“Sketches by Boz” by Charles Dickens. Written when Dickens was in his early 20s between 1833 and 1836, around 500 pages, 56 observations on London life, form an excellent introduction to this master writer, for those who may find tackling whole Dickens novel a little daunting. In the introduction, Dickens himself says he only embarked on fiction writing as a “trifling sideline” to supplement his day job as a Parliamentary reporter. These “triflings” were to render him probably the finest prose writer England has ever known.
Originally published as separate pieces in the local London press, This is dip-innable Dickens, whose many vivid accounts range from gin houses, boarding houses to London streets by day and night, hospitals, the Greenwich fair, Christmas, neighbours, drunkards, parks, coach men, inns, gentlemen of society and ladies of the night, Newgate gaol, street sellers, and all the many colourful characters who inhabited Victorian London. A place where poverty, squalor, disease and violence were widespread, igniting Dickens’ lifelong outrage and defiance at social injustice, which feature in his longer novels, yet never overshadowing Dickens’ eye for jollity, humanity and humour when describing ( and usually destroying with merciless sarcasm) the corrupt clergyman, mean mill owner or conniving politician .
These colourful non-fiction articles, while written almost 200 years ago, are highly animated, many of Dickens’ vivid observations reflecting the darker side of human engagement which sadly still remain true to this day. This illustrated collection is supplemented with a dozen or so fictional stories with settings , themes and characters which were to develop in Dickens’ later famous novels.
You can usually find a disowned hard back copy of “Sketches by Boz” gathering dust on the back shelf of every charity shop. If you haven’t given Dickens a go before now, start off with this one, you may well find it becomes a lifelong acquaintance.
(*the title has a curious origin “Boz” was the nickname Dickens gave to his younger brother as an irreverent play on the word Moses as if saying it with a blocked nose “Bozes”, the name somehow stuck to Dickens himself as he became more famous)
Well. yesterday I had an email from Gransnet to say I had won a book called Dark Tracks!
No idea what it’s about yet, but it sounds intriguing. They would like a review once I have read it!
Just recently read, ‘Face to face with Jesus’ by Samaa Habib. This is a fantastic – ‘must read book’ about a former Muslim’s extraordinary journey to Heaven and encounter with Jesus. It begins as a story taken from the headlines of the war-torn Middle East. It involves an extremist faction of Islam. A bomb goes off during a church service and 500 people try and escape through one door. Some are killed. Samaa was thrown 10 feet into the air and smashed against a wall. She was deafened and blinded and her whole body felt like it was on fire. She was choking and fighting for breath before everything went black and her spirit left her body.
What happened after that was amazing and a miracle occurred…………need to read it, you won’t be able to put it down!
The Ultimate Potato Cook Book (non fiction, Index Publishing 1997), edited by Rachel Carter. A handy tome for the kitchen top which is published incorporating its own hardback A4 portrait fold out stand alone support flap so you can stand this book upright on a kitchen surface during preparation of the many dishes depicted and described therein. Potato gratin, potato croquettes, potatoes Dauphinoise, potatoes Anna, Potato salad, potato and polenta bread, potato rosti, Polish potato cakes, potato latkes, potato empamandas, potato Porcini bake, and of course, crinkle cut potato chips. Seventeen different varieties of potato, from the King Edward to the Maris Piper, their vices and virtues discussed at length, lavishly colour illustrated. A must for any potato face !
“The Unaccustomed Earth” ~ eight more elegant, eloquent short stories from the vivid, vibrant pen of the joyous, jubilant, jewel in my literary crown, Jhumpa Lahiri. Another interview with her here. Think I’m quite smitten with her actually…O Jhumpa…I could roll around in rapture with your every word…
I have an absolute stack of travel books on the desk, mainly Lonely Planet, to research future trips:
to name a few
‘Sepulchre’ by Kate Mosse (NOT the model). Set in France, in particular
in Rennes le Chateau (famously portrayed in The Holy Blood and the Holy
Grail) and Rennes de les Bains, it is the story of a French girl in the 1870s
and an American in the 2000s, and how their lives and stories become entwined
“Interpreter of Maladies” by Jhumpa Lahiri ( fiction ~ short stories) . Pulitzer Prizewinner 2000. Lucky find in a charity shop this and am just ashamed I never came across her before. Lahiri is herself a displaced Indian writing about displaced Indians living in exile in America, navigating between inherited traditions and the baffling New World they must encounter everyday. Some stories set in Bengal, others in Boston. Ordinary folk with exotic backgrounds, placed in yet more extraordinary situations. Eloquent elegant stories which would appeal to anyone from anywhere who has ever lived in exile, with an eye for nuance and an ear for the great unsaid, spicy humour and subtle detail. I feel there’s almost a new female JD Salinger emerging here. I’m neither Indian nor American but the Lahiri’s ability to evoke empathy for her characters is just hypnotic.
In fact I’m so taken by this author, I’ve been doing a lot of research upon her on the net – many interviews and articles out there.
Overview article : http://www.nymag.com/arts/books/profile/4471
You Tube interview with Jumpa Lahiri: