Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Nothing new

Dystopian / post-apocalyptic fiction for teenagers

Looking around the shelves in libraries and bookshops the shelves in the teen areas are full of dystopian fantasy novels - many published (or republished) on the back of the successful Hunger Games series.

I've heard a few people say that this is a depressing trend for books but I don't think it is anything new.  I remember in the late 1980s and 1990s that many of the teen novels I picked up all had an end of the world/ rebuilding after a disaster theme.  Brother in the Land, Children of the Dust and also Z for Zachariah which was talked about in the Guardian recently - although for a different reason.

I've been tidying and cataloguing all of our books recently and I discovered one of these books so decided to re-read it.  I loved this book as a younger reader (although I do think that I originally chose it because I thought it was going to be about aquatic seals!) and as I was reading it last week pages were falling out on me to reinforce this point.

I was surprised how much I remembered from 20 or so years ago, and even now I found it had a slightly scary edge. I was also struck by how plausible the actions were even nearly 50 years after first publication - after a disaster there won't be working computers and mobile phones and so the lack of them in the book didn't jar!

What did surprise me was the lack of explanation in the book, for a children's book there are lots of loose ends and they did frustrate me slightly but I think that this because I am now an adult and want more depth.  The book is well written and as I was reading it I could visualise everything.

I do remember that as a teenager I looked for more books by this author and I did get a bit of a shock as the next Mary Wesley book I read was the Chamomile Lawn - quite a different book!

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Theatre 2016: Review Eighteen

Threepenny Opera, Oliver Theatre, National Theatre, London. June 2016.

This was a show that has been on my horizon for a while as surprisingly it was Mr Norfolkbookworm who suggested that it would be a good thing to see. (Rebecca and I were easily persuaded!) I knew nothing at all about it - not even the one catchy tune!

This not knowing anything about the play? musical? opera? paid off again as I just fell into the spell wonderfully. This is a Brecht show and so you are never going to feel comfortable but the famous alienation was spot on for me.  Every time I just got settled and thought I knew what was happening there was a twist, a moment of discomfort from either the visuals or words, or even the cast addressing the audience directly but this kept me on my toes and keen to know what happened next. I particularly liked the way that the violence was handled in such a stylish way, and also spotting all of the other cultural references that fitted in seamlessly.

Afterwards the three of us sat over dinner and discussed what we'd seen for ages. Each of us had taken something different from what we'd seen or noticed something different on the stage. Mr Norfolkbookworm was probably the least enthusiastic about the show - he'd recently watched the 1930s film version and found the live version to be just so different - but Rebecca and I were in agreement that if time and funds allowed we'd be seeing this at least once more to spot more of those little details that we'd been talking about.

My one request from this outing - that my two companions could at least keep to the same time & key as they "sing" Mack the Knife.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Under the weather

Spring of 2016 has not been great for me in some ways as I've not been too well a couple of time, and this has meant that I've actually had to miss going to the theatre a few times.  Prior to this I've actually only missed one performance out of all I've had booked due to being poorly (and that transfered to Norwich so I got to see it anyhow).

Friends who saw one of plays I missed said I'd dodged a bullet but I am sad that I've missed a double-bill in Chichester. Now I've got to cross my fingers that these two do have 'legs' and transfer to other venues.  I can see that I will be ordering the scripts from these two plays and at least reading them.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Too advanced?

One advantage of working in the book world, libraries or retail, is the chance to read books in advance of publication. Through the generosity of publishers and also Net Galley I've discovered some great books and generally around the time of publication so that there is buzz and discussion about the titles at the same time I'm reading them, which is great - I love talking about books.

Some of the other projects I read advance copies for are less timely and that has come home to me twice in recent weeks.

I had the chance to read Phillipe Sands' East West Street many months ago and it blew me away then.

A book of coincidences, history, family history, law and so much more.  It draws various strands of life together and it is wonderfully personal and technical at the same time.  I've read a lot of books about the division of Europe pre- and post- World War Two and the Holocaust and this is up there among the best. There is even a Norwich link!

I can't say that I'd forgotten this book because it did have such an impact on me but as I read/heard nothing about it I thought I was in the minority in loving it.  However it was just that I read it so early no one was talking about it! Now it is published it is getting great reviews and I am so pleased - this is a readable book that manages to bring home the personal way the Holocaust touched people while never losing sight of the whole.

If you are in Norwich in July Philippe Sands will be talking at Waterstones Norwich - details here

The second book I read months ago and is just now being talked about is Elena Lappin's What Language Do I Dream In?
When I was studying languages we were always told that you'd 'cracked it' when you dreamt in the language you were studying and so I was drawn to this book just by the title alone but again it turned out to be a memoir/family history book that took post war Europe as a backdrop.

Another book that I raced through and then assumed that no one else liked, but again it was just I read it months and months before publication!

I think that the lesson I've learned from this is that when I read a proof copy of a book I need to also note in my reading journal what the actual publication date of a book is!