Lynn Bradshaw

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Reading Patti Smith

Patti Smith's book M Train  is a journey through the creative soul and life of the artist. We meet Patti Smith the coffee drinker, the artist, the writer, the photographer, the mother, the cat lover, the singer, the political force and the woman. Patti Smith is a woman who loves life and loves art. The structure of the book is her life and her passions. It is a portrait of the artist in her later years but retains the energy and life force of her earlier years. This book is Patti Smith in essence.

    The Bookshop cover                             The Beginning of Spring cover

I love reading Penelope Fitzgerald's fiction. The books are slight but packed with such excellent writing that I am transported into her world from the first sentence. In her novel The Beginning of Spring she so evokes Russian during the early twentieth century that it is amazing to learn from her biographer Hermoine Lee that she never set foot in the country. In The Bookshop she drew upon her own experience of working in a book shop to take immerse the reader in the experience of a lonely widown who moves to a small town and dares to open a book shop.

Whilst reading I drew some comparisons with an old favourite written by May Sarton called The Education of Harriet Hatfield which is about a Boston Lesbian opening a bookshop in a place where there were no book shops. In May Sarton's novel the bookseller wins over the resident population which the unfortunate heroine of Penelope Fitzgerald's book failed to do. Despite the different sexual orientations of the booksellers I do think there are some strong comparisons between the two novels and I urge readers to read both of them as they are both extremely well written.

Olive Kitteridge: A Novel in Stories This is the story of Olive Kitteridge, a retired school teacher, as she comes to terms with the changes in her life. The chapters tell the story from several points of view including Olive's own and gives different points of view on Olive's character.

The writing is concise and precise so that there are no paragraphs worth skipping over. Every sentence moves the story along. Strout's experience as a writing teacher shines through this novel and I can only admire the way she puts her sentences together.

Olive Kitteridge is not the most likeable person but she is treated sympathetically by Strout.