Tag Archives: books

World Book Night

World Book Night is an annual initiative run every 23 April by charity The Reading Agency.

World Book Night 2019 logo

World Book Night 2019 logo

Working with care homes, youth centres, colleges, prisons, public libraries and mental health groups, The Reading Agency aims to get books to adults who have low literacy levels or who do not read for pleasure, isolated and vulnerable people, and similar groups.

The books chosen to be given away tonight are listed at World Book Night – Books. Events are taking place across the country all day.

I asked for suggestions from some of my friends and followers for their favourite books.

Here’s a small selection:

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

The Far Pavilions – MM Kaye

A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving

Cooking in a Bedsitter – Katherine Whitehorn

Trumpet – Jackie Kay

Cider With Rosie – Laurie Lee

How To Be a Woman – Caitlin Moran

The Aeneid – Virgil

To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy

The Reader – Bernhard Schlink

Wild Swans – Jung Chang

The Patron Saint of Liars – Ann Patchett

Do you have a favourite book, a comfort blanket or something that has influenced or inspired you?

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Six books which shaped my life

The #9albums meme on Twitter made me think about how this might impact on the books which mean the most to me (and which have followed me for a long time, so no recent titles will appear here).  Dates are for the edition I have to hand, not necessarily original date of publication.

Watership Down, by Richard Adams.  Puffin, 1973.

watershipdown

This story, of a group of rabbits finding a new home, is a bona fide classic, which was later made into a rather scary animated film.  Fiver has psychic powers and can sense bad vibes in the warren in which he and his brother Hazel live, but as he is the runt of the litter and not that powerful in the pecking order, the Chief Rabbit doesn’t listen to him with, as we see later, horrendous consequences.   I try to re-read this book each year and never get bored with it.  The rabbits are given distinct personalities and even their own religion, as the Black Rabbit is their demon of death, and El-ahrairah is almost their Christ figure, or at least comparable to that of Aslan in …

The Chronicles of Narnia, by CS Lewis.  Fontana Lion, c.1980.

narnia

Across seven books (The Magician’s Nephew, in which a young boy and girl find themselves witnessing the birth of Narnia; The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, in which four children become kings and queens and see the death and resurrection of Aslan the Lion; The Horse and His Boy, set within the reign of the Pevensie children with a Prince and Pauper theme; Prince Caspian, which deals with a usurper and a rightful king; The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, in which a valiant mouse joins a crew to find a number of lost Lords; The Silver Chair, in which a prince is enchanted; and The Last Battle, which deals with the end of Narnia as a world), CS Lewis’ fantasy series is an endlessly fascinating piece of fiction with prose which generally vivid visually stunning images, and a strong storyline in which talking animals and mythical creatures live alongside swordsmen, warm-hearted dwarfs, and a London cabbie who becomes the equivalent of the Biblical Adam.

The Houses-in-Between, by Howard Spring.  Reprint Society, 1954.

housesinbetween

This sprawling saga follows Sarah Undridge, who tells the story in first person, and her family, friends and acquaintances through many years.  It starts in the Victorian age and ends with the Second World War, and the characters and situations crackle with life, across time, class, and legitimacy.  This book has been comfort food for me for many years, and remains my favourite of Spring’s novels.

Flush, by Virginia Woolf.  Penguin, 1977.

flash

Elizabeth Barrett Browning had a little dog.  A cocker spaniel, to be exact.  And Virginia Woolf was his biographer.  This is slight on first glance, but absolutely delightful, and very perceptive on all manner of external forces which impacted on the poet and her pet.

The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath.  Faber and Faber, 1989.

belljar

Plath’s fictionalised account of her own teenage years is a tour de force of confessional writing, and in her character of ‘Esther’ we can follow her dreams, ideals, depressions, sexual awakening, suicide attempts, shock therapy, and more.  This book may have influenced Susanna Kaysen’s own work drawing on her own life and experiences, ‘Girl, Interrupted’, which is in itself an excellent book.  But Plath, being essentially a poet with a great eye for detail and sense of the power of the written word, wrote the stronger of the two novels, and even though it was published more than fifty years ago, it remains a gut-punching read today, while also retaining flashes of black humour which are very refreshing.

Silences, by Tillie Olsen.  Virago, 1994.

silences

From a time when I myself was a writer, and discovering a wide variety of female voices, from the Brontës and Austen through to Ruth Fainlight, Jackie Kay, and my historical fiction writer of choice, Jean Plaidy.  Olsen’s book focuses on the invisibility of the woman writer in the context of wider politic views such as race, class, and ultimately gender.  It is a highly feminist book which is very readable and even now, very perceptive and relevant.

 


Book review: Inside Updown (new edition)

This sumptuous revised edition of Richard Marson’s book, ‘Inside Updown’, published by Kaleidoscope, covers the original series of London Weekend Television’s ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’, with appendices on its official sequel, ‘Thomas and Sarah’, and, new to this edition, the complete script of the proposed film (which would have featured Richard Chamberlain alongside key members of the television series cast).

A large hardback back running at over 300 pages, filled with photographs, episode synopses, and interviews with cast and crew, this is an essential tribute to one of ITV’s greatest period dramas.  Originally broadcast in 68 episodes from 1971-1975, it has become a popular ratings winner during repeat showings, and has also become successful in other countries, notably the United States, where selected episodes ran in the Masterpiece season.

One chapter which was considered too large to include in this edition – on the BBC reboot of the series in 2010 – can be downloaded via the official website for the series at http://www.updown.org.uk/.


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