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Category: Recommendations (page 2 of 6)

The Word Is Murder

The Word Is Murder Book Cover The Word Is Murder
Anthony Horowitz
Arrow
2018
Paperback

Although this is a novel, it is a rather dazzling refraction of fact into fiction. Horowitz with his ingenious mind is playing with the idea of how a writer turns their life experiences and influences via inspiration (for want of a better word) into a narrative - a novel.  It is a very entertaining crime novel, with the twist in its concept that the storyteller is Horowitz himself.  Written like a memoir the narrative references his life ("fact") as "Horowitz" meets an ex-detective, now consultant to the police, who is investigating a murder and asks "Horowitz" to write about him and the case ("fiction").  The case itself without this extra dimension is clever enough, but although I guessed the murderer fairly early on, "guessed" is the operative word as I had no idea of the unravellings that followed.  And the ex-policeman Hawthorne is a  classic creation, it has to be said.  This could easily be a book too clever for its own good but for the fact that Horowitz is a master writer.  Superficially it is huge fun but you can also take it as an investigation of the writer's mind.

I listened to the wonderful Rory Kinnear (whom I've just seen as Macbeth on stage) reading it, and he does so adding even more entertainment value.

Caroline, Or Change

I should have written about this before now as I saw it some weeks back.  But then again I was so overwhelmed by it when I saw it, I don’t think I could have focused my written thoughts on it.  Tony Kushner’s Caroline Or Change is somewhere between a musical and an opera.  It is composed-through and that in itself is an astonishing

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Waterstones bestsellers

My three personal picks:

The Word Is Murder – Horowitz

The Sparsholt Affair – Hollinghurst

Why We Sleep – Walker

HaHaHopscotch

At present I am doing at least 63 jobs to keep the wolves from the door.  One of these is helping out a Garden Historian friend who has a business called HaHaHopscotch, which helps bring the past alive for children through the re-creation of past childhood games.  Last weekend we participated in the St George’s Festival in Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens organised by the Vauxhall Trust.

Children were gathered together and had various races and games: (wooden) egg and spoon, three – legged race, tug of war, sack race, wheelbarrow race, hoop and stick , battlecock and shuttledore and others.  The children were all great – enthusiastic and well behaved and came in a variety of ages and heights.  Although discipline is a bit harder when you don’t know their names, children do seem to get along really well when they don’t know each other, and older ones are very kind and caring with younger ones.  As can be seen from the photo, this Mum who grew up in Burundi was a whizz with a hoop and stick.   A fine time was had by all.

Details can be found here:  HAHAHOPSCOTCH

The Way Of the World

It’s long.

Right – got that out of the way.

It has to be to its upmost credit that the production at the Donmar Warehouse held my attention for three hours as I was very, very tired.  I think a lot of that has to do with the intimacy of the venue where you can pretty much touch the actors, or feel as if you can even in the Circle, and a superb cast.  Take the first scene.  I happily watched it but only got hold of a little bit of plot exposition and character relations plus a few witticisms, whilst remaining lost on about 80% of the conversation between the two friends talking in a coffee house.

I better add here that

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Birth Marks

Birth Marks Book Cover Birth Marks
Hannah Wolfe 1
Sarah Dunant
Simon and Schuster
1992

I've read all but one of Sarah Dunant's novels set in Renaissance Italy, but I knew she had started her published writings with crime.  Three of them feature P.I. Hannah Wolfe. Being written in 1992, it is unnerving to read a book where no one has a mobile phone, and so solving an investigation is so very different from today, a mere 25 years on.  It's in the style of Chandler with a struggling, lonesome private investigator, full of sardonic quips and cynical views of life, but also a single woman aware of her place in society and in the eyes of other people - both men and women. This gives the book a nice edge without it feeling as if it is dealing with "issues".  The plot is speedy but filled with sadness as well as mystery. It's interesting to see a well established author at the beginning of their career, especially as her recent books have such different settings, though they still concern women swimming against the expected tide.  If you want a short, thoughtful crime page-turner this fits the bill, though as it is out of print in UK, I read it as a gift from someone who loves second-hand bookshops.

The Chalk Man

The Chalk Man Book Cover The Chalk Man
C J Tudor
Penguin
2018
Hardback

I suspect this book will get a lot of fuss when the paperback comes out later this year, and I will not be surprised if a film comes along at some point later (which personally I would avoid if it does). Having said that, it deserves to have a runaway success.  Without question this is a way-cut-above-the-rest novel.  I was disappointed with the opening: yet another description of a dead girl, and not long after a stupendously grisly depiction of an accident. However what makes this book stand out, is its subversion of expectations that continue to remain credible, pushing on the narrative and delving into the characters' minds.  One narrator is split in two by telling the story as a child and as an adult.  It continually confounded me, but its revelations (maybe too strong a word) are subtle but vice-like gripping.  It is a real web of a book and if the author is the spider in the middle, I got caught and eaten alive at the end.  Brilliantly written.

- I must add here that I listened to the audio book read by the mesmeric Andrew Scott and by Asa Butterfield who also does a fine job.  (And if you do listen to it, you just have to accept the fact that despite the doubling younger/older but same character narrator of the book, in the audio version Butterfield is English and Scott is Irish - it matters not)

The Travelling Cat Chronicles

The Travelling Cat Chronicles Book Cover The Travelling Cat Chronicles
Hiro Arikawa
Penguin
2017

This is a gentle and very moving account of one man's road trip around the friends from his past.  The objective of his journey is to find someone to look after his cat.  Gradually tiny layers are peeled away as we learn about him through these meetings and flashbacks into his past where the friendships began.  Added to this the voice of his cat is mixed into the narrative, and if you are not a cat lover, don't let this put you off.  The device is not cute but another way of quietly revealing what lies beneath the surface of this man's life.  It is utterly beautiful. The author prefers to show rather than tell, allowing the reader to construct the jigsaw puzzle-like nature of the narrative.  It being a road trip, the landscape and places of Japan play  a very important part in the proceedings.  The descriptions are vivid. The book is  sad but life affirming, and often very funny.  It slowly got under my skin and entered my heart.

The York Realist

Despite having a keen interest in this play with its North Yorkshire setting (I grew up not far from York), I have never seen or read it.  My expectations were high as the reviews had been glowing, and I had taken part in one of the Donmar’s Open Workshops on it the morning of the day I had seen it

– and a big plug here for the Workshop which was excellent and a huge thank you to Lynette Linton for running it with such infectious enthusiasm –

but I have to say ultimately I was left slightly disappointed, without quite

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Fanny and Alexander

(Probably best to skip/skim read the second paragraph)

My favourite film, in the sense that it is the film closest to my heart and affects me on a personal level like no other, is Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander.

Scandinavian 19th century drama has fascinated me since I studied Drama at university, and my love of it led me into the theatre and film world of Bergman. In my twenties I had a tendency

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