The Garden, Part III

Read the first part here,
and the second part here.

The next day I resume my position in my chair. The clouds have knit together across the sky causing a gloom I don’t believe will never shift. It’s funny how much the weather seems to affect my mood. I flick through the latest copy of Gardener’s Weekly but soon the neighbours’ voices become intertwined with the words on the page and I pause to listen.

“Can’t you find some way to forgive me?” he asks.

It’s as if the conversation is continuing from yesterday. An electric blue butterfly catches my gaze.

“I don’t know. The kettle’s boiling, come inside.”

The butterfly, with all its exotic patterns and intricate filigree, flutters away.

I don’t know what’s going on between them. I’m not usually one to pry, and I am content in my little sanctuary, but I feel as if I need to know.

Watch this space for the next instalment.

The Garden, Part II

Read the first part here.

It’s a Friday afternoon and I’m sitting in my chair, a straw hat firmly atop my head to keep the sunlight at bay. Sparrows flutter in and out of their nest and bees hop from one milky buttercup to the next, but that’s not what holds my attention. There are voices on the breeze. One the jagged tones of a man’s speech, the other a woman’s, bright as a dropped gem. Some of the words blend together, a myriad of textures overlapping. I uncross my legs and lean forwards.

“Why would you do it?”

“I don’t know. I’m sorry.”

A door slams and the words are pinched from the air. I turn back to the swallows. The life of a bird must be so easy. I envy them and their simplicity.

Watch this space for the next instalment.

The Garden

I push open the gate, the white paint flaking off in chunks, and walk into the garden. I remember when the lawn used to be freshly trimmed, now it’s an overgrown haven for voles and mice. They scurry about beneath the foliage, the leaves trembling as they pass. Birds nest in the trees overhead. When they hatch I will watch as the mother regurgitates food for them. When they are strong enough I will watch as they make their first attempts at flight. I watch everything from my garden chair. It’s a deck chair really, one of those pink and white stripe ones meant for the beach, but I make the rules here. This is my safe place. This is my sanctuary. This is my Eden.

Newspaper Feature

Now I know this isn’t anything to brag about but since I’ve just worked out how the link works, and it’s proof of my writing being out there in the big, wide world, I thought I’d share it on my blog. Just a couple of weeks ago a short story I wrote was featured in the student newspaper at my University. If you’d like to read my piece simply turn to page 12. Enjoy.

 

Bluebeard

‘Bluebeard’ is a French fairy tale. It was first written down by Charles Perrault and published as part of his Histoires ou Contes du Temps passé (Tales and Stories of the Past with Morals). Even though it was included in the Grimms’ collection of fairy tales in 1812, it was  removed from the latter editions for being ‘too French’. The Grimms were trying to compile an anthology of stories that were German in origin, they believed Germany was lacking in great works of literature compared to the rest of Europe and so wanted to fix this problem. The clearly French origin of ‘Bluebeard’ was obviously too much to ignore, thus it was removed. This is the most likely reason that the story is lesser known than many of Perrault’s tales other tales such as ‘Cinderella’, ‘The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood’, ‘Puss in Boots’ and ‘Little Red Riding Hood’.

Now let’s get down to the magic. If you take away the blue beard from the story then it is essential the tale of a mass murderer.

Bluebeard

Bluebeard marries a young girl. He gives her a set of keys to all the rooms in his castle, but forbids her to enter one room at the bottom of a tower. Bluebeard is then called away on business and his new bride is left to wander the castle alone. Temptation gets the better of her, much like Eve in the Garden of Eden, and she cannot help but enter the forbidden chamber. Inside are the grotesquely bloodied bodies of all his previous wives. In her haste to leave she drops the key on the blood-soaked floor. Locking the room behind her she goes to wash the blood off of the key but finds it is permanently stained.

Bluebeard returns home early and demands his keys back. He notices one is missing and requests it. When the young girl brings it to him and he sees the indelible mark of blood he realises she has disobeyed him. Bluebeard decides that the only acceptable punishment is death – no surprise really coming from a serial killer. The girl pleads for a little time to say her prayers, which she uses to call to her brothers from a tower window.

Like most fairy tales it is not really a spoiler to say that all ends happily; she is rescued by her brothers, Bluebeard is killed, and since he had no heirs, all of his castle and wealth then belongs to her.

Like many of the canonical fairy tales, this has a very dark nature. Magical elements only include the blue hue of his beard and the indelible mark on the key. The former, I suppose, makes the story a little more fantastical, and the latter is not only symbolic of the story of the Fall, but is also a plot device; it allows Bluebeard access to the knowledge of what happened during his absence.

the bloody chamber

Angela Carter’s adaptation of the ‘Bluebeard’ story, ‘The Bloody Chamber’, printed alongside adaptations of ‘Beauty and the Beast’, ‘Puss in Boots’ and ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ in a collection of short stories entitled The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories, has received much praise in the world of literary criticism. It explores similar motifs but, in typical Angela Carter fashion, incorporates a touch of feminism. In this story the young girl loses her virginity to the Marquis before he is called away on business and there is lots of imagery to mirror this loss of innocence. Other differences include her friendship with a blind piano tuner and the fact it is her mother who rescues her, using some kind of filial telepathy to realise she is in danger.

For a longer review of all the stories in The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories please follow this link:

The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories

That’s all from me, over and out –

A Wasteland

So I’ve been working on a short story. In total I’m aiming for about 2,000 words (I think). I never really let anyone read my writing so this is a bit of a first for me. I suppose I had a bit of a carpe diem moment. Let me know what you think of it so far!

a wasteland

The field is Autumn. Before you right now is the true definition of the word, all wrapped up in orange leaves, tied with grass.

Looking around yourself you notice the emptiness of it all. The dry, rural landscape that extends as far as the eye can see. A small part of you wonders if the whole world looks like this, one vast ginger ocean undulating in the breeze. The stems talk to each other in rustled whispers. You wonder what they are saying.

It hasn’t always been like this, just a few months ago the whole place had been vibrant and alive. Fresh crops had been dug: carrots, potatoes, red onions and parsnips. Then there were the herbs too; new sprigs of rosemary had adorned your roast chicken. You used to walk in the gardens, pausing to sketch the forget-me-nots and hydrangeas. Starlings used to flutter in and out of the birdbath splashing water onto the freshly cut grass.

Now it’s a wasteland. The drought has killed everything. You can’t imagine there’s anything living out there anymore. The field has the appearance of being burnt, as if the whole lot at some point went up in flames. The scorched earth is hard beneath your bare feet. It may be desolate but it’s still beautiful to you. You remember the life that was once there.

You look to the side. The sun is setting in the west. It sinks below the creosoted fence, the last rays shining through between the slats. They are mild, like the soft shine of the sunrise through the nursery blinds in the morning. The clouds have turned pink, but like watercolours they blend effortlessly. Thin wisps swirl intricately together.

Running your hand through the dead grass slices your translucent skin. When you examine your palm you notice little paper-cut lines have appeared whiter than your skin. Thrusting the hand back into your pocket, you follow the winding gravel path back to the cottage. You come to the row of wild roses, standing stern against the flat grey wall, leering at you with ruffled faces. Bending down you scoop up a handful of rich, tobacco-coloured soil and let it crumble through your fingers. It’s still damp from last night’s rain. It was the first rain in weeks but somehow the roses have survived the entire summer. Perhaps they are magic roses. The white ones are your favourite, so bright and pure. You heard once that white roses symbolise everlasting love, whereas red roses signify a short passionate affair. You can’t remember where you heard it and you’re not sure you even fully grasp the concept of love but the thought of something lasting forever comforts you.

The wind picks up and blows your hair across your face. You breathe in a mixture of coconut shampoo and rose petals. Rising from your crouched position you know you need to return home. Lily will be waiting for you.

Jennifer Egan’s Black Box and The Short Story

Last week I read Black Box by Jennifer Egan, a truly remarkable short story first published on Twitter, 140 characters at a time. Of course I personally wasn’t waiting around each day for a tweet, I read it all in one go published online by The New Yorker, but it’s an interesting concept. The idea of reading something slowly enough to have ample time to digest it, and potentially waiting in anticipation of the next snippet, makes tweeting a truly interesting method of publishing. And as a story, I thought it was simply wonderful.

black box

Set in a futuristic world, the main character is on an espionage mission, gathering information from her ‘Designated Mate’. The story, using the second person, reads like a set of instructions. It’s didactic and straightforward, which I absolutely loved. I imagined it as reflective of her training, telling her what to do in every possible scenario.

This story is just the right amount of believable. The protagonist has a camera in her eyes, buttons for different purposes all over her body, and a strange detachment from her real life, her life with her loving husband. We don’t quite know how she ended up being a spy, all we know is that she is carrying out her duty for the government, and that she’s not getting paid. The writing is wonderfully descriptive and the plot is engaging.

Follow this link if you fancy having a read. I would definitely recommend it!

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2012/06/04/black-box-2

Jennifer Egan’s story inspired me to write my own 140 character short story – except mine is only 140 characters in total. To be honest it’s more like one of Ernest Hemingway’s short stories but never mind! This is the first time I’ve published my own creative writing on my blog so here goes nothing:

Wild roses grow taller than the oak fence, their colours popping: white, red, pink, peach. I reach out. Blood appears. The white rose bites.

Hope you enjoyed! Over and out –

Roald Dahl vs David Walliams

This is the first time I’m choosing to write about an issue that actually bothers me. Usually I post about a really great book I’ve just finished or a sneaky little writing tip I’ve come across, but this, I feel, is an issue worthy of complaining about. In fact, it really upset me when I saw it, a proper ‘childhood meltdown’, if you know what I mean.

The other day I was browsing the bestselling books section of my local Sainsburys and I couldn’t help but noticing a new series of front covers for Roald Dahl’s children’ books. However, upon closer inspection I realised they weren’t the works of Roald Dahl at all, but those of David Walliams, who we all know is a great admirer of Roald Dahl, as are many of us. I for one absolutely adore his tales.

dahlroald15

Most of us will have either grown up reading Roald Dahl or perhaps have read them to our little ones. His stories, and the drawings of his illustrator, Quentin Blake, are iconic. For me, he’s a huge part of my childhood. The first book I was ever read at school (you know the type, when the teacher reads for ten minutes at the end of every school day so that it takes you a whole year to finish a book) was The Twits. At the end of the day, all sitting on the cross-legged on the carpet in silence, we would listen to his marvellous words and when the bell rang we would actually moan, not wanting to go home, but wanting to continue with the story. I don’t remember another book that ever caused such a reaction in class. A few years later I remember tuning in to Blue Peter when one of the presenters was visiting the writing shed at the bottom of Roald Dahl’s garden. He or she (I can’t remember who it was now) explained how he only ever wrote in pencil, one of those yellow ones with the eraser on the tip and always had six spares sharpened at the ready. He also was very particular about his paper choices, he used only American yellow legal pads that were sent to him from New York. This writerly process was all fascinating to me. Then later, at Secondary School, our class read Boy and learnt all about his childhood at that fateful school, where he and his friends were caned for putting a dead mouse in one of Mrs Pratchett’s gobstopper jars. This I suppose, contrary to my Never Have I Ever post, was my first biography. The idea of one’s life being made so exciting hooked me. Needless to say, I’m an avid Roald Dahl fan.

DavidWalliam7bks

As you can see David Walliams has used Quentin Blake as his illustrator, and this is fundamentally my issue. By doing this, using the same bold colours, the same style of drawings and even similar titles, he’s basically impersonating the original books. I can’t comment on the content because I flatly refuse to read one. I dislike them even before I’ve opened one. They are so in-keeping in style with Roald Dahl’s tales that I have no idea how they even got past copyright. I feel it’s unjust and wrong that the likes of George’s Marvellous Medicine, The BFG and The Witches are no longer fabulously unique. The niche has been infiltrated by this imposter. Don’t get me wrong, I have no issue with David Walliams writing children’s fiction, it’s the fact he’s trying to be the new Roald Dahl that I have a problem with.

Come up with your own ideas Walliams, don’t copy one of the highest esteemed children’s writers ever and expect to get away with it.

Over and out.

3 Tips For Writer’s Block

We all suffer from it at one stage or another. Whether it’s because life’s getting a little bit hectic and you don’t know where your head’s at, or maybe you’re not in the best of moods, maybe you feel like you’ve simply run out of ideas, whatever it is, we all know that feeling. You find yourself with a pen in your hand, or planted in front of your laptop poised for the creative juices to start flowing, but the words just don’t seem to come.

Blank notepad and pencil

Well here are my top tips:

  1. Get out of the house. Sometimes just going for a walk can give you the inspiration you’ve been waiting for. You might see something – a bird fluttering around inside a bush making all the leaves rustle – you might hear something – an overheard conversation between two neighbours about the likelihood of rain – or you might simply need some fresh air and exercise to awaken your creative senses.
  2. Listen to some music. I find this one particularly helpful because it’s not just necessarily about the lyrics. Yes, they might be just the words you were looking for if you need to ‘wake me up before you go – go’ (I’m sure you can find far more inspiring music but Wham! was what came to mind for some reason) but music also creates feelings and emotions – and perhaps its this you can draw from in your own writing. Be wary of drawing upon lyrics as really lyrics are just bad poetry and if you want to give your writing the best possible edge then I suggest coming up with something more original, rather than taking words that were really only put together because they rhyme. ‘Would you risk it for a chocolate biscuit’ springs to mind…
  3. Search Google images for something relevant. I’ve started to compile a scrapbook for when I’m suffering from writer’s block because I find images can really help with my description. Say I’m writing an Angela Carter-style fairy tale – I simply Google image ‘haunted castle’ or ‘spooky forest’ and my mind is inundated with descriptions of ‘crooked branches like broken fingers…’ and I’m off!

So that’s it for now. If you’re stuck then simply go for a walk, listen to music and search Google for an inspiring image. Hope that helps, ciao for now!

The Year in Books

I thought a brilliant way of rounding off the year would be to discuss what I’ve read this year and what I thought of each title. Yes I’m publishing this a little late as 2016 has already set in but it’s never too late for a little reflection, right? I’m more than likely to miss out a fair few of the books I’ve read this year; I have a bad habit of forgetting what I’ve read unless I own a copy – that’s why I find it absolutely impossible to part with books meaning I now a bookcase which is absolutely fit to bursting. I’ll only say a few words about each and aim to write proper reviews soon. So here’s a taste of the past year’s reading:

There But For The – Ali Smith

This novel has one of the strangest plots I think I’ve ever read – and I’m not saying that is a good thing. During a dinner party, specifically between the main and the sweet, one of the guests locks himself in a spare bedroom and refuses to come out, causing a media frenzy. I know this novel has won loads of awards and is highly esteemed but I really don’t see what all of the fuss is about. The idea is intriguing – the fact that such a small action can have such enormous consequences and the unexpectedness of it all –  but I also find it totally unbelievable and that’s my problem with this novel. I think I just found the whole idea silly.

‘Hills Like White Elephants’ – Ernest Hemingway

This is one of Hemingway’s short stories and, although I had to read it about three times to truly grasp all of its excellence, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The story is simply a couple discussing the logistics of getting an abortion whilst sipping beer in a Spanish train station. The story revolves entirely around their dialogue and I think it’s just so wonderfully simple you’d be silly not to sit down to its mere 1300 odd pages.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist – Mohsin Hamid

This was a novel I didn’t have high expectations of and I think that helped. Changez, a Pakistani man, tells a seemingly nervous American stranger in a Lahore café his experience of living and working in London, including the intimate details of his relationship with a heartbroken Erica. The descriptions of these scenes are truly spellbinding. During his time in London the 9/11 bombings happen in New York and he notices a change in attitudes towards him. Eventually he realises there’s nothing left for him in America and he returns to Pakistan. The novel ends with the conclusion of their meeting but obviously it’s not as straightforward as that. Usually cliffhangers really irritate me because you read all those pages and get left with an unsatisfying ending but this one I just loved – it was so totally unexpected!

’55 Miles to the Gas Pump’ – Annie Proulx

This is one of the most powerful short stories I have ever read and it even encouraged me to write a similar tale myself. Set on a ranch in America, it’s the realisation of what’s really going on behind the scenes that’s most shocking. I won’t spoil it for you – go and read it. It’s a must.

The Gathering – Anne Enright

This I wasn’t such a fan of. It was fine. It was alright. It did what it set out to do. Yes the descriptions of death and depression are great, truly deep and harrowing, but other than that it didn’t do a lot for me. It tells the story of an Irish woman from a large Catholic family losing her brother and holding a funeral and wake with the whole family, recounting memories from her childhood along the way. It explores childhood and memories in an interesting way – the kind of way that makes you say ‘oh yeah, I don’t remember whether that memory was me or my brother doing that either’ and ‘was that memory really mine or have I just been told about it?’ Other than these few moments of enlightment however, it’s very average. I’m starting to think there’s something wrong with me. I never like the award-winners.

Remainder – Tom McCarthy

Gotta admit that I skim-read this and don’t remember it in a great deal but perhaps that’s because it was so ridiculously repetitive. The main character is in an accident involving ‘something falling from the sky’, from which he receives eight and a half million pounds compensation. He then uses this money to re-enact vaguely remembered scenes from his past, complete with building sets and employing actors to work around the clock. He’s driven by the need to create a scene with 100% authenticity and they must re-enact almost non-stop. So he’s a bit of a nutter really and all this repetitiveness doesn’t make it a very interesting book.

Never Coming Back – Tim Weaver

Never Coming Back is the forth book in the David Raker series but I somehow didn’t realise this when I bought it and went ahead and read it anyway. Until the last 50 pages or so it’s a really good thriller – and it apart from a few mentions of a previous accident involving a gun and his recently deceased wife it didn’t seem to matter that I hadn’t read the other books. A family suddenly go missing – like really suddenly – ‘dinner’s cooking, the TV’s on’ but the family are nowhere to be seen and David Raker makes it his mission to find out what happened to them. It gets a little silly at the end but overall a very decent thriller.

Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen

This is the first Austen novel I’ve actually ever read. I’ve seen the movie adaptation staring Alan Rickman, Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant and Emma Thompson so I knew what to expect but reading it is something really quite different. The language is so deliciously rich and proper that you definitely get far more absorbed with reading the novel but film adaptations of Austen’s books are usually very good so if you’re mainly after the plot then the film will probably do.

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson

Up until this moment I had never understood what people meant by saying ‘the Jekyll and Hyde affect’ or ‘a bit Jekyll and Hyde like’ etc. Now I get it! What I like about this is that it’s relatively short and to the point. Plus it’s such an exotic idea that one could use a different persona to commit their evil deeds and just get stuck in the transition. It’s kind of like an adult fairytale.

Dracula – Bram Stoker

I’d wanted to read this for absolutely ages and finally got around to it this summer. I’ve managed to avoid all the movie adaptations so as not to spoil it for myself and I’m definitely glad I did so. It’s spooky and chilling and wonderfully original in feeling. It’s so good to read a book that’s truly at the heart of vampirism. A must read.

Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

I think just about every woman under the sun read this this year but I’ll talk about it anyway. To summarise: Amy frames her husband of five years, Nick, for her murder, basically because he doesn’t live up to her expectations, then changes her mind and comes up with a miraculous tale that explains her coming back to life. This does however involve her killing and framing old school chum Desi Collins in the process but he was just necessary collateral damage, right? I saw the film first and I wish I hadn’t (I always prefer to do it the other way around). I feel like it might have spoilt the shock of realising Nick couldn’t possibly be guilty. I absolutely adored the fact it was written as diary entries, allowing Amy to fool the reader totally for a really long time – what with making up her fear of blood, making out that Nick was violent to her, that he didn’t want children and that she made friends he never even knew about. It’s all so clever and expertly organised that I really admired Amy – like REALLY admired her. I couldn’t believe her level of organisational skills! In fact, I found myself so in awe of her that I really wanted her plan to succeed! And that’s aided in the movie by Nick being played by Ben Affleck. It’s impossible to feel any sympathy for Ben Affleck let’s admit it. Gillian Flynn was just so on the ball with this novel – even down to her explanation of cool girl – it’s like she was inside my mind. Amy Elliot – my new heroine.

The Castle of Otranto – Horace Walpole

For a very short story I found this actually horrendously complicated, but perhaps I was having a slow day. There were just a fair few characters and similar things happened to all of them. However, this is said to be one of the first ever Gothic novels and I’m all for educating myself. What I did like about it was the myth-like style it had, I guess just because it was written so long ago. It’s nice to read something different and this was definitely different.

‘The Purloined Letter’ – Edgar Allan Poe

This was the first ever Edgar Allan Poe I’ve read and I absolutely hated it. The story involves someone stealing some letters and the detective, Dupin, finding them in plain sight. Enough said.

‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’ – Edgar Allan Poe

This was even worse than the last Edgar Allan Poe and I don’t think I’ll bother with another unless someone can recommend a good one. SPOILER alert here but the murderer turned out to be an orang-utan in the middle of Paris. Absolutely ridiculous.

Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie

Murder on the Orient Express was my first Christie novel as well and apart from its rigid formula I did really enjoy it. I suppose really I just like mystery, thriller and suspense novels – as you can probably guess from this list – and I love trying to work out the twist ending and always failing. It sounds silly but that’s strangely satisfying. A murder is committed when the train is stuck in a snow drift and therefore stationary between stops, allowing no-one to either get on or off the train. This means the murderer must be one of the twelve travellers already on board but luckily there’s a detective on board to interview everybody and work it all out. It sounds corny when you explain it like that but it was lovely to read a traditional golden age detective story.

The Monk – Matthew Lewis

The Monk tells the story of monk Ambrosio who deteriorates into sin and gets tempted by the devil to commit the most dreadful sins. Set in Spain it’s just something a little different and again part of a category I seem to love: the Gothic. Plus the fact his love interest Matilda dresses up as a male monk for the first part of the novel in order to get close to him is just quite funny when you think about it. Why do so many older texts have dressing up in them?

The Moonstone – Wilkie Collins

I did enjoy this novel but it’s the longest wild goose chase you can possibly imagine. It takes approximately 300 pages for Mr Franklin Blake to find out what happened to the diamond that is stolen at the very beginning of the novel. They could have rounded it up a lot quicker but of course it was first published as a serial so of course Wilkie Collins was bound to string it out as long as physically possible just to fill his pockets.

Zofloya – Charlotte Dacre

I’ve got to say I’m a bit on the fence with this one. I disagree that adultery is hereditary but it’s plot is an interesting one. Zofloya is a magical sort of character who appears just when Victoria is in need and seems to grant her every wish. What she doesn’t realise, however, is that every wish granted has its consequences. She is slowly selling herself to the devil.

The Postman Always Rings Twice – James M Cain

This is one of my favourites this year – though of course nothing beats Gone Girl. I love American books like this – they’re so absolutely different to anything British writers seem to churn out. It tells the story of a boy who takes up part time work at a gas station and enters into a relationship with married woman Cora. She’s not only married but she’s the wife of his employer. You know it’s not going to turn out well right from the very beginning. And it doesn’t. In fact, it couldn’t really go worse. Must read.

‘The Sandman’ – ETA Hoffman

‘The Sandman’ was a short story I read for my course, the point being that if the protagonist isn’t aware of what’s reality and what’s not then the reader isn’t going to have a clue either, and it worked well. I’ve learnt to incorporate this technique into my own writing and it’s a real strength to have, to be able to bend and shape your character’s reality and occasionally add an element of madness to spice things up.

In A Lonely Place – Dorothy B Hughes

Another of the best books of the year. This is a new style of crime fiction. We know who the culprit is but we never see him commit the crime, and what’s more, we follow him around with such a close third person narration that we feel for him and totally understand his damaged mental state, namely his anxiety. I think perhaps I’m not very good at foreseeing endings but this was another quite unexpected one for me. It seems some of the characters – by some I mean Sylvia – have more to them than meets the eye.

‘The Adventure of the Speckled Band’ – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

2015 was a year of a lot of firsts. This was my first Sherlock Holmes and I have to say I was quite unimpressed. I thought the story was lame but perhaps it’s just not a great one – maybe I’ll try The Hound of the Baskervilles.

‘The Meat’ – Janice Galloway

Another wonderfully powerful short story. The thing with this is that we don’t know what the ‘meat’ is until the end my God it’s grim.

‘The Demon Lover’ – Elizabeth Bowen

This is another Gothic story with an interestingly modern setting. It’s a new take on the Gothic.

The Talented Mr Ripley – Patricia Highsmith

Having been a fan of the film I was really excited to read this novel and actually felt a little let down by the end – it’s amazing what expectations do to us isn’t it? The book is actually far simpler than the film and felt quite dumbed down in comparison. Also, I remember from the film that Tom Ripley gets himself into a fair amount of close shaves with his impersonation of Dickie Greenleaf (after brutally killing him) as he bumps into people who know Dickie well but there’s no real sense of danger in the book – apart from when Freddie knocks on his door but we all know what happens there – crash – bang – smash. I also felt a definite hole where Cate Blanchett’s character was utterly missing from the book. I had no idea they had just added her to the film but I missed her in the book. In this case, and I don’t think I’ve ever said this before, the film is better. Maybe that’s just because Jude Law and Matt Damon are such excellent actors but I would recommend it over the book any day.

The Killer Inside Me – Jim Thompson

In some ways this was pretty similar to In A Lonely Place, except that Dorothy B Hughes is a far better writer. In The Killer Inside Me we learn quickly just how many mental problems Lou Ford has. He’s really screwed up in just about every way imaginable, from being forced to get a vasectomy at a young age to enjoying abusing a prostitute and thinking nothing of killing her. What I didn’t like so much about it was the politics behind some of the motives. There’s a sub plot running alongside about the suspicious death of Ford’s brother and how Ford wants revenge, which to me just seems like too much, but hey, maybe that’s just me.

The Wicker Man – Robin Hardy

I’m beginning to realise I’m talking about films in this post just as much as I am books but I guess that’s just how this year worked out. The Wicker Man 1973, NOT the awful 2006 re-make, is a really excellent film and this being a film of the book, was equally top notch. There are a few unexpected added details but they do no harm and what I really loved about this novel was the inclusion of the songs. The soundtrack of The Wicker Man is so iconic, what with Oranges and Lemons and The Landlord’s Daughter, that it was just wonderful that the lyrics were included.

Brighton Rock – Graham Greene

I’m not a massive fan of gang novels and this was no exception. It has a childish tone, what with the nicknames Pinkie and Dallow, making it hard to take seriously. It has a very strange opening with the magazine man Fred Hale’s death and an end I didn’t even fully understand – the protagonist manages to kill himself with a bottle of vitriol (sulphuric acid) but I thought for ages that he’d thrown it at someone else and didn’t understand how he was suddenly dead. ANYWAY this isn’t a novel I’d particularly recommend.

Roseanna – Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö

After reading the Millennium series last year, written by Stieg Larsson, I was keen to read some more Nordic Noir and this wasn’t a disappointment. It was very different and less complex but just as grisly and dark. What lets this novel down is the awful translation. By the end I got really sick of everybody saying ‘actually’ all the time.

Night Train – Martin Amis

I still don’t know what to make of this one. The police officer in this department is female but named Mike Hoolihan – and don’t get me wrong, I’m all for transgender equality – but it’s just never given any kind of explanation. And I’m afraid I can’t move on from or ignore this point. I just don’t get it. Maybe someone can enlighten me.

Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë

I’ve wanted to read this for so long and finally got round to it over Christmas. It wasn’t at all what I expected. I was thinking of something along the lines of Jane Eyre since it’s another Brontë novel but it’s completely and utterly different in every way fathomable. It’s so much darker and really quite sad, not because I feel particularly sorry for the fact nobody got a happy ending, because they’re all such horrible people, but because it must have been an awful existence. What surprised me the most was the fact that Cathy was barely in it. I’d always assumed the whole novel was the love story of Cathy and Heathcliff and it’s not like that at all. Really would recommend if you don’t know too much about this one.

The Bloody Chamber – Angela Carter

This is a re-read and I’ve already done a post on it so I won’t go into too much detail but I can’t leave it out when it’s such an excellent collection of adult fairytales. With Carter it’s the language I love the most. She has this ability to phrase sentences that are so articulate and beautiful it’s all I can do not to bow down to her.

Publishing

And that’s it. That’s my reading list from 2015. Gone Girl has found a special place in my heart but I’ve enjoyed most of them and learnt a lot this year. Happy reading in 2016 everyone!