Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Susie Boyt's Imaginary Bookshop

Today Susie Boyt has popped by on her blog tour of her novel, Love and Fame, to take part in the Imaginary Bookshop.

Susie Boyt's sixth novel is the story of the first year of a marriage. Eve a nervous young actress from a powerful theatrical dynasty has found herself married to an international expert on anxiety called Jim. This is a highly-strung comedy about love, fame, grief, showbusiness and the depths of the gutter press.


What would be the name of your imaginary bookshop? 
Boyt’s Books

Where would your imaginary bookshop be located? 
There is a defunct cafe on the corner of my street in London near Chalk Farm. I’d have it there. The place is empty now but it used to be a cafe upstairs and a legal practice downstairs and had a very exciting clientele, some indiscreet out of work actors and the housekeepers of the rich and famous. The overhearings were very choice. And if you liked coffee while dreaming up a lawsuit it was the perfect place. If I had a bell on the door connected to the front door of my house I could sprint down the street whenever we got a customer which would keep me on my toes.

Would your bookshop have any special features? 
I worked in a bookshop in Covent Garden for a couple of years after University and people would always come in and ask me advice so I’d have a little advice bureau in a quiet corner, for matters bookish and matters not. In my new book the heroine works in a bookshop in a touristy area and people often come in and ask things like ‘Is Freddie Mercury buried near here?’ or 'Can I charge my phone?’ which is infuriating for her. She sometimes avails herself of the self-help station, when it’s quiet.

What would make your bookshop different from all of the other ones? 
The owner would be able to recommend a book for all conceivable personality types, moods and occasions and the advice would be legendary! 

What sections would you have in your bookshop? And what sections would you ditch? 
I’d have a very big poetry section and I’d encourage the staff to learn a poem every week off by heart and I’d also ask everyone who worked in the shop to curate a shelf of their favourite things. I might be a devil and ditch the sports’ sections, although I’d love anything by Serena Williams, obviously.

Every bookshop needs a display table. Which books would you have on your display table? 
I would link the table to the seasons perhaps so for autumn I’d have books with a back-to-school zeal to them as well as novels about bitter-sweet love affairs, poignant memoirs, ageing Broadway legends and baking bibles.

If you could run only one author event who would you have? You can pick a living or dead writer. What sort of event would they run? 
Zadie Smith is very good at singing, so I’d love to have her in to do that with a madcap jazz trio on a wintery evening. She could start by singing that old classic love song, ‘If they asked me I could write a book/ About the way you walk and whisper and look.’ I love singing although I am not very good at it I am great at remembering lyrics so I’d quietly join in, half-hidden behind the till. Or I would host an event featuring the four Elizabeths: Bowen, Taylor, David and Jane Howard, all of whom I admire. To have an hour’s conversation with Henry James would also be a dream come true. I would regale him with my favourite sentences of his such as the one in The Golden Bowl where he describes Paris as ‘Brighton at a hundredfold higher pitch’ or when young Maisie is embraced by her savage mother in What Maisie Knew and feels as though she has been ‘thrust, with a smash of glass, into a jeweller’s shop-front’...

A customer comes up to your till with a copy of your novel and asks you to give them a reason on why they should buy it. What would you say? 
I’d say that Love & Fame is a serious investigation of grief, disguised as a comedy about show business - something for everyone.

What sort of cake would you offer when launching your book in your bookshop? 
That is the question. For a 40th birthday recently I made a chocolate and almond cake and covered it with raspberries and cream and fat pink roses. The smell of the flowers and the chocolate was so lovely when the candles were burning, so perhaps I would make that. I like cakes that look decadent or a bit drunk or as though they themselves have eaten too much cake...


About Susie...

The daughter of Suzy Boyt and artist Lucian Freud, and great-granddaughter of Sigmund Freud. Susie Boyt was educated at Channing and at Camden School for Girls and read English at St Catherine's College, Oxford, graduating in 1992. Working variously at a PR agency, and a literary agency, she completed her first novel, The Normal Man, which was published in 1995 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson. She returned to university to do a Masters in Anglo American Literary Relations at University College London studying the works of Henry James and the poet John Berryman.

To date she has published six novels. In 2008, she published My Judy Garland Life, a layering of biography, hero-worship and self-help. Her journalism includes an ongoing column in the weekend Life & Arts section of the Financial Times. She is married to Tom Astor, a film producer. They live with their two daughters in London. 

Twitter @SusieBoyt

Monday, 8 October 2018

September's Reading

Library book, book club book, short novels, and a non-fiction book. This month has been a good mixture of books, and I'm really surprised that I managed to read as much as there were long walks by the canal in London, soggy walks around central London, rollercoasters and Bakewell tarts in Bakewell. 

Girl Meets Boy - Ali Smith
This was a re-read, and it remembered me how much I love reading Ali Smith's novels. Repackaged for The Canons series by Canongate with a bright and bold cover. Inside, this modern retelling of Ovid's Metamorphoses is punchy, fresh and funny. It's about girls finding boys, girls finding girls, love transforming lives, politics changing lives. You'll get whipped up with the pace and lyrical language. This reminded me that I must get around to reading Ali Smith's Autumn. This is a great book but Hotel World will always be my favourite Ali Smith.

Widow - Fiona Barton
Jane Taylor has a seemingly perfect life - a lovely house, a lovely husband, a nice job. She considered her husband her Prince Charming. Yet he is on the front page of every newspaper, being called a monster, being interviewed by the police for the disappearance of a toddler. Jane must keep a brave face in public. Yet, now her husband has died, and the truth is about to come out. Jumps in the timeline, alternate chapters from different characters keep my attention through the story but I really wanted more depth from the characters.

The Penelopiad - Margaret Atwood
I love Margaret Atwood, and I'm enjoying the Canons myth series too. This novel, like Girl Meets Boy, has a striking cover. The devoted wife of Odysseus, Penelope walks the underworld, ready to tell her story. Lust, greed, murder are all crammed into this short novel. I really enjoyed it.

The Party - Elizabeth Day
A couple of months ago I read this amazing article on why we should learn to embrace failure by elizabeth Day, and I knew I wanted to read her novel, The Party. I added this to my list, and while in the library, joining up as my membership had lapsed for over a decade, I spotted the book so I  borrowed it. Cross between The Talented Mr Ripley and The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair, this is a book about society and manipulating characters to better their lives. I really enjoyed this book, and the way Elizabeth draws the reader into the characters' lives. Unnerving plot and complex characters. I'm glad my first book from the library was a good one!

Notes on a Nervous Planet - Matt Haig
This is a part memoir, part guide on how we can live a happy life when the world around and the technology is making us nervous, lonely and disconnected. After years of anxiety and panic attacks, Matt has decided to share his experiences on how to survive when society is trying to encourage us to be anxious with constantly breaking news, the need to be thinner, the need to have the lastest waterproof jacket.

Right, let's get started with October - I'm having a delayed spring clean and donating old clothes, books, bags to charity. 

Sunday, 16 September 2018

And August Passed in a Flash...

August passed so quickly that it's already half way through September.

In my July post, I said that August was going to be a good month and I'm afraid I was wrong.

It was a fantastic month full of adventures. 

There was a trip to Bletchley Park to learn more about Alan Turing and the code breakers in WWII plus having to battle an impossible roundabout just to get there. A trip to the National Art Gallery in London, and also a weekend to Bath to the Jane Austen Centre to see a strange looking mannequin who was meant to look like Jane Austen but actually looked more like she was passing through on her way to Marks and Spencers to hang out in their window display.

At the end of the month, I went to the Faber offices to hear Miriam Toews and Laura Bates talking about gender, patriarchy, religion, and their books. I'm hoping to read Miriam Toews' new book, Women Talking, either in September or October. 

But did you do any reading I hear you cry!

Well, yes!

Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker
This is such a fantastic book on the importance of sleep. Exploring the science of sleep, why our bodies crave sleep, ways to have better sleep health. I'm a slow non-fiction reader as I read at a different pace so it has taken me several months to finish but I'm so glad I have. Honestly, everybody should read this book. I now have the blue filter enabled in the evenings on my phone, dim the lights, listen to calm music and read (which I was already doing before) before I sleep. My sleep quality has improved. I definitely appreciate sleep more after reading this book!

Weight by Jeanette Winterson
Sharp writing in this pacy retelling of the myth of Atlas and Heracles. Exploring self-knowledge, nature of choice and the way we manipulate others for our own gain. Part of Canongate's The Canons series of retelling of myths with beautiful covers - the set would make a great present for a myths fan. Will be blogging more about this series later this month.

How Do You Like Me Now? by Holly Bourne
This is more than this generation's Bridget Jones. This is a book about the push and pull of women against society's expectations, about dealing with emotional abuse and narcissists, about friendships, and dread. Very honest, real, witty. I want there to be a sequel.

Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong
Ruth, 30, and her life isn't where she was hoping it would be. After breaking up with her fiance, leaving her job, she agrees to move in with her parents to look after her father who has Alzheimer's. This is a book about discovering who you, family relationships, and acceptance. It's brilliant and funny!


As we're already half way through September I can already say it's a great month... a walk along Regent's Canal, and many more things planned....

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Book Review: The Cartography of Others

The Cartography of Others
by Catherine McNamara
Published by Unbound
Available in paperback and ebook

Catherine McNamara's latest short story collection, The Cartography of Others, not only has a lovely cover but the twenty stories contained inside are an exploration of displacement and estrangement.

Across the stories, we see characters who are on the verge of turning point in their lives. A woman waits in a hotel room for her married love to turn up, absorbing his excuses each time he calls, letting his flakiness knock her confidence. A son is trekking across a hill thinking about this mother's last few moments before she died. A soprano, on a boat, searching for her voice.

All these characters are looking for meaning, searching their past, hoping to find a sigh that will lead them towards their future. Catherine gives glimpses into their inner lives letting the reader see a character, who on the outside appears to be confident, has a great life but are crumbling inside, full of fear of the future.

Full of glamorous locations, vivid in detail, stretching from Sydney's suburbs, Accra, Paris across to Mali. Catherine takes the reader on a tour around the world, giving such precise details that the reader feels like they are actually there with the character, pulling the reader into the snapshot of these characters' lives.

The Cartography of Others delves confidently into the complexities of modern life, delve into people's concerns and fears of change. You can buy The Cartography of Others from your favourite bookshop.

I was sent a copy via the author.