Blog Tour, Poetry

The Point of Poetry by Joe Nutt

What’s the point of poetry? It’s a question asked in classrooms all over the world, but it rarely receives a satisfactory answer. Which is why so many people, who read all kinds of books, never read poetry after leaving school.

Exploring twenty-two works from poets as varied as William Blake, Seamus Heaney, Rita Dove and Hollie McNish, this book makes the case for what poetry has to offer us, what it can tell us about the things that matter in life. Each poem is discussed with humour and refreshing clarity, using a mixture of anecdote and literary criticism that has been honed over a lifetime of teaching. Poetry can enrich our lives, if we’ll let it.

The Point of Poetry is the perfect companion for anyone looking to discover how.

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Today I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for The Point of Poetry by John Nutt, a book to remove the feeling that poetry is highbrow or something that can be difficult to relate to or even enjoy. Poetry can seem scary, I agree with that. It’s one of those tricky mediums that people often shy away from because they feel they won’t understand it or are put off by a seemingly endless list of jargon that leaves them feeling that they simply aren’t allowed to enjoy it because they don’t know what it all means. Words like alliteration, stanza, metrical foot, octave, pentameter – it can all be very off-putting to say the least. Or perhaps those who read poetry are seen as one of those airy fairy types who gaze wistfully at the clouds looking to find the hidden meaning in every small detail in life.

Listening to a radio broadcast more recently, about the popularity of poetry on Instagram, I heard an academic comment on how so many ordinary people felt excluded from poetry in the same way they did opera.

I have to admit I can find reading poetry a little daunting. I’ve studied it for a bit, written a little but am a true believer that there is a poem out there for everyone. I do not claim to understand all the complexities of the different type of poetry and the nuts and bolts of it all but I enjoy reading it. Therefore I was delighted to be offered the opportunity to read John’s The Point of Poetry. As a school librarian I try to incorporate as much poetry into the day to day life as possible. I’m constantly on the look out for poetry books that may engage and inspire our young readers and make it more accessible. I believe it should be an everyday part of life so much so that I try to have poems scattered in the Library and in display wherever I can sneak them in around the school. The right person will find them when they need them. Then once they begin to read they may be inspired to share or even write poetry.

Poetry affords people (not just students) the opportunity to express and communicate in all the colours of the rainbow.

The Point of Poetry is a breath of fresh air. Joe is a natural writer and he is informative, yet not preachy which is without doubt part of his ‘teacher’ skills honed and perfected over a lifetime of teaching. To be taught without realising you are learning is a great skill indeed. Filled with humour and fascinating insights into the poets behind the poems, this book does actually make poetry seem within reach. You may not have heard of all of the poets but that really doesn’t matter. Joe chats about the poet and poem beforehand but his observations are interesting, insightful and most of all easy to follow. This book is enough to set you off on your poetic journey. It’s not setting you up to become an expert but merely sending you off on smooth waters. Striking the spark so to speak and lighting your way.

Many thanks to Anne Cater for sending me my review copy and inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

About the author

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Joe Nutt is a former teacher with twenty years of English teaching experience. He has written books on Shakespeare, John Donne and most recently a guidebook to Paradise Lost for one of the world’s foremost academic publishers. He is now one of the leading educationalists in the UK and writes a fortnightly column for the Times Educational Supplement.
You can follow Joe on Twitter: @joenutt_author

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Literary Festivals, Time to talk

Chiddingstone Literary Festival – A treasure trove for literary lovers in the South East.

Just four years ago the very first Chiddingstone Literary Festival was held in the splendid grounds of Chiddingstone Castle near Edenbridge, Kent, bringing a missing element of unadulterated literary indulgence to the south east. It has gone from strength to strength, each year attracting a diverse range of authors to entertain and inform in the most glorious of settings. ‘The four days of talks, performances and workshops are set in the historic house and grounds and have been carefully curated to ensure there is something for everyone, of all ages and interests.’

Tickets are available to buy either per event or as day tickets and whichever way you choose to buy includes entry into the castle and grounds.

Personally, it already holds some great memories. In the first year I had the joyous privilege of introducing the then Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell, to his eagerly awaiting crowd. He then proceeded to hold the audience completely spellbound whilst he chatted and drew his way into our hearts.

Introducing author and illustrator Chris Riddell in 2016

Each year there has been a whole host of authors, illustrators and performers at Chiddingstone. Last year I was thrilled to catch talks by Abi Elphinstone, Philip Ardagh and current Children’s Laureate, Lauren child.

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Author Abi Elphinstone weaves her magic over a full house in the marquee
Talking adventures and catapults…
Philip Ardagh being fantastically funny as always.

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Children’s Laureate, Lauren Child

This year includes another impressive line-up of events with talks and workshops so much so the adult day has increased to two days (Saturday and Sunday), with the family day still making a brilliant bank holiday Monday day out.

Inspiring Creativity

As well as listening and watching there are also many opportunities throughout the event to get creative and last year I was invited to run several children’s creative writing workshops on both the family and school’s days. I have to say, it was so much fun and the atmosphere was wonderful. Work commitments unfortunately mean that I am unable to run them again this year but I will be attending and writing about the event over the weekend.

One of the beautiful rooms within the castle ready and waiting for our budding storytellers

There are of course plenty of workshops available for both adults and children. Why not indulge in a spot of poetry, creative writing or life drawing? For children there is also plenty going on including film making workshops, creative writing and even Wallace and Gromit clay model making workshops with Aardman Animations.

Furthermore, there is a feast of events waiting for you in the Castle grounds across all four days.

‘Our adult events take place on Saturday, Sunday and Monday with the Festival’s most ambitious programme yet – spilling over with riches and diversity. On Saturday we will also hold our Festival Drinks Party at Stonewall Park, kindly hosted by the Fleming family. Come and celebrate our opening day with a glass of wine from Squerryes, delicious canapés, meet some of our authors and enjoy a stroll through the glorious bluebells and rhododendrons.

Bank Holiday Monday is our Family Day, with events for children and adults.We have our festival favourites Pericles Theatre company performing The Little Mermaid and clay modelling workshops with Aardman Animations, who are celebrating 30 years of Wallace & Gromit.You can watch their films, learn how to make an animated film with Press Play, meet the illustrator of children’s classic Giraffes Can’t Dance and enjoy live drawing and funny antics from duo A F Harrold and Emily Gravett.

Tuesday sees the return of our annual Schools Day, with another wonderful line-up of children’s authors and performers including Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Maz Evans, Dan Freedman and poet Joseph Coelho, alongwith a fun-filled show from Really Big Pants Theatre Company.’

There are too many highlights to mention so do check out the website (link here) where you can view the full event programme and book tickets.

I have already booked my ticket to see Joanne Harris but I am already starting to wish I had just gone straight for a day ticket. :). There is just so much going on.

In a previous life I had the great privilege of working with Chiddingstone Literary Festival’s Artistic Director, Victoria Henderson. She has been at the helm since the very start and does an incredible job each and every year. I’m delighted that she has had time to answer a few questions for me ahead of this year’s festival.

In conversation with Victoria Henderson

Chiddingstone Literary Festival is now in it’s 4th year and has extended to a 4 day event. Why did you decide to add an extra day?

Last year’s festival was such a success and we were overwhelmed with the positive response, so we felt it would be a good idea to introduce a 4thday to include the Saturday of the Bank Holiday weekend. We also felt that running 7 consecutive events in a day for those who bravely bought All Day tickets was a bit of a big ask, so we’ve reduced the number of back to back events to 5 each day and introduced more time between events so visitors have more time to have a book signed, get something to eat, visit the Castle’s collections and enjoy the Castle grounds. This year we have also added more workshops for adults and children so people can really get involved. We have Life Drawing, Creative Writing, and Poetry classes and a session on How to Get Published, running alongside the author talks and conversations.

Each year from the very first has seen a collection of interesting and varied authors and events. What factors do you consider when putting together your plan ?

We start planning and researching authors about 10 months before the festival. It’s a mixture of following up authors of interest, talking to publicists about upcoming books, browsing through publishers’ catalogues and keeping an eye out for subjects that are topical. On the whole we look for new authors although we’ve had a couple of returnees such as Anna Pasternak who last year gave a fascinating insight into the life and work of her great-uncle Boris Pasternak, and this year is publishing her biography of Wallis Simpson, which has attracted attention because of the recent arrival (and very different treatment) of another American divorcee into the Royal Family. We like to feel that there is something for everyone on offer at the festival so we try to keep the subjects as varied as possible. This year we’re covering cookery, science, history, biography, poetry, fiction, politics and real crime. The family day is a lovely mix of children’s and adults author events with a performance of The Little Mermaid for all the family, workshops from Aardman Animations, Press Play Film and Creative Writing classes.

Do you have a favourite part of the festival?

I love the Schools Day. It’s such a joy to see the reaction of the children as they listen to some wonderful authors who inspire them with their enthusiasm to think about books and reading in a new way. We’ve been lucky enough to host two Children’s Laureate’s – Chris Riddell and Lauren Child – and How to Train Your Dragon author Cressida Cowell. We have over 1500 pupils visiting the festival on our Schools Day and it’s an emotional moment watching them empty out of the coaches and minibuses to enjoy a day devoted to the joy of books. A number of the schools make a day of it and set up camp in the grounds, playing games between events, exploring the lake and the woods, visiting the Castle’s Egyptian and Japanese antiquities and enjoying a picnic. They get to meet the authors who sign copies of their books and they go home with lots to fire their imaginations.

What do you feel is the key to the festival’s success?

I think it’s a mixture of the glorious setting of a historic house in the beautiful Kent countryside and the warm and intimate atmosphere we’ve created for both authors and visitors. The festival is a small but beautifully formed event, in the heart of the Chiddingstone community, bringing top quality writers to this idyllic corner of West Kent.

The British weather can be rather unpredictable. Of course Chiddingstone Castle is stunning at any time of year but what is the greatest challenge you face with the festival weather wise?

Don’t tempt fate! We’ve been incredibly lucky over the last 4 years with the weather and have enjoyed some glorious Spring sunshine, including last year’s mini-heatwave which was almost too hot! We had one downpour in the second year during Nicholas Crane’s talk about the British geography and climate which seemed highly appropriate! Almost all the events take place either in the Castle or in marquees with the exception of Pericles’ Theatre Company’s performances in The Orangery, where the audience sits on chairs in the gardens. If it does rain the show goes on – with brollies!

Who are you most excited about seeing at this year’s festival?

I am looking forward to seeing Joanne Harris talk about her latest novel in the Chocolat series, 20 years after the first book was published. We have Giles and Mary, the unlikely stars of Gogglebox who will be very entertaining, and we’re honoured to be hosting Jackie Kay, the Scottish Poet Laureate. We have a conversation between a forensic scientist and a barrister on some of the most sensational dramas played out in court, and two eminent scientists Dr Giles Yeo and Vybarr Cregan-Reid talking about the obesity epidemic and how humans are adapting to the technological age.

After four years, what is your most memorable moment at the Literary Festival?

Memories of the last four festivals include an extraordinary conversation between a former Commissioner in the Metropolitan police and a convicted murderer about the effects of crime on their mental health, meeting Terry Waite in the Green Room and feeling awed by his presence, his height and his astonishing survival in captivity. I remember Rev Richard Coles falling foul of the Bank Holiday train timetables who arrived with only minutes to spare and Chris Riddell spontaneously volunteering to illustrate the winning entries of the children’s Short Story Competition whilst they were being read out on stage, to the delight of the winners.

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Chiddingstone Literary Festival has all the ingredients for a fantastic weekend of everything literary, no matter the weather. It is a real gem for us here in the South East and I urge you to pop online and book your tickets just as soon as possible. Perhaps I’ll see you there.

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Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Crime

Welcome to the Heady Heights by David F.Ross

So today is publication day for Welcome to the Heady Heights which makes me even happier to be hosting the blog tour on today of all days. 🙂

One of the things I love about independent publishers such as Orenda Books, is the sheer variety of titles they publish and, because they are small and generally filled with the most passionate of book lovers, you know that they are all about quality.  Welcome to the Heady Heights is a great example of this.  This novel is an impressively written, gritty, 70’s infused dark comedy and I loved it.

Archie Blunt is a man with big ideas. He just needs a break for them to be realised. In a bizarre brush with the light-entertainment business, Archie unwittingly saves the life of the UK’s top showbiz star, Hank ‘Heady’ Hendricks, and immediately seizes the opportunity to aim for the big time. With dreams of becoming a musical impresario, he creates a new singing group called The High Five with five unruly working-class kids from Glasgow’s East End. The plan? Make it to the final of Heady’s Saturday night talent show, where fame and fortune awaits… But there’s a complication. Archie’s made a fairly major misstep in his pursuit of fame and fortune, and now a trail of irate Glaswegian bookies, corrupt politicians and a determined Scottish WPC are all on his tail…

A hilarious, poignant nod to the elusiveness of stardom, in an age when ‘making it’ was ‘having it all’, Welcome to the Heady Heights is also a dark, laugh-out-loud comedy, a poignant tribute to a bygone age and a delicious drama about desperate men, connected by secrets and lies, by accidents of time and, most of all, the city they live in.

Now I know the we shouldn’t really talk about gender but I do feel the edgy, tough 70’s story line will definitely appeal to a male readership.  Of course women will love it too.   I especially loved it’s references to 1970’s Glasgow. The music and TV playlist that David scattered  throughout certainly added to the mix brilliantly.  I can still hear the theme tune to the Sweeney playing in the back of my mind.

Now the dialect took me a moment or two to adjust (I am very much a delicately spoken south east girl) but it wasn’t long before I was in the full swing of it.  Welcome to the Heady Heights has a dark but hugely entertaining humour which I thoroughly enjoyed.  This novel would be perfect for adapting for the TV.  Amongst the humour there is a darker side to this story and a part of me hopes that a sequel is in the pipeline.  I’d like to know more about what happens next for some of these characters and there were one of two that I certainly would like to see…. Well, I don’t want to spoil it for you.  Go read it, it’s fab.  Enjoy the grit, the rudeness and the fabulous seventies setting.

About the author

David_F_Ross_001v.jpgDavid F. Ross was born in Glasgow in 1964 and has lived in Kilmarnock for over thirty years. He is a graduate of the Mackintosh School of Architecture at Glasgow School of Art, an architect by day, and a hilarious social media commentator, author and enabler by night. His most prized possession is a signed Joe Strummer LP. Since the publication of his debut novel The Last Days of Disco, he’s become something of a media celebrity in Scotland, with a signed copy of his book going for £500 at auction, and the German edition has not left the bestseller list since it was published.

 

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Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Debut, Historical Fiction

The Conviction of Cora Burns by Carolyn Kirby

Birmingham, 1885.

Born in a gaol and raised in a workhouse, Cora Burns has always struggled to control the violence inside her.

Haunted by memories of a terrible crime, she seeks a new life working as a servant in the home of scientist Thomas Jerwood.  Here, Cora befriends a young girl, Violet, who seems to be the subject of a living experiment.  But is Jerwood also secretly studying Cora…?

With the  power  and intrigue  of Laura Purcell’s ‘See What I Have Done’, Carolyn Kirby’s stunning  debut takes  the reader  on a heart-breaking  journey through Victorian Birmingham and questions where we first learn violence: from our scars or from our hearts.

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Is a person born bad?  Does evil course through the veins like blood or is it something that arises out of circumstance?  Nature or nurture?  This is a question that filled me throughout this bewitching tale.

Right from the very first page we are plunged head first into the dark, murky depths of a brutal Victorian Britain.  Cora is born in a gaol and we follow her journey at two intervals of her life.  We know she is protecting a dark secret and yet we can’t be sure what her crime is…not at first.  Cora is an intriguing character and although her difficult start in life can warrant some allowances for her tough attitude there are moments when I did wonder what kind of monster she really was.  Yet there is also an underlying question mark that hovers over her throughout the story that makes you want to understand where her actions are coming from.  Carolyn makes full use of the Victorian attitudes to science and mental health and the story is layered with sinister goings on, creating a misty moodiness that brilliantly evokes the atmosphere of the timeframe of the story.  I do love a good Victorian gothic and there is a darkness to this tale that drew me in and I could not stop reading, no matter what horror lay before me.  This is strong debut from Carolyn and I’m excited to see what comes next.

The Conviction of Cora Burns is published on March 21st 2019.  The cover alone is absolutely stunning.

Many thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. It’s such a thrill to discover a new author.

About the author

Carolyn Kirby Author Pic

Originally from Sunderland, Carolyn Kirby studied history at St Hilda’a College, Oxford before working in social housing and then as a teacher of English as a foreign language.

Her debut novel The Conviction of Cora Burns (Previously titled Half of You) was begun in 2013 on a writing course at Faber academy in London.  The unpublished novel achieved success in several competitions including as finalist in the Mslexia Novel Competition and as winner of the inaugural Bluepencilagency Award.

Carolyn has two grown-up daughters and lives with her husband in rural Oxfordshire.

 

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Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Debut, Suspense, Thriller

The Perfect Betrayal by Lauren North

Today I am thrilled to host the blog tour for The Perfect Betrayal by Lauren North.  It’s a few days since I finished reading this and I’m still recovering.  Now that is a sign of a good read!

The Perfect Betrayal Cover

After the sudden death of her husband, Tess is drowning in grief. All she has left is her son, Jamie, and she’ll do anything to protect him – but she’s struggling to cope. When grief counsellor Shelley knocks on their door, everything changes. Shelley is beautiful, confident and takes control when Tess can’t bear to face the outside world. She is the perfect friend to Tess and Jamie, but when Jamie’s behaviour starts to change, and Tess starts to forget things, she begins to suspect that Shelley might not be the answer to their problems after all. When questions arise over her husband’s death and strange things start to happen, Tess begins to suspect that Shelley may have an ulterior motive. Tess knows she must do everything she can to keep Jamie safe – but who can she trust?

The Perfect Betrayal is a dark, emotionally engaging novel that asks:

Who can you trust in your darkest moment?

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This novel was not an easy ride I can tell you that. Right from the very start it had me on tenterhooks, unsure as to where it was leading. As a mum it’s a terrifying.  It’s so easy to put yourself in Tess’ position and I keenly felt her despair after the death of her husband and the absolute obsession with keeping her son safe from harm, her last glimmer of hope in a world gone dark with grief.

At first the arrival of Shelley seems like a blessing, a ray of light to help her through the darker days, but soon strange things begin to happen and Tess begins to become suspicious. Before long she’s fighting a desperate battle to keep her son with her, and keep him safe as she starts to suspect all is not as it seems with Shelley.

This is an absolute roller coaster of a journey and I felt helpless as I was carried along, watching events happen before me. I read to the end with a sense of horror and total fear for what was unfolding before me.   The ending was particularly good and has left a lasting impression.  As a debut this is a very bright start for Lauren and an absolute shocker of a psychological thriller (in a good way).

Thanks to Anne Carter for inviting me to be part of this Random Things blog tour and for arranging my review copy.

About the author

Lauren North writes psychological suspense novels that delve into the darker side of relationships and families. She has a lifelong passion for writing, reading, and all things books. Lauren’s love of psychological suspense has grown since childhood and her dark imagination of always wondering what’s the worst thing that could happen in every situation.

Lauren studied psychology before moving to London where she lived and worked for many years. She now lives with her family in the Suffolk countryside.

Readers can follow Lauren on Twitter @Lauren_C _North and Facebook @LaurenNorthAuthor

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Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Crime, Historical Fiction, Literary, Thriller

The Courier by Kjell Ola Dahl

‘This is what dying is like, she thinks. You have gone and the world doesn’t care. You die and others eat pastries.’

In Oslo in 1942, Jewish courier Ester is betrayed, narrowly avoiding arrest by the Gestapo. In great haste, she escapes to Sweden whilst the rest of her family is deported to Auschwitz. In Stockholm, Ester meets the resistance hero, Gerhard Falkum, who has left his little daughter and fled both the Germans and allegations that he murdered his wife, Åse, Ester ’s childhood best friend. A relationship develops between them, but ends abruptly when Falkum dies in a fire. And yet, twenty-five years later, Falkum shows up in Oslo. He wants to reconnect with his daughter Turid. But where has he been, and what is the real reason for his return? Ester stumbles across information that forces her to look closely at her past, and to revisit her war-time training to stay alive…

Written with Dahl’s trademark characterisation and clever plotting, The Courier sees one of Norway’s most critically acclaimed authors at his best, as he takes on one of the most horrifying periods of modern history. With its sophisticated storytelling and elegant prose, this stunning and compelling wartime thriller is reminiscent of the writing of John Le Carré and William Boyd.

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Now I read a LOT of books and a lot of good ones at that. That’s not a boast, it’s simply a fact. I’m not entering in to a ‘I can read the most books (smug face) competition’, it’s just part of what I do. My love of reading led me to study literature at degree level and come away with a first class distinction. I also worked in the book recommendation industry for a good few years, with an extremely knowledgeable mentor who had worked in publishing for years and years.  So in a (slightly smug) way I do consider myself to have some expertise on the subject.  I tell you this, not to show off or flex my ‘experience’ muscles but just to highlight that when I say The Courier IS A FANTASTIC BOOK… that it really is FANTASTIC.

Of course Kjell Ola Dahl’s resume speaks for itself.  He is an award winning writer whose work has been published in no less then 14 countries.  This is the first of his books that I have read and I can honestly say that he is an incredibly skilled writer.  This is even more evident thanks to the superb work of the translator, Don Bartlett. I was absolutely blown away by The Courier.

Each chapter moves back and forth between different points in the timeline. From war time Norway and Sweden to 1960’s and 2015 Oslo.  Now this technique is often used, but in this case it was used quite brilliantly. Each period guiding you through the story, building the suspense and tension, and carrying you on, always wanting to read just one more chapter, and then another and another…

This novel shows us the lingering horrors of war and oppression but it also highlights the crimes that go on in times of conflict, crimes that are equally horrific and can be used and distorted for others means, the real cause overshadowed and (almost) forgotten.

For me, as an English woman who had grandparents who lived through the horror and hardships of WWII, I find it incredibly interesting to read the view point of others. We all know the horrific persecution that many millions endured but I think at times we can be a little unaware as to just how far this actually spread out of Germany and France. It never ceases to move and horrify me.  In my naivety I never considered the idea of Jews suffering in Norway, so this novel has again imparted more about this part of history (a subject that one of my fellow bloggers, Victoria Goldman,  was moved to investigating further after also reading The Courier.  You can read her fascinating findings here.)

I grew up with World War Two as part of my history but a history that I was still removed from and experienced by others.  My grandparents chose not to talk about it and I wonder what horrors they themselves witnessed.  What stories they could have told, especially my grandfather who spent a time in a concentration camp – something he never discussed with us.

But this isn’t a story about concentration camps or soldiers fighting on the front line.  Within this story the war itself is a backstory. This is about those living with the war and the repercussions they feel in a time when Europe was filled with conflict and hate. This is the story of those fighting in a very different way and trying to survive against a force that is so evil and only intent on destroying everything in its path.

There are complexities to the plot but it is expertly built so it felt an easy read. Beneath the spies, the resistance, the gestapo and the war, there is the story of the murder of a young mother.  The crime remains, almost forgotten through time, but the truth will be revealed and I have to say that I for one didn’t see it coming.  It is shocking, compelling – A very excellent novel that I thoroughly recommend, not only as a piece of historical fiction but also as a thriller that will hold you spellbound until the end.

About the author

0One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eleven novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in 14 countries, and he lives in Oslo.

 

Thank you to the lovely Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour and to Orenda Books for my review copy.  It was absolutely stunning.

 

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Adult Fiction, Crime, ReadAgatha2019, Thriller

The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie

I have been following the official Agatha Christie website on Instagram and Twitter and their #readchristie2019 challenge in which they suggest a different Christie novel to read each month. In January they kicked the challenge off with The ABC Murders and I as I had been lucky enough to receive this beautiful hardback edition for Christmas so I happily jumped on board. I am a big Christie fan, watching countless TV adaptations, but as a reader I have read shockingly few of her actual novels and short stories. Time to rectify that me thinks.

If you’d like to join in with Read Christie 2019 then why not visit their website here and sign up for the newsletter.

The February book is The Giant’s Bread which Agatha wrote under the pseudonym, Mary Westmacott. I’m currently listening to that on audio book (my first!).

The March title is The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side, the 8th Miss Marple novel and one that I very much look forward to reading soon. I have read none of the Miss Marple stories as of yet.

There has been much discussion and awareness about The ABC Murders after the recent BBC adaptation was screened over Christmas. This adaptation was my first experience of the story.

But before we get into the TV adaptation let’s talk about the novel itself…

It is not often that I read the book after watching the film or TV adaptation but I did on this occasion. I enjoyed all three versions but I have to say that it was wonderful to return to the original story, exactly how Agatha Christie wanted to tell it. Her writing is superb and I can see why her stories continue to inspire and engage. If you’ve never read a Christie novel then I urge you to pick one up. They are such a delight and she has a rather brilliant way of bringing humour and a lightness of touch to even the darkest of subject matter. They are, after all, jolly good crime novels, written to reveal the dark side of human nature but first and foremost to entertain…and that they certainly do.

The edition that I received is a stunning hardback edition published by HarperCollins. It is beautiful and certainly adds to the joy whenever picked up. I am hoping they may reproduce the entire Poirot collection in this format. I want to read each and every one. What a wonderful addition to the bookshelves that would make!

Now on to TV…

Now, I came to the conclusion long ago that when watching a film or small screen adaptation of a book it is best to view it, where possible, as a completely separate entity. Very rarely can they be the same. It is after all not (usually) written, directed or produced by the author. It is therefore a collaboration of opinions pulled together from an original story. Not one person will read a story in exactly the same way and when it comes to reproducing they will, of course, want to add their own touch to it.

I thoroughly enjoyed Sarah Phelps’ interpretation on the BBC. It was dark, brooding and kept me thoroughly gripped over the three nights. It has moved towards the slightly more gruesome side that TV seems to need these days. I mean why just batter someone other the head when you can literally decapitate them with a spade or leave them in a vast pool of blood after slitting their throat?

I also found the stereotypical chubby sister of the second murder victim, Betty Barnard, finding freedom from the shadows of her slim, beautiful sister a little unnecessary. The Megan Barnard of the novel was rather intelligent and interesting. We could delve deeper into why Sarah chose for the attractive, promiscuous sister to meet a gruesome end, and the sister who was presented on screen as over weight, drab and bitter, as the one who eventually finds freedom by escaping out the window (where on earth does she go!?) but that’s not for this blog to discuss today. Agatha has written many meek, forgotten women in her novels but they quite often tend to end up having strength simmering beneath the surface, as what is revealed is a strong, resilient (and at times calculating and murderous) woman. Perhaps this is how Sarah chose to portrayed this.

My only (slight) disappointments in this adaptation being the death of Detective Inspector Japp, the absence of Hastings, and the rather sad, lonely and humiliated Poirot that I couldn’t really see in the novels. Once I got over that though I became thoroughly engrossed. I did feel John Malkovich made an excellent Poirot and as the story progressed our beloved character did make a rather wonderful comeback. Saying that I do feel that losing the Belgium accent takes away part of the essence of the character (but I believe that was director, Alex Gabassi‘s call). You could say they have almost created a completely different Poirot.

The retelling as a whole did encourage me to look at Agatha’s books in a new light to see where Sarah’s inspiration came for the backstory and changes she chose to make. This is the wonderful thing about brokerage bringing these fresh adaptations to the screen. Not only do they bring a whole new audience to the stories but they make those of us familiar with the author and characters look at them with fresh eyes too. The acting and overall production was superb and I look forward to more from the BBC and Sarah in the future.

David Suchet – my Poirot

A few weeks after watching the BBC adaptation I settled down to watch the wonderful David Suchet take the lead in the investigation along with Hastings and, thankfully, a very fit and healthy Japp. I never tire of watching these versions and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I have enjoyed each of the many different actors who have taken on the famous detective but Suchet is without doubt my favourite. He played the detective for 25 years and in an article in The Express is quoted as saying that whilst preparing for his role back in 1988…

I started to write my private list of Poirot’s habits and character. I called it my ‘dossier of characteristics’. It ended up five pages long and detailed 93 different aspects of life. I have the list to this day – in fact, I carried it around on the set with me throughout all my years as Poirot, just as I gave a copy to every director I worked with on a Poirot film.

I feel that he is possibly the truest Hercule to Agatha’s creation. He is a joy to watch and he is how I imagine Poirot to be when I read the books.

Are you taking part in Read Christie 2019? Which Christie novel would you most like to read this year? I’m hoping for Murder on the Orient Express. A story I know very well but still haven’t read.