Finally a fictional experience of motherhood I can relate to in Bishop’s The Other Side of the World

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Charlotte and Henry married, and had a child, then another. Charlotte is run down by the monotony of motherhood and Henry by the English weather as opposed to childhood memories of India. Henry decides to move them to Australia, where Charlotte continues to struggle, and their marriage becomes less and less close as they refuse to recognise what each other needs.

After my recent revelations of the lack of realistic mothers in fiction, this book was refreshing. Here was a young mother facing what I do every day; the relentless needs of (admirably adorable) children, the sacrifice of self that you aren’t quite sure you signed up for, the challenges of being at home on your own. Though for me this was the most compelling as it is the closest to my current experience, the rest of the book was excellent too, with the themes coming through the sparse prose almost between the words rather than through them.

And it’s rather lucky that I enjoyed it, as I’m going to an event with author Stephanie Bishop tomorrow, as well as Eowyn Ivey, author of one of my all time favourite books The Snow Child and new release To the Bright Edge of the World. Exciting!

Back to the book.

So apparently people had sex in the olden days – The Vatican Princess by C W Gortner

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When Lucrezia’s father, with a mixture of force, bribery and persuasion, is made Pope, Lucrezia becomes a pawn in the power games always going on all around her. And her beauty is her chief weapon; but this works against her as often as for her. Trying to navigate between her brother’s deadly rivalry and desire for her, the husbands who try to wrest her loyalty away from her father, Lucrezia finds herself right in the middle of huge historical events as well as her own personal trauma.

I was hoping here to find out some more about a historical period. To discover more about the life of a historical figure I hadn’t heard of before. And, this kind of happened. But mainly this book seemed to be making the oh-so-laboured point, people in the olden days actually had sex. I mean, it was pretty much all the book was about: Lucrezia and the many men she attracted. I was hoping for a fuller picture. 

One of the strangest books I’ve ever read – The Great and Calamitous Tale of Johann Thoms by Ian Thornton

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Johann Thoms is injured on the estate of a local nobleman when he is young, leading the strange and guilty landlord to take him under his wing. Thoms seems to live a charmed life until he becomes accidentally partly responsible for an atrocity that changes history, and trying to escape his past goes on a bizarre trip through Europe.

I honestly don’t know what to make of this book. While reading it I had no idea where it was going, almost gave up on it several times and was surprised plenty of times. From the story to the framing narrative which I could never really work out, the whole thing was utterly bizarre.

Why can I only find these two great literary apps?

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The world of literature has always evolved, changed, innovated and experimented. And so I have been hoping over the last few years that with apps popping up all over the place, we’d be treated to some new, exciting and experimental literature. Telling stories in new ways, using words in new ways.

But so far, I’ve only seen it done well in these two apps:

A fantastic story from the King of Allegory C.S. Lewis – The Great Divorce

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Our narrator is on a very special sort of visit, through the dark and murky streets of the afterlife and then onwards to the hyper-real heaven, where he and fellow travellers in their current state seem faint and fragile. Soon each of them is met by a person they admire, and faced with a challenge to their thinking, behaviour or history that they must face or change if they want to move forward to the wonders beyond.

Only C.S. Lewis could write this sort of story and not be preachy or annoying, and make it compelling and exciting. This was a slim book but I finished it so quickly because it was just fascinating!! Deep thoughtfulness mixed with simple language, masterful storytelling and real humanity. Lewis, you genius.

A wild, weird but well-told world in Eowyn Ivey’s To the Bright Edge of the World

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Young, quiet and curious Sophie has just married the older, serious and thoughtful Lieutenant Colonel Allen Forrester who is charged with exploring the wild, dangerous and uncharted Wolverine River in Alaska. He starts a journey through wild landscapes and peoples that blurs his perception of what is possible and what is real, leaving a pregnant Sophie alone at the military barracks, for an unexpected 

This book was fantastic. I’m not sure what could have been a more appealing idea for me: Alaska, magic, adventure, letters, a great heroine and all by the author of one of my very favourites, The Snow Child.  And it was wonderful. Ivey explores a new type of storytelling to great effect, and proves her mastery of magic realism again.

The Experience Factor – why Millenials will never abandon books for digital.

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For my generation, experience is everything. Perhaps it’s a product of the digital age, where so much is at our fingertips, but intangible. Perhaps it’s a product of our desperation to display what an amazing life we’re having on instagram. Perhaps it’s a product of our comparative wealth and being able to own things easily. It’s probably a mix of all these things and more, but the fact remains. Experience is King. We want to be somewhere, to hear something, feel, taste or see something ourselves. And that is why books aren’t going anywhere.

Jostein Gaarder’s last book: The World According to Anna

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Anna is passionate about the environment, and as she approaches her 16th birthday she begins to have strange dreams of a future world where her granddaughter lives. Here nature is ravaged, and the human race scrabbling to survive on the few remaining resources. But Anna has a chance: a magical ring that could change everything. 

Jostein Gaardner is one of my favourites. His blend of philosophy, weirdness and excellent stories created some of the most intriguing books that I’ve ever read. But when I realised this, his last novel published posthumously, was about climate change, I was worried. Can anyone make such a guilt-ridden topic enjoyably readable?? Happily, he did.

HOW DO THEY DO IT? Jane Austen Improv that blew my mind!

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Mr Pickett, a rather girly young man with a penchant for flowers, has fallen desperately in love with new arrival to Bath Clarissa Fences. She is desperately allergic to flowers, but nevertheless after a disastrous first meeting they reconvene at a bridge of flowers, only for her to be kidnapped by the notorious White brothers, one of whom she recently and scandalously married at a ceremony of dubious validity. Her Welsh, arsonist’s widow aunt Carmine, Mr Pickett and his sister Caroline all team together to find her, happily unharmed, but the White brothers who own all the newspapers have him thrown into jail. Happily our strange trio band together again, bust him out and then Mr Pickett and Mr White have a noble thumb war to the death, and the lovebirds are finally united.

I went out without my baby. I went to the THEATRE without my baby. Before the incredible theatre experience that was HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD which I’ll post about soon, I went out with my university friends to see an improvised Jane Austen play. And I’ll be honest, I had doubts. I’ve seen comedy adaptations of classical works before that have left me frustrated and disapproving. And really any adaptations are a risky game in my book. But Austentatious (company and show name) were just FANTASTIC!!