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Venice, An Interior

A Sliver of Venice

A heavenly combination of one of my favourite authors writing about one of my favourite cities: Javier Marías’ little essay on Venice. For reasons unknown (a failed love affair?), Marías spent a great deal of time in Venice in the 1980s. His reflections on how history and geography have shaped Venice and Venetians are captivating. ‘Venetians see life from “the view point of eternity” ‘, not surprising perhaps when you grow up in place that’s hardly changed for 500 years? The decay, the dark back alleys, the smells, the sense of doom, the colours of the water (‘blood red, yellow, white’ by day, ‘like ink’ by night) combined with dazzling beauty, Marías perfectly evokes the city’s atmosphere and hands you a delicious sliver of Venice.

Venice, An Interior is translated by Margaret Juul Costa and published by Hamish Hamilton, 64 pages.

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Virginia Wolf

The world of Bloomsberry soothes Virginia's turbulent mind in this charming and inventive picture book

Virginia is feeling wolfish. Scowling, growling, and howling at the moon, her thoughts are dark. Her sister Vanessa is understandably anxious; can her artistic efforts dispel the storm clouds? This striking book is inspired by Virginia Woolf’s close relationship with her sister, the artist Vanessa Bell. The healing power of art, and the bonds of sisterhood, are portrayed with the aid of some beautiful illustrations.

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We Are Not Ourselves

A heart-wrenching novel about the devastation caused by early-onset Alzheimers

His debut novel took Matthew Thomas a decade to write. Was it worth the ten-year slog? In my opinion, yes. Thomas has simultaneously crafted an intimate story of an ordinary family and an epic of post-war America. Born in 1941, the product of a stormy Irish Catholic working-class upbringing in Queens, New York, Eileen Tumulty craves respectability. Coming of age in the early sixties, she meets and marries a young scientist named Edmund Leary. But while Eileen is deeply aspirational for her family, the quiet, unassuming Ed refuses to give up his teaching for a better-paid job. Eileen dreams of a different life: a better job, a bigger house, more respectability.

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When Marnie Was There

A poignant and beautiful evocation of childhood loneliness and friendship

A self-proclaimed outsider, Anna’s days are spent quietly dreaming. Her imagination is rich but her days are lonely. Until that is, the bewitching Marnie appears, and over the course of one long hot summer, opens Anna’s timid heart to friendship. But Marnie’s enigmatic aura is unsettling. Who is she really, and what is her mysterious behaviour concealing?

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Wonder

Savour this paean to kindness before its big screen release

The upcoming cinema release of Wonder, provides an ideal opportunity to consider the charms of its literary predecessor. We meet Auggie, who’s living with Mandibulofacial Dysostosis, a rare and severe cranio-facial abnormality. ‘I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse’. Previously home-educated, Auggie’s parents have decided it’s time he went to school. At the tender age of 10, he must learn to confront the prejudices of an often hostile world.
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Wuthering Heights

To touch once again on perhaps the most popular romantic Young Adult novels of our day, Twilight; this is Bella Swan’s favourite book. From the brooding, mysterious and ghostly beginning, to the cruel and dreadful end, it is a book that wraps you with the howling wind and the desolation of the wild Yorkshire moors. The more beautiful, poetic, and romantic of the classic novels, I remember Wuthering Heights as the indisputably favourite – particularly when I wanted to absorb myself in the drama of being a teen! With its dramatic setting, including a perennially louring sky (“a perfect misanthropist’s heaven”), a pervasive sense of the impending and inevitable tragedy, and the desperate (both unrequited and requited) love stories, it is not surprising that it resonates with teenage angst.

A wonderful experience also in the audio version, with some excellent recordings by Juliet Stevenson, Patricia Routledge, Michael Kitchen respectively and one with both by Janet McTeer and David Timson, to name but a few. Sample Versions Here

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