Books That Take Place Abroad

Courtesy of That Artsy Reader Girl, I’ll be dipping into books I’ve read that take place abroad (i.e. not the UK) this week. It feels a bit of a cheat really because, when I think about it, I don’t read a great many books set in England in the first place!

For these purposes, therefore, I need to think a little deeper. About those books with the greatest sense of place, that would be devoid of meaning without it.

A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry

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The first time we went to India my other half and I were determined to read literature to go along with our trip. He read Shantaram (ridiculous, apparently) and I read Rohinton Mistry’s chunk of a novel. It is a phenomenal book, capturing India and its hierarchical society in all its glory. Brilliant, evocative and added a perfect extra layer to the holiday.

Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden

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I read this classic so many years ago that the details are vague. However, what has easily remained with me is both how much I adored it (maybe time for a reread?) and its deeply evocative sense of place.

The Tiger’s Wife – Téa Obreht

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It seems odd I suppose to include a book here that I, controversially given its prize-winning status, didn’t much care for. In reality I found Obreht’s surreal tale to be unnecessarily confusing and meandering. That said, the bleak portrait she paints of an unknown Balkan state, with its icy weather, traditions and folklore has stuck with me ever since.

A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Hosseini

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Another one that I read years and years ago but whose images; dusty courtyards, bombed out houses, women gazing through the mesh of their burqa, have seared themselves in my mind. And I haven’t even read The Kite Runner yet. Yey.

Ruby –  Cynthia Bond

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As tough as some of the scenes are in this tale of abuse and betrayal in America’s Deep South, the atmosphere and imagery of rural East Texas are undeniably beautiful.

The Orchard of Lost Souls – Nadifa Mohamed

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I’ve said it countless times but I really need (still) to read more African literature. Somalia is a real black hole on a map for me, thankfully less so after reading this Mohamed’s thoughtful, complex second novel.

Wild Swans – Jung Chang

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This task is so useful for reflecting on books I read years ago. I stared at this one on my auntie’s bookshelves for years before finally picking it up. It is an absolute must read. Epic.

The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt

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An entirely different side to America than Ruby, Donna Tartt’s doorstop novel, which I dog-eared to bits, is phenomenal, ranging from a cosy, antique New York to a cold, hard Los Angeles, whose dusty streets and sterile homes magnify the sense of unease and foreboding.

Wide Sargasso Sea – Jean Rhys

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This classic really gets mixed reviews so I felt rather dubious when it was chosen by the book club one month. To my surprise I really loved it and that was helped by the vivid picture Rhys paints of life in nineteenth century Jamaica/Dominica. Hot, oppressive and delirious.

Carmen – Prosper Mérimée

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I was so excited to read the novella that inspired Bizet’s famous opera. Mérimée is always good for a short story and Carmen is no exception. It also helps that I lived in wonderful Sevilla for a very short time and have LIVED that famous cigar factory. Yas.

Peepo! and the perils of parental reading

**Coughs**

Hello?…..Anyone out there??

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My incredibly bad (and spotty) ode to librairie mollat

I have to admit, it feels a little odd and vaguely embarrassing to be writing an actual blog post today. I have no idea (but very much doubt) whether my old bloggy friends and lurkers on here remember me or pay a visit to old reviews from time to time but, whether I’m rekindling old connections or speaking out into the void, welcome!!

Our life has had a complete transformation over the last year and a half. Namely starting our very own little family (puppy included) and hopefully a future generation of mad-fer-it little readers.

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It is such an obvious cliché that parenthood will have a huge impact on your reading; particularly for those former die-hards with tottering TBRs who used to regularly burn the midnight oil to finish a book. Two weeks’ into this adventure, once the shock had subsided and I remembered that I was, after all, Literary Relish and that I kind of enjoy reading a book from time to time rather than purely bingeing on daytime telly – well, it was a revelationDozy days spent on the sofa breastfeeding lend themselves to one thing and one thing only, BOOKS and lots of them. God forbid however that you find yourself stuck without a glass of water or, worse, a complete dud of a novel.

Thankfully I was fairly lucky in the early days, using books to help me stay awake during night feeds and experiencing some absolute gems; Ellen Wood’s East Lynne being one of them (I talked about my absolute faves of last year for the wonderful Rebecca Foster in this here post on her fabulous blog).

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New filing system

This peaceful time is inevitably short-lived but, in our frantic lives, particularly when running around after and raising little humans I think it is essential not to lose sight of ourselves. For me, whether I read 5 or 50 books this year, I find that self in literature.

I read an article on the fabulous books section of the Guardian website months ago (and didn’t bookmark or save and now can’t find it – poor show) where the author cited having a baby as the event that helped him out of his reading rut. Lengthy nighttime feeds and, in toddler/childhood, reading to his children at bedtime and introducing them to much-loved classics, completely rekindled his love affair with books.

Children’s books are wonderful things and, during weeks when I can barely keep my eyes open past 8pm, such gems as Mog and the Baby (Judith Kerr), Hairy Maclary (Lynley Dodd) and Please, Mr. Panda (Steve Antony) keep me going, maintaining that wonderful fuzzy bookish feeling in my tummy. It won’t help my Goodreads Challenge, but it will certainly help my soul.

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My poor ravaged old bookshelf

It feels great to be back and rambling into the blogosphere again. If any of you are still around I’d be delighted to know what’s new. And if you have some lovely children’s books to recommend or tips on how to maximise reading time on very little energy, throw them my way!!

xx

Dirty Thirty

Never too old for a tutu...
Never too old for a tutu…

2015 may have been a so-so year on the reading front but it was the year I turned the big 3-0. Indeedy do. We had so many lovely bookish adventures last year but our trip to York for my thirtieth had to top it all. So, donning the tutu my 5 year old niece very kindly bought for me and bagsying an astonishingly cheap hotel deal, the other half and I proceeded to explore the winding old streets of York; its bookish nooks and oldy woldy pubs, for the first time.

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With my deep love of history, real ale and all things bookish, I’d always been told that York would be absolute heaven. It really was and I’m hugely embarrassed that it took me 30 years to experience a city that really isn’t very far at all as the crow flies. Nestled within the city walls we discovered a cornucopia of cobbly streets, wonky buildings and, best of all, cute bookshops to explore, spandangling window displays included.

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The Minster Gate Bookshop features at the top of every York book shop list and was the one place I was hell-bent on visiting but, unbelievably, very almost missed! After a good hour getting lost in the windy medieval streets, we finally chanced upon this absolute treasure trove, nestled in the shadow of the Minster.

PicMonkey CollageSet over five floors in an old Georgian town house it’s hard to believe this shop has only existed since 1970; so cosy and bedded-in does it feel. Although (as you can see from the pic above) there are countless sections to explore I found myself routed to the spot in the ‘bargain basement’ fiction section downstairs. Lordy lord. Brand new books; contemporary and classic fiction all as cheap as cheap as can be. It is, if you’re ever lucky enough to be visiting York, the nicest way to while away an afternoon. Indeed I got so lost in my perusals that the OH had to come and bring me back to reality after I’d been down there for well over an hour….sigh…

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Dotted around the outlying streets are some nicher offerings, like Janette Ray’s colourful shop above. Others are open by appointment only, I tremble to think of the delights inside.

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Our shabby-chic hotel was the perfect place to retire after a day of hardcore city tramping. The cosiest corner to settle down with my book haul, which included the following:

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou –

Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann

The Luminaries  by Eleanor Catton

The Lazy Tour Of Two Idle Apprentices by Charles Dickens & Wilkie Collins

The Perils of Certain English Prisoners by Charles Dickens & Wilkie Collins

2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke

Mugby Junction by Charles Dickens

Crash by J.G. Ballard

The Parasites by Daphne du Maurier

Hungry Hill by Daphne du Maurier

 

Bingo! Have those of you who’ve had the pleasure of York before got any favourite corners of this fabulous ancient city? If you haven’t been please do take some time this year to give yourself a wonderful weekend out and report back here to let me know what you think!

Chin chin!

by frankieleon via Flickr
by frankieleon via Flickr

A very Happy New Year to all of you lovely bookish folk! I’m not at all one for NYE, which, without sounding like too much of a miserable cow, I think is grossly overrated. A curry, a few g & ts and the local pub is enough for me thanks very much (I actually almost stayed awake to see it in this year!)

What I do love however is a brand new reading year, with all its delicious possibilities. Rather than making me panic, cataloging my physical TBR pile is actually making me super excited for the months ahead and, with a more modest goal of 50 books for next year, I am all set and raring to go.

Before I do that though, I’m going to allow a little self-indulgence and reveal my stats for last year. Because I LOVE stats!

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Check out my corny corny face. Cockier than it should be since, as mentioned the other day, I only managed 43 out of my goal of 60 books to read this year. I blame David Copperfield and Gone with the WindI haven’t even finished GWTW yet, having to break off to read other things, but I just don’t care as both novels have simply been an absolute pleasure and privilege to read.

Just 43 books has, however, amounted to 13,670 pages. Immense.

With me still slogging in23301818to 2016 with Margaret Mitchell’s classic, David Copperfield was, unsurprisingly, my longest book of the year, the shortest being We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Although my other half was, I think, expecting a little more from this slender little number, I felt more than affected and inspired by her essay; based on 2013 TEDx Talk (kindly lent to me by one of my book club folk).

The most universally popular book I read was, again unsurprisingly, The Girl on the Train by Paula HawkinsI’m a bit perplexed reading my review back, I did carry on with myself a bit but I did only give this 2 stars on Goodreads and I’m sticking with it. Entertaining certainly, but nothing special.

Overall my average score was 3.3 out of 5 for the books I read in 2015. Hardly sensational but you can’t always have a stellar year. My current read is making up for it in droves and, with my newly organised system in place, 2016 is going to be simply fantabulous.

Although I’ve been devouring blog posts and plans all day, I’d like to hear your thoughts for 2016 reading. Are you making a concrete plan or just going with the flow? 

The bottomless joys of the TBR pile…

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Merry Christmas folks! Hope you are all having a restful holiday period, whether working or not this time of year never fails to feel just a little bit special. In the Relish household it always ample time for a refresh and recap and this always inevitably means a frightening look at a) the painfully few books I have managed to read this year (answer: 43, of my intended, though challenging, 60. Painfully embarrassing) and b) the sheer size of my TBR pile.

On the positive side, this year has brought with it some wonderful connections with bookish folk and, luckiest of all, the opportunity to meet some of them; namely the lovely Rebecca Foster, aka ‘Bookish Beck‘, and her other half on their trip to Manchester back in August. She has thoughtfully tagged me into this very here meme to set me on the right track for 2016…

How do you keep track of your TBR pile?

Largely not at all well due to previous, unorganised behaviour. I recently decided however that that had to change. At the moment, they sit on my Goodreads ‘to-read’ list, a tool I find invaluable and which I will soon be adding all my physical books to. A mammoth task for the Christmas holidays!

Is your TBR mostly print or e-book?

Although I appreciate the advantages ebookof eBooks, it’s simply not a format for me. Strangely enough, apart from the simple delight of the smell and texture of a print copy, I actually struggle to engage with some books when they’re an eBook copy. A psychological block me thinks…

How do you determine which books from your TBR to read next?

Apart from books I read for book club or to follow along with Penguin’s Happy Reader quarterly , I mainly let my Goodreads ‘to-read’ list guide me, and my mood, of course.

12640991A book that has been on my TBR the longest

Apart from the obvious classics that I have wanted to read forever? The oldest book on my Goodreads TBR is Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops by Jen Campbell. Clearly I haven’t been on there very long!

A book I recently added to my TBR

One of the most recent was The King is Dead by the fabulous Suzannah Lipscomb which I received for Christmas. Despite having them pushed upon me twice at school, I still have a bit of a love affair with the Tudors. This gorgeous book explores Henry VIII’s last will and testament and its myriad of implications.

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Although I’m an absolute sod for a pretty cover, I never stick anything on the TBR that I really don’t want to read so – all of Essie Fox’s books please 🙂

A book on my TBR that I never plan on reading

A few of the classics on there are pretty ridiculous (e.g. Ulysses, ha ha). I also accept the fact that many of them are on there just to remind me they exist, rather than me ever planning on getting around to them at any point, ever.

downloadAn unpublished book on my TBR that I’m excited for

The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel; third and final piece of her spectacular Cromwell trilogy. Will this ever come out!? There are also, as always, a few others I’m particularly looking forward to; The Girls by Emma Cline and The Ballroom by Anna Hope to name just two.

A book on my TBR that everyone recommends

Almost too many to count but, that immediately springs to mind; In Cold Blood by Trumane Capote. I’m pretty disgusted that I haven’t read it yet.

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Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (I know.)

A book on my TBR that I’m dying to read

The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie. It’s supposed to be amazing and the cover is just gorgeous.

How many books are on your TBR shelf?

Hundreds – including books I own….well over 600. With that thought, I better go and find a reading nook somewhere…. Eeeek!