudius Robert Graves

Most people don’t like the kind of books that people are made to read in school. Being contrary, I seek them out. I was a bit of an English Lit geek, plus I also love reading Classical stuff, having devoted much of my childhood to reading Greek myths… plus the blurb promises folly, vileness, wickedness and tragedy. What more can a girl ask for.

Brighton Rock Graham Green

I struggle with Graham Green a bit, but again, because I’m contrary I like to stick at authors when they’re clever but difficult and give them the benefit of the doubt. You see I loved The End of The Affair (although it wasn’t at all what I expected), and was completely confused by Our Man in Havana. Anyway, this is one of those GCSE-type books and the blurb makes it sound so odd I have to read it. Oh, and I have a lovely old Penguin copy which I shall have to add a picture of when I read it with pink writing, so that sealed the deal for me.

Tennyson selected by Kingsley Amis

Another one I will have to add an image of, I picked up this lovely battered copy of Tennyson poems on a visit to my Nan’s house. Apart from the brilliant 1970’s cover, I mainly want to read this so that I can be even better at University Challenge. When Paxman asks a question about poetry the answer is nearly always Keats, Shelly, Wordsworth, Byron or Tennyson and I want to improve my 1/5 shot at getting it right. I know it’s so wrong. I’m hoping that I might also discover something beautiful at the same time mind you, especially as one of my favourite paintings is The Lady of Shallot by John William Waterhouse so I suspect I will have that rather romantic image in my head when I read the poem.

Here’s that lovely picture by the way, (although it’s much better seen in real life for free at Tate Britain in a moment of contemplation):