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Notes from a Book Addict

What Books Make You Laugh?

What books make you laugh

Do you often laugh over books? I mean a real belly-laugh, with tears in your eyes?

Humour is a very individual thing. A friend recently lent me a book which he told me he’d nearly died laughing over. For me the book failed to even raise a smile. Another friend adores Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim and says it never fails to make her laugh out loud. I quite like it, but have never laughed over it. I do laugh over E.F. Benson’s fabulous novel Secret Lives, Bill Bryson can usually have me chuckling happily, and some of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels have made me literally ache with laughter (these books are not worthy literature – in fact, they are rather foolish books, but they do make me laugh). Read more

Harry Potter Turns 20

All seven books in the Harry Potter series in order without their dust jackets.
J.K. Rowling reads from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

J.K. Rowling reads from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Twenty years ago, on 26 June 1997, a novel for children was published without any great fanfare. It was the first in a planned series of books featuring a boy with wizarding powers called Harry Potter. Ten years later the 7th book in the series was published and by that time there cannot have been many people in the world who had not heard of the boy, the books and the author, J.K. Rowling. Read more

Charlie Lovett

Charlie Lovett books by Susannah Fullerton
Charlie Lovett

Charlie Lovett

Have you come across an American novelist called Charlie Lovett? He’s a writer, teacher and playwright and his books have been on the New York Times bestseller list.

I really loved his mystery novel First Impressions about a girl called Sophie who works in the antiquarian book business and gets drawn into a mystery that connects her to Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice. It was so cleverly written. I also loved The Lost Book of the Grail which is set in Barchester, a fictional county dreamed up by Anthony Trollope. Read more

Film Adaptations

Lobby card from the 1933 film Little Women starring Paul Lukas and Katharine Hepburn.
A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

The BBC has recently announced that it will be adapting Vikram Seth’s monumental novel A Suitable Boy as an 8-part drama. It will be their first ever period drama featuring a totally non-white cast. The screenplay will be written by (who else?) Andrew Davies. Filming will start later this year. Read more

Alan Titchmarsh

Alan Titchmarsh at the 2014 RHS Chelsea Flower Show
Alan Titchmarsh, England Our England

Alan Titchmarsh, England Our England

Alan Titchmarsh is best known as a gardener and TV presenter, and for being regularly voted one of the world’s sexiest men, but he is also a writer. He has written many gardening books, and some fiction. I enjoyed his light but rather charming novel Rosie (2004).

But my favourite of his productions is a CD, England, Our England. It’s a fabulous celebration of English traditions, landscape and weather, through the words of various writers. Read more

Poem of the Month, June 2017 – ‘The Statue of our Queen’

Queen's Square, Sydney c1930

On 17th June it will be Australian poet and short story writer Henry Lawson’s 150th birthday. There will be parties, exhibitions and talks in Sydney and Grenfell to honour this anniversary. The best way I can mark this date is by discussing a Henry Lawson poem.

The Statue of our Queen by Henry Lawson Read more

Companion Guide – L.M. Montgomery

LM Montgomery, Susannah Fullerton

L.M. Montgomery and Anne of Green Gables

In 1906 Lucy Maud Montgomery sat down to write a story. The idea came from a jotting in one of her notebooks: “Elderly couple apply to orphan asylum for a boy. By a mistake a girl is sent them.” It was a slight plot, but she turned it into magic by creating such a vivid girl – one who talked and talked, whose imagination was so intense, who responded so sensitively to the world of nature and who would enchant generations of readers for the next century. The book, Anne of Green Gables, was published in 1908 and astonished its creator by becoming a best-seller. Read more

Mothers in Literature

Mothers in Literature – A Reflection on Fictional Mothers

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe

There Was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe

If you want to assist someone planning to write a novel, the best piece of advice you can give them is “Kill off the mother!” That way, you can put your hero or heroine through all sorts of trials and tests of character.

But not every literary mother is dead. This special Mothers Day inspired guide discusses a great variety of mothers in fiction. Learn about the exceptional, the good, the mediocre, the bad, the nasty, and even the dead mothers of the literary world. Read more

A Wall of Promise and Treasures

Muirs Bookshop in Gisborne, N.Z. (by kind permission of the owner, Kim)

“Where is human nature so weak as in the book store?” asked Henry Ward Beecher (preacher, religious writer and brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe). He’s quite right. No matter how strong the resolution not to buy more books until the pile by the bed is drastically reduced, somehow I find it very hard to leave a bookshop without making a purchase. Read more

English Literary Trail

Madresfield Court, by Philip Halling

The Historic Houses Association in the UK has recently launched a new ‘Literary Trail‘. If you are lucky you can do it in person, visiting wonderful homes in Britain that have interesting literary connections, such as Madresfield, the home that inspired Waugh’s Brideshead, or Renishaw, home of the eccentric Sitwell family. Some are the homes of living authors, so you might even get a book signed, or be shown round by its author / owner; others belonged to authors long gone, but excellent guides will show you the property. You can find details at Historic Houses Association Literary Trail. Read more

Year of Literary Heroes

Richard Wagner's Tristan und Isolde in 1865

2017 has been named the ‘Year of Literary Heroes‘ and British Tourism is encouraging literary-themed events. You can enjoy a ‘Literary Break’, download literary maps and take walks through literary landscapes, go to talks, bookshop events, and stay in hotels that have associations with authors.

Even if you are not planning a visit to England, it’s still a good time to give thought to ‘literary heroes’. What makes a ‘hero’? Read more

Wilkie Collins

Illustration from the book, The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins

Have you ever read The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins? It is often regarded as the first detective novel in English, and it was published in 1868. The image above is an 1874 illustration from the book. There are several narrators of the plot, so you get many points of view and get to know some interesting characters. My favourite is the servant Gabriel Betteredge who adores Robinson Crusoe and re-reads it constantly. The novel was praised by Dorothy L. Sayers as “probably the very finest detective story ever written”. Read more

Poem of the Month, May 2017 – Crossing the Bar

Solent Outdoor Beach Sea Resort Isle Of Wight

Crossing the Bar by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Alfred Lord Tennyson

Alfred Lord Tennyson portrait by P. Krämer

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.
Read more

Recommended Reading – Jane Austen

Jane Austen

Susannah’s list of Top Books about Jane Austen

Susannah Fullerton is President of the Jane Austen Society of Australia and one of the foremost experts on her work. She provides the list below as a resource for those wishing to learn more about this remarkable writer.

On 18th July, 1817, Jane Austen died in the arms of her sister Cassandra. “I have lost such a treasure”, Cassandra wrote of her loss, “such a sister, such a friend as never can have been surpassed.” Cassandra had lost a sister and friend, but the world had lost its greatest novelist – far, far too early! Read more

Companion Guide – Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling: Novelist and Poet of Empire

Kipling has always been a controversial figure. Henry James called him “the most complete man of genius I have ever known”, but George Orwell dubbed him “a jingo-imperialist” and “disgusting”. He has gone in and out of fashion, and yet has never ceased to delight a vast readership with his brilliant verse and prose. His stories for children are some of the finest ever written, while Kim is the best novel about India written by an Englishman.

Read more