As it’s Plastic-Free July, our book review blog will be the title ‘Marcovaldo’ by Italo Calvino.
This week, Richard from Brompton Library will be reviewing Marcovaldo, by Italo Calvino. Marcovaldo is a collection of Italian stories talking about the beauty and the ugliness of both the countryside and the city.
Over to Richard to tell us more!
“If you’ve ever seen the film, Les vacances de Monsieur Hulot, you might recognise a similar lyrical style that is both poetic and comical in Marcovaldo. The character of the title is an Italian redneck labourer from the provinces with a love of nature, who moves to a large northern industrial city with his family.
The book comprises a collection of stories/chapters that follow this family through the seasons of the year. In the Forest on the superhighway for example, the family go in search of firewood, only to find billboards on the edge of the city; in the night, the short-sighted highway police officer confuses snatches of the family sawing through the panels with the billboard images and assumes they are part of the advertisements. Another story captures Marcovaldo’s reaction to the city transformed by winter snow.2
If you want to try out this unique and compelling read, pick up Marcovaldo today from one of our branches or via ebook –
Michaela from Church Street Library has given us her review of this year’s Hay Festival. The Hay Festival is one of the biggest annual literary events of the calendar, including a mixture of musical performances and film reviews.
Over to Michaela to read what she thinks of the festival so far…
I have recently enjoyed listening to many authors talk about their books, writing and awards from the Hay Festival.
“The Hay Festival runs from 26th May to 6th June with many events happening throughout day, with activities, talks catered to adult fiction, junior fiction, teen fiction as well award winning to non-fiction titles.
It is a great chance to listen to authors and ask questions. I joined my first event on Monday night to hear Monique Roffey – the 2021 Costa Prize Award winner – talk about her book “The Mermaid of Black Conch”, and she answered my question live!!!!
Monique talked about how she crowdfunded to get her book into print via an independent publisher and fast forward to January, she won a major literary an award. Well done to Monique.
I have also listened to the YA writer Alice Oseman talk about her prize-winning novel “Loveless” which especially during Pride, was a worthy winner. Alice also talked about her comic strip writing of “Heartstopper” series which she loved writing, but it took such a lengthy time. It was great to hear how many young people commented on the Heartstopper series.
Lastly, I listened to Benjamin Zephaniah talking about his latest book “Windrush child “. Set from a child’s perspective, it was great listening to it being read with an older voice, as Benjamin admits with his dyslexia, he gets tongue tied when reading out loud. With Windrush day this month this is certainly a book I want to read. All around he was a delight to listen to.
Many other authors coming up include: Floella Benjamin, Gareth Nix, Sarah Winman and Chris Packham.
This festival has been a must for book lovers, video clips will be available later. 😊”
Over to Zvezdana from Chelsea Library for a review on a love story with a bite!
The love story with a bite: ‘Twilight’ – books and films!
Fifteen years ago, the first ‘Twilight’ book was published, followed by ‘New Moon’, ‘Eclipse’ and ‘Breaking Dawn’, telling a story of Romeo and Juliet with a vampiric twist. Since its release ‘Twilight’ was sold over 165 million copies (numbers from 2020).
In 2015 Meyer published ‘Twilight Reimagined: Life and Death’. The story is a gender-swapped retelling of the first book, and she introduced Beau Swan and Edythe Cullen in place of Bella and Edward. The ending is different, as Meyer decided to give full closure to the story, avoiding any chance of sequels.
Last year ‘Twilight’ fans finally got long-time-promised book – ‘Midnight Sun’ -‘Twilight’ retold from Edward Cullen’s point of view. When the story was famously leaked in 2008, the project was paused for twelve years.
What is the ‘Twilight’ story about?
The main character, seventeen-year-old Bella Swan, decided to stay for a while with her father in order not to be a burden to her happily newly remarried mother. So, she is swapping sunny Phoenix for Forks, a small and constantly rainy town in Washington State. Naturally, the landscape looked completely different- Forks is “too green”, lush, mysterious, like in fairy tales. Anything is possible.
The story is told from Bella’s point of view. A pretty and shy, geeky, book-wormish type; self-conscious and timid; pale, slender but not sporty, “lacking the necessary hand-eye coordination to play sports without humiliating” herself; Bella did not fit in anywhere. So, she was more than anxious on her first day in the local high school. Surprisingly, many people – boys and girls – noticed her and she found this new situation quite intimidating.
The focus of her attention was a group of five “devastatingly, inhumanly beautiful” boys and girls, the Cullen family, who kept to themselves. From the first moment Bella saw Edward Cullen, pale bronze-haired boy, in the school cafeteria, she fell in love with him. Her life thrillingly and dangerously swirled casting a spell on her (and the readers). The Cullens were vampires and Edward managed up to now, to keep his vampire identity secret. For him it was the first time in his mortal and immortal life that he fell in love with somebody.
Suddenly, we are following deeply romantic and extraordinary suspenseful story of two lovers who should not be together, whose love is wrong, forbidden, yet, they cannot imagine the life without the other one.
I cannot say that I was convinced by the idea of retelling the same story, yet, again. It sounded like KS2 writing task, something that Meyer’s assistants could easily supply. Suspicious, I gave it a chance, bought the book, read it and – I liked it. It I interesting to see how Bella and Edward are similar. From her perspective he is like dazzling god who does everything perfectly, while she questions her worthiness constantly. On the other hand, Edward is horrified that because of his selfish need not to lose Bella, he does not have the strength to leave her and let her have normal, human life. She deserves much more.
This is what the publisher, Little, Brown and Company, wrote about this book:
“When Edward Cullen and Bella Swan met in Twilight, an iconic love story was born. But until now, fans have heard only Bella’s side of the story. At last, readers can experience Edward’s version in the long-awaited companion novel, Midnight Sun.
This unforgettable tale as told through Edward’s eyes takes on a new and decidedly dark twist. Meeting Bella is both the most unnerving and intriguing event he has experienced in all his years as a vampire. As we learn more fascinating details about Edward’s past and the complexity of his inner thoughts, we understand why this is the defining struggle of his life. How can he justify following his heart if it means leading Bella into danger?
In Midnight Sun, Stephenie Meyer transports us back to a world that has captivated millions of readers and brings us an epic novel about the profound pleasures and devastating consequences of immortal love.”
‘Twilight’ movies, from Summit Entertainment, became even bigger hit than books. From ‘Twilight’ in 2008 to ‘The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2’, in 2012, the films were fantastically successful. (Budget for five films was around $401 million; Box Office – around $3.346 billion)!
Personally, the first film, directed by Catherine Hardwicke is the best. It closely follows the book. The critical scene when Edward saved Bella’s life and stopped the van, is even better, more plausible, in film than how it was presented in the book.
The crucial point was the perfect casting of Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen. More than 5,000 boys auditioned for the role. Thanks to his portrait of Cedric Diggory in ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’, Pattinson was in a very good position to get the role.
“There are very few actors who can look both dangerous and beautiful at the same time, and even fewer who I can picture in my head as Edward,” Meyer wrote. Although she previously said that Henry Cavill was “the only actor”, she had ever seen, “who could come close to pulling off Edward Cullen”, she was “ecstatic” with the studio’s decision to cast Robert Pattinson. That role made him a global superstar.
‘Twilight’ is not the only 2000s novel franchise getting a 2020 restart. Prequels and sequels are very popular, from ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Batman’ to ‘Hunger Games’.
Both, Stewart and Pattinson moved from Twilight saga and have successful careers, but in readers’ and viewers’ eyes they will always be the embodiment of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen, similarly, as Colin Firth will always be Mr Darcy regardless how many film awards he may win.
If you would like to borrow books or films from the Twilight franchise or other works by Stephenie Meyer, have a look at our catalogue!
Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo reviewed by Anton from Victoria Library!
Pedro Páramo is a short book (less than 150 pages), but it is a very important book.
Published in 1955 it is a precursor of the “magic realism” movement so important in latin-american literature and is cited as an important influence by authors such as García Márquez, Vargas Llosa, Carlos Fuentes or Jorge Luis Borges. The author, Juan Rulfo is admired by writers all around the world, from Susan Sontag or Günter Grass to Gao Xingjian or Kenzaburo Oe.
In the beginning of the book we follow Juan Preciado, who promises her mother on her deathbed to travel back to her childhood town of Comala and look for his father (“Pedro Páramo” hence the title).
Comala is a kind of purgatory, a place where the present and the past mix, the people that we meet there are mostly ghosts from the past of the town when it was a lively place and not the dusty desert that it has become. Through their voices we hear the story of Pedro Páramo, or Don Pedro as he was known at the time. He was a successful landowner who would always get what he wanted through money, intimidation or violence. But he was also an unhappy man, unable to have enjoyment or connect with others. We find that he had one true love in his life, Susana San Juan, which was his childhood sweetheart but then moved away from Comala. When Susana returns to the town as a widow Pedro is determined to “get her” one way or another…spoiler ahead…it doesn’t end well.
Rulfo’s prose is mostly straightforward but this is a complex work; the fragmentary perspective defines the book, going from first person to third person, from the present to the past. The story becomes complicated with many voices interrupting the main narrative to tell their little own tales. It’s a book about hopes and dreams, death and redemption.
There aren’t many books quite like this: a really small work but with a large lasting impact in literature throughout the world.
If you would like to borrow a copy from our libraries, use our catalogue to make a reservation:
This week, Sara will be reviewing Bridget Collins’ 2018 novel- The Binding. A tender and delicate tale covering LGBTQ+ issues throughout history as well as touching upon the supernatural….
Over to Sara to tell us more!
I saw this book in the windows of Waterstones in Victoria Street and was captivated by its beautiful book cover. After reading the short review beside it, I knew I had to read it.
Well, fellow bookworms, kick off your shoes, get luxuriously comfortable, pour yourself a drink and immerse yourself in a wonderful tale of imagination, history and love!
The Binding is told in the first person and follows the main character, Emmett Farmer. Apprenticed to a book binder in a world where books are forbidden, Emmett discovers that memories have been sealed away within the pages of books. This enables people to forget what they have done or what has happened in their pasts. Struggling with the moral implications of this, The Binding follows Emmett’s journey in this magical and imaginative tale.
I don’t want to tell you much more because you need to enjoy it for yourself. The characters in the book are strong and well rounded, and a love story is at the heart of its core.
If Sara’s 5* review has you convinced, pick up The Binding today at one of our branches. For a full list of our locations and opening times, please click here
This week, Richard from Brompton Library is reviewing Men Without Women, by Haruki Murakami.
Over to Richard to tell us more!
First published in 2014, and published in English in 2017, this collection of short stories shares its title with Ernest Hemingway’s second collection. But there’s precious little male machismo to be found here in these seven short stories by Murakami. What you will find are some of those weirdly surreal conversations that recall earlier works like Norwegian Wood and After Dark. Tragedy and humor, the uncanny and the absolute ordinary go hand in hand.
The characters from these stories comprise students, ex-boyfriends, actors, bartenders, men, who, for whatever reason, find themselves alone. Take the story of Kino for example; ‘As he waited for his first customer, Kino enjoyed listening to whatever music he liked and reading books he’d been wanting to read. Like dry ground welcoming the rain, he let the solitude, silence, and loneliness soak in.’
Reading Murakami, I always get this sense of space and rumination, where you can almost catch yourself thinking.
If, like Richard, you want to be spellbound by Murakami’s enchanting literary style, check out Men Without Women from one of our library branches today.
A full list of our sites and opening times can be found here.
This week, Fiona from Brompton Library will be reviewing Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell.
Over to Fiona to tell us more.
Hamnet, which won the Women’s Prize 2020, is named after Shakespeare’s son, who died of unknown causes at 11 years old. The book focuses on Agnes (known as Anne Hathaway), Shakespeare’s wife, a woman who the author says has been vilified for 500 years. Shakespeare was married at 18 to Agnes, who at the time was 26, and many historians have branded her an uneducated farm girl, a cradle-snatcher who trapped a young man into marrying her. However, very little is really known about Shakespeare’s marriage, his wife or his children other than a few scant facts and the details of his will, where he only left Agnes his second-best bed and the rest to his daughter. Even the exact details of Hamnet’s death are unknown.
O’Farrell focuses on Agnes, her marriage, her family and her children, with Hamnet’s death at the centre. Shakespeare is never mentioned by name, he is always named in relation to those around him; ‘the father’, ‘the husband’, ‘the glove-maker’s son’. It focuses on the life of a woman, mostly alone with her children, and is rooted in the fields, forests and low-ceilinged rooms of Stratford. The second-best bed even gets mentioned.
I really loved this book. If I’d had time, I could have easily read it in one sitting. It is earthy, passionate, tender and deeply moving. It has a folklore/fairy tale quality to it, brought to life by Agnes, a woman whose connection to the earth and her ways of reading people, makes her as much a poet as her husband. The folklore atmosphere is heightened by the ever-present countryside that surrounds Stratford and Agnes mysterious nature.
There were points in the book that reminded me of Shakespeare’s plays. O’Farrell does this quite subtly and is totally true to the story she is telling, sometimes at very poignant moments, but she has clearly drawn some parallels between his life and his plays; the star-crossed lovers of Romeo and Juliet; the playful twins who dress as each other from Twelfth Night; the fairy queen Titania and her wandering Oberon and, in the end, we come full circle back to Hamnet.
Another interesting element is to the novel is the plague. Before reading the book, I had read an interview with the author where she talks about her experience of being in lockdown having spent the previous while researching the black death and in an interview for the Women’s Prize, she says ‘I feel closer to the Elizabethans and the terror they must have felt with this ever-present disease.’ It also struck me that Shakespeare never wrote about the plague, but he was surrounded by it in London and would often return to Stratford when there were outbreaks of it. Being in a similar type of outbreak, it’s easier to understand why he would rather focus on life as it is normally.
Fiona, Brompton Library
Copies are available to borrow using our Select and Collect service!
This week, Ron from Pimlico Library will be reviewing The Dress Circle, by Laurie Graham.
Over to Ron to tell us more!
Great read from my favourite author. A middle-aged couple are forced to reassess their relationship when a long-buried secret comes out of the closet with a vengeance. Things have to change in order for their relationship to survive.
A catastrophic family event gives clarity as to what really is important in life and changes everything, including the way in which the secret is dealt with.
“And so what if I love with each sparkle and each bangle,
Why not try to see things from a different angle”.
Enjoy with an open mind!
If Ron’s review has your interest piqued, borrow The Dress Circle using Select and Collect.
For a full list of our sites and their opening times, click on the link below:
Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister by Jung Chang
This week, Marion from Chelsea Library will be reviewing Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister, a biography by Jung Chang.
Over to Marion to tell us more!
This biography of sisters Meiling, Ailing and Qingling Song offers a glimpse into the tumultuous political events of 20th century China. From their early years studying in America, to surviving extreme political changes leading up to and after the Chinese revolution, the sisters remained at the centre of political power.
I enjoy getting my history from reading biographies and I recommend Big Sister, Little Sister and Red Sister not just as a biography but as a good history read too.
If Marion’s review has you interested, you can pop into one of our libraries today and borrow a paper copy of the book.
If you have a PC or eReader, you can download Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister instantly as a digital read here.
This week we have Fani from Central Library reviewing one of her favourite books, The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld. After a series of brutal attacks on young, society women, Sigmund Freud is called upon to use his revolutionary new ideas to help profile the killer and restore the memory of one of the victims. Continue reading “Books we love”→