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Costa Book Winner

Perhaps a little on the late side, but I’m delighted to see the late poet and author Helen Dunmore won the 2017 Costa Book of the Year.

Inside the Wave, Dunmore’s tenth collection, explores the borderline between the living and the dead – the underworld and the living world – and includes her final poem, ‘Hold out your arms’, written shortly before her death in June 2017, aged 64.  The award, a cheque for £30,000, was accepted by her son Patrick Charnley from Dominic Paul, managing director of Costa.

Wendy Holden, chair of the final judges, said: “We all felt this is a modern classic; a fantastic collection, life affirming and uplifting. The poems carry powerful messages that speak to all of us.”

A final judging panel included contributing editor to British Vogue, Laura Bailey; author and presenter, Fern Britton; actor Art Malik; BBC presenter and journalist Sophie Raworth; writers Piers Torday, Freya North and Simon Garfield; and poet Moniza Alvi.

Poetry has a strong record in the Costa Book Awards. Inside the Wave (Bloodaxe Books), is the eighth collection of poetry to take the overall prize. Helen Dunmore is the second writer to take the overall prize posthumously in the Award’s 46-year history. Ted Hughes won in 1998 for Birthday Letters.

Luan Goldie wins Short Story Award

Primary school teacher and former business journalist, Luan Goldie from Newham in East London, won the public vote and £3,500 for her story, Two Steak Bakes and Two Chelsea Buns.

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Recent reads to clear the backlog

Having now amalgamated bags of books I wanted to read with the shelf in my study entitled READ THIS LOT NEXT, I’m rather overwhelmed by just how much reading I’ve got to get through. There’s no official deadline only time but, despite an attempt to read every day for at least an hour, it’s going to take eons. However, over the last couple of months I’ve managed to get through three books:

J S Monroe Find Me – Before They Do (Head of Zeus). A new thriller and a quite engaging one ( if there’s such a thing as a thriller that isn’t engaging) which was given to me at the London Book Fair 2017, so I’m not too far behind on that one. The author, new to me, seems to have adopted the now familiar dotting back and forth between last year, next year, this year and yesteryear. Star rating 3.

Ian Rankin Rather Be the Devil (Orion). Rankin is, in my view, always a good read despite getting bogged down in police procedure (but then that’s his forte). It’s only my third Rankin book but even though his chief protagonist (and antagonist according to his colleagues) Rebus is retired, he still has great grip on the case. Star rating 5.

Andrea Di Robilant A Venetian Affair (Harper). Based on a stash of letters discovered in an old case, the story is one of intrigue and unfulfilled love stretching from the canals of Venice to the lush mansions of London via the less salubrious parts of Paris. Not my type of story at all, but the Venice connection provided the important key. Star rating 4 (if only for the interweaving of the facts with the fiction).

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New Reading

A large pile of books has accumulated in my study – probably far too many to read in a year even at one a week (which I find impossible at present). Among these are a number of Stephen King and author I haven’t read much of yet but am going to need to.

Recent Reads. The aim is reading ever day. Not just papers, journals, etc but fiction.

After some persuasion I read Paula Hawkins Girl on a Train (Black Swan)a few weeks back. This is not one I’d have picked – even on a by one-get-one-free offer. And it did take a lot of perseverance to get past the first few pages. I’ve always said if it doesn’t grab my attention in the first couple of pages it’s a no go. Having said that, Salman Rushdie’s The Ground Beneath Her Feet, took me a couple of chapters before I was comfortable. In his case I stuck at it because of the author’s fame rather than the content. I suppose when you’re that successful you can afford to drag it out for a few more chapters and it’s still a book I need to finish, or re-read and finish. Paula Hawkins book did become a gripping read. I literally ate the last few chapters in my eagerness to get to the end.

Next on the list was Life After Life (Black Swan) by Kate Atkinson. This is an intriguing book and took some reading. No spoiler alert but it took me a while. In the end you’re gripped and hooked. It was a very clever premise and one has to admire authors who can dream up this sort of structure. Not one I’d read again, nor did I find it easy to explain the plot to anyone else but worth reading.

The third in line was Kate Mosse’s Taxidermist’s Daughter (Pan/Orion). Kate Mosse I like having read Sepulchre, Labyrinth and Winters Ghosts – the latter some months back. I’ve got used to her technique – now extremely popular it would seem – of alternate historical recounting. Every other chapter covers either what is happening to another key character as their two stories merge or what’s happened in the past. It no doubt has a name but I’ll stick with AHR. More soon.

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