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Friday 17 October 2008

Book news - Books to talk about

Once again, to celebrate the upcoming World Book Day in 2009, Spread the Word has selected fifty books which the team believes are deserving of a wider readership.

The full list can be seen here and the public is invited to vote for their favourite. The list will be narrowed down to the ten with the highest votes by 2nd January 2009 and a new vote on the shortlist will commence on 30th January, with the winner to be announced on World Book Day, 5th March 2009.

For full details see the Spread the Word website and use your vote now!

Tuesday 14 October 2008

Book news - Man Booker winner announced

The Man Booker prize has been won by first time novelist Aravind Adiga for The White Tiger.

Sunday 12 October 2008

Boy A

by Jonathan Trigell

I am not a bleeding-heart Liberal (anything but). Nor am I even remotely a fan of the current fad for tragi-biogs, where one crime after another is committed on the innocent for the voyeuristic delectation of the reader. No, these are not the places I wish to go for entertainment. So why did I pick up this book: the story of a child who was a child-killer, and of his attempts to be newly born after fourteen years of being locked up?

Peter Mullen, mainly. The book has been made into a film, (and the young actor Andrew Garfield who played Boy A won a BAFTA for his performance.) I have not yet seen it – but if Mullen has chosen to be in it, then the chances are high I will enjoy it, or at least get something positive from it.

And oh, what a positive experience it is. Not the story – no, the story is so sad, so UN-graphic that I occasionally found myself closing my eyes to try to avoid the words. Trigell manages to write nothing offensive, nothing descriptive, and yet… The pain is all there to be felt. That is where the positivity of the book comes from. The beauty of the writing, so simple and yet so elegant. We care for Jack very quickly. We always know what it is that he did, and yet he is painted so cleverly that we care deeply for him. As readers Trigell doesn’t cheat us, but oh boy… does he make us think.

Jonathan Trigell has a second book out, called Cham. The birthday vouchers are going to be taking another hit.

reviewed by Alison Watson

Monday 6 October 2008

Black Boxes

by Caroline Smailes

In her latest novel, Caroline Smailes has created a stunning and enticing journey using startling imagery and an incredibly original use of language. I started to read it on a train and was actually pleased when the train was delayed, because it meant I could carry on reading.

’Black Boxes’ is a novel which requires more of an input from the reader than just reading. Its narrative engages on a number of levels including the intellectual, the emotional and the artistic. At the heart of the story, the novel explores the themes of desire, loss and despair. In her usual unflinching way Caroline Smailes has tackled subjects that are uncomfortable and challenging.

The novel tells the story of Ana and her descent into depression and emotional inaction. Ana is complex and damaged, trapped within her black box of inertia and isolation.The use of the concept of the black box to tell the story of Ana is captivating, intriguing and challenging. It is a story-telling device which allows for the examination of narrative from a number of different angles and adds vivid layers to the telling of the tale.

The narrative is enriched by the use of sign language which is an integral part of the plot as a means of communication between two of the characters. A secret backwards language has also been introduced which reflects the perversity and emotional distance of the characters who use it.As always with Caroline’s writing, the mastery of language is breathtaking and the poetry of the text creates beauty even where the subject matter is ugly.

‘Black Boxes’ is also the story of Pip, Ana’s denied daughter. Like Jude in Caroline’s first novel, ‘In Search Of Adam’, Pip cries out to be heard. She needs the reader to listen to her – because the adults in her life will not.
Like ‘In Search of Adam’, ‘Black Boxes’ is a stark warning of what can happen when children’s voices are not heard.

For me ‘Black Boxes’ is, ultimately, the story of Pip and the way she is failed by those who should have protected her. Like Jude before her, Pip will live on in my heart for a long time.

reviewed by Helen M Hunt