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Tuesday, 30 April 2013

The backpacker book collection - novel suggestions and so much more...

The Plain of Jars in Lao - photo courtesy
WE HAVE MOVED THIS POST OVER TO PINTEREST> Click here And for more #literarywanderlust pop over to the  TripFiction website

Monday, 29 April 2013

Dark Deeds over Dinner - Novel set in Amsterdam

From the world of the Golden Age of Dutch painting we have been inspired to commission a sketch - in the traditional format of Dutch 17th century art but with a modern twist (note the trainers and the lobster) - inspired by the story of The Dinner by Herman Koch, set of course in Amsterdam. We were largely driven for this particular blogpost by our interest in why the cover for The Dinner changed from a lobster on a blue background in the original edition to a pair of adolescent trainers with just a hint of blood, also on a blue background in the current edition.... so we posed the question to Atlantic, the publishers:

“The cover of The Dinner by Herman Koch has changed from a red lobster on a blue background to a pair of battered shoes, again against a blue background in the current edition. Can you take us through the thinking behind the changes?”


"The lobster jacket came from the original Dutch publication which was a huge bestseller in Europe. It is a strong, striking, unusual image that we wanted to use on the first outing for recognition and acknowledgement of the European success. It proved to be quite a ‘marmite’ cover with some people loving its originality and others being put off by a book with an ‘overpriced crustacean’ on the front. And many eagle-eyed readers noticed there was no lobster on the menu…

So after much discussion in house we decided to make the paperback cover more accessible, more pertinent to the story and more serviceable for the ‘literary thriller’ market. The moral dilemma of the story is the element that has got so many people intrigued by this book and the teenage trainers, with a disturbing hint of blood, seemed to sum up the point in the story when everything starts to unravel (not wanting to give anything away!) We also wanted to allow a lot of space in the design for the amazing reviews the book received. You’ll see on the print edition they cover the inside front and back too. Our Art Director showed us some fantastic options, but we felt that this slightly provocative design with it’s notable absence of people, contrast between title and image and strong, almost single colour, would appeal to readers who might have been put off by the lobster, but who relish good books with a dark side. We hope you like it!"

Click on the current cover featuring the trainers to find out more and purchase your own copy. Visit the other contributors
on this tour which marks the publication of this fantastically dark novel by clicking on the following links:

@wordsofmercury  @stujallen

(A piece of interesting info: Herman Koch's surname means "cook" in German...can we read anything into that, I wonder?).

Thank you for visiting today from Tina and the TripFiction Team.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Monday, 22 April 2013

Our Guest Blogger reviews "The Parisian's Return" by Julia Stagg, set in the French Pyrenees

We are pleased to welcome Jacqui Brown as our guest blogger, who is a real authority on the French way of life. She is a wife, Mother, animal lover, and a tries-her-best vegetable grower & home cook, living the French village dream since 2004. She is still in love with France, addicted to reading and reviewing books set in France and sharing her family's adventures on her blog

A perfect French moment
"A great read for me was the second book set in the Pyrenean village of Fogas,The Parisian's Return by Julia Stagg. This book continues on immediately where L'Auberge finishes. I liked that it did this; firstly as all my favourite characters are still there and secondly because there was so much more I wanted to know about life in the village. It is all change in Fogas as the focus shifts off Paul and Lorna (the owners of the auberge) and almost immediately we meet a new character ‘Le Parisian’ and to say things don’t go to plan for him straight away is a bit of an understatement. His presence is not initially welcome, especially as he wants to make changes. Change is often difficult to accept and especially so when it happens in the heart of the village at the bar/epicerie. It takes the locals some getting used to, although little by little he gains their respect. Things are also changing for Stephanie, as she tries to get her new business off the ground, but with the distractions of a bit of love interest and a few mysterious happenings, things don’t go to plan for her either. The other new character makes a much more understated entrance into the village, but is no less integral to the story.
I found there to be a greater sense of community in this book than in the first, with less 'political' bickering (which I know to be a common element in French Village Life). There is a real pulling together, especially at the end when there is drama and a real danger threatens the safety of some of them. French village life may not have the excitement of city life, but there is never a dull moment in Julia's village. I can't wait to get back to Fogas and read book three The French Postmistress is available now. Same village, same characters but someone else's story to be told".

You can follow Jacqui on Twitter @loubille

Thank you to Jacqui for sharing her review on TripFiction. Click here to see all our books set in, and evocative of France and Click on the cover and links to find out more about the individual books. Share with us your all-time favourite reads that evoke France, there are soooo many out there!


Thursday, 18 April 2013

Historical Fiction from Nagasaki to Plymouth

This post can now be found on the new TripFiction website here

The Gilded Fan by Christina Courtenay

Monday, 15 April 2013

Juju*, guilt and so much more in West Africa. Meet the couple behind the travels....

"West Africa  is nobody's idea of a dream holiday destination"

This post + author Q&A is on the new TripFiction website, here

Friday, 12 April 2013

"The Promise" set in Galveston & reviewed for TF by Anne Cater

We invited top book reviewer and blogger Anne Cater to share a guestpost on our blog and are very pleased she accepted our invitation. Anne is based in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, married, and has two cats Costa and Nero. She has worked extensively in the voluntary sector and is an avid reader, devouring up to 12 books per month. She travels regularly to Greece and in her photo you can see her hard at work (is that Ouzo in that glass?) on one of her visits to Greece. Her favourite Greek resort is a tiny village called Arillas on the North West coast of Corfu and she has also visited Rhodes, Crete, Kos, Paxos, Lefkas, Zante, Kefalonia and Cyprus.

She has also shared her all-time favourite reads with us today and we feature them all at TF, because, not only are they top reads, they also brilliantly evoke location:

To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee (set in Alabama)
A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini (set in Kabul/Herat)
Chocolat - Joanne Harris (set in France)
The Lollipop Shoes - Joanne Harris (set in Paris)

The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield (set in England)
The Shadow of the Wind - Carols Ruiz Zafon (set in Barcelona)
The Island - Victoria Hislop (set on Spinalonga, Greece)

The Promise by Ann Weisgarber set in Galveston

I read Ann Weisgarber's first novel The Personal History of Rachel Dupree way back in March 2009 and thought it was really stunning. It went on to be short listed for the Orange Award for New Writers and was on the long list for the Orange Prize UK.

It was with some trepidation that I started to read her second book, The Promise. I wondered how she was going to write something as evocative as her first novel. I started reading The Promise on the train down to London and I finished it during my return journey. I hardly raised my head once as I was sucked into this intensely moving, sometimes very challenging, but wonderfully easy to read story. I felt as though I had been whisked off to Texas in the early 1900s and once, when I glanced out of the train window, I was actually shocked to see the fields covered in snow - this story really does suck the reader in, and very quickly.
Once again Ann Weisgarber has created a story that centres around extremely strong female characters. Catherine Wainwright, who has fled her home-town in the wake of scandal and Nan Ogden; a down-to-earth, honest farm girl who lives on the outskirts of Galveston. When Catherine realises that she can no longer hold her head up in her home town, she orchestrates a marriage proposal from Oscar Williams. Oscar moved out to Galveston to become a dairy farmer and has recently been widowed and left with a four-year-old son Andre, to care for. Nan Ogden promised Oscar's wife that she would care for Andre. Nan and Catherine are as different as chalk and cheese, yet underneath they are both very strong women, and both struggle against the rules of society.

Life in Galveston is hard for Catherine, the town-folk have never met anyone like her. She bewitches the men and the women suspect her. Nan struggles with her feelings for Oscar, her loyalties to his first wife and her feelings that no one will ever love her. They struggle on together, and it is only when a terrible storm hits the small town that they are tested to their limits.
The characters in The Promise are developed so well, they grow with the story - their flaws and their failings are not glossed over, these are real people, drawn beautifully. The sense of place is what stands out the most for me - the heat, the smells, the sights and the sounds of this bleak and desolate part of Texas. The description of the terror and havoc that the storm brings is vivid.
Galveston really did suffer terribly during the storm of 1900, this is an event that I had no knowledge of and have discovered that although this is a fictional story, some of the people and the places really did exist. This storm was far worse than Hurricane Katrina and ripped the heart out of this small community, killing in the region of 6000 people.

I enjoyed every single page of The Promise, I liked it even more than Rachel Dupree. Ann Weisgarber has proved to me that she is an incredibly talented author whose stories are going from strength to strength.

Click on the cover to find out more and to purchase
Anne started her blog a couple of years ago with the intention of using it as a place where she could remember her favourite books.  It has really snowballed from then and now she gets review requests on a weekly basis, both from authors and publishers. She is part of the Pan Macmillan Readers Group Panel, meeting 4 times per year to discuss newly released books and to put together the Reading Group Guides and Notes for the paperback editions. Follow Anne on Twitter @annecater

Anne will be sharing her top reads set in Greece soon

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

MOROCCO: "Piece by piece the camel enters the couscous" - Review and author interview with Lawrence Osborne

Where to start with this sumptuously descriptive novel dripping with lusciousness and foreboding? The background setting of Morocco is an intrinsic character that fluently comes to life through Lawrence Osborne's writing. Whether it is the landscape, the characters, the ambient temperature, the fossils or the people - both local Moroccans and Westerners whose lifestyles and values pit themselves against each other - everything is bathed in a terracotta hot red, set against the desert and mountains of the country. The food is richly described from the McVitie's crackers slathered with majoun (a mix of kif, dried fruits, nuts and sometimes fig jam) to the couscous "sweetened with sugar and lines of melted cinammon" to "almond breewats" all washed down with Santenay and Tempier Rose.

Jo and David Henniger are motoring down to the ksour, owned by Dally Rogers Margolin and his partner Richard Galloway at Azna, with the prospect of a weekend of hedonism with the rich and powerful from around Europe and America, billed as "the best party East of Marrakech". It is a dark night, the road gives off its accumulated daytime heat, the stark shadows rise up against the mountains. Suddenly, David, with a high level of alcohol in his blood, hits one of two locals, Driss, and kills him on the spot. His companion Ismael heads for the hills as the Hennigers step out of the car to assess the damage.The story expands from there as the cultures of the party people from Europe and America, and the indingenous peoples, the Berbers, weave an unforgiving path. The impact of the tragic incident reverberates into the hedonistic thrum of the party weekend, and forgiveness and revenge vie with each other, as the individuals all respond in their own unique way to events.

The author clearly knows the country really well and the research peppers the pages of the novel. We learn, for example. that fossil mining is a huge industry in the country and each tribe deals in different and specific fossil-types - only the black market dealers cross the lines. For now, though, enough of our eulogies, and over to the author himself for a few words:

TF The book brings the rugged countryside and people of Morocco to life.  A really red burning, hot and brooding sense comes through your writing. You clearly know the country very well, how has that come about? 

LO I began traveling to Morocco many years ago, spending winters alone in a place called Essaouira. It's still place I love and that I go back to. When I was younger I used to like taking buses all over the country, it was a way of being alone for weeks on end during spells of unhappiness. Then, later, I made some trips into the deep desert to collect fossils at Jbel Izzomour and Alnif, places that are far off the road maps, and the solitude came to be of a different order. On one trip I went to Erfoud with a French girlfriend and for weeks we argued and fought during endless sandstorms and, I think, the first seeds of the novel were implanted. 
TF What was you inspiration for the gripping and black storyline of The Forgiven? 

LO It was a story told to me by my then-agent Emma Parry during lunch one day in New York. It was, apparently, true. I changed a few things, of course, and created my own ending and themes....but when I heard it I thought "But I know those places from years ago." I had never written anything about Morocco, not even a travel piece. I never wanted to do any travel writing about it - it meant too much to me. But the story immediately resonated with me. I never hesitated, I started writing it that night. 

     TF You clearly show how two cultures struggle to live side by side – the Westerners bring moral standards that are very different from those of the indigenous people in Morocco. How smoothly do the cultures co-exist in practice?  

      LO I see that the Washington Post has just published a map showing the most and least welcoming countries on earth and Morocco is rated as the third most welcoming. Very well. But there is more to it than that. There is suspicion and distance too and I think two cultures will rarely lie down side by side easily. I live in Thailand, which was also rated high in the Post piece, but Thai attitudes to westerners are not simple either. When you live in a place for a while you see that the apparent harmonies are often just expediencies that can easily decline into paranoia and defensiveness, not to mention exploitation. 

TF Nicholas Lezard describes you as “a master of the high style” when he refers to your book: The Wet and The Dry: A Drinker’s Journey. We very much enjoyed your writing style in The Forgiven. How did you initially come to writing? 

     LO I have been working as a journalist since I was very young and writing non-fiction books, but apart from a novel that was published when I was 27 I would say I came rather late to fiction...there was a long gap but I was struggling with the form all the time, largely unsuccessfully. It doesn't come easily to me. I had to rewrite The Forgiven over a period of several years before it was accepted by anyone. It took so long because I needed to work out my own prose attitude and style dealing with the things I wanted to explore - the relations between men and women, for one thing, and the way landscapes create story and character, the relation between western personality and non-western - a theme that fascinates me. I knew what I wanted to explore, and the simple elegance and suppleness I needed, but I didn't have the means to do it. I am not sure I do have it now, but it seems to be crystallizing. 

     TF What are you working on now?
LO Hogarth have just bought another novel called "The Ballad of a Small Player," about gamblers in the casinos of Macau. It's quite autobiographical, but it's adapted from a Chinese ghost story. I've also just finished a collection of short stories, several of which are being published this year in magazines in the United States. 

A big thank you to Lawrence Osborne for answering our questions. And if you happen to know what "piece by piece the camel enters the couscous" means, do let us know in the Comments Box (oh, and let us know of other terrific novels you have read that are set in Morocco, we'd love to hear from you!) "Ar Tufat" from Tina and the TripFiction Team.