Tuesday 9 February 2016

A Book You Chose Just for Its Cover

Bringing Up Burns 2015, would've been Number 3 for Bringing Up Burns

'Etta and Otto and Russel and James' by Emma Hooper (A):
(read April 2015)

This was my book bought for its cover without actually opening it and peeking at all! It's a beautiful cover - what I thought was a golden dog with three wise men below him and interestingly naive lettering. The inside was not quite as good as the cover - the dog was a wolf andwas great - a coyote called James and the three very elderly people in the shape of his legs had a story involving snapshots of their convoluted history together and a set of journeys. It was ultimately a sad or sentimental read about aging, different conceptions of the past, famines and childhood, as well as of determined travelling.


'Vixen' by Rosie Garland (J):
(read April 2015)

** spoiler alert ** I had no expectations of this book, as I bought it on the basis of its beautiful cover, which several other people commented on while I was reading it, so WELL DONE LINDSEY CARR, it did the trick. Then I noticed that the front cover's critic's comment was about Rosie Garland's "lush prose" and I started to have expectations. These were soon dashed: I found her writing jangly, spare and harsh, but this was in contrast to David Mitchell's in The 1,000 Autumns... which I had just finished, so that was a tough comparison. I realised after a while that some of the time Rosie Garland is attempting to write an English meant to represent what might have been spoken in 14th century North Devon. This is a very hard thing to do, and something I often find myself
critical of, both on screen and in books. It's not possible to do correctly for an era as distant as 14th century England: we wouldn't understand it if it was genuine, and to write in current colloquial English would also sound wrong. However, I find some authors more convincing in this than I found in Vixen. By the end of the book I had become used to the style so I wasn't jarred or irritated. Oh dear.

The story was oddly thin. Odd, because the basic themes were interesting and the sort of thing I expect to enjoy: history (the Black Death), relationships (men and women in that era, specifically a good speculation about what supposedly celibate priests and their housekeepers might have been like), a place I vaguely know (Barnstaple and nearby) and yet I wanted more to make me believe.
So, sorry Rosie Garland, I won't be coming back to you, but keep using Lindsey Carr for your covers, and you'll sell anyway!


'Weathering' by Lucy Wood (E):
(read in March 2015)

So,  I seem to have struck lucky with the pretty cover one! I chose Weathering because the skeleton leaf is just beautiful, and I love the font too. Never heard of Lucy Wood before last year, and I just spotted this in a book shop. (Mr B's actually!) It's a fantastic book; I love Wood's writing. The book hinges on her writing, in that sense it is very literary. A lot of the book was 'scene setting' which seemed more important than the characters in a way. I would go as far as to say that the place is actually a character in  the novel itself. The story is second to the place it's set in . Weathering is an apt title - the weather is so important, and beautifully described that no other title would have fitted. I don't know whether Lucy Wood has written anything since 2015, but I'd be interested to read it (along with the 500 other books on my TBR pile...)
Give it a go - it's more than just a pretty face!

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