Tag Archives: Truman Capote

Novel Insights’ February Review

I discovered a new author to love this month, and had a little taste of Hungarian literature. My top three books this month were;

Through The Wall, by Ludmilla Pertrushevskaya (5/5)

Through the Wall, by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya

“They are dark and melancholy stories but each has a resolution and tells of human resilience.”

 

 

Fateless, by Imre Kertsesz (4/5)

Fateless, by Imre Kertesz“…unique in the way that it addresses the experience of concentration camps.”

 

 

Children on Their Birthdays, by Truman Capote (4/5)

Children on Their Birthdays, Truman Capote, Penguin Modern Classics“…little observational pieces that capture a fleeting moment in time…”

 

 

I read Embers, by Sandor Marai and The Private Lives of Trees, by Alejandro Zambra. Reviews are coming soon.

I also finally got around to reviewing

The Slap, by Christos Tsiolkas (2.5/5)

“…the book…tried to cover too much ground, which made the middle to end section of the book really drawn out…”

What were your favourite reads this month?

Children on Their Birthdays, by Truman Capote

4 stars4/5

Ever since I read In Cold Blood a couple of years ago, I’ve been a big fan of Truman Capote.

Children on Their Birthdays, Truman Capote, Penguin Modern Classics

Penguin Books, 2011 edition, paperback, 73 pages - review copy.

I love his keen observational style and wicked way with words. I was pleased to get my hands on this Penguin Mini Modern Classic, which felt like perfect reading for a hectic week and addled brain!

This edition contains three short stories, each of which represent a moment in time:

Children on Their Birthdays, opens by announcing that Miss Bobbit, a girl of eleven has been run down by the six-o’clock bus. Miss Bobbit has had a memorable impact on the community. The ladylike little girl creates a ripple in the Alabama backwater, attracting the attention of the boys of the town with her sophisticated way of dressing and behaving. She has aspirations of being a hollywood star, and although she is hugely precocious, there is genuinely something special and sweet about her as a character.

A Christmas Memory explores the tender relationship between a seven year old and a sixty-something lady, who is sprightly and makes whisky-spiked fruitcakes. Ingredients for the famous fruitcakes are bought with money scraped together including pennies collected by squashing errant flies. The making of the fruitcake is a special ritual in the build up to Christmas and kind whisky-supplying shopkeepers get extra cups of raisins in their portion.

A Tree of Night is about a young girl travelling back from her Uncle’s funeral. On the train, she encounters an old, rather odd-couple who become rather more sinister as the journey goes on.

The actual subject of the stories is almost secondary, in my mind, to the mood that Capote creates and the vivid character descriptions. Capote creates little observational pieces that capture a fleeting moment in time and impart a sense of nostalgia, or impress a particular feeling on the reader, whether that be warm and fuzzy (A Christmas Memory), or cold and creeping (A Tree of Night).

The three snippets below, one from each story are examples of the writing that I so admire.

“…a firefly hour, blue as milkglass…” (Children on Their Birthdays)

“…the path unwinds through lemony sun pools and pitch vine tunnels…” (A Christmas Memory)

“…icicles hung along the station-house eaves like some crystal monster’s vicious teeth.” (A Tree of Night)

I would definitely recommend this little collection. If you are a Capote devotee, you will surely enjoy them and if you haven’t read any of his writing this is a great way to dip your toe in the water.

Truman Capote with puppy

On a side note, I don’t often enjoy reading collections of short stories, but something about just having two or three in one volume appeals. As with food, perhaps it’s nice just to have a few bites as an appetiser?!

Have you read any Capote and if so what would you recommend? Which authors do you particularly admire for their way with words?

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.