Top Five

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  • #3527
    HarryStotle
    Participant

    Favourite writers? That’s a big theme! After a struggle I’ve come up with my top five (in reverse order):
    John Grisham, Charles Dickens, James Joyce, Virginia Wolf and George Orwell.

    #3534
    Helen
    Participant

    Horses for courses. I love Dickens, but wouldn’t take him on holiday with me! So…
    For intellectual stimulation, Anton Chekov
    For adventure, Alexander Dumas
    For ‘slice of life’ character-driven stories, Zadie Smith
    For romance, Stephanie Meyer
    For comedy, Douglas Adams
    And, the kind of author I WOULD take on holiday, for thrillers, Ken Follett or Tom Clancy

    #3543
    Colliewobble
    Participant

    Definitely a difficult one! I love the Brontes and Jane Austen. Recently discovered Bella Ellis’ Bronte Mysteries (novel number 3 pre-ordered). She has great Bronte flair! Also love Stephen Lawhead’s Pendragon Cycle and many others. Couldn’t put down Rosamund Lupton’s ‘Three Hours’. My favourite of all time is Allan Garner (since childhood).

    #3544
    Helen
    Participant

    Yes, CW, both the Brontes and Jane Austen have it all – romance, heart-break, drama, adventure. They are epic and yet intimate. I would pick Jane Eyre as my favourite Bronte novel and Northanger Abbey for Austen I did the latter in school and hated it. Then, I was on holiday in Greece and it was the only book in English they had at this little taverna. I had loads of time and really enjoyed it.
    I don’t know Allan Garner but I’m going to check him out. Any recommended reads for a Garner newbie?

    #3545
    Colliewobble
    Participant

    I love Jane Eyre! I rediscovered Allan Garner in an old box of books my Dad gave me from years ago. I read ‘The Weirdstone of Brisingamen’ at school (1960). There was an old battered copy in the box that I re-read a couple of weeks ago. Then found out he’d completed the third book in the trilogy in 2012. Slight gap! I bought the other two books in the trilogy ‘The Moon of Gomrath’ and ‘Boneland’, finishing an epic fantasy tale that I began 38 years ago! Boneland was an ending for grown-ups who read the first two as children. Very poetic and dream-like. I’ve always loved a good adventure, especially when there’s a bit of magic involved.

    ‘Treacle Walker’ is a good read, like reading a dream. He finished that one recently at the age of 87. There was an article in the Guardian about it a few weeks ago. He’s written non-fantasy too, which are on my bucket list.

    #3546
    Helen
    Participant

    Wow, that is a big gap between the second and third sequel. I wonder what prompted him to write the third after so long. I have done a Google on him and found a bit of a bibliography and luckily they have him on Abebooks which is my go-to place for book buying. Treacle Walker is a bit pricey at £10 but they have The Weirdstone of Brisingamen for £2.35 so I’m going to try that as my first dip into the world of Allan Garner. Thanks for the tip.

    #3548
    Colliewobble
    Participant

    Yes it is! He moved away from fantasy for a while, but I love the idea of finishing a story for the adults who read the start as children. Treacle Walker has literally just been released, so it will be a bit pricey. I’ll have to have a look at Abebooks. I usually go to Blackwells. If you love the Brontes, Bella Ellis writes in a similar style and has an indepth knowledge of their lives, which makes her stories quite fascinating. Let me know what you think of Weirdstone. I know fantasy isn’t everyone’s thing. It got me hooked as a youngster. Happy reading!

    #3552
    Helen
    Participant

    The Weirdstone of Brisingamen just arrived. Will let you know what I think. I’m not normally into fantasy books but always follow up a recommendation. No pressure! ; )

    • This reply was modified 6 months ago by Helen.
    #3566
    Helen
    Participant

    Just finished the Weirdstone of Brisingamen and……….loved it!
    A bit of Arthurian legend (the sleeping knights) mixed with Lord of the Rings fantasy and some very good characters make for a totally engaging story whether you are of school age or old age.
    I bought the 50th anniversary edition and it dawned on me as I was reading how the story and style must have influenced a lot of writers since it was first published in 1960. I would say it is a sort of blueprint for Harry Potter but without the complexity of JK Rowling’s books.
    There are all the classic archetypes to enjoy, the fallen angel Grimnir, the guardian of the cave Cadellin, the battle between good and evil, ancient spells, hob-goblins and all.
    I read about Alan Garner that he based a lot of the story on where he grew up in Cheshire but I found the accents and local dialects echoed more of West Country.
    Take Gowther’s wife, Bess, for example, this sounds like it could be Devon or Somerset:
    “Happen you’d best have a word with yon. It sounds a bit rum to me. I think she’s up to summat.”
    Or, as the strongest local character, Gowther himself:
    “By gow, lad, theer’s summat rum afoot toneet.”
    And I loved expressions that I remember from my youth that have almost gone out of fashion now:
    “He seemed in a fair owd paddy.”
    It takes a bit of patience to ‘tune-in’ to the dialect but once you do, it’s a joy.

    Thanks for the tip.
    For me it was a far more accessible and engaging intro to fantasy than Tolkein.

    #3570
    Colliewobble
    Participant

    Hi Helen,
    Sorry for the delayed reply. Lots going on at the moment. I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Yes, I love the characters and dialect. He based it on myths from the real Alderley Edge in Cheshire. That makes it even more compelling for me. I felt quite claustrophobic reading the part where they inch through the caves! I think you’re right in that a lot of writers were inspired by him. Neil Gaiman certainly has been and admits it! If you enjoyed it, The Moon of Gomrath and Boneland are well worth a look. I’m currently reading ‘The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of A Window and Disappeared’ by Jonas Jonassen. My Dad has seen the film. Intriguing and very funny!

    #3572
    Helen
    Participant

    Hi CW, Garner’s love of the land really shone through a bit like Thomas Hardy’s does about Dorset – though less bleak. I’m a bit of a southerner myself but it makes me want to go there. No Google map needed as I have Alan Garners illustrations! It would be more fun trying to follow those although I may wait until the spring. Do you know if his map drawings are factually correct?
    As for what you’re reading now, that’s an extraordinary title and makes me so intrigued I already want to read it. Is that another fantasy? That title reminds me of a non-fiction work by the famous psychologist Oliver Sacks, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. Do you know it? An amazing collection of case studies and insight into the fascinating and usually sad medical conditions he came across in his long career. There was a film about him called Awakenings with Robert de Niro and Robin Williams.
    Anyway, Garner is on my new reading list.

    #3628
    Colliewobble
    Participant

    Hi Helen,
    Yes I love Garner’s description of the land. I’ve google mapped the area and the places definitely exist, just not so sure of the more obscure descriptions that google can’t show, such as the wide path into the woods and the wizard’s fountain! The Jonas Jonassen book is definitely not fantasy, with characters such as H. Truman, Stalin and Mao Tse Tung (don’t want to spoil it too much)! It’s cleverly written, very funny and completely bonkers! Lots of fun! I’ve seen the film ‘Awakenings’ which was very moving, but haven’t read Oliver Sacks. When I was younger (much younger!) and doing a Psychology degree, I read ‘The Jigsaw Man’ by Paul Britton, the Criminal Psychologist who worked on cases such as Jamie Bulger and Rachel Nickell. A fascinating, yet harrowing read. I could only manage a bit at a time and I don’t think I finished it. Not an easy read, but told with humanity and feeling. Glad you’ve enjoyed Allan Garner. I’ll look out for Oliver Sacks. I find my mood dictates what I read!

    #3642
    Helen
    Participant

    You’ve intrigued me again. The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of A Window and Disappeared – ordered! You must stop doing this! : )

    Yes, I’ve read Britton. His other book, Picking Up the Pieces (I think) is also harrowing and spellbinding in equal measure. I’m getting on a bit now though and these kind of documentary books make me despair about the human soul. I try not to watch the news for the same reason but end up doing so and find the same message coming back again and again. Still, there are also stories of people’s amazing spirit and sacrifice and stories of incredible endurance and overcoming of real hardship.
    These days. I like stories that raise my spirits, take me to another world or make me laugh.

    #3644
    Colliewobble
    Participant

    Hi Helen,

    I’m with you 100% on stories that raise the spirits. I get bogged down in the news and then need a break to recapture my soul. Apologies for your current spending on books. I think you might feel it’s worth it! I’m getting to the end of Jonas Jonassen and he’s written a sequel! No pressure! I haven’t read Paul Britton’s ‘Picking Up The Pieces’. Not sure I’m up for that at the moment, but I’ll bear it in mind.

    I’ve always thought there should be a ‘good news’ channel. Something to let us know it’s not all doom and gloom (which I don’t believe). I work with quite a few people who constantly make me remember what’s important in the world (adults and children!). Maybe we should start a ‘good news’ thread? Or a ‘positive vibes’ story thread?

    Hope you enjoy the book.

    #3657
    Helen
    Participant

    Hello again C. Hope you are well. I’ve just read your story on the other thread and I think it encapsulates what we’ve been talking about here – our dilemma about the dark and the light. What your story does – wonderfully, I must say – is show a way that, as writers, we can (and should) acknowledge both worlds.

    I suppose if we were horror or crime writers, the bleak side is always going to be at the forefront but, free of genre parameters, we can explore both sides of the human spirit. I don’t know if you like William Blake but in his foreword to one of my favorite collection of poems, Songs of Innocence and Experience, he described it as ‘showing the two contrary states of the human soul’. That is what we must examine as writers.
    While I may choose to turn the news off and skip over the ugly stories I may chance upon on the internet, as a writer, I can’t do that. I must take responsibility for it in the search for truth. As writers we must never turn our backs on the dark corners of the human condition if we ever want to find the light.

    In your story, you have shone a light at both worlds. Your character is both literally and symbolically in the dark. But there are also shafts of light. Tiny slivers of ones. We want her (her? I’m not sure we know) to prise open the brick in the wall just as we want her to let light into the story. You show us both conditions and deliver on the promise of the story’s title.

    I love your writing style too, evoking a sharp feeling of time and place. Those short, descriptive sentences really do carry the story along. This is the sort of story you want to read when you begin to have your doubts about human nature.

    I’m sure you are familiar with Blake but he’s certainly worth a re-read from time to time. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell also explores the eternal theme of good and evil. He sought to find solace for his own, rather desolate world view. I’m not sure that he succeeded but he certainly left behind a magnificent body of writing and art.

    • This reply was modified 5 months, 2 weeks ago by Helen.
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