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November 2016 Reading Round-Up

Phew! November done. Thus ends my oh-my-God-I’ve-so-much-to-read couple of months (though I’m writing this in advance so still crossing my fingers!) This month has been chocker block. When I’ve said to family and friends ‘I’m sorry but I have to read’ as much as it may have sounded like ‘I need to wash my hair’ to the non-readers, I meant every word. This month has seen our second literary event at The Notes Cafe, with nearing triple the promotion and time requirements, and included the reading and preparation for our Young Writer Of The Year award shadow judging. The short books balanced out by the tomes.

And I’ve loved every minute of it. Here’s what I crammed in but gave full attention to this month; I think this is the first time I’ve covered all three ‘types’ in one month – non-fiction, fiction, poetry:

The Books

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Magda Szubanski: Reckoning – The star of Babe and Kath And Kim recounts both the story of her life and the way her Polish relatives fought back against the Nazis. Superb; Szubanski is a keen writer and there’s a lot of information about the Second World War in here that gets forgotten.

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Robert Macfarlane, Stanley Donwood and Dan Richards: Holloway – Macfarlane takes a trip to visit a holloway with Roger Deakin and, after Deakin’s passing, visits the holloway again with Donwood and Richards in tribute. This is a very short book of what I can only describe as prose poetry, a love letter to nature, together with Donwood’s etchings; a lovely escape.


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Benjamin Wood: The Ecliptic – Ellie, an artist struggling to create something from the heart, lives at a creative refuge on an island off Turkey and everything is great until a much younger resident arrives with his very different ideas. A fantastic study of creativity but the ending’s a bit samey and the narrative quite anachronistic.

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Elizabeth Fremantle: Watch The Lady – Penelope Devereux and her family support Scottish King James VI’s claim to the throne of England but they must go about it carefully, in the same way Penelope must go about her romantic relationships in a time when the monarch’s permission had to be sought in order to marry. The characters in this leap off the page, the plot, however complex in its political manoeuvrings, is secondary, and in this case that’s perfect.

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Elizabeth Fremantle: The Girl In The Glass Tower – Lady Arbella Stuart’s life is controlled by those who would see her on the English throne and in rebellion she limits herself at meals and decides to marry who she will. This book looks at another of the possible successions; it’s a bit weaker than the above but still very compelling.

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Jessie Greengrass: An Account Of The Decline Of The Great Auk, According To One Who Saw It – A collection of short stories based around the themes of intervention and choice. Super.

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Max Porter: Grief Is The Thing With Feathers – When his wife dies, a man who is writing a book on Ted Hughes finds a Crow at his door, a bird who will help him and his sons through their grief. Poetry in prose.

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Paul McVeigh: The Good Son – Growing up during The Troubles in Northern Ireland, Michael Donnelly attempts to work out who he is whilst war wages outside in the street. Not bad – it’s a particular book with a balance of profound and your average coming-of-age.


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Andrew McMillan: Physical – A collection of pieces on the male body and sexuality. Awesome.

It would be difficult to pick a favourite this month.

Quotation Report

None this time.

I can’t quite believe it’s only two weeks until I put the blog on its 2 week Christmas hiatus. Still a couple of books to recommend to you before then and that all important award result! (Our Shadow Panel winner was announced yesterday.)

What have you been up to this month?



December 2, 2016, 10:44 am

What a great month you’ve had! I read Watch the Lady in October and The Girl in the Glass Tower in November, but had the opposite reaction to you – I enjoyed both but preferred the second one. I hope you have a good December. I can’t believe it’s nearly Christmas either!


December 2, 2016, 12:03 pm

Such a terrific month! I love the mixed bag that you read from.


December 2, 2016, 5:50 pm

Great books this month! Holloway sounds lovely I like Deakin and Macfarlane. It hasn’t made it to the US yet, I hope it does!

Whitney @ First Impressions Reviews

December 3, 2016, 4:41 am

Watch the Lady has been on my bookshelf for almost a year. I really enjoyed Fremantle’s first two books and hope to get to it in 2017. You had a fantastic reading month. I’m a bit jealous as mine was pretty slow. I hope December is just as bookish.

April Munday

December 9, 2016, 3:55 pm

Due to life being far from normal last weekend, I read The Queen’s Gambit and really enjoyed it. Some of the feminism is laid on with a trowel, but that only detracted a little from the enjoyment. I realised this morning that CJ Sansom’s Lamentation is about Katherine Parr’s book, so that has now moved up my TBR list, although I promised myself that I would reread all the earlier Shardlake books first. I’m also looking forward to Watch the Lady, but I think I’ll leave it a couple of months before I start it.


December 10, 2016, 6:37 pm

Well done on reading so much; including fiction, non-fiction and poetry! I had a poor November only finishing one book, although I did have a lot of reading going on.


December 15, 2016, 11:03 am

Helen: It was the characterisation for me – that blend of a great person with Fremantle’s writing of her whereas there were limits to Arbella. I did enjoy Glass Tower a lot though. Looking forward to her next.

Toady: It was very varied!

Stefanie: Ahh, if you like Deakin’s work and Macfarlane’s solo stuff you’re almost certain to like it. It’s a nice brief escape. Not sure about it being printed in the US as it’s pretty niche but it’s available to buy online from a good number of places.

Whitney: Watch The Lady is joint favourite with Queen’s Gambit for me – I think QG wins due to the extra amount of plot but the writing in Watch The Lady… do read it soon! :) Best wishes for your December!

April: Hope life is getting back to normal :) Yes, there is some 21st century influence in it, but with the person it’s focused on it generally works. I’m yet to read any Sansom; I want to, but you’ve definitely piqued my interest in it further. As said, I loved Watch The Lady. The relative back and forth in it means you can relax into it somewhat whilst still paying a lot of attention… hard to describe, but yes, a great book.

Jessica: Glad to hear about your reading in general – will it be one of those times wherein the month after (so December) will be full of books? I’ve found that always makes the lesser month feel better.



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