Thursday, 30 June 2016

The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa


The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
First published as Il Gattopardo in Italian in 1958. English translation by Archibald Colquhoun published in 1960.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the book from Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Purchased at a charity shop

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I found my copy of The Leopard in the OXFAM shop in Hailsham months ago and took a while to get around to reading it. I liked the cover art and was interested to learn more about the Garibaldi period of Italian history. The eponymous Leopard, Don Fabrizio, is an Italian aristocrat in a fading family and, through his eyes, we see how family reacts and adjusts to the new political climate. The main arc of the story is a love triangle between Fabrizio's daughter, Concetta, his nephew and ward, Tancredi, and a nouveau riche village girl, Angelica.

Tancredi goes off to fight with the Garibaldini, but only ever offstage from the main story and Lampuseda doesn't explore the aims of this army - the reader is expected to already know - so I didn't get my history lesson! I did appreciate his descriptions of the towns and countryside of Sicily, the characteristics of her people and how they have been moulded not only by their unforgiving climate, but also by waves of invaders over the centuries. I felt that the writing came alive far more when about Sicily itself than about the family we were following. They appeared to me as always aloof and detached so I didn't really get into their story and finished the book feeling let down.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa / Historical fiction / Books from Italy

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

The London Satyr by Robert Edric + Giveaway

Scroll down for the new Giveaway!


The London Satyr by Robert Edric
Published in March 2011

Where to buy this book:
Buy the book from Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Swapped for in a cafe book exchange

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The London Satyr is set in London in the oppressive summer of 1891. Our 'hero', Charles Webster is a photographer by trade, employed by the prestigious Lyceum Theatre to record all their costumes and sets. However, Webster has got himself a sideline in 'lending' these precious costumes out to a master pornographer, the feared Marlow. As Webster's wife attempts to reinvent herself as a spirtualist and medium, drawing as much attention to herself as she can, Webster is desperately trying to prevent both his employer and also the puritans of the London Vigilance Committee from discovering his lucrative secret.

I thought The London Satyr was pretty compelling and as an entertaining holiday read it certainly hits the mark. The atmosphere of Victorian London is vividly portrayed and the main protagonists are all rounded characters. I think the book is pretty accurate historically as well - certainly Bram Stoker was the manager of the Lyceum, home theatre to the great actor Henry Irving.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Robert Edric / Historical / Books from England


And now for the Giveaway!

I have a trio of my handmade crochet bookmarks to giveaway simply for answering the following question on this blog post. How easy is that?!

The Question:
Name another book set entirely or partly in London?

Comment your answer on this post before midnight (UK time) on the 6th of July to be in with a chance of winning. The winner can choose any three of the bookmarks available on this page of Handmade Bookish Gifts.

The Giveaway is open worldwide. Answers must be commented by midnight (UK time) on the 6th July and I will randomly pick a winner on the 7th. The winner will be notified by replying to their Comment so if you think you might miss this response please also include other contact info such as your blog URL, twitter name or FB page. If the winner does not respond within 7 days, they will forfeit the prize.

Good luck!

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

The Kite Family by Hon Lai Chu


The Kite Family by Hon Lai Chu
Translated by Andrea Lingenfelter. Published in English by Muse in 2016.
The original Chinese edition won the New Writer's Novella prize from Taiwan's Unitas Literary Association

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publishers via NetGalley

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I don't think that I have read any Hong Kong fiction before so I was interested to try this highly praised short story collection by Hon Lai-Chu. The book consists of six stories including an award-winning novella which gives the collection its name, The Kite Family.

Unfortunately, I struggled to understand what the author was trying to say in most of the stories. Forrest Woods, Chair is perhaps the most accessible and, in this tale, a man who is unable to find any other employment trains his body to take the form of various types of chair so he can hire himself out for other people to sit on. Surreal and weird, but I think I managed to comprehend everything that happened. For the final story, Notes On An Epidemic, I understood the general gist - a woman recovering from a type of influenza caused by living alone is forced to cohabit in a pretend family environment in order to recover - but feel as though I missed layers of meaning that were in small details. The other four tales were way over my head and, even though I read them slowly from start to finish, I couldn't figure out how their disparate elements connected or what the underlying plot was so found them very frustrating and unsatisfying.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Hon Lai Chu / Short stories / Books from Hong Kong

Monday, 27 June 2016

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman


Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Published in September 1996.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the audio download from Audible via Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Purchased the audiobook

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Neverwhere, the novel, is a companion novelisation to an original TV series conceived and written by Neil Gaiman and Lenny Henry.

Set around the London tube map, Neverwhere is the fantastic story of ordinary Londoner Richard Mayhew. Having stopped to help an injured homeless girl, he finds himself made invisible to the normal London above and sucked into the world of London below. A frightening place of Black Friars and Angels, Ratspeakers and Assassins, the Court of a Medieval Earl and a girl who can open any door with just the power of her mind. Richard must stay alive long enough for Door to find the people behind the murder of her family. Then he might just be able to come home.

The story is an amazing feat of imagination with innumerable I-didn't-see-that-coming moments. Gaiman reinterprets famous landmarks in a wonderfully original way which I won't discuss in depth here as it would spoil the surprises but I loved the ideas. I found myself missing Richard and Door, Hunter and the Marquis when I wasn't listening to their tale and actually wishing myself back onto a Stagecoach bus for more commutes so the characters could continue their journey too! Gaiman writes well for realistic female characters and I do appreciate that in his stories women are rarely just adornments to male storylines. Indeed, in Neverwhere, the traditional male-female dynamic is almost totally reversed through Door and Richard.

Neverwhere is the fourth Neil Gaiman book I've listened to and he is definitely one of my favourite authors. I also love that he is an excellent narrator. Hearing an author read their own work means you know you're getting exactly the emphasis and tone they meant all the time but, of course, not all authors are good narrators so it doesn't always work out well.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Neil Gaiman / Fantasy / Books from England

Sunday, 26 June 2016

The Swimmers by Joaquin Perez Azaustre


The Swimmers by Joaquin Perez Azaustre
First published as Los Nadadores in Spain in 2012 by Editorial Anagrama. English edition translated by Lucas Lyndes and published by Frisch And Co on the 13th June 2016.

This book is one of my WorldReads from Spain.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk

How I got this book:
Received a copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

'Jonás Ager is disappearing: a recent separation has left him aimless, his once promising photography career has ground to a halt, and his assignments at the newspaper are drying up. And an ever-deepening mystery is threatening to engulf him. His mother disappeared without a trace two weeks ago; his gallerist can’t locate his fellow photographer Oliver; and every time he and his best friend Sergio visit the pool for their regular swim, another lane is empty. An entire city seems to be evaporating into thin air.'

I was disconcerted throughout reading The Swimmers by the thought that I had somehow completely missed the point. I did find it difficult to maintain my concentration and was unusually easily diverted away so that might explain my lack of enthusiasm. The writing itself is of a literary style with great sweeps of description and eloquent evocations of art, philosophical concepts and the act of swimming itself. The novel should have been right up my street, but I just could not connect on a satisfactory level. I think Azaustre wants to portray individual alienation within our modern urban societies. I think Jonas' wish to create photography 'showing the stage after the actors have left' so the viewer is unsure whether they will return is reflected in the disappearances of people formerly close to him. However, I didn't understand whether this phenomenon was intended to be real or purely existed within Jonas' own reality. Or was Jonas that was actually disappearing from these other lives and he couldn't see that for himself?

After reading the entire novel, I am none the wiser as to what The Swimmers is actually about! I did enjoy several of the chapters as scenes in their own right and Azaustre has written a convincing portrait of a man unsure of his own identity and purpose so this has allowed my overall three star rating. I just wish the overall story arc had been given greater clarity.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Joaquin Perez Azaustre / Contemporary fiction / Books from Spain

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Donny's Brain by Rona Munro


Donny's Brain by Rona Munro
First performed at Hampstead Theatre in September 2012. LA Theatre Works audiobook published in January 2016.

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the audiobook download from Audible via Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk

How I got this book:
Downloaded the audiobook from AudioSYNC

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Playwright Rona Munro is Scottish so I am counting Donny's Brain as my fourth book for the 2016 Read Scotland Challenge.

Donny's Brain is one of this week's pair of audiobooks from AudioSYNC, an American initiative which offers free-to-download audiobooks, suitable for young adult listeners, throughout the summer. Books are offered two a week for fifteen weeks, usually available from a Thursday until the following Wednesday. Donny's Brain can be downloaded from AudioSYNC for free until the 30th of June and thereafter purchased through the links above.

'This play is part of L.A. Theatre Works' Relativity Series, featuring science-themed plays. Major funding for the Relativity Series is provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, to enhance public understanding of science and technology in the modern world.  An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast production directed by Martin Jarvis and recorded at The Invisible Studios, West Hollywood.'

Donny (Jared Harris) has awoken in hospital after a car crash. His head injury resulted in brain damage leaving him with no memory of the past three years. As far as he is concerned this time might as well have not happened. He doesn't recognise his wife of two years, Trish (Siobhan Hewlett) and believes he is still happy in his previous relationship with Emma (Sophie Winkleman), and stepfather to her daughter Fiona (Moira Quirk). Neurologist Al (Paul Fox) is using Donny's situation for research and persuades Emma to visit the hospital.

I am now in my third summer of enjoying AudioSYNC's audiobook selection and I think this is also my third LA Theatre Works play from that source. By audiobook standards it is a short listen at just an hour and a half, but packs quite a punch and I found myself wondering just how I would cope in such a situation. The play explores some of the science of our brains, how they work and can repair themselves, but mainly asks questions about how much of our identity is innate and how much simply results from an accumulation of memories and experience. How can someone completely forget love? Or hatred? It's a fascinating premise and an engrossing play which works well as just audio without any visual element. I had no problem identifying who was speaking and found the whole work to be entertaining and thought-provoking.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Rona Munro / Plays / Books from Scotland

Friday, 24 June 2016

Victorian by Jordan Elizabeth


Victorian by Jordan Elizabeth
Published by CHBB today, 24th June 2016

Where to buy this book:
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Search for this author on Alibris

How I got this book:
Author offered a review copy

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

'Celeste struggles with finding her way from a dark past until she gets a summer volunteer gig at the local historical fair. Enter outrageous actors, dominating psychics, and ghosts stirred by a medium’s presence. With the help of the psychic’s son, who isn’t at all what her dream date would look like, but rather endearing all the same, Celeste uncovers secrets about the village left hidden among the dilapidated buildings. Searching deeper will mean opening her heart, a part of her she’s locked up tight and been petrified of freeing.'

I have enjoyed several Jordan Elizabeth books before so was pleased to be offered a pre-publication copy of Victorian. The story is told from the points of view of two young women, Celeste and Weronika, both of whom have traumatic events in their childhoods. They meet at a Counseling Circle and despite the differences in their outlooks, they swiftly become friends. I liked the realistic way their relationship was portrayed and how Elizabeth gave us time to get to know them before we really ventured into the supernatural element of the story. Other characters weren't so clearly defined so I was still muddling a few names even towards the end, but I felt I understood Celeste and Weronika and could sympathise with their journeys towards emotional healing.

The historical Victorian fair is a complete farce of inaccuracies, much like similar ventures over here. Some people go to great lengths to get everything perfect for the period, others don't even seem to have grasped the right century and the whole effect is great fun. I can imagine the exasperation of the organisers and the eventual triumph as it all begins to come together. I am relieved that Elizabeth didn't dwell on the British accents! The fair provides an unusual and interesting backdrop for the ghostly mystery and that is a satisfying tale in itself. Celeste does seem to spend most of her time not actually working for the fair though which I thought someone might have noticed!

I thought Victorian was a good mystery story with varied cross-genre elements. The potential romance is chaste enough for younger readers although I thought the traumas ultimately revealed by Weronika and Celeste were surprisingly dark for a young adult novel.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Jordan Elizabeth / Young adult / Books from America

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Enver Hoxha: The Iron Fist Of Albania by Blendi Fevziu


Enver Hoxha by Blendi Fevziu
Originally published in Albanian in 2011 by UET Press. English language edition translated by Robert Elsie. Published by I B Tauris in May 2016.

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the hardback from The Book Depository
Buy the hardback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from its publishers via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Other than a couple of Kiva loans to entrepreneurs in the country I knew practically nothing about the tiny Balkan country of Albania. Reading this newly translated biography of its former dictator, Enver Hoxha, has helped me to understand more about their forty year exclusion. Author Blendi Fevziu is an Albanian journalist and the whole book is written in a reportage style, not dry at all, but firmly factual and pragmatic. Where truth is uncertain this is clearly indicated by the language used and many key events, particularly during Hoxha's ascent and early years of power, are now difficult to establish exactly due to his having since ordered the deaths of witnesses who might have refuted his own version. A prolific writer, Hoxha wrote over 70 books during his lifetime many of which apparently were 'revised' versions of his life so, while Fevziu had extensive material from which to research this biography, gleaning the truth must have been incredibly difficult.

Hoxha's unremarkable early life and dissolute student years in France seemed a strange beginning for a paranoid dictator. His selection as Communist Party leader was more due to his lack of personal drive meaning that he hadn't alienated any of the factions fighting for control, but once he got the nomination, there was no way he was going to relinquish power and maintained absolute control for forty-one years. An incredible achievement even though he effectively destroyed his country and totally isolated himself in the process. I found Fevziu's biography absolutely fascinating both as a overview history of post-war Albania and as a portrait of Hoxha himself. It was disappointing to learn of underhand British interference and finances helping the Communist regime to establish itself as the war ended (is there anywhere we haven't helped to destroy?). I did find it difficult to keep track of who everybody was, especially during the early chapters when timelines frequently jumped around, but once the narrative settled into a more linear approach, identification became easier.

As a cautionary tale against the effects of personality cults and an illustration of how large numbers of people can be convinced to follow self-destructive ideologies, this is an important book. Details of Hoxha's obsessive public relations campaign to present himself as he wanted to be seen and remembered are interestingly similar to celebrity and brand campaigns nowadays and it worked. On its launch a quarter century after Hoxha's 1985 death, some Albanians burned original language copies of this biography in the streets because it dared to criticise their former leader even though he left their country technologically worse off than when he took power, with hundreds dead, thousands imprisoned or interned, and hundreds of thousands starving.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Blendi Fevziu / biography / Books from Albania

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Waiting For The Barbarians by J M Coetzee + Giveaway

Scroll down for the new Giveaway!


Waiting For The Barbarians by J M Coetzee
Originally published by Secker And Warburg in 1980. Won the James Tait Memorial Prize and the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize.

One of my WorldReads from South Africa.

One of my Top Ten Books of 2016.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the book from Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

I registered this book at Bookcrossing

How I got this book:
Purchased a second-hand copy at a Cheam charity shop

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

'For decades the Magistrate has run the affairs of a tiny frontier settlement, ignoring the impending war between the barbarians and the Empire, whose servant he is. But when the interrogation experts arrive, he is jolted into sympathy with the victims and into a quixotic act of rebellion which lands him in prison, branded as an enemy of the state. Waiting for the Barbarians is an allegory of oppressor and oppressed. Not just a man living through a crisis of conscience in an obscure place in remote times, the Magistrate is an analogue of all men living in complicity with regimes that ignore justice and decency.'

Having been so impressed by Disgrace a few weeks ago, I eagerly snapped up a copy of J M Coetzee's Waiting For The Barbarians when I saw it in a Cheam charity shop.

Set in a remote outpost of an unnamed Empire, this powerful novella could be describing events in any Empires throughout hundreds of years of human history or, as I mentioned in yesterday's Gulag 101 review, it could even be an allegorical representation of the whipped up paranoia in Britain right now. The themes of us against them, social exclusion and assumed racial superiority are frighteningly relevant despite Waiting For The Barbarians having been written nearly four decades ago.

Our narrator is the Magistrate, an anonymous older man who has spent his life on his Empire's fringes maintaining and administering the official idea of order, but mostly without infringing too deeply on the lives of the indigenous peoples, the 'barbarians', outside his town. I am reminded of Anais Mitchell's prophetic Hadestown song with The Wall here protecting Empire within itself while resolutely keeping all others Out. Trouble arrives with Colonel Joll, a new breed of Empire official who seeks evidence of a barbarian plot to overthrow the Empire. Capturing and viciously torturing local fisherfolk and nomads until they 'reveal' whatever he wants to hear, Joll leaves in his wake not a safer Empire, but angry people who may not have been enemies before, but certainly are now. The Magistrate is revolted by Joll's actions and, on finding himself left to clear up the aftermath, he slowly begins to question what he has seen and previously believed.

The gathering pace of this town's rush towards disaster has a poignantly painful inevitability about it. The townspeople, convinced of their invincibility and communally baying for revenge against imagined aggressions, are led into ever increasing paranoia by men who certainly don't have the town's best interests at heart. Any crime is now attributed to the barbarians and fear of 'what could happen if ...' is manipulated until civilians 'see' malevolent barbarians in every shadow. Unconnected peoples are swept into the category of barbarians simply for being different, losing their homes and livelihoods in the process.

Coetzee does briefly but vividly describe some tortures - there is one scene in particular which squeamish me wishes I could unread - but it is the ease and speed of the psychological manipulation which I found truly shocking. His understanding of human nature is effectively portrayed and his characters are utterly and depressingly believable. I could clearly envisage the walled town surrounded by crop fields, the wide desert with its mountain horizon, the Magistrate's cluttered office and his bare claustrophobic prison cell. I certainly think that Waiting For The Barbarians will be one of my Top Ten Reads come the end of 2016 and I wouldn't be surprised if it has not been surpassed.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by J M Coetzee / Novellas / Books from South Africa


And now for the Giveaway!

I have two J M Coetzee novellas - Disgrace and Waiting For The Barbarians - to giveaway simply for answering the following question on this blog post. How easy is that?!

The Question:
Name another book by a South African author?
(If you need a clue, I've reviewed one here and Goodreads has quite a list!)

Comment your answer on this post before midnight (UK time) on the 29th of June to be in with a chance of winning.

These two paperback books are my copies so neither are new, but they are still in very good condition. They have both been registered on Bookcrossing and you are welcome to add your stage of their journey or ignore the labels as you prefer.

The Giveaway is open worldwide. Answers must be commented by midnight (UK time) on the 29th June and I will randomly pick a winner on the 30th. The winner will be notified by replying to their Comment so if you think you might miss this response please also include other contact info such as your blog URL, twitter name or FB page. If the winner does not respond within 7 days, they will forfeit the prize.

Good luck!

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Gulag 101 by Nico Reznick


Gulag 101 by Nico Reznick
Published in January 2016 by B*Star Kitty Press

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

How I got this book:
Purchased the ebook

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Three weeks of Literary Flits blogging have just about passed us by already and I think it is high time I reviewed some poetry! I am very happy to start with Nico Reznick's second collection, Gulag 101. I have already reviewed her first poetry collection, Over Glassy Horizons, and her first novel, Anhedonia, over on Stephanie Jane and have been looking forward to exploring more of her work.

'Nico Reznick's second collection of poetry is an exploration of profoundly human themes, such as loss, desire, oppression and the search for meaning, calling upon a disparate array of muses, including Slovakian strippers, the Conservative Party and brain-damaged cat-gods. Reznick's style favours realness over beauty, directness over decoration. Sensitive while avoiding sentimentality, Reznick writes with a savage and soul-baring sincerity that cuts right to the bleeding, beating heart of the human condition.'

Gulag 101 is also a twenty-six poem collection and, unlike Over Glassy Horizons, I don't think I missed the point on a single poem here! I love Reznick's evocative imagery which presents familiar and often mundane concepts, but from her own distinctive viewpoint to show up their inherent madness. Slow Death Among The Toner Cartridges  and Life Among Vampires certainly hit home with me. As the last line of the first poem, Talking Small, says, 'Can't we talk just a little bit bigger than this?' and I thought that one line perfectly sums up many of the other poems. We are all so much more than vehicles for inane consumerism and hamster-wheel lives, although reaching for the deific heights of felines is probably overly optimistic. I like the anger of Rejection and its immediate contrast to the world-weariness of Laureate. The King Of Sutton Park is a beautiful lament to ageing and our society's lack of connection with elderly people, and I loved the sordid vulnerability in Lenka.

While reading both The New Breed and Reptiles As A Metaphor I found myself in the weird situation of having identical thoughts about two books read back to back. The thought was 'how apt these words are for the current Brexit hysteria' even though they were written directly about it. (The other book was Waiting For The Barbarians which I will be reviewing tomorrow) In these two poems Reznick nails exactly what is unsettling about our political elite!

I think Gulag 101 is a strong collection of contemporary poetry with a lot to say about life in 2010s Britain. Nothing rhymes, but the poems have an insistent and effective rhythm and pace which I loved, especially when reading them aloud.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Nico Reznick / Poetry / Books from England

Monday, 20 June 2016

The Life Of Elves by Muriel Barbery


The Life of Elves by Muriel Barbery
Translated by Alison Anderson. Published in English in May 2016 by Gallic Books. I am not sure when or if a French edition was published as I could only track down the English translation. This seems to have first been published by Europa Editions in February 2016.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Offered a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Life Of Elves is very different to Barbery's previous novels such as The Elegance Of The Hedgehog which I have noticed upset other reviewers. I couldn't actually remember much about the former book, other than being very impressed by it, and I think it helped me not to have any preconceptions.

Set in a timeless France and Italy, the story revolves around the mystical connection between two young girls. Maria was abandoned in a French village as a baby, the only clue to her origins being two Spanish words embroidered onto her wraps. Clara was brought up in Italy and finds herself a child prodigy pianist. I loved Barbery's descriptions of music and the evocations of sound. Clara's flights of imagination at these points, seeing mountains and streams or the stone cages that are cities intricately woven through the melodies she plays, are superbly written and some of the most visionary prose passages I have ever read. This alone is the reason why I would urge people to buy The Life Of Elves.

However, alongside such beauty also comes frustration as, even after finishing it, I still don't really know what this book is about. Supernatural beings in the form of Elves have come into the human world and Maria's village comes under attack, but I never understood why or even really who by. Perhaps experienced readers of fantasy novels would find the overriding story ar so obvious that Barbery felt she didn't need to make it explicit. Personally, at the time, I was happy to simply be swept along in the whirl of words, but now I am trying to write a review I think it would have been nice to have known exactly what was going on!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Muriel Barbery / Fantasy / Books from France

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Love In Exile by Ayse Kulin


Love in Exile by Ayse Kulin
First published as Umut by Everest in Turkey in 2008. English translation by Kenneth Dakan published by Amazon Crossing in 2016.

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

How I got this book:
Received a copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

'Sabahat, a beautiful young Muslim woman, is known in her family for her intelligence, drive, and stubbornness. She believes there is more in store for her life than a good marriage and convinces her parents to let her pursue her education, rare for young Turkish women in the 1920s. But no one expects that she will fall for a handsome Armenian student named Aram. After precious moments alone together, their love begins to blossom. Try as she might to simplify her life and move on, Sabahat has no choice but to follow her heart’s desire. But Aram is Christian, and neither family approves. With only hope to guide their way, they defy age-old traditions, cross into dangerous territory, and risk everything to find their way back to each other.'

Kulin takes as her starting point the birth of her father in 1903 and ends with her own birth in 1941 so much of Love In Exile has autobiographical roots although the storyline itself is heavily fictionalised. Both babies were born in the city of Istanbul, but to vastly different worlds - one sees the final years of the powerful Ottoman Empire, the other joins the vibrant new Republic of Turkey - and it is these incredible changes over less than four decades which provide the fascinating backdrop to Love In Exile. We meet very traditional Bosnian Muslim grandparents who just managed to escape persecution in their homeland and now struggle to cope with Turkey's rapid modernisation and radical ideas such as open male-female friendships, a new alphabet and Birthday parties. We also see Armenian Christians who, also exiled to Istanbul, are essentially in the same situation, but are distrusted in their new land. This portrait of a country in transition reminded me of Chinua Achebe's No Longer At Ease where he shows Nigeria exchanging Empire for Independence.

The Love of the title refers to many types of love and it was this exploration that I enjoyed most about the book. Love for country is demonstrated by agonising homesickness for lands left behind and, in the next generation, by overwhelming dedication to creating the new Republic. Love is also shown within families and especially where multiple generations cohabit within the same house - admittedly a mansion - we see exceptional personal sacrifices alongside misunderstandings and the grief of loss. Romantic love provides two of the strongest narrative threads. We follow the forbidden love of Muslim Sabahat and Christian Aram and, later, the surprise match of Muhittin and Sitare.

I would have liked Sabahat and Aram's relationship to be fully explored. Instead they are central for much of the novel before becoming lost amongst the many other characters and stories. Despite family trees at the beginning, I did often lose track of who people were and how they related to each other. Large extended families are the norm and honorifics are frequently used in place of given names. I wasn't always engrossed in Love In Exile which is why it is only rated at three stars although I am still wavering between three and four. Some characters and storylines caught my imagination whereas others failed to do so. I wanted to know more about the older people - what life Saraylihanim led before her senility and how Mahir coped with his wife's obsessional behaviour. However this is a good introduction to the turmoil of early 20th century Turkey and I would certainly like to discover more about the country at this time.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Ayse Kulin / Historical fiction / Books from Turkey

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Gotta Find A Home by Dennis Cardiff


Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People by Dennis Cardiff
Published by Karenzo Media on the 4th June 2014.
One of my WorldReads from Canada.

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

How I got this book:
Purchased the ebook

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I discovered Gotta Find A Home on twitter where its author posts as @DennisCardiff. I will admit that I am one of those who generally averts their eyes when I notice beggars on the street so, other than the usual political platitudes, I know very little about the people themselves. Intrigued by Dennis' synopsis, I bought his book. All the profits from Gotta Find A Home are donated to homelessness alleviation projects in Toronto so I thought even if I didn't like the read, I was doing a good thing with its purchase.

As it turned out, this is a pretty fascinating book. Written in diary form, Dennis recounts daily conversations he has had with members of a fluctuating group of homeless panhandlers (beggars) who live near to where he works in Toronto. Conversations aren't recorded, but related from memory, so I did find the speaking style a little odd to begin with. What surprised me most though was the lack of a stereotype within the group. These people are of all ages from their twenties to their sixties (although many will die much younger than they might if they weren't homeless) some are abuse victims but not all, some are alcoholics or drug addicts but not all, some have a university education while others can barely write, some are mentally disturbed while others are highly intelligent and articulate. There is apparently no such thing as A Typical Homeless Person.

Dennis makes no claims to have the answers to homelessness, neither does he defend or vilify the behaviour and actions of the people about whom he writes. Instead he simply presents their day-to-day lives and leaves us readers to make our own decisions. Formerly anonymous grey shapes, as appear in every town in Britain in the same circumstances as in Canada, now define themselves into 'normal people' (if you'll excuse that phrase). This is Joy. This is Ian. This is Hippo. This is Lucy. They talk about their friends and relationships, what they might have for dinner, how much they've earned today, and whether there is enough to pay the rent. Then they mention an acquaintance who had his teeth kicked out and another who was doused in gasoline and set alight.

I think Gotta Find A Home would make a very interesting Book Club choice as I found my assumptions being challenged, but without my being made to feel defensive or hectored. I would definitely like to hear opinions from other readers as I hope that this memoir will remain memorable for me.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Dennis Cardiff / Memoirs / Books from Canada

Friday, 17 June 2016

A House For Happy Mothers by Amulya Malladi


A House For Happy Mothers by Amulya Malladi
Published on the 3rd May 2016 by Lake Union Publishing.

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

How I got this book:
Received a copy from the publishers via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'In trendy Silicon Valley, Priya has everything she needs - a loving husband, a career, and a home - but the one thing she wants most is the child she’s unable to have. In a Southern Indian village, Asha doesn’t have much - raising two children in a tiny hut, she and her husband can barely keep a tin roof over their heads - but she wants a better education for her gifted son. Pressured by her family, Asha reluctantly checks into the Happy Mothers House: a baby farm where she can rent her only asset - her womb - to a childless couple overseas. To the dismay of friends and family, Priya places her faith in a woman she’s never met to make her dreams of motherhood come true. Together, the two women discover the best and the worst that India’s rising surrogacy industry has to offer, bridging continents and cultures to bring a new life into the world - and renewed hope to each other.'

As a non-maternal woman I wasn't sure how I would get on reading a book about babies! I am interested in the moral dilemma of paid surrogacy though and found A House For Happy Mothers to be a fascinating insight with compelling perspectives from both sides. Malladi takes time to show us all aspects of her characters and their families, their motives for undertaking surrogacy and the reactions from their friends and families. The irony of the title nicely sums up the whole novel as no one, with the possible exception of the profiteering doctor, seems happy at all and I am still as undecided about the issue now as I was before I started reading, but at least now I feel much better informed. Asha should have the right to be paid to be a surrogate mother if she chooses to, but is it really a free choice when her family would otherwise live in such poverty? Priya and Madhu couldn't have a child who is genetically their own any other way, but when so many babies face growing up without any semblance of family, isn't adoption a more socially valuable choice? Is having that genetic link worth all this emotional upheaval?

I thoroughly enjoyed reading A House For Happy Mothers right up until the last couple of pages where the prose suddenly becomes unrealistically schmaltzy for the sake of a happy ending. The synopsis is wrong in that the women, Priya and Asha, aren't in this 'together', but I appreciated reading their views of Asha's pregnancy and what the outcome would mean for each of them. Malladi manages to make both circumstances utterly convincing and I always wanted to find out what would happen even though I didn't agree with everything that was said or thought. I would definitely suggest A House For Happy Mothers as a great Book Club choice as there would be a lot to consider and discuss, although I could see discussions getting heated!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Amulya Malladi / Women's fiction / Books from India

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Sugar And Snails by Anne Goodwin


Sugar and Snails by Anne Goodwin
Published on the 23rd July 2015

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

How I got this book:
Preview copy received from author

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Anne Goodwin kindly got in touch with me via Goodreads last summer to offer a preview copy of her (then) new novel, Sugar And Snails, which I excitedly accepted. I already enjoyed her thoughtful and insightful blog posts so had high hopes for the novel - and I wasn't disappointed!

For reviewing purposes, I am finding it difficult to write freely about the book for the same reason as I had when discussing We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. I came to Sugar And Snails effectively ignorant of the main plot idea and don't want to be the one to give it away to other potential readers. Therefore please excuse my vagueness! I don't think the story would be ruined by advance knowledge, but I definitely appreciated making the discovery myself!

I can wax lyrical about character portrayal and development which are always important to me. Goodwin obviously has a great empathy for Diana whom I did not always like, but continually found myself rooting for. It takes really good writing to pull that off! Her childhood reminiscences were as convincing as her adult life and by the end of the book I fully understood how the child had grown into the woman. I appreciated that the multi-racial cast didn't exist to make any heavy political point, just to reflect Diana's social group.

I did find the abrupt failures to reveal What Happened In Cairo somewhat coy and irritating during the first third of Sugar And Snails. However once once the full tale began to wind and unwind itself, this was a strong and interesting read. It's northern England university setting made a refreshing change from the fictional Oxbridge norm and I loved the flashes of dialect, especially from the children.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Anne Goodwin / LGBT books / Books from England

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

From The Mouth Of The Whale by Sjon + Giveaway

Scroll down for the new Giveaway!


From the Mouth of the Whale by Sjón
Originally published in 2008. English translation by Victoria Cribb published in 2011. Shortlisted for the 2012 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and the 2013 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the book from Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

I registered this book at Bookcrossing

How I got this book:
Purchased a second-hand copy at Totnes Community Bookshop

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In From The Mouth Of The Whale Sjon blends fact with fiction to produce a bewildering portrait of 1600s Iceland. Genuine historical figure Jon Gudmundsson the Learned really did exist, did marry as astronomer wife and did witness the massacre of Basque whalers. Here he is imagined as Jonas Palmasson, a boy prodigy who becomes a learned man and is ostracised by his community. Outlawed and isolated on a tiny island off Iceland's coast, he must survive as best he can without any help and bereft of his library, but eventually with the company of his wife.

We see the story through Jonas' eyes and it is difficult to tell what is truth, what would have been seen as truth four centuries ago, and what is delusion within Jonas' mind. I was fascinated by scenes such as the devout Catholic village unearthing their banned idols in order to worship them and the text is dotted with short textbook extracts describing the bizarre properties believed of plants and animals. Jumping around in place and time, I was able to piece together Jonas' memories to make sense of his life and the politics of his time. Having visited Iceland, I was easily able to imagine locations such as Thingvallir parliament, but I would have liked more detail in some of the descriptive passages. From The Mouth Of The Whale cleverly brings historic Iceland to life and I would be interested to read more of Sjon's work.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Sjon / Historical / Books from Iceland


And now for the Giveaway!

I have a unique handmade Red Beanie Hat to giveaway simply for answering the following question on this blog post. How easy is that?!

The Question:
Name a book which is set somewhere really cold?

Comment your answer on this post before midnight (UK time) on the 22nd of June to be in with a chance of winning.

I hand crocheted the beanie from a thick sport weight acrylic yarn in a gorgeous red shade. It is even brighter than the photograph makes it appear so this is a really eye-catching hat. The hat is about 6 inches / 16 cm tall and has a 1 inch turn up which can be unturned if an even taller hat is needed. The unstretched inner circumference is about 20 inches / 50 cm and the crocheting means a little stretchiness to ensure a snug and cosy fit. (Other designs of Headwear are for sale through My Blog Shop)

The Giveaway is open worldwide. Answers must be commented by midnight (UK time) on the 22nd June and I will randomly pick a winner on the 23rd. The winner will be notified by replying to their Comment so if you think you might miss this response please also include other contact info such as your blog URL, twitter name or FB page. If the winner does not respond within 7 days, they will forfeit the prize and I will re-offer the hat in another giveaway.

Good luck!

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Shuttered Life by Florentine Roth


Shuttered Life by Florentine Roth
First published as Der Duft von Bergamotte by Amazon Publishing in Germany in 2014. English translation by Jennifer Marquart published by Amazon Crossing in 2015.

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

How I got this book:
Purchased the ebook

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

'When her uncle suffers a heart attack, young Berlin photographer Elisa Westphal returns to her family home in Düsseldorf for the first time in many years. Relations have been strained ever since her father’s death, and Elisa finds the reunion desperately uncomfortable. It seems that everyone in town is behaving oddly, even her childhood crush. Is it simply old tensions reemerging, or is something more sinister at play? When Elisa begins receiving menacing notes, she sets to work narrowing down the suspects. As the dangerous incidents pile up, it seems to Elisa that someone is trying to chase her away. But who? And why?'

Shuttered Life is a short novel which I easily read in a couple of hours. It starts with our narrator, Elisa, being forced off the road while driving in a rainstorm. She doesn't know who deliberately drove their car into hers and our story jumps back in time to lead us round in a complete circle before we find out. We see most of the story from Elisa's point of view except for italicised glimpses of her attacker's thoughts. I wasn't convinced by this device as the thoughts are repetitive and I didn't think the language used was effective for ramping up tension. The Westphal family make for a pretty large cast. They all behave oddly leading each to be a possible suspect to Elisa, but none are actually presented as fully created characters so it was difficult for me to understand or empathise with their revelations and motives.

The whole book struck me as young adult because it is simply written. There isn't much in the way of description and, for me, far too much emphasis was put on Elisa's long-running crush on David. Incidents are too easily brushed off and opportunities to make more of the mysterious notes were squandered. Shuttered Life is an ok read, but overall I thought the whole book felt rushed and lacked atmosphere and excitement.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Florence Roth / Young adult / Books from Germany

Monday, 13 June 2016

King Arthur Goes To Wembley by Jake Nelson


King Arthur Goes To Wembley by Jake Nelson
Self-published in June 2012

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk

How I got this book:
Purchased the ebook

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In King Arthur Goes To Wembley, two schoolboys, Thomas and Marc, stumble across the enchanted resting place of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table while searching for their lost football. Due to a misunderstanding, the awoken King Arthur believes that the ‘Honour of England’ is at stake in a forthcoming international football match. He commands the children to teach ‘the beautiful game’ to the men from Camelot so they can play for England against the world champions!

The story was inspired by the lionisation of present-day Premiership footballers. Jake believes that, if the ancient legends were true, the Knights would have been treated in the same way and there are distinct parallels between the two cultures. He says. “The idea that the finest knights in all the world might just be the finest natural athletes too is only one step away from imagining that, maybe, they could also be great footballers.

Although King Arthur Goes To Wembley is ostensibly a children's book, I enjoyed reading it. The intricacies of the football scenes were lost on me, but the story keeps up a great pace and I particularly liked the characterisation of Merlin and ideas such as the light bulbs' treatment! I also think that, if the right narrator was found, this story would make an excellent audio book.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Jake Nelson / Fantasy / Books from England

Sunday, 12 June 2016

No Longer At Ease by Chinua Achebe


No Longer At Ease by Chinua Achebe 
Originally published in 1960.
Whole Story audiobook published in July 2010, now available as Recorded Books audiobook published in February 2015.
One of my WorldReads - Nigeria book choices.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the audiobook download from Audible via Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Purchased from Audible

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I originally listened to No Longer At Ease in February 2013 and return to it again last month. The download is narrated by Peter Jay Fernandez who does a pretty good job although his British and Irish accents are mangled at times. I don't know Nigerian accents well enough to tell if those are accurate or not.

No Longer At Ease is the story of Obi Okonkwo, a talented young man whose village, Umuofia, clubbed together to pay for him to be the first from there to study in England - a fantastic honour. The village did want Obi to study law in order to further their interests legally and Obi switched courses to study English literature, but a university degree is still something to be very proud of and Umuofia welcomes back their son with celebrations. Swept along by expectations Obi lands himself a prized government job at the ministry dealing with scholarships, an apartment in a formerly whites-only enclave, a new Morris car and the fantastic salary of seventy pounds a month. It's all obtained fairly, above board and Obi feels he represents the new face of Nigeria.

I loved how Achebe chips away at Obi's naive beliefs and expectations for his life. We know from the very beginning of the story that he will be shamed by bribe-taking, but his downfall is so cleverly portrayed that I felt sorry for him and completely understood his predicament. Torn in many directions, Obi finds himself not only standing against matter-of-course corruption, but also small town views opposing Lagos city experiences, and ancient beliefs still strong under the veneer of his Christian upbringing. The scholarship was actually a loan that must be repaid and keeping up appearances in the city is pricey; his younger brother's school fees compete with those of his mother's hospital; his white boss repeatedly undermines Obi and his country; his girlfriend is of a forbidden caste; and then bills that he never imagined existed begin to pile up. From wonderful initial hope, No Longer At Ease is a portrayal of culture clashes between races, generations and belief systems and provides a valuable insight into how strong people need to be to live between all of those stools.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Chinua Achebe / Audiobooks / Books from Nigeria

Saturday, 11 June 2016

The German Messenger by David Malcolm


The German Messenger by David Malcolm
Published by Crime Wave Press in May 2016.

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher.

Author David Malcolm was born and grew up in Scotland so I am counting The German Messenger as my third book for the 2016 Read Scotland Challenge.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'Late 1916. Europe is tearing itself apart in the Great War. Harry Draffen, part Greek, part Scottish, British secret agent, cosmopolitan, polyglot, man of violence, is having a bad war. Now he is instructed to uncover a plot by the Central Powers against England. From the slums of East London to an Oxford college, from the trenches on the Western Front to an isolated house on the Scottish coast, on to a bloody showdown in the North of England, he chases a phantom and elusive German messenger. Betrayed, deceived, under attack from many enemies, bringing death to those he does not hate and even to those he loves, he tries to reach the heart of the mystery. In a final reckoning in a London tenement, he at last understands the full scope of the plots centered on the German messenger.'

The German Messenger is narrated throughout by our career spy protagonist Harry Draffen. Formerly eager for adventure, he is now getting older and becoming more aware of both his own mortality and that of the people around him which provides a fascinating viewpoint on the Great War. With so many thousands lost every day, what difference can Harry's mission to find one man actually make?  Malcolm wonderfully evokes the 1910s across Europe, the suspicions and intrigues, and the reality of so many countries distrusting each other. The German Messenger is no predictable them-against-us thriller. Instead I enjoyed reading a nuanced and complex pan-European espionage mystery.

We do see everything from Harry's point of view so other characters, especially the women, aren't as fully portrayed as perhaps they could have been. Locations are beautifully described though so I could easily envisage smoky London clubs, a fusty Oxford college, the horror of the trenches and the cold Scottish rain. The prose is let down by a few too many distracting typos, but otherwise I found The German Messenger to be a nicely atmospheric literary thriller.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by David Malcolm / War fiction / Books from Scotland

Friday, 10 June 2016

The Stationmaster by Jiro Asada


The Stationmaster by Jiro Asada
Published in Japanese as Poppoya by Shueisha in 1997. Winner of the 1997 Naoki Prize. Translated by Terry Gallagher and published in English by Viz Media in 2013. Shueisha English language ebook published today, 10th June 2016.

One of my Top Ten Books of 2016.

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy from independent booksellers via Alibris
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk

How I got this book:
Received a preview copy from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

'In The Stationmaster, the award-winning Jiro Asada 'revives a time when men lived like true men, proudly fulfilling their responsibilities. People still honored the dignities in life, and lived for those they cared about, in the spirit of samurai. The devotion of these characters to one another is quiet and reserved, not overtly thought of as love, but in a sense it is. So this is a collection of love stories in a samurai way, set in contemporary Japan.'

The Stationmaster is the first in this collection of eight short stories. I was attracted to the book by Norio Kozima's wonderful cover illustration and was then completely blown away by the beauty and elegance of Asada's prose. The title story explores the dignity and pride of an elderly Stationmaster, still dedicated to his role even as the railway line is closing down around him. Love Letter tells of an illegally trafficked Chinese sex worker who, knowing she is dying, writes to the man who married her for money to bring her to Japan, but who she never actually met. A young couple return to the venue that kindled their courtship in the nostalgic Invitation To The Orion Cinema, and a pimp named Santa tries to live up to his name by offering an unexpected kindness on Christmas Eve in No-Good Santa.

I loved every one of these stories. There is a strong sense of traditional and changing Japanese culture through them all, but I had no problem understanding the stories, their undercurrents and meanings. The characters' predicaments are universal with the plots revolving around ordinary people coping with aging, work pressures or fragmenting relationships. As is common in Japanese culture, supernatural characters are often the pivots of these stories and I thought this provided and extra layer of interest, but without the device being used as an easy get out for characters or author! Asada's Instead Of An Afterword is a fascinating glimpse into his real life and I was surprised by which story elements have autobiographical roots - it's not where I expected.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Jiro Asada / Short stories / Books from Japan

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Young Hearts Crying by Richard Yates


Young Hearts Crying by Richard Yates
First published by Delacorte Press in 1984.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the book from Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Purchased at Totnes Community Bookshop

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

'Young, newly married and intensely ambitious, Michael Davenport is trying to make a living as a writer. His adoring wife, Lucy, has a private fortune that he won't touch in case it compromises his art. She in turn is never quite certain of what is expected of her. All she knows is that everyone else seems, somehow, happier' and it is this search for happiness that Yates explores in Young Hearts Crying. We follow the lives of Michael and Lucy, together and apart, over more than two decades as they strive to find their niches in life.

The first part of Young Hearts Crying is strongly reminiscent of Revolutionary Road. We have a similar chauvinistic male character, Michael, determined to be an author, but settling for a commercial writing job in the meantime and we see him and his wife meeting, dreaming, marrying and setting up their first home. The couple consider themselves perhaps a cut above their contemporaries and seek out cultured arty people to be their friends. Where this book differs though is that our female protagonist, Lucy, is a remarkably strong woman who doesn't end up being the destroyer.

I didn't like Michael at all, although reading about him was enjoyably compulsive. His arrogance blended with his alcoholic self-destructive streak make him a fascinating character and his I was frequently shocked not only by his attitude towards women, but also the steady stream of women prepared to put up with him. The gender differences in this novel certainly make me glad to be of a later generation! I found I could more easily identify with Lucy's search for her life role, despite lacking any proportion of her wealth. I squirmed at her creative writing class experience and found myself completely in agreement with her opinions of Bob Dylan!

Reading Young Hearts Crying for me was a similar experience to reading Kent Haruf or Anne Tyler novels. I liked seeing Michael and Lucy's lives develop over an extended period of time and found this book to be a real page-turner.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Richard Yates / Contemporary fiction / Books from America

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Walking Home by Clare Balding + Giveaway

Scroll down for the new Giveaway!


Walking Home: My Family and Other Rambles by Clare Balding
Published in September 2014

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the audiobook download from Audible via Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the audio CD from Speedyhen
Buy the audio CD from The Book Depository

How I got this book:
Purchased the Audible download

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed the Audible version of Clare Balding's My Animals and Other Family back in the summer and so have been looking forward to downloading her newest book, Walking Home. I got this one on audio as well. Balding reads her own words and is a very professional narrator.

This memoir is based around Ramblings, the Radio 4 series that Balding has presented for many series. I don't think I've ever actually heard an episode. I go through stages of being a Radio 4 listener and my most recent phase must have been over a decade ago. However, I got the gist pretty quickly - Balding goes on walks all around the UK and chats with Interesting People. I particularly enjoyed hearing her talk about her experiences making the programme and the places she has walked. Perhaps someone should have had a quiet word about attempting mimicry and accents though - most really didn't work for me. I listened to practically every word through headphones whilst walking around Mojacar in Spain - there's some fab walks here, Clare! - so I felt particularly inspired. Not having a convenient notepad and pen was an error though. I can now only remember the names of St Oswald's Way in Northumberland and the Wayfarers Walk near her family home as ones we really must do too! Maybe there is an index in the printed book edition?

Balding's attempts to get her family to do various sections of the Wayfarer's are humorous to listen to and I recognised several situations in which Dave and I have also found ourselves - what do you mean it's flooded? How flooded?!

Balding does also ramble in the other meaning of frequently going off topic and I did find this irritating at times. Her other subjects, including a long section on the London Olympics, are probably interesting in their own right, but when I was being inspired by walking tales, the sudden veers away were distracting.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Clare Balding / Biography / Books from England


And now for the Giveaway!

I have a unique handmade Shimmering Sand Water Bottle Bag to giveaway simply for answering the following question on this blog post. How easy is that?!

The Question:
Name a book, fiction or nonfiction, which includes someone going walking?

Comment your answer on this post before midnight (UK time) on the 15th of June to be in with a chance of winning.

Water Bottle Bags are for those occasions when you just want to go out light - an evening beach walk, a woodland stroll, a lakeside wander. A Twitter follower suggested they'd be great for Amusement Park visits too. The carriers are just big enough for a 500ml plastic water bottle (not included) and you can discreetly hide a car or door key in the bag under the bottle too.  (Other designs of Water Bottle Bags are for sale through My Blog Shop)

This Shimmering Sand Water Bottle Bag is hand-crocheted from a gorgeous sand coloured Spanish cotton which has a slender metallic thread running alongside. I love how this thread shimmers and sparkles when it catches sunlight! The bag measures about 5 3/4 inches / 14 cm high by 3 inches / 8 cm across. The strap, when stretched with the weight of a full water bottle, is 34 inches / 87 cm long and 3/4 inch / 2 cm wide so it won't dig into your shoulder.

The Giveaway is open worldwide. Answers must be commented by midnight (UK time) on the 15th June and I will randomly pick a winner on the 16th. The winner will be notified by replying to their Comment so if you think you might miss this response please also include other contact info such as your blog URL, twitter name or FB page. If the winner does not respond within 7 days, they will forfeit the prize and I will re-offer the water bottle bag in another giveaway.

Good luck!

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho


The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
First published in Brazil in Portuguese in 1988. Harper English edition translated by Alan R Clarke.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the book from Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Borrowed from a friend

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'Combining magic, mysticism, wisdom and wonder into an inspiring tale of self-discovery, The Alchemist tells the mystical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure. His quest will lead him to riches far different—and far more satisfying—than he ever imagined. Santiago's journey teaches us about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, of recognizing opportunity and learning to read the omens strewn along life's path, and, most importantly, to follow our dreams.'

The Alchemist celebrated its 25th anniversary last year so I am definitely late to the party in only just having picked up a copy to read. The fable of Santiago's quest, retold from a tale in One Thousand And One Nights, has become a contemporary classic and is now available translated into at least eighty languages. It's easy to see why! This uplifting tale is recounted in deftly composed prose and, for me, reading it felt like stepping back in time to eras of oral community storytelling. The Alchemist layers deep philosophical thinking over a simple narrative with which I think we can all identify so the reader has the choice of how they wish to encounter the work. Yesterday I read The Alchemist as a straightforward mystical adventure story. Today I am thinking over its themes and how its calming spirituality might fit my life.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Paulo Coelho / Fairytales / Books from Brazil