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Friday, 24 May 2013

VENICE under the watchful eyes of Guido Brunetti and Donna Leon

Donna Leon.jpg
Photo courtesy Wikipedia
One of the authors who inspired us set up TripFiction was, of course, Donna Leon. One of the most long-standing authors to use location as a character in its own right, she brings the "feel" of Venice to the page through her descriptive prose. She is, in fact American by birth but has lived in, and observed Venice for the past 25 years. She has written well over 20 books featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti, who tackles crime across the Laguna.

We would love it if you would talk to us and our wider community about which particular Donna Leon novels would feature at the top of your personal list - where should a first time Donna Leon reader start? Which is your personal favourite? Inevitably some of the books are just that much better than others, and knowing which ones to pick up can be a really daunting task. So, please help your fellow readers, both actual and armchair, by leaving a review on the TripFiction website and/or using the Comments Box below to share your favourites. Imagine, there might be one clear favourite but without your help we don't know which one that would be.....!

We set the ball rolling by reviewing the Donna Leon novel we have read most recently - A Sea of Troubles, her 10th Brunetti novel.  

This book is largely set on the fishing island of Pellestrina, and Commissario Brunetti is tasked with resolving the murder of two fisherman, a father and son. The former is universally disliked, the latter is truly mourned.

The writing is as languorous as the lapping waves along the canals, the food on Brunetti's table is delicious as only Venetian food can be, and the detecting is interspersed with the odd glass of Prosecco or Vin Santo. Bonsuan, the police pilot, navigates the waterways as Brunetti shuttles back and forth between the islands, perhaps past the island of San Servolo, gliding past Santa Maria delle Grazie and San Clemente and on to Saca Sessola. Paola, his ever supportive wife, is always in the background, voicing her thoughts, keeping his conscience, getting him to think things through carefully and providing sustenance (both emotional and via food). Reading Donna Leon, for us, is not overly challenging, but brings Venice to life and feels as comfortable as a well worn pair of shoes. “Donna Leon’s engaging books have been the cheapest way to travel to Italy for quite some time…” (amazon)

Ann Reddy  - regular contributor to the TF site - reviews our second Donna Leon novel, number 17 in the series, The Girl of His Dreams

"I picked this book to review because it is set in beautiful Venice. I have visited this city many times and feel that I know it quite well, that is as a tourist. 

The Girl of His Dreams is one of a series of crime books featuring the detective Guido Brunetti. It has a story running through about a religious sect. A priest, who also has an interesting past, is concerned that the charismatic sect leader is persuading people to part with their money and even sell their homes. 

The title of the story does not start until about a third of the  way in, when the body of a young girl is pulled out of the Grand Canal. Here starts the investigation into what? A murder? A robbery? An accident? The girl with the fair hair is from the gypsy encampment on the mainland. Here you get an understanding of the nomadic way of life and how they try to live outside the rules.

Brunetti is a compassionate character who despite 'orders' wants to find out what happened to the little girl. I am not familiar with the Brunetti character and this book did not really give me much more depth to him. Perhaps if I had read this series of books in order I would feel I knew him better. 

You will recognise the names of Venice and I could picture the vaporetti on the Grand Canal. The Girl of His Dreams gives you a glimpse of living in Venice and the fact that Brunetti does not like driving, reminds you of the magical waterways. 

A personal view, I would recommend that if you have not read any of Donna Leon's series of Brunetti crime books that you start at the first. I struggled to really connect with the characters and it was a slow start. However, I did picture beautiful Venice which brought back wonderful memories of my many holidays there".

All our Venice set novels can be found here

Share with us your favourite Donna Leon in the Comments Box below and let's see which one comes overall top!

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Gardening themed novels inspired by Chelsea Flower Show

"It is difficult to imagine life without the Chelsea Flower Show; it seems strange that it has only been around for 100 years." (Bunny Guinness The Sunday Telegraph 21.4.13) And here's an interesting fact about this year's show: it is the first year that garden gnomes will be exhibited! To celebrate this centenary we have called on the help from the lovely members over at Mumsnet (particular  thanks to TunipTheVegedude,  NuhichNuhaymuh, DuchessofMalfi, ClawdyColyngbourne, Yousankmybattleship, LatinforTelly, Piprabbit and UndineSpragg) - who are mines of information when it comes to reading - and we have brought together a selection of novels that will inspire any gardener to ditch their trowels and pick up a novel.

Check out our collection on Pinterest and many books that are evocative of location on our website

Friday, 17 May 2013

Anne Cater chooses her favourite novels set in GREECE

Anne Cater is a regular contributor to the TripFiction site and in this post she shares her love of Greece. She reviews The Island and The Thread, both by Victoria Hislop

You can find this post on the new TripFiction website here

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Number Seven Rue de Grenelle, PARIS

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery set in Paris
This post now appears on the new TripFiction website here

Friday, 10 May 2013

"The Art of Leaving" A portrait of LONDON and so much more

We are really pleased to welcome Sandra Tena to the Tripfiction Team, born in Durango, Mexico, but currently citizen of the world, doing a master in Creative Writing in at the University of Newcastle, UK.  She was finalist in Voces sin Fronteras II in Canada and in Cada loco con su tema in Mexico, and thus published in the corresponding anthologies of both contests.  Her first novel, La Sombra Detrás, can be found in Amazon Kindle. She also has a collection of short stories waiting for publication. As of now in Newcastle, besides having the time of her life, she is working on her first novel in English, Iar, which is to be the first of a five-part fantasy saga for young adults titled Pentacle, and putting together her first collection of short stories in English.  When she is not writing she is reading everything humanly possible given the shortness of each day, hanging out with amazing friends from all over the world, watching T.V. shows and movies that make her laugh and think, and missing her cats and the people she adores from across the ocean. 

There are three things that must be said about Anna Stothard’s latest brilliant creation, The Art of Leaving: first, as I picked the book out of the love I feel for London I think it’s fair that I begin with my insight of Anna’s masterful portrayal of the wondrous city in her novel.  The rushing adrenaline of the city’s hurried way of life, the greatness of the historical streets, buildings and landmarks, the anonymity of the population, the tiny or sometimes not so tiny portals that go unnoticed every now and then, the intimacy of the walks under the rain or through the parks or inside the uncountable buildings…  it’s all there, sitting in black ink and white paper, looking up at you as if the city was reading you instead of you reading about the city, trying to capture your reactions to the descriptions of places from known to unknown, from idyllic to stale, from open to hidden, and so forth.  But there is also an aspect of London that jumps at you from the beginning: the feeling that you can belong in London, that no matter your background or personal history, London wipes that slate clean for you, or at least helps you find your rightful place in the world.  London, in the end, is London, a place where life goes on and the world keeps turning no matter what goes on in your life and you don’t have to rush to keep up, but instead it allows you to take a step back and reassess.  Eva walks a large part of the city in the book, and at each step she takes we’re right there with her, seeing what she sees, knowing the city through her eyes.  And very much also through Regina’s, as the eagle flies above and beyond, and sets foot (or claws) here and there and expects us to look at her in wonder much like the population of London does in the book.
Second, the depth and meticulousness in which Anna has developed her characters is impressive.  Eva, Luke, Grace and even Regina perform a dance in which they slowly reveal their hidden traits, real motives and darkest secrets, making The Art of Leaving a really hard book to put down.  The way Anna slowly untangles her characters is delightful, down to the point of awakening in yours truly a desire to reach out to them, to know what will become of them, to be with them till the end.  The thorough detail of the writing depicts the surrounding and the way it resonates within Eva in a most poetic manner: from the busy London Streets to the cramped Echo Books to what each character wears or how their hair, eyes or hands look; it made me feel for Eva, try to understand her and wonder about her at the same time, want to unravel her as I read.
And third, the way Anna delivers Eva’s wild imagination to us is magical, how Eva wanders in and out of her daydreams and hangs on to the memory of her grandmother at the same time is simply beautiful.  We are taken to a world in which the impossible becomes a part of Eva; where she can feel herself, safe and true; and where fluffy bunny rabbits and flowers speak of her wishes louder than she does in real life.  The constant mention of books, movies and stories allows this second world to exist in an almost tangible manner in Eva’s life and her relationship with Luke and Grace. The moment when her two worlds collide and she is forced to make a decision we are taken behind her mirror, and we see the truth that was hidden from us all along, and we understand that from there it could easily go both ways… and we are grateful for her imagination and her pursue and her truth… and we call out to her, urging her to never stop.

Anna Stothard is also the author of The Pink Hotel set in Los Angeles.

Thank you for visiting today, from Sandra and the TripFiction Team. To find our more about The Art of Leaving, click on the cover; and to find more books set in and evocative of London click here

Monday, 6 May 2013

Novels to capture the feel of Britain's coastline

In our researches we have come across many wonderful novels that are set around the coastline of Britain, so we thought we would bring some of them together to make an eclectic mix (no mean feat, we can tell you!); some are well known, some are less so and we ask you to contribute your favourite reads via the Comments Box below - let's build a comprehensive list of writing that brings the British seaside to life. Click on the covers to find out more. Here goes and in no particular order:

The Fortnight in September by R C Sheriff tells the story of the journey from 22 Corunna Road in Dulwich by train, via Clapham Junction, to the south coast, two weeks living in lodgings and going to the beach every day. This is the story of one family's holiday on the coast in Britain, in Bognor Regis. "A delightful and evocative book..."

The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles has to feature. This icon of storytelling is the story of Sarah Woodruff, the woman of the title, also known as the "Tragedy”. She lives in the coastal town of Lyme Regis, as a disgraced woman, supposedly abandoned by a French naval officer named Varguennes, who was married, unknown to her, to another woman. Sarah is reputed to have had an affair with him before he returned to France. Charles Smithson develops a strong curiosity for her, they build up a rapport and he supports her move to Exeter. Having, eventually made love, he realises that, in fact, she is still a virgin..... A novel set in Lyme Regis and Exeter. "A classic of its time..."

For novels set in Cornwall there was a huge choice! I am sure you will have your favourites, so please do introduce others to your top novels set there that evoke location. The Long Weekend by Veronica Henry is set in a gorgeous quay-side hotel in Cornwall, and the long weekend  of the title is only just beginning... Claire Marlowe owns 'The Townhouse by the Sea' with Luca, the hotel's charismatic chef. She ensures everything runs smoothly - until an unexpected arrival checks in and turns her whole world upside down. "beautiful views, traditional beaches, and a busy old fashioned resort town - think Padstow or Fowey."

In Rook by Jane Rusbridge, Nora has come home to the Sussex coast where, every dawn, she runs along the creek path to the sea. In the half-light, fragments of cello music crash around in her mind, but she casts them out - it's more than a year since she performed in public. In the village of Bosham the future is invading. A charming young documentary maker has arrived to shoot a film about King Cnut and his cherished but illegitimate daughter, whose body is buried under the flagstones of the local church. "A mesmerising story of family, legacy and turning back the tides, Rook beautifully evokes the shifting Sussex sands, and the rich seam of history lying just beneath them".

A Cottage by the Sea by Carole Matthews brings us to Pembrokeshire in Wales, a novel that bowls along as though carried on a warm wind off the Atlantic Coast (yes, it can be warm in Wales). Friends Grace and Flick bring their partners for a week's holiday at Cwtch Cottage (prounounced Cutch Cottage), where they join Art and their third friend in the group, Ella, who owns the cottage. Set right on the coast, it is in an idyllic location and, as Grace remarks "this has to be one of the loveliest places on the whole earth: miles of golden sand.....".

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan - It is July 1962, Dorset. Edward and Florence, young innocents married that morning, arrive at a hotel on the Dorset coast. At dinner in their rooms they struggle to suppress their private fears of the wedding night to come...  
"A fine book, homing in with devastating precision on a kind of Englishness which McEwan understands better than any other living writer, the Englishness of deceit, evasion, repression and regret..."

The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch transports the reader to dilapidated stone cottage by the sea, somewhere in England, where Charles Arrowby is in search of peace and tranquillity. He hopes to escape from his tumultuous love affairs but unexpectedly bumps into his childhood sweetheart and sets his heart on destroying her marriage. His equilibrium is further disturbed when his friends all decide to come and keep him company and Charles finds his seaside idyll severely threatened by his obsessions.

Brighton Belle by Sara Sheridan truly evokes the town of the 1950s. With the excitement of the war over and the Nazis brought to justice at Nuremberg, Mirabelle Bevan (retired Secret Service) thinks her skills are no longer required. After the death of her lover she moves to the seaside to put the past behind her and takes a job as a secretary at a debt collection agency run by the charismatic Big Ben McGuigan. But when confronted by the case of Romana Laszlo, a pregnant Hungarian refugee, Mirabelle discovers that her specialist knowledge is vital. With enthusiastic assistance from the pretty insurance clerk down the corridor, Vesta Churchill, Mirabelle follows a mysterious trail of gold sovereigns, betting scams and corpses to a dark corner of Austerity Britain where the forces of evil remain alive and well.

Brighton Rock by Graham Greene tells the story of a young leader of one of the infamous razor gangs in 1930s Brighton who murders a journalist and then finds that his attempts to avoid any possibility of arrest lead him into ever-increasing complications and violence. The book captures the greyness of England, it is violent, Pinky is a truly vile character, believably delineated.

Being Dead by Jim Crace - Zoologists, Jospeh and Celice, return to the fictional beach in England, where they first made love more than thirty years before. But this visit comes with a very high price. The couple are brutally and senselessly murdered on this strip of beach by a psychopath killer. Their deaths come at the beginning of the book and are the very incident upon which all others turn.

Friday, 3 May 2013

The Bookseller of Kabul - A Guest Review

The Bookseller of Kabul  by Åsne Seierstad

The review can now be found on the new TripFiction site here