Winding Up the Week #7


An end of week recap

This is a weekly post in which I summarize books read, reviewed and currently on my TBR shelf. In addition to a variety of literary titbits, I look ahead to forthcoming features, see what’s on the night-stand and keep readers abreast of various book-related happenings.

If there is something you would particularly like to see on Winding Up the Week or if you have any suggestions, questions or comments for Book Jotter in general, please drop me a line. I would be delighted to hear from you.


I read and reviewed The Only Story by Julian Barnes – a tale of scandalous love and suburban secrets in 1960s England. >> Read my thoughts >>

I also reviewed The Second Winter by Craig Larsen, an historical novel and noir wartime thriller set in Denmark. >> Read my comments >>

A supplemental snack of a book I am starting later today is a children’s title – a real rarity in my hectic reading world these days. I made an exception for this one because I simply couldn’t resist Great Polar Bear by Carolyn Lesser. I will post my thoughts about it in the next couple of days.

Next up is The Little Book of Feminist Saints by Julia Pierpont and the artist Manjit Thapp, an illustrated collection honouring one hundred exceptional women throughout history around the world.

Still on its way (but now somewhat delayed) is Turn a Blind Eye, the first in a forthcoming series of crime novels set in East London, written by Vicky Newham. It has already been optioned for TV by Playground Entertainment.

Coming up soon is Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland, a story about Loveday Cardew who prefers books to people. It was published last year by Bonnier Zaffre.


* How to Read a Novel *

I am rather excited to have signed up for a four-week course with the University of Edinburgh on the subject of How to Read a Novel. Please look out for updates outlining my progress (or otherwise) at the end of each module. >> Discover what I will be reading >>

* Ulysses Readlong *

#FebBloomHow many of you have read the whole of James Joyce’s modernist novel, Ulysses? Not me, I’m ashamed to say. First published in Paris by Sylvia Beach in 1922, after being serialised in the American journal, The Little Review, it chronicles the wanderings of Dublin dweller Leopold Bloom over a single day: 16th June 1904. This date has since been immortalized as Bloomsday and celebrated by Joyce devotees around the world since 1924.

Throughout February, Melissa at Avid Reader’s Musings has been attempting to work her way through this notoriously tricky, stream-of-consciousness, 730 to 900-odd page tome (depending on the version you choose to read). By her own admission she’s no Joyce scholar, and she’s been “intimidated by Ulysses for as long as [she] can remember.” She has, however, been boldly hosting this latest literary jolly, naming her quest #FebBloom, and has invited others to join her in “tackling the beast.”

Melissa writes: “The book is broken into three sections and 18 episodes. Each one is written in a wildly different style. It’s loosely based on Homer’s Odyssey, but instead of ancient Greece, the story follows one man […] around Dublin.”

This “laid back” reading challenge has attracted other participants. You can see how well Adam at Roof Beam Reader has been getting on from his most recent post: Joyce’s Ulysses: Episodes 13-18 #FebBloom.

Follow Melissa’s progress at Ulysses Readlong: Part 1 and Part 2.

* Fifty Post Mark *   

1000 likes50 postsLast week I received a notice from WordPress with the message: ‘Congratulations on writing 50 posts on Book Jotter!’ It arrived with one of those little disc-shaped award-type thingies. I also acquired a similar badge several days earlier for getting 1,000 likes, but it slipped by without me noticing until today. I suppose these are milestones of a sort, so I must be more observant in future.

* Fab Features *

Umpteen fascinating articles appeared on my bookdar last week. I generally make a point of tweeting my favourite finds, but in case you missed anything, here are one or two interesting snippets:

The Guardian: Memento Mori is brilliantly sharp, but is it too cruel? – This week in the Muriel Spark Reading Group: “Muriel Spark’s tale of decrepit characters being rudely reminded of their mortality has been branded ‘gerontophobic’. But it is wickedly entertaining.”

THE OMNIVORE: The Call For Diversity In Children’s Literature – “Facing mounting criticism, publishers of children’s books are looking for new ways to broaden the genre’s horizons.”

THE BOOKSELLER: Penguin pop-up shop to be stocked solely by women writers – Penguin is launching a pop-up bookshop in March stocked exclusively with books by women authors.

The Millions: In Praise of Unfinished Novels – Some novels left unfinished by authorial death are also some of those writers’ most interesting works.

BOOKWITTY: Literary Lives: Five Great Biographies of Famous Authors – R. William Attwood recommends five biographies that invite you into the lives and times of famous writers, and attempts to penetrate the mystery of artistic creation.

Signature: A Look Back at The Feminine Mystique, Which Turns 55 This Year – Fifty-five years after Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique was written, gender equality remains a worthy but elusive goal on the American landscape, says Lisa Rosman.

The Paris Review: Twelve Illustrated Dust Jackets – The middle of the twentieth century marked a high point for illustrated dust jackets. See a selection of these covers with captions provided by Martin Salisbury.


Thank you for taking the time to read this post. I wish you a week bountiful in books and rich in reading.

NB In this feature, ‘winding up’ refers to the act of concluding something and should not be confused with the British expression: ‘wind-up’ – an age-old pastime of ‘winding-up’ friends and family by teasing or playing pranks on them. If you would like to know more about this expression, there’s an excellent description on Urban Dictionary.


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9 replies

  1. Your blog is really up-to-date in its appearance and I appreciate the interesting content too. I just have one question. How easy do you find it to grade books? For example, I have read Joyce but I could never make a connection between his genius and a specific number of stars. Perhaps Joyce is the universe (including mysterious dark matter). When it comes to ‘lesser’ writers, I would also struggle at marking. I’ve never composed a novel, so I would feel a bit cheeky giving somebody who has attained publication three or four stars. I’m also unsure if I read books properly. I hope your course goes well because that sounds like it could be much more illuminating than my random remarks. Best wishes.

    • Many thanks indeed for your comments, Cheep. I agree, this is a tricky issue. For the very reasons you raise, I never give stars or similar in reviews published on this blog – I merely share my thoughts. Goodreads, on the other hand, is all about general readers saying exactly what they think,, so I grade according to how enjoyable the reading experience was for me (there’s certainly nothing particularly clever or learned about it). If I can’t find a single positive thing to say about a book, then I won’t publish a review (here or anywhere else). On the other hand, the Joyce estate is unlikely to suffer a loss of prestige or earnings if I give Ulysses one star: the book is a classic whatever I say or write. The same may not be true for a debut novel, which could, in some instances, be damaged by low grades. I’m always very much aware of this when I critique a book!

  2. Love your reviews. And those congratulatory WordPress ‘medals’ are something I only took notice of when I reached 100 posts so I tacked it onto my Adam Ant book review!

  3. Postscript: At the risk of seeming like a stalker, I would like to say thanks for the link to The Paris Review article on 20th century dust jackets. I have added it to the positive side of my rant on ‘Bookcovers Tell Too Much’ 🙂

  4. Looks like you’ve had an awesome reading week! Good luck with your “How to Read a Novel” class!

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