What makes your blog unique?
There are so many excellent book blogs that it’s difficult to be genuinely unique. Like most bloggers, my site features reviews of books and comments on reading related topics (especially the future of bookstores and libraries) Maybe the one thing I’ve been writing about that I haven’t seen elsewhere is a series of articles on the ‘life and times of the novel’ – it’s about the way the novel has developed over the centuries. The first post in the series tackled the question of ‘which novel was the first published in England’ and the most recent looked at the connection between railways and the rising popularity of the novel.
What have you just finished reading? What are you currently reading?
I just finished Capital by John Lanchester which is one of those ‘state of the nation’ type novels set in London in 2007. It’s a world of conspicuous consumption and pre- banking-crisis bonuses of eye-watering proportions. Lanchester conveys the lives of the inhabitants of one south London street over the course of a year. My current book is Petals of Blood by the Kenyan author Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, a book that led to his imprisonment without trial.
What advice do you have for new bloggers?
I’ve been blogging for only just over a year so I still consider myself very much a newbie with a lot to learn. One thing I’ve realised is that blogging can be a solitary experience unless you get involved with other bloggers – commenting on their posts for example or joining in some of the community activities like Armchair BEA or group challenges like the Classics Club.
What are your hobbies outside of reading and blogging?
My house is packed with projects that I’ve started in a fit of enthusiasm for some hobby or other: tapestry cushion covers that I’ve yet to finish, bits of mosaic that I hope one day to turn into a garden wall art piece; mountains of beads that are waiting to be threaded. One day I will get to them. But first I have to finish discovering the history of my great grandfather’s life as a Boer War and then World War 1 solider as part of my family history project. Roll on retirement!
If you were the heroine of a novel, what genre book would it be?
The genre that I enjoy reading the most is realist so I could see myself posed at an escritoire looking very serious. But then historic fiction would give me the chance to pretend I have the kind of figure that looks fabulous in one of those medieval style gowns that drape over the body and have a girdle belt around the hips.
What book would you most like to be the cover model for?
It would have to be George Eliot’s Middlemarch. A book that no matter how many times I read it, I still find some new aspect to appreciate. I could see myself as the idealistic Dorothea who is desperate to do something of value but doesn’t quite know what.
What is one thing on your bookish bucket list?
Until just a few weeks ago I would have said that top of my wish list was a visit to the Hay Literary Festival in Wales. It started with a few people meeting in one of the 30 or so bookshops in the town and has grown to become an international event attracting top notch speakers like Will Self, or Carl Bernstein and Bill Clinton. I got there eventually this year – what a superb experience.
- Board Game: Trivial Pursuit (but only if you’ll let me land on literature questions and miss the science and sports ones)
- Dessert: I don’t eat them often but when I do, invariably its something that contains chocolate. The more chocolate the better but preferably mixed with something else. Some desserts I particularly remember – a chill flavoured chocolate ice cream in a Manhattan restaurant whose name I have lost; a dense chocolate sponge with fresh strawberries in a Michigan bistro and my first Dame Blanche (the classic Belgian dessert of ice cream and hot chocolate sauce). Remembering these has me drooling….
- Movie Based on Book: It’s impossible to choose just one so I’m going to cheat with two. By coincidence they both starred Anthony Hopkins who comes from my part of the world. The Remains of the Day, the Booker prize winning novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, is a deceptively simple, but painful, story about a butler at an English country estate who has subsumed his emotions so deeply that when he gets an opportunity of happiness he can’t reach out to the woman who loves him. Nor does he admit that the Lord whose estate he runs so efficiently, is a traitor to his country. The film is a beautifully shot Merchant Ivory production full of sumptuous countryside and period detail. My other choice is 84 Charing Cross Road – by Helene Hanff which tells of her 20 year relationship across the Atlantic with an antiquarian book shop in London. It’s related entirely by letter since the two never meet, which means Hanff’s wit and sometimes caustic humour is preserved perfectly. Anne Bancroft does superb job of projecting the edge and yet the softness to Hanff’s character.
- Sport: Carrying bags of heavy books home from book sales and book shops keeps my biceps in good order.
- Television Show: I’m a fan of the West Wing. The fast paced action in the early episodes took some getting used to and I always watched the program wondering how these people managed to survive on so little sleep. But the characterisation was brilliant.