THE LITTLE BOOKS

One of my favourite outings as a young girl was just an hours drive from home.

Nestled in a valley on the West Yorkshire moors, Haworth is an idyllic village, always bustling with visitors. On the top of the Main Street, a misnomer for the rambling cobbled lane, was the house of our regular pilgrimage. The Parsonage was for over forty years the home to Patrick Brontë and his family and later turned into a museum.

In silenced awe, I wandered around the rooms in which they lived, worked, wrote. I gasped at the exhibits, incredible to believe these were their actual writings. The rooms used by the Brontë family are largely unchanged and filled with a collection of furniture, clothes and personal possessions. One display particularly held me in reverential hush … the little books! Absolutely tiny – each the size of a small matchbox! How could they fit so much in these!

One set was produced by Charlotte Brontë in 1830 for her toy soldiers and featured an imaginary world created by the family called Glass Town. Aged 14 she wrote six (all sequenced) of these little books called “The Young Men’s Magazine”. They all included stories and advertisements in Charlotte’s own hand. Today five are still in existence, of which until recently the Brontë Society held four. Earlier this week they acquired the fifth through fundraising for the price of £666,790:- (approx. $860,825:-)

Over 1,000 people pledged money to help buy the book, including the illustrious and gifted actress, Judi Dench. Born in York, she is president of the Brontë Society and she captures the inherent spirit of the books perfectly.

“These tiny manuscripts are like a magical doorway into the imaginary worlds they inhabited, and also hint at their ambition to become published authors.”

Now living in the South East of England my journey to the Brontë Parsonage will take over five hours, yet this is a visit I look forward to making next year. Once there I imagine the young me and present me reunited as we stand in awed respect, admiring all five of the little books, in wonder at these young minds and hearts set on writing!

Note: All photos from Google.

YOUR BOOK BY DECREE

The British Library wants my book! It’s official! There again they want a copy of every newly published work; be it a book, manuscript or music score.

It was only recently I learned that this esteemed institution requires publishers, by law, to forward a copy of any new publications. Legal Deposit was established in 1662 and since 2013, it now includes digital as well as print publications. Publishers, which also means authors who self-publish, must send their book to the British Library.

The King’s Library

What exactly is Legal Deposit:

“The legal deposit libraries work together to ensure the long term preservation of UK publications, both in print and digital form. They are collected systematically. They ensure that publications are held securely and that they can be discovered and accessed by readers within the legal deposit libraries as well as being preserved for the use of future generations.”

With pride, I pop a copy of “The Storyteller Speaks” in the post to them. I imagine it joining the 170 million items there. These are stored on shelving stretching on 746 km over fourteen floors.

The present British Library at St. Pancreas was only completed towards the end of the last century and it’s a building of beauty and function.

Humanities Reading Room

It is home to eleven reading rooms including ones for Rare Books, Manuscripts and Maps! Amongst its collections are materials ranging from Magna Carta to Leonardo da Vinci’s Notebook, from today’s newspapers to websites. For those interested in music there are over seven million recordings from 19th-century wax cylinders recordings to CDs.

Furthermore, a separate building on a 44-acre site in Boston Spa in Yorkshire houses around 70% of the Library’s print collection which accounts for over 80 million items.

Legal deposit is not restricted to only the British Library in London. A further five national libraries can insist on copies being forwarded by the publishers to them. These are the National Libraries of Scotland, Wales and Trinity College Dublin, as well as Cambridge University Library and Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

Have you heard of Legal Deposit before? Have you sent your book to the British Library? For readers not in the UK, I wonder if there is a similar requirement in your county? Can’t wait to find out more from you all!

SEA PRAYER: A Book Review

On 2nd September 2015 an image flashed around the world that saddened and horrified us all. A young boy, later identified as Alan Kurdi, lay motionless on a pristine beach in Turkey, the dawn sun glowing around him. He was dead. During his three young years he knew only war in Syria; a war his parents fled to find safety. The photo of Alan touched everyone and inspired, nay, I would say, drove one famous writer to pen a short book, Sea Prayer.

Within Khaled Hosseini’s Sea Prayer the words and illustrations are intrinsically linked, creating a wondrous work of art.

The first page starts as a letter (quasi-eulogy) to the narrator’s son, Marwan, and it recalls the beauty of life in Homs. The father describes his childhood when he had woken “to the stirrings of olive trees in the breeze/to the bleating of your grandmother’s goat”.

Tender, colourful watercolours by Dan Williams accompany the story. On one page the vibrant red of poppies match the red of his wife’s coat, as she holds her son’s hand wandering through a field.

It’s a time of peace, tranquillity, harmony. In the old city there was “a mosque for us Muslims,/a church for our Christian neighbours,/and a grand souk for us all”.

Soon this life of normality is transformed into one “like some long-dissolved rumour”.

As war approaches the watercolours darken, greys, blacks, browns dominate. These are more powerful than ever, conveying the despair and sense of hopelessness. As the illustrations change, so does the language for a few pages, the short staccato sentences echoing the weapons.

“The skies spitting bombs.
Starvation.
Burials.”

Marwan’s childhood is one where he has learned “dark blood is better news/than bright.” His bathing places are not the idyllic creeks of his father’s youth, rather that of bomb craters. This is not a childhood.

As the family join thousands of other refugees fleeing their country I find myself physically pained, the long march pictured across two pages, no words necessary.

Father and son find themselves on a beach with many others where they stand “in the glow of this three-quarter moon”. Here the father makes his promise: “Nothing bad will happen.”

A hollow promise as the father recognises more than ever “How powerless I am to protect you from it.”

The book ends with the beauty of sunlight across a soft morning beach. A new day, a new beginning, new hope.

Three certainties not afforded to all.

This is a book I’ve read many times, each occasion more tear-eyed than before. It is beautiful, heartbreaking, emotional. It is a testament to the human spirit, to love and compassion within every one of us.

Throughout Khaled Hosseini writes with flair and skill, the poetic prose magically drawing the reader into the story. It’s deceptively simple, almost a lullaby in the gentlest of tones telling the cruellest of truths.

If you come to Sea Prayer expecting a lengthy literary novel such as his brilliant The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns or And The Mountains Echoed you will probably be disappointed.

If you expect to catch the sublime gifted language and story to remember for all time by this renowned author, you are in for a treat.

This is a book that crosses all genres, it’s for children, for adults, for humanity — it’s a precious gift to hold it within one’s hands and heart. Everyone who reads it will be, as I was, humbled by its message told on behalf of all refugees who endure so much but whose voices are seldom heard.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars.

AVAILABLE: From bookshops, libraries, online such as Amazon UK and Amazon US

PUBLISHER: Bloomsbury Books

BOOKS AHOY!

I never imagined the evening would end up with me making a paper boat. 

‘It’s quite easy,’ one of the organisers reassured, ‘just fold like this.’ 

With intense concentration I looked on, thinking the little boat was the perfect symbol for this year’s Essex Book Festival. The theme was ‘Uncharted Waters’, inspired in part by the 80th anniversary of Arthur Ransome’s ‘Secret Water’. 

Wow! How far I’ve travelled this March —to India and back as well as to the 19th Century! All whilst remaining firmly seated, listening eagerly to authors!

A L Kennedy (left) with Festival Director, Ros Green

In January I was lucky enough to be invited by my friend & children’s author Josie Dom to the media launch of the festival. I was thoroughly inspired by the event and speakers including the renowned patron of the festival A. L. Kennedy. A winner of many awards including the Costa Book, A. L. Kennedy had me spellbound with her talk. Afterwards I found myself standing next to her but was overcome with shyness and utterly speechless!

The figures for the book festival are staggering. In this, its 20th years of existence, it is the biggest in the country, with over 130 events at 45 venues. The variety of events is amazing with such innovative interactive experiences as The Human Library, numerous writing workshops for all ages, storytelling, poetry jukebox as well as a host of author talks/interviews.

I went to a number of author talks and will feature two of these here. Each one was unique, exhilarating and thoroughly enjoyable! My first impression was how well-attended these all were; filled to capacity with lots of engagement with questions and discussion. In a world where we worry the population is reading less and less, I found the active and informed participation by the audience a postive sign that the love of books is well and truly alive!

The first talk I attended was by Vaseem Khan and I was intrigued how an elephant fits into a crime story. The author of ‘Baby Ganesh Detective Agency’ books, Vaseem spoke eloquently and passionately about his own route to writing. Born near London and an avid cricketer, his work took him to India twenty years ago and it is here he started to write. 

It was with the creation of Inspector Copra that he found an agent and quickly a publisher. He weaves the wealth and poverty of modern India brilliantly into his novels, and in this knowledgeable talk I learnt a lot about the country from 3000 years ago to the 21st century. Vaseem was inspired by his father (who sadly had passed away just ten days earlier), who, when faced with difficult situations, said: ‘To change the narrative.’ Vaseem has done exactly that with this unusual series of books set in India, refusing to depict the Bollywood image nor the stereotype ‘happy slum dwellers’. It is hard to believe that these books are written early in the mornings before Vaseem starts his full-time job as a management consultant. A meticulous planner, Vaseem Khan sets aside three months for planning each novel before spending another four months to write it.

I was smitten by the talk and the books and although I didn’t have time to buy a book on the day I did download the first in the series entitled ‘The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra’. I’ve just finished reading this. It’s thoroughly immersive and captivating (and my heart was definitely with the elephant!). This book definitely deserves the accolade of being in the vein of the hugely successful (and loved by me) Alexander McCall Smith’s ‘No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency’ series.

Below is the blurb for ‘The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra’.

‘On the day he retires, Inspector Ashwin Chopra discovers that he has inherited an elephant: an unlikely gift that could not be more inconvenient. For Chopra has one last case to solve…

But as his murder investigation leads him across Mumbai – from its richest mansions to its murky underworld – he quickly discovers that a baby elephant may be exactly what an honest man needs. 

So begins the start of a quite unexpected partnership, and an utterly delightful new series.’

The next talk featured Bridget Collins, a full-time author who has already published seven YA fiction books. However, she decided to venture into unknown territory with her book ‘The Binding’ which quickly became a Sunday Times bestseller. At the time of writing, Bridget was unsure which market the book would suit; on completion her agent liked the book and advised her to rewrite it for the adult fiction market. The book winds the author’s interest in bookbinding with that of her work in the Samaritans and at its core is its exploration of memory. It sounds spellbinding and mesmerising!

Having trained as an actor at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Bridget Collins has a freerer approach to her books – with the main concept and theme in place she is amenable to being led by the characters or situations in her books.

The presentation of the book is stunning with its sumptuous paper cover, ex libris page, gold foil on the spine and hardback. This is a book that looks almost too beautiful to read. My signed copy has pride of place on my bookshelf and I can’t wait to read it.

Here is the blurb:

“Emmett Farmer is working in the fields when a letter arrives summoning him to begin an apprenticeship. He will work for a Bookbinder, a vocation that arouses fear, superstition and prejudice – but one neither he nor his parents can afford to refuse.

He will learn to hand-craft beautiful volumes, and within each he will capture something unique and extraordinary: a memory. If there’s something you want to forget, he can help. If there’s something you need to erase, he can assist. Your past will be stored safely in a book and you will never remember your secret, however terrible.

In a vault under his mentor’s workshop, row upon row of books – and memories – are meticulously stored and recorded.

Then one day Emmett makes an astonishing discovery: one of them has his name on it.”

Finally, as regards the origami boats, the Essex Book Festival has pledged 1,000 of these to charity for visitors to inscribe with their personal message of love and friendship … mine is still settled safely on my desk, waiting for the right moment to sail away, carrying its message afar!

As I am away on an Easter break at the moment I will not be able to reply or visit blogs as much as normally; please know I will catch up as soon as possible and always I look forward to discussions.

Elisabeth’s Lists: A Book Review

My signed copy of Elisabeth’s Lists: A Family Story by Lulah Ellender

There is a word in Japan for unread books left to pile up around one – tsundoku! I’m guilty of a few tsundoku collections of books; ones bought with well-meaning and tingling anticipation. Somehow they become unintentionally forgotten and lay precariously balanced with other books, dangling over the edge of shelves.

Often treasures of literature are hidden among these and this is the case for one such book which I recently extricated from a listing pile and eagerly I started to read the book.

‘Elisabeth’s Lists’ by Lulah Ellender is a gem! I was hooked from the very beginning and it is incredibly moving and thought-provoking.

The beautifully crafted book is an eloquent memoir based on the life of Lulah’s grandmother. A life recorded in meticulous detailed lists; lists which were entrusted to Lulah by her own mother. 

Elisabeth

The lists started during Elisabeth’s childhood whilst growing up in 1930s China. Just as her father was a diplomat, so was her husband, Gerry and her world travels continued into adulthood. The lists, many innocuous and of everyday items, included information about  packing, dinner parties, price of food and even the names of hens and number of eggs laid.  The lists are endless. A touching heirloom in their own right, they have been transformed into a moving and heartfelt book by Lulah. Her research and dedication are superlative and the end result is a sweeping and engrossing story of Elisabeth’s life.

Postings abroad included Madrid under Franco’s  regime, post-war Beirut and Rio. In sharp contrast Elisabeth endured the hardship and deprivation of bombings and food rationing in England during World War Two, whilst at the same time finding a certain peace and harmony as a normal suburban housewife, away from the hectic duties of a diplomat’s wife. Throughout the book the various eras are exquisitely captured and provide a vivid impression of the times.

It was not all a joyous time however, as occasional bouts of depression, some post-natal,  forced Elisabeth to seek medical care and time away from the family. Furthermore, a family tragedy darkened her life.

The author, Lulah Ellender

The book develops into a deeply profound study as Lulah weaves the threads of her own life and that of her mother into the memoir. The three generations of women effectively become the focus of this family story; their lives remarkably intertwined and the memoir gives not only insight and comfort about motherhood, family, and loss to Lulah but also to the reader. 

Even more heartbreaking and poignant is that the book is written whilst Lulah’s mother is terminally ill with the cancer; the very disease which killed Elisabeth when her daughter was only nine-years-old. As Lulah delves deeper into Elisabeth’s life she finds some solace and acceptance in her own life; a process which she describes with exceptional clarity and feeling.

As she must feel, I believe that without our past, our present is unclear, our future unnavigable.

To conclude, ’Elisabeth’s Lists’ is an enriching, gifted and rewarding book and one I highly recommend. 

I just want to add that I had the privilege of briefly meeting the author following a talk in March 2018 as part of Essex Book Festival. Her intelligence, warm and kind nature sparkled and she spoke with ease and confidence at great length without any notes whatsoever! 

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars.

AVAILABLE: From bookshops, libraries, online such as Amazon UK and Amazon US

Finally, if this book seems slightly familiar to you from my blog, I mentioned it briefly in May 2018 in my post Books in the Shingle.

The title page of ‘Elisabeth’s Lists’ with inscription to myself and signed by the author.

A LITERARY ROLL CALL

I thoroughly enjoyed the recent book discussion following my post ‘Reading Across Time’. Thank you for all your wonderful and fascinating suggestions of books to read for the various eras, particularly coming to my aid for pre 1300. 

As a list nerd, I’ve collated all the mentioned books as below for your enjoyment and perusal. I’ve also included who suggested the books and, when applicable, added links to their blogs. I feel lucky to have made so many warm and kind friends here on WordPress, happy to share their time and knowledge for an in-depth discourse. 

Please note that since this is a follow-up post comments have been turned off.

Pre 1300

Beowulf by Anonymous. Recommended by Dorothea & Julie Holmes

The Illiad by Homer. Recommended by Sharon Bonin-Pratt

The Odyssey by Homer. Sharon Bonin-Pratt

The Aeneid by Homer. Recommended by Sharon Bonin-Pratt

Edda by anonymous. Recommended by Miriam

The Emigrants by Vilhelm Moberg. Recommended by Miriam

Labyrinth by Kate Moss. Recommended by Andrea Stephenson

Hilary Mantel books. Recommended by Andrea Stephenson

Cadfael Novels by Ellis Peters. Recommended by Clive

The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell. Recommended by Mike

The Valley of Horses by Jean M Auel. Recommended by Jennifer Kelland Perry

The Greenest Branch: A Novel of Germany’s First Female Physician

by P K Adams. Recommended by Jena C. Henry

Born in a Treacherous Time by Jacqui. Recommended by Pamela Wight & Julie Holmes 

1300 – 1499

Decamaeron by Boccaccio. Recommended by Laura Bruno Lilly

1500 – 1699

The Bones of Avalon by Phil Rickman. Recommended by Andrea Stephenson

The Heresy of Dr Dee by Phil Rickman. Recommended by Andrea Stephenson

A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe. Recommended by Neil Scheinin

Passionate Minds by David Bodanis. Recommended by Rebecca

Don Quixote by Miguel De Cervantes. Recommended by Nicki Chen

1700 – 1799

Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao XueQin. Recommended by Nicki Chen

1800 – 1899

Sharpe novels by Bernard Cornwel. Recommended by Mike

Dostoyevsky novels by Dostoyevsky. Recommended by Jennifer Kelland Perry

Victorian Secrets 

read by Stephen Fry written by Oscar Wilde. Recommended by Rebecca

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Recommended by Khaya Ronkainen

My Heart is Boundless: Writings of Abigail May Alcott, Louisa’s Mother

by Eve LaPlante. Recommended by Bonnie A. McKeegan

1900 – 1919

The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport. Recommended by Rebecca

1920 – 1939

The Devil Aspect by Craig Russell. Reading

1940 – 1959

Youngblood Hawke by Herman Wouk. READ (Barbara & Jennifer)

Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis. Recommended by Rebecca

Elisabeth’s Lists by Lulah Ellender. READ

A Killer in King’s Cove by Iona Whishaw. Recommended by Debra Purdy Kong

1960 – 1979

1980 – 1999

Little Fires Everywhere  by Celeste Ng. READ (& Jennifer)

Becoming by Michelle Obama. Recommended by Nicki Chen

2000 – Present

This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay.  READ (& Mary Smith)

The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian. Recommended by Nicki Chen

The Waiting Room by Emily Bleeker. Recommended by Glynis Jolly

Whispers by Dean Koontz. Recommended by Glynis Jolly

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

by John Carreyrou. Recommended by Mary Ann Niemczura

Them by Ben Sasse. Recommended by Mary Ann Niemczura

Marlie by Anneli Purchase. Recommended by Lori Virelli

Watching the Daisies: Life Lessons on the Importance of Slow

by Brigid P Gallagher. Recommended by Bonnie A. McKeegan

Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found by Cheryl Strayed. Recommended by Bonnie A.McKeegan

The Future

Fantasy / Other Worlds (an excellent additional era suggestion from Pamela Wight)

Books by D. Wallace Peach. Recommended by Pamela Wight

Finally:

A couple suggested How to Stop Time by Matt Haig – which covers many of these eras. Recommended by Josie Dom & Mackay

Reading Across Time

I’ve never needed any encouragement to read books! When very young I recall looking at the pictures, longing to read the words beneath. Of course there were lots of children’s books, my favourite comic, all read to me. One set of four books though fascinated me, weighty tomes, even more so for four-year-old me, as I lugged the encyclopaedia, one at a time, from the shelf, to my bunk bed, and sat intensely perusing the images, running my fingers under the words, imagining their wisdom. Occasionally I would ask my  older brother to decipher some of the script … although I made sure never to avail myself of his help too often. I did not want to tire him with my neediness!

Over the years I’ve kept numerous notebooks of the books I’ve read,  made various lists, created my own small reading challenges. However, it was only though blogging that I discovered the plethora of reading challenges out there! All are wonderfully inventive and so tempting. However,  I’ve only taken up a main one so far, the Goodreads Reading Challenge. Here you set your own target for the number of books you hope to read in that one year and duly note each one down when finished and possibly add a review.  This challenge not only encourages more reading, but is accessible to other members to look at and it is also an excellent record of books read! My biggest haul one year was 91, the least 52. Still, I met my targets and it is interesting to see how the reading fluctuates. Some bloggers are a tour de force in this challenge and Jacqui Murray at worddreams… managed to read a phenomenal 222 books last year! Congratulations!

Some other challenges are centred around genre, or a famous book, or even the alphabet.

The ‘When Are You Reading?’ challenge intrigued me straight away by the concept of reading a book set in  twelve different eras. Not too ambitious, effectively a book a month, this is one I think I can manage. It’s not too difficult to discover a book for the later timelines and as you will see I am already well on the way to completing four time periods. However, what can I read for the pre-1300s 1400-1599, etc? The mind boggles. I may have to turn to Chaucer for one. Do you have any book recommendations to help me out for any of the eras? 

I learned about the challenge from Mary Smith at Mary Smith’s Place as she joined in for the first time this year. She had read about the challenge on ‘Taking on a World of Words’.

To take part you need to read a book set in each of the following eras, and it is up to you to determine which these are. The suggestion is to choose a year where the largest part of the action or the most important event occurs.

Below are the time eras and I have filled in some with the books I have read/nearly finished for four of the timelines. 

  • Pre 1300 
  • 1300 – 1499
  • 1500 – 1699
  • 1700 – 1799
  • 1800 – 1899
  • 1900 – 1919
  • 1920 – 1939 The Devil Aspect by Craig Russell… still reading – an Ebook – NetGalley
  • 1940 – 1959   Youngblood Hawke by Herman Wouk … still reading Ebook
  • 1960 – 1979
  • 1980 – 1999 Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (read January 2019) Paperback
  • 2000 – Present This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay  (read January 2019) Paperback
  • The Future

I must admit I rarely tackle four books simultaneously, however the books themselves are so diverse, and owing to the style and content ensured I needed a change of pace and variety.

The dark gothic mystery of ‘A Devil Aspect ‘ by Craig Russell is not my usual genre but asked by the publisher to review this on behalf of NetGalley I could not refuse. Set mainly in the 1930s in Czechoslovakia it is an intense, at times terrifying book. One far too frightening to read at night! Yet the ideas, the merging of the current political instability with the madness of the six homicidal lunatics is intoxicating.  These criminals are incarcerated in the bleakest of prisons and a young psychiatrist travels to see them and unravel their secrets. Meanwhile, in Prague a new serial murderer is at large, his crimes so barbaric it seems they could only be committed by the Devil himself. The city of Prague is incredibly atmospheric and captured in all its layers of beauty and darkness whilst the characters are vivd and intense. 

Many thanks to Barbara at Book Cub Mom for introducing me to ‘Youngblood Hawke’ by Herman Wouk; when it made her most favourite book ever I just had to read it. Do take a look at her review here.

It is a worthy literary opus and runs to nearly 800 pages in paperback. I’m finding it utterly compelling, wonderfully descriptive and the book reaches into the mind and emotions of the young writer, his early success, the crazy ensuing life, battle to control his sense of self. It recreates the era brilliantly but I need an occasional rest from it and hence my more modern books of the past two weeks.

One of these is ‘This is Going to Hurt’ by Adam Kay This a factual book about the ‘life of a junior doctor: 97-hour weeks, life and death decisions, a constant tsunami of bodily fluids, and the hospital parking meter earns more than you.’ I read this book in 24 hours and haven’t stopped talking about it since and there is now a queue in our house to read it next. Although at times hysterically funny the book is ultimately a serious indictment of the numerous governments and their (mis-)handling of the NHS over the years. I feel deep despair at the lack of respect and treatment of the medical staff from the highest level. Whilst laughing at the insanely comic situations (some in graphic detail) I am not sure anyone considering starting a family should read the book – it would have terrified me. Not for the faint-hearted but a very well-written book portraying the harsh reality for NHS hospital doctors.

“Tuesday, 5 July 2005 Trying to work out a seventy-year-old lady’s alcohol consumption to record in the notes. I’ve established that wine is her poison. Me: ‘And how much wine do you drink per day, would you say?’ Patient: ‘About three bottles on a good day.’ Me: ‘OK . . . And on a bad day?’ Patient: ‘On a bad day I only manage one.” 
― Adam Kay, ‘This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor’ 

What books are you currently reading? Are you participating in any Reading Challenges? Would you be tempted to take part in ‘When Are You Reading’ challenge? If so, please click here to learn more and sign up!


Books by Annika Perry

TSS_Kindl_300dpiTHE STORYTELLER SPEAKS

It only takes one event to change a life. What is that action, decision, occurrence? Whose life is affected? Changed forever?

In this eclectic mix of 21 short stories, flash fiction and poetry the pendulum swings between first love and murder, from soul-destroying grief to reconciliation. The tales veer from the sweet satisfaction of revenge to new beginnings, from heart-breaking miscarriages of justice to heart-warming Christmas misadventure.

One common thread binds them all; the belief that there is no such thing as an ordinary life; they’re all extraordinary.

Open your hearts and minds as The Storyteller Speaks.

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To purchase The Storyteller Speaks

The Storyteller Speaks is availabe as ebook or paperback on the following Amazon links.

Amazon UK   Amazon US

It is also available on all Amazon stores around the globe.

CA  IN  DE  AU  FR  ES  IT  MX  JP 

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Reviews of The Storyteller Speaks.

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‘The Storyteller Speaks’ by Annika Perry brilliantly illustrates how short stories can capture your heart, transport you to the scene of action and submerge you in the emotional journey of the characters. Her stories are a little above your expectations…a lot has to be discerned, which she leaves unsaid and therein lies their magic. Only few can create it.

The symbolism of Chillies in my Handbag is chilling, the agony that the words hide slowly spills out as Perry writes in the style of dual timeline, lending a touch of realism to the story, keeping a firm grip on the reader’s attention, actually hinting at profound matters of domestic strife. Carl’s loss too unravels itself gently as you keep wondering where is he heading in snow and who is constantly whispering “keep safe” in his ear. It is the style and the exquisite language that raises this book above an average storybook.

My heart missed a beat when Jake and Ellie got lost in the shroud of mist and snow and it sank with each shout for them. Such is the effect of Annika’s style of writing! It is difficult to pick up a favorite one from this collection of stories because all of them strike some chord somewhere as they are based on varied themes, each one connects us with the complexities of life, giving a subtle message that we are mere puppets or mute spectators in many situations that we wish to control.

by Balroop Singh

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Perry’s debut book is a beautiful read. The twenty-one selections in The Storyteller Speaks are primarily short stories, with a smattering of flash fiction and poems. The author states in the afterword that the thread binding the work together is “the belief that there is no such thing as an ordinary life,” and this insight is clearly borne out in her book. It’s what captivated me as I read.

The stories are all quite different, some dark and some lighthearted, though most are filled with the deep emotions of ordinary people as they navigate disappointment, loss, redemption, healing, and love. These are feelings that will strike a chord with most people, even if the circumstances aren’t quite the same. Most of the tales felt “quiet” to me, personal, as if I was looking beneath the outer appearances of a person into the rich pathos of their inner lives.

I tried to pick favorites as I read, but had to give up; there were too many. I recommend this book to anyone who loves short stories and wants to feel moved by the strength and courage of the human spirit.

by Diana P.

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Writers may exaggerate the negative and write dystopian fiction. They may exaggerate the positive and write utopian fiction. In this fascinating collection of short stories, the positive being brought into greater relief is our ability to choose integrity and kindness rather than degenerative and uncaring mindsets and actions. Each story is a core sample of a human moral issue, a history of resiliency and loss, exposed to the light.

In most of the stories the characters are challenged by a tragic or potentially damaging event outside their control; in a moment, their lives are changed drastically, forever. Some of the characters have caused their own dilemma. They go on in a fog or struggle with painful memories and swings of emotion before they reach the tipping point: how will they respond? And it is to their credit they reach this tipping point, because it is done through conscious moral effort. But whether tragedy has come to them or they have made their own mistakes, they eventually recognize the situation through a severe exercise in honesty. This honesty springs from valuing the best sense of who they can be and become. They often draw on enriching relationships with other people and humanizing traditions. Then they go beyond: they make amends. By taking this action, they rise to a new level of moral and ethical consciousness. This is portrayed in clear-eyed fashion, showing how difficult it is to do, and yet liberating.

It is more than interesting for stories like these to be told; it may be necessary for our adaptability and survival, for our thriving as a species. The same could be said for the negative. In fact, these stories blend both in a new and perceptive way.

The flaws in her writing and story composition are small quibbles. For instance, just when I thought the stories would all be similar samples, there was a radical change. It is my hope Annika Perry will continue to hone her craft as a writer. She may yet give us an iconic work.

by Mary Clark

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The Storyteller Speaks is a collection of short stories, and a couple of poems too, about life, love and death. This is the debut book of Annika Perry and she has certainly managed to write a lovely selection of very different stories.

Chillies in my handbag is a story of a woman’s gradual disillusionment with love, her married life and even her child. The Mother’s inability to protect her only son from entering the traditional boarding school attended by her husband and his father before him, sets him on the road to becoming everything she has come to dislike in her husband. The son’s gradual reshaping of himself, a round peg, to fit into the traditional square hole is interesting. Will the Mother finally rebel against the dictates of her husband and if she does where will it all end?

The man on the flying trapeze is a rather interesting poem about a trapeze artist who finds himself in an accident situation. The format of the poem was rather unique with each stanza reading almost like a limerick. I did enjoy this very much.

Smouldering Shame was another tale than fascinated me with its very likelihood in the set of circumstances. A tale of a woman whose life suddenly comes unraveled because of the secret activities of her husband. He is a man who cannot see the blessings in his life and, as many older men do, seeks more excitement in his retirement than is on offer in his home with rather disastrous consequences.

A couple of the stories could definitely have continuations. I think the author may have quite a bit more to tell us about these characters. I really enjoyed this book. I think Annika Perry has a lot of potential as a writer.

by Robbie Cheadle

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My heart and mind were opened as the author promised in her “About the Book” section at the end of this marvelous collection of short stories. I’m generally not a reader of short stories, because I like the longer process of getting to know a character for an entire novel. But Perry gives full stories in a short story format that touch the reader while allowing the reader to imagine the before and after of the characters’ lives. The stories aren’t all happiness and light, some are edgier and sad. But they all give out a light through the expressive language used by the author. Also, each narrator is different in these stories, and the point of view can be first person or third; Perry switches it up. I took my time reading this collection, because each story is unique, and I liked spending some time with each one after I’d finished reading it. Well done, Annika Perry!

by P. Wight

                                                    ***

The Storyteller Speaks is a wonderful collection of short stories, flash fiction and poems that depict a wide range of events, characters and viewpoints. At the centre of each is human relationships and the effect that a single event can often have on the course of a life. A full gamut of emotions is here, including love, grief, anger and redemption. The stories are moving, uplifting, sometimes dark, sometimes amusing. My favourites include: The Whiteout Years which is a heart-breaking and touching depiction of grief and hope; and Loss of a Patriarch, a moving story about saying goodbye to the author’s grandfather. I also enjoyed the influences of the author’s Swedish heritage. This is a collection to savour and a book that fulfils its promise to win your heart.

HarvestingHecate

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This is not about the war between lovers of dogs or cats. It’s about Annika Perry, a talented writer who works like a cat.

A dog is all blubbery love smeared across your cheeks, a loyal paladin stationed stalwart by your side. Tongue lollygagging out of its jaw, tail flailing around like a pig in a muddy pit – you’re gonna be drowning in slobbery canine love in about five seconds. Or maybe a fangy foreign agent hired to attack: a German shepherd or English pit bull. Teeth bared and muzzle lowered –you better run. You always know where you stand with Rover.

But a cat – you can’t tell anything by looking at a cat. There it sits on the windowsill, licking its paw, indifferent to all things human – the tasty treats, the dangling mouse toy, the arms ready to cuddle it. Suddenly it pounces, its claws deep in your bicep leaving parallel bloody tracks or a snip of your skin flapping loosely as it samples your nose. And then sashays back to the windowsill to await its next victim. Go ahead, stick around, it could be you again, if you dare to get close enough. Silly you, thinking Puss loves ya.

I mention this because Annika Perry writes like a cat. There she sits at the window, chewing on the end of her pencil, watching the world go by. And if you are anywhere near her line of sight, she’s probably watching you. Observing you and all your little peccadilloes. Like the way you hold a letter that might seal your future, or how you sip wine while your mind is loitering elsewhere. How the March wind drives rain upwards, making an umbrella useless. How a bouquet of vibrant flowers devastates you with memories and also lights up your world.
You didn’t know she was looking that closely, did you? That’s a cat for you – indifferent but all knowing.
 
At first glance, The Storyteller Speaks appears to be gentle family fare, tales written by a sweet faced, blue eyed lady who spends her time between Great Britain and Sweden, bearing candles and roses, taking photos, penning notes.
 
It’s how she entices you to her book. I’ve read The Storyteller Speaks twice, the first time in order of presentation, the second in a meandering stroll through her poems and short stories.

If I attempt to review each of the twenty-one entries, I’ll over-report and do the book no justice. So I’m going to focus on a few tales that blew me away, as if driven by a sirocco out of the Sahara. This is important to remember, because like a cat, Perry sneaks up on you to lunge for your emotional jugular while you’re unaware she’s even in the room. She’s a keen observer of people, absorbing cultural details and body language.

Sofia! is about a little girl and her stuffed toy whose uncle takes her to visit the local zoo. It’s told through eyewitness accounts of zoo visitors and officials who answer Inspector Nunn’s questions. Apparently the child, Sofia, has been kidnapped or gotten lost as the focus of each interrogation appears to be what has happened to the child. Perry escalates suspense as we wait to find out if Sofia is safe or remains lost or even perhaps is dead, our suspicion and concern for the little girl mounting with each witness. The final person interviewed is Marija, Sofia’s mother, to whom Nunn relates the awful conclusion of the story. A shred of flesh hangs from Perry’s claws.

At a Loose End is a sweet story, about the time of life when you want to make significant changes to accommodate a different economic reality and new opportunities. Some decisions need only a small alteration, an act not possible a few years earlier. But family wedges into the narrow spaces and – I won’t ruin the story for you. But I bet you’ll agree. It’s a rather sweet story, proving sometimes the cat just wants to sun herself on the sill.

Lasting Sanctuary is a shorter story but one that packs a twist worthy of Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot. To encompass so much in a wisp of a tale, just a brief iteration of this cat’s nine lives, is brilliant.

My favorite story is The Whiteout Years, and I’ve read it four times. Out of the gate, it captivated me with passages as lyrical as this one when Carl is driving through a winter storm, remembering his wife, Karin:

‘A moment of total silence. With the windows down he sat and listened. He never failed to be awed by the silence, the odd rustle of snow falling gently to the ground from the laden fir trees. The odd animalistic sound deep in the forest, feral and prehistoric.’

While this scene describes the landscape surrounding Carl, it also describes his isolation from the world. Lost in the snowdrift of his grief over his wife’s death, he is blinded by silence and whiteness and can’t move on with his life. The threat of Carl’s possible death looms throughout the story.

Annika Perry is a writer in tune with our deepest responses to the human condition, capturing the nuances of our psyche. Like an alert cat, she assesses carefully, knowing what to absorb for future use, how to convey realistic dialogue, which details will reveal more than the sum of their parts, and how to wind an unpredictable plot out of simple fare.

Unlike cats, Perry is respectful of people and all their foibles.
 
Sharon L. Pratt
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The sub-title of this book is no overstatement. “Powerful Stories to Win Your Heart” is entirely apposite. I found the majority of the short stories fascinating and moving.

Annika writes succinctly, engaging the reader from the outset. She’s quick to paint a scene and I immediately felt I was “right there” with the characters. Scenes include a kitchen, a bedroom, a classroom, the inside of a car, even a prison cell. And she soon pulled me into each story with a turn of phrase that quite often injected a bit of suspense into the plot.

Topics cover the whole gamut of human experiences. Gambling debt. Redundancy. A fatal accident. A loveless marriage. A petty argument with long-lasting consequences. Injustice. Theft. Suicide. And much more. Likewise, be prepared to experience a range of emotions. Regret, joy, fear, horror, relief, shock, happiness …

by Denzil

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I’ve been a fan of Annika’s blog voice for many years and particularly her ability to say so much with so few words in the short stories she often shares. Annika has a way of saying just enough to engage readers without giving too much away. She dribbles out clues. I hang on every word, wondering how it will unfold. I want to know–but not too fast because I’m enjoying the verbal journey. I need to saver every paragraph, every parsed thought, every surprise conclusion.

In Storyteller Speaks, Annika provides an eclectic mix of short stories, flash fiction, and poetry.  All of these are character-driven explorations into the raw feelings so often part of everyday events and yet, through Annika, I see them in a different light.

by Jacqui Murray (Vine Voice)

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The stories and poems in Annika Perry’s debut book are indeed compelling. Each one evokes various emotions from everyday life. I’ve followed Annika’s blog for awhile now, so I wasn’t surprised at how wonderful the final outcome turned out to be. The cover alone is stunning! She has her magical way of playing with words to pull the reader in, but keep one hanging on until the end. However, not all of her writing in this book is lighthearted; some is pretty dark. There were times when I smiled, moments when I was horrified, and occasions for tears. The beauty is that with each turn of the page to a new story or poem, the reader is pleasantly surprised. With this being said, it was difficult to choose favorites, but I managed to pull out a few: Chillies in My Handbag, Bouquet of White, A Rare Passion, Stars of Wonder, and Loss of a Patriarch, which personally resonated with me because of my father’s passing last fall. Another bonus to this creative compilation was the About the Stories section at the back of the book. I really enjoyed reading how each story was born. Overall, anyone who chooses to read this wonderful collection of short stories and poems will not be disappointed. This was a wonderful start to Annika Perry’s writing journey, and I’m sure I’m not alone in anticipating new publications from this amazing author.

by Lauren Scott

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This is a brilliant collection of stories and poems. Each one offers a poignant message, sometimes uplifting, sometimes heartbreaking. What is consistent throughout is the command of the language, the eloquent turn of phrase, and the obvious passion behind each tale. There truly is something for everyone in this collection. I was particularly drawn to two stories: the last one, as it reminded me of my own grandfather, and the handbag story, which broke my heart (no mother should have to live through that). The author information at the end of the book was a lovely addition to the piece. I’m looking forward to more from this author.

by writester

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A really well composed collection. Varied too, with no common theme – a bit like a box of chocolates. Several beautifully-written scenes based on the author’s own life – ‘The Whiteout Years’ and Loss of a Patriarch’ are examples. A heart-breaking story about miscarriage of justice – ‘The Green Cage’. An oddity based on an unsolved crime – ‘A Rare Passion’. The author writes with skill and emotion, not afraid to experiment with her writing by throwing in the odd limerick-type poem (‘The Flying Trapeze’) to tell a story.

I enjoyed this collection from beginning to end.

by Roy McC

                                                            ***

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This abundant collection of stories is well-written and an affecting read. The stories of everyday life go straight to the heart; some nostalgic, some reflective, some uplifting, and some heartwarming. I enjoyed reading this book, and the notes at the end about what inspired some of the stories.

by Khaya R

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Annika Perry is a natural storyteller, a wordsmith of great talent. She writes at times with the language of a poet, at other times with the sharp and daring strokes of Picasso.

Sheer light infuse her pages;

Darkness where the soul cries.

Annika’s Anthology consists of stories filled with depth and entertainment. Joy and grief. Romance and thriller. They all share a deep care and love for their characters. The pace is unhurried, yet entirely without superfluous words. You are left totally absorbed in the events and settings.

How does she do it?

All I can say is … Annika, keep on writing.

I am hungry for more.

by Miriam

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A wonderful book filled with meaningful stories. It would make a great gift.

by bernadette laganella

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The appeal of short fiction is that it offers a glimpse of a character’s life, a problem, a twist and a quick finish. Annika Perry’s debut collection, The Storyteller Speaks, makes good on this promise in her newly published book of fiction and poetry.

Perry gives the reader twenty-one distinct stories about the daily challenges of marriage, children, friendship, family and loss. Her characters are knowable and likable, even the ones who find themselves on the bad end of a decision. Many of her stories depict the author’s upbringing in Sweden and the United Kingdom, yet show a universal understanding of family and relationships. And even though the stories are separate, the reader begins to develop a sense of community, as it seems as if some of the author’s characters might know each other.

Several standout stories will stick in the reader’s mind because of memorable characters and conflicts. In “The Whiteout Years,” a young widower wonders how he can let go of the heavy burden of guilt. Likewise, a young mother faces a very different future in “Sophia!” after a bizarre and tragic series of events. In one, there is a sign of hope. In the other, an unknown challenge.

Other stories finish with a warm feeling of love and friendship. In “Friends Forever,” Perry’s characters overcome a long and painful break and in “Role-Playing,” happiness is a given when old friends reunite.

But Perry isn’t afraid of exploring difficult or dark subjects. In “The Game,” children playing a seemingly harmless game discover the frightening power of their diversion. And in “Smouldering Shame,” Perry’s characters confront betrayal and a sorrowful tragedy. In “A Rare Passion,” a young man acts on impulse and immediately sees the folly of his decision. Can he fix his mistake in time?

Despite difficult subjects in many stories, Perry offers a strong overlying message of hope, love and family, as shown in her final story, “Loss of a Patriarch” in which a family finds peace and comfort after a beloved father and grandfather dies.

The Storyteller Speaks is a touching look at the challenges of life and relationships, an excellent debut. I look forward to reading more from this promising author.

by Book Club Mom

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Having been a follower of Perry’s blog for a number of years, I was thrilled when she announced she was releasing a collection of her short stories. I knew anything she published would not disappoint. The Storyteller Speaks is a mix of poetry, flash fiction and short stories. Each piece is brilliantly written in a way that only Perry can do. She’s a beautiful writer who knows how to draw the reader into a story. I’ll look forward to more work in the future from this talented author.

by Jill Weahterholt

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I think this book is a good read. Annika Perry is a perceptive observer of the human condition, and has a gift of harnessing the humdrum minutiae of everyday existence and bringing it to life in short, concise, well told stories. She also includes the occasional entertaining poem and limerick to further demonstrate her talents and add to the variety. As a bonus, Ms Perry includes notes at the end of the anthology, explaining her motivation for writing the stories, many of which, directly or indirectly, are borne out of her own experiences.

by Mark Charlton

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Wonderful really wonderful. Beautiful stories that are moments of pure escapism. The characters make you want to know more and the simple but beautifully written stories are both moving and engaging. Thank you.

by Hayley Smith

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Perry’s 21 stories are reflections on grief, love, murder and the extraordinary details of ordinary life. Her descriptions shine. Perry’s voice is one that sticks with you long after the stories have been read. They are emotional pieces. Moving. Honest. Filled with love and imagination.

Enjoyable and thought-provoking.

By Carol Balawyder

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I am a big fan of Annika’s blog and “The Storyteller Speaks” does not disappoint. It is a well written and eclectic mix of stories from different genres that will indeed “win your heart.”

“The Whiteout Years” is poignant and beautifully written and “The Game” is both short and spooky. I particularly enjoyed “Kew a Rare Passion” based on a true story, and “Loss of a Patriach,” on the loss of Annika’s dear grandfather known as Morfar.

I believe both Morfar and Mormor will be incredibly proud of their grand daughter.

by Brigid P. Gallagher

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The Storyteller Speaks is an electric collection of 21 short stories, flash fiction and poetry that makes for an entertaining read. These stories cover a wide range of situations such as love, murder, revenge, misadventures, injustices and grief.

The author bares her soul and grief over the loss of her Morfar and Mormor in the story, “Loss of a Patriarch.” She keeps the readers on edge and guessing until the end of some of the stories as in “Sofia.” She has an innate ability to use her words sparingly and dribble out little clues to keep the reader hanging on her every word until the end of the stories.

At the back of the book the author shares her inspiration for each story. It’s evident that she uses daily experiences in her life to create intriguing and fascinating tales.

This is a commendable beginning book for this talented author who will be one to watch for future books.

by Jjspina

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This is a wonderful collection of short stories. The author does such an excellent job of bringing her characters to life, it’s like pulling back a veil and stepping into their worlds. The flow of the writing is beautiful, the descriptions especially vivid. I rode emotional highs and lows along with the characters, swept up in their tales. Some are simple, some complex, all engaging. There are many gems in this collection, but I believe the first and the last are my personal favorites. The back matter in the book–which explains how many of the stories came to be–made the tales all the richer. I look forward to more work from this talented new writer!

by Mae Clair

A compelling collection of short fiction. Each story engages right from the start, and keeps delivering surprises as the character is developed and the action unfolds. Every piece is powerful in its own way. My favourite is Chillies in my Handbag, and I don’t want to give the plot away, but enough to say this: it’s a perfect illustration of Annika Perry’s talent and skill in capturing the deepest moments of the heart. From hope and loss to a joyful decision. From ambition and small joys to quiet desperation, then a calm and certain decision to change one’s life. Highly recommended.

by Cynthia Reyes

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Annika Perry has also written a novel, Island Girl which is in its final editing stages as well as two, as yet unpublished, books for younger children.