Month: February 2014

January Reads

I’ve been lucky to start the year with three cracking reads. Here’s what kept me turning the pages last month:

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The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt

I’m a huge Donna Tartt fan, so was very excited to dive into this 700+ page beast of a book. I’m delighted to say it didn’t disappoint. Theo Decker is a wonderful, complicated and deeply frustrating protagonist (he reminded me of times of Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye) and every line of this novel is perfection. I especially loved the first few pages of the novel, where the author sets up a deep, emotional connection between Theo and one character in particular, whose absence then artfully drives the narrative for the rest of the novel. Tartt is in a class of her own.

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The Night Rainbow – Claire King

I’d heard a lot of buzz about this novel when it was first published last year, I was intrigued by the title, AND I’d spotted a stonking quote from one of my favourite authors (Maggie O’Farrell) on its cover, so there were PLENTY of reasons for me to dive into this debut. I read it over the course of three days and King transported me straight to a long, hot summer in France and into the vivid imagination of her vulnerable young heroine, Pea. While I guessed a twist in the novel quite early on, it didn’t spoil the book for me at all. There was a growing sense of tension to keep me turning the pages and so much to love about King’s exquisite prose and her vivid depictions of the landscape. Brilliant.

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The Narrow Road to the Deep North – Richard Flanagan

I hadn’t read anything by Richard Flanagan before, but my husband waxed lyrical about this novel over the holidays so I felt compelled to pick it up. The novel follows the story of Dorrigo Evans, a WW2 soldier forced to work as a POW on the construction of the Thai-Burma railway. The book features a poignant love story, but to me the most moving moments of the novel were in Flanagan’s exploration of  fraternal love and friendship amongst the men suffering in the most extreme and brutal circumstances. Powerful and poignant, there are scenes and revelations in this book that will haunt me for a long time to come.

What are you reading at the moment? Do you have anything good to recommend to me? x

Hello New Year …

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How is it already February? Wasn’t it just a few days ago we were eating Christmas leftovers and pulling down lights and decorations? Who pressed the fast forward button?

I’ve been slack at posting on my blog lately. Summer Down Under has been busy. I’m realising that on this side of the planet, everything comes at once: the end of the school year, Christmas, New Year, holidays, birthdays, road trips and visitors from the north seeking sunshine. It’s been fun but frenzied and so it is with a (small) sigh of relief that I eye my increasingly empty calendar and see the weeks stretching ahead where I can submerge myself once more in my unruly third novel.

For me personally, 2013 was a year of great highs and lows. I waved my son off at the school gates and watched him thrive in his first year of Kindergarten, I travelled back to the UK for my little brother’s gorgeously snowy Yorkshire wedding; I sent The Shadow Year out into the world and had the amazing good fortune of touring Australia with Get Reading!.

Halfway through the year, our family was rocked by the death of my cousin Jack, who died in a climbing accident in Wales. Jack was a young man of great principle and his death has left a tragic void for all of us – especially my aunt Sara, uncle David and cousin Anna. It was an honour to be able to write about Jack in a piece for the Independent last October.

I’m not one for rigorous resolutions and beating myself up about missing targets or goals or eating too many puddings, but my aim for 2014 is to learn a little from my cousin’s carpe diem attitude, as well to achieve a little more balance. I want to focus more on family and general well-being. So as well as delivering my third novel to my publishers (new contract for books 3 & 4 just signed – yippee!), I’m determined to do more running … more reading … to keep trying new things … and when I am in that writing chair, to heed Henry Miller’s excellent commandments:

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So, is it far too late for me to wish you a Happy New Year and ask what you have planned for 2014?

I’d love to hear … x