Writerly gossip and a book discovery

This morning, I’m wondering when the box of books I sent home to myself will ever get here!  I collected a lot of books at the conference, of course, but since I was limited to that single suitcase and backpack, there was no room to carry books with me.   Two of those books are signed editions of the latest from Anna Campbell, who has a very sweet face and professorial knowledge of her period that belies her very dark and sexy Regency historicals, and Kelly Hunter (who is tall and willowy and gorgeous–also very witty and the new president of the RWofAustralia.   I hadn’t met either of them in person before, and it was a genuine pleasure to spend time with them.

I also spent time with the exceedingly intelligent and warm Stephanie Laurens, who kindly gave Jo and I a tour of her world (which is where we saw kangaroos for the first time) and her lovely, lovely home (the house that romance built!), which you can see photos of here.  It’s also meant to be on television, but I don’t have those details. We’ve all read her novels of course.  No introduction necessary to her passionate and single-minded heroes.

I did a great deal of reading, of course, on the many plane journeys.  Most of them blur now–there was a book of essays and an indifferent novel that I think I eventually left behind somewhere.  Most of the best books were mailed home (in that box that WILL be arriving soon).   But on the way out of Sydney, ambling through the small number of shops available to browse in my gate area, I found a winner:

East of the Sun by Julia Gregson, is a big, juicy novel about three young women who go to India in 1928.  There is trouble brewing, and the world is changing, and the way the three of them find their fortunes, discover love and trouble and eventually come to know who they are makes a compelling read.   I was going to post a link to the book in the US, but it doesn’t appear to have been published here (yet?), although it is a popular title in both the UK and Australia (where it was named a Great Read by Women’s Weekly).  Even if you don’t ordinarily go for India, or this time period, this is a fast, consuming read.   The narrative is flavorful, but also swift and uncluttered–you won’t find long, embroidered passages of description of clothes or scenery or poverty.  It’s like boarding a well-appointed pontoon on a big river–the view is rich and uncluttered and accessible and full of the beauty and danger and reward of such a journey.  The vision of a young girl dancing with “arms like saplings” lingers with me, and a taste of color and a world that is about to be swept away.  It was one of my favorite books this whole year and now I must find the author’s other work.

What is one of your favorite books this year?

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4 thoughts on “Writerly gossip and a book discovery

  1. Just finished listening to an audio recording of Stephen King’s latest, Duma Key. I didn’t want it to end. I’m a long, long time King fan, and have loved most, and not been a fan of a few. But this is the best of his books that I’ve read in a very long time. Maybe he’s mellowing in midlife, but he spent much more time spinning out the story, developing several really rich and complex and wonderful characters along the way. The suspense built in a wonderful and unhurried pace, and the tension and sense of dread along with it. Not excessively violent, certainly not in comparison with some of his other work, but very, very frightening nonetheless. I was listening to the last CD and the climax of the story was imminent, and I found myself holding my breath and feeling the same kind of tension you feel in a great movie where you know something is about to happen and you really don’t want your favorite character to die, but you fear they might (I was particularly fond of Wireman, one of the two main characters). And then I thought to myself, now THAT’S good writing, when you can conjure the same tension that I would feel in a great suspense movie. Even if you aren’t a big King fan, or don’t like his more gory stuff, this is a wonderful study in love and friendship and people you feel like you really know.

  2. Barbara

    I do love Stephen King. Great character writer.

  3. Yes, that is my favorite thing about him. His characters are so well-developed that I feel like I know them by the end of the book. I think the general public, the ones who view him as just a horror writer, are missing out on the gems of his characters and his humor. There was one passage in Duma Key that made me laugh out loud, literally, and then tell a bunch of people about the passage, it was so funny and real.

    Your book, Lady Luck’s Map of Vegas, was one of my favorites because the mother, with all her beautiful cocktail dresses, just really resonated with me, reminding me of my own mother who was beautiful and glamorous and damaged and flawed. I guess for me, loving a book is usually because I love the people who inhabit it. If I don’t care about them, then I lose interest quickly.

  4. Barbara

    Stephen King is dismissed for the same reasons great romance writers are dismissed–the literary establishment finds it difficult to see through the genre label to the superior quality of the writing itself. Although King, like all writers who end up writing for decades, has greater and lesser works, his best works are masterful on every level, and I firmly believe he’ll be the Dickens or Austen of the next century(And from romance, I’m ..ah…betting on Crusie.).

    And I’m glad he didn’t actually retire. :)

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