An Evening with Sebastian Barry

Meeting your literary hero rarely goes according to plan…

It’s often said never meet your heroes because they cannot live up to the high standards you’ve built them to. In my case the exact opposite of this is true: I don’t live up to them. That is to say I do the horrific awed silence into which pours discomfort for all people.

Last week, I had the great fortune to attend a Faber Members event in the beautiful St. George’s Church, to hear Sebastian Barry read from his Cost Book of the Year winning Days Without End. I must say, should you ever get the chance to see Barry read, jump on the bandwagon. It’s not an experience to be missed. Not only does his prose alone pack a punch, but so too does his delivery. Clearly his days as a playwright have not left him. As the soldiers slashed through the bodies and the trees shrouded in the smoke of a burning lodge, we, the audience were bathed in the gore and soot by Barry’s voice. Shivers rose on more arms than my own.

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Image by Diane Elsasser Snider via findagrave.com
Sitting in a church pew, listening to Sebastian Barry read one of the most harrowing passages of any of his novels I’ve read was one of the best ways I’ve spent a Wednesday night in a long time. Not least because after the reading, the author was good enough to take some questions about the novel and then sign copies of his books for the massing fans. It’s no wonder that Matt Haig named him the number one author to see read from his work, a fact that a fellow Guardian Books Desk journalist Sian Cain pointed out when introducing the author.

Sadly, my nerve failed me when it came time to asking questions and I missed out sorely as I spent the whole week building up to asking Sebastian Barry a question. Then I was failed again when all I managed to get out when he signed my copy was “It was a truly beautiful book”. “Thank you very much, was there anything else?” he responded with a glint in his eye, my tongue glued to the roof of my mouth resulted in a brief nod from me.

51rimwr5pulBut it truly was a beautiful piece of work. Part war story, part western, all stunning. I can really appreciate why it’s been so well received and gained so much praise since its release. I must admit this one, like so many others moved me with almost every chapter. You would think that I’d get tired of snivelling every time I open a book. Alas, it’s not so. Sebastian Barry has yet again filled my eyes and heart to brimming with the stunning Days Without End. 

Finally, should Mr. Barry happen to ever read hack bloggers’ opinions, I would like to post my question here and live in hope: As your novels deal with the various places Irish people turn up, and you often claim them as your family, have you set out to write the Irish identity in its entirety from the laudable to the detestable, or is this just the disposition that comes from being an Irish author writing Irish stories?

WLR: Mystery Edition 

It’s that bleak humour that makes me love Christie, a blasé flaunting of the ridiculous that somehow seems plausible as we read it.

Featured Reader: A devilishly handsome man hiding behind a book. AKA Moz but I prefer the mystery man title.

Currently Reading: Destination Unknown by Agatha Christie.

Favourite Part/Line: While trying to recruit a spy, a character pitches the mission in the least appealing way possible, and yet it works: “I’m suggesting another method. Rather a sporting method really. There’s some excitement in it too. I’ll be fair with you. There’s just a hundred to one chance you mightn’t die. But I don’t believe under the circumstances, that you’d really object by that time.” It’s that bleak humour that makes me love Christie, a blasé flaunting of the ridiculous that somehow seems plausible as we read it.


As with last time, if you would like to take part in this ‘What’s London Reading’ feature here on TheCrackedSpineBlog and are free for a quick photo and chat please use the contact page of the blog, or you can message our Instagram or Facebook pages.

The London Bookshop Crawl

I enlisted the help of a friend better up on the streets of London than myself and we set out to explore London’s bookshops.

Some go in for rummaging in charity shops, crawling about to trawl through racks of clothes. Others go in for a pub crawl with their mates and then crawl home too. But me, being prematurely 70 years old, I opt for bookshops, so when I saw NinjaBookbox’s London Bookshop Crawl, I was very excited.

As I mentioned earlier this month, I was too late in booking tickets to get a place on one of the guided tours. Instead, I enlisted the help of a friend better up on the streets of London than myself and we set out to explore London’s bookshops. After a bit of a fumble on timing and a cup of coffee in a nearby café, we began our crawl in the lovely Belgravia Books. In which, I picked up London Stories: a collection of short stories unsurprisingly set in London.

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Good job Barb!

From here we headed toward Sloane Square to discover what rapidly became one of my favourite bookshops in all of London, The BookHaus. A cozy little shop set back off the busy street, TheBookHaus offers a relaxed atmosphere and a bargain box filled with books selling for £3 for paperbacks-£5 for hardbacks. The BookHaus is also part of the publishing house of the same name which is housed in the offices above the shop. I was lucky enough to speak to two of the editors, Emma and Silvana (pictured in the featured image), at great length about everything from literature and upcoming publications to how picturesque the shop is. Time incredibly well spent in my opinion. Continue reading “The London Bookshop Crawl”

What’s London Reading 15/02/17

I bumped into Natalie (totally by accident) in the Pret that was London’s newest for a hot minute last week. Check out what she’s reading!

Featured Reader: Natalie, from Floral Republic, took some time out of her busy schedule to meet up in Pret A Manger in Waterloo.
Currently Reading: The Stylist by Rosie Nixon
Favourite Thing About the Book So Far: One reason I’d say I’ve enjoyed the book is that I can relate to the main character. It’s about a girl in her 20s living in London and dreaming to make the big time but realistically is doing the coffee rounds, constantly being bossed around and slouching around London in her fake Ugg boots because she can’t afford designer clothing. It’s a little Devil Wears Prada-esque and is an easy read!


It’s so hard to find an easy read that’s also super engaging like this one! Do you have a go-to author for easy-reads?

As with last time, if you would like to take part in this ‘What’s London Reading’ feature here on TheCrackedSpineBlog and are free for a quick photo and chat please use the contact page of the blog, or you can message our Instagram or Facebook pages.

What’s London Reading 07/02/17?

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Featured Reader: Tash, a fellow blogger, from The Bottom Step  who very kindly agreed to be this week’s feature as she is aiming to complete 52 books in the 52 short weeks of 2017! We met in the in the beautiful Bloomsbury Coffee House where we grabbed a cup of surprisingly affordable and delicious coffee (well an Earl Grey Tea Latte for me).
Currently Reading: Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty.
Favourite Thing About the Book So Far: I really like reading it because it’s set in London so I can easily walk around the streets and follow where the main character is at the part I’m reading. Or I can just look up and see I’m on a street and be like ‘Oh this is where that thing happened!’ And I love the way the story builds, giving lots of tantalising clues to the main plot and as the story evolves you have to connect the dots.

Continue reading “What’s London Reading 07/02/17?”

Costa Book of the Year: A Magnificent Lineup

Last night saw the announcement of the Costa Book of the Year award, chosen from the five winners of the individual book prizes Costa sponsor under novel, first novel, children’s book, poetry and biography. The nominees were as varied as the categories themselves:

  • Novel: Days Without End by Sebastian Barry (Winner)
  • First novel: Golden Hill by Francis Spufford
  • Children’s book: The Bombs that Brought Us Together by Brian Conaghan
  • Poetry: Falling Awake by Alice Oswald
  • Biography: Dadland: A Journey into Uncharted Territory by Keggie Carew.

I’m not sure I can really comment on how deserving Barry is this year as I’ve still not read 515djoalbxl-_sy344_bo1204203200_his offering (or any of the others for that matter). However, I will say that last night as I watched the awards I was intrigued by all of the books on the shortlist. Most of all Dadland: A Journey into Uncharted Territory by Keggie Carew.
A biography of her father as he develops dementia, which as it descends past the surface details of the man himself, becomes a chase down the rabbit hole to find out a convoluted personal history. As a terminally nosey person, the idea of digging into the enigma of Carew’s father just captured my imagination. I have added this book to both my Amazon wishlist, Goodreads to-be-read, and the booklist of a reading group that’s formed in my university class (mostly because speech therapy trainees tend to be interested in dementia).

img_0547As for the winner, Days Without End by Sebastian Barry, it’s no secret I’m a great lover of the man’s work and have raved about it to all and sundry. I’ve been excited to read this one since I saw it in the Faber and Faber catalogue last year and FINALLY purchased it just today from a lovely clerk in Waterstones Gower Street. I’m really looking forward to getting into it!

On the rest of the books, I can only paraphrase others whom I’ve seen on the Beeb during the awards show but must admit I am also intrigued by them. In particular, the poetry entry Falling Awake which was described as a book of nature poetry that isn’t quite the pastoral comments one might expect. Also going with another fellow countryman, Graham Norton (one of this year’s judges), Golden Hill is firmly next in line on my to be read pile… after everything else.

So, if you’re at a loss for what to read check out the shortlist, maybe you’ll find your next favourite book!

-Moz

 

Feature: What’s London Reading 27/01/17

A new featured post here on TheCrackedSpineBlog: What’s London Reading. An insight into what London’s bookworms are munching on!

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Featured Reader: Serena, a masters student at UCL ( and one of Moz’s friends kind enough to pose for this kind of awkward angle).
Currently Reading: Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden.
Favourite Sentence/Passage: “Just because a man has made enough money to come to Gion and waste it however he chooses doesn’t mean he’s fun to be around. In fact, many of the men are accustomed to being treated with a great deal of respect. Sitting back with their hands on their knees and big frowns on their faces is about as much work as they plan to do in the way of being entertaining.”


I’m very excited to have finally gotten around to starting this feature on the blog as it’s been a long time in development and has taken me a while to actually ask anyone to be in a picture for it.

A huge thanks to the lovely Serena for volunteering and being a great model, even or this amateur photographer!

If you would like to take part in this ‘What’s London Reading’ feature and are free for a quick photo and chat please use the contact page of the blog, or you can message our Instagram or Facebook pages.