Review: Mr Fox – Helen Oyeyemi

mr fox St John Fox is torn between two women. Plenty of stories have been built around the same premise but few love triangles feature an imaginary woman.

Oyeymi’s middle-aged writer Fox has recently been visited by his own creation Mary Foxe: and she’s not happy to see him. Admonishing Fox for his tendency to kill off his female characters in violent, inherently misogynistic ways, she proposes a challenge. In a series of stories, each battles to change the others mind and determine their futures.

Based loosely around variations of the Bluebeard tale, Oyeyemi weaves stories around stories. This format can sometimes be confusing, as St John and Mary’s narratives are placed haphazardly in around chapters following their own interactions in the ‘real’ world. Oyeyemi doesn’t attribute her stories to a character, leaving readers to puzzle out which character contributed a story.

Things get complicated further when these chapters give way to the opinions of St John’s suffering wife Daphne who slowly realises her competition for her husband’s affections is not a flesh and blood rival but one who resides is in his own head. With al this too-ing and fro-ing, it’s hard to gain a foothold on the three main characters personalities with their layers of subterfuge and alternate identities.

The mini stories themselves are quite entertaining, The Training at Madame de Silentio’s is a stand-out gothic tale of a school that prepares young men to be the perfect husband but there’s also plenty of magic and whimsical touches in Like This. But not all of the stories are as well placed as each other.

A particularly jarring moment occurs in What Happens Next a story that seems to be set much later than the 1930s melodrama of the main plot. Its descriptions of commercial aeroplane flights, first class and watching in-flight films twists the reader’s previous understanding of time and place in the book and inevitably leads to questioning the reliability of the narrative as a whole. If the point of the chapter was to suggest just that, it might be forgivable but as this inconsistency is glossed over, it’s hard to understand why Oyeyemi’s chose to include this story in the narrative. Similarly the chapter My Daughter the Racist (originally shortlisted for the BBC short story award in 2010), although well written and interesting, feels like it’s been squeezed into the plot.

What began as a solid idea unravels as the book continues. All in all, Mr Fox is a confusing piece, somewhere between a novel and a short story anthology. Oyeyemi has a natural, enjoyable writing style but the fluid nature of the stories and at times their tenuous links to the main plot leave the reader unsatisfied and waiting for answers.

AM Homes wins Women’s Prize for Fiction

AM Homes has been awarded the Women’s Prize for Fiction for her sixth novel May We Be Forgiven

Homes was competing against a particularly strong shortlist which also featured Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies (which has already been awarded this year’s Man Booker Prize and Costa Book of the Year) and Zadie’s Smith NW.

Chair of Judges Miranda Richardson described Homes’ novel as “a dazzling, original, viscerally funny black comedy – a subversion of the American dream.”

Formerly the Orange Prize, Homes is the 18th recipient of the title which has previously been awarded to Madeline Miller for The Song of Achilles (2012), Lionel Shriver for We Need to Talk About Kevin (2005) and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for Half of a Yellow Sun (2007).

From next year, the prize will be sponsored by and named for cream liqueur drinks company Baileys.

2013 Women’s Prize for Fiction (formerly the Orange Prize) Shortlist

Hay Festival 2013

Summer is officially here: it’s time for Hay!

The 26th annual Hay Literary Festival, two weeks of book filled fun in the Welsh border town of Hay-on-Wye, ended yesterday. From the 23 May to the 2 June the festival hosted over 500 book themed events ranging from author readings to music and comedy gigs.

I visited last weekend and was lucky enough to attend (and cover) some great events. If you want to find out what Time Traveler’s Wife author Audrey Niffenegger, Man Booker Prize Winner Howard Jacobson and award-winning authors Nadeem Aslam and Colm Tóibín were talking about, head to We Love This Book to find out more.

If you missed the festival this year or would like to reminisce, here’s a quick photo show for you to soak up the wordy atmosphere.

Granta reveals latest Best Young British Writers

http://www.flickr.com/photos/48424574@N07/

Once a decade, the Best of Young British Writers List is announced – Photo by Shorts and Long

All eyes in the literary community have turned to the pages of Granta as the 2013 Best of Young British Writers List was announced on April 15

 

The fourth edition of the influential list includes a second inclusion for Zadie Smith (first featured in the third, 2003 list) and a host of names previously linked to prestigious awards. Unlike many other awards, inclusion on the list is not chosen by the strength of a particular work but on the potential and talent of the author. The list features a mixture of well-known and up and coming names, including Ned Beauman and Adam Foulds (both previously shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize). Each of the finalists have produced an exclusive short story for the special edition of the magazine, Issue 123, which will go on sale in the UK from 16 April. Scroll to the bottom of this post to view the full list plus all of the authors’ published novels.

The literary magazine has been running their ‘Best of Young British Writers’ list once a decade since 1983. Previous members of the list have included writers who have gone on to become household names including Julian Barnes, Martin Amis, A.L Kennedy, Pat Barker and Jonathan Franzen.

Authors are eligible for inclusion in the list if they are aged 40 or under on the 15 April 2013, hold UK citizenship and have a published book or are contracted with a publisher as of the final submission date of 15 September 2012.

A full list of this year’s judging panel can be found on the Granta site.

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Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists 2013

Naomi AldermanDisobedience, The Lessons, The Liar’s Gospel
Tahmima Anam - A Golden Age, The Good Muslim
Ned BeaumanBoxer, Beetle, The Teleportation Accident
Jenni FaganThe Panopticon (also various poetry collections)
Adam FouldsThe Quickening Maze, The Broken Word, The Truth About These Strange Times
Xiaolu Guo20 Fragments of a Ravenous Youth, A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, Village of Stone, UFO in Her Eyes, Lovers in the Age of Indifference
Sarah HallHaweswater, The Electric Michelangelo, The Carhullan Army, How to Paint a Dead Man, The Beautiful Indifference
Steven HallThe Raw Shark Texts
Joanna KavennaCome to the Edge, The Birth of Love, Inglorious, The Ice Museum
Benjamin MarkovitsChildish Loves, Playing Days, A Quiet Adjustment, Imposture, Either Side of Winter, The Syme Papers
Nadifa Mohamed - Black Mamba Boy
Helen OyeyemiThe Girl Icarus, The Opposite House, White is for Witching, Mr Fox
Ross RaisinWaterline, God’s Own Country
Sunjeev SahotaOurs are the Streets
Taiye SelasiGhana Must Go
Kamila ShamsieBurnt Shadows, Broken Verses, Kartography, Salt and Saffron, In the City by the Sea
Zadie SmithWhite Teeth, The Autograph Man, On Beauty, NW
David SzalayLondon and the South East, The Innocent, Spring                                Adam ThirlwellPolitics, The Escape, Miss Herbert, Kapow!                                       Evie WyldAfter the Fire a Still Small Voice

Amazon buys Goodreads

Amazon are set to buy popular social media site Goodreads

Book shelf

Digital bookshelves look set to expand as Amazon buys Goodreads

A statement released last week by the online shopping giant revealed that a deal has been struck for Amazon to acquire the book sharing site, which will be enforced towards the end of this year.

Goodreads CEO and co-founder Otis Chandler delivered the news to the online community in a post entitled, ‘Exciting News About Goodreads: We’re Joining the Amazon Family!’ In the message, Chandler assured members that the features which have ensured the site’s success will be maintained. “We plan to continue offering you everything that you love about the site—the ability to track what you read, discover great books, discuss and share them with fellow book lovers, and connect directly with your favorite authors—and your reviews and ratings will remain here on Goodreads. And it’s incredibly important to us that we remain a home for all types of readers, no matter if you read on paper, audio, digitally, from scrolls, or even stone tablets ” he wrote in the statement released on March 28. The terms of the acquisition have not been released.

Reactions to the announcement from Goodreads 16 million users have been mixed, with over 2000 comments on the statement ranging from the accepting, to the scathing, with many users questioning how their reading data will be used by the company.

Chandler also suggested that the merger would allow Kindle owners to integrate their reading habits with their Goodreads accounts, though it is currently unclear to what extent this feature would be available.

Amazon already own a similar site, Shelfari, bought in 2008.

If you want to know what we’ve been reading, head to our Goodreads account now!

Apocalypse Cow – Michael Logan : Review

Apocalypse Cow The joint winner of the inaugural Terry Pratchett Anywhere But Here, Anywhen But Now award, Apocalypse Cow delivers on blood, gore and laughter

In a suburb of Glasgow, an unusual zombie terror has been unleashed.Several books over the last few years have started on a similar theme. Few, however, have decided Patient Zero, the source of the outbreak, would be bovine in nature.

Opening at an abattoir where a stampede of infected cows break out to unleash animal zombie havoc on the British Isles, the narrative follows Geldof, a teenage vegan, Lesley, a young reporter in her father’s shadow and living on the brink of unemployment and Terry, the only survivor of the abattoir massacre as they embark on voyage to unmask a cover-up, save humanity and avoid an ever-increasing number of raging, rampaging, nymphomaniac animals.

Funny and at times shocking, this is an inventive take on what has quickly become a classic genre. Stand out characters include the put upon Geldof and his Eco warrior mother Fanny, who considers her love of hemp and detest of carnivorism sanctified by the outbreak, bring humour and a sense of warmth to proceedings. There’s also plenty of gory details for the traditional zombie fans, with descriptions of rotten cows, killer squirrels and a repulsive neighbour creating the expected air of unease associated with the zombie genre. Just when you think the story is tipping into pure horror, Logan deftly paints yet another dark,comical image such as fending off a squirrel attack with a badminton racquet, to pull his readers back from the brink of fear and into laughter.

If Apocalypse Cow’s blend of gallows humour and genuine horror sounds intriguing, be warned: you may never look at a cow (or even a squirrel) in quite the same way again.

Mantel wins Costa Prize 2012

Hilary Mantel has another award to add to her collection after Wolf Hall sequel Bring Up the Bodies was awarded the Costa Book of the Year

Costa Coffee Book of the Year

Hilary Mantel has won the Costa Book of the Year Award – Picture by Vassilena

It’s the second major book prize victory this year for Mantel, who was also awarded the Man Booker Prize, making her the first author to have won both prizes in the same year.

Bring Up the Bodies is the eleventh novel to be awarded the Costa Book of the Year, which is also open to the winners of four other Costa award categories: first novel; biography; poetry and children’s book. Other winners of the top prize include William Boyd’s Restless which was adapted into a BBC drama this aired this Christmas, Andrea Levy’s Small Island and last year’s winner, Pure by Andrew Miller.

In the same ceremony, Avril Joy received the inaugural Costa Short Story Award for Millie and Bird.

Happy 2013

Video

It’s the start of a New Year and we’ve got lots of plans to make Read It Ribbit your favourite book blog this year

But before we look forward, there’s still time to look back and remember our 2012 in books.

What was your 2012 book year like? We’d love to know, leave us a comment below.

With thanks to Jeris for using Creative Commons to share his song used in the video. Follow the links if you want to find out more:

http://creativecommons.org/ns#” “http://ccmixter.org/files/VJ_Memes/40622″> ” href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/”

A very bookish Christmas

Is looking for that perfect Christmas gift for the book lover in your life leaving you tired and stressed ?

little santa homer

Worry no more! As a special gift to our readers, we have trawled the furthest reaches of the web and the high street to give you some book themed present ideas to make your Christmas shopping just a little bit easier. Merry Christmas!

 

Is it a poster, is it art? Yes, and it’s a book!

Using b ooks as art is not a new concept, but this new twist on an old classic would impress any book lover. An entire book on a single poster would certainly make an excellent talking point in any living room.

From £41.99, Book Text Posters

 

Half bookmark, half lamp

At first glance a quirky bedside lamp, this cleverly designed piece of reading kit not only provides a glow for you to follow the latest plot twists but also doubles up as a handy page rest when its time for some shut eye.

£39.99, Findmeagift.com

 

Keep calm…

If your budget is on the smaller side, one of these fetching mugs could be just the ticket for the book lover in your life.

£11.60, Zazzle.com

 

Outlawed jewelry

If you know a book lover who enjoys pushing the  (and taking part in Banned Books events) help them declare they dedication to the printed word with pride with these fun and quirky bracelets, necklaces and brooches.

From £10, The Literary Gift Company

 

Plenty of room for ginger beer Timmy!

We love this bag! A bit of nostalgia goes a long way. Transport your loved one back to the sun soaked, mystery tales of their childhood with this rather fetching take on a classic childhood novel.

£52, The Literary Gift Company

 

A hoodie for all seasons

Our personal lust favourite of the Christmas season, The Bookshelf Girl’s Hoodie combines everything we love about this season. Not only will it keep you nice and warm in the frosty days to come, but the cute print will make you the envy of every book lover around. Can someone remember to buy us one please?

£33, Culture Label

 

The old favourites…

If you want to go with the tried and traditional (or you’ve left your shopping a bit late and your intended gift will never get to you in the post on time) Waterstones has got some really lovely special editions in this year and with the addition of their new in store browsing system for Kindle e-readers, you’re sure to pick the perfect gift.

Review: Shades of Grey – Jasper Fforde

Shades of grey

If anyone has cause to curse the appearance of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, it’s Jasper Fforde

Although similarly named, Shades of Grey (and published almost three years ago in 2010) could not be further in content from the Twilight inspired, bondage fuelled adventures of E.L. James’s trilogy. Technically a dystopia, Fforde’s book is set in the former British Isles some few hundred years after an unknown event, pleasingly referred to as ‘The Something that Happened’, changed life as we know it. However, Fforde’s distinctive, humorous voice combined with his affable (if naïve) hero’s commentary on the niggling little details of his life prevent the plot from sinking into the typical mire of dystopian despair.

Eddie Russett navigates his way through a rigid society determined by perception of colour. The history of this new world is handled with a light touch, using Eddie’s discoveries and observations as he moves from the cosmopolitan Jade Under Lime to the wilds of East Carmine as opportunities to explain the world and to propel the plot. For reasons that are not explained, humanity has evolved (or devolved depending on your perspective) to have an extremely limited, genetically determined ability to perceive colour. The majority of people can only perceive a single colour, and a limited amount at that.

In this world, colour rules all: it can cure diseases, is highly prized and determines not only your standing in society but your children’s as well. Pockets of the world are artificially coloured to allow viewing by all, but natural colour (and the ability to see a lot of your particular shade) determines your chose of career and even your marriage prospects. As a ‘Red’ perceiver Eddie is low enough down the social scale to be bossed around by the ‘Green’, ‘Yellow’, ‘Blue’ and ‘Purple’, but higher than the servant class of the Greys. In this position, Eddie is the perfect candidate to shake up years of indoctrinated thinking.

While following the hallmarks of traditional dystopia with its restrictive set of rules determining every aspect of existence, from the mundane spoon shortage to the life determining Ishihara ceremony, Shades of Grey is at heart a mystery. The book opens with our hero waiting to die and lamenting his curiosity after stumbling across a secret that he doesn’t fully understand. Fforde takes his time, slowly unfolding his world as our unwitting hero becomes exposed to undisclosed truths and embroiled in plots that go over his head. The reveals are satisfying, if a little predictable, with layers of seemingly unrelated details slotting neatly together just when Fforde wants them to, and not a second before.

The journey is fun with some great characters. The Grey servant Jane is a beacon of open subversion while the selfish, racketeer Tommo is surprisingly endearing. From the last rabbit to the carnivorous Yateveo, Fforde clearly enjoyed himself while creating his world and his enthusiasm effortlessly sweeps his readers along with him.

Overall an entertaining read and a promising opening to a mooted trilogy, which no doubt will further confuse internet search engines and potential erotica readers alike. If by any chance, you have been directed to this page from a search for the previously mentioned trilogy, I urge you to give up that *ahem* quest and instead read Fforde’s witty and entertaining novel. The rest of you will probably enjoy it as well.