Tag Archives: Emma Donoghue

Sunday Post – 29th September, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

It’s been the type of nose-to-the-grindstone, locked-onto-the-computer-screen sort of week, helped along by the company of a trusted friend. I attended the aerobics and Pilates sessions this week, resulting in my hobbling around like an old lady who hasn’t exercised enough over the summer… The pain was leavened by my lovely writing buddy, Mhairi coming to stay. And the wonderful news was that she was able to extend her visit so that she only went home today. We work so well together and she and I are very good at helping each other out with various writing problems, even though we write such different genres. I miss her so! I’m campaigning to have Lincolnshire towed southwards and tucked in behind Brighton… We have decided to Skype each other more often – and she is returning next month as we are going to Bristolcon together. Yippee!

As for that work I’ve been doing – I’d got to a point in Mantivore Warrior when I needed to firm up the narrative time in Mantivore Prey, so decided to produce my timeline edition at this stage, given that I’m now well along my edits for the book. I have also made a start on another paid editing project, as well as continuing my teaching duties. It seems odd to think that this time last year, I was up to my neck in Northbrook admin as I embarked on a new academic year with my Creative Writing students – where did I find the time?

Last week I read:
Lady of the Ravens by Joan Hickson
My baptismal name may be Giovanna but here in my mother’s adopted country I have become plain Joan; I am not pink-cheeked and golden-haired like the beauties they admire. I have olive skin and dark features – black brows over ebony eyes and hair the colour of a raven’s wing…

When Joan Vaux is sent to live in the shadow of the Tower of London, she must learn to navigate the treacherous waters of this new England under the Tudors. Like the ravens, Joan must use her eyes and her senses, if Henry and his new dynasty are to prosper and thrive.
I loved this one. The worldbuilding is detailed and entirely convincing and Joan was an engaging, intelligent protagonist who I gave my heart to in the opening pages. Review to follow.

 

Akin by Emma Donoghue
Noah Selvaggio is a retired chemistry professor and widower living on the Upper West Side, but born in the South of France. He is days away from his first visit back to Nice since he was a child, bringing with him a handful of puzzling photos he’s discovered from his mother’s wartime years. But he receives a call from social services: Noah is the closest available relative of an eleven-year-old great-nephew he’s never met, who urgently needs someone to look after him. Out of a feeling of obligation, Noah agrees to take Michael along on his trip.

Much has changed in this famously charming seaside mecca, still haunted by memories of the Nazi occupation. The unlikely duo, suffering from jet lag and culture shock, bicker about everything from steak frites to screen time. But Noah gradually comes to appreciate the boy’s truculent wit, and Michael’s ease with tech and sharp eye help Noah unearth troubling details about their family’s past. Both come to grasp the risks people in all eras have run for their loved ones, and find they are more akin than they knew.
Another stormingly good read – I’ve had an amazing reading week. I absolutely loved the spiky, unsentimental relationship between the elderly professor and the damaged boy. This one will stay with me. Review to follow.

 

Deeplight by Frances Hardinge
For centuries the gods of the Undersea ruled the islands of the Myriad through awe and terror: they were very real, and very dangerous. Sacrifices were hurled into the waters to appease them, and every boat was painted with pleading eyes to entreat their mercy. They were served, feared and adored. Then, thirty years ago, the gods rose up in madness and tore each other apart. Now, none remain. The islands have recovered and the people have patched their battered ships and moved on. On one of these islands live Hark and his best friend Jelt. To them, the gods are nothing but a collection of valuable scraps to be scavenged from the ocean and sold. But now something is pulsing beneath the waves, calling to someone brave enough to retrieve it.
And the joy goes on… This was another marvellous book with a story that swept me up and held me in its watery embrace until the very end. Review to follow.

My posts last week:

Review of Changeling – Book 1 of the Sorcery and Society series by Molly Harper

Friday Faceoff featuring The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon

Review of AUDIOBOOK The Whispering Skull – Book 2 of the Lockwood & Co series by Jonathan Stroud

Teaser Tuesday featuring Deeplight by Frances Hardinge

Review of Queenslayer – Book 5 of the Spellslinger series by Sebastien de Castell

Sunday Post – 22nd September 2019

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last few weeks, in no particular order:

The Poorhouse (1) https://jeanreinhardt.wordpress.com/2019/09/25/thursday-doors-the-poorhouse-1/ Jean’s posts are deceptive – these apparently gentle photo-posts featuring doors around Ireland can pack a punch. Like this week’s…

10 of the Best Poems About Despair https://interestingliterature.com/2019/09/28/10-of-the-best-poems-about-despair/ I have always found poetry and prose about despair enormously comforting for two reasons. Firstly, they often sum up the enormity of my bleak feelings far better than I can; secondly, that terrible sense of isolation arising from those dark emotions is alleviated when I can read of someone else’s pain…

Space News – update https://earthianhivemind.net/2019/09/28/space-news-update/ It was a joy to see the resumption of the roundup by Steph…

Greta Thunberg to World Leaders… ‘How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood…!!’ https://hrexach.wordpress.com/2019/09/23/greta-thunberg-to-world-leaders-how-dare-you-you-have-stolen-my-dreams-and-my-childhood/ I generally don’t mention the current political situation. Mostly because it tends to have me heading towards those poems about despair I mentioned earlier – but this one caught my attention. I wrote a sci fi thriller, currently lining the loft, about catastrophic climate change back in 1995. So I’m aware of exactly what young Greta is talking about, sadly.

My Adventures – Pictorial Visit to Connecticut, Boston and Cape Cod #CapeCod #BostonRedSox http://www.fundinmental.com/my-adventures-pictorial-visit-to-connecticut-boston-and-cape-cod-capecod-bostonredsox/#.XZCRi2Z7nb1 And on a much lighter note, Sherry of Fundinmental posted these glorious photos of a holiday by the sea – and those sunsets are stunning…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you have a wonderful week…

Friday Faceoff – It’s only words, and words are all I have…

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer and is currently hosted by Lynn’s Book Blog. This week the theme is a cover featuring words, so I’ve gone with Room by Emma Donoghue.

 

This cover, produced by Little, Brown in September 2010, is very simple. Just the single word crayoned across the cover in different colours. But it is sufficiently different to make you stop and look twice – and when you know the protagonist is five years old, then it makes sense. I think it’s clever and eye-catching.

 

This edition was produced by Picador Classic in June 2015 as a Kindle edition, so I appreciate that this one needs to sing out as a thumbnail, but my problem with it is that the pale blue with the reflected sunlight gives a light, airy feel. And when you read Jack’s account – even the five year old is describing a cramped, cold and damp place without much light. However, that doesn’t prevent it being eye-catching and attractive.

 

Published in August 2010 by Picador, this cover is just boring. Especially as it ruins the simplicity by covering the blue backdrop with lots of blurb, clearly showing that not even the publishers felt the cover stood on its own merits. This is the one I really dislike.

 

Produced in 2012 by Picador 40, this black and white cover is very effective. I far prefer the image of the mines and stone walls surrounding the little shed to the pale blue of the other covers. I think the black and white is striking and would certainly grab my attention on the bookshelves. This one is my favourite.

 

This Picador offering, published in July 2010, has the small shed that features in the failed attempted above, but also has a blurred image of a small boy sitting on the floor. This addition makes all the difference, I think. There is something very poignant about it and turns the idea from something implied to the reality of imprisoning a child. Which is your favourite?

Review of Room by Emma Donoghue

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This was short-listed for last year’s Man Booker prize and won the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize for 2010. I got hold of the book after hearing Donoghue’s interview for Radio 4’s Women’s Hour when she mentioned that she was inspired on hearing about five year old Felix in the Fritzl case.

roomJack is five and excited about his birthday. He lives with his Ma in Room, which has a locked door and a skylight, and measures eleven feet by eleven feet. He loves watching TV, and the cartoon characters he calls friends, but he knows what he sees on screen isn’t truly real – there’s only him, Ma and the things in Room. Until one day, Ma admits there’s a world outside…

This account could so easily have lingered on the grimness and sheer horror of their existence – but seen through the filter of a small boy, whose young mother has determined to shelter her son as much as possible from the worst aspects of their imprisonment, it becomes something else. Jack’s narrative gives us a fascinating insight in the ability of humankind to survive in a highly difficult situation.

Of course, given that the first person POV is in the head of a small child, the success of this book hinges on how effectively Donoghue managed to convey these fraught circumstances through Jack’s account. I spend a fair amount of my time with a six year old – and her portrayal is spot on. The occasional grammatical mistakes are completely appropriate without being annoying – as was the use of words like ‘hilarious’, which indicates an intelligent, precocious child with unlimited access to a fully engaged adult. Exactly the set-up these two characters experience, in fact…

The other big pitfall Donoghue had to negotiate – and one that I was personally particularly looking out for – was lapsing into any kind of sentimentality. Given the difficult subject matter, it would have been unforgivable to have poured a layer of treacle over this story in the shape of a cute little boy. But while Jack is undeniably remarkable, he has his edges. With his temper tantrums and neediness in ways that most five year olds have outgrown, he is certainly a handful. I found some of the later episodes in the book unbearably poignant as he attempts to cope with all that is happening around him.

The other major character that we see through Jack’s eyes, is Ma. Beautifully written, she defines herself throughout their captivity as Jack’s protector. His survival and wellbeing is her highest priority and she’ll do anything – anything at all to achieve this. Even being polite and obliging to the man holding her, whom Jack calls Old Nick. Again, Donoghue’s characterisation is pitch perfect – right down to the fact that she is constantly struggling with toothache due to a poor diet and no access to a dentist or any form of healthcare during two pregnancies. Her inventiveness in educating and entertaining Jack in their cramped conditions is inspiring without being cloying. Jack also recounts the times when Ma is Gone – having retreated into a fit of depression when she cannot stir herself from the bed.
I finished the book sometime last week and have already completed two other books, since. Normally, that means the previous book is starting to fade. Not so this time. I have a hunch that I’ll still be musing over Jack and Ma from time to time in years to come. There are only a handful of books in my life that have had that impact. They are not the sole reason why I read – I cannot imagine an existence without books in it – but these Golden Reads certainly are life-enhancing, thought provoking gems.
It’s a wonderful start to 2011 to discover another jewel to add to this elite collection…
10/10