TBR Thursday 79… and End of Month Round-Up

People’s Choice 10 – The Result…

 

Well! The People’s Choice Begorrathon Special was exciting! One book raced into a clear read from the beginning and held off all challengers as it stormed towards the finishing line. So I hereby declare…

This Week’s Winner…

 

instructions for a heatwave

The Blurb – It’s July 1976. In London, it hasn’t rained for months, gardens are filled with aphids, water comes from a standpipe, and Robert Riordan tells his wife Gretta that he’s going round the corner to buy a newspaper. He doesn’t come back. The search for Robert brings Gretta’s children — two estranged sisters and a brother on the brink of divorce — back home, each with different ideas as to where their father might have gone. None of them suspects that their mother might have an explanation that even now she cannot share. Maggie O’Farrell’s sixth book is the work of an outstanding novelist at the height of her powers.

Thanks to Naomi at Consumed by Ink for the review that brought this book to my attention.

* * * * * * *

And thanks to all who voted! It wouldn’t be the People’s Choice without you!

The book will be added to my TBR – now all I have to do is find time to read it!

* * * * * * *

TBR Quarterly Report…

 

At the New Year I added up the full extent of the horror of the TBR, including the bits I usually hide. So time for another count to see how I’m doing…

TBR March 2016

Woohoo! The mathematically astute amongst you will note that although the official TBR has gone up, the overall total has gone down! This is due to books moving off the wishlist onto the TBR – see? I’m the Queen of Willpower and Spreadsheets – I’m so proud of myself. If I continue at this rate, the TBR will be clear by… 2038!

* * * * * * *

Reading Ireland Month – #begorrathon16…

 

I have thoroughly enjoyed participating in the Begorrathon throughout March, and I hope you’ve enjoyed it too. I’d like to thank Cathy at 746 Books for creating this event and for all the hard work she’s done to make the bookish side of it a huge success. Not only has she inspired people all over the blogosphere to participate, but she’s pulled all the posts together to make them easy to access – here’s the link. And she has been the major contributor herself, with a series of brilliant posts that have introduced me to loads of new authors and taught me a lot about Irish literature.

Well done, Cathy – take a bow!!

 

I also must thank Cathy for her great giveaway, WHICH I WON!! Look what I WON!!!

* * * * *

the visitorThe Visitor is the haunting tale of Anastasia King, who, at the age of twenty-two, returns to her grandmother’s house in Dublin – the very house where she grew up – after six long years away. She has been in Paris, comforting her disgraced and dying mother, who ran away from a disastrous marriage to Anastasia’s late father, her grandmother’s only son. It is a story of Dublin and the unkind, ungenerous, emotionally unreachable side of the Irish temperament. Recently found in a university archive, The Visitor was written in the mid-1940s but was never published. This miraculous literary discovery deepens the oeuvre of Maeve Brennan and confirms her status as one of the best Irish writers of stories since Joyce.

* * * * *

the long gaze backThe Long Gaze Back, edited by Sinéad Gleeson, is an exhilarating anthology of short stories by some of the most gifted women writers this island has ever produced. Taken together, the collected works of these writers reveal an enrapturing, unnerving, and piercingly beautiful mosaic of a lively literary landscape. The Long Gaze Back features 22 new stories by some of the most talented Irish women writers working today. The anthology presents an inclusive and celebratory portrait of the high calibre of contemporary literature in Ireland.

These stories run the gamut from heartbreaking to humorous, but each leaves a lasting impression. They chart the passions, obligations, trials and tribulations of a variety of vividly-drawn characters with unflinching honesty and relentless compassion. These are stories to savour.

Aren’t I lucky? 😀

 

* * * * * * *

The Around the World in 80 Books Challenge – #AW80Books

Hosted by Sarah and Lucy at the wonderful Hard Book Habit…

Well, having spent the entire month in Ireland, unsurprisingly that’s the only destination I’m adding this month, and of all the books I’ve read the one I’m going to choose for this challenge is…

the heather blazing

Click to see the review

So here’s the summary to date…

780px-Around_the_World_in_Eighty_Days_map

The Main Journey

  1. London  – Martin Chuzzlewit
  2. Orient Express
  3. FranceThe Sisters of Versailles
  4. Alps
  5. Venice
  6. Brindisi
  7. Mediterranean Sea
  8. Suez
  9. Egypt
  10. Red Sea/Arabian Sea
  11. Bombay
  12. Calcutta
  13. Kholby
  14. Elephant Travel
  15. Allahabad
  16. Indian Ocean/ South China Sea
  17. Hong Kong
  18. Shanghai
  19. Yokohama
  20. Pacific
  21. San Francisco
  22. Sioux lands
  23. Omaha
  24. New York – I Am No One
  25. Atlantic Ocean
  26. Queenstown (Cobh) Ireland
  27. London – The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

 

I’ve got books planned for some of the gaps, but am still open to suggestions for any of the places highlighted in red. Any genre…

The Detours

That leaves 53 spots for me to randomly tour the world, so here’s where I’ve been so far…

  1. The Hebrides – Coffin Road
  2. Florida – Their Eyes Were Watching God
  3. Iceland – Snowblind
  4. Himalayas – Black Narcissus
  5. Ireland – The Heather Blazing

 

9 down, 71 to go!

 

* * * * *

Phew! It’s been a fun month…thanks for sharing it with me!

The Heather Blazing by Colm Tóibín

Weighed in the balances…

😀 😀 😀 😀 🙂

the heather blazingOn the last day of the legal term, High Court judge Eamon Redmond will deliver a judgement and then head off for the summer to Cush on the coast of County Wexford, where he has spent all his summers since childhood. Outwardly he is a successful man, well respected in the country, an advisor to the government, and someone who takes the responsibility of his position seriously. But he is also reserved, his life ruled by order, and somewhat remote even from his closest family. As the summer progresses, he finds events in the present force him to revisit and re-assess his past.

Like so many of Tóibín’s books, this is almost entirely a character study with very little in the way of plot. Generally speaking, that doesn’t work for me, but Tóibín’s deceptively plain prose and in-depth understanding of the people and communities he’s writing about exert an almost hypnotic effect on me, drawing me into the lives of the people he offers up for inspection – characters so entirely real and well-drawn that it becomes hard after a time to think of them as in any way fictional. This effect is magnified by his siting of so many of his novels in and around the town of Enniscorthy, where Tóibín himself grew up – a place whose culture and society I have gradually come to feel I understand almost as intimately as my own hometown.

History plays a major role in this book, both personal and political. Eamon’s mother died in childbirth leaving him an only child to be brought up by his father and extended family. His grandfather was involved in the 1916 Easter Rising and his father too played a part, albeit small, in the troubled history of the country. Through them, Eamon is introduced early to the politics of Fianna Fáil, and the opportunity in his late teens to make a speech in front of the revered leader of the uprising, Éamon de Valera, gains him the support that sets him on the path to his present position. Yet now decades later, he is a pillar of the Establishment, delivering judgements on Nationalist terrorists.

begorrathon 2016

The same dichotomy exists in his personal life. The judgement he is about to give is on a schoolgirl, an unmarried mother, who wishes to go back to school. The Catholic school has expelled her on the grounds that her return would send a dangerous moral message to their other pupils. His musings show his doubts over the religious aspects built into the Constitution, and in his own ability to decide right and wrong. He considers using his judgement to redefine the family as it was understood when the Constitution was written, but in the end, through a kind of cowardice, he decides in favour of the school. It is a feature of his remoteness that he gives no consideration to the fact that his own daughter is pregnant and unmarried when reaching his decision – this is a man whose work and family are kept in strictly separate compartments.

Tóibín’s prose is always understated, relying on precision and clarity rather than poetic flourishes for its effect. Despite this, there is a deep emotionalism in his work, an utter truthfulness that can be, in its quietness, as devastating as any great overblown work of drama. In a book full of parallels, Eamon’s story is headed and tailed by two commonplace tragedies – his father’s stroke while Eamon was still at school, and his wife’s stroke and subsequent death in the present day. His early life is beautifully observed, with scenes such as the family gathering at Christmas showing all the depth of family and community in small town Ireland. And his courtship of Carmel, his future wife, is no Romeo and Juliet affair – it’s a truthful account of two young people coming together who share many of the same views on life and are able to compromise on the rest.

Colm Tóibín
Colm Tóibín

It is in understanding Eamon’s childhood and early years that we come to understand the adult man, and in a sense his life and family history mirrors that of Ireland too – the tumultuous century of rebellions and civil strife drawing towards a quieter ending as Tóibín was writing in the early ’90s; the past not forgotten, the future not yet certain, the direction in the hands of those in power, many of whom would have to make major shifts in their political stance to achieve a hope of settled peace. Tóibín is never overtly political in his writing, but his deep insight into this society of Enniscorthy, built up layer on layer with each book he sets there, provides a microcosm for us to see the slow process of change taking place, the small shifts in attitude that gradually make the big political adjustments possible.

In truth, Eamon’s story didn’t resonate with me quite as deeply as Tóibín’s women, but I suspect that’s to do with my own gender rather than the book. Sometimes my lack of knowledge of Irish history left me feeling I wasn’t getting the full nuance of parts of the story. But it is another wonderful character study, moving and insightful, that adds a further dimension to Tóibín’s portrayal of this community. Coincidentally, I followed immediately on my reading of this book with Joyce’s Dubliners, and began to feel that, although Tóibín is working on small-town life and in full-length novels, in some ways his books have the same effect as Joyce’s stories – each one concentrating on a single aspect, but together building to give a complete and profound picture of a complexly intertwined society.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

This post is part of Reading Ireland Month 2016 – #begorrathon16 – being jointly hosted by Cathy at 746 Books and Niall at Raging Fluff.

TBR Thursday 75…

The Begorrathon special…

 

A dramatic drop in the TBR this week! Down two to 160!! At that rate, I’ll have run out of things to read in less than two years!*

*(Later that same day… 2 approved by NetGalley. Back up to 162. Hurrah! My fears of running out were premature!)

begorrathon 2016

March is Begorrathon time (posh name: Reading Ireland Month 2016) – an event celebrating all things Irish, run jointly by Cathy at 746 Books and Raging Fluff. Though books are a big part of it, posts are also welcome on anything Irish – music, film, restaurants, recipes, your personal shillelagh collection, etc. For all the details, please pop over to Cathy’s blog – here’s the link – where you’ll find it’s the best sort of challenge – very relaxed, minimum rules, maximum fun!

So I’ve trawled through the TBR and boosted all the Irish books up the list in preparation. Here are the ones I hope to read and review during the Begorrathon… might not get through them all, what with review books and GAN Quests and New Year’s Resolutions and all, but we’ll see…

Fiction

 

the heather blazingI already included this in last week’s TBR Thursday, but when Cathy reminded me about The Begorrathon, I put it back to March.

The Blurb – The sea is slowly eating into the land, and the hill with the old watchtower has completely disappeared. The nearest house has crumbled and fallen into the sea. It is Ireland in the late twentieth century. Eamon Redmond is a judge in the Irish High Court. Obsessed all his life by the letter and spirit of the law, he is just beginning to discover how painfully unconnected he is from other human beings. With effortless fluency, Colm Tóibín reconstructs the history of Eamon’s relationships – with his father, his first “girl”, his wife, and the children who barely know him. He gives us a family as minutely realized as any of John McGahern’s, and he writes about Eamon’s affection for the landscape of his childhood on the east coast of Ireland with such skill that the land itself becomes a character. The result is a novel that ensnares us with its emotional intensity and dazzles with its crystalline prose.

* * * * *

 

the dublinersOK, I’ve been putting it off long enough – time for some Joyce! Jilanne recommended this one to me so long ago it’s embarrassing – she says The Dead is, perhaps, her favourite story of all time…

The BlurbAlthough James Joyce began these stories of Dublin life in 1904, when he was 22, and had completed them by the end of 1907, they remained unpublished until 1914 — victims of Edwardian squeamishness. Their vivid, tightly focused observations of the life of Dublin’s poorer classes, their unconventional themes, coarse language, and mention of actual people and places made publishers of the day reluctant to undertake sponsorship. Today, however, the stories are admired for their intense and masterly dissection of “dear dirty Dublin,” and for the economy and grace with which Joyce invested this youthful fiction.

* * * * *

 

let the great world spinThis should really be in with the GAN Quest books, but I didn’t include it in the current batch and I’m tired of waiting. But I’ll still be reading it with an eye on whether it shapes up as a Great American Novel. It sneaks into The Begorrathon too, though, since McCann is Irish. DesertDweller has recommended it to me twice, so it must be good!

The Blurb says: New York, August 1974. A man is walking the sky. The city stands still in awe. Between the newly built Twin Towers the man is striding, twirling and showboating his way through the air. One hundred and ten stories below him, the lives of eight strangers spin towards each other…

Set against a time of sweeping political and social change, from the backlash to the Vietnam War and the lingering sceptre of the oil crisis to the beginnings of the Internet – a time that hauntingly mirrors the present time – these disparate lives will collide in the shadow of one reckless and beautiful act, and be transformed for ever.

Weaving together themes of love, loss, belonging, duty and human striving, Let the Great World Spin celebrates the effervescent spirit of an age and the small beauties of everyday life. At once intimate and magnificent, elegant and astonishing, it is a lyrical masterpiece from a storyteller who continues to use the wide world as his canvas.

* * * * *

Crime

 

the cold cold groundJust about every crime blogger has recommended Adrian McKinty at one time or another – most recently Carol at Reading Writing and Riesling. This one’s been sitting on my Kindle since August 2013 – better read it before it biodegrades…

The Blurb says: Featuring Catholic cop Sean Duffy whose outsider status in the mostly Protestant RUC makes it as hard to do his job as the criminals he’s fighting, this is the start of a new series set in Troubles-era Belfast. A body is found in a burnt out car. Another is discovered hanging from a tree. Could this be Northern Ireland’s first serial killer, or another paramilitary feud?

 

* * * * *

.

in the woodsAnother one that’s been recommended by loads of people, but it was Lady Fancifull that persuaded me in the end…

The Blurb says: ‘You’re twelve years old. It’s the summer holiday. You’re playing in the woods with your two best friends. Something happens. Something terrible. And the other two are never seen again.’

Twenty years on, Rob Ryan – the child who came back – is a detective in the Dublin police force. He’s changed his name. No one knows about his past. Even he has no memory of what happened that day.

Then a little girl’s body is found at the site of the old tragedy and Rob is drawn back into the mystery. For him and his DI partner, Cassie, every lead comes with its own sinister undercurrents. The victim’s apparently normal family is hiding layers of secrets. Rob’s own private enquiries are taking a toll on his mind. And every trail leads inexorably back . . . into the woods.

* * * * *

Film

 

brooklynLoved the book – how will the movie compare? I’ve heard only good things about this, and it comes out on DVD at the end of Feb – they must have heard about The Begorrathon…

The Blurb says: Saoirse Ronan and Domhnall Gleeson star in this romantic drama adapted from the novel by Colm Tóibín. Set in the 1950s, the story follows young Irish woman Ellis Lacey (Ronan) as she travels to New York City in search of a better life. Initially homesick, she begins to adjust to her new surroundings with the help of Italian-American Tony Fiorello (Emory Cohen) with whom she becomes romantically involved. After news of a family crisis, Ellis returns to Ireland where she enjoys spending time back in her hometown and becomes acquainted with a young man, Jim Farrell (Gleeson), finding herself torn between two very different paths. The cast also includes Jim Broadbent and Julie Walters. The film was nominated for three Academy Awards including Best Picture.

NB All blurbs taken from Goodreads.

* * * * *

So…what do you think? Do any of these tempt you?

 

Are you joining in The Begorrathon? You know you want to…

TBR Thursday 74…

The People’s Choice 9…The Result!

 

Ooh, last week’s poll was exciting!! For a good while The Secret River was the main challenger, then it was overtaken near the end by In The Shadow of the Glacier! But, right from the beginning, one got its nose in front and kept it there all the way to the line. So I hereby declare…

This Week’s Winner…

 

a heart so white

 

The Blurb – A Heart so White begins as, in the middle of a family lunch, Teresa, just married, goes to the bathroom, unbuttons her blouse and shoots herself in the heart. What made her kill herself immediately after her honeymoon? Years later, this mystery fascinates the young newlywed Juan, whose father was married to Teresa before he married Juan’s mother. As Juan edges closer to the truth, he begins to question his own relationships, and whether he really wants to know what happened. Haunting and unsettling, A Heart So White is a breathtaking portrayal of two generations, two marriages, the relentless power of the past and the terrible price of knowledge.

Thanks to MarinaSofia at findingtimetowrite for the review that brought this book to my attention.

 * * * * * * *

And thanks to all who voted! It wouldn’t be the People’s Choice without you!

The book will be added to my TBR – now all I have to do is find time to read it!

* * * * * * *

Great news! The TBR hasn’t gone up this week! (OK, so it hasn’t gone down either – 2 out, 2 in). Standing still at 162!

Here are a few that will be rising to the top soon…

Fiction

 

the heather blazingColm Tóibín has rapidly moved onto my favourite authors list with his most recent novels, and I’m gradually working my way through some of his older books. Santa helped out by kindly providing this one…

The Blurb – The sea is slowly eating into the land, and the hill with the old watchtower has completely disappeared. The nearest house has crumbled and fallen into the sea. It is Ireland in the late twentieth century. Eamon Redmond is a judge in the Irish High Court. Obsessed all his life by the letter and spirit of the law, he is just beginning to discover how painfully unconnected he is from other human beings. With effortless fluency, Colm Tóibín reconstructs the history of Eamon’s relationships – with his father, his first “girl”, his wife, and the children who barely know him. He gives us a family as minutely realized as any of John McGahern’s, and he writes about Eamon’s affection for the landscape of his childhood on the east coast of Ireland with such skill that the land itself becomes a character. The result is a novel that ensnares us with its emotional intensity and dazzles with its crystalline prose.

* * * * *

 

absalom absalomNext up for the GAN Quest! (It’s Absalom! Absalom!, in case you can’t make out the tiny writing on the cover.) It’s got a tough task to follow Beloved – review coming soon…

The Blurb – Quentin Compson and Shreve, his Harvard room-mate, are obsessed by the tragic rise and fall of Thomas Sutpen. As a poor white boy, Sutpen was turned away from a plantation owner’s mansion by a negro butler. From then on, he was determined to force his way into the upper echelons of Southern society. His relentless will ensures his ambitions are soon realised; land, marriage, children. But after the chaos of Civil War, secrets from his own past threaten to destroy everything he has worked for.

* * * * *

Reference

 

1001 booksOh no! What was I thinking?? A moment of weakness and somehow this slipped into my cart! Expect my TBR to rise by roughly 800 in the near future! But I’m thinking it might perhaps contain the secret of immortality…

The Blurb says: Completely revised and updated to include the most up-to-date selections, this is a bold and bright reference book to the novels and the writers that have excited the world’s imagination. This authoritative selection of novels, reviewed by an international team of writers, critics, academics, and journalists, provides a new take on world classics and a reliable guide to what’s hot in contemporary fiction. Featuring more than 700 illustrations and photographs and presenting quotes from individual novels and authors and completely revised for 2012, this is the ideal book for everybody who loves reading.

* * * * *

NB All blurbs taken from Goodreads.

* * * * *

So…what do you think? Do any of these tempt you?