I haven’t written a book blog for ages, mostly for time reasons (I’m on a very tight book deadline; all my own fault, and working on two film adaptations of my books – this may have to be a whole other blog post) which is my longwinded way of saying I suddenly had a few books I actually wanted to say things about.
The first is a children’s book, although don’t let that put you adults off (I’m assuming you’re adults). It’s called El Deafo, and it’s a comic book by Cece Bell, based on her own childhood growing up deaf after meningitis (I’m not going to say hearing impaired – I think calling your book ‘El Deafo’ frees me from any need to pussyfoot around).
It is a wonderful, imaginative funny, bittersweet book about being different, about childhood and negotiating your way through school, and there was almost no surprise in finding a quote on the front from that bestselling expert in such things, Wonder’s RJ Palacio.
My son loved it, and also loved chatting to Cece Bell on Twitter. (She does a cartoon horse that made us laugh solidly for ten minutes.) But I don’t think you have to be deaf to enjoy her work, just human.
David Nicholls’ Us was five years in the making, a long hiatus after his bestselling One Day. I know David a little (we share a literary agents, and various friends), and whenever I bumped into him during that period and asked him: “how’s the writing?” (that standard question between authors) he would wear a slightly startled, pained expression and mutter darkly that we should have a coffee some time. Now, having heard him speak on his various failed attempts to write a book that followed a global success, I have some sympathy. But Nicholls is an author that understands that sometimes you need to perform brutal surgery to get the result you want, and the resulting book is funny, sad, bittersweet and above all, compellingly readable, a fact recognised by its ManBooker long listing – and its current No1 status.
This week, on a trip, I finished Victoria Hislop’s The Sunrise. I admit I’m a late convert to Hislop in print; I knew The Island had been a mega-seller and having met and liked her several times I was curious. (Always a risk when you like someone, though – the dread horror of finding you hate their book…). The Sunrise, thankfully, is very good indeed. It’s a fascinating look at the violent division of Cyprus along Greek/Turkish lines in the 1970s, seen through the prism of a luxury hotel. It is shot through with Victoria Hislop’s knowledge and love for all things Greek (she learned the language after writing her first book) and is that brilliantly rare thing, commercial fiction that teaches you something.
Steering away from fiction, I’ve also been dipping in and out of Sali Hughes’ Pretty Honest, a beauty bible ‘without the BS’. I’m not very high maintenance; this afternoon I broke two nails attaching a new chain harrow to a tractor. But I like this book just for that reason; it’s full of useful short cuts, and tips for those, like me, whose make up bag mostly lives in the car and whose enhancements are often done at traffic lights, and tells you as much what not to buy (toner! Serums!) as much as what you should.
Next week I go to the launch of India Knight’s In Your Prime, which promises to do something similar for the lives of women – ahem – of a certain age. I am not missing this. A few weeks ago on Twitter I saw India mention the ‘most miraculous beauty product’ she’s ever used. You don’t throw that stuff about lightly. So I bullied her, offline, into telling me what it was. I took a punt and shipped it from the US – and it truly is the most miraculous beauty product I have ever used. And no, I can’t tell you what it was. But she will. Next year. And then WE WILL ALL BE FABULOUS.
See what books can do?