Thursday 14 April 2011

I never thought my heart would sink at receiving a bundle of free books. Oh, in truth, it doesn't - there is always a thrill in opening a box or envelope, not knowing what's inside, and taking in the look and feel of an untouched new book. It's just that I know there aren't enough hours in the day for me to catch up with all my reading.

This latest parcel held six books all about the Bible which I need to review for an article for a book trade magazine. Six may seem plenty, but I have to add these to the two dozen already piled next to my desk.

The majority of them look attractive and readable texts, but they're not easy reading and with the deadline looming scarily close, it might be time to get serious about working through them. I'll let you know how I get on, but I think the Easter weekend might be my reading weekend!

Wednesday 13 April 2011

I've just had an extraordinary evening - one of those occasions when you start a book and can't do anything until you've finished because it's so enjoyable and compelling.

The book was 22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson and I had picked up because I am hosting a visit by the author to Browsers Bookshop, Woodbridge at the beginning of May.

As a large format, preview copy, with a striking front cover image, it was exciting to receive, but I was thrilled to discover very quickly that it was a great read.

It's set in Ipswich and tells the story of a Polish couple and their young son who are trying to make a home and a life for themselves after being separated during the Second World War. Trying to deny the horrors they have individually experienced in the past few years, the couple have a fragile existence and little by little their secrets are exposed to a devastating effect.

It is a remarkable book. I found that I was completely convinced by all the characters, and despite flashbacks and locations switching from Ipswich to Poland, I was never wrong-footed, and no one part of the book seemed stronger than another. What's more, despite the tragic backdrop and the struggles being described, it still felt an uplifting and enriching experience learning about the lives of these very real characters.

It's lovely to discover such a book, but it's difficult to know what to pick up next!

Tuesday 12 April 2011

The shortlist for the Orange Prize has been announced and, unfortunately, I haven't yet read any of the six titles. This is not something that usually causes me any particular concern, but this year I've launched a competition and an event tied into the prize, so I need to get reading.

One of the judges is Liz Calder who lives in Suffolk, and when I found out she was involved, I invited her to lead an event speaking about her experience. She says that working through the reading list and evaluating the contenders, to date, has been much like being in a reading group. I wonder if she'll have a different perspective when the winner is announced. We'll find out more on Thursday 16 June, at Browsers Bookshop, Woodbridge.