Lynn Bradshaw

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Reading Patti Smith


Patti Smith's book M Train is a really good read which takes the reader on a ramble through Smith's contemporary life, past life and thoughts. A great deal has been written about the book in the press and on the internet so it is suffice for me to say that it is a thoroughly enjoyable book. Patti Smith was one of my musical idols back in the late 1970s and I have delightedly rediscovered her thanks to this book.

    The Bookshop cover                             The Beginning of Spring cover

I discovered Penelope Fitzgerald by accident last summer when I was wandering around Daunt Books in Hampstead in search of some thing to read. Several books caught my eye but the one I picked up was The Bookshop. I was familiar with the author's name but not her work and so, I bought the book. I devoured it in a sitting.

What I love about her writing is the economy of words - she could conjur up a scene in just a few sentences. Her work was sparing but to the point. Her characters given just enough depth and description to give the reader a sense of who they are.

In January 2017 The Guardian Book Club chose Penelope Fitzgerald as its author of the month. This lead to a lively debate as to which books to read and culminated in an interview with her biographer, Hermoine Lee. As a result, I downloaded the first chapter of The Beginning of Spring onto my Kindle Fire and began reading. By the time I read to the end of the sample I knew I wanted to read the whole book.

I am going through an analogue phase (again) and decided to read the print version. I found this one in an independent bookstore in West Hampstead (West End Lane Books) and am reading it and devouring it slowly. I am amazed by the amount of detail she has put into her books about a country she never visited. I can only conclude that she spent an enormous amount of time in the British Library reading about Moscow and how life was lived before World War One. She incorporates this research into the story with such ease that the narrative reads like a time she knew personally. As a reader I am in awe. As a writer I am humbled.


Elizabeth Strout is one of those writers who arranges words so beautifully on the page that it is a sheer pleasure just to read them. Strout does not waste words and each words in her writing has a part to play in conveying the story. There are no skipable passages or pages you can happily skim through in her books as there is nothing written on the page which is redundant. This is not to say her books are a difficult read. They are, in fact, delightfully easy to read and extremely filling. I come away from each page feeling blessed that I have been allowed to read it.