Sunday, 9 June 2013

Some good reads

If there's anything I love as much as sewing, it's probably reading. There's the kids and the husband, but, y'know, reading has been in my life a lot longer. Plus, I'm totally willing to share it.
 
So I did some pretty good reads when I was holiday, and since I'm a bit of a dork I took photos of them all so I could remember what a great time I had reading them.  They were kind of so good that I wanted to tell people, and as I don't go to book club, just like I don't have a sewing circle, I'm going to share the love here. If you're looking for some good books, try these!
 
And while you're at it, ponder this: are there any good novels that prominently feature sewing? Like actual sewing as part of the story, not 'just' seamstresses? It was at the back of my mind for two weeks and I couldn't come up with a single one. You? 

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Bring Up the Bodies is the sequel to Hilary Mantel's hugely successful Wolf Hall. Both follow the life and career of Thomas Cromwell as he schemes and intrigues his way around the court of Henry VIII. They're cleverly written from Cromwell's point of view, with such great wit that to be honest I basically developed a crush on him. I heard that some people found Wolf Hall difficult as it was sometimes unclear who the "he" is that's speaking or thinking - I didn't have a problem with this, and if I had one niggling doubt about Bring Up the Bodies, it's that every now and again Mantel clarifies this with a "he, Cromwell". I felt like slightly talked down to, as I'd kind of liked that about the first book: the plot expected you to follow the machinations going on, and the ambiguity reflected the shadowy politics of the time.  But this is a tiny complaint: the plot, characters and writing of both books are brilliant, and a great window into an interesting period of English history from a rarely-considered viewpoint.

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Peter Carey is a writer I keep coming back to without realising it, and Jack Maggs is a wonderful, lighthearted, easy-to-read pastiche of Dickens' London. Lovable rogues, grocers made good, a maid with a heart of gold and a renegade hypnotist: I can make no comment about this book except that it's an excellent, rollicking story.

Bonus tip: Carey's previous book Parrot and Olivier in America is also brilliant.

[Edited to add: double bonus - picture also features the Sunday Times where I have great fun spotting articles by my friend Nicci. There she is!]


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I'll be straight up about it: Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver was my least favourite of the four books I got through. Not to say that I didn't enjoy it: I did, immensely. The tale of an Appalachian farming family struggling to make ends meet as the landscape around them moves mysteriously, it's an earnest and open-hearted book - a bit like Kingsolver is inviting you in to her farm to talk crops and climate change over a cup of tea. And that, for me, was the problem - the whole thing just wasn't quite credible enough. I never really felt like the characters or their story had escaped the author's control over the point she wanted to make. Still, it is a good read, and I wouldn't want to put anyone off!
 
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And finally, John Irving. Has John Irving ever written a book that is not good? I don't think so, although happily I have yet to exhaust his back catalogue (I shall likely feel bereft once I have done). In One Person is his most recent novel, telling the story of a bisexual boy growing up in Vermont. In the sense that the book is clearly 'on the side' of main character Billy and his rainbow cast of friends, it's a politically-tinged book. But, as with all Irving novels, it's the heart and soul of the story that sucks you in. The sometimes exuberant or outlandish people and plot elements are completely outweighed by the gentleness in the telling. It's a beautiful book.
 
Bonus tip here too: much less 'political' and my runaway favourite Irving book so far is Last Night in Twisted River. Absolutely excellent. Contains plenty of bears.
 
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So come on then, answers to my question please! Stories abut sewing? Preferably good ones...!
 


6 comments:

  1. Thanks for the recommendations. What about The Seamstress? I haven't read it so not sure. The secret lives of dresses is good but again, it's not about sewing, but rather clothes.. Mmm.. I'll be watching this space to see if anyone else knows any.

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  2. Ooh thanks, I'd never heard of that one - weirdly, as it seems to be quite the bestseller on Amazon. Not sure whether the fact that it's available for 2.99 is a good or bad sign...! For that money I'll definitely add it to my or G's next order give it a go!

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  3. I'm definitely adding some of these to my 'to read' list, thanks. What about one of my all time favourites - Silence of the Lambs. Although Buffalo Bill's fabric of choice is, lets say, unconventional.

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  4. Eww yeah! I must admit I hardly had the stomach for the movie, I'm not sure I could cope with the book (my imagination tends to conjure up worse than what I see on screen!)

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  5. Huge Peter Carey fan here, and on Amazon today, needing an extra something to make the free shipping threshold, I threw "bring up the bodies" in my basket after spotting it here as I had skimmed through your blog last night... I should have read your post first to realise it is part 2 of a pair - do you think it will work without reading #1 first?

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  6. yes, it is a stand alone book, no need to have read the first one!

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