Monthly Archives: May 2008

News from Meg

Meg Rosoff is getting a lot faster at producing news on her website. She moaned recently that people had been complaining. I hope she wasn’t referring to me. But I would like to think that she is learning from my example and will be more blogger-like in future. (No pressure, Meg. We just like to hear from you. And love your writing.) I haven’t tested the response thingy she had on there, but with a bit of luck it will be almost as good as the comments here. And as Meg still needs advice on what to call the next book, you’ll have to let her know what you think. It’s that, or go and see her in Hay.

I know which I’d prefer, but I’m off on my travels this week.

Child detectives

Child detectives aren’t uncommon, but I think when the future witch was handed Home Sweet Homicide at the tender age of twelve or so, she wasn’t used to reading about them in adult books. This crime novel by Craig Rice was a   hand-me -down from the Retired Children’s Librarian (not retired then, of course) who had come for her annual holiday. When I think of this book I can still see how we sat outside our cottage on the side where the sun shone in the evenings, so it makes for a good piece of nostalgia.

I think I was also surprised to find that an adult book could be funny. Who’d expect adults to have a sense of humour? Now I know, because I’m so very witty myself, but at that point it was a nice transition from Blyton to Christie & Co.

The story is about three children with a crime writer mother who is busy writing, and they are left to their own devices. Luckily a neighbour is murdered and they spend their time solving the murder. It’s a lovely piece of Americana from the 1940s.

I’m having to write this from memory, as I have no idea where the book is. Actually I do, and I’m too lazy to shift everything in front of it. But after all these years it’s still quite clear in my mind, which goes to prove how important it was. I went on to read a few more of Craig Rice’s books, but in those days I think it was hard to find all that many, particularly in translation.

I checked it out on Google, but found a long and almost tedious review of the book, where someone had gone to a lot of trouble dissecting both the book and the author, to the extent that he ruined something which I think he had actually liked. That’s why I’m not saying much here at all, except “read it if you can”.

More Stieg

The witch household now numbers three Stieg Larssons, and I don’t mean the three parts of the trilogy. The Resident IT Consultant’s birthday the other day caused some panic, as we had more or less forgotten minor things like presents. I asked my friend S, whose birthday it was recently, what she had been given. Money.

Well, even to me, it seemed somewhat pointless to give the man back the money he had earned in the first place. So, we turned to the safe but difficult area of books, and got him The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo in English. I’m guessing it wasn’t an altogether stupid choice as he threw himself over the book and started reading.

And I wanted to make a comment here about the translation, which at a quick glance looked pretty good. Last night the R IT C had a good laugh, however, when he came across a dodgy translation. It was the kind of mistake you make translating into a foreign language, not into your own. So, I can’t explain away the “cloister”. Reminds me of the “sugar cake” in a Mankell novel, but that translator can almost be forgiven for not having any kitchen skills. For those of you who are wondering, it would be better with monastery and sponge cake. Possibly Madeira cake.

Thursday’s Child

I’m very pleased I didn’t read Sonya Hartnett’s Thursday’s Child first, as suggested. If I had, I’m not sure I could have helped but feel a bit let down when I read Sonya’s other books afterwards. That doesn’t sound right, does it? The other two books I’ve read so far are very, very good, but Thursday’s Child is that much more special. Not quite sure how to describe it or rate it. It has something very unusual about it.

It’s possible Sonya was born in the wrong age. Thursday’s Child is not only about the Depression, but it feels like it came from that period as well. I’m not often all that observant when it comes to style and language, but with Sonya you can’t help but notice. And I just wonder how she knows all these things. (And don’t say research and imagination.)

Thursday’s Child is about a family living in barren countryside during the 1920s, and by 1930 things haven’t exactly improved for them. The story starts with the birth of their fifth (live) child, and the effect that day has on the child before him, Thursday’s child. It’s all seen through the eyes of the child before him in turn, the girl Harper who is seven at he time.

I didn’t know you could live for so long on rabbits and dust, but that’s what the family does. The subject matter could be quite dreary, but somehow the book is very uplifting, all things considered. I did have a witchy feel about how it might end, somewhere at the beginning, but soon forgot about that thought. It stopped being important, and it was simply interesting to see how they lived. And it’s good to have Australia as the backdrop. We should read more foreign books.

Another Paradise Lost

It’s a little weird for me to write about a book I most likely won’t read. I don’t think I’ll have the time. But, after having heard Giles Milton talk about his book Paradise Lost last night, I have to report how interesting it sounds.

Giles Milton 1

As for Giles (what is it about that name?), he should be sent straight back to school. To talk about Smyrna, the subject of Paradise Lost. A few history teachers like him, and the world would be a different place. The witch is not very interested in history, but this really sounded fascinating. I will also have to arrange for Doctor Who to pop up here and bring me back to Smyrna before 1922, before it was all destroyed.

It seems the new mayor of London had a great-grandfather who was something ministerial there. Although he came to an unpleasant end. Hemingway, Onassis and Atatürk also have a past in Smyrna, not to mention the matriarch with 250 great-grandchildren. And if you belong to these old Levantine families, you may find that you too have another 150 new second cousins in Australia.

Stieg Larsson

When I told the Retired Children’s Librarian that I was just finishing Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, she said that she must be the only person in Sweden not to have read the book. I think she’s right.

I have two copies of the Swedish version, Män som hatar kvinnor, in the house right now. One that I was given a few months ago, and one that someone lent me before that. The lender is the sister of Borås Girl, who lives near me. She very kindly dragged all three of her sister’s books back to England with her, just so I could read them. (The sister lives in Horred, which the witch’s family have always found a hilarious place name. Goes well with crime, I suppose.)

Anyway, I can understand why everyone but the RCL have read the books. Very, very good. Adele Geras was saying positive things about it earlier this year, when she had a proof of the English translation. And here I must hasten to add that I don’t know what the translation is like.

But I do have the advantage of having immediate access to the next two books in the trilogy, thanks to sister of BG. The ex-Horred books. (I don’t have much time, but…)

I’d been afraid the book would be too dark (something Adele seems to love, whereas I want light and happiness at all times), but it isn’t. There’s a lot of very horrible stuff in there, but the writing is light and positive. I don’t love Mikael Blomkvist, but I have become very fond of Lisbeth Salander. She’s the one with the tattoo. And she’s most likely an Aspie, so can go on my list for Aspie books.

The sad thing is that all through the reading I kept coming up with questions for Stieg about his writing. But he died before any of the three books were published, which is very sad. He was only fifty. I’d read about him and his then un-published trilogy just after he died, and thought they sounded just like my kind of book. I was right.

Let’s see if Stieg Larsson can become as widely read in the rest of the world, too.


We are in severe danger of being caked out around here. The Resident IT Consultant has taken it upon himself to become a year older today. So has Lionel Shriver, and the fact that they share a birthday really worries me. And they are nearly the same age, too. Daughter is attending a birthday sleepover, and yesterday we went to Kipper’s 18th.

Yep, Kipper is an adult, as of now. Although he looks as young and adorable as ever. 60 of his bestest friends were invited, and they played, listened to the story of Kipper’s birthday and the dreadful results of his baking. They drank juice and decorated Kipper hats, and some bold ones even asked to stroke Kipper. And maddest of all, they kept thinking Kipper was hiding (resting) in the toilet, but I checked and he wasn’t.

Kipper and helper

A Kipper shaped cake preceded the party bags with Kipper books (very Kippery, this) and then Kipper dutifully paw-printed every book. After which we went home, with cake in our bags which we didn’t need, on account of us having a fair bit of cake anyway, in these parts.

Kipper cake

Kipper’s publicist (he’s got one of those, as well!) was in danger of being stranded in the North, so she hailed a taxi to Sheffield to catch her elusive train home.