Tag Archives: novels

Fiona Robyn’s Blogsplash

Fiona Robyn is going to blog her next novel, Thaw (Snowbooks), starting on the 1st of March next year. The novel follows 32 year old Ruth’s diary over three months as she decides whether or not to carry on living.
To help spread the word she’s organising a Blogsplash, where blogs will publish the first page of Ruth’s diary simultaneously (and a link to the blog).
She’s aiming to get 1000 blogs involved – if you’d be interested in joining in, email her at fiona@fionarobyn.com or find out more information here.

Reading: Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood – and a selection of review and interview links

“The books I end up writing are the ones that I would rather dodge altogether, but those are really the only ones I can write, because those are the ones I’m obsessed by. It would be so much easier to write an update of Pride and Prejudice and have everything turn out happily. If you don’t have conviction about it, you can’t do it.”
– Margaret Atwood
Erica Wagner’s interview with Margaret Atwood in The Times,
15 August 2009.
Sinclair McKay’s interview with Margaret Atwood in The Telegraph, 20 August 2009.
Ursula Le Guin’s review of The Year of the Flood in The Guardian,
29 August 2009.
Bernadine Evaristo’s review of The Year of the Flood in the Financial Times, 5 September 2009.
Philip Hensher’s review of The Year of the Flood in The Observer,
6 September 2009.
Jane Shilling’s review of The Year of the Flood in The Telegraph,
7 September 2009.
Fredric Jameson’s review of The Year of the Flood: ‘Then You Are Them’ in the London Review of Books, 10 September 2009.
Caroline Moore’s review of The Year of the Flood in The Telegraph,
10 September 2009.
Jane Ciabattari’s review of The Year of the Flood: ‘Disease And Dystopia In Atwood’s Flood” in NPR, 10 September 2009.
Adam McDowell’s interview with Margaret Atwood: ‘Margaret Atwood, planet smasher’ in the National Post, 11 September 2009.
John Barber’s interview with Margaret Atwood: ‘Atwood: ‘Have I ever eaten maggots? Perhaps …” in the Globe and Mail, 12 September 2009.
Philip Marchand’s review of The Year of the Flood: ‘Eloquence and irony do battle in Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Year of the Flood” in the National Post, 12 September 2009.
Darryl Whetter’s review of The Year of the Flood: ‘Atwood’s pen returns to apocalyptic theme’  in the Chronicle Herald, 13 September 2009.
Visit The Year of the Flood website.
Visit Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood blog.

Hazel Frankel on Counting Sleeping Beauties

Hazel Frankel lives in Johannesburg, South Africa, close to where she was born.  She is an artist, calligrapher and teacher, currently registered for a doctorate in Creative Writing at Sheffield Hallam University.  A collection of poetry, Drawing from Memory, was published by Cinnamon Press in 2007.  Counting Sleeping Beauties (Jacana, 2009) was shortlisted for the 2006/07 European Union Literary Award.
Hazel writes:
“When I began writing, I had no intention of writing a novel – I didn’t know I could.  I wrote small vignettes that were poems in prose, but when I gathered these together they were like beads, jewels waiting to be strung.
Spanning the pogrom years in Lithuania and 1950s South Africa, Counting Sleeping Beauties weaves a delicate tale of despair, loss, love and attachment to place.  It evokes the post-war years in heartbreaking detail, tracing relationships within an extended family and their struggles with guilt and grief.
A multigenerational story, the Jewish family is central to the narrative.  Its values are explored through the voices of the bobba, Leah, the mother Susan, the young girl, Hannah, and the extended family member, the domestic worker, Sina.  It blends South African histories and cultures using a polyglot of Yiddish, Sotho, Afrikaans and English to build the characters and express their viewpoints.
My main impetus was to uncover how the characters were affected differently by one critical event and how this complicated their relationships.  I worked outwards from this kernel and framed it with a narrative that begins in the present, returns to the past and concludes in the present.  Isolation is an important theme, as the characters never communicate their feelings or opinions with each other.
Set in an era familiar to me, I drew on my memories of Johannesburg when the Wits Rag Parade with its floats and queen was an annual highlight, when the woman’s place was almost unarguably in the home and the domestic worker had no status or rights.  I enjoyed the explorations, making discoveries and learning as I went along.
The title of the book was initially Girl on a Swing, which indicates the pivotal role of the child, then Stone House, pointing to the overriding impact of place, but Counting Sleeping Beauties carries multiple meanings, and the way it combines with the cover image is both beautiful and sinister.
The novel has been many years in the making and has gone through numerous incarnations – originally there were six voices, two of whom were male.  This created a concatenation.  Instead, by focusing on the women I could emphasise the drama of the domestic.
Although I dreamed of being an artist, finding that I’m a writer is an unexpected delight.  The processes are not that dissimilar: one word, one sentence, one paragraph, one stroke at a time, a few minutes here or there may be enough to catch a thought or idea or image, each a link in an episode, a chapter, a painting.  In both writing and painting, nothing happens until there are marks on the page.”
Hazel’s exhibition of paintings opens at The Thompson Gallery, 78 3rd Avenue, Melville, Johannesburg, on Sunday, 2 August, at 15h30, where Counting Sleeping Beauties will be available.
Counting Sleeping Beauties will be launched at Exclusive Books, Sandton City, Johannesburg, on 11 August, 18h00 for 18.30.

Siri Hustvedt

“I think we all have ghosts inside us, and it’s better when they speak than when they don’t.”
– Siri Hustvedt, The Sorrows of an American (Sceptre, 2009)

Fiona Robyn’s The Blue Handbag

I stayed up until 2 o’clock on Sunday morning reading The Blue Handbag (Snowbooks, August 2009), Fiona Robyn’s second novel.  Fiona is an accomplished writer with a deep understanding of human nature.  Her evocative descriptions of the natural world and English flora are among the best I’ve read – and she says I can adopt Pickles (Leonard’s dog).

Fiona has started a blog, 100 Readers, which will feature interviews with 100 readers of The Blue Handbag.  If you check in at 100 Readers, you’ll be able to follow her novel as it makes its way in the world.  I’m privileged to be the first reader Fiona interviews.

Books, books, glorious books

“Selected by the Guardian’s Review team and a panel of expert judges, this list includes only novels – no memoirs, no short stories, no long poems – from any decade and in any language.  Originally published in thematic supplements – love, crime, comedy, family and self, state of the nation, science fiction and fantasy, war and travel – they appear here for the first time in a single list. “
Looking for recommendations?  The Guardian’s “1000 novels everyone must read” might help.