Books and Identify

I have always considered myself lucky in that I enjoy reading almost any genre and so have a wealth of books to choose from. There are ones I’m less keen on, such as erotica and chick lit and one I don’t like reading at all, horror! But I like to try most genres.

LGBT related fiction has become a firm favourite in the last few years and its nice that writers are bringing this into the mainstream.

Patrick Gale and Sarah Waters are two writers who have given LGBT characters a voice.

Water’s Paying Guests is a superbly written study of a love affair between two women in 1920s London.  Short listed for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for fiction and named the ‘Fiction Book of the Year’ by the Sunday Times, its a novel with many themes; the role of women in post WWI society, forbidden love and the crippling grief, that seemed to hold British Society in its grip in the years following the war.

Patrick Gale’s most recent novel A Place Called Winter has been featured on Radio 2 Book Club Choice and short listed for the Costa Novel Prize among others. Loosely based on a mystery from the writers own family, we are given a glimmer into the lives of gay men lost to history. Men who emigrated to the colonies rather than subjecting their families to the shame of society knowing they were gay and facing themselves the real threat and horror of a prison sentence.  Many such men were forced to do so by family members because they risked their position in ‘acceptable society’. The tragedy of these men is beautifully described in Gale’s story of Harry Crane, who is banished to a brutal life on a farming settlement in Canada. Helen Dunmore author of The Lie, sums up what this novel represents in her review of the book in The Guardian On-Line, Friday 10th April 2015…. “This fascinating novel is their elegy”.

Gale gives a voice to such men through Harry Crane, as Waters gives women, both gay and straight a voice in Paying Guests. Both books also touch on wider themes, such as love, sacrifice and empowerment, but importantly they give a place in mainstream publishing to LGBT characters. No longer restricted to a small section in the corner of a bookshop, they are gaining a foothold in the world of best selling novels.

Stacking The Shelves

I spend an awful lot of time, telling myself I’m not allowed to buy anymore books until I’ve read the ones I already have, because I actually find it very stressful to have too many books waiting to be read! Yet some weeks I simply can’t resist buying books or requesting books to review. Effectively, I’m my own worst enemy.

So this past week, I added 5 books to my to read shelf.  The first was The Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton, which I was lucky to receive as a free paperback in return for a fair review.

The next book 183 Times A Year by Eva Jordan I won in a competition, in which I had to describe what reading means to me. My answer, was a simple one, books are my cwtches, my safe place, my passion and my coping mechanism during the bad times and my companion at any time.

I also added The Wronged Sons by John Marrs. I loved his second book, Welcome To Wherever You Are and I’ve heard great things about this his first novel.

The last two books were bought on the kindle daily deal, The Watchmakers of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley and The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie. They have both been on my book reading radar for a while and look like great reads. It looks like the reading year is set to continue to be an exciting one.


Cleaning out my bookcase.

Today I emptied out my bookcase and gave it a good clean. It’s a bit of an emotional experience for me, because the books I have chosen to keep have memories of trips and life events tied up within their pages.

My father died when I was eighteen and this year I will turn forty-nine.  The Police Released about the pop group of the same name remains as both a reminder of my father and my childhood. It’s more than a book, it sits on my shelf as a reminder of times gone by.

In university I studied American History and Literature and from this time made friends that became family. One of whom Jill, I spent two wonderful holidays with in America and came back both times with cases full of books. I say cases, because they weighed so much and she had to have some in her case. She is a patient and generous friend and the books I bought home with her help, are a reminder of wonderful times.  An Eye Witness History of Slavery In America published by Schneider & Schneider was a weighty tome to be fair and it was just one of many!

I have developed a passion for theatre of late and like to collect the texts of plays I’ve seen,  if I can.  The Pride by Alexi Kaye Campbell was staged at the Trafalger Studios in London. Intense, funny and moving, it’s a play I wish I’d seen more than once. It focuses on societies changing attitudes to sexuality, identity and the liberation brought about by being honest about who you are.

One of the characters Oliver sums up what Pride is all about.

What is the point of this stupid, painful life if not to be honest? If not to stand up for what one is in the core of one’s being? “

All words have meaning beyond the page they are printed on. Books and reading, whether they are ebooks or printed books, are an essential part of who I am. Part of my identity and they form and encompass cherished memories.