Books about Books

The Finding of Martha Lost – Caroline Wallace

Posted in Books about Books, Literary Prizes on March 10th, 2016 by admin – Be the first to comment


Publication Date – 10th March 2016

Publisher – Doubleday

The Finding of Martha Lost is a glorious, glittering kaleidoscope of a novel with vivid, magical characters popping into view with each turn of the page. In this tale of objects, feelings and relationships lost and found, there is the most beautiful backdrop of characters who wouldn’t look out of place in the Commedia dell’Arte with Martha Lost making an excellent Columbine/Pierrette or perhaps, in more modern times a scatty Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday.

So, where is the exotic setting for all this magical mayhem – why, Lime Street Station, Liverpool of course! Under the grime and the soot, there’s a world of humour and whimsy but not without its undercurrent of sadness. Martha’s Mother with a most definite capital M, ensures that Martha remains tied to the station, like the Liver Birds chained to the Royal Liver Building.

Caroline Wallace’s novel is a veritable smorgasbord with lots to delight the reader – The Beatles, a Roman Soldier on the 17.37 from Chester, lemon drizzle cake, the Heatwave of 1976 and last but not least Kevin Keegan who may have tugged on my heartstrings in the mid 70s with his curly locks…

I like to conclude reviews by stating similarities between the book in question and others but Caroline Wallace’s novels defy categorisation. In the immortal words of Dana, this really is “all kinds of everything”.

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The Prisoner of Heaven- Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Posted in Books about Books, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction on July 16th, 2012 by admin – 2 Comments

The Prisoner of Heaven


Weidenfeld & Nicolson


My Rating – 4.5 stars

The Prisoner of Heaven is the long awaited third instalment in the Cemetery of Lost Books series.  Carlos Ruiz Zafon is such a talented storyteller I think he could make the phone book unputdownable! I always approach his new books with a mixture of pleasure and dread – I’m always confident they’re going to be good but I know I’ll feel bereft once the final page is turned.

The story begins in 1957, a year after Daniel and Bea Sempere’s wedding and they now have their hands full with a new addition to the family, baby Julian.  All seems peaceful enough apart from the usual pressures of adjusting to parenthood and the need to bring more customers into Sempere and Son’s Bookshop where Daniel and family now live with his father.  Fermin is still working in the bookshop and will soon be married to Bernarda so what could possibly happen to taint this picture of domestic bliss?  Cue the entrance of the mysterious stranger who readily spends a small fortune on a rare copy of The Count of Monte Cristo only to instruct Daniel to pass it onto Fermin.  Thus, a window is opened on the murky past of Fermin Romero de Torres and we are swept back in the mists of time to 1939 when Barcelona fell to General Franco.   Fermin was amongst those unfortunates imprisoned in Montjuic Castle, considered as escape-proof as the Chateau d’If in The Count of Monte Cristo.  Yes, the past has a nasty habit of catching up on folk and Fermin is no exception.

If you enjoyed The Shadow of The Wind and The Angel’s Game you will experience equal delight in this latest episode.  The usual Zafon ingredients are present – the gothic undertones, the inner heart of Barcelona, the love of literature, the sheer joy of creating a vibrant, atmospheric story peopled with characters who feel like old friends. 

The only thing preventing me awarding  a five star rating  (maybe I’m too greedy or too harsh..) is the fact that, at 288 pages,  this novel is almost half the size of its two sister volumes (The Shadow of The Wind 528 pages, The Angel’s Game 544 pages) and it feels more like part one of a two parter a la Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows movie version.  I guess it prolongs the inevitable despair of finishing the series, which will happen with the next novel but it could frustrate those accustomed to the “meatiness” of the previous tomes.  I’ll just have to bide my time waiting on the final course, grazing on less savoury fare to satisfy my literary munchies in the interim…

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Books about Books

Posted in Books about Books on November 3rd, 2010 by admin – Be the first to comment

I’ve always had a penchant for books about books, be they fiction or non-fiction.  Here are my top five…

I loved this humorous account of book addiction and if you even have the faintest hint of this delicious disease, you will recognise some of the scenarios/habits explored here.

One of my all time favourite novels.  Who could resist the appeal of a cemetry of lost books hidden in the old quarter of Barcelona.  I think I can also sneak in the prequel to this, The Angel’s Game, which also features the Cemetry of Forgotten Books and is steeped in Dickensian style.  More please, Mr Zafon!

Jasper Fforde’s madcap series featuring the intrepid Thursday Next, Special Operative in literary detection might not be to everyone’s taste but I loved this parallel universe where you can read yourself into books and encounter Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester face to face.  Indeed when I was at Haworth a couple of years ago I found myself trying to will myself into the novel – sad but true!  A fabulous read if you can suspend all disbelief and immerse yourself in the intelligent but wacky humour of the author.

Set mostly in libraries and bookstores, this is a book lover’s dream and if you like all things Gothic you will be in your element.   The only downside is that this was published in 2006 and we’re still waiting on a second novel…

In this beautifully written novel, a disparate group of characters are linked by a lost book entitled ” The History of Love”.  The prose is very sharp but some have complained about the over-complex nature of the plot -  I had to do a diagram to work out who was who – but the reader’s efforts are rewarded by an engaging narrative.

Honorable mentions go to The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl, Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi, Ex Libris – Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman.  I’m sure there are countless others out there, do let me know if you find any! :-)

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