Giddying up

Cover for PurityAvid readers know that nervous start you get when you find out a favourite author has written a new book but you didn’t know about it. Or perhaps that’s just me. Addiction is the a-word that applies, not avid.

Anyway imagine my dismay when I noticed that Jonathan Franzen has a new book and I did not know about it. Which means there are four people ahead of me on the Holds list for Purity

So in order to help my fellow addicts (I mean avid readers) I am alerting you to the following books by popular authors on order at Christchurch City Libraries. Get your name down now and avoid disappointment. You’ll never be higher on the list.

Killing Monica by Candace Bushnell. Fiction or thinly veiled fact about Sex and the City? “If you think that you’re just cray-cray” says Bushnell. You be the judge.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Eat Pray Love. And Read.

The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman. Paris, Pissaro, passion. Good old Alice.

The story of the lost child by Elena Ferrante. The fourth in the Neapolitan novels.

Above the Waterfall by Ron Rash. He’s not as popular as he should be. Now is the time to redress that.

Speaking in Bones by Kathy Reichs. Her 18th outing. She must be doing something right.

All the Stars in the Heavens by Adriana Trigiani. Adriana’s take on the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Cover of Killing MonicaCover of The marriage of oppositesCover for Speaking in BonesCover of Above the waterfall


In A Note to the Reader at the beginning of Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book Committed, she lists twenty-seven women friends as the readers for whom she wrote this book – her follow on to the massively successful Eat Pray Love. It is a mark of the immediacy of her writing that I was disappointed not to see my name in that list and from here on in have come to think of myself as the twenty-eighth friend.

That said, Committed is no Eat Pray Love. For starters its title is not nearly as catchy. I would go so far as to say that the author has probably had some sort of subliminal effect on the English language with the catchy EPL – one can hardly say the word “Eat” now without the other two words following hot on its heels.

In fact I am somewhat bewildered as to why Committed was selected as the title of this book. Why not Marriage? The book is resolutely about marriage and barely scrapes the surface of all those other partnerships (increasingly popular in this day and age) that have not resulted in some sort of public, legal wedding event.  It is no spoiler to say that at the end of this book Elizabeth and Felipe do marry and succumb to the delights of a wedding ceremony to boot. It is such a pity that Gilbert  is unable to attend the festival, I would so have loved an opportunity to ask her more about the choice of title.

What does the reader get from Committed? Well, for starters there is a really good expose of marriage from an economical, historical, social, familial and cultural perspective. It should be compulsory reading for every thinking couple. In addition you get to follow the love story of Elizabeth and Felipe through the months leading up to their marriage. But wait, there’s more – because much of the book is set in South East Asia so all those lovers of Gilbert’s travel writing will have a little something to look forward to (although after reading Committed, I am in no hurry to visit Cambodia) and it is all presented in Gilbert’s inimitable style – informative, open, chatty and at times directly engaging.

But, in the world of Venn diagrams, I think that Gilbert may find there is scant overlap in the readership circles of these two books. The millions who loved EPL may recoil from the research details of Committed, the readers who hated EPL probably won’t try the next book anyway. So where does that leave us? With a new set of readers who will pick up the book on the strength of its somewhat misleading title? Or the tiny group of which I suspect I am probably a part: those who loved Eat Pray Love and who find to our delight that we love this next book as much, if not better.

Let the nevers bite the dust

CoverI’m Roberta, and I’m going to the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival this May.

Now there’s a sentence I never thought I would see in print – and it feels good! In fact, with that one sentence a whole bunch of “nevers” bite the dust: I’ve never been to a literary festival in New Zealand, never been to one anywhere in the world for that matter and, cherry on the top – I’ve never been to Auckland either.

Of course I’m euphoric. I’ve got a spring in my step and a great big smile on my mug. That said, I am waking up at 2am with sweaty palms and the words “podcast” and “blog” beating a merciless tattoo behind my terrified eyes. But together with the rest of the team we’ll be firing on all cylinders before too long.

What this means is that I have been given the chance to rediscover the joy of focused reading. Of course I read for pleasure all the time, but to resurrect the thrill of reading with a purpose is a special privilege. Next to my comfy chair, on my round table with a specially angled reading lamp, there now stands a gently leaning stack of books I must read and be able to comment on with some degree of insight by the 12th May  –  and I am in my element. The pile includes Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed, Lionel Shriver’s So Much For That and William Dalrymple’s Nine Lives.

And yes, I have bought new stationery for those of you who must know. Really, it doesn’t get better than this!