Keith Stuart, A Boy Made of Blocks, Bristol Novel

a boy made of blocks

The Guardian’s Game Editor Keith Stuart is the latest author of a Bristol Novel to make it onto the Richard and Judy Book Club’s list.

A Boy Made of Blocks is a story inspired by the journalist’s own attempt to connect with his son who was diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum in 2012, by playing Minecraft.

Stuart is from Frome but the story is set in Bristol. As well as being on the Spring 2017 Richard and Judy list, it was also chosen by Mumsnet as their book of the month.

Published August 9, 2016

Nan Shepherd, The Weatherhouse, review

canongate weatherhouseI chose this book because of the cover, which is stunning. The blocks of colours are reminiscent of a golden time, especially in terms of classic old books and detective novels.

Instead, I found a completely different world to what I expected. I hadn’t realised this was a story written in 1930, and didn’t realise it until after I’d given up reading. It makes a bit of sense that I struggled with the dialect, not realising it was Scottish at all. I thought it was perhaps some type of olden colonial American.

There was a cast of characters at the start, which these days is redundant because an author is expected to be able to introduce her characters well enough for them and their connections to be made obvious and remembered.

I read up to 11% (according to Kindle) and I still hadn’t found a storyline. I think a house had an extension built on it to connect it to another house and this extension was the titled ‘Weatherhouse’. I struggled with the dialogue because I couldn’t understand the dialect. Other readers will hopefully have a better time with it.

<< ‘He’s eident, but he doesna win through,’ he would sometimes say sorrowfully. ‘Feel Weelum,’ the folk called him. ‘Oh, nae sae feel,’ said Jonathan Bannochie the souter. ‘He kens gey weel whaur his pottage bickers best.’ To Francie he was still ‘The Journeyman.’ >>
I have no idea what the above says.

Also, I was frustrated by descriptions of a tale that I couldn’t understand.

<< "Granny loves a tale. Particularly with a wicked streak. “A spectacle,” she said, “a second Katherine Bran.” Katherine Bran was somebody in a tale, I believe. And then she said, “You have your theatres and your picture palaces, you folk. You make a grand mistake.” And she told us there was no spectacle like what’s at our own doors. “Set her in the jougs and up on the faulters’ stool with her, for fourteen Sabbaths, as they did with Katherine, and where’s your picture palace then?” A merry prank, she called it. Well!—“The faulter’s stool and a penny bridal,” she said, “and you’ve spectacle to last you, I’se warren.” Granny’s very amusing when she begins with old tales.’ >>
I couldn’t understand how Granny was amusing because I didn’t understand what she was saying.

There was a particular use of the adjective ‘delicious’ to describe a room, which irritated me no end. It’s probably quite a clever use of delicious to mean tastes good, that then leads on to a room decorated in ‘good taste’. Perhaps. All I could think was of someone sitting in ice cream.

What the book is about:
The women of the tiny town of Fetter-Rothnie have grown used to a life without men, and none more so than the tangle of mothers and daughters, spinsters and widows living at the Weatherhouse. Returned from war with shellshock, Garry Forbes is drawn into their circle as he struggles to build a new understanding of the world from the ruins of his grief. In The Weatherhouse Nan Shepherd paints an exquisite portrait of a community coming to terms with the brutal losses of war, and the small tragedies, yearnings and delusions that make up a life.

– I will have to try reading it again at a different pace and with further context. It certainly wasn’t for me right now.

The Weatherhouse by Nan Shepherd. Downloaded from NetGalley.

London to Bristol route a success for James Attlee

Station to StationJames Attlee’s book Station to Station, about the London to Bristol route, is on the shortlist for the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year.

Station to Station is a tale of journeys unlike those of the commuters who “lifting their eyes momentarily from an e-reader or pausing in their perusal of a newspaper to stir a cup of coffee, they may notice a town flashing past that they will never visit and wonder what happens there.” Attlee visited and wrote and travelled and observed as the GWR’s writer in residence. He was given a free travel pass and used it.

I first wrote about this veritable feast of travel anecdotes in Bristol247 and delighted in reading about Brunel’s cheeky plan to turn the horse at Cherhill into a steam locomotive that included the offensive letters GWR, after the villagers there opposed the railway; and then of the landscape’s “shifting gradations of colour, contour and light beneath the heavy sky,” on the way to the railway bridge at Maidenhead before passing the “view of the 12th century St Mary’s church at Cholsey where Agatha Christie, the author of the Miss Marple mystery 4.50 from Paddington, lies buried.”

Station to Station also has the honour of being one of five out of the six books on the shortlist that are by independent publishers. Guardian Books will undoubtedly be proud and this is one more book-related success for the media group. They were recently sold to the two employees who ran it. Long may the future of books and of Stanfords be a profit-making one.

Clare McKintosh, I Let You Go

I-LET-YOU-GO-400x618px1mayBristol-born Clare Mackinstosh’s debut novel I Let You Go has been a runaway success and even beat  fellow Bristol-(Yate)-novelist, JK Rowling. n the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award in 2016.

What I Let You Go is about (from the website)

In a split second, Jenna Gray’s world is shattered. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape her past, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of the cruel November night that changed her life for ever.

DI Ray Stevens from Bristol Police is tasked with seeking justice for a mother who is living every parent’s worst nightmare. Determined to get to the bottom of the case, it begins to consume him as he puts both his professional and personal life on the line.

As Ray and his team seek to uncover the truth, Jenna, slowly, begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating . . .

About Clare and Bristol

“My police career was spent in Thames Valley Police, and the hit and run that inspired I LET YOU GO took place in Oxford. I didn’t want to write about my home force – it felt a little too close – but I wanted a city of similar size, and the right sort of distance from where Jenna – my protagonist – runs to. I was born in Bristol and both my sisters went to university there, so it felt familiar enough to write about.”

Clare’s second book, I See You is set in London. She has yet to pin-point the location for book three yet, so maybe we’ll see a return to Bristol.
Mackintosh herself only lived in Henbury, Bristol until she was three, but her grandfather was a doctor at Clifton Hospital.
Screen rights to I Let You Go have been sold.

Novel Writers – Spike Island – two authors

Novel Writers

Spike Island hosts debut authors each month at their Novel Writers event.  In January there are two authors.

On Wednesday, January 25, Yaa Gyasi reads from and discusses her debut novel Homegoing at Waterstones, Galleries.

Wednesday 25 January, 7–8pm

Waterstones, 11A Union Galleries, Broadmead Bristol BS1 3XD

Homegoing begins with the story of two half-sisters, separated by forces beyond their control: one sold into slavery, the other married to a British slaver.
Book your place (please note: this event is taking place at Waterstones, Bristol Galleries)

On  Thursday 26 January, 6.30–8pm, Wyl Menmuir reads from and discusses The Many.

Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2016, The Many, by Cornish writer Wyl Menmuir is an unsettling ecological parable that explores the impact of loss and the devastation that hits when the foundations on which we rely are swept away.

Mitch Albom, The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto. Review.

3D-frankie-e1439344972792The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto starts off a little slowly as the narrator gets themself established. Considering that the narrator is music itself, this isn’t an easy task but it does make for a little of a slow burn. If anyone can pull it off, it’s Albom whose previous successes give him some leeway.

It’s like when JK Rowling spent pages and pages describing all the departments in the Ministry of Magic describing everything. It didn’t progress the storyline but by that point, no one was censoring her. Frankie Presto is a much shorter story than any Harry Potter could be, however.

Music, our narrator, is at the funeral of one of its beloved musicians, one of, if not the best one that there has been, Frankie Presto. A Spanish documentary is being made about Presto and the story cuts back and forth from Frankie’s childhood to his end. The book is full of cameos from all sorts of famous people such as Lyle Lovett, Duke Ellington, and Wynton Marsalis who either provide their best story or featuring in Frankie’s progress.

With such powerful emotions and dramatic tellings, long-time musician Albom keeps the telling sparse but appropriately wrapped in musical metaphors.

It’s a beautifully told story and I read it in one day. Highly recommended.

Downloaded from NetGalley.

Andrea Darby, The Husband Who Refused To Die

andrea-darby_coverAndrea Darby worked at the Bristol Evening Post in the early nineties as a sub-editor and played in the City of Bristol brass band in the early 2000s. She has never lived in Bristol and The Husband Who Refused To Die, her first novel, is set in the fictional town of Tetford but she does have some relevant links to make her Bristol-newsworthy. After all, Terry Pratchett used to be a Bristol journalist too – on the Western Daily News. If Darby makes it big, we’ll happily accept her as a local novelist.

 

What the book is about:

Her husband’s died …
Though he doesn’t see it that way …
So what next for Carrie?

Carrie’s husband Dan has died unexpectedly and left behind an extraordinary wish – to be frozen. He believes his life’s simply been ‘suspended’, that he can come back … one day … when science has moved on. He’d hoped his wife would want to do the same. But she doesn’t.

Two years on and mum-of-one Carrie tentatively reconnects with an old boyfriend, whose dramatic exit from her life has always been a painful mystery. But their romance is hampered by Carrie’s never-ending personal problems.
After Dan’s story is resurrected in the news headlines, some distressing secrets from the past are revealed, and Carrie is taunted by someone with a serious grudge.

But are the secrets true?
Will she discover who’s behind the malicious acts – and why?
Can there ever be closure for Carrie?

The author

Darby is a Gloucestershire-based journalist with a love of music and writing. She’s already working on her second novel. The Husband Who Refused to Die is out now and available from her publisher and from other book stores.

Writing challenge 2017

Write for five minutes a day [see link].

Also, is Scrivener worth using?

 

Reading challenge

My original reading challenge for this year (2016) was to finish 250 books and I think I read 21 or maybe 22. I’m quite happy with 22. I still love that number, though. The hugeness of 250 – the five-books-a-week of it – pleases me inordinately. However, the loveliness of reading 250 books is only fun in theory. At no point has it inspired me to actually read more than I do.

It’s a far-off adventurous challenge that I can dismiss as I knit and crochet and watch Four in a Bed on All4 as I dye yarn all night.

So this morning I had a more specific idea: I will finally make myself a reading list of the writers I have wanted to read for years but never got around to. I will read the MediaLens books I have yet to read, Chomsky, John Pilger, Naomi Klein, George Monbiot, The Racket, etc. Namely investigative and corruption-exposing books that are helpful. Helpful in what way? Um… in learning about the real world and not that proposed by the MSM. Primarily, using trusted sources for information.

Information about what? What do I want to find out?

I’m not sure. In the short term it’s how do we get to a place where the Conservative have 40% support while the state is being destroyed and public services eradicated?

On a broader theme, it’s: how to create a political movement that supports each individual in society? “From each according to his ability to each according to his needs.”

The world is facing imminent catastrophe and little seems to be said about changing behaviours and what we can do to save it. This is utterly bizarre to me. I also believe that change starts from where you are so local is where I need to focus.

My goal is to somehow see how Buddhism, capitalism, the propaganda model and Bristol all combine to demonstrate how the Green Party has failed to gain greater support. It’s quite lucky that my constituency, Bristol West, is one of the prize ones for the Green Party and one of the few in the country that have a chance at voting in a Green MP. Our leading candidate is Green MEP Molli Scot Caio so European matters will be on the list too.

Next up – the List.

MediaLens -

  • Why Are We The Good Guys? (want to read) by David Cromwell
  • Newspeak (read) by David Edwards and David Cromwell
  • Guardians of Power (read) by David Edwards and David Cromwell
  • Free to be Human (want to read) by David Edwards
  • The Compassionate Revolution (own) by David Edwards
  • Private Planet by David Cromwell
  • Surviving Climate Change by David Cromwell and Mark Levee

Naomi Klein

  • This Changes Everything (own it)

Matt Kennard

  • The Racket (own it)

George Monbiot

  • The Age of Consent (own it)

Bristol

  • Strikers, Hobblers, Conchies & Reds (own it)
  • Bristol novels

Noam Chomsky

  • Noam Chomsky – Necessary Illusions (already own it)
  • Alison Edgley – The Social and Political Thought of Noam Chomsky
    • In his work, Chomsky employs recognisably theoretical perspectives, as well as bodies of values, assumptions about human nature and reality, claims, and conclusions which not only look like theories, but I argue are theories. A prevalent example is what I refer to as his theory of the state. This theory holds that states are not neutral bodies operating for the good of all citizens in that society. Rather, they systematically serve the interests of elites at the expense of many of their own citizens. Writ large, the theory also leads to the claim that western states operate at the expense of large numbers of humanity beyond their own borders and citizens.

The Propaganda Model

Climate Change

European Parliament? (to come soon)

(I also want to work on my Bristol Literature list but that’s another topic for another post)

Bristol Book Group Social – next meeting

The next meeting for Bristol Book Group Social

Time: 8pm, Thursday 19th of January 2017

Place: King William Pub. 20 King St, Bristol, Avon BS1 4EF ‎(upstairs part)

Books: The Night Manager by John le Carré, Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War by Karl Marlantes and Bad Science by Ben Goldacre. Reading all of the books is not required, pick whichever one interests you the most.

Future plans

We’ll be meeting again in February, when we’ll be discussing Travels with My Aunt by Graham Greene, His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet and The Return of Captain John Emmett by Elizabeth Speller.

You can find Bristol Book Group Social on Facebook.