As You Wish – Cary Elwes
This is Westley’s take on the filming of The Princess Bride. If you don’t know The Princess Bride please go and read and watch it – the book and film script are both by William Goldman. This book is an affectionate look at the film that, Elwes admits, changed his life, and had such an effect on its fans. My sister was first in our family to see it and love it, and likes to think of it as ‘her’ film, but I love it too. There are lots of behind the scenes stories here, lots of anecdotes about how the film had an effect on all the cast (each member of cast and crew have little stand out stories to add in throughout) and an especially brilliant tale about Andre the Giant’s childhood involving Samuel Beckett which was quite the most wonderful thing I’ve read all year. Obviously, having finished reading I had to rewatch the film.
Re reading an old favourite for Christmas reading group, and horrified to find someone doesn’t really like it? Devastating. But she’s right, it is sentimental. I love it anyway. When reading up some background for the group, I found that Jo March is possibly the character that most women readers identify with above all others – unscientific research but certainly true for me.
The Year of Reading Dangerously – Andy Miller
A light read. Andy Miller set himself a challenge to read 50 books on a list of his and his wife’s choosing. They were mostly classics, and also books that Andy had confessed erroneously to reading over the years. Who does this? I’ve not read Ulysses and don’t care. Anyway, since AM went to my university and worked in a bookshop I feel we have something in common, even if he does lie to people about his reading list. Unfortunately, he doesn’t like Pride and Prejudice and does like War and Peace so our reading choices are polar opposites.
I also couldn’t help notice that while there were fewer women than men on his list (always the case) he also chose not to discuss many of the books by women, just mentioning instead that he’d read them. I’m not saying this was done on purpose but it was depressing to notice anyway.(A lot of the others were on his blog written at the time, but it’s not all available in full now.)
However, a word of advice for him – if you like Middlemarch, you really must read South Riding by Winifred Holtby.
The Snow Child – Eowyn Ivey
Oh this is lovely. A retelling of Arthur Ransome’s fairytale story of the Snow Child, set in pioneering Alaska. I liked everything about this – the characters, the setting, the lyrical prose and the poignant story. Ivey captures the magic of the story without sacrificing believability, and doesn’t go overboard with the mystical element so you can choose what exactly to believe. I didn’t want this to end, but also appreciated the version of the book which contained the Arthur Ransome story at the end.
Christmas Days -Jeanette Winterson
I bought this as a gift for my mum and then decided to keep it. I haven’t yet finished it as I’m pacing myself. This is 12 short stories with a Christmas theme, interspersed with 12 recipes and family anecdotes. It is all splendid. I particularly like how positive most of the stories are, there are few big twists or plot crazies, just tales of family and love and festiveness (and a few ghosts but that’s as Christmas should be.)
The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman
I am reading this in between Winterson chapters. I’ve not read any Gaiman before but thought I’d branch out and try some. This is some more magic grounded in reality but with a hefty dose of scariness. I’m really enjoying it.