November 2017 Snapshot

This time last year I was nervously awaiting my first radiotherapy session, with all the dire warnings of the side effects ringing in my ears. Fortunately apart from tiredness brought on by having to do the trek to the hospital every day and hang around until the staff judged I’d drunk enough liquid, I suffered no ill effects. Twelve months on, with four rounds of surgery and a broken arm bone dealt with,  I’m back in the gym and have started up a little walking group in my village. We had 80 people show interest initially but they’ve gradually fallen by the wayside as the weather has become more fickle and it gets darker earlier every week. We have a core group now that is determined to keep going even if some days we will have to wear head torches….

Even more exciting is that we have a holiday booked. First one in two years. Hooray. So in about 10 days I’ll be heading for South Africa in search of some much needed sunshine, relaxation, good food and of course the odd glass of wine. I’ve already started fretting about what books I’ll take — honestly this is far more stressful than deciding what clothes/shoes etc I should pack. I’m not alone it seems — Tom who blogs at solved his problem by counting the number of pages in each book on his list of possibles, weighing them and then using some formula to work out what would give him the best return. Now that’s dedication! I can’t be doing with that amount of effort myself. I’m planning on taking just three ‘real’ books, all of which I would be happy to leave behind when I’m done. I’ll have my e reader as well and I may even find my way to a local bookshop or two in search of some African authors.

But that’s all in the future. This post is meant to capture what I was reading/watching/ about to read when the page of the calendar turned to November 1, 2017.

Reading now

how late it wasRight after finishing my 44th Booker Prize winner —Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre (reviewed here)    — I picked up another Booker winner that has greatly divided opinion over the years. How Late it Was How Late by James Kelman won the prize in 1994. It’s told in a stream of consciousness style using what can be called ‘fruity’ Glaswegian language. The high expletive count and the strong working voice and vocabulary meant it was given a less than rapturous reception when it was published.  One columnist accused Kelman of “literary vandalism” and little more than the transcript of a rambling, drunk. It does ramble admittedly but it’s not surprising since the protagonist is an ex-con by the name of Sammy who wakes in an alleyway one Sunday morning to find he is wearing another man’s shoes. He tries to piece together the details of a two-day drinking binge. After getting into a  scrap with some plain clothes police officers and taken into custody he recovers to find he is completely blind. That’s as far as I’ve got – not the most cheery of subjects is it? It’s not difficult to read. In fact I was surprised to find how few pages it took before I was able to latch on to the rhythm and flow of Sammy’s voice.

snow sistersThis is a novel best read in small chunks it seems so as a contrast I’ve been reading Carole Lovekin’s recently published Snow Sisters. It will be the first of her books that I’ve read and I chose it as part of my interest in promoting authors and publishers from Wales. I don’t go a bundle on ghostly fiction so the plot device of a voice from the past that begins to haunt two sisters in their home in Wales doesn’t interest me that  as much as the relationship between the sisters and with their distracted artist mother. The publishers Honno have chosen a stunning image for the cover by the way.



Thinking of reading next…

I have some other books by Welsh authors that I was hoping to read before November 11th when the Wales Book of the Year prize is announced. Unfortunately the plan went awry because I got distracted by the #1968club project recently for which I read Chocky by John Wyndham (see the review here) and Agatha Christie’s By the Pricking of My Thumbs. So it’s unlikely I’ll read all three shortlisted fiction titles. I’ll probably start with Cove by Cynan Jones who is the best known name to make it to the shortlist. It’s his fifth novel.

The state of my personal library

One of my goals for 2017 is to enjoy the books I already own and to reign back on acquiring yet more. I started 2017 with 318 unread books.  A splurge last month has done a bit of damage but not too bad since  the trend is still downward overall — I’m now at 288. I just have to watch out for the sale in the library that begins tomorrow.


One of the plus sides of autumn is that the broadcasters always come out with their new productions and series. Sadly the Great British Bake Off has now finished for another year. Maybe it’s just as well because watching it leaves me feeling very inadequate when I compare the contestants’ creations to my own feeble efforts. Talking of inadequacy, have any of you been watching the latest run of The Apprentice? The quality of contestants has been going downhill steadily for a few years now but I think they’ve reached rock bottom with this lot. They’re absolutely useless and I wouldn’t let them near a market stall let alone a business.

Recently I watched Gunpowder which was an account of the true-life plot by disaffected Catholics in the seventeenth century to bring down the King that we Brits mark every November 5 with fireworks and bonfires. It’s quite a brutal, no holds barred treatment. The first thirty minutes brought us that most gruesome form of execution where the guilty party ( a young priest) was hanged (almost to the point of death), emasculated, disembowelled, beheaded, and quartered (chopped into four pieces). Before that we saw a less common form of death, called Peine forte et dure (translated as “hard and forceful punishment”), where the accused is subjected to heavy weights placed on their chest, effectively crushing them to death. The sofa cushions came in handy more than once I confess. Sadly the main issue with the series wasn’t the level of violence (though thats been a source of much criticism) but the fact that the conspirators began to look more like catwalk models with judicious splodges of mud for effect, than desperados. Roll on the next series of Netflix’s superb The Queen, for historical accuracy and superb acting.

And that is it for this month. My next post in this series will be coming to you from the sunny climes of Cape Town. Until then, happy reading everyone.

About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on November 5, 2017, in 2017 goals, Bookends, TBR list, Welsh authors and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 34 Comments.

  1. Glad to hear your health is on the up 🙂 and I love the walking group! I need walking to keep me sane! There is a similar situation with a group here, I’d pass a huge crowd going about the lanes and woods in the summer, but now it’s the just the hardy ones I see, peering out from hoods as we pass the time of day 🙂

    • Its going to get harder to keep motivated as the nights get darker earlier. This week by the time we got on the return stretch we couldnt see where we were putting our feet.

  2. Sounds like lots of good news. Enjoy your SA holiday

    • Thanks Bryan. I’m certainly going to do my best to enjoy it

      • I had throat cancer (Life-time non-smoker) in 96 with radiation. Then I lost a lung in 2009 followed by chemo (Horrid). I’m fine (for now) and would just like to say, if you have a good mind set, it’s half the battle. In 12 months it’ll be forgotten. Getting better is a wonderful feeling. Enjoy that holiday.

        • Couldnt agree more Bryan, the attitude is so important. I decided from the beginning I wasn’t going to give in to it and take to my sofa like some Victorian lady

  3. I can recommend Cove, so I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. And I think you’re wise only to take 3 books with you on your holiday. I can never resist trying to find local authors’ books wherever I travel, so try and leave some room in my bags to bring them home.

  4. So much good news here, Karen! I sympathise with the book packing problem. I like to check what my partner’s taking so that I can filch one of his if I run out. I’d also echo Guy’s comment about Norskov which is excellent so far although torture may rear it’s head there, too, if bikers appear on the scene. I’ve learned to take that as a warning with Scandinavian TV

  5. What a difference a year makes 🙂

    Enjoy the holiday planning – I often think I enjoy the planning as much as the holiday itself.

    • Thats true – I have learned over the years though not to plan too much or I get complaints from the OH that we are meant to be relaxing and not be on a quest

  6. Glad your health is on the up – have a great holiday! E-readers are definitely the answer to leaving enough room in the case to bring a few extras home… 🙂

    • I don’t get as much enjoyment out of the e versions but they certainly help with the issue of too much weight in the case and not enough room for an extra pair of shoes

  7. Yeah those scenes of torture get to you. I saw one years ago (can’t remember the programme now) and it made the whole hung, drawn and quartered things really hit home for the first time–even though we’d heard of it in history lessons before.
    Currently watching Norskov, a Danish crime programme which is excellent.
    Have a great holiday.

  8. I’m so glad you’re feeling well enough now to take yourself away. Have a wonderful time. A friend of mine solved the holiday book problem by taking secondhand paper backs and tearing out the pages as she read them. Not certain I could bring myself to do that. Your reader has to be the answer. Another friend of mine whose job can take her anywhere in the world and frequently does, never moves without hers.

    • Oh no way could I do that, it would be desecration and I would feel guilty at doing that in certain countries where people can’t afford to buy novels and here I am willfully destroying them.

  9. Glad to hear you are doing well health-wise Karen, enjoy that well deserved holiday.

  10. I am glad you are now ready to travel, and are deciding on your books. I take my Kindle with me, which makes choosing so much easier.

    Snow Sisters looks like a good book!

    • Its going to be even easier this year since I bought a smaller iPad (the older version was so heavy). Problem now though is that the iPad is useless for reading in daylight. So do I take that and know I can use it for emails etc but not for reading OR do I also take the Kindle….Oh dilemma

  11. Sorry for distracting you with 1968! And have a wonderful holiday! 🙂

  12. A most interesting post! Your adventures as a reader appeal to me, since that is essentially what I am at this point in my life. As for watching, I recommend the Netflix adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace. It fairly insinuates itself into one’s consciousness, just the way the novel did, at least for me.

    • I was astounded to read articles recently on how the handmaid’s cloak was the trendy item to wear for Halloween parties. Did these people not know the book and understand the meaning of the costume? Thanks for the nudge towards Alias Grace – I loved the book though its many years since I read it

  13. Not sure what your position is on e-readers, but one of the joys of these is that you can take LOADS of books, and if you don’t fancy any of them or manage to read them all, you can download more wherever you are. I find they are particularly great for short stories, as well as ‘complete works’ of various 19th-century authors. It would take some time to read all of Trollope!

    In the early noughties I used to do a fair bit of overseas business travel, and agonised over which books and how many to take, usually ending up with a very heavy case because I couldn’t bear the prospect of running out of reading material. These days, I take a Kindle. Wish they had been around at the time.

    Sounds like you’ve achieved a lot in 2017. Have a great trip – you’ve earned it!

  14. Enjoy planning your holiday — including what books to take! You’ve made a nice dent in the unread books you own. I have an awful feeling I have more now than I started the year with.

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