Newsletter No 23 (October 11th, 2011)


The seasons turn but one thing stays the same and that’s the curiosity of our readers and their need to feed it with great books. September’s reviews will give you plenty of food for thought as the nights draw in and the urge to curl up by a crackling fire kicks in again. Crime was front of mind with a treat for ‘true crime’ and historical book lovers alike – the Damnation of John Donnellan will transport you straight to the 1780s and a Tudor manor house near Rugby. Another non-fiction gem is Sonia Faleiro’s Beautiful Thing – Inside the Secret World of Bombay’s Dance Bars which lifts the lid on the shady goings-on of the Mumbai dance bar scene – a hard to define 21st century extension of the traditional art of the courtesan. We have three free copies of Beautiful Thing to give away – so be sure to check out the competition on the Forum.

In another ‘shady’ area – the space that lies between fact and fiction – you’ll find Patrick Mc Guiness’ novel set in the final months of the Romanian dictator Nicolae Caucescu. If it’s fiction that fires your curiosity we have reviews of the new books by Julian Barnes and Ali Smith. And finally, if had a prize for the most curious title it would probably go to Sexually I’m more of a Switzerland. If nothing else that would make you scroll down this newsletter to find out more.

With Halloween coming in a few weeks, why not pop by the Forum and tell us about your favourite ghost stories or books that really make you scared.

Sincerely Yours, Curious Book Fans

Q&A with Sonia Faleiro

Sonia Faleiro: I met Leela through a source in what I call the ‘bar and brothel business’. She was 19 at the time, and one of the smartest young women I’d met anywhere. I immediately knew I wanted to write about her and so I asked if I could follow her around.

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Beautiful Thing – Inside the Secret World of Bombay’s Dance Bars by Sonia Faleiro


I am absolutely awestruck by the research that went into this book which is Sonia Faleiro’s first. To throw yourself into the underworld, court the friendship of fascinating but dangerous people, follow them wherever they go without apparent concern for your safety, and to do all that as a young woman from out of town, is nothing short of remarkable.

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The Murder Room by Michael Capuzzo

Twenty years ago, three uniquely talented men decided that there was far too much unsolved crime in the world, and set out to use their talents to do something about it. Put like that, this sounds like a story about a batman-style avenger of the wronged, but the true tale of The Murder Room is something altogether more remarkable.  

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The Storyteller of Marrakesh by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya

Stories of disappearance told through different points of view can be found in films like Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock and Kurosawa’s Rashomon. What this different viewpoint technique does is to give us a take on human nature and to tell us that very often what we believe is not always correct.

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The Damnation of John Donellan by Elizabeth Cooke

In The Damnation of John Donellan, Elizabeth Cooke takes us on a thorough examination of this curious case, its outcome and consequences, in a book that plays like a Georgian Suspicions of Mr Whicher.

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The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

It’s hard to know whether to recommend the book or even to remember where I got it from but I’m glad to have read it and spent time thinking about both how far we have come as women since the 1890s and how much better mental health is now understood yet at the same time, how many of the problems of the mental health of young mothers are still not taken as seriously as they perhaps need to be.

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The Last Hundred Days by Patrick McGuinness

At the end of 1989, the brutal Stalinist regime of Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania came to an end. Patrick McGuinness was there, and in The Last Hundred Days has written a novel set during this time, following a young Englishman as he arrives in Bucharest to take a job for which he didn’t bother to attend the interview.

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There But For The by Ali Smith

Occasionally, as if by chance, books appear shortly after each other which address the same theme. It may be chance, but sometimes there will have been a common source – an event, an idea, a discussion or debate – which touched both authors at the same time a couple of years before the books were published.

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Big Earth: 101 Amazing Adventures by Russ Malkin

Big Earth is a kind of “directory” of trips, adventures and experiences which you can undertake around the world.  All have been tried and tested, and each is categorised as “Long weekend”, “Two weeks off work” or “Once in a lifetime” .

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The First Wife by Emily Barr

I am a huge fan of the writer Emily Barr and have pretty much read all of her books. Her latest book, The First Wife, is another great read, with lots of intrigue and mystery.

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This Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar Ben Jelloun

As is shown by the abuse described in This Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar Ben Jelloun, and has been clearly confirmed by revelations resulting from events in the Middle East and North Africa this year, acts of despotic behaviour by leaders in the region were not uncommon. Shamefully for our governments it’s also clear that it’s not a ‘new’ thing for the international community to cheerfully look the other way so long as it suited them to do so.

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The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

We are what we remember. But imagine, suddenly, that you were confronted with incontrovertible evidence that what you remember is wrong. That, in fact, you behaved in a very different way than you remember at a key point in your past. Would it change your sense of identity, or alter your understanding of the world?

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Sexually, I’m more of a Switzerland by David Rose

Sexually, I’m more of a Switzerland is a collection of personal ads placed in the London Review of Books which have been gathered together by David Rose, the editor of the journal’s lonely hearts column for many years. The collection contains examples that are typically laugh-out-loud hilarious, often sad, sometimes so ambiguous as to represent a waste of the advertisers money and frequently deeply troubling.

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