I find it really difficult to write a reader review of a novel. As an author I am hugely grateful to the kind people who leave reviews of my books on Amazon and other sites. I deeply feel I ought to reciprocate more. But the whole enterprise is fraught with danger.
This is a recurring problem at this time of year. Between Christmas and the end of the year I usually read a lot.
I finish books I’ve left midway during the year for some reason. And I read my Christmas present books. I read books I’ve been setting aside so I can take a good long run at them. And I experiment with books that other people have recommended during the seasonal socialising. And I go back to old favourites because, let’s face it, this is the time of year when memories get hold of you and I’ve got some lovely Bookish Memories. Continue reading →
Recently, a reader of this blog, noticing that I turn into a drivelling fan girl whenever P G Wodehouse crops up, invited me to review a new audiobook edition of Right Ho, Jeeves.
Hugely flattered, I returned a resounding “Gimme.” Only rather more gracefully phrased. At least, I hope so.
And then the doubts set in. Had I implied I was qualified in any way to do this? I had never read/heard/listened to an audiobook. That’s ANY audiobook. The odd 15 minutes with Book at Bedtime on Radio 4 was the limit of my literary listening.
But this was a whole book. What if I didn’t care for the experience? AAAARGH!
This week I want to praise books with friends in them.
I confess, this is pure sentiment on my part. I’ve had an emotional time in which I have been hugely grateful for my friends. They sustain me. This week I’ve been on a writing retreat with several of them, and they were stars. When asked, they gave me constructive suggestions. If necessary, they took the piss out of me. We laughed lots.
And they all held out a hand when I needed that, too.
So I started thinking about friends in books. It is not a genre that bookshops recognise. But it’s a quality that always enhances a book and often endears it to the reader.
Blessed Bertie Wooster is not just a silly ass, but a chap who touches your heartstrings for exactly that reason. He sets out his stall in Right Ho, Jeeves. “Gussie and I, as I say, had rather lost touch, but all the same I was exercised about the poor fish, as I am about all my pals, close or distant, who find themselves treading upon Life’s banana skins.” Ah yes. A chap one can rely on. Definitely hero material. I knew there had to be a reason why I’ve always loved him so much. Continue reading →
Rosie M Banks is a mysterious figure. In theory she is a writer of fiction (romantic) created by another writer of fiction (humorous). She is not even a major character in any of his novels. But she inhabits PGW’s world as solidly as Bertie or Lord Emsworth, albeit at considerably further distance from the reader.
Last week, I looked at her first appearance along with many other romantic novelists who figure in Wodehouse World. Though she stands head and shoulders above the others.
This week, as a Christmas treat – mainly for myself, I admit – I thought I would ask this towering figure of our genre to speak for herself.
Hello from Rosie M Banks
RMB How very kind of you, Sophie. Libertà Books is one of my favourite websites. I’m very honoured to be asked.
SW [you get the feeling she has been interviewed many times before. Many, many times] Our pleasure, Ms Banks. First question, if I may: did you always want to be a romantic novelist?Continue reading →
Just over a week ago I asked an expert why P G Wodehouse seemed so out of sympathy with the romantic novelist. Did he know one?
This is where I should probably admit that I have a sneaky image of a young Barbara Cartland pursuing him. Well, PGW was a big name when he visited London in the 20s and she was a newbie author and playwright.
If they did meet, I would put good money on him evaporating sharpish. He had perfected the technique. His family called it the Wodehouse Glide. But nobody I’ve come across has offered any evidence of Wodehouse encountering a romantic novelist in real life.
The expert said, quite rightly, that PGW was pretty brisk on the subject of all sorts of pretentiousness. And, anyway, PGW handed out as many knocks to male poets as he did to female novelists.Continue reading →
In my post on Fictional Blondes I promised that there would be another piece on More Blondes with further consideration of the phenomenon in the works of Raymond Chandler and other 20th Century masters.
So here it is.
MORE BLONDES FROM CHANDLER
In 1953, Chandler wrote what was possibly his masterpiece – The Long Goodbye. The narrator is again his honourable loner private eye, Phillip Marlowe. He still battles the forces of corruption, injustice and conflicted loyalties. He is as clever, wary and tough as usual. But he is not invincible – and this time the police arrest him for murder.
But this is a darker book than its predecessors. It is full of damaged people. Two in particular must have been very close to what Chandler felt himself to be: the self-doubting alcoholic writer, Roger Wade, and a psychologically wounded war veteran.
And it is this book, heartfelt and dangerously close to home, in which Chandler/Marlowe has a substantial digression on blondes – and it’s not for fun. Continue reading →
The fantastic experience of visiting the250-year-old Leeds Library started me thinking about how my life has been marked out in libraries and, specifically, my first library. It was a small, very definitely a suburban sub-branch. But its great virtue was that it was at the end of the road. Ten minutes walk from home, tops!
And it had a visiting cat.
(No, not this one. This is my own TK. My own books too, come to think of it.)
This week I spent a day with Georgette Heyer. Billed as The Nonesuch Conference, this was at a hybrid gathering at London University, offering a selection of papers from accredited academics together with reader/writer participation from people labelled in the programme as independent scholars.
Clearly, and heartwarmingly, most of the speakers I heard were also fans.
It was preceded by a writing workshop the day before. And there was a Regency Soirée in the evening after the conference, which sounds like a lot of fun.
Sadly, I couldn’t make either of these events. For one thing I’m still convalescent. (My energy gives out unexpectedly, so I didn’t want to push it.) For another, the programme was really full. Academics seemed to be supercharged, cheerily steaming from session to session, enthusiasm still at white heat.
When I read my notes I was astonished at the sheer volume of ideas I had noted down for further consideration. Continue reading →
The first thing my agent ever said to me was, “Readers hate first person narrative.” I had sent her a thrilling escape-from-the-bad-guys romantic suspense set in Greece under the Colonels. And, yes, it was told in the first person.
Still she’d read the thing. And then taken me to lunch.
So I nodded politely and murmured that it seemed to have worked all right for Jonathan Swift, Charles Dickens, P G Wodehouse and Mary Stewart.
“Yes, but they’re great,” she said impatiently.
I couldn’t deny it.
“What you need to do is forget all this ‘I think, I feel’ stuff. Readers won’t buy it. Concentrate on what people DO.” Continue reading →
By Day 10, the deranged True Love is sending along an almost football team of male aristocrats engaged in unlikely gymnastics. Were I the recipient I would go away pretty sharpish, not leaving a forwarding address.
The British 1970s Christmas stamp depicting these Lords (and yesterday’s Ladies) is chilling. At least, I think so. Continue reading →