A good old curl-up with some lovely books.

Just part of my summer reading pile. I also have a huge store of goodies  on my kindle, like books by Erin Green, Georgia Hill and my fellow Crooked Cat authors.

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I always feel I should be writing not reading, but I am  giving myself permission for a couple of indulgent weeks of guilt-free reading.

Hoping to get through them all is a bit ambitious, I know,  but really looking forward to trying.

 

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A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson

A stunning book.

I suppose I should have read Kate Atkinson’s previous book Life After Life concerning other members of this family, but I hadn’t. However, I can testify that A God in Ruins, can be read on its own and enjoyed for itself.

The central character, Teddy, comes over as decent, kind, and likeable. He stoically endures the many vicissitudes that life throws at him, from his wartime experiences, to the awful death of his wife and the disapproval of his surly, unloving daughter.WP_20170801_17_26_15_Pro

The book’s structure is amazing as it flashes backwards and forwards in his life. I’m in awe at the author’s skill in interweaving these incidents and complex time-frames together so that the reader is never lost. Indeed, I was totally engrossed and moved by the plight of many of the characters such as bewildered lost Sunny, the more robust Bertie and perhaps, eventually, Viola herself who seems, at last, almost serene. The book is at its most poignant when we enter the heads of these people and see things from their point of view.

Wonderful images abound in the book, such as the hare, Teddy’s lucky charm, and the very significant symbol of the skylark.  Although the central character is Teddy, the book is alive with strong women. They dominate the story and often dominate him.

But the central theme of the book is war and the effects it has on those living through it and on the subsequent generations. Teddy’s war experiences as a bomber pilot in WWII are deeply harrowing. The chapters describing the raids are brilliantly told, breath-holdingly enthralling and so gripping you feel you are there. I was lost in admiration and immensely moved.

The twist at the end shocked me and left me reeling.

And on a deeply personal level, this was definitely in my top ten of  the best  books I’ve ever read.

 

 

 

 

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Mini reviews of my recent reading

Mini reviews of my recent reading.

Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift

This is the steamy story of a day in the life of a young orphaned housemaid, Jane Fairfax, as she spends a hot summer’s day in 1924 with her upper class lover. The hot flush of their lovemaking is beautifully conveyed, both by the descriptions and by the picture on the cover. The events of this day prove pivotal in the lives of all the characters, especially Jane.WP_20170801_17_29_13_Pro

The story is cleverly told as it condenses both her past life and her future, rather unexpected, career into this heady short novel. I loved the sensuous, emotional atmosphere of this book which I read in one engrossing session.

 

 

 

 

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep  by Joanne Cannon

Another hot summer evoked by this book, that of 1976, a summer I remember well. This wasn’t an easy book to read as, I admit,  I sometimes lost track of all the characters so had to refer to the diagram of the cul de sac at the front.WP_20170801_17_29_47_Pro

The story is mainly told through the naïve wondering eyes of ten year old Grace, though it also harks back to significant events in 1967. It’s a wonderful snapshot of the time, with many memorable little references, plus quasi-religious themes as Grace and her best friend, Tilly, try to solve the mystery of the disappearance of Mrs Creasy, and find God at the same time. This they do in a drain pipe. They also unwittingly solve the unexplained events of 1967.

This is a delightful story, very evocative of the time with quirky characters and humour.

Coffin Road by Peter May

This is a complicated eco thriller which cleverly begins with a man swept ashore with no idea who he is. As it twists and turns, the book gradually reveals his identity with some false leads along the way.

The story also involves a rebellious teenage girl still angry at WP_20170801_17_30_03_Proher father’s apparent suicide, and a detective trying to fit all the pieces together, just like the reader.

There may have been a bit too much eco detail in this, almost as if  the author had done all his research and we were getting it, whether we liked it or not. But, on the whole, the story gripped and told some necessary concerns along the way about our dependence on bees and the need to be wary of pesticides.

 

 

 

 

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Exhilarated, Excited and Exhausted

by my wonderful weekend at the RNA Conference.

It’s my annual treat, four days at the novelist conference, this year at Harper Adams Agricultural College in Shropshire.  Very nice student rooms,  and a great campus, smelling slightly rural (i e an occasional  whiff of pigs) , but food fantastic. Usual hectic up and about for lectures starting at 9.00 and finishing at 6.00, accompanied as always by lots of eating and drinking, late night kitchen parties …just like being a student, but loads more fun. And lots of exhilarating chatting to other novelists… met so many lovely new ones.

And the gorgeous gala dinner..fun was had amidst the glamour as you can see.

 

Highlights included lots of congratulations about  my publishing contract, (e g a notice on an honours board) and especially from the great Katie Fforde who deliberately sought me out at breakfast and said lots of lovely things while her breakfast went cold. I was astonished she even knew who I was, let alone about  my book (there are 900 of us in the organisation and about 350 of us there at the conference) …and she even remembered writing in a dedication three years ago. When she learned my name was Forth, she wrote ‘To Lynn, a fellow writer ! who will be next to me in a book shop!’  It meant a lot to me at the time. ..and I never really believed it would come true.  Another novelist I admire, Jules Wake,  also said lovely things.  So many marvellous moments .

So I came back exhilarated, excited, exhausted and on a real high. Then had to get down to the real nitty gritty. Which included finishing  my first edits.

I had to learn how to do track changes on the computer so my editor could see  what I had accepted or rejected. I was very pleased  that there were  no big re-writes or changes,  just some punctuation omissions, and a bit of text tightening  here and there. Then I’ve just sent off second edits to my publishers, plus dedication, author bio and acknowledgements … difficult to write . .. so many people to thank, don’t want to leave anyone out.

In the meantime, I’m also in deep consultation over the cover. I have trawled through loads of images to get a flavour of what I want …and now my very amenable publisher, Laurence Patterson at Crooked Cat, is  working on it.

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More Mantel

More Mantel insights, ‘with each sentence you succeed and fail.’ ‘A half finished novel is no good.’

Last week in her Reith lecture, Hilary Mantel assured us the past was not as dirty or as smelly as we might think, and certainly not as noisy. This week she talked about the delicate balance between the inner and outer life,  balancing the passion for writing with actually living your life and the story of how  Stanislawa Przybyszewska, a Polish writer, put her writing before her life.

Hilary herself confessed that all to often she herself prioritised  her project too much over actually living. There was also an interesting answer about how a historian must select the truth, but not the whole truth,  otherwise it’s just  information.

 

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Hilary Mantel

I was blown away by Hilary Mantel’s Reith Lecture this morning. So much insight, wisdom and humour, especially about the intertwining of history and fiction  Please listen if you can. I had goose pimples at the end.

 

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Bostin

Another bostin day out at the Black Country Museum with the usual picnic and chips.

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