Tag: Richard Holmes

The American Lover by Rose Tremain

Posted March 18, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Short Stories / 2 Comments

The American Lover by Rose TremainTitle: The American Lover (Goodreads)
Author: Rose Tremain
Published: Chatto & Windus, 2014
Pages: 240
Genres: Short Stories
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Rose Tremain is a name I have heard so often but never had the chance to read on of her books; in fact her name is familiar but I couldn’t tell you anything about her books. She has published thirteen novels including The Road Home (which won the Orange Prize in 2008) and Music and Silence (winner of the Whitbread award in 1999). She taught creative writing at the University of East Anglia until she was appointed chancellor in 2013 and she is married to Romantic biographer Richard Holmes (not that her marriage affects her writing, just an interesting fact). She has also written five collections of short stories including her latest The American Lover.

While I sometimes struggle to read and review short story collections, I still wish to talk about them (just so I have a record). I picked up The American Lover because it mentioned a story about a famous Russian writer’s (story was inspired by Tolstoy’s life) final days living in a stationmaster’s cottage outside of Moscow. As most people know, I am a fan of Russian literature and books about Russia itself. When I looked at the author’s name, I was excited even more, it was a chance to finally dip into the writing style of Rose Tremain.

Without going into all the stories within the book, Tremain goes into some very interesting topics from transgressive love, sex, reflections of life and even a very unusual story about Daphne du Maurier. What I found in this collection is that Rose Tremain has a great ability to create characters and express emotions. There are some brilliantly dark and sometimes comical moments the she masterfully crafted into her stories. She has produced a collection centred around so many different emotions and skilfully managed to fit them into such short stories.

I really love the characters and emotions expressed in these stories and really makes me want to experience Rose Tremain’s style in long form. However I am not sure which novel to start with and would love some recommendations. The American Lover was a brilliant way to dip into Tremain’s writing and I am so glad to have finally had a chance to do so. If her writing abilities work just as well in her novels, she may have found a new fan.


A Treacherous Likeness by Lynn Shepherd

Posted April 24, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime, Historical Fiction / 5 Comments

A Treacherous Likeness by Lynn ShepherdTitle: A Treacherous Likeness (Goodreads)
Author: Lynn Shepherd
Published: Corsair, 2013
Pages: 336
Genres: Crime, Historical Fiction
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

In 1850, a young detective takes on a new case unlike anything seen before; Charles Maddox’s client is the surviving son of Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Shelley. Maddox has to track down some papers concerning the Shelleys that could be used for blackmail and ruin their literary legacy. This will take him into investigating the dark lives of not just Percy Bysshe Shelley but all the young Romantics and question the cause of death for Shelley’s first wife, Harriet.

This was a really difficult book to review but I will try hard to be fair and explore the two contradicting opinions I have about this book. First of all, I read this book with not much knowledge of the Romantics; I knew basics but I hadn’t explored them as much as I would have liked. I’ve been a fan of this literary movement even since the start of my reading life and most of you know that Frankenstein remains my favourite novel of all time. So when I heard about this book, I knew I wanted to read it.

Reading the book, I found it interesting; the writing style really reminded me of the time. Yet at times I felt like the writing was trying to reflect the time and sometimes it just did not feel right. I found myself rereading paragraphs trying to pick up what bothered me about them. I never really found the problem, I do not even think it was the writing that was my problem but more of the tone, but more on that later. When it comes to the mystery, everything felt pretty straightforward, piece by piece slowly revealed until the reader finally knows what was going on.

While I did have some problems with the book, all in all I was enjoying the book and would give it a rating of three stars, maybe three and a half. I didn’t find out much about the protagonist Charles Maddox as I would have liked but this could be because this detective appears in Lynn Shepherd’s other novel Tom-All-Alone. If I had read this book first I might have a different opinion towards Maddox. Which brings me to my problems; A Treacherous Likeness would have been a decent novel if it wasn’t using literary legends. This book made me want to explore more about the Romantic Movement, to its credit, but this was also its downfall.

After finishing this novel, I’ve been dipping in and out of three different books; The Monsters: Mary Shelley and the Curse of Frankenstein by Dorothy & Thomas Hoobler; Young Romantics: The Tangled Lives of English Poetry’s Greatest Generation by Daisy Hay; and Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer by Richard Holmes. All these Non-Fiction books are vastly different but I picked them to get more of an insight on the lives of the Shelleys. Now the Romantics are wonderfully complex people with equally complex relationships and I don’t understand what their lives were like but the creative licence this author took in A Treacherous Likeness to weave this story through only leads me to think one thing. With all I’ve learnt about Percy Bysshe Shelley and the others I’ve come to the conclusion that Lynn Shepherd mustn’t like them at all.

I’ve got more to learn about the lives of the great poets but after reading some of the non-fiction of the time and reflecting back on A Treacherous Likeness I can’t help thinking, while the author has excellent knowledge on these people there has to be hatred towards them as well. In A Treacherous Likeness there are the controversial statements of Mary Shelley not writing Frankenstein, killing her baby and with Percy Bysshe Shelley’s help pushing Harriett to suicide. While they have merit and we can’t be sure if these are true or not they still point towards a dislike of these people, Mary Shelley in particular. This could be the author’s attempt to weave her story through the facts and create this complex mystery; for me, after all the research it just comes across in a negative way.

I have a lot to learn about the Romantic Movement and I have to give A Treacherous Likeness credit for the re-spark in my interest in these people. I am not trying to be negative towards Lynn Shepherd; I think she has a great writing style and hope that she continues writing historical mysteries. I would prefer if it wasn’t based on real people because when it comes to the Romantics and Mary Shelley, I still adore them and don’t like to read anything that paints them in a horrible light. Sure they were not the nicest people, they made many mistakes but we can’t deny what they did for literature. I think I will have to try Tom-All-Alone one day just so I’m not judging this author on just one experience; her writing is worth reading, I just had some issues with this novel.


By the Book by Ramona Koval

Posted January 2, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Non-Fiction / 0 Comments

By the Book by Ramona KovalTitle: By the Book (Goodreads)
Author: Ramona Koval
Published: Text, 2012
Pages: 239
Genres: Non-Fiction
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: Book Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Ramona Koval’s By the Book: A Reader’s Guide to Life is a memoir of the author’s reading journal. From her mother’s influences to her first library card all the way though to her career as a literary journalist. Ramona Koval writes this as a love story to the books that have influenced her life and career.

Not only is this book very easy to read, it might even offer some interesting titles for you to read. I know my ‘to read’ list suffered especially with the introduction to Richard Holmes; I’ve now added a heap of his books to my wish list. I almost read this in a sitting and I would’ve if I didn’t have to go to bed. I was drawn to Kaval’s literary journey and the reasoning behind reading some of the books.

It might be just me but I find people’s reading histories really interesting and give me a little confidence in my own journey. Personally I think I have an interesting journey and this book as inspired me to document it in better detail. I’ve started to build a slight obsession with memoirs about people’s reading history’s having recently read Books: A Memoir by Larry McMurtry and moving onto Through the Window by Julian Barnes after finishing this one. I have asked my readers for recommendations similar to these books in a recent blog post so I hope to read many more memoirs of bibliophiles.

By the Book is an entertaining read with some real gems; like borrowing Kafka from a library at a very young age and asking her mother to buy her a copy of the Kama Sutra. By the Book is not only an entertaining reading journey but hopefully it will inspire reader to share their own history with the world; I know I would like to read about them. It might be just my love of books and books about books but I really enjoyed this biography and recommend it to all serious readers.