Monday, 30 November 2009


Bernard MacLaverty

He's a very sensitive, thoughtful writer - this is about a young boy mixed up with the IRA who falls for the widow of a murdered policeman - but must confess, it ended up on my shelves because we fell for John Lynch in the film... Helen Mirren played the widow. You couldn't blame him.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

The Crow Road

Iain Banks

Famous for opening line "It was the day my grandmother exploded."

Remember the Wasp Factory? One of my favourite books. This is not the Wasp Factory - not so harsh, and considerably more rambling, but containing those familiar Banksian themes - family secrets, memory, madness, eccentricity, sibling rivalry, incest, growing pains of adolescence...

Ah yes, and the most romantic sex scene ever, involving a novel use for Morse Code.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

How I Live Now

Meg Rossoff.
Right then. This towering pile of books is not going down, so must crack on, and be ruthless.

This is one of those teen/grownup crossover novels, but you wouldn't be embarrassed to be caught reading it on the tube, it contains some mighty fine prose and a great, gripping story, and a reasonable cover for a grownup to be seen with.

It imagines what would happen if war, proper war, broke out in jolly old England. Daisy, the American heroine, comes to live with her English cousins in the countryside, just before the world goes into meltdown. It's absolutely convincing, and a bit disconcertingly prescient about the crackdown on civil liberties by the government, and for a youngsters' book, quite erotic (Daisy and her first cousin fall in love and shag like bunnies til the war separates them.)

It really hit a nerve, because I read it flying to Spain on the very day that terrorists decided to blow up the tubes and the buses in London. Powerful stuff.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Rip it up and start again

by Simon Reynolds.

(Flashback, circa 1982, I'm 11 years old & transfixed, watching Orange Juice on Top of the Pops... 'Rip it up and start again' sings Edwyn Collins. 'I wish he would' comments my dad from the other end of the sofa, in classic dad fashion.)

It's a really good book from rock's Most Serious Writer - he's forgotten more obscure bands than you ever knew existed - all about that time between the end of the punk and the beginnings of the new Romantics. Someone will like to find this - won't they? I wish someone would find one, even if they don't comment here. *

* Do you reckon the staff in TFL lost property office sit around reading the lost books, trying on the lost gloves, twirling the abandoned umbrellas and playing the discarded tubas that are left on the tube? I hope so, it would make me happy to think someone's reading them.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

The Scapegoat

by Daniel Pennac. A rare French book (in translation by the fantastic Ian Monk, who translated Georges Perecs' novel without the letter E into English) in that it is not miserable.

Haven't read many, but most of the French books I've read are melancholy, downbeat, bleak, dismal, gloomy, mournful, hopeless, dispiriting, discouraging, disheartening. Depressing, in other words. It's not real literature, they seem to think, unless you want to slit your wrists afterwards.

Par example... j'accuse Françoise Sagan, Bonjour Tristesse (see?); Jean Paul Sartre, Nausea; Albert Camus, The Stranger; Alain Fournier, Le Grand Meaulnes; Flaubert, Madame Bovary; Choderlos de Laclos, Les Liaisons Dangereuses; Antoine de Saint Exupery, The Little Prince; ÉmileZola, Thérèse Raquin and Nana... even Colette, who starts off quite jolly and saucy with the Claudine novels, gets all melancholy and unneccessary as she gets older.

Thanks be for Goscinny and Uderzo (Asterix books that make you laugh) and Anaïs Nin (for shameless filth.)

Oh, and Daniel Pennac, who writes fast, funny, ridiculous crime novels set in Belleville. He won't put up with any melancholy nonsense.