#DBowieBooks

The David Bowie Reading Challenge #TuesdayBookBlog #DBowieBooks #DavidBowie

It’s David Bowie’s birthday today, and since his death three years ago I’ve been intermittently taking part in the David Bowie reading challenge, which I first heard about here.

To be completely honest, I’ve not done too well – but the challenge has led me to read some wonderful books, and I’m determined to read more from the list this year.

Here are the books I’ve read so far with links to my reviews.

‘Nights at the Circus’ by Angela Carter

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‘As I Lay Dying’ by Williams Faulkner

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‘Room at the Top’ by John Braine

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‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’ by Muriel Spark

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‘Billy Liar’ by Keith Waterhouse

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‘Last Exit to Brooklyn’ by Hubert Selby Jr

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‘1984’ by George Orwell

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‘Fingersmith’ by Sarah Waters

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‘Madame Bovary’ by Gustave Flaubert

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You can find a complete list of the books here.

I’ve also read ‘Passing’ by Nella Larsen, and will post my review soon.

I do recommend the challenge – there are so many books out there, new and old, but there are books on this list that really are must reads and many are books that I’ve been meaning to read for years, so it’s a good way of focusing on that goal.

Do let me know if you’ve read any of the books on the list, and what you thought.

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‘As I Lay Dying’ by William Faulkner #TuesdayBookBlog #DBowieBooks #BookReview

Faulkner

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The death and burial of Addie Bundren is told by members of her family, as they cart the coffin to Jefferson, Mississippi, to bury her among her people. And as the intense desires, fears and rivalries of the family are revealed in the vernacular of the Deep South, Faulkner presents a portrait of extraordinary power – as epic as the Old Testament, as American as Huckleberry Finn.

I read this book as part of the David Bowie Reading Challenge.

To my shame, this is the first Faulkner I’ve read. He’s another author that has been on the edge of my radar for years, but I’ve never got round to reading him, save for a few extracts given as examples when I was studying English Literature.

This is a classic that is really worthy of the name. It’s a deceptively simple tale – a woman dies and her family transport her body back to her home town to fulfil her dying wish. But Faulkner uses this journey to take his reader on a journey too, revealing bit by bit the relationships between Addie’s children and with their father – their rivalries, their jealousies, their fears, their hopes, their dreams.

The story to me though is in a way secondary to the writing. It is so, so well-crafted that it is almost awe-inspiring. That might sound over the top, but I had to keep stopping and re-reading, and reading out bits to my poor family because the sheer skill of the writing was so amazing.

That isn’t to say that the writing is complicated. It’s dense, yes, but dense with meaning. Faulkner offers a masterclass here in saying a lot with a few words and images. Every word has a point, has a place and is needed. Nothing is wasted.

Faulkner is a writer whose works are often studied, rather than simply read. And that’s a bit of a shame. It was lovely to read this simply for the pleasure of reading – and it really is an absolute pleasure to read. Five very big stars!

5 stars

 

‘Room at the Top’ by John Braine #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview #DBowieBooks

I read this as part of the David Bowie Reading Challenge.

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Amazon.co.uk  Amazon.com

The Angry Young Men movement, featuring such stars as Kingsley Amis, is perfectly illustrated through the iconic figure of Joe Lampton. 

The ruthlessly ambitious Joe Lampton rises swiftly from the petty bureaucracy of local government into the unfamiliar world of inherited wealth, fast cars and glamorous women.

But the price of success is high, and betrayal and tragedy strike as Joe pursues his goals.

I’m very torn about this book. On the one hand, Joe’s frustration at the hand he has been dealt in life simply by the consequences of his birth is very easy to empathise with. He comes from a poor background, a dead-end town with no prospects and he wants to get on, to have the things that the middle and upper classes have.

On the other hand, I don’t feel this book has aged well – particularly in terms of the way the women are portrayed.

Joe is ambitious, and he moves to the middle-class town of Warley to take up a new job and to experience life and what it has to offer away from Dufton.

He meets and begins an affair with Alice, a married woman who seems to be fighting against the constraints placed on her sex, just as Joe is fighting the constraints placed on his class. He also begins a romance with the virginal Susan, daughter of a local businessman.

Joe seems to genuinely love Alice, but his feelings for Susan are mixed up with his desire to get to the top. He is using her and this is where the book loses its appeal for me.

I do understand that it is of its time, but still the portrayal of the female characters didn’t work for me. Alice is supposedly independent, intelligent and unconventional, yet she still allows Joe to treat her badly, is still needy. And Susan felt like a caricature of a young girl – whiny and spoilt and childish. She may well have these characteristics, but she would have worked better had she had some redeeming features.

It is an undoubtedly well-crafted and important book, and one that is significant in the Angry Young Men Movement. I’m glad I read it, but I can’t say that I enjoyed it.

three stars

My Books of 2016 #FridayReads #IAmReading

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When I started writing this post I wanted to list every book I’ve read this year that I would recommend but it soon became obvious that the post would be far too long and no one would read it all. So I’ve whittled it down and here are the books that really were the standouts. Funnily enough, they’re mostly non-fiction.

‘Farmageddon’ by Philip Lymbery

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Farm animals have been disappearing from our fields as the production of food has become a global industry. We no longer know for certain what is entering the food chain and what we are eating, as the UK horsemeat scandal demonstrated. We are reaching a tipping point as the farming revolution threatens our countryside, health and the quality of our food wherever we live in the world.
Farmageddon is a fascinating and terrifying investigative journey behind the closed doors of a runaway industry across the world, from the UK, Europe and the USA, to China, Argentina, Peru and Mexico. It is both a wake-up call to change our current food production and eating practices and an attempt to find a way to a better farming future.

This isn’t preachy at all, just factual and fantastically well-written. Everyone needs to read this book.

‘Chasing the Scream’ by Johann Hari

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Drugs are not what we think they are. Addiction is not what we think it is. And the war on drugs is not what we see on our TV screens. In Chasing the Scream, Johann Hari shares his discoveries through the riveting true stories he uncovered on a 30,000-mile journey – from the founder of the war on drugs who stalked and killed Billie Holiday, to a transgender crack dealer in Brooklyn, to the only country that has ever decriminalised all drugs, with remarkable results. You will never look at addiction – or our society – in the same way again.

This is such an eye-opener. It is genuinely life-changing.

Two by the fabulous Jenny Lawson:

‘Let’s Pretend This Never Happened’

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Have you ever embarrassed yourself so badly you thought you’d never get over it? Have you ever wished your family could be just like everyone else’s? Have you ever been followed to school by your father’s herd of turkeys, mistaken a marriage proposal for an attempted murder or got your arm stuck inside a cow? OK, maybe that’s just Jenny Lawson . . . The bestselling memoir from one of America’s most outlandishly hilarious writers.

and ‘Furiously Happy’

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In Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Jenny Lawson regaled readers with uproarious stories of her bizarre childhood. In her new book, Furiously Happy, she explores her lifelong battle with mental illness. A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety? That sounds like a terrible idea. And terrible ideas are what Jenny does best. As Jenny says: ‘You can’t experience pain without also experiencing the baffling and ridiculous moments of being fiercely, unapologetically, intensely and (above all) furiously happy.’ It’s a philosophy that has – quite literally – saved her life.

I discovered Jenny Lawson through a review I read on another blog (see, reviews really work). She is a truly fabulous writer, a warm, funny and genuine person and her insight and humour have helped me with some of the issues that have and do affect my own family. Just wonderful.

‘Nights at the Circus’ by Angela Carter

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Is Sophie Fevvers, toast of Europe’s capitals, part swan…or all fake?
Courted by the Prince of Wales and painted by Toulouse-Lautrec, she is an aerialiste extraordinaire and star of Colonel Kearney’s circus. She is also part woman, part swan. Jack Walser, an American journalist, is on a quest to discover the truth behind her identity. Dazzled by his love for her, and desperate for the scoop of a lifetime, Walser has no choice but to join the circus on its magical tour through turn-of-the-nineteenth-century London, St Petersburg and Siberia.

I don’t know why I’ve waited so long to read this. The writing is assured, clever without being pretentious, lyrical in places. It’s a book I’ll remember for a long time – unforgettable, colourful, and chaotic. A masterpiece.

‘The Devil You Know’ by Terry Tyler

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Every serial killer is someone’s friend, spouse, lover or child….
Young women are being murdered in the Lincolnshire town of Lyndford, where five people fear someone close to them might be the monster the police are searching for.
One of them is right.
Juliet sees an expert’s profile of the average serial killer and realises that her abusive husband, Paul, ticks all the boxes.
Maisie thinks her mum’s new boyfriend seems too good to be true. Is she the only person who can see through Gary’s friendly, sensitive façade?
Tamsin is besotted with her office crush, Jake. Then love turns to suspicion…
Steve is used to his childhood friend, Dan, being a loud mouthed Lothario with little respect for the truth. But is a new influence in his life leading him down a more sinister path?
Dorothy’s beloved son, Orlando, is keeping a secret from her—a chilling discovery forces her to confront her worst fears.
THE DEVIL YOU KNOW is a character-driven psychological drama that will keep you guessing until the very end.

Terry Tyler is an independent author who always comes in handy when you’re having an argument with someone who thinks self-publishing is a last resort. Read any of Terry’s books and you’ll realise that independent authors can be just as entertaining and accomplished as any of the authors published by the Big Five (or however many it is). An intriguing storyline, fabulous characterisation, technically excellent, what more could you ask for?

‘Dear Thief’ by Samantha Harvey

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In the middle of a winter’s night, a woman wraps herself in a blanket, picks up a pen and starts writing to an estranged friend. In answer to a question you asked a long time ago, she writes, and so begins a letter that calls up a shared past both women have preferred to forget. 
Without knowing if her friend, Butterfly, is even alive or dead, she writes night after night – a letter of friendship that turns into something more revealing and recriminating. By turns a belated outlet of rage, an act of self-defence, and an offering of forgiveness, the letter revisits a betrayal that happened a decade and a half before, and dissects what is left of a friendship caught between the forces of hatred and love.

This book was an absolute joy to read. The quiet but stunningly beautiful narrative tells the story of a woman who has been betrayed, who is now addressing that betrayal, confronting, if only in words, in a letter, the friend who let her down. A powerful book from an incredibly talented writer.

Honourable mentions – in no particular order

Stiff’ by Mary Roach

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A book about death and what happens to you afterwards! Weirdly uplifting and life-affirming, this book is hilarious and sobering in equal measures.

‘The Woman Who Thought Too Much’ by Joanne Limburg

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Joanne’s experiences and her insightful, clever prose do a lot to explode the misconceptions and myths around OCD. A must read for those with OCD or those who are supporting an OCD sufferer.

‘Reading Lolita in Tehran’ by Azar Nafisi

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Revolutionary Iran seen through the lens of a group of women who come together over books. Beautiful, intelligent and fascinating.

‘No More Mulberries’ by Mary Smith

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The story of a Scottish midwife living in Afghanistan, the author’s skill at creating an authentic sense of time and place makes this an absolute joy to read. And Miriam is one of the warmest, most likeable characters I’ve read this year.

‘Flesh’ by Dylan J. Morgan

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I haven’t read a good horror story in ages, and this took me back to Stephen King and all those books I’d loved. Satisfyingly scary.

‘The Brazilian Husband’ by Rebecca Powell

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Judith and her step-daughter Rosa travel to Brazil with Judith’s husbands ashes. What they find out about his past makes them question their own relationship. Intelligent, thoughtful, engaging. A really competent debut.

‘Fallow’ by Daniel Shand

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Another scary one. Dark, disturbing but difficult to put down, Fallow tells the story of Paul and Mikey, two brothers who are on the run from someone or something. Clever and compelling, there are shades of Iain Banks’ Wasp Factory here, but Shand restrains himself somewhat, avoiding some of the more gratuitous detail of Banks’ novel. A gripping read.

‘Never Coming Back’ by Deidre Palmer

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The topic of guilt and grief and how different people deal with loss and tragedy is at the heart of this extremely thoughtful and well-written novel. The characters are beautifully drawn and three-dimensional. Layla, in particular, is compelling; her mixed emotions, her grief, her guilt, vividly and realistically portrayed. I thoroughly enjoyed this lovely book

I also read/re-read quite a few classics this year as I’m trying to complete the David Bowie Reading Challenge. ‘Nights at the Circus’ was part of this. Other books that I read for the challenge that I recommend are:

‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’ by Muriel Spark

‘Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy’ by Rumer Godden

‘Billy Liar’ by Keith Waterhouse

‘1984’ by George Orwell (and in the light of the events of 2016, this is a really scary read!)

‘Fingersmith’ by Sarah Waters (a re-read)

‘Madame Bovary’ by Gustave Flaubert (another re-read)

Well, still an incredibly long post. Hope you got to the end!

Happy reading in 2017! And a very happy New Year.

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‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’ by Muriel Spark #DBowieBooks #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

I read ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’ as part of the David Bowie reading challenge that I first heard of on Jade Scatterbooker’s blog.

brodie

Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is Muriel Spark’s most significant and celebrated novel, and remains as dazzling as when it was first published in 1961.

Miss Jean Brodie is a teacher unlike any other, proud and cultured, enigmatic and freethinking; a romantic, with progressive, sometimes shocking ideas and aspirations for the girls in her charge. At the Marcia Blaine Academy she takes a select group of girls under her wing. Spellbound by Miss Brodie’s unconventional teaching, these devoted pupils form the Brodie set. But as the girls enter their teenage years and they become increasingly drawn in by Miss Brodie’s personal life, her ambitions for them take a startling and dark turn with devastating consequences.

This book has been on my radar for years, but for some reason I’ve never got round to it or seen the iconic film version. I have read Spark’s ‘The Driver’s Seat’ which was brilliant and strange and shocking, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this.

It’s also brilliant and strange and shocking. Spark is a writer who refuses to be bound by convention. She writes in the way she wants to write and this book is wonderful because of that. Miss Jean Brodie is one of the most fascinating characters I’ve ever read about, and the way she speaks and behaves are skilfully portrayed. The narrative moves back and forth, showing the teacher and her girls at various stages from when they are ten right through to when they are adults.

The way Brodie manipulates and influences the girls is shocking at times, as is the behaviour of the girls themselves (and some of the other teachers). And the casual cruelties, particularly directed at poor, unfortunate Mary, reveal so much about human relationships. The interactions between the characters also reveal a lot about the conventions and social issues of the time, in the years leading up to the Second World War.

The book is short but it packs so much in. The economy of the writing shows real skill. Spark manages to say a great deal in a few words – a lesson that many writers could do with learning. Her use of language is the epitome of every word having meaning. There are no whimsical meanderings here.

Intelligent, dark, subtle and skillful – genuinely a classic.

5 stars

 

‘Billy Liar’ by Keith Waterhouse #DBowieBooks #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

billy

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Keith Waterhouse’s Billy Liar was published in 1959, and captures brilliantly the claustrophobic atmosphere of a small town. It tells the story of Billy Fisher, a Yorkshire teenager unable to stop lying – especially to his three girlfriends. Trapped by his boring job and working-class parents, Billy finds that his only happiness lies in grand plans for his future and fantastical day-dreams of the fictional country Ambrosia.

I read ‘Billy Liar’ as part of the David Bowie reading challenge that I first heard of on Jade Scatterbooker’s blog.

A long time ago, when I left home to study journalism, I packed, along with my kettle and pots and pans, the late Keith Waterhouse’s excellent ‘Waterhouse on Newspaper Style’. I would still have it now if one of the dogs hadn’t decided to chew it up. It’s proved to be invaluable on many occasions over the last twenty-five years and Waterhouse was a journalist I admired, respected and was influenced by on so many levels.

But I never read ‘Billy Liar’ for some reason (and have never watched the film either), so it was a book I was really looking forward to.

And what a wonderful book it is. As the name suggests, the hero, Billy, is a compulsive liar. He lives in a fantasy world and his lies get him into deeper and deeper trouble. The narrative takes place over one single day in Billy’s life, and in that short space of time Waterhouse brilliantly conveys Billy’s frustration with his life, and his longing for something else, away from the small town mentality of the fictional Yorkshire town of Stradhoughton.

The wonderful dry humour, the comedic situations that are almost farcical, are tempered by a sadness deep at the heart of this book. Billy needs something more, but he’s his own worst enemy. He’s a complex character too; the lies he tells verge on cruelty, and his treatment of Barbara and the dodgy sounding passion pills are worrying to say the least.

But at the heart of this story is a brilliantly-drawn character who is bigger than the life he’s been given, the life he can’t escape – unless it’s to his fictional world, ‘Ambrosia’ where he can be the man he dreams of being. In Stradhoughton, he’s out of place, trapped where he doesn’t belong, surrounded by people he doesn’t understand. During the evening, he watches the people around him, as Saturday night begins:

‘I stood for a quarter of an hour at a time, watching them get off buses and disperse themselves about the streets. I was amazed and intrigued that they should all be content to be nobody but themselves.’

This is a real classic. Not a word is wasted. Beautifully executed, evocative prose and an absolute masterclass in characterisation. Billy Liar is a must read.

5 stars

‘Nights at the Circus’ by Angela Carter #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview #DBowieBooks

I read Angela Carter’s ‘Nights at the circus’ as part of the David Bowie reading challenge that I discovered on the fabulous Scatterbooker blog.

nights-at-the-circus2Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

Is Sophie Fevvers, toast of Europe’s capitals, part swan…or all fake?

Courted by the Prince of Wales and painted by Toulouse-Lautrec, she is an aerialiste extraordinaire and star of Colonel Kearney’s circus. She is also part woman, part swan. Jack Walser, an American journalist, is on a quest to discover the truth behind her identity. Dazzled by his love for her, and desperate for the scoop of a lifetime, Walser has no choice but to join the circus on its magical tour through turn-of-the-nineteenth-century London, St Petersburg and Siberia.

My goodness – what a fabulous lead character Carter has given us in Fevvers. Half woman, half swan, Sophie is the star of Colonel Kearney’s circus, travelling across the globe, followed by the enamoured journalist Walser, who becomes a clown in order to join her on her travels.

It’s hard to summarise this story – so I won’t even try. This book doesn’t follow a traditional structure but that doesn’t mean it’s hard to read. On the contrary, it’s enormously entertaining.

The settings are described vividly, magically, beautifully. The cast of characters are fantastically drawn – I have a particular soft-spot for Lizzie, Fevvers’ ‘mother’, closet activist, her magic handbag able to conjure any remedy for any occasion and as intriguing and delightful as Fevvers herself. Mignon, Samson, the Princess of Abyssinia, Buffo the Great and the wonderful Sybil the pig are all brought to life effortlessly. Their stories are a joy to read and their narratives intertwine with Sophie’s own story flawlessly.

The writing is assured, clever without being pretentious, lyrical in places. It’s a book I’ll remember for a long time – unforgettable, colourful, and chaotic. A masterpiece.

5 stars

‘Last Exit to Brooklyn’ by Hubert Selby Jr. #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview #DBowieBooks

I’m trying very hard to complete the David Bowie reading challenge that I discovered on the fabulous Scatterbooker blog. Many of the books on the list are classics that I’ve been meaning to read for a long time. ‘Last Exit to Brooklyn’ is one of those.

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Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

Described by various reviewers as hellish and obscene, Last Exit to Brooklyn tells the stories of New Yorkers who at every turn confront the worst excesses in human nature. Yet there are moments of exquisite tenderness in these troubled lives. Georgette, the transvestite who falls in love with a callous hoodlum; Tralala, the conniving prostitute who plumbs the depths of sexual degradation; and Harry, the strike leader who hides his true desires behind a boorish masculinity, are unforgettable creations. Last Exit to Brooklyn was banned by British courts in 1967, a decision that was reversed the following year with the help of a number of writers and critics including Anthony Burgess and Frank Kermode.

This is an incredibly difficult book to read. The writing style in itself is very difficult to get to grips with. No speech marks, no commas, no apostrophes. But once you get used to that, there is a great depth and a great skill to Selby’s writing. It becomes a bit of a rollercoaster, or perhaps a car crash. It’s gruesome and nasty and unsettling in turns, but the narrative is written in such a way that it’s impossible to look away.

The narrative doesn’t follow the conventions of a novel. There’s no one story arc but rather a series of narratives concerning different characters, some connected, all set in the streets of Brooklyn in the 1950s. The book was released in 1964, and it shows. The depictions of racism, misogyny and homophobia and the language used are certainly shocking, at least to this modern reader. But this is the epitome of gritty realism. Unfortunately, you can well imagine these events happening, these attitudes being real.

It’s hard to like the characters, any of them. But you do feel a certain amount of sympathy; they’re trapped in their grim lives, lives that are diminished through violence and hate. You can see how these characters become who they are, how they are capable of what they do.

There are some truly horrifying moments in this book; I have to admit that there are some things I wish I hadn’t read. But am I glad I read it? Definitely. Selby has achieved something rare here. Would I recommend it? I’m not sure. You’ll need a strong stomach. There are no happy endings, no escapism, absolutely no joy.

4.5 out of 5

‘1984’ by George Orwell #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview #DBowieBooks

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As books and David Bowie are two of the greatest loves of my life, I’m trying very hard to complete the David Bowie reading challenge that I discovered on the fabulous Scatterbooker blog. It’s a great list, eclectic and intriguing, and there are lots of books there that I read years ago or that have been on my ‘I really must get round to reading this’ list of books for years. One of the best and the most memorable and a book that I really believe everyone should read is George Orwell’s absolute masterpiece, ‘1984’.

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Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

‘Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past’

Hidden away in the Record Department of the sprawling Ministry of Truth, Winston Smith skilfully rewrites the past to suit the needs of the Party. Yet he inwardly rebels against the totalitarian world he lives in, which demands absolute obedience and controls him through the all-seeing telescreens and the watchful eye of Big Brother, symbolic head of the Party. In his longing for truth and liberty, Smith begins a secret love affair with a fellow-worker Julia, but soon discovers the true price of freedom is betrayal.

George Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece, Nineteen Eighty-Four is perhaps the most pervasively influential book of the twentieth century.

There’s a reason that this classic appears on so many ‘must read’ lists. It is truly a masterpiece. And the themes it tackles are as relevant today as they ever were. I read it first when I was in my late teens, angry at the world (I still am!) and looking for answers (I’m beginning to think there aren’t any) and this was a revelation. Re-reading it all these years later, I was struck by how it rings true today and was completely inspired and awed by Orwell’s foresight, his intelligence and his skill as a writer. There isn’t much to say about this book that hasn’t been said before, so I’m going to let the experts convince you:

“”Nineteen Eighty-Four is a remarkable book; as a virtuoso literary performance it has a sustained brilliance that has rarely been matched in other works of its genre…It is as timely as the label on a poison bottle.” -“New York Herald Tribune 


“A profound, terrifying, and wholly fascinating book…Orwell’s theory of power is developed brilliantly.” -“The New Yorker 


“A book that goes through the reader like an east wind, cracking the skin…Such are the originality, the suspense, the speed of writing, and withering indignation that it is impossible to put the book down.” -V. S. Pritchett 


“Orwell’s novel escorts us so quietly, so directly, and so dramatically from our own day to the fate which may be ours in the future, that the experience is a blood-chilling one.” -“Saturday Review

I certainly can’t put it better than any of these more qualified and competent critics, so I won’t try. All I’ll say is that I agree whole-heartedly with them all, and I urge you to read this wonderful, terrifying, heartbreaking, and totally relevant book.

5 stars

‘Fingersmith’ by Sarah Waters #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview #DBowieBooks

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Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

London 1862. Sue Trinder, orphaned at birth, grows up among petty thieves – fingersmiths – under the rough but loving care of Mrs Sucksby and her ‘family’. But from the moment she draws breath, Sue’s fate is linked to that of another orphan growing up in a gloomy mansion not too many miles away.

I re-read ‘Fingersmith’ as part of the David Bowie reading challenge that I first heard of on Scatterbooker’s blog. It wasn’t as if I needed an excuse though. I adored this when I first read it several years ago, and reading it again has only made me love it more.

Telling the story of Sue Trinder, an orphan brought up in a house of fingersmiths, the novel takes you from a compellingly dark and skilfully drawn Victorian London, to the countryside, where Sue is to be heiress Maud Lilly’s maid. This is all part of Richard ‘Gentleman’ Rivers’ plan to defraud poor Maud. Maud’s guardian, Uncle Christopher, a collector of erotica, controls her every move, and under these suffocating circumstances, the girls become intimate and Sue has her doubts about Rivers’ plan. Up until now we have been in Sue’s story, but we now switch to Maud’s point of view and the plot thickens. Who, exactly, is conning who?

There are some disturbing aspects to this novel – particularly creepy Uncle Christopher, but these add to the atmosphere that Waters so carefully and cleverly creates. The characters are fully formed, interesting and believable and the twists and turns will have you desperate to read on. The depictions of Victorian London are wonderful, beautifully atmospheric. To put it simply, it’s a damn good story! I hate clichés but once you turn the first page, this is very hard to put down.

When I went to post my review on Amazon, I saw this comment from another reviewer that struck such a chord, I had to include it in my own review:

‘I envy you that have yet to read this…’

Precisely.

5 stars