Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sunday Salon: Brother of the More Famous Jack by Barbara Trapido and the BBC National Short Story Collection 2008.

I have been indulging myself a little this weekend and reading a little fiction for a change.

First I read the short-listed short stories from the BBC competition 2008 and thought this the strongest collection of the competitions so far (though I haven't read 2009's yet). Richard Beard's was cleverly-written in the second person, and gave advice to an adulterous politician. Jane Gardam's was about some retired judges, and was sharp and funny. Erin Soros's was about a child during the second world war in America and was tense and incredibly well structured with a great ending. I liked this one the best. Adam Thorpe's also had an excellent structure and also revolved around an incident during the second world war. This too was very well done. Clare Wigfall's was the one that won the competition. It was in the voice of a poorly educated woman from a Scottish island and had a surprising and memorably-sad ending.

I have also read Barbara Trepido's Brother of the More Famous Jack. It's a long time since I read a book like this and I thoroughly enjoyed it, in fact I could barely tear myself away. Just as she is about to begin at university Katherine is introduced to the Goldman family by a friend. They are energetic, extremely liberal and unconventional (and I would have found them exhausting). She becomes infatuated with the eldest son, Roger, but is also enthralled with the father, Jacob, and the mother, Jane. Her life is glamorously bohemian and strongly evocative of the seventies. It made me realise how much has changed. I've now ordered another of Barbara Trapido's books just in case I think I need to indulge myself again next weekend.


Blogger Sue Dickman said...

I really, really love Barbara Trapido. I discovered her 6 or 7 years ago, and once I'd read one book, I had to get the rest immediately, which involved both inter-library loan and badgering of friends going to Britain. I liked all of them but think my favorites are probably Temples of Delight and Noah's Ark. I just discovered she has a new one coming out in May, and I'm already looking forward to it. Enjoy whatever the next one is for you!

Mon Mar 22, 01:44:00 am  
Blogger Anne S said...

Must drag out my old copy of Brother of the More Famous Jack and read it again. Amazing to see it referred to these days.

Have you read Jane Gardam's novels? I think she is a wonderful writer and I have an almost complete collection of her works, all of which are excellent.

Mon Mar 22, 04:42:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Thanks for visiting my blog, Sue. I didn't realise Barbara Trapido wasn't available in the US - she's quite well-known over here, although I'd never got round to reading her until now. The one I ordered was Frankie and Stankie, but now I see I'm going to have to add a couple more to my TBR pile too. Thanks for the recommendations.

Yes, Anne - it's quite a blast from the past, really, isn't it? For some reason it was re-issued in 2006. I not sure why, but I'm glad it was.

And no, I haven't read any of the Gardam novels, but since you recommend (and on the evidence of this short story) I see I'm going to have to remedy this. Interestingly, she seems to me to have a similar witty style to Trapido, at least on the evidence of this short story.

Mon Mar 22, 07:50:00 am  
Blogger Anne S said...

Jane Gardam, I can't believe that you haven't read her books.

The short story you read must have been The People on Privilege Hill which relates to her novel Old Filth, which in turn relates to her latest novel, The Man in the Wooden Hat.

Mon Mar 22, 09:16:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Anne: I think I've missed out on several modern classics because I didn't really get into literature until relatively recently (well, it feels like 'recently', but probably isn't now I think about it). Anyway, for whatever reason, I always seem to be lagging behind every other well-read person that I know. I endeavour all the time to catch up and keep up but most of the time feel like King Canute.

You're right about the title of the short story, and I had heard of Old Filth. I have to say I am delighted that there are whole novels on these characters because I would love to read more. So thanks for letting me know.

Mon Mar 22, 09:39:00 am  
Blogger Sue Dickman said...

Just to clarify that some of Barbara Trapido's books were published here as well but not all of them. Temples of Delight had a US edition, but Juggling, its sequel, didn't. I don't think Frankie and Stankie ever came out here either. One of the things I love about Trapido is that 4 of her novels, starting with Brother of the More Famous Jack share a common set of characters. Temples of Delight and Juggling are related to each other, and then the characters in The Traveling Hornplayer come from both of those earlier books plus Brother. So I'd recommend reading them in that order. I did like Frankie and Stankie but not as much as the linked series.

Mon Mar 22, 12:51:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Sue: I find that quite astonishing (but then a lot of things surprise me in the publishing industry), and really, thinking about it, I suppose - if the rest of her books are like this one - there is a strong sense of place (which might not be of interest to the US market in general, perhaps. Anyway. thanks very much for the information. That's very useful. So after Frankie and Stankie I shall go for Temples of Delight and then Juggling.

Mon Mar 22, 12:58:00 pm  
Blogger Kay McKenzie Cooke. said...

I enjoy Barbara Trapido's books too. She was once a guest at Reader's Writer's event here in Dunedin so I have actually heard her read an excerpt from one of her books, in person.

Fri Mar 26, 11:18:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Wow, Kay, that must've have been great! I've now got another of her books, so hoping to indulge myself again, at least a bit, this weekend.

Fri Mar 26, 11:32:00 pm  

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