Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Dreams of Bethany Mellmoth – William Boyd

Short Story
4*s

I’ve often discussed my difficult relationship with the short story and have concluded that on the whole I much prefer a novel where the author has time to develop the characters or alternatively say something important rather than entertain me for a short while. Of course, like novels, all short stories are different some appearing in compendiums of different authors on a theme while others are chosen to reflect the different styles of a single author but of course they can consist of anything and everything else in between. In William Boyd’s The Dreams of Bethany Mellmoth the reader is treated to a loose association of stories that celebrate, or perhaps that should be denigrate the life of those who are ‘artists’, with most of the stories including the one that claims the title of this collection looking at the world of those who make their living out of the world of art. And, I enjoyed each and everyone. This time there was no feeling that the story despite being perfectly formed was a mere snack that stimulated rather than satiated my appetite, I can firmly say that William Boyd has given me cause to view the form with a renewed enthusiasm.

My favourite story of all was the last in a the book, where Alec Dunbar, a film actor is called to an audition for a film with an embargoed script only to find out that in a case of mistaken identity the actual auditionee should have been a young female called Alexa Dunbar. Then in a twist of fate, the actor is offered a job driving a cask of holy water to a remote part of Scotland for a christening by another actress who can’t deliver it herself as she has a broken ankle. He takes the job for a price and soon finds himself in all manner of bother, planning his next move using inspiration from previous film scripts. The reader therefore gets a sense of where Alec Dunbar is in his career by the curious snippets, films about a SAS film reminded him of the car he was to drive on the mammoth journey soon morph into a short memory of some t’ai chi learnt on a Samurai movie later switching to a sentimental WWII movie. This inspired format keeps the theme of actors running through what is a farcical tale which I’m not sure I would have engaged with if I hadn’t spent my time becoming thoroughly immersed in the world of artists, their single-minded simultaneous over-confidence and crushing self-doubt that I’d enjoyed during the preceding stories.

The title story is a novella and also brilliantly executed while it examines of a relatively short period of time in the life of an aspiring actress, or perhaps photographer, whereby Bethany’s dreams are adapted to the situation she finds herself in. This tale managed to elicit some sympathy and even a little admiration for her even while the sensible voice in my head is urging her to see these unrealistic dreams for what they are before her life spirals too far in a downward direction.

With the book headed up by some far shorter but delightfully pithy tales there is an awful lot to enjoy in William Boyd’s collection and it has prompted me to look out some of his novels since he had dropped off my radar for some explicable reason.

I’d like to thank the publishers Penguin Books UK for allowing me to read an ARC of The Dreams of Bethany Mellmoth ahead of publication on 2 November 2017, this review is my unbiased thanks to them.

First Published UK: 2 November 2017
Publisher: Penguin Books UK
No. of Pages:  256
Genre: Short Story
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (October 11)

This Week In Books
Hosted by Lipsy Lost & Found my Wednesday post gives you a taste of what I am reading this week. A similar meme is run by Taking on a World of Words

I am currently reading Are You Watching Me? by Sinéad Crowley which I picked up purely because I wanted to, it’s not a review copy and nor does it count towards my Mount TBR, I just needed something to escape into and what better than a crazy stalker and a murder?



Blurb

Liz Cafferky is on the up. Rescued from her dark past by the owner of a drop-in centre for older men, Liz soon finds herself as the charity’s face – and the unwilling darling of the Dublin media.

Amidst her claustrophobic fame, Liz barely notices a letter from a new fan. But then one of the centre’s clients is brutally murdered, and Elizabeth receives another, more sinister note.

Running from her own ghosts, Liz is too scared to go to the police. And with no leads, there is little Sergeant Claire Boyle can do to protect her. Amazon

I have recently finished Death in the Stars by Frances Brody which stars Kate Shackleton as a sleuth in the 1920s, the ninth book in the series.

Blurb

Yorkshire, 1927. Eclipse fever grips the nation, and when beloved theatre star Selina Fellini approaches trusted sleuth Kate Shackleton to accompany her to a viewing party at Giggleswick School Chapel, Kate suspects an ulterior motive.

During the eclipse, Selina’s friend and co-star Billy Moffatt disappears and is later found dead in the chapel grounds. Kate can’t help but dig deeper and soon learns that two other members of the theatre troupe died in similarly mysterious circumstances in the past year. With the help of Jim Sykes and Mrs Sugden, Kate sets about investigating the deaths – and whether there is a murderer in the company.

When Selina’s elusive husband Jarrod, injured in the war and subject to violent mood swings, comes back on the scene, Kate begins to imagine something far deadlier at play, and wonders just who will be next to pay the ultimate price for fame . . . Amazon

Next I plan on reading The Dreams of Bethany Mellmoth by William Boyd

Blurb

A philandering art dealer tries to give up casual love affairs – seeking only passionate kisses as a substitute.
A man recounts his personal history through the things he has stolen from others throughout his life.
A couple chart the journey of their five year relationship backwards, from awkward reunion to lovelorn first encounter.

And, at the heart of the book, a 24-year old young woman, Bethany Mellmoth, embarks on a year-long journey of wishful and tentative self-discovery.

The Dreams of Bethany Mellmoth depicts the random encounters that bring the past bubbling to the surface; the impulsive decisions that irrevocably shape a life; and the endless hesitations and loss-of-nerve that wickedly complicate it. These funny, surprising and moving stories are a resounding confirmation of Boyd’s powers as one of our most original and compelling storytellers. Amazon

What do you think? Any of these take your fancy? Please do leave your thoughts in the comments box below.

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (September 17)

I decided to treat myself to something that wasn’t books this week, an unusual occurrence indeed but I simply couldn’t resist this box of postcards featuring the original Puffin covers.

The idea was that I would use these as cards when I post gifts to friends but the ones below hold such fond memories for me that I doubt whether I will ever part with them, or quite a few of the others in the box.

These are an illustration of my childhood, indeed to this day I can’t iron without thinking about Lily Rose and the day she damaged the silk petticoat in The Family From One End Street.  I received The Hundred and One Dalmatians after going to the cinema to watch the film and I remember my copy (which must have been my mother’s) was old and had yellowing pages but it stayed on my bookshelf until the day I left home. Charlotte’s Web was a big hit although it didn’t cure me of my phobia of spiders as much as I loved Charlotte’s story  and I had the whole set of the C.S. Lewis books all in a slip-case, sadly the postcards don’t include my favourite The Magician’s Nephew but through these I travelled to strange lands in my imagination and was caught climbing into my Grandfather’s wardrobe to see if I could find Narnia; I didn’t but I did get a sound telling off!

Each of the postcards has the date of the cover on them although I dispute that James and the Giant Peach only was given this cover in 1980 as I distinctly remember reading it through some childhood illness before we moved at the end of 1979, but I won’t quibble.

A brilliant gift for someone you love – as you can see I chose myself but with covers spanning from the original Worzel Gummidge in 1941 to the more recent ones I’m sure most booklovers will find a Puffin cover that has a fond memory attached to it.

This Week on the Blog

The week on the blog started with a review of Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner, her second book in the Manon Bradshaw series.

My excerpt post this week was taken from Silent Voices by Ann Cleeves, a book that has sat on my kindle for an astonishing five plus years.

This Week in Books had me featuring the authors Mel Sherratt, Jane Robins and David Hastings.

My second review of the week was for a book I read back in June – my reviews are a little out of order still(!) – the psychological thriller, Never Alone by Elizabeth Haynes

On Friday I was delighted to feature an author post from Caimh McDonnell to celebrate the publication of Angels in the Moonlight, the prequel to the Dublin series, a brilliant mixture of humour and crime. Caimh’s posts are always well received, he really is a very funny man, unsurprisingly as he has made his living as a stand-up comedian. I wrote a review for the book too (even if it was overshadowed by Caimh)

And I finished up yesterday with my review of White Bodies by Jane Robins. This psychological thriller is being published in the US on 19 September 2017 – UK readers have a little longer to wait for this book which I awarded the full five stars to.

This Time Last Year…

I was reading Murder at the Vicarage to celebrate Agatha Christie’s birthday which is on 15 September. As a recognition of this special day I chose to try Miss Marple after falling in love with Hercule Poirot in my youth, and deciding that she simply wasn’t my cup of tea. Well guess what, now I am a little more mature, I discovered I loved her and this review is amongst one of the favourite of all that I’ve written.

You can read my thoughts on Murder at the Vicarage here or click on the book cover

Blurb

Agatha Christie’s first ever Miss Marple mystery, reissued with a striking cover designed to appeal to the latest generation of Agatha Christie fans and book lovers.

’Anyone who murdered Colonel Protheroe,’ declared the parson, brandishing a carving knife above a joint of roast beef, ‘would be doing the world at large a service!’

It was a careless remark for a man of the cloth. And one which was to come back and haunt the clergyman just a few hours later. From seven potential murderers, Miss Marple must seek out the suspect who has both motive and opportunity. Amazon

Stacking the Shelves

I started this post by saying I hadn’t treated myself to any books this week, and that is true but it appears my finger did request, and gratefully received, a couple of books from NetGalley.

The first book I needed as we are already in September and I haven’t yet got around to reading any short stories and then I saw The Dreams of Bethany Mellmoth by William Boyd which took my fancy. The collection, some of which have been published elsewhere, will be published on 2 November 2017.

Blurb

A philandering art dealer tries to give up casual love affairs – seeking only passionate kisses as a substitute.
A man recounts his personal history through the things he has stolen from others throughout his life.
A couple chart the journey of their five year relationship backwards, from awkward reunion to lovelorn first encounter.

And, at the heart of the book, a 24-year old young woman, Bethany Mellmoth, embarks on a year-long journey of wishful and tentative self-discovery.

The Dreams of Bethany Mellmoth depicts the random encounters that bring the past bubbling to the surface; the impulsive decisions that irrevocably shape a life; and the endless hesitations and loss-of-nerve that wickedly complicate it. These funny, surprising and moving stories are a resounding confirmation of Boyd’s powers as one of our most original and compelling storytellers. NetGalley

I’ve also received a copy of The Fourteenth Letter by Claire Evans which was published in the UK back in April but is due out in the US on 21 September 2017.

A mysterious keepsake, a murdered bride, a legacy of secrets…

One balmy June evening in 1881, Phoebe Stanbury stands before the guests at her engagement party: this is her moment, when she will join the renowned Raycraft family and ascend to polite society.

As she takes her fiancé’s hand, a stranger brandishing a knife steps forward and ends the poor girl’s life. Amid the tumult, he turns to her aristocratic groom and mouths: ‘I promised I would save you.’

The following morning, just a few miles away, timid young legal clerk William Lamb meets a reclusive client, whom he was never meant to meet. He finds the old man terrified and in desperate need of aid: William must keep safe a small casket of yellowing papers, and deliver an enigmatic message: The Finder knows. NetGalley

And unbidden, but hugely welcome, Death in the Stars by Frances Brody arrived on my doormat. I loved getting to know Kate Shackleton in Death at the Seaside last year so I’m looking forward to an update from 1927. Death in the Stars will be published on 5 October 2017.

Blurb

Yorkshire, 1927. Eclipse fever grips the nation, and when beloved theatre star Selina Fellini approaches trusted sleuth Kate Shackleton to accompany her to a viewing party at Giggleswick School Chapel, Kate suspects an ulterior motive.

During the eclipse, Selina’s friend and co-star Billy Moffatt disappears and is later found dead in the chapel grounds. Kate can’t help but dig deeper and soon learns that two other members of the theatre troupe died in similarly mysterious circumstances in the past year. With the help of Jim Sykes and Mrs Sugden, Kate sets about investigating the deaths – and whether there is a murderer in the company.

When Selina’s elusive husband Jarrod, injured in the war and subject to violent mood swings, comes back on the scene, Kate begins to imagine something far deadlier at play, and wonders just who will be next to pay the ultimate price for fame . . Amazon

What have you found to read this week? Any of these take your fancy?

tbr-watch

Since my last post I’ve read 3 books, and gained 3
So basically I’m standing still with the total of 179
Physical Books – 101
Kindle Books – 60
NetGalley Books – 18