Maybe an Orange … or two … or three …

I’m loving Paris in July, but I haven’t forgotten that this is Orange July too.

This year’s longlist and shortlist didn’t excite me a t first, but the more I thought and the more I read the more interested I was. And now I have two longlisted books in progress:

  • I have been slowly making my way through The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer for a while now. It’s a book that I needed to read slowly, but I think I will turn the final page this month.
  • Though I didn’t care for her earlier books, I gave Jennifer Egan the benefit of the doubt and ordered A Visit From The Goon Squad from the library.  Three chapters in, I have to say I’m impressed.

And I have more books on hand, some of my own and some on the library pile.

Here they are:

Are there any there that you would recommend?

And are you reading for Orange July?

Book Awards: A Challenge Completed

I was delighted this morning when I discovered that Paperboy by Christopher Fowler had won the inaugral Green Carnation Prize.

It’s a lovely book more than worthy of prizes and attention.

And it brought me up to the total of ten books read and written about that I needed to complete the Book Awards IV Reading Challenge.

I’ve been rather lackadaisical in my approach to reading challenges this year. Signing up and making book lists was lovely, but I’ve read the books that called and they weren’t always the books on the lists or books that fitted the challenges I’d signed up for.

I’ll wind up a few more before the year ends, but a few I’m afraid have fallen by the wayside. I’m not going to name names, I’m just going to say that I mean no disrespect to the hosts and that I do appreciate all of the thought and hard work that they put in.

But back to the one I have finished – here are the books:

  1.  The Tin-kin by Eleanor Thom (Saltire First Novel Award) 
  2.  The Well and the Mine by Gin Phillips (Barnes & Noble Discover Prize)
  3. Paperboy by Christopher Fowler (Green Carnation)
  4. Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen (SIBA Book Award)
  5. Haweswater by Sarah Hall (Commonwealth Writers’ Award)
  6. Echoes From The Dead by Johan Theorin (CWA New Blood Dagger)
  7. After The Fire, a Still Small Voice by Evie Wyld (John Llewelyn Rhys Prize)
  8. I Coriander by Sally Gardner (Nestlé Smarties Book Award)
  9. The Boy Next Door by Irene Sabatini (Orange Award for New Writers)
  10. Just Like Tomorrow by Faïza Guène (Scott Moncrieff Prize)

Some I picked from prize lists, some I read and they just happened to have awards and, maybe best of all, two I read and loved and then they won awards.

And now I’m off to read my final book for another challenge …

Haweswater by Sarah Hall

In the early 1930s the Haweswater Dam was built to help to meet the increasing demand for water in the increasingly industrialised north of England.

And so a valley was flooded. And two villages – Measand and Marsdale Green – were destroyed.

The price of progress is high. Landscapes, communities and homes, all lost.

And Sarah Hall brings all of this back to life, using words oh so beautifully. Images of farming communities, whose lives follow ways established generations ago, are sent against the rising tide of industrialisation, modernisation, and the demands that they bring.

And then there’s the human story, a story that lays bare the emotional consequences of the flooding of the valley.

Sam and Ella Lightburn have both lived there for all their lives. They have two children. A grown daughter, Janet, and a young son, Isaac. The family farm and the surrounding countryside makes up the very fabric of their lives. They know nothing else. They want nothing else.

But change is inevitable.

Jack Liggett is sent by Manchester City Waterworks to supervise the construction of the dam and oversee the evacuation of the valley. He appreciates the countryside and the community that he is come to, but he cannot save them.

And so the stage is set.

The characters are lightly painted, but it is enough. It is the emotions that are important, and they are vivid and utterly real.

Janet, young, headstrong and desperate to save her home, is drawn to Jack, who must destroy it. A relationship grows, and deepens as the water levels rise and villagers begin to leave their homes.

It is quite impossible not to be entranced by the story that unfolds.

But it is clear from the start that this is a tragedy, and the building of the dam would have consequences that were utterly heartbreaking.

But there was a glimmer of hope – and a new local legend was born.

It is rare to find such wonderful images created and such wonderful storytelling inside a single book.

Haweswater really is an extraordinarily accomplished debut novel.

******

And thank you Laura for inspiring me to pull this one off the shelf.