This was our Book Group’s choice for November and certainly proved one of our most popular books. Which is a pity because it’s good to have a range of opinions to stimulate discussion- like The Old Man and the Sea , The Cuckoo’s Calling and Grace Williams Says it Loud.
But we all loved this book .
It’s a memoir which covers roughly the first eighteen years of the writer’s life , from his infancy in Notting Hill- no, not the latte and bookshop millieu of a Richard Curtis film but the deprived post- war bomb sites where he lived in a Rowe Housing Trust flat sharing a communal lavatory, without electricity, from hand to mouth Added to the mix was a feckless father who left the family( Alan, sister Linda and his stoical and hardworking mother Lily) on two occasions to shack up with other women and father two more children. For many writers, eager to present themselves as hapless victims and centre stage in a misery memoir, this material would have been a godsend but not to Jonson. He tells us how it was, wiithout pulling at our heartstrings, in a matter of fact ‘ we were not the only one in this situation’ way which shows the integrity of the writer and his refusal to milk his childhood for any reasons of politics or self promotion. What this approach does is to leave the reader with admiration for the spirit and tenacity of his mother Lily and his sister Linda who, in his dedication, he says ‘kept him safe’.
As a social history the book is very evocative of post war Britain with its Teddy Boys, the beginnings of racial tension, bomb sites and austerity. Johnson emerges as a shy bookish boy with his father’s flair for music . His tone when speaking of himself is wry self-deprecating , easily identifiable in his media appearances where he declares with a knowing half smile he will not stand as Labour leader, no matter what his supporters may think..I for one am sorry
I- and the others- loved this book and want to read its sequel, ‘Please Mr Post,man.’
Sometimes in the heat of trying to promote your own book, you forget the many great books out there that you may be reading and enjoying- and often thinking ‘how can I ever write like this?’ Promoting your own books can make you horribly ego-centric so. I’ll be blogging about the books I’ve been reading- and sometimes re reading
THE CAZALET CHRONICLES
What is it about what television calls ‘continuing drama. that is so addictive?You MUST find out what happens to X- and Y’s unfortunate childhood, did that really mean he was doomed in later life?I loved the first few volumes of these books by Elizabeth Jane Howard years ago and thanks to a special offer by the Book People, was able to buy the lot for under a tenner. Still love them, love the sense of period, the interweaving stories of the family, the soicial history.
Our book group choice this month is Alan Johnson’s This Boy,the first part of his memoir . I’ve whizzed through this and it resonated with me so much, He’s my generation and though my background is working class post war, I never had such a difficult time of it as he did. But this is far from a misery memoir. The touch is light, positive , there is humour a profound love and respect for his mother in particular. The book has given me respect for him- and as he is a politician, that’s no mean feat. Loved the book and will read the sequel.
And just in case I forgot to mention it….
Part 2 of the Foxwood trilogy FOXWOOD- ANOTHER YEAR-now out on Kindle. soon to be in paperback too
Time for the second of the Foxwood trilogy to be released on Kindle , no doubt to a deathy silence .except perhaps within my own small circle . Still, it all takes time as my fellow writers are constantly telling me. and so it was/is with LIVING SPACE, the first of the Foxwood books. It was just last weekend that I had a phone call from someone who had just read it, bought from my local bookshop, and she had loved it. She herself lived in a loosely structured community;locally which as it happens I had known in another context….and so it goes on. Organic growth I suppose you’d call it..
Anyway, time for a change now. I’m putting Foxwood and its inhabitants into storage for a year or so and returning to the theatre of the 1770s to finish my historical novel, THE PLAY’S THE THING. It has lain abandoned for several years as i’d lost heart in the dialogue( too Georgette Heyer? Too old hat?. If Julian Fellowes can use ‘mumsy ‘as an adjective in the supposed thirties, does anything go now?
The Play..didn’t look half bad on re-reading so that is going to b my new project; I;m probably happier in the eighteenth century than the here and now. I will try some more traditional publishing routes for that one when I finish.
Anyway, more to life than writing, though most of what I do seems to feature it in some way- Coleridge Press is soon to become Results Study Guides and the market is expanding to China.
Will be book blogging much more as the weeks go by( writing again- other people’s ),beginning with this month’s book choice Alan Johnson’s THIS BOY which I’m enjoying very much and which strikes many a chord with me in terms of his background. More of that anon.
meanwhile, if here is anyone out there reading this blog, take a look at the link to FOXWOOD
Foxwood – Another Year by Jan Marsh
At least it was on Halloween down in the wilds of Pembs, dog- sitting for friends. At any moment on Friday night there might have been a knock on the door in the howling gale and storm force winds, and a traveller might have stood outside with the news that his car had broken down, there was no phone signal( is there ever?) and might he trouble us for a bed for the night? But that didn’t happen and Tracey’s non -weddiing on Corrie had to satisfy my taste for the melodramatic.
Still, should be getting final proof of FOXWOOD- ANOTHER YEAR this week so time to set the wheels in motion to get the word out there
Just watched Derek Brockway( Weather Man Walking) walking the Dylan places in Swansea, then on to the Fern Hill places in Carmarthenshire . Great programme. made me very nostalgic for my old home towm- the Uplands, Cwmdonkin Park where I learned as a nipper to walk, ,minutes away from my old school, Glanmor( now a posh housing development)..
Now getting on with the writing job in hand for today- revisiting 40,000 odd words of my historical novel about the theatre in the 1770s, a return after 4-5 years. I;m really quite pleased with it, though some of the dialogue needs attention. It needs a little updating- but I mustn’t do a Downton on it by making it totally out of keeping with the period. Must remember not to let characters say ‘Whassup?’ to each other or possibly ‘OMG!’
Just a little post ( a postette?) to see if the link between blog on my website links with WordPress. My IT consultant Bob has set this up, sp let’s see what happens. More laters….
Well, maybe not. Unless it’s a lot like keeping a diary.
Sent the new novel, FOXWOOD- ANOTHER YEAR off to proofreader Julie today where she will uncover all my typos, non sequiturs , hyphen mania . Must learn to touchtype . Scary but exciting too to have another book almost delivered ( in the midwifery sense, not the Parcelforce sense).
Plan to concentrate on other types of writing now – autobiographical, family stuff. Let the residents of Foxwoood ( a place so close to my heart I can smell the wood burner), get on with their lives for another year or so. Unless of course tempted by BBC into third novel so that they can turn it into immensely popular and lucrative series.