Tag Archives: Penguin

Guardian First Book Award longlist 2013

The awards nominations are coming thick and fast right now, and this time it’s the Guardian First Book Award longlist. The submissions (strictly first-time books, but any genre) are whittled down to the shortlist by a panel of judges: Susie Orbach, Rachel Cusk, Philip Hensher and Paul Mason and chaired by Guardian Review editor Lisa Allardice, and made up of store-based reading groups in Waterstones. The winner will be announced in November, receiving a prize of £10,000. Continue reading


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Rumour Has It – Thomas Pynchon

Gravity's RainbowHe’s notorious for secrecy, for being a recluse – refusing to have his picture taken, dismissing eBooks, and so on. No one in the press really quite knows what he’s up to and what he thinks. Which is why, on spotting this article on The Independent, I had to Google it – just to be sure. Continue reading

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Any Human Heart

Any Human Heart by William Boyd

Penguin: paperback published 2007: 490 pages

Every life is both ordinary and extraordinary, but Logan Mountstuart’s – lived from the beginning to the end of the twentieth century – contains more than its fair share of both. As a writer who finds inspiration in Paris and London, as a spy betrayed in the war and as an art-dealer in ’60s New York, Logan mixes with the movers and shakers of his times. But as a son, friend, lover and husband, he makes the same mistakes we all do in our search for happiness. Here, then, is the story of a life lived to the full – and a journey deep into a very human heart.


I’ve never read any Boyd before, though I’ve been recommended it a thousand times. Any Human Heart is apparently one of his best, and I can believe it. This is a fictional journal of the life and experiences of one Logan Mountstuart – a flawed, selfish but ultimately loveable human being, who lives through some of the greatest moments in history the world has ever seen. The writing is lovely – poetic and simple and very expressive. You love and hate Logan in equal measure – both sympathising and disagreeing with him at the right points. I also love the fact that it’s written as if it’s a real account – with footnotes and historical references. There are certain points when my attention starts to waver – it moves too slowly, or Logan moans about something once too often, but there are also points when you are completely sucked in to the story, and are willing yourself to read faster just to find out more. It’s something I would recommend to others to read, because it has everything you need for a good story, and more. Just because Logan isn’t the most likeable of characters sometimes, doesn’t mean you don’t want to read what he has to say – because a lot of the time, he’s got some pretty interesting stuff to tell.

World War II, 1960s New York, Nigeria during the Biafran war, JFK being shot, affairs and deaths and brief interruptions of fame, rubbing shoulders with the good, the bad, and the beautiful… meeting royalty even. Logan lives throughout every decade of the 20th Century, and experiences the delights of each, sharing that with the reader in unadorned prose of self-reflection and philosophical recognition. William Sutcliffe, for the Independent on Sunday, calls it “Wise, profound and moving.” according to the jacket quote, and actually, I couldn’t have put it better myself. Though I could have had done with hearing less from the cantankerous, lecherous old man Logan becomes.

Rating: 7/10

Next Book: This was another bargain from the work bookshop – Guerillas by V.S. Naipaul. I’ve always felt I ought to have read Naipaul, seeing as he is one of the most influential authors of our time (hence winning the Nobel Prize in Literature). What better time to start reading Naipaul than when I can get a stack of his books on the cheap!?

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The New Grimm

200 years after the Grimm brothers published their collection of dark, eerie fairy tales, Philip Pullman is set to rewrite 50 of his favourite tales. The author of His Dark Materials trilogy will be adapting tales including Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and his personal favourite The Juniper Tree for a book called Grimm Tales for Young and Old, due out in September from Penguin.

Rewritten in “his own voice”, each story will end with notes explaining its meaning and offering alternative versions.

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm first published 86 stories in an anthology called Children’s and Household Tales in 1812, with the number of tales growing to over 200 in the following years. Since then, the Grimm fairy tales have spawned novels, TV shows, films and songs by the bucket load. The stories have frightened and enchanted children and adults alike, some of the more popular stories becoming household names and serving as examples to be followed or avoided.

“This is really exciting. Philip Pullman is the right man; he tackles this stuff supremely well… I think these old tales connect with very basic issues. There is something about the stories that, if not eternal, they are certainly classic… Philip Pullman writes stunningly well. He deals with big issues including values and the meaning of life.” — Professor Bill Gray, English Literary History at the University of Chichester, founder of the Sussex Centre for Folklore, Fairy Tales and Fantasy and who has written on Mr Pullman

I love the fairy tales – they’re a strong inspiration for any fantasy writing, for a start – even when growing up, I was enthralled by them. Every story was fascinating, no matter how many times I heard it or read it or watched it. I cut my teeth on the fluffy Disney versions, and it wasn’t until my early teens that I realised the dark world of Grimm was quite different to Dopey and Happy and Doc and the rest of those loveable dwarves. This was even better! Not even that appalling The Brothers Grimm film could ruin it (shame it cast two of my favourite actors for it, because otherwise I would never have watched it and never have seen the misery that was that film).

I can’t wait to read these new versions from Philip Pullman (massive fan of the trilogy anyhow, so they’re going to be good!). What’s your favourite fairy tale? What do you think of Philip Pullman’s re-imagining?

As a little side-note, I stumbled across Nerd Blerp‘s blog post about the 7 Grimm fairy tales that should be adapted whilst looking for more information about this story. Clever and absolutely right, I would say, and I recommend you checking it out! (Also, going to credit Nerd Blerp for the beautiful Little Red Riding Hood illustration, though I’m not sure where it came from before that).

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