Victoria Hislop

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Talking About Cartes Postales From Greece by Victoria Hislop with Chrissi Reads

Published August 24, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER

Cartes Postales from Greece is an extraordinary new book from Victoria Hislop, the Sunday Times Number One bestselling author of The Island, The Return, The Thread, and The Sunrise. It is fiction in full colour – magical and unique.

‘Hislop’s passionate love of the country breathes from every page’ Daily Mail

Week after week, the postcards arrive, addressed to a name Ellie does not know, with no return address, each signed with an initial: A.

With their bright skies, blue seas and alluring images of Greece, these cartes postales brighten her life. After six months, to her disappointment, they cease. But the montage she has created on the wall of her flat has cast a spell. She must see this country for herself.

On the morning Ellie leaves for Athens, a notebook arrives. Its pages tell the story of a man’s odyssey through Greece. Moving, surprising and sometimes dark, A‘s tale unfolds with the discovery not only of a culture but also of a desire to live life to the full once more.

Beloved, bestselling author Victoria Hislop’s Cartes Postales from Greece is fiction illustrated with photographs that make this journey around Greece, already alive in the imagination, linger forever in the mind.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: Discuss the structure that Victoria Hislop uses to tell her story.

BETH: I loved the way in which this story was structured. First of all, the author uses photographs of places/people in Greece to illustrate a particular point in the narrative (and I always enjoy seeing something a bit different in a book – illustrations/photographs/emails/letters always welcome!). Not only this but as our male character A is travelling through Greece he comes across a host of different people along the way, all of whom tell him a little story as he passes through. Each of these stories is reproduced like a short story through the novel. This was a great reading experience as you could read it as a whole or read it in little portions i.e. one short story at a time.

BETH: Do you think the inclusion of photographs in a work of fiction changes your reading experience?

CHRISSI: I think the inclusion of photographs does change your reading experience. Having a photograph or a picture of some sort gives you an exact picture of what the author is portraying. Without photographs, it’s left to your imagination which can be very different. Photographs are specific and allow the author to show the reader what they really want them to see.

CHRISSI: How do we learn about A’s character through the notebook?

BETH: To be honest, I don’t think we got to learn a huge amount about A’s character through the novel. We do see the growth he goes through as a person after experiencing heart-break but I think we learn more about Greece as a country and the people that live there rather than about A directly. That was just my personal opinion of it and I felt a bit detached from him as a character because of this.

BETH: How do you think Ellie changed as a person through reading A’s postcards/journal?

CHRISSI: I think Ellie really changed as a person throughout her experience of A’s postcards/journal. She is inspired by his postcards to travel to Greece on her own. The postcards encouraged Ellie to travel and become independent. I believe they changed the direction her life was going and gave her confidence to change her path in life!

CHRISSI: You enjoy reading short stories. What did you make of Victoria Hislop’s inclusion of short stories within this book?

BETH: I certainly do and I loved the addition of short stories in this novel. It made it something quite unique and enjoyable and I loved how each short story stood on its own. Some were a little darker than others, some had a moral tale to tell but I thought it gave a beautiful picture of what Greece was like and it really made me want to visit!

BETH: Which short story stood out the most for you in this novel and why?

CHRISSI: I can’t say one in particular stood out for me. I liked how all of the stories had a message they brought with them. I read them as individual stories and appreciated them for what they were. I’m not the biggest fan of short stories, but I enjoyed these because I felt they let me get to know Greece a little bit more as someone who has never visited (but wants to!) I enjoyed reading about Greek culture, religion and lots more besides through the stories.

CHRISSI: We’ve both read a few of Victoria Hislop’s books now. Was this book what you expected from Victoria?

BETH: Yes, I think so! If I had to compare it with one of my favourite books of hers, The Thread (which I read in my pre blogging days) I have to say I think I prefer The Thread but I still think that its a quick and enjoyable read. I’m still thinking about a couple of the short stories today so they must have had an effect on me! My only criticism is that I don’t think the characters were as well developed as I would have liked. Saying this though, the short stories were brilliant and they made up for any flaws or lack of connection I felt with the characters

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I would. I enjoy Victoria Hislop’s writing when I read it but sometimes I find her books a little heavy going.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Yes!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

 

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Short Stories Challenge – A Man And Two Women by Doris Lessing from the collection The Story: Love, Loss And The Lives of Women edited by Victoria Hislop

Published November 24, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s A Man and Two Women all about?:

A Man and Two Women tells the story of two married couples who are also great friends although the arrival of a baby on one side tips relationships and the friendship between the four to potential breaking point.

What did I think?:

I was delighted when I discovered that this short story collection, edited by Victoria Hislop had stories by Doris Lessing within. I’ve heard a lot about the author – awarded the David Cohen Prize for a lifetime’s achievement in British Literature, ranked fifth on The Times list of the “50 Greatest British Writers Since 1945,” and a Nobel Prize in Literature in 2007 to cap it all off. I have one of her best loved novels The Golden Notebook on my Kindle with no idea when I was going to get round to reading it so this story came just at the right time to give me a bit of an introduction to her work. Now I’m so glad that I have read something of hers, this story was engaging, beautifully written with the most perfect of endings and it has definitely inspired me to pick up The Golden Notebook a bit sooner then I perhaps would have.

The main focus of this narrative is a woman called Stella whom, along with her husband Philip have become very close friends with another couple, Dorothy and Jack Bradford. Both Dorothy and Jack are artists and Stella can identify with them both being an artist herself so when Philip is away at work for extended periods of time (which happens quite often due to him being a journalist) she takes the opportunity to meet up with her friends, revelling in the joy that both the couples have strong, loving relationships.

However, since Stella last visited, Dorothy and Jack have had a baby and as Jack meets her at the station, she can immediately sense something is amiss although Jack’s character will not allow him to admit this openly. On seeing Dorothy again she is surprised by how much her friend has changed. She is obviously in complete awe and adoration of her son and we get the sense that Jack has taken somewhat of a back seat in her affections, either consciously or sub-consciously. She is then more confused when Dorothy begins talking about infidelity – whether she thinks that Philip is unfaithful to her when he is away on business which upsets Stella greatly and confiding in her that Jack admitted he was unfaithful fairly recently. It isn’t his infidelity that bothers Dorothy though, it is the fact that she isn’t bothered in the slightest!

The author really mixes things up with what Dorothy goes on to suggest. Although the idea isn’t particularly repugnant to any of them it has Stella questioning anything and everything about her friends’ relationship which she thought she knew so well and, more importantly, her own feelings and desires. Stella’s own morals and strength of character are tested to the limits but perhaps it is only when put in a situation like this do things become infinitely clearer.

This short story is extremely readable and a great introduction I think for someone like me who had never read any of Doris Lessing’s work before. She clearly has a talent for hooking the reader quite quickly and making them intrigued and interested enough in the characters to want to read to the end, just to find out what the outcome would be. It is a brilliant observation of human relationships, friendships, infidelity, the longevity of marriage, sexual desire and temptation. I also loved the statement that I believe the author was making in that having a child does not make a woman lose her identity, her desires or make her less desirable to others. The next time this collection rolls round it will be another short story by Doris Lessing and I really can’t wait now to read more of her work.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY: The New Veterans by Karen Russell from the collection Vampires In The Lemon Grove

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Doris Lessing at the Lit Cologne literary festival in 2006 (photograph from Wikipedia)

 

Short Stories Challenge – A Telephone Call by Dorothy Parker from the collection The Story: Love, Loss and The Lives of Women, 100 Great Stories

Published July 20, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s A Telephone Call all about?:

A woman over-obsesses about a telephone call she is waiting for from a man she is seeing to the point where she seems to lose her senses.

What did I think?:

A Telephone Call is the first story in this collection of short stories written by women and edited by Victoria Hislop. Prior to the story beginning we are given a short and snappy biography about the author which I really appreciated as a reader. Dorothy Parker was born in 1893 in New Jersey, America and was best known as a critic, satirist, poet and of course, short story writer. In general, I thought this was a brilliant little tale which was perfectly organised and original in style.

It is written from the point of view of an unnamed female narrator who is awaiting a telephone call from a man who is, so far, two hours late in calling. Now I think probably every female has probably been in this situation (perhaps to a milder extent) as we eagerly anticipate a phone call in the first flushes of love. For this particular woman it becomes an almost dangerous obsession where she runs the risk of serious psychological damage as she goes through a variety of emotions including despair, anger and hope as she tries to convince herself there is a valid reason why he has not phoned when he said he would.

The reader is swept into our narrator’s inner monologue which is actually a conversation with God where she pleads with him to make her lover call and continually questions her own emotions. This leads to a disastrous conflict as the turmoil in her mind threatens to make her crazy, instigates obsessive compulsive behaviours such as believing the phone will ring if she counts to five hundred first and provokes outbursts like the following:

“Why can’t that telephone ring? Why can’t it, why can’t it? Couldn’t you ring? Ah, please, couldn’t you? You damned, ugly, shiny thing. It would hurt you to ring, wouldn’t it? Oh, that would hurt you. Damn you, I’ll pull your filthy roots out of the wall, I’ll smash your smug black face in little bits. Damn you to hell.”

This is a perfect example of the twisting and turning of our characters emotions which leads ultimately to anger until the cycle begins again. The poor woman appears to be in a Catch 22 situation where she feels that she cannot ring her lover herself as it is not what society expects of her or is what men want/find attractive but is in danger of going mad if she does not phone. At one point, she even wishes her lover dead as perhaps that would be a better outcome than admitting to herself that he does not love her like she loves him. By the end of the story, she seems to find herself in an endless loop as she once again begins to count to five hundred by which time she is sure that the phone will have rung.

I was immediately drawn into this fantastically conceived story although at times it made uncomfortable reading. It seemed like a very private insight into one woman’s thoughts and beliefs and I felt like a trespasser or voyeur reading about her intense discomfort. I would have loved to know if the telephone had eventually rung but in my own warped imagination I feel that sadly it would have not. I think the author is also making a powerful statement about women’s place in the world and, possibly, the difference in our emotional states when compared with men. I’ll definitely be checking out some more of this author’s work, many thanks to Victoria Hislop for bringing her fiction to my attention!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: Dougbert Shackleton’s Rules For Antarctic Tailgating by Karen Russell from the collection Vampires In The Lemon Grove

 

 

My Lovely Bookshelves

Published June 6, 2015 by bibliobeth

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Hello everyone, I’m here to introduce my lovely bookshelves. I was inspired to write this post after seeing Cleo’s bookshelves on her blog – please see her post here and she in turn, was inspired by the post on Snazzy Books site. Thanks girls!

How do I organise my books?

I’ve got quite a few places for books to live despite having these two bookshelves which as you can see, are full to the brim. Despite the chaos that you can see, it is organised honest! I have a shelf which is mainly review books by Book Bridgr, lovely authors who send me books etc. I have another shelf for crime/horror/thriller which holds authors such as James Herbert, Dean Koontz, James Patterson, Lee Child, Tess Gerritsen.

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The shelf in the middle of the picture are my little Agatha Christie hardbacks which look beautiful and I absolutely love but somehow need to get round to reading!

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Favourite authors that appear on my shelf?

Philippa Gregory, Alison Weir, Victoria Hislop, Irvine Welsh, John Grisham, Haruki Murakami, Ben Elton and Ian McEwan amongst many, many others. I even have an entire shelf devoted to the king that is Stephen King.

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What books do I have that I want to read soon but haven’t yet got around to?

Ah, these cover a range of shelves! The Quick by Lauren Owen, The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman, All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart, Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill, Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant and The Ruby Slippers by Keir Alexander…to name a few.

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Which books do I wish that were on my bookshelf but aren’t?

This is a tough one. I already feel that I could give The British Library a run for its money. I would love to have first editions of my all-time favourite books like It by Stephen King, Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami.

Which books on my shelf are borrowed?

I’ve got Chinese Whispers by Ben Chu, Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel and the recent Baileys Women’s Prize for fiction winner 2015 How To Be Both by Ali Smith which I’ve borrowed from the local library.

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Is there anything I dislike about my bookshelves?

That there isn’t enough room! Just look at all the books I’ve had to stack up against the bookshelves on the floor. And then there’s under my bed where I’ve managed to squeeze a few (ok… around thirty/forty). I’ve got some amazing books here that I’m a little afraid that I’m going to forget about because I can’t see them properly in all their glory. At the moment I’m on a book banning buy so that I can try and get on top of my TBR and get the books on the floor and under the bed in the shelves where they belong. It’s hard though, when books come a calling, I want to go a buying!

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So there’s a quick gander at my bookish life. Yes, it’s messy and a bit complicated, but I love it and never get bored of rummaging in my shelves. Thanks again to Cleopatra Loves Books and Snazzy Books for the idea for this post and Happy Reading to everyone!

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Short Stories Challenge – A Married Man’s Story by Katherine Mansfield from the collection The Story, Love, Loss & The Lives of Women 100 Great Short Stories chosen by Victoria Hislop.

Published February 21, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s A Married Man’s Story all about?:

Featuring two centuries of women’s short fiction, ranging from established Queens of the short story like Alice Munro and Angela Carter, to contemporary rising stars like Miranda July and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, this is the biggest and most beautiful collection in print today.

Handpicked by one of the nation’s favourite novelists, Victoria Hislop – herself a great writer of, and champion for, short stories – and divided thematically into collections on love, loss and the lives of women, there’s a story for every mood, mindset and moment in life.

A Married Man’s story tells of a man who is unhappy in his marriage but unable to leave it which leads to him remembering events from his past.

What did I think?:

I was instantly attracted to this collection of short stories as they were picked and arranged by an author that I admire – Victoria Hislop, and spanned two hundred years worth of great women’s fiction. Hislop describes in the introduction that she split the stories into three sections: Love, Loss and The Lives of Women and the first story by Katherine Mansfield is the first in the “Love” section. Of course that does not necessarily guarantee a “happy” tale by any means as we all know that love can take many shapes and forms, perfectly demonstrated by Mansfield in the first story as she chooses to explore marriage from the eyes of a very complex (and desperately unhappy) married man.

As our unnamed male narrator is having the random thoughts that we are often familiar with in our daydreams, he is also observing his wife and child by the fire. His wife notices his restlessness and asks the loaded question: “What are you thinking?.” She is speaking rather timidly and tentatively as if fearing his response and when he answers that he was thinking of nothing, she mentions that he must have been thinking of something. Unfortunately this leads to him rebuking her even as her face “quivers.”

“Will she never grow accustomed to these simple – one might say – everyday little lies? Will she never learn not to expose herself – or to build up defences?”

So we find out our narrator is a very complicated man indeed. From comparing the shadow of his wife to a “Mother and Child” in his daydreams he seems to then turn on her in his thoughts and declare that he doesn’t see anything of the maternal in her at all. As he continues to think, we learn that he is very unhappy in his marriage and he believes his wife is too but neither of them will do anything about it. He explores the various reasons why people stay together i.e. for the children, for the habit, economic reasons, but in truth he believes that the two of them are “bound.”

A deeper reason may arise when our narrator starts thinking about his past which is a difficult thing for him to do. He remembers his childhood years with a weak and vulnerable mother confined to her room due to a traumatic birth and his father constantly busy in his pharmacy making potions for women to help them through hysterical periods. A lot of events are hazy and prove hard to recall but the one that stands out the most (and something I wasn’t expecting) is his mother who leaves her room for the first time to tell him that she had been poisoned by his father before dying of “heart failure” the next day. The rest of his childhood passes by with him feeling like an outcast, both in and out of his family home and suggests that the real reason he cannot end his marriage is that for once in his life he feels accepted and needed and is afraid to be alone again.

I’ve only read one other story by Katherine Mansfield which was also in my short stories challenge – Her First Ball but it is only with this tale that I’ve begun to appreciate the beauty in her style of writing. I was surprised to learn that this story is apparently unfinished as it felt quite adequate length and substance wise and it’s a shame we’ll never know what else she had to say. However, what she did write was evocative and incredibly intriguing and I loved exploring her narrator’s thoughts on love and marriage intertwined with the sad memories of his past loneliness. Even though he was fairly unreliable as a narrator, seeming to switch from points of view on his wife and life in general, he was a fascinating character to read about. It also made me wish that we had a second chapter on his wife’s points of view on the marriage as I began to feel quite sorry for her. If you’ve never read any Katherine Mansfield before, I’d recommend this story as a good place to start.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

NEXT SHORT STORY: The Barn At The End Of Our Term by Karen Russell from the collection Vampires In The Lemon Grove

Short Stories Challenge 2015 – January to March

Published January 9, 2015 by bibliobeth

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Another year over, and a new year of short stories begins! Here’s what I’m going to be reading each week until the end of March.

Week beginning 5th January

Magpies by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

Week beginning 12th January

A Married Man’s Story by Katherine Mansfield from the collection The Story, Love, Loss & The Lives of Women 100 Great Short Stories chosen by Victoria Hislop

Week beginning 19th January

The Barn At The End Of Our Term by Karen Russell from the collection Vampires In The Lemon Grove

Week beginning 26th January

The Five Orange Pips by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Week beginning 1st February

She Murdered Mortal He by Sarah Hall from the collection The Beautiful Indifference

Week beginning 8th February

Demons by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner

Week beginning 15th February

The Ceiling by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Week beginning 22nd February

Keeping Watch Over The Sheep by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Week beginning 1st March

The Archduchess by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point

Week beginning 8th March

The Oversoul by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Week beginning 15th March

The Apple by Michel Faber from the collection The Apple: Crimson Petal Stories

Week beginning 22nd March

Martin Misunderstood by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

Week beginning 29th March

Cellists by Kazuo Ishiguro from the collection Nocturnes: Five Stories Of Music and Nightfall