(Where Chloe focuses more on the books than the author, and isn’t quite as academic as Myles).
There are a few big names that come to mind when one considers vampire fiction. Anne Rice is one of the biggest—at least, I definitely think she should rate higher than Stephenie Meyer. Rice’s work is prolific, and there are stages to it which might be tricky to navigate if you’re just picking it up. There are the vampires, of course. There are the witches. More recently, there are the werewolves. And let’s not forget the erotica!
- Interview with the Vampire – This is what Rice is best known for, and not just because it was adapted into a film starring Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise. Set in sultry New Orleans, Interview with the Vampire follows the story of Louis de Point du Lac as he tells it to an intrepid journalist whose name we are not told until later on in the Chronicles. Louis was an aristocrat, turned into a vampire by the salacious Lestat de Lioncourt. What Rice captures best are the emotions exhibited by these creatures who experience everything with heightened senses. Their love of music and of art is especially profound, and written with such richness that you feel as if you, the reader, are right there experiencing the same awe and wonderment. If you are new to Anne Rice, start here! Move on to The Vampire Lestat, then Queen of the Damned. Other notable chronicles (that do not need to be read in order) are Blood and Gold, Pandora, and Vittorio.
- The Lives of the Mayfair Witches – In this trilogy, Rice explores the lives of the witches that make cameo appearances in the above vampire chronicles. The research is accurate, and the witches are as intriguing and beautiful as the vampires. Within this trilogy, creatures called Taltos are introduced; born fully grown, the Taltos are willowy and fragile, and can only eat and drink things that are white. While reading Lasher and Taltos (the second and third books) I found myself consuming more milk than I had in my entire life thus far. This is how suggestive Rice’s writing is—you want the things that she is describing. I am almost certain my love of Cognac was born from these books, too. If you’re into witches, start with The Witching Hour.
- Cry to Heaven – Another thing that Rice does very well is historical fiction. Where her vampires and witches are threaded through with beautiful historical landscapes, they are not all set steadfastly in one place. Cry to Heaven is set in eighteenth-century Italy, where boys were castrated to preserve their singing voices. They were called the Castrati. Part political thriller, part drama, Cry to Heaven is a blissfully melancholic novel that perfectly captures the transcendence that music can inspire. Violin is another standalone novel with similar musical themes, though set in modern day New Orleans.
- Servant of the Bones – Yet another novel rife with historical splendour, Servant of the Bones is a prelude to Rice’s later foray into religion (Christ the Lord, Angel Time, and Of Love and Evil – none as good as the earlier work). It follows Azriel, who does not know whether he is a ghost, an angel, or a demon. He is bound to serve whoever is in ownership of the gold-encased bones of his moral body, denied entry to heaven, and forced into immortality – summoned only when he is needed. As with many of Rice’s novels, Azriel’s story is told by a fireside—it is long and meandering, and though it cn feel disjointed, sometimes, it still transports the reader solidly to another time and place.
- The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty – L. James is hardly a groundbreaking author. Other authors got there first, including Anne Rice. Writing under the pseudonym A.N. Roquelaure, The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty is the first in a series of erotic novels that twist common fairytales into something raunchy and vaguely disturbing. The series starts with the waking of Sleeping Beauty. A prince has kissed her on the lips, and she believes she’ll be married to him, and made Queen. Instead, she is taken to his kingdom where she is forced to become a sexual slave, and the Prince is her master. She is not the only one. There are other slaves, too, all kidnapped princes and princesses. If they misbehave, they are punished. And if they do well, they are rewarded. The trilogy has recently been re-released in one hardcover edition following the recent trend in erotic fiction.
1) “Courting Trouble,” Kathy Lette
2) “Brother of the More Famous Jack,” Barbara Trapido
3) “Forever Young,” Steven Carroll
4) “The Girl on the Train,” Paula Hawkins
5) “The Children Act,” Ian McEwan
6) “All the Light We Cannot See,” Anthony Doerr
7) “The Adventures of Holly White and the Incredible Sex Machine,” Krissy Kneen
8) “How to be Both,” Ali Smith
9) “The Green Road,” Anne Enright
10) “We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves,” Karen Joy Fowler
With the female contingent of the shop away at last week’s Women of the World Festival, it seemed appropriate that our first author spotlight be on a fiercely gifted lady. Each month a different staff member will be posting a profile of one of their all-time favourite writers, giving you a chance to familiarise yourself with their work.
Siri Hustvedt has five novels, two essay collections, a book of poetry and several nonfiction works under her belt- and yet somehow, at age 60, has remained one of literature’s best kept secrets. Hustvedt’s work is often characterised by intensive psychological studies, exploring the boundaries between male and female, love and betrayal, sanity and madness.
From her debut novel, The Blindfold, her ability for blending genres into unpredictable metafictions evident, and has only become more refined as her career has progressed. With the epic What I Loved, she excels in developing her characters through the recreation of their scholarly milieu, only to show with devastating effect that their intellectual pretensions are no defence against human tragedy. And in her latest, The Blazing World, she blurs the lines between reality and fiction to create one of the more dizzyingly clever and bitingly angry novels in recent memory.
It’s sometimes said that Hustvedt’s writing is excessively brainy, but when it comes to books that are smart, insightful, and immensely rewarding, Hustvedt’s up there with Margaret Atwood and Zadie Smith. Take a look at our picks for her five best books (if any of them take your fancy, you can click on the links to our online store!):
- “The Blazing World:” Following Harriet Burden, an ageing and underappreciated artist, Hustvedt’s Man Booker longlisted novel infuses a classic thriller with intellectual rigour.
- “What I Loved:” Chronicling the lifelong friendship between two men, Hustvedt creates an indelible portrait of New York in the latter part of the twentieth century.
- “A Plea for Eros:” Hustvedt’s collection of essays scrutinises love, gender and origin, with her piece on September 11 a profoundly moving highlight.
- “The Summer Without Men:” In rare comedic mode, this slender novel showcases Hustvedt’s ability to examine femininity and sisterhood in a way that is refreshingly devoid of cliché.
- “The Blindfold:” In her debut novel, Hustvedt pieces together a fractured narrative and composes a terrifying study of psychological unrest.
Keep an eye on the blog for recommendations from our other staff members! -Myles
Carroll’s fifth novel in the ‘Glenroy’ series follows a period of change not just for the characters, but for the nation as a whole. Set against the backdrop of Whitlam’s final weeks in office, we observe the lives of five individuals – whose stories are subtly interwoven. As radicals become conservative and relationships break down, Carroll insights that all too familiar yearning within each character; a yearning for the past, for a ‘simpler time.’
As someone who lacks experience of Australian life in the seventies, I could nevertheless understand the reflection that these characters undergo. The notion of longing for a past self is an attractive one for many, which is in part why this book is so relatable. We can appreciate these characters’ journeys because we can recognise ourselves in them.
In writing this, I am reminded of Joan Didion’s thoughts on self-reflection: “We are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find the attractive company or not.” In ‘Forever Young,’ Carroll explores the passage of time and of our yearning for the people we used to be – a profoundly moving work.
Don’t forget, we’ll be hosting an event with Steven Carroll in the shop this Tuesday, so make sure to book your tickets online or in-store.
From Pulitzer Prize-Winners to Pretty-Much-Porn, here’s what our readers have been getting around this week.
1) “All The Light We Cannot See,” Anthony Doerr
2) “Grey,” E.L. James
3) “Forever Young,” Steven Carroll
4) “Brother of the More Famous Jack,” Barbara Trapido
5) “How to be Both,” Ali Smith
6) “The Children Act,” Ian McEwan
7) “The Buried Giant,” Kazuo Ishiguro
8) “A God in Ruins,” Kate Atkinson
9) “Big Little Lies,” Liane Moriarty
10) “A History of Loneliness,” John Boyne
If you’re after one of those couldn’t-put-it-down, totally-didn’t-see-that-twist-coming reads then look no further. Perfect for book clubs, there is a lot to discuss here. Rosemary’s sister, who is the same age as her but not her twin, was sent away when they were both five years old. As an adult she yearns for her long lost sibling and is determined to find out what really happened back then and what has become of her other half. Fowler cleverly explores controversial themes of family psychology and the relationship between humans and animals with wit and humour. It was no surprise to see her start popping up on awards lists, including last years’ Man Booker Shortlist.
It is quite a special thing to have books recommended to me with great enthusiasm by friends and colleagues, other lovers of books and writing.
The recommendations for Boyne’s latest book could not be denied and so I began reading with a sense of some anticipation. If you have read the The Boy In Striped Pyjamas you will already be familiar with Boyne’s ability to write seriously hefty moments into his stories. This book has a similar impact and reminds us of the mighty power of an author to throw light on big issues.
In this case the issues are to do with paedophilia, religion, abuse of power, friendship and trust. It is resolutely an Irish story. I found myself grateful that an author of Boyne’s talents was able to tackle this subject with such courage, non gratuitously and in beautiful prose. I even wondered whether Boyne had some influence (either subtle or overt) on the Irish government’s decision to legalise same sex marriage.
Either way, this is a powerful story about Ireland the Catholic Church which is strangely gentle and deeply angry, and I keep on, keep on thinking about it.
And by the way….
Did you know that John Boyne was in pretty fine company at East Anglia University where he studied Creative Writing? Other graduates from UEA include Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro, Rose Tremain and Anne Enright.