The instruction booklet

It can be hard to read. And understand, I mean.

Daughter dug out the board game she got a while ago, but we had been too busy to play, and now, with no Christmas or anything else getting in the way, we made an evening of it.

Ticket to Ride, Europe

But first you have to read the instructions. While Daughter unpacked all the cards and the colourful little plastic trains (this was Ticket to Ride, Europe) and the railway stations, she told me to read the rules.

I read and I understood all of the words, but I had great difficulty making sense of those words, in an all-together-now kind of way. I handed the booklet back to her, and the Resident IT Consultant and I waited dutifully while she deciphered those sentences.

It brought home to me how hard any kind of reading can be, depending on who reads, what they read, and where and when and why. And possibly some other wh-words, but these will suffice.

To play it safe, we avoided the railway tunnels like the plague, at least to begin with, until we had almost grasped what you had to do. I never mind if I don’t win, so felt safe enough merely playing, waiting to see how it would go, not needing to know exactly how to plot and plan.

Whereas the Resident IT Consultant had that smug face he always has when we play games and we know who will win.

But it was fun anyway.


Ferryman goes to Hollywood

‘I bought her a cookie,’ said Daughter when informed about Claire McFall’s new film deal for her Ferryman books. This – the cookie incident – happened during our interview with Claire in August.

Claire McFall

And now Hollywood wants to make her books into films for both the western world and for China, where I imagine there could be ‘a few’ fans wanting to see the film version of their favourite Scottish novel.

I’m not surprised by this, and I’m sure neither are you, as I’ve been busy telling you about Claire and her romantic Ferryman since then.

Successes like this are far too rare, and I’m just very pleased for her. Besides, it’s not every YA author who ends up as a page three girl, even if it was in the Guardian. Much more respectable, and the photo was by Murdo Macleod, which is a bit of an honour.

Although I’m grateful I didn’t know Tristan was a Leonardo DiCaprio sort of boy [when I read the book]. In my mind he was much more handsome!

We know that!

I love Tim Dowling. I just had to mention this. His column in the Guardian Weekend ten days ago was almost like a re-run of Daughter’s attempts with her pub quiz book and me.

Parents are amazing! Especially so since their children appear to have little, or no, concept of what makes for relevant knowledge.

At last Tim was able to show his sons what he’s made of! (Mostly old sitcoms, it seems.)

I know very little about some areas of pub quiz terrain. I don’t mind this. But how Daughter could believe, even for a minute, that the Resident IT Consultant or I would know 1980s pop music is incomprehensible. We’re ancient!

But ‘What is the name of the pub in Emmerdale?’ is a different kettle of fish. I’ve not even heard of many later television shows/soaps, let alone would know who’s in them. It’s just not important.

‘The Woolpack,’ I replied.

‘How the **** do you know that???’

Honestly. Children.


Reading Catherine Simpson’s novel Truestory, which is about a woman with an autistic son, I felt as if I’d never read this kind of story from the point of view of the parent. I must be wrong, but it seemed very new, somehow. As though I was seeing the same thing, but differently.

This is an adult novel – and I don’t mean that to signify sex, although there is sex – and I don’t always want to read adult relationship stories. But I’m glad I read this one.

Catherine Simpson, Truestory

Alice and Duncan live on a failing farm near Lancaster. They have been married for 23 years, and have an 11-year-old son, Sam, who is autistic. Sam refuses to leave the farm, virtually imprisoning his mum because of this. The dad seems a bit lost, not remembering what will set Sam off, and also blaming Alice for how Sam turned out.

And then, as the latest in a row of mad schemes, Duncan brings home Larry, a man he met in the pub, who suggested he should grow cannabis. Alice is furious, but Sam takes to Larry, and after a bit, Alice rather does too.

If it wasn’t for the autism, this could be any ‘romantic’ triangle drama. You like Larry but despise him at the same time. Duncan is hopeless. Or is he? Will Alice manage to leave the farm, and can Sam ever become more ‘normal’?

You can sort of see where this will go, but there are many surprises on the way.

Just as I said after the event in November where Catherine talked, I can identify with so much of this.*

Because of Sam’s limited lifestyle, this is a drama with five characters – the fifth being the neighbour – plus the weird people poor Sam consults online about the meaning of everything he discovers.

This is quite Shakespearian in some respects. Funny. Sad. There is some hope.

*Not the cannabis. Or Larry.

Kepler, take 2

Translations can be tricky. I’m sure that in some cases it doesn’t matter what they are like. In the case of instructions for household appliances it does help if they don’t cause people to be injured, or worse. On the other hand, it has been claimed once or twice that a good translation of mediocre literature can win awards for authors, including the Nobel.

But does a bad translation prevent sales? After all, you tend to buy before you discover this, if you are able to tell. Sequels might suffer, though.

I read about the plans to reissue the crime novels by Lars Kepler, with new translations into English, and was reminded of a comment on here when I reviewed The Hypnotist, which was their first. Adèle Geras felt quite strongly that the translation was what put her off finishing the book. On the other hand, Alexander and Alexandra Ahndoril (aka Lars Kepler) reckoned the translation was good. And I found no immediate fault with it, but could have been handicapped by having already read the book in Swedish. It was just not a favourite of mine.

Now, however, Niclas Salomonsson of the Salomonsson Agency believes he knows why the books haven’t done as well in the US as he feels they deserve. When he ‘discovered’ that the translations were bad, he first spent a lot of money on buying the agency which owned the rights and then he bought back the US rights and hired a new translator to retranslate the first three books (of six). And he has high hopes of success, second time around.

It will be interesting to see if he’s right.

Another ‘fascinating’ aspect is how this all goes down in the translating community. A job is a job, so I can understand if the new translator feels OK about this improvement task. But it must surely also feel a little icky, re-doing what your colleague seemingly has ‘failed’ at? And if you’re the ‘failure’? Except, according to my in-house translator, we don’t know who did the first translation, as it was a pseudonym, so I imagine no one will be publicly embarrassed.

In the end, I wonder if it will make a difference. I believe more in a good publicity effort, even if it is second time lucky. After all, we mostly don’t read crime novels and thrillers for any literary chills that might run down our spines. We want quick thrills.

But the blurb by Lee Child probably won’t hurt.


A very kind person gave me this mug for Christmas.

Bookwitch mug

I don’t deserve it – I didn’t give the giver anything – but I obviously embrace every bit of kindness and generosity coming my way.

Bookwitch mug

And tea.

Women in Sport

To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t all that interested in the Women in Sport book. That’s not because I thought Rachel Ignotofsky’s book was bad; just that I’m not that much into sport. But the way it is for women right now, how could I not read Rachel’s book?

I began by looking at the list of her 50 women, feeling a deep sense of shock at discovering I’d not heard of all that many. Why, when I have heard of lots of male athletes? I suspect it’s because they have kept quiet about the women, especially those from longer ago.

I didn’t expect to find the book all that interesting, despite what I’ve said above. But there’s something about the way these women, often only girls at the time, kept at it. In the face of what society said and thought, they practised until they were really good at their sport, and then they insisted on taking part in games and even on winning, when the world didn’t want them to.

And it’s probably not because the men thought they’d be losing to these weak creatures; I’m guessing they really thought they were not up to it. Go Billie Jean King!

Rachel Ignotofsky, Women in Sport

There I was, reading away about the many inspiring women, and I actually wanted to cry. I think it was the kind of crying when you are really, truly touched by what someone has achieved. Because I couldn’t even think myself into their mindsets when struggling to be allowed to join in. I’m just so proud of what they all did, every single one of them.

And weren’t those men stupid? In some cases they’d even forgotten to actively prohibit women in their games. It was just understood. But when one walked in, she had to be allowed to compete. 😄

Thanks for all you did, and continue to do, ladies!