The Woman in Black

It is a few years since I saw the movie with Daniel Radcliffe. I don’t like ghost stories or stories that are supposed to scare you. If I’m going to read or watch stories like that, I prefer psychological stories. I saw the movie for two reasons: it had Daniel Radcliffe in it and although I’m not a Potter-fan I’m quite impressed by him. Second it seemed like a well made film. It was and scared the shit out me. It was one of those that gave me nightmares.

I was sort of wondering if I had lost my marbles when I pick up the book written by Susan Hill. Did I really want to revisit this particular story? Well, it turned out that I was right to pick it up and read it. The book didn’t scare me half as much but was a really good read. The atmosphere and how the events affected the main character, was well written. I think I especially liked the naivety of Arthur Kipps at the beginning of the story and how the events change him. Like all young people he believes himself able to face up to anything, despite his fears.

There is something to be said about reading a book and seeing the film based on the book. In this case the book and the film has a slightly different time line. I’m not always in favour of making these kinds of changes in the story line but in this case both time lines work very well in their separate ways which also adds to the book and the film being enjoyable, for lack of a better word, as individual stories, connected and at the same time unconnected to each other.

I don’t think I will ever watch the movie again but I don’t mind re-reading the book.

 

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The Cellist’s Friend

It’s hard to write reviews for books written by friends. On the one hand you want to sing their praise because you know how much work they’ve put in and you want them to do well. On the other hand you want to treat your readers to the same level of honesty as you do with other books.

So here it goes, my attempt at sing Robert Fanshawe’s praise while being honest, but first an introduction. This book starts with an execution during the first world war. An unusual event in many ways yet ordinary in the realities of life at the front. However, most of the story, actually takes place on the home front, as main character Ben tries to deal with his experiences in the trenches while faced with the impossible task of build a new life.

The Cellist’s Friend is not a book I would have read if it had not been written by a friend. Although the war years fascinates me I don’t read a lot of war-time historical fiction. When Fanshawe explained the premise of the book before it was published, it peaked my interest. It is a war story in that it is set during the end of the first world war in mostly military surroundings but focuses more on the thoughts and feelings of Ben. I really enjoyed his story, the questions he was asking himself and that he tried to make sense of his experiences through poetry. It made it different from other stories I have come across. I also felt, not only because I know the author, that he is very knowledgeable about the time, the military traditions and the war itself.

My main criticism is that the Fanshawe includes a lot of different issues – racism, women’s suffragette, apart from the philosophical ideas of the purpose of war, what bravery is, redemption and finding your own sense of self. I’m tempted to suggest that the story should have been simplified. The social issues that’s going on around the character sometimes takes away from the main story – this young man trying to understand the world when he has seen so much suffering. Perhaps then, the cellist himself could have been given a larger roll. I do wish I had been given more of his story.

I truly enjoyed reading The Cellist’s Friend and I would really recommend reading it, especially if you have an interest in this time period with a local flavour for South East London.

 

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Book Release Celebration

No sadly not my own book release but just as much cause for celebration. Last Thursday was the official book launch of my friend Robert J Fanshawe’s book The Cellist’s Friend at Global Fusion Music and Arts’ open mic night in Woolwich.

Robert decided on self-publishing. I had a very small part to play in the process when I acted as adviser and general bouncing board while Robert was going through the different stages of preparing the book for publishing. Author House is supposedly one of the biggest self-publishing companies out there, with the usual offer of preparing different parts for you or you can choose to do it yourself.

After the usual open mic readings and music performances, Robert introduced the book and read two sections from it. It is very different to hear the author himself read the text as he intended it, in comparison to reading a book for yourself, especially since Robert happens to be an excellent reader and actor. It adds a layer to the story that you wouldn’t otherwise get. I won’t say too much about the story now. A review, or my thoughts about the book, will come soon.

What I will say, is that no matter how small a venue, perhaps even just your closest friends, you should celebrate your book release. Whether self-published, via independent or major publishers, or even vanity publishing – there is a massive amount of work behind and a published book is a great achievement.

 

Maggie Smith biography

I love Maggie Smith. She must be one of the best actresses/actors alive. And no, I didn’t discover her when watching Downton Abbey. I was aware of her already with A Room With A View, if anyone remembers that film.

The thing I loved about the book Maggie Smith by Michael Coveney, was to discover more about her off screen personality and about all the stage acting she has done, especially in the beginning of her career. This is not a gossipy book and thank god for that. If anything it is a bit heavy on the factual side, relying a lot on reviews of the plays, the TV shows and films Smith has done over the years but that also seems to fit with her person. An actress to be fascinated and impressed by, if not for anything else, than the determined work methods and commitment to what she does.

My main criticism is that it is a lot of name dropping in the book. Yes, I get it, she has worked with pretty much everyone who was and is anyone within her business. Very cool but half of them I don’t know who they are because I wasn’t even born when they were the best actors/actresses alive. Secondly, because I’m reading a book about Maggie Smith and I don’t need to know what happened in the life of everyone else that she came in contact with. A lot of that could have been cut down to focus on a few that had a larger part to play in her personal or professional life.

In any case, if you are a fan of Maggie Smith, I would still recommend this book.

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The image is from the back cover. Photography by Terence Donovan in London 1964

Reviews and Sale

I’m very excited to announce that I have had a first review of my short-story Let me tell you a story while you sleep. Follow the link to read the review from my friend and fellow Greenwich Writer at The Fairy Dust Book Blog.

https://thefairydustbookblog.wordpress.com/2018/02/25/review-let-me-tell-you-a-story-while-you-sleep-by-liv-johannesson/

The other big announcement is that Let me tell you a story is on sale at Smashwords from today and until March 20th. I’m following in the tradition of the Swedish general book sale which kicked off this morning. You will need to use the promo code WC28S to claim 50% off the normal price.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/726968

The book sale in Sweden used to be little Christmas for me when I was still living in Sweden. I’d get the sales catalogs from the major book stores ahead of time so that I could brows what books would be on sale and plan which one’s to buy. It was not unusual that I carried home 15-16 books during the first few days and then had to tell myself that I really couldn’t afford to buy more. The great thing was that there were often just as many non-fiction books as there were general fiction and bestsellers on sale. I’ve picked up the weirdest little books but that’s what’s great about sale, you can try things out that maybe you normally wouldn’t think of buying.

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Writing for Radio – review

I don’t only read fiction. I pretty much read anything to be fair, although life-stories and non-fiction seems to be the predominant choice.

Writing for Radio by Margaret Wilkinson I picked up because I like exploring different ways to tell stories. Radio is very special since you can’t see the action, you can only rely on your hearing. You can also not go back and re-read something you didn’t catch. I used to love radio theatre when I was a child, sitting curled up on the floor between the kitchen table and the windows facing the garden.

I was expecting a text book that outlines the do:s and the pitfalls specific for the radio media. There is that…but a lot of the book is writing exercises. The exercises seem sensible and the way to become of writer is of course to write but it was not what I expected from the book. Especially as I normally read on my tablet on an over-crowded underground train on my way to work. Doing writing exercises isn’t exactly the top of my priorities.

The book will be a good reference book however, once I can sit down and start writing, preferably a Saturday morning when no one is around.

Swimming Lessons – Claire Fuller

I was gobsmacked when I read Claire Fuller’s previous book Our Endless Numbered Days. It took me completely by surprise and I carried the story with me a long time afterwards, re-piecing it in my mind. Swimming Lessons is more predictable, aspects of the relationships seem far too familiar, but it is yet another story I will carry with me as all the layers of the story continue to sink in.

The outer layers of the story deals with the relationship between Ingrid and Gil. While this is told in the past, in the present we follow Gil and his two daughters as they are still dealing with the disappearance of Ingrid, years after the event. Almost all of the story takes place on an island in a small house. I found the story claustrophobic due to its cut off world that seemed to exist separate from the rest of world events.

It’s a story – a book – where so much is untold. It’s not just that the characters leave out information from each other but you really have to read between the lines to catch all the layer, all that’s going on – events, relationships, perceptions and emotions. That is also why it’s a book you can read, and read again, and again.

The only negative I can think of regarding Swimming Lessons is that I liked the format more than I liked the story. Yes, I’m a writer myself and therefore more aware of formats than the average reader, but the story should draw you in so much that you don’t notice the form in which it’s written. I did notice and I loved the form. Details, such as the title of the book where a certain letter was placed in, tickled my mind.

With that said, after reading two of Claire Fuller’s books, I’m becoming a fan. I can’t wait to see what the next book will bring.

 

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