Two novels with a French connection – Chevalier & Magnan

The Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier This was our Book Group’s choice for this month – ‘Blue’ being the key word we’d picked it by.  This was Chevalier’s first novel, published in 1997, and it is different to all of her others by having a dual timeline, following the stories of two women, centuries apart. Read More

20 Books of Summer #10 & 11 – Levy & Barry

Swimming Home by Deborah Levy This was the book that brought Deborah Levy to wider attention. Her fourth novel, it was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2012. Last year I read her latest novel, Hot Milk which was also shortlisted for the Man Booker, (reviewed here), so I was prepared for a challenging Read More

Old colleagues, old friends, old foes

Conflicts of Interest by Terry Stiastny Review & Q&A Terry Stiastny is a former BBC News reporter and she kindly answered some questions for me about her new novel, which follow my review below. I very much enjoyed Terry’s first novel, reviewed here, Acts of Omission is a thoughtful political spy thriller moving between Berlin and Read More

Is it possible to give Proust the graphic novel treatment?

In Search of Lost Time: Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust – A Graphic Novel Adaptation and Drawings by Stéphane Heuet Translated by Arthur Goldhammer I’ve not got the patience or time to read Proust’s masterpiece, but I’ve always wondered what it was like. When I spotted that French into English publishers Gallic books were bringing Read More

Meeting Commissaire Adamsberg

Republished into its original place in my blog’s timeline from my lost posts archive Seeking Whom He May Devour by Fred Vargas Translated by David Bellos Although not my first read of French author Fred Vargas (that was The Three Evangelists – reviewed here), this was my first encounter with her detective, Commissaire Adamsberg. SWHMD is the second novel featuring Read More

Dancing the Seasons with Powell #1

Republished into my blog’s timeline from my lost post archive   A Dance to the Music of Time 1: A Question of Upbringing Looking out of his window at some workmen around a brazier, Nicholas Jenkins is reminded of the four seasons on Poussin’s celebrated painting (detail above), and the passing of time in his life. Read More

A new historical saga – not for me…

The Brethren by Robert Merle I love the idea of getting stuck into reading an historical saga, I really do. I know I can do sagas spread over many novels – just not historical ones it seems. In particular, I started reading Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles with good intentions here but never progressed onto the Read More

A novel of love, war, betrayal and stiff upper lip

Some Day I’ll Find You by Richard Madeley Richard Madeley slightly surprised everyone in 2008 when he published his successful memoir Fathers and Sons which explored male familial relationships through the mirror of his own. Despite journalistic roots, it was somewhat unexpected that one of the most successful daytime TV hosts and champion of the Richard Read More

A quiet novel with emotional depth

The Cleaner of Chartresby Salley Vickers The seventh novel by Salley Vickers, The Cleaner of Chartres is the story of orphan foundling Agnès Morel, and the people who come into her life. Before introducing us to Agnès, the novel begins by telling us about the great cathedral, how it burned and was rebuilt by an Read More

An evening with Salley Vickers

Salley Vickers, the best-selling author of Miss Garnet’s Angel, and her latest novel The Cleaner of Chartres is an absolutely fascinating person. We were lucky enough to have her visit Abingdon yesterday evening where she talked about her books in interview with Mark Thornton from Mostly Books Salley, (named we found out from the WB Yeats Read More

Travelling Man

Lost Luggageby Jordi Punti, translated from the Catalan by Julie Wark. This is the story of Gabriel Delacruz, orphan, international furniture remover and father to four sons. Four boys – born in four different countries to four different mothers; one German, one English, one French and one Spanish, and all christened the local equivalent of the Read More

Him pretty good funny sometimes

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris The American humorist David Sedaris is famed for his self-deprecating wit and his good-natured take on life.  He has written nine books compiling his essays and stories now, plus loads of journalism, plays and more.  I first encountered him on radio – he’s recorded many of his Read More

A tale of motherhood across generations…

The Confidantby Hélène Grémillon, translated by Alison Anderson I got a letter one day, a long letter that wasn’t signed. This was quite an event, because I’ve never received much mail in my life. My letter box had never done anything more than inform me that the-sea-was-warm or that the-snow-was-good, so I didn’t open it Read More

C'est fun, but c'est n'est pas Les Mis…

Illumination by Matthew Plampin Given the love for all things French and 19th century at the moment thanks to the film I still haven’t seen that is Les Misérables, it was a good time to read a revolutionary novel. Illumination is set later than Hugo’s masterpiece,  during the Siege of Paris of 1870-71 in the Franco-Prussian Read More

“Summer fling, don’t mean a thing, But, oh, oh, the summer nights”

This post was republished into my blog’s timeline from my lost posts archive. August is a Wicked Month by Edna O’Brien When I came across this short novel published in 1965, in a bag of books from my late Mum’s, I had to read it straight away for two reasons.  The obvious one is the Read More

Book vs film: Too much Julie, not enough Julia?

Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell This was the July choice for our book group, which gave those who didn’t read the book time to watch the film instead.  I managed to do both, and they are quite different animals… Julie Powell and husband Eric hail from Texas. They live in Read More

How can you cheat death when you’re only 14 …

The Death Defying Pepper Roux by Geraldine McCaughrean One of my friend Julia’s recommendations, this is yet another wonderful crossover book by children’s author Geraldine McCaughrean. Surely it must be her turn as Children’s Laureate soon … Imagine your aunt had prophesied that you would die at the age of fourteen, and worse still that Read More

Vive le livre! Long live the book!

The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner is a dazzling historical novel for older children and young adults – and fair blew this forty-something adult away too. I absolutely loved it! This is the Paris of the late 1780s, just before the revolution. Yann, a gypsy youth who has second sight, assists his friend and mentor, Read More