Monday, August 26, 2013

Discussion: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

A first for me as a Book Blogger, Helen from Fennell Books and I live in the same small town and attend the same book club.  Last year we both read The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce and when it came up as a book club read a couple of months ago we decided to get bloggy with it and collaborate...

Harold Fry was Helen's favourite book of last year, and I loved it too. You can see Helen's post hereSo, join us, pour yourself a G&T/wine/diet coke/your tipple of choice... and read on.  
Be warned, spoilers ahead!

H: So, was it better on the second read? I got a lot more from it the second time around.

L:  Definitely.  I think that it's one of those rare books that you could read again and again and always see something more with each reading.  A bit like watching a murder mystery and knowing who the killer is, seeing the clues you missed before.

H: I was wondering whether Queenie wrote to lots of people she knew to tell them her sad news, or whether it was just Harold. She clearly still loved him  I got the impression that Queenie was as isolated as Harold in her own way, so I couldn't see her writing to anyone else. I confirmed this when 
met Rachel Joyce at a Mr B’s event. She sad that Queenie had been very lonely all of her life.

H: Do you think that Harold and Queenie would have had a good relationship if they'd been together?

L: At first I did, but then as I thought about it Harold and Queenie were too similar.  Harold would have appreciated the quiet contented life with Queenie, but I don't think he ever had that mad rush of love with her that he had with Maureen.

H: Did you have a favourite part? 
I thought the parts when a small crowd joined him and they set up a Facebook page and sponsors appeared was very clever, and I can see that really happening. It was a clever contrast to the idea of this somehow being a "spiritual" journey for Harold.

L: The crowds and publicity, facebook page etc... was absolutely believable and inspired (though a little horrifying too), though I think my favourite part was everything after Harold finally reaches Queenie, even though that's the most heartbreaking part of the story, it's also the most uplifting too.  Is it weird to enjoy having your heart broken by a book?

I was a little puzzled by Harold's wife's response. She just let him go, and didn't seem concerned at all. I know their marriage was in a poor state, but it seemed odd to me.

L: I thought her strange too.  At first my impression was that she saw Harold as someone who just sort of shuffles through life never really doing anything significant or having an impact on the world around him, I don't think she ever expected him to actually commit to doing something like this and seeing it through to the end.  I think she expected him to give up when it got difficult and go home to sit at the table and be in her way.  I saw the Litlovers questions online and one of them suggested the idea that Maureen did not want to acknowledge that Harold might be walking away from his life as much as he was walking toward Queenie.  I think that was pretty insightful.

H: What did you think about the reveal of the fate of Harold's son? I wasn't surprised that the relationship had gone wrong. Harold had a poor upbringing in the sense of any close emotional support and so I got the impression he simply didn't know how to love. Perhaps Queenie could have been the one to show him how to care for another person, but he missed his chance. Maybe walking to see Queenie was Harold's way of learning.

L: I was so upset as all the way through Joyce had hinted that David and his mother were talking and I thought there would be a chance they would make up and build a healthy relationship.  Harold's inability to deal with negative emotions and conflict and David's attitude created a vicious escalating circle and I don't know if either could have saved the situation.  I think you're right about Harold's walking to Queenie was his way of learning, just sadly far too late for David.

L: I was a little underwhelmed by the amazing thing that Queenie had done for Harold in the past, what did you think?  From the way that Harold recalled it I was anticipating that she'd saved his life, or given David a kidney or something.  What she did was awfully generous and nice of her, but I can't help thinking that not working for Napier would be a good thing for Queenie.  I can't blame Harold for doing what he did, and would probably have done exactly the same thing far sooner.  I am very glad he had that outburst, metaphorical fist-bumps all around.

H: How many tissues did you need at the end? 
I cried buckets. It was so sad, but also so full of hope.

L: First time I read the book I read it nearly to the end without a tear and then he reached Queenie and I couldn't stop crying, seriously sobbing.  Second time around I had sad moments all the way through, since I knew what had happened to them in the past.

L: I remember you mentioning a Guardian article and revealing that Joyce wrote the book while her father was dying of cancer.  That suddenly made everything seem more intense somehow.  Also even more sad.  I know that you attended an author chat with Rachel Joyce recently (sooo jealous), did she say anything else about the story that would be good to know, or was it mostly about her new book?

H: There was a session about Harold Fry and then another session about Perfect, her new book. We talked about who might play Harold in a film version. David Jason was mentioned, but I am not sure he is “shuffley” enough…

I hope you enjoyed reading our discussion, here's hoping we can do some more from time to time!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

What books are you taking on holiday?

For me the question of what books to take on holiday is harder than what clothes, or shoes to take.  Those are easy, I can be packed for a two week holiday in half an hour.  But I spend days thinking about what books to take.  There's a lot of thought goes into it, what books are on my kindle, what real books do I want to take, how much room/weight in my case is there?  How much reading time will I realistically get?  Would I consider leaving any behind at the end of the trip?  And the biggest question of all - what will I actually WANT to read?

The kindle definitely makes this easier, provided you have a good selection of books on there that you want to read!  We bought a holiday home on the south coast this summer, so I don't have to worry about the limitations of a case, I have a whole car boot to fill up!!

This is what I'll be taking for a two week trip:

The Selected Works of TS Spivet by Rief Larson  (borrowed from the Library)
Down the Rabbit Hole by Juan Pablo Villalobos  (Kindle)
Flashman by Gordon MacDonald Fraser  (Kindle)
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern - need to finish, leave behind
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro - need to finish, leave behind
The Coral Thief by Rebecca Stott - need to finish, leave behind
The Book of Dead Days by Marcus Sedgwick  (Kindle)
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

I think that's a fairly good broad range of styles and themes, so there should be something to keep me interested.

In addition to this about half way through I have a day in Bath featuring a Bibliotherapy Spa session at Mr B's and an Author Event as well to see Juan Pablo Villalobos.  No doubt during this event I will be picking up about 15-20 new books.  Oh, I can't wait!!

What books are you taking?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday # 17

This week's top ten is all about what makes our blogging lives easier.  Definitely need to check this one out with other bloggers since I've been so lax lately.

I only made nine again this week...

Blogspot scheduler!! This means that when I'm away for the next two weeks on holiday my Top Ten's etc… will still get published (though not linked to from Broke and Bookish).  Provided I'm organised enough and have read enough to write about naturally.

Bookmarks!  I'm good at remembering page numbers but when I put a book down for a long time and then return to it it's good to know where I left off.  I can usually pick up the story again quickly.

Kindle - when I'm away I love my kindle, it really comes into it's own.  I've taken stacks of books on holiday before, but they take up so much room, they weigh so much, and I hate leaving them behind.  My kindle means I can take hundreds of books wherever I go with no extra baggage allowance needed.  I recently lost my kindle, and I hated not having it to hand.  Found it now, just in time for my holiday!

My book journal.  When I'm being good and organised I write down details of the books I'm reading, what I think, quotes I like etc… which makes it easier to write reviews afterwards, and I don't have to reread the book to get the quotes I want!  I've been very bad at doing this lately!

Goodreads - I keep track here of everything I've read since starting my goodreads account, how I rated it, which edition I read, the ISBN number, picture which I use for the blog etc… seriously makes things easier.  I also love their Quotes section, meaning I can always find that quote I forgot to note down when I was reading.

Other people's blogs, not just for ideas of new books to read, but to get alternative perspectives on something I've just read which sometimes help to corral my thoughts.

My book club - At least once a month there will be a book that I have to read, often well out of my comfort zone.  This has opened up totally new horizons for me, well worth it!  In addition our discussions give me more to think about, which I would hope rounds out my reviews.

My bath tub.  Seriously.  Our house is crazy busy and it's not that often that I am granted some peace and quiet to read.  Bathtime is often the only chance I will get to relax in peace and read uninterrupted for a while (until someone knocks on the door to ask if I've died in there).

Library!! From online book location and reservations service, to being able to use any library in Hampshire.  I've seriously under used my library for many years, and it's time to start before they all disappear.  Not only does it save me money, I don't overload my shelves, and I HAVE to read the book in the allotted time, none of that putting it aside and leaving it for months.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday #16

This week's Top Ten is a really fun one.  The theme is book settings, but it's a kind of 'make up your own list' as you can choose your setting, and other people's will be very different.  I've had great fun reading other people's lists, so much so that I nearly forgot to post my own!! 

Read more for yourself via the Host site at The Broke and The Bookish

My selection is...  My Top Ten Nine favourite books set in an alternate Earth.  The idea is that the setting is the same as our Earth except for one difference.  Here's my list...

Fatherland by Robert Harris - The difference between that world and ours is that Hitler and the Nazi's won the second world war.

Rivers of London - The PC Peter Grant series by Ben Aaronovitch.  The difference here is that Magic is real and present, and PC Peter Grant is a trainee Wizard in a London redolent with Ghosts and all manner of strange goings on.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, An alternate underground London, who knows - maybe it is real :-)

Stardust, also by Neil Gaiman.  Somewhere in the Victorian English countryside there's a wall and on the other side of the wall is a land of magic and mystery.  Most of the story takes place in the land of Faerie, but some is in England.  Again, the delight with Gaiman is in imagining that it could be real.

Northern Lights - His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman.  The trilogy starts with Northern Lights, and begins in an Oxford where human souls take the form of animals.

Harry Potter books by JK Rowling.  Can't pick a favourite, they're all fabl!  Another world where magic exists alongside our own muggle-lives.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold.  OK, so technically it is meant to be our Earth, but even though this book really was very disturbing for me (personal reasons), I loved the otherworldliness of Susie Salmon's afterlife.

It would hardly be a list of mine without some mention of the following author's alternate versions of England...

The Eyre Affair from The Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde (start with The Eyre Affair, but for heaven's sake don't stop there as they get better and better!).  The Eyre Affair starts in an alternate Swindon of 1985 where literature dominates our culture, the Crimean War lasted much longer, cheese is illegal, Wales is not part of the UK and time travel is possible on the basis that at some point in the future someone has probably invented it.

The Fourth Bear from The Nursery Crime series by Jasper Fforde.  This is set in another alternate 1985, this time in Reading where PDR's (Persons of Dubious Reality) are alive and well and living among us.  DCI Jack Spratt and his faithful assistant Mary Mary investigate various Nursery Rhyme related Crimes... in The Fourth Bear Jack is investigating the mysterious disappearance of a blonde news reporter called Goldilocks who went missing near the three Bears house.  In the other book in the series The Big Over Easy, Jack investigates the apparent suicide of Mr H Dumpty who jumped off a wall, but Jack thinks he was pushed.  The Gingerbread Man features in both books as a particularly evil character who can run really fast.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday #15

This week's Top Ten Theme is Books That Need Sequels.

It's all about those books that were complete stories in their own right but I'm not ready to let go and really want to spend more time in that world.  Or maybe the author didn't finish it the way I wanted, and another book would just tie up those loose ends properly.

I realised that I've been reading a fair amount of books from series lately, and it's hard to think back over the stand alone's.  I'm not sure I've really got my true favourites but here's the nine that first came to mind...

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak.  I don't necessarily need to know what happened to Liesel after she left Himmel St, but I would dearly love to know who else has made Death take notice.

The Howling Miller by Arto Paasilinna.  I loved it, but I would have liked a little more or another book.  I just would dearly love to see the village accept Gunnar for the eccentric but harmless sweetie he is.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins.  Please please please give us the 'Director's Cut' edition and deal with the ending in a better way.  I'd also like a Prequel I think, or maybe a few of them!  I have so many questions!  How did North America become Panem... what happened in earlier Games, especially the first games... The rebellion of District 13,  so many ways this world could be expanded.

The Host by Stephenie Meyer.  Well?  What happened next?  What's the story with the other rebels?  How did Wanderers species arrive on the planet and take it over?

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, I think this one will have made a few lists.  I'd like to see Scout grown up and working as a human rights lawyer, what cases she works on etc... Atticus as an old man giving sage words of advice as always.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.  What happened to Lizzie and Darcy after they were married?  Georgiana, Jane and Bingley, Even Lizzie's other sisters?  Did Lady Catherine De Bourgh get over herself yet?  Did Charlotte in fact totally lose control and bash Mr Collins' head in with a garden spade?  These are the kinds of thing I want to know.

Nightfall by Isaac Asmiov and Robert Silverberg.  How did the planet and the surviving Kalgashians recover?  Were they able to learn anything at all from the experience?  What about next time?  Is there already a sequel?  Dean McLaughlin's novel 'Dawn' is apparently a more optimistic version of Nightfall... maybe I'll line that up to read sometime.

Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch.  Admittedly I've cheated the list a little here, as this is the second in the Gentlemen Bastards series, it just needs the promised sequel (The Republic of Thieves) not to slip it's publication date!  Currently scheduled for October this year.  Can't Wait!!

The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway.  Again a bit of a cheat.  I confess I'm a time travel junkie, and another book is apparently on it's way.  Phew!

The small print:  The Top Ten Tuesday meme originates at The Broke and The Bookish, check out their site for more information.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Where in the literary world are you today?

This is a lovely idea I saw on my friend's book blog at Fennell Books, and every now and then I choose to follow her excellent example and post my own entry..

This week I am not on Earth.  I am on a world investigating the possibility that the six suns that orbit my planet are due to be eclipsed for the first time in over 2000 years, the likely result - Apocalypse.