Category Archives: Meg Rosoff

The Great Godden

This is such a beautiful tale about summer holidays. I rarely feel that anyone can describe my early summers, but in Meg Rosoff’s The Great Godden, I could have been there. OK, my summers were more boring, with fewer sex gods turning up and less of the undercurrents.

Or maybe not? Obviously no sex gods, but this novel brought home to me how different the slow, languid summers with nothing but sun, sea and sand appear to the young, and what it must be like for their parents. The ones who still have to cook meals and run everything, let alone as in this case, organise someone’s wedding and sew outfits. On holiday!

We have the 17-something main character and her three younger siblings and their parents, arriving at their summer bolthole, to spend all summer, engaging in their kind of nothings as usual. Tradition matters. (At first I thought I was in New England, but realised soon enough that the family live in London, and were driving to the coast, somewhere. It didn’t feel quite English; more Swedish, or maybe American.)

Anyway, this is marvellous, and I defy any reader not to want to join the family, along with the cousins next door and the lovely dog.

And then the Goddens turn up; gorgeous Kit and surly Hugo. They really stir things up, with everyone in love with Kit (who between you and me is a real piece of work) and turning their backs on Hugo.

Our arty main character observes everything, while also falling for the great Kit. Not much happens? Except, of course it does. You just barely notice.

This is wonderful! I feel as if I’ve been given permission to revisit those careless days when I enjoyed life, with no idea how the adults fared; having to get on with each other, and put meals on the table.

I had lemonade instead

It had been sitting on my desktop for weeks, that screengrab reminding me of an online event Meg Rosoff was doing for indie bookshop week, at Aldeburgh Jubilee Hall on Thursday evening. And for anyone who doesn’t already know, she’s my favourite author.

But still I drank lemonade instead.

Such is the power of lockdown, that anything out of the ordinary – like out of our house – commands immediate attention. So Daughter and the Resident IT Consultant and I toddled over to the garden of a neighbour in the next street, carrying plastic Marimekko glasses for the lemonade we’d been promised.

It was very nice. Pretty, Scottish garden, balmy evening sunshine in that typical Scottish way, and iced lemonade.

We talked about the forgotten grape in New Zealand. I’d had no idea of the seriousness of this. And waiting out bad weather on a small island in Loch Lomond. Fibre broadband and how pretty your pavement looks before and after. Not going to Nice with your school. Watching baby pigeons die. How cute the rabbits are as they eat your homegrown produce.

That kind of thing.

And when I tried this morning, just in case Meg on air was still there, somehow, I don’t believe she was.

But the lemonade was good.

In the post

Isn’t this wonderful? Two special books arriving on the same day, and so much looked forward to. I like my postman!

I also ‘quite like’ Meg Rosoff and Sara Paretsky. Meg’s new book is YA, and out this summer. Sara’s is the latest V I Warshawski, out in late April. Here’s to The Great Godden, and Dead Land!

Now, which to read first?

Aloud

Sometimes – well, quite often now, actually – I forget the most obvious things. Like reading aloud to someone else. A child, perhaps. Even a fairly mature child, although possibly not as mature as Offspring, living in a house of their own. Or if you’ve got a cough, which gets worse for exercising the vocal chords.

It was seeing what Lucy Mangan had to say in the Guardian about what to read during these testing times. She suggested reading aloud, and now I want to do that.

Cough.

She mentioned a lot of good books, too, for any kind of reading right now. Two of them I have thought of quite a bit recently, and decided against, despite them being firm favourites, and me thinking that if I have all this extra time now, it’s perfect for re-reading. Hah.

How I Live Now, which is only my favourite book ever. By Meg Rosoff. But you knew that. I just don’t know how I could cope with it, under the circumstances. Or After Tomorrow, by Gillian Cross. I mention it often, but for now I think I will pass.

You go ahead and read them!

As with the fluffy television, it’s strictly puppies and bunnies here. Maybe not the bunnies if they’re in my garden, eating all my plants. But you know what I mean.

I already mentioned Lisa Tetzner’s ship full of undesirable passengers, the other day. That’s the book I only got halfway through when reading aloud to Son. I still owe him the second half. It’s not quite two decades ago that we stopped. Maybe I can restart, over the phone?

McTavish on the Move

Meg Rosoff’s and the Peachey family’s dog McTavish is back. It’s time for a move in McTavish on the Move. (Well, I suppose the title gives it away.) I understand Meg has recent experience of moving house – and it’s been put to good use, making everything pretty realistic. Except possibly for the ease with which Ma and Pa Peachey sell and buy the houses involved in this move.

Meg Rosoff, McTavish on the Move

Pa seems to have had a personality makeover, which terrifies his family, but in the end his sunny disposition (hah) and general happiness make for a positive moving experience.

Although Betty isn’t keen, and McTavish notices. Trust him, though. He can work out what to do, and he does so with gusto. My own first days at new schools would have been vastly improved with the McTavish magic.

I believe this was the fourth – yes, it was – and last McTavish story. If it has to be goodbye, it’s a heart-warming and moving one. (Sorry.)

And one can always live in the hope that Pa’s personality reverts permanently to his more morose behaviour.

Kanada bound

Well, he was. The Resident IT Consultant is now safely back from his Kanadian adventures. (Sorry about the Ks. I got a bit karried away, what with Swedish and German and all the rest.)

He decided he wanted to go and see his relatives over there, so he went. I was allowed to come too. I just didn’t feel up to it. Besides, there is so much a witch can get up to when all alone in the house. I suspect he still hasn’t found the things he’s not found yet. And it’s been a couple of weeks, so I no longer recall what I hid where.

Just like when Son went the first time, there were cousins to see. An uncle. Even a brother, if you allow for the US detour. There’d have been another uncle, but he very sensibly decamped to New Zealand. Cousins once removed (which is a really odd way of putting it).

They looked after him well.

After all, I sent along books as bribes. I chose several of my favourites, mostly with some sort of connection to Scotland, to possibly entice some of them to come and visit us. Gruesome murders is a sure way of tempting people to come. I don’t remember all my choices, but James Oswald was there, as was Elizabeth Wein and Catriona McPherson. And naturally Meg Rosoff and Hilary McKay for a bit of comfort reading.

There were oatcakes too, but I imagine the books were the best.

And when they’d swapped their Grandfather’s jigsaws with each other, the Resident IT Consultant escaped across the border near Niagara Falls. Really fishy visitors obviously walk across, and here he is, looking surprisingly all right for a man who never selfies. Anyway, he’d have needed extra long arms for this one.

The Resident IT Consultant

Bookwitch bites #146

Bookwitch hasn’t ‘bitten’ for a long time. But better late than never.

Danny Weston has a new book out, which he launched in Edinburgh on Friday. He had to do it without me, but I gather it went well enough despite this. It’s called Inchtinn, Island of Shadows. Danny had even baked Inchtinn cakes. I bet he ate most of them himself, or possibly his friend Philip Caveney helped with the eating. (I won’t post that picture here. It is too dreadful.)

Danny Weston, Inchtinn

If it’s dreadful you’re after, you only need to look at this photo from when the witch met Vaseem Khan at Bloody Scotland last month. Vaseem looks just fine, but, well, that creature on the left… Sorry.

Vaseem Khan Twitter

That was the event when we discussed humour and how important it is, while not being taken seriously (!) by enough publishers. This is what Sarah Govett has found as well. After her dystopian trilogy a few years ago, she has tackled teen humour, much in the vein of Louise Rennison. If she’s to be believed – and I see no reason why not – teens are crying out for more funny books. India Smythe Stands Up is the book for you, fresh from Sarah’s keyboard.

Sarah Govett, India Smythe Stands Up

It’s important to keep track of children’s books. Even the Resident IT Consultant seems to feel this. I was a little surprised to find his companion in the holiday reading sofa, but who am I to say anything?

Daniel Hahn, Children's Literature

And, I knew this news was coming, but it’s still good to have it confirmed. There is another book from Meg Rosoff. It’s old YA, or some such thing. And not very long, apparently. We will have to wait until next summer, but the witch who waits for something good… (The Great Godden, since you ask.)

Meg Rosoff book news

What price books?

There is much one can say about big book fairs, and much of it is good. Every year I wonder whether I perhaps ought to attend the Gothenburg one again. After three consecutive years a long time ago, I only returned the year Meg Rosoff finally made it there. I have been overtaken by Son who accompanied me in the early years, and who now is allowed to go on his own.

These days it’s not so much the cost as the time of the year and the effort involved. I’m still surprised I’m not getting any younger.

Gothenburg Book Fair

But then I learned something new about the Book Fair, which is that the organisers are putting up the fees for those who exhibit. Understandable, and proper publishers and other large companies can presumably weather the cost. But there have always been many small exhibitors, like self-published authors. I’ve long thought it’s nice that anyone can aspire to rent a table there, and maybe sell their books or at least get better known by visitors.

Someone I wouldn’t have known about were it not for about three different coincidences, is Kim Kimselius who apparently has published 57 children’s books; mostly through self-publishing. She seems to do well and apart from having loads of new books out every year, she travels and runs writing weeks and does events.

But I just read that after 20 years of attending the Book Fair, she will stop. It is too expensive for her to attend, when everything is taken into account. I believe it cost her around £6000 for the long weekend, and that is by staying with friends.

I gather that with fewer exhibitors the fair organisers have extended the free space around the ‘exhibits’ as well as starting up more areas for eating and drinking. Space is nice. (You’d know that if you’d been.) So is somewhere to sit and eat. Kim was regretting the fact that she was losing her fair ‘neighbours’ with whom she’d chat and who made it fun.

This year she opened up her own home to fans, instead.

I’m not saying this is wrong. I mean the reasons behind her new venture, rather than the new event. But it feels slightly questionable that someone who writes and sells books, and quite successfully at that, should be priced out of the Book Fair.

As for me, when I first went, I paid for my weekend passes myself. It was – almost – affordable when you took into account the 50% discount for foreigners. Three years ago I carefully asked if this had now stopped, as I could find no sign of special treatment, and was told this was the case. Again, I suppose they need to make as much money as they can, and most visitors requiring a four-day pass to all events, will probably be reimbursed by their employer.

The price had gone up considerably, so – cap in hand – I asked for a free pass, which they generously supplied. Had they not done so, I don’t think I could have justified going.

I’m not quite sure what Son does, but he has so many meetings arranged, leaving no time or energy for actually going to events. And that does bring down the cost.

Respect

Some time ago I read a newspaper review of a book I myself had not only read and thoroughly enjoyed, but reviewed on Bookwitch.

The reviewer, whom I respect, had also liked the book, but puzzled me by describing it, using a direct untruth. It wasn’t even the borrowing from the blurb on the back thing. It was stating something about the story that was a lie.

Had the reviewer in this case not read the book, but caught an idea from something they’d seen? Or had they read and enjoyed the book, but still managed to misunderstand the context? Or plain forgotten, by the time they came to write the review?

I’m just curious.

For anyone seeing this and deciding to give the book a go because of what was claimed, it could be a disappointment, despite the book being so marvellous. Or they’d feel they were glad they were tempted, as they had now been introduced to a lovely book.

Many years ago – 15, in fact – I read a mention of Meg Rosoff’s How I Live Now in the Guardian. I ordered the book on the strength of me understanding it was about WWI. But that was me not reading properly; nothing to do with the Guardian. It caused me to read the first chapter of HILN several times while my head tried to make sense of the lack of WWI or the early twentieth century.

But once I’d done that, I was happy to have found the best book I’ve ever read. And all because of a misunderstanding, by me.

I’m still curious regarding this other book. Did a respected reviewer in a respected newspaper forget to read?

McTavish Takes the Biscuit

Oh McTavish, how wise you are! And how I love you!

We all need a McTavish in our lives, but especially the Peachey family. True, their dog has sorted them out pretty good by now, but then it would seem that there is no stopping Pa Peachey when he gets a silly idea.

Meg Rosoff, McTavish Takes the Biscuit

Meg Rosoff’s fictional dog is really exceptionally wise. Actually, now that I think of them, they all are.

So, anyway, Pa Peachey wants to win the town’s bake-off competiton, despite him not being any good at baking. What could be more exciting than a ginger biscuit version of the Palace of Versailles?

The healthy food McTavish taught his humans to eat is no more, as Pa bakes and serves up his failures to dog and people. But according to Ma Peachey one should support people’s dreams. Even if it’s going to end in disaster.

What can McTavish do?

Well, anything, really. Sit back and enjoy another Peachey family story.