The Book Trail: April Edition

I begin this particular Book Trail with a novel which I loved, but many people have seemingly been indifferent to, or have hated.  As ever, I am using the ‘Readers Also Enjoyed…’ tool on Goodreads in order to generate this list.

1. True Things About Me by Deborah Kay Davies 9809077
One ordinary afternoon in a nameless town, a nameless young woman is at work in a benefits office. Ten minutes later, she is in an underground parking lot, slammed up against a wall, having sex with a stranger.  What made her do this? How can she forget him? These are questions the young woman asks herself as she charts her deepening erotic obsession with painful, sometimes hilarious precision. With the crazy logic and hallucinatory clarity of an exhilarating, terrifying dream, told in chapters as short and surprising as snapshots, True Things About Me hurtles through the terrain of sexual obsession and asks what it is to know oneself and to test the limits of one’s desires.


2. Down from Cascom Mountain: A Novel by Ann Joslin Williams
Ann Joslin Williams grew up observing the craft of writing: her father, Thomas Williams, was a National Book Award-winning novelist. Many of his stories were set in the fictional town of Leah, New Hampshire, and on nearby Cascom Mountain, locations that closely mirrored the landscape of the Williamses’ real hometown. With Down from Cascom Mountain, Ann Joslin Williams proves herself a formidably talented novelist in her own right, while paying tribute to her father by setting her debut novel in the same fictional world-the New Hampshire he imagined and that she has always known.  In Down from Cascom Mountain, newlywed Mary Hall brings her husband to settle in the rural New Hampshire of her youth to fix up the house she grew up in and to reconnect to the land that defined her, with all its beauty and danger. But on a mountain day hike, she watches helplessly as her husband falls to his death. As she struggles with her sudden grief, in the days and months that follow, Mary finds new friendships-with Callie and Tobin, teenagers on the mountain club’s crew, and with Ben, the gentle fire watchman. All are haunted by their own losses, but they find ways to restore hope in one another, holding firmly as they navigate the rugged terrain of the unknown and unknowable, and loves lost and found.


110762353. Irma Voth by Miriam Toews
That rare coming-of-age story able to blend the dark with the uplifting, Irma Voth follows a young Mennonite woman, vulnerable yet wise beyond her years, who carries a terrible family secret with her on a remarkable journey to survival and redemption.  Nineteen-year-old Irma lives in a rural Mennonite community in Mexico. She has already been cast out of her family for marrying a young Mexican ne’er-do-well she barely knows, although she remains close to her rebellious younger sister and yearns for the lost intimacy with her mother. With a husband who proves elusive and often absent, a punishing father, and a faith in God damaged beyond repair, Irma appears trapped in an untenable and desperate situation. When a celebrated Mexican filmmaker and his crew arrive from Mexico City to make a movie about the insular community in which she was raised, Irma is immediately drawn to the outsiders and is soon hired as a translator on the set. But her father, intractable and domineering, is determined to destroy the film and get rid of the interlopers. His action sets Irma on an irrevocable path toward something that feels like freedom.  A novel of great humanity, written with dry wit, edgy humor, and emotional poignancy, Irma Voth is the powerful story of a young woman’s quest to discover all that she may become in the unexpectedly rich and confounding world that lies beyond the stifling, observant community she knows.


4. Curiosity by Joan Thomas
More than 40 years before the publication of The Origin of Species, 12-year-old Mary Anning, a cabinet-maker’s daughter, found the first intact skeleton of a prehistoric dolphin-like creature, and spent a year chipping it from the soft cliffs near Lyme Regis. This was only the first of many important discoveries made by this incredible woman, perhaps the most important paleontologist of her day.  Henry de la Beche was the son of a gentry family, owners of a slave-worked estate in Jamaica where he spent his childhood. As an adolescent back in England, he ran away from military college, and soon found himself living with his elegant, cynical mother in Lyme Regis, where he pursued his passion for drawing and painting the landscapes and fossils of the area. One morning on an expedition to see an extraordinary discovery — a giant fossil — he meets a young woman unlike anyone he has ever met…


5. Alone in the Classroom by Elizabeth Hay 9970166
In a small prairie school in 1929, Connie Flood helps a backward student, Michael Graves, learn how to read. Observing them and darkening their lives is the principal, Parley Burns, whose strange behaviour culminates in an attack so disturbing its repercussions continue to the present day.  Connie’s niece, Anne, tells the story. Impelled by curiosity about her dynamic, adventurous aunt and her more conventional mother, she revisits Connie’s past and her mother’s broken childhood. In the process, she unravels the enigma of Parley Burns and the mysterious (and unrelated) deaths of two young girls. As the novel moves deeper into their lives, the triangle of principal, teacher, student opens out into other emotional triangles – aunt, niece, lover; mother, daughter, granddaughter – until a sudden, capsizing love thrusts Anne herself into a newly independent life.  This spellbinding tale – set in Saskatchewan and the Ottawa Valleycrosses generations and cuts to the bone. It probes the roots of obsessive love and hate, how the hurts and desires of childhood persist and are passed on as if in the blood. It lays bare the urgency of discovering what we were never told about the past. And it celebrates the process of becoming who we are in a world full of startling connections that lie just out of sight.


6. Sanctuary Line by Jane Urquhart
Told through delicate and masterful narration, Jane Urquhart’s new novel, Sanctuary Line, seamlessly weaves together fragments of present day farm life on the shores of Lake Erie with harrowing snapshots of deep family turmoil marred by stains of death and regret.


11605867. Galveston by Paul Quarrington
From one of Canada’s beloved fiction writers comes a tale of love and loss, guilt and forgiveness — and finding redemption in the eye of a hurricane.  Few people seek out the tiny Caribbean island of Dampier Cay. Visitors usually wash up there by accident, rather than by design. But this weekend, three people will fly to the island deliberately. They are not coming for a tan or fun in the sun. They are coming because Dampier Cay is where it is, and they have reason to believe that they might encounter something there that most people take great measures to avoid – a hurricane.  A lottery windfall and a few hours of selfishness have robbed Caldwell of all that was precious to him, while Beverly, haunted by tragedy and screwed by fate since birth, has given up on life. Also on the flight is Jimmy Newton, a professional storm chaser and videographer who will do anything for the perfect shot. Waiting for them at Dampier is the manager of the Water’s Edge Hotel, “Bonefish” Maywell Hope, who arrived at Dampier by the purest accident of all — the accident of birth. A descendent of the pirates who sailed the Caribbean hundreds of years ago, Hope believes if he works hard enough, he can prevent the inevitable. Until, that is, the seas begin to rise…


8. Open by Lisa Moore
Lisa Moore’s Open makes you believe three things unequivocally: that St. John’s is the centre of the universe, that these stories are about absolutely everything, that the only certainty in life comes from the accumulation of moments which refuse to be contained. Love, mistakes, loss — the fear of all of these, the joy of all of these. The interconnectedness of a bus ride in Nepal and a wedding on the shore of Quidi Vidi Lake; of the tension between a husband and wife when their infant cries before dawn (who will go to him?) and the husband’s memory of an early, piercing love affair; of two friends, one who suffers early in life and the other midway through.  In Open Lisa Moore splices moments and images together so adroitly, so vividly, you’ll swear you’ve lived them yourself. That there is a writer like Lisa Moore threading a live wire through everything she sees, showing it to us, warming us with it. These stories are a gathering in. An offering. They ache and bristle. They are shared riches. Open.


Have you read any of these books?  Which have piqued your interest?


Book Haul: April 2017

After March’s ridiculous book-buying splurge, I was going to be good in April.  I even told my boyfriend that aside from a couple Kindle books which were on sale at the beginning of the month, I wouldn’t buy a thing.  In true fashion, things didn’t quite work out as I had planned.  An impromptu trip to the Cambridge Literary Festival whilst at home over the Easter holidays to meet a very dear friend necessitated my first trip to the Cambridge branch of Books for Amnesty, and the marvellous discovery of the Salvation Army’s book section in its Mill Road shop.  Needless to say, this post will be rather a long one once again…

9781911579274Let us begin with my Kindle purchases, two of which I actually ended up buying on the last day of March (oops!).  I chose an Agatha Christie which I hadn’t got or heard much about, The Seven Dials Mystery, as well as a powerful-looking piece of non-fiction by Ingrid Vorselhafen entitled Hitler’s Forgotten ChildrenIn April proper, I chose to buy two digital copies of the wonderful Dean Street Press and Furrowed Middlebrow collaboration.  I plumped for Begin Again by Ursula Orange, which I have already read and loved, and Ianthe Jerrold‘s There May Be DangerI also thought I’d try David Sedaris‘ work when I spotted one of his collections as part of the Kindle Daily Deal; I have thus also read, and very much enjoyed, Me Talk Pretty One Day.

Before Katie and I had decided upon our Cambridge trip, I ordered myself a Persephone to say ‘well done’ for handing in my first year thesis submission piece.  I chose Isobel English‘s Every Eye as I have heard such wonderful things about it, and have been coveting a copy for ages.

Our reason for going to Cambridge was to see the quite wonderful Louisa Thomsen 9781473638327Brits speak about hygge at the Literary Festival, but as I have said, when two bookish people meet up for the day in such a wondrous place for secondhand book shopping, they are hardly going to come home empty handed.  The Books for Amnesty shop was lovely; quite crowded with students and young families at first, but as we spent near enough an hour browsing, I was able to pick up quite a stack.  In no particular order, I chose the following: Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, a relatively new publication which a lot of my friends have enjoyed on Goodreads; The Immoralist by Andre Gide as I so enjoyed Strait is the Gate when I read it early in April; The Map That Changed the World by Simon Winchester, which sounds fascinating; The Stories of Colette, which Katie found for me; a slim novella by Arthur Miller which I knew nothing about, entitled Plain Girl; The Lessons by Naomi Alderman, which is a book club pick for December; The Suitcase by Sergei Dovlatov, which I am planning to include within my Reading the World Project; Games at Twilight by Anita Desai after discovering her work earlier this year; and a copy of Slightly Foxed magazine from Spring 2015.

9780241977781I also chose several books from both Books for Amnesty and the Salvation Army which I may be able to work into, or at least rule out of, my thesis: Oystercatchers by Susan Fletcher, and three books by Anita Brookner – Latecomers, Family and Friends, and A Misalliance.

The Salvation Army shop was a real gem; I was able to purchase twelve books for the 9780140026344sum of £6.40, which is less than I spent on a picnic lunch!  I chose The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, which I have been meaning to get to for ages; Ghostwalk by Rebecca StottThe Blue Afternoon by William BoydA Summer Bird-Cage by Margaret DrabbleMonsieur, or the Prince of Darkness and Balthazar by Lawrence Durrell, whom I have been meaning to read since watching ITV’s The Durrells last year; Still Life by A.S. Byatt, which is the second book in a quartet (and I, of course, have not read the first…); The Still Storm by Francoise Sagan, one of my favourite French authors; an interesting-looking illness narrative which I hadn’t heard of before, Seconds to Snap by Tina McGuffThe Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid; and two of the aforementioned Brookner tomes.

9781743218716Another travel guide also winged its way to me from Wordery this month, for the trip which my boyfriend and I are planning for later in the year.  I chose Lonely Planet: Thailand as they are by far the best travel guides I’ve come across, and we’re almost clueless on where and what we want to visit!

I’m hoping that my shelves will be read from, rather than added to, during May!

What have you purchased recently?  Have you read any of these?


April: Neglected Women Writers’ Month

I wanted to come up with a new showcase for the blog; something which I could focus upon, which was coherent, informative, and useful, but which didn’t take up chunks of the valuable time which I have in order to write essays, attend lectures, and the like.  I have come up with the idea of showcasing many women writers, all of whom I feel are neglected to some degree.  Some of them you will have heard of, particularly if you peruse the Virago and Persephone lists, but some are new even to me.


‘L’oiseau Volage’ by George Barbier (1914)

April, therefore, is going to be Neglected Women Writers’ Month here at The Literary Sisters.  I will be profiling a different author each day, and including her bibliography, quotes from her work, and any other snippets of interest which I can find.  I am aiming to read books by each of the authors and blog about them in future, but I sadly haven’t had chance to read works by all of the showcased women thus far.  The project has been largely inspired by Nicola Beaumont’s A Very Great Profession: The Women’s Novel 1914-39, which I would highly recommend.

I hope you are as excited as I am for this project!


No Book Club Read This Month

Just a quick note to say that there will be no book club read this month.  The Japanese poetry book which April chose for us to read is proving nigh on impossible to get hold of, and I am unable to locate a suitable replacement.  As April is having a break from blogging and is not contactable at present, there is nothing which I feel I can replace it with.  Hopefully things should resume as normal from May onwards!