Tuesday 11 September 2012

My Man Booker Challenge: Man Booker Short-list announcement


And so today, the Man Booker judges have announced their short-list... I haven't been speedy enough to read them all yet and make my recommendations but it’s good to see I have already read one of the chosen few! So hot off the press the top six are:

The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng
Swimming Home by Deborah Levy
Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
The Lighthouse by Alison Moore
Umbrella by Will Self
Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil

I have to say I’m sad not to see ‘The Teleportation Accident’ in the mix but I hope this means that the top six are even better. I’ve already read ‘The Lighthouse’ (review to follow) and found it to be a well-written, gripping and slightly haunting read. I imagine the other five will be equally well-written and from the synopses I have read, will also cover some challenging topics. 

I better get reading then… Only a month to go until the winner is finally announced!

Saturday 8 September 2012

My Man Booker Challenge: The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman


This was the first on the Man Booker long-list that I picked to read. Perhaps one of the longest in the selection, I confess it has taken me longer than expected to get through book one of twelve… here’s hoping the next book is a little shorter…

However, long as it is, The Teleportation Accident is engaging, intriguing and also very funny. The novel tells the story of Ergon Loeser, a self obsessed theatre set designer who is the laughing stock of his peer group of writers, artists and actors in 1930’s Berlin. Loeser’s journey around the world to try and fulfil his sexual appetite for one woman brings together an odd assortment of characters with the most peculiar of scenarios that will have you in fits of giggles. (I received a few strange glances on the train when Loeser started attaching a ‘monkey ball’ to an upper class tourist’s neck).

The Teleportation Accident hinges around a theatrical explosion in the late seventeenth century.  An explosion that seeps through the story, intertwining a rich world of bizarre characters, who could almost have novels of their own, and cities that are desperately    trying to adapt to the trials and strains of World War Two.

Interestingly, Beauman creates a protagonist in Loeser who actively avoids news and politics, announcing; ‘I will bet you anything you like that this other Hitler, whoever he is, will never make one bit of difference to my life.’ Through Loeser we are able to witness the scandalous parties of the 1930’s, the social jostling of the 40’s and the distractions provided by cities like Paris and L.A.

The Teleportation Accident is an exciting and clever novel with an (at risk of using this word too many times) ‘explosive’ ending. I'm not sure it will make the same big splash as the current best-sellers but, for those who have a bit of time, intellect and imagination, it is a really rewarding read: a strong contender for this year’s Man Booker title.

Monday 27 August 2012

My 2012 Man Booker Challenge... Fifty days to read twelve books...


This year’s long-list for the 2012 Man Booker Prize has been released and in precisely fifty days the winner will be announced. Last year I was poised and waiting to read the winning title but this year I want to be in on the decision making, part of the debate and to be able throw my two pence in on the inevitable discussion on whether this year’s winner is the right one. I’m setting myself a (hopefully) realistic goal of reading all the long-list books ahead of the prize-giving on October 16thAdmittedly, I’m probably not the only one to do this and some are already over half way through, but better late than never.  

So here I am, fifty days away from the announcement and downloading the first of the chosen twelve… reviews to follow…

The 2012 long-list
The Teleportation Accident - Ned Beauman
The Yips - Nicola Baker
Philda- Andre Brink
The Garden of Evening Mists- Tan Twan Eng
Skios - Michael Frayn
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry- Rachel Joyce
Swimming Home - Deborah Levy
Bringing up the Bodies- Hilary Mantel
The Lighthouse - Alison Moore
Umbrella-  Will Self
Narcopolis-  Jeet Thayil
Communion Town - Sam Thompson

Monday 20 August 2012

Book Review: Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann

So it seems I have been suckered in to choosing my next read by good old fashioned advertising. After passing the same posters numerous times, I was persuaded to pick up (or rather download) Tigers in Red Weather. What a few choice words from my favourite magazines won’t do… I'm pleased to say, in this case, they've actually got it right.

Tigers is a whirlwind of a read that I couldn’t put down. Set on the glamorous US East Coast in post war society, the novel tells the story of a family who summer at Tiger House. The story spans twenty years and hinges around one summer where a local maid is found dead on the island. The story has undertones of To Kill a Mockingbird, bringing to life the idea that one event in a community has an effect on everyone and unknowingly, can seep into all areas of their lives.

Klaussmann’s cast of characters really bring the story to life.  Staring with Nick, a bit of a siren, married young with a traumatised husband back from the war; fast forwarding to her blonde bombshell of a daughter Daisy who is mostly concerned with winning her next tennis tournament and ending with her cousin Ed who is downright creepy. While each is obnoxious in their own way, caught up by their own heart breaks and disappointments, they are also uniquely endearing. Seeing the same situations through the perspective of a different relation adds depth and humour to quite a dark story.
Tigers is a haunting book that combines the familiar 1950’s from Mad Men, with its glamorous parties, chilled martinis and smatterings of extra marital sex; with a mounting tension and a sense that something bad is going to happen: as if we are witnessing another crack forming in an already fragile society.  It’s like a hot, sticky summer that you won’t forget in a while.

Saturday 18 August 2012

A trip to the Crazy Bear, Oxford - June 2012

Perched on the edge of suburbia and overlooking beautiful countryside, we rolled into the Crazy Bear ready for some relaxation and good food.  
The reception was sited in a old red London bus signposted with neon lights. We were intrigued..
Having booked quite last minute we were only able to get one of the rooms in the main building. Even though it wasn’t one of the gorgeous rooms we had eyed up on the website, our room was cozy, well furnished and stocked Molton Brown goodies - so we weren’t complaining. 
We had a choice of restaurant for our evening meal a Thai or an English restaurant. Like all of the areas of the hotel, the restaurants are finely decorated and have a unique decor. We spent the evening in the English restaurant surrounded by plush leather and wine bottles coating the ceiling. 
What I particularly liked about the Crazy Bear is that they run their own farm, rear their own livestock and grow their own produce. The wine list is regularly updated and you just know you will eat a hearty, delicious meal.  My steak went down a treat and the chocolate dessert was delightful.
The next morning we ventured up to the Crazy Bear farm where if you book, you can take part in some Clay Pigeon shooting. We opted for meeting the resident animals (pigs, badger-face lambs and reindeer..) and enjoying a coffee overlooking the countryside. We even stocked up on some fresh sausage rolls and cheese for the journey home. Bliss! 
The Crazy Bear isn’t the cheapest of boutique hotels to stay in but if you are looking for a spot of luxury and a unique way to spend the weekend, then this is the hotel for you. The hotel describes itself as a ‘unique oasis in a countryside setting’. I couldn’t put it better myself!

Southbank Chocolate festival- April 2012

We spent a sunny Sunday afternoon perusing the chocolate stalls at the Southbank’s Chocolate festival. I stumbled across this through Twitter and promptly dragged my other half up into town to pay the festival a visit. 
The Southbank was thronging with people and we had to battle our way to the front of the stalls. There were many chocolate wonders to behold including cupcakes, brownies, icecream, fudge, pancakes and even beer! 
A surprising combination that worked well and tasted well, mostly like beer!
Delicious chocolate and blueberry- a shot was enough for me!
A very busy Southbank full of chocolate lovers. Not quite the idyllic Easter chocolate festival as shown on in Chocolat but definitely worth a visit to enjoy the samples!

Review of Pure by Julianna Baggott: A must read

Pure. The title doesn’t give much away, neither does the cover. The blurb simply reads:

‘We know you are here, our brothers and sisters. We will, one day, emerge from the dome to join you in peace. For now, we watch from afar.
I was hooked. Pure is the first in a new young adult trilogy written by Julianna Baggott…
Check out my full review at: http://www.theindiepedant.com/?p=8860