Sunday, 15 November 2015


This week's Booking Through Thursday is:

What book (or books) from your childhood do you think about most often? That had the most effect on your life? 

I devoured books even as a child, but the ones that I really reread and took in most were Terry Pratchett's wonderful Discworld series. I read the lot (and the new ones as and when they came out) several times over, in chronological order, or sorted by character groups, and so on.

I also really loved Jane Austen's novels, particularly Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion. George Eliot's Middlemarch was another one - it was my gran's favourite book, and she gave me her own copy before she died. The variety of characters and the depth and complexity of their feelings and situations kept me coming back to reread it.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Film adaptation - Dangerous Liaisons (1988)

I eventually got round to watching the second of the three Dangerous Liaisons adaptations, this one taking the title from the book and released in 1988. It had a surprisingly star-studded cast, with a young John Malkovich playing Valmont, opposite Glenn Close, Michelle Pfeiffer and Uma Thurman as his various love interests.

Although the peasant village that was shown briefly did have a very rough, clumsy feel and the peasants were suspiciously clean by modern, gritty standards, in general it felt as though a lot of effort was made with historical accuracy, with the style of dress, furnishings and hair. One thing that did jar with me was the American accents – I know that, with the original being in French and the novel set in France, even an RP English accent would have been 'wrong', but I guess I'm just so used to period dramas using English accents that it seemed odd. A younger Peter Capaldi with long hair and his strong Scottish accent as a servant was totally worth it though.

The quality of the acting was wonderful (except perhaps from Keanu Reeves, but I didn't expect him to be able to move his face much back then either), and the emotional intensity, particularly between Malkovich and Close, kept me glued to the screen. I particularly liked that this adaptation, while recognising that the Marquise de Merteuil is a very selfish and manipulative character, also gave us a chance to empathise with her rather than demonising her in the way that Cruel Intentions does.

Overall, a very enjoyable and pretty accurate period adaptation.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Lullaby - Chuck Palahniuk

Reporter Carl Streator has been assigned to investigating Sudden Infant Death Syndrome for his newspaper, and notices a pattern in all the scenes he's been called to see. At every single one of them, a poetry anthology is, or has been, open at page 27 on an old African culling song. To confirm this theory, he reads the poem to his editor, who fails to come in to work the following day. However, we discover that this is also a very personal quest for Streator – he accidentally caused the death of his own wife and child 20 years earlier by reading them the very same poem.

Occult real estate agent Helen Hoover Boyle (who specialises in selling haunted houses and profiting by the frequent sales commissions as clients are keen to get rid of them again very quickly), has come to the same conclusion as Streator through her own investigations. The pair, along with Helen's secretary Mona and Mona's hippie boyfriend Oyster, race to destroy the remaining 200 copies of a limited edition print, before the poem becomes public knowledge.

Lullaby is at once disturbing, gripping and surprisingly funny in a bizarre, cynical kind of way. Palahniuk explores the different temptations for people with an inhuman power, the power to kill anyone they want to, instantly, with no more than a thought or a few words. How it changes the characters and the ways they cope with it forms a fascinating part of the story.

The brusque, matter-of-fact narrative tone lends a poignancy to grief, and a sense of detachment to several rather gory scenes, and the characters are colourful and eccentric in a manner more usually found in comedic novels.

Lullaby is a fascinating, dark but sometimes very funny exploration of the power of language and of the corruption of power. Very much worth reading, and I can guarantee you'll never have read anything like it before.

Next up: Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

Friday, 6 November 2015


This week's Booking Through Thursday is:

Have you ever damaged a book? Dropped it in the bathtub? Spilled a bottle of ink? Used it to mop up spilled wine? Or just broken its back (poor thing).

 Never on purpose! I have spilled water on books a few times, and felt terrible about it while it dried out all crinkly over a radiator. I've spilled food on them a couple of times too, leaving unfortunate food stains on the pages.

I hate seeing them damaged, even newer books, although it's really heartbreaking to see a wonderful old book that's survive 100 years intact get hurt. I have to avert my eyes when I pass shops that use pages from old books or sheet music.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

The Rose Rent - Ellis Peters

The thirteenth Cadfael novel, The Rose Rent, is a little bit more than a detective story. Young widow Judith Perle, who rents property to the abbey for the token price of a single rose delivered on the same day once every year, goes missing a couple of days before this rent is due, following the mysterious near-destruction of the rose bush in question. As the sheriff and the abbey are well aware, failed payment of this rent, would legally result in the property defaulting back to Mistress Perle, and puts suspicion on some of her would-be suitors would might aspire to own it themselves.

Ellis Peters uses more of an open style of narration than usual in this novel, and we see events from a diverse range of points of view. With an ingenuity worthy of Agatha Christie, this is cleverly used to hide facts in plain sight and to bring about a genuinely surprising ending.

The main point of this novel, for me, wasn't simply solving the original murder of a young monk found dead after defending the unlucky rose bush. It was more an exploration of grief and love, seeing the young widow begin to stop mourning her first husband and starting to move on with her life, and we see a wide selection of suitors each with their own agenda, all eager to marry into the prosperous business Judith has inherited.

Overall this novel felt more sophisticated as a plot than many of the preceding ones, and had an emotional complexity that really made it come alive.

Next up: Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk