As a child I read a lot but most of the time I was rereading; if I liked a book I wanted to hear the story again, it was comforting to know what was coming up and also to take something else from the story when the element of surprise had been removed.
This is not something I can enjoy doing now, I want new, I want more and I can never imagine a time when there isn’t another book waiting for me.
That being said, one of the books I reread a LOT when I was young was Michelle Magorian’s Goodnight, Mr Tom. I still have the copy I read and read and it is certainly a little dog eared in places. The theme of that being evacuation and I cannot believe I have not read more fiction around the subject, let’s be honest war time and children’s evacuation to safety is completely fraught with emotion and potential. When Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans was on my potential books to review list this month I jumped at the words ‘blitz-drama’, intrigued as to where this one might lead.
Having lived most of his life with his godmother, ten year old Noel is left out of sorts when he loses his ageing carer to dementia and is evacuated on the second wave with his classmates from London to St Albans, finding himself landed with a morally compromised Vee, who is forever trying to make a fast buck, her self-involved son and her mute letter writing mother.
Noel, brought up and educated by a sharp minded former suffragette seems to be the only thing that has the potential to bring order to Vee’s life as it regularly spirals away from her and she may be the best thing for a slightly socially inept, yet fiercely intelligent, young boy.
Watching them get to know one another through the scrapes in and out of London is a pleasure and Evans offers a wonderful selection of phrases to paint the picture of their lives that left me feeling attached to the characters and a little saddened that the book had to end.
An often fast paced tale, with heart and humour, I would certainly say this warrants the praise it is currently receiving.
The Art of Asking is as much about the modern music business, the value of art and a guide to surviving the internet as it is about Amanda Palmer, her cabaret punk band or her world touring tendencies. A memoir inspired by a TED talk* she gave following her triumph in the world of crowdsourcing, a twelve minute (ahem, thirteen) talk on the Art of Asking in the world of performance turned into an ode to asking in an assortment of relationships, not least the one she has with writer husband, Neil Gaiman.
While initially feeling idiosyncratic in style, Amanda seemed to take root in my mind by the third chapter and when later in the book she suffers some disappointment while trying to trust the world I felt that too. We see her transform from a college grad with more bravado than recommended and a job as a human statue to a woman putting her faith in her crowd, but also dealing with the ramifications of not pleasing everyone in an age when the internet is full of anonymity with the ability to say quite literally anything. While you may not always agree with Amanda’s actions or words I think she does really highlight how terrifying it can be to be vilified online and how despite having a crowd of ardent and 99% fantastic fans the internet can turn very dark very quickly.
Her references to the ‘Fraud Police’, the ones who live in your head and basically call you out on your existence and purpose felt like an acknowledgement to the world that people are mean to themselves and therefore it is our jobs to be nice to each other. As she would say; ‘I see you. You are real.’
I didn’t know much about Amanda Palmer before reading the book but it really did not matter, even without an interest in her music this book is fascinating and features some pretty inspiring characters and stories.
In other news, I wish to be friends with her and own a ukulele.
These may be side effects of the book.
* Watch this. No really. WATCH THIS.
It is really interesting and a great precursor to the book which you will of course want to read :]
(another review of this book can be found here)