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Sunday, 28 February 2016

A Translator, A Translation, A Trinity, and A Vacuum Cleaner Salesman

Spring is in the air and we move away from snow towards warmer climes with a quartet of books to amuse, edify, entertain, and uplift:

Aaliya Saleh is the 'unnecessary woman', a 72yr old living in Beirut who translates books for herself and no other. It will be interesting to compare to Asunder (which we read last year) as they both examine vivid inner lives.
(March 31st)

With resonance in the contemporary world, Child of All Nations was written in 1938 and centres around Kully, displaced by a war she doesn't understand, unable to return to Germany where her father's books are banned.
(April 28th)

Echoing Snow White, the fifth and most recent novel from Helen Oyeyemi (named on Granta's 2013 list of Best Young British Novelists) revolves around a female trinity with questions of identity at its core.
(May 26th)

Perhaps the best known work of this English-Indian-Scottish-Cuban writer, Of Love and Hunger tells the story of Richard Fanshawe, a young man trying sell vacuum cleaners to sceptical women in the 1940s.
(June 30th)

A reminder that places are open but limited and it is essential that you let us know in advance if you would like to join in the discussion (7:30pm start time). Email us at hello@ravenbooks .ie

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Tuesday, 29 September 2015

A Daughter, A Wedding, A Murder, A Quest

With what feels like late summer sunshine streaming in through the window as I type, I am in slight denial that this next batch will take us through to the beginnings of Spring 2016:

Eudora Welty (the first living author to have her works published by the Library of America) was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1973 for The Optimist's Daughter. Set in Mississippi, Judge McKelva is a quiet, solid reassuring figure who, ten years after his first wife's death, marries the frivolous young Wanda Fay to the shock and disbelief of his daughter, Laurel.
(October 29th)
Published in 1962, Cassandra at the Wedding examines identity and inheritance through the eyes of twins, one of whom is attending (and possibly sabotaging) the other's wedding.
(November 26th)

Starting 2016 with a meaty read in translation from Spanish, The Infatuations is a murder mystery of sorts addressing questions of life, death, love and morality.
(January 28th)

"It is three weeks since the boy came to town, carrying a book of poetry to return to the old sea captain..." - longlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2014, The Sorrow of Angels is a quest novel set in 19th-century Iceland.
(February 25th)

A reminder that places are open but limited and it is essential that you let us know in advance if you would like to join in the discussion (7:30pm start time). Email us at hello@ravenbooks .ie

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Friday, 25 September 2015

Perfect Parents

For the boys bookclub (10-11yr olds), today we discussed David Baddiel's first foray into kids lit, The Parent Agency. After chatting about it, I asked them to think about what would be the Top Ten Traits they would look for if they were able to choose Perfect Parents, and also what were the things they liked most about the parents they actually have. Many imaginative answers ("has an octopus head"), some pragmatic ("feeds me"), a few that made my heart swell ("my ma watches Strictly [Come Dancing] with me"). Here's a selection (click on each image to see a readable size):

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Thursday, 25 June 2015

Camus, Art, Cold-blooded Murder

A very diverse selection for Raven Readers to take us through the summer and into autumn:

Shortlisted for the Prix Goncourt, winner of the Goncourt du Premier Roman, the Prix des Cinq Continents, and the Prix François Mauriac, The Meursault Investigation is certainly not short on accolades. The novel is an attempt to do justice to ‘the Arab’ killed by the infamous Meursault, the antihero of Camus’s classic novel, L'Étranger. As we've five weeks, readers may wish to (re)acquaint themselves with the original story too.
(July 30th)
A short book for a short month, the synopsis of Asunder is intriguing - our protagonist is a museum guard in the National Gallery, London - and has been recommended by @STomaselli.
(August 20th)

"a tale of polite theft, bitter heartbreak, domestic mystery and cold-blooded murder" - those of us who read and loved Patrick deWitt's The Sisters Brothers are eagerly anticipating his new offering, possibly with unfairly high expectations.
(September 24th)

A reminder that places are open but limited and it is essential that you let us know in advance if you would like to join in the discussion (7:30pm start time). Email us at hello@ravenbooks .ie

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Thursday, 16 April 2015

Dear James Patterson

Dear James Patterson

thank you for allowing us to dream. Yes, you have given us cold, hard cash - very, very generously so - but more than that you have encouraged us to shake off the inhibiting "if only we could afford...." and nudged us to explore concrete possibilities for enhancing children's lives through books. For the single project we eventually decided upon, there were a half dozen others that had us energized with the potential they held. Though on the back burner for now, some of those ideas may yet find their way to becoming a reality.

On May 1st, we will celebrate our 7th birthday. Children just born when we flung wide our door for business are now on their way to becoming solidly independent readers and discovering for themselves the magic hidden between two covers. We firmly believe that teaching a child to read opens up the world, and teaching that child to love reading reveals to them a myriad of galaxies awaiting exploration. Books empower children and young adults to better understand themselves and those around them, to figure out their place in the grand scheme of things (for many of us, an on-going quest), to find respite, adventure, answers. Being even a small part of that process is a joy and a privilege that I hope I never take for granted. As I hope you never will; what you are doing with Independent Bookshops, with schools and libraries, is philanthropy at its finest and for that, sir, I say go raibh míle, míle maith agat.

Louisa & the Raven Crew


Thursday, 26 March 2015

Elena, Elif & Edith

A new selection of Raven Readers books to take us through to midsummer:

Elena Ferrante first appeared on my radar last August during Women In Translation month when she was by far the most read & reviewed author. In the last few weeks there has been a groundswell of interest with pieces on her in the papers and on the radio so it seems the perfect time to move her to the top of my To Read stack. (April 30th)
The most recent novel from Elif Shafak, one of the most widely read Turkish authors, The Architect's Apprentice is "filled with all the colour of the Ottoman Empire, when Istanbul was the teeming centre of civilisation". (May 28th)

Edith Pearlman won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Binocular Vision in 2011 and I've been meaning to read these stories ever since. I love that she didn't publish her debut collection until she was 60. (June 25th)

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Saturday, 21 March 2015

Girls Prefer To Be Skinny, or, Why I Do Junior Bookclubs

The Maze Runner is a Young Adult novel which opens with around 60 teenage boys living in a fabricated Utopia-prison surround by a Maze they believe holds the key to their release. I met with a dozen 11-12yr old girls to examine the book and what follows is a small portion of a lively, engaged discussion which included authorial treatment of race, misogyny, narrative devices, tribes, inverted portals, and the minds of teenage boys.

How do you think the book would have been different if the gender was reversed and there were 60 teenage girls in The Glade?

It wouldn't have worked at all, girls wouldn't have been able to live like that, they're not strong for all the hard work.
And when a group of girls get together.... it can be a bit nasty, they wouldn't work as well together as the boys.
They wouldn't be able to what the boys did like sowing seeds and hoeing and weeding and slaughtering animals.
Yeah, they're more interested in make-up.

This is a life-or-death situation, do you think they'd care how they looked?

Well OK but girls prefer to be skinny rather than muscular.

[stunned pause]
Right. OK. Let's see how many females - fictional or real - you can name who have shown strength and courage.

Hermione Granger! Mrs Weasley! Professor McGonagall!

Good, how about beyond Harry Potter?

Katniss! Cassia! [plus a few others I didn't recognise and sadly can't remember]

Great, how about in real life? Any female sports heroes?


Yes! Anyone else in real life?

Countess Markievicz. Mary Robinson. Grace Gifford Plunkett.
Emma Watson! Malala!

Excellent! So, if you put all of those women in The Glade, would they have managed it?

Of course! Plus they would have solved it quicker.
Yeah, no way they would have spent two years running around a stupid maze.

Dress suitably in short skirts and strong boots, leave your jewels in the bank and buy a revolver - Countess Markievicz

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