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Wednesday Wishlist

It seems like a good time to post another Wednesday Wishlist, with more upcoming books I am very excited to read.  For each, I have included the blurb and the reasons why they appeal to me.

Sculptor’s Daughter by Tove Jansson

‘Sculptor’s Daughter’

As most people know, I am a Jansson/Moomin fangirl of the highest proportions.  I have been eagerly awaiting a new publication of Tove Jansson’s autobiography for about eight years now, ever since I first saw the prices which copies of this book ran into (hundreds of pounds, if you’re interested).

“Tove Jansson’s first book for adults drew on her childhood memories to capture afresh the enchantments and fears of growing up in Helsinki in the nineteen tens and twenties. Described as both a memoir and ‘a book of superb stories’ by Ali Smith, her startlingly evocative prose offers a glimpse of the mysteries of winter ice, the bonhomie of balalaika parties, and the vastness of Christmas viewed from beneath the tree. This deluxe hardback, with rare images from the Jansson family archive, makes a perfect gift.”

The Pure Gold Baby by Margaret Drabble
I read Drabble’s Jerusalem the Golden last year, and very much enjoyed it, so I have had my eye on her other novels for quite some time now.  I adore this title, and the storyline sounds like it will be an intriguing and worthwhile read.

“Anna is a child of special, unknowable qualities. She is a happy child, always willing to smile at the world around her. But she also presents profound challenges. For her mother Jess, still in her early twenties, living alone in North London and hoping to embark on an adventurous career, her arrival will prove life-transforming. Over the course of decades, in ways large and small, Anna will affect the lives and loves of those around her. While Anna herself will remain largely unaltered by the passing years, she will live through a period of dramatic change, her journey illuminating our shifting attitudes towards motherhood, responsibility and the way we care for one another. Both personal and political, The Pure Gold Baby is a remarkable portrait of a family, a friendship, and a neighbourhood. It is a novel of great beauty, wisdom and stealthy power by one of our country’s foremost and acclaimed writers.”

The Mystery of Princess Louise: Queen Victoria’s Rebellious Daughter by Lucinda Hawksley
I am fascinated by the Victorians, and Queen Victoria has always been one of my favourite figures to study.  I knew little about Princess Louise until watching a fascinating BBC documentary about Queen Victoria’s children earlier this year, and she seems such a wonderful character to sculpt a biography around.

“The secrets of Queen Victoria’s sixth child, Princess Louise, may be destined to remain hidden forever. What was so dangerous about this artistic, tempestuous royal that her life has been documented more by rumour and gossip than hard facts? When Lucinda Hawksley started to investigate, often thwarted by inexplicable secrecy, she discovered a fascinating woman, modern before her time, whose story has been shielded for years from public view. Louise was a sculptor and painter, friend to the Pre-Raphaelites and a keen member of the Aesthetic movement. The most feisty of the Victorian princesses, she kicked against her mother’s controlling nature and remained fiercely loyal to her brothers – especially the sickly Leopold and the much-maligned Bertie. She sought out other unconventional women, including Josephine Butler and George Eliot, and campaigned for education and health reform and for the rights of women. She battled with her indomitable mother for permission to practice the ‘masculine’ art of sculpture and go to art college – and in doing so became the first British princess to attend a public school. The rumours of Louise’s colourful love life persist even today, with hints of love affairs dating as far back as her teenage years, and notable scandals included entanglements with her sculpting tutor Joseph Edgar Boehm and possibly even her sister Princess Beatrice’s handsome husband, Liko. True to rebellious form, she refused all royal suitors and became the first member of the royal family to marry a commoner since the sixteenth century. Spirited and lively, The Mystery of Princess Louise is richly packed with arguments, intrigues, scandals and secrets, and is a vivid portrait of a princess desperate to escape her inheritance.”

Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life by Hermione Lee
Penelope Fitzgerald is one of my favourite authors, and I would love to learn more about her.

“Penelope Fitzgerald (1916-2000) was a great English writer, who would never have described herself in such

‘Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life’

grand terms. Her novels were short, spare masterpieces, self-concealing, oblique and subtle. She won the Booker Prize for her novel Offshore in 1979, and her last work, The Blue Flower, was acclaimed as a work of genius. The early novels drew on her own experiences – a boat on the Thames in the 1960s; the BBC in war time; a failing bookshop in Suffolk; an eccentric stage-school. The later ones opened out to encompass historical worlds which, magically, she seemed to possess entirely: Russia before the Revolution; post-war Italy; Germany in the time of the Romantic writer Novalis. Fitzgerald’s life is as various and as cryptic as her fiction. It spans most of the twentieth century, and moves from a Bishop’s Palace to a sinking barge, from a demanding intellectual family to hardship and poverty, from a life of teaching and obscurity to a blaze of renown. She was first published at sixty and became famous at eighty. This is a story of lateness, patience and persistence: a private form of heroism. Loved and admired, and increasingly recognised as one of the outstanding novelists of her time, she remains, also, mysterious and intriguing. She liked to mislead people with a good imitation of an absent-minded old lady, but under that scatty front were a steel-sharp brain and an imagination of wonderful reach. This brilliant account – by a biographer whom Fitzgerald herself admired – pursues her life, her writing, and her secret self, with fascinated interest.”

1,399 QI Facts to Make Your Jaw Drop by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson
I am possibly the biggest QI nerd in the land, and have read all of the books they have released to date.  The information they weave into their fact books is amusing and unusual, and my head is near enough entirely filled with it.

“For over a decade QI has been the smartest comedy show on British television, but few people know that they are also a major legal hit in Australia, New Zealand, Israel and Africa and an illegal one on BitTorrent. They also write books and newspaper columns; run a thriving and recently redesigned website, a Facebook page, a Twitter feed; and produce an iPhone App and a sister Radio 4 programme. At QI’s very core is the astonishing fact; painstakingly researched and distilled to a brilliant and shocking clarity. In Einstein’s words: ‘Everything should be as simple as possible, but not simpler.’ Pigs suffer from anorexia. Wagner always wore pink silk underwear. Rugby School’s first official rugby kit in 1871 included a bow tie. Lord Kitchener had four spaniels called Shot, Bang, Miss and Damn. It is impossible to whistle in a spacesuit.”

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Wednesday Wishlist: Five Upcoming Releases

Here are five upcoming releases which have caught my eye, and which I am very much looking forward to reading.

1. Last Train to Istanbul by Ayse Kulin (translated by John W. Baker)
Release date: 08/10/2013

As the daughter of one of Turkey’s last Ottoman pashas, Selva could win the heart of any man in Ankara. Yet the spirited young beauty only has eyes for Rafael Alfandari, the handsome Jewish son of an esteemed court physician. In defiance of their families, they marry, fleeing to Paris to build a new life.

But when the Nazis invade France and begin rounding up Jews, the exiled lovers will learn that nothing—not war, not politics, not even religion—can break the bonds of family. For after they learn that Selva is but one of their fellow citizens trapped in France, a handful of brave Turkish diplomats hatch a plan to spirit the Alfandaris and hundreds of innocents, many of whom are Jewish, to safety. Together, they must traverse a war-torn continent, crossing enemy lines and risking everything in a desperate bid for freedom. From Ankara to Paris, Cairo, and Berlin, Last Train to Istanbul is an uplifting tale of love and adventure from Turkey’s beloved bestselling novelist Ayşe Kulin.

2. Elizabeth of the German Garden: A Biography of Elizabeth Von Arnim by Jennifer Walker
Release date: 20/09/2013
The name Elizabeth von Arnim reveals and conceals so much of this often-forgotten author, writing at the beginning of the twentieth century. Married early to the German Count, Henning von Arnim, she became Elizabeth as she escaped to her German garden and found beauty amidst an oppressive existence. But this is really the story of Mary Beauchamp, the woman behind the mask, who would spend the rest of her life struggling to forge her own identity and follow an independent path. This is the story of an adventurer, a free spirit who travelled the world and found love with a much younger man, a woman who lived for music and writing, and who enjoyed the company of E M Forster, Hugh Walpole, H G Wells, her cousin Katherine Mansfield and Bertrand Russell. But solitude was just as important to Mary, as she journeyed deep inside herself to produce a diverse canon of work, bound together by themes of the many journeys and escapes in her own life: she escaped from her Swiss chalet on the outbreak of the First World War, from the agony of her second marriage to Lord Francis Russell and eventually from her beloved home in France as the Nazis began their assault on Europe. This is a timely, in-depth reassessment of the life and work of one of the twentieth century’s significant creative forces.

3. Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding
Release date: 10/10/2013
With her hotly anticipated third instalment, Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy, Fielding introduces us to a whole new enticing phase of Bridget’s life set in contemporary London, including the challenges of maintaining sex appeal as the years roll by and the nightmare of drunken texting, the skinny jean, the disastrous email cc, total lack of twitter followers, and TVs that need 90 buttons and three remotes to simply turn on.

4. Sylvia Plath: Drawings, edited by Frieda Hughes
Release date: 05/09/2013

Sylvia Plath: Drawings is a portfolio of pen-and-ink illustrations created during the transformative period spent at Cambridge University, when Plath met and secretly married poet Ted Hughes, and traveled with him to Paris and Spain on their honeymoon, years before she wrote her seminal work, The Bell Jar.

Throughout her life, Sylvia Plath cited art as her deepest source of inspiration. This collection sheds light on these key years in her life, capturing her exquisite observations of the world around her. It includes Plath’s drawings from England, France, Spain, and New England, featuring such subjects as Parisian rooftops, trees, and churches, as well as a portrait Ted Hughes.

Sylvia Plath: Drawings includes letters and diary entries that add depth and context to the great poet’s work, as well as an illuminating introduction by her daughter, Frieda Hughes.

5. xo Orpheus: Fifty New Myths, edited by Kate Bernheimer
Icarus flies once more. Aztec jaguar gods again stalk the earth. An American soldier designs a new kind of Trojan horse—his cremains in a bullet. Here, in compelling guise, are your favorite mythological figures—Narcissus and Echo, Orpheus and Eurydice, Pygmalion and Galatea, even Argos, Odysseus’s faithful dog—alongside characters from Indian, Punjabi, Inuit, and other traditions. Featuring talkative goats, a cat lady, a bird woman, a beer-drinking ogre, and a squid who falls in love with the sun, these are stories of boundless wonder and invention.

If “xo” signals a goodbye, then xo Orpheus is a goodbye to an old way of mythmaking, a book that boldly heralds a new beginning for one of the world’s oldest literary traditions.

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Wednesday Wishlist: Classic Novels

Below are five classic novels which I am lusting after.  They are all books which I feel I should have already read, particularly as a literature student.

1. Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
I so enjoyed Tess of the d’Urbervilles and feel that I really should read more of Hardy’s works. The story in this novel looks like a wonderful one.

2. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
I have never read any Flaubert, but this novel has been downloaded on my Kindle for quite some time now.  Perhaps I will finally get around to reading it this year!

3. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
I have had a physical copy of this novel for around four years, but the sheer size of it and tiny print size has really put me off.  I think the plot sounds fascinating and I have heard only good things about it, so this is another I really should get around to reading.

4. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
For some unknown reason, this passed me by in my childhood, and I am certain that I would have adored the story.  Anne looks like a marvellous heroine, and I cannot wait to read about her.

5. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
I remember watching an amateur production of Treasure Island when I was younger and I absolutely adored it, so I struggle to see why I’ve not read it thus far!