When is a TBR Pile not a TBR Pile?

Library Voices LogoAs I wandered around the library recently, browsing the ‘just returned’ and the ‘new titles’ shelves, I spotted a couple if books that had been on my mental ‘to read’ list ever since going to the authors’ readings. One of my favourite cultural activities is attending author readings and discussion sessions, sometimes as part of a literary festival, sometimes as standalone events. My actually having read any work from a particular author before an event is not a pre-requisite. Indeed, going along to hear a reading or an interview is often a fantastic way to get into a new writer. I have often added a new author to my repertoire on the strength of an interesting evening of extracts and bookish discussion. I can highly recommend putting the literary cart before the horse, so to speak. Although, I have to say that I’ve rarely been disappointed when I’ve done it the other way round and gone along to listen to one of my favourite authors.Dublin UNESCO Logo

The regular Dún Laoghaire Rathdown ‘Library Voices’ series of readings and talks has often proved to be a very fruitful source of inspiration in the never ending search for new authors. From these events, I have acquired (so to speak) Peter Carey and Alex Miller, though I have also taken the chance to listen to old favourites such as Joanna Trollope and Audrey Niffenegger. The Peter Carey event featured a reading from his latest book The Chemistry of Tears and when I later went on to read the book I could hear Carey’s voice in my head telling the story. I probably would have enjoyed the book anyway, but I think that having heard Carey discuss his work piqued my interest. As it turned out, I read 30 days in Sydney: A Wildly Distorted Account before coming to The Chemistry of Tears, which convinced me that Carey was a writer to treasure. Before reading 30 Days, I didn’t have the slightest interest in Sydney, but Carey brought its history and culture alive, peopling it with a fascinating cast of characters. All ‘wildly distorted’ no doubt.

Another fruitful series of events has been the Dublin City Council run, European literature event ‘Words on the Street’ that I attended for the second time this year. Mind you, one of the attractions of this event has been listening to Bryan Murray who is such an enthusiastic reader. Last year he read an extract from The Dinner by Herman Koch and this year (in St Anne’s Church, one of my favourite venues), he read from Caesarion by Tommy Wieringa. It did however take me around a year to catch up with The Dinner, so I expect it to take a similar amount of time to read this year’s batch of European literature. I was not greatly enthused by The Dinner when I finally got around to it, although it was well written, but it wasn’t really Bryan Murray’s fault.IMPAC Logo

Similarly, I have not yet caught up with the IMPAC 2014 prize-winning novel, despite attending the announcement of the winner and a reading with the author and translator. I thought Juan Gabriel Vásquez made a brilliant acceptance speak and after hearing him read from and discuss the Sound of Things Falling, I was determined to read it as soon as possible (well as soon as the TBR Pile allowed anyway). I think I need another dose of serendipity; if I see it there in front of me on the shelf; it must be waiting for me. Of course, if I had been quick enough to snaffle a free copy at the Pearse Library IMPAC event, it would be on my actual TBR Pile and not my virtual one. However, such is life. A new entrant to my virtual TBR Pile is Richard Ford who gave a reading at Trinity College Dublin (where he is an adjunct professor) this autumn from his latest novel Let Me Be Frank.

Now, I can see that unless I stop attending literary events my TBR Pile stands even less chance of shrinking than it did before. Alas, it is a cure that I don’t want to contemplate…


Introducing Landing Author Juliet Greenwood

As there are still plenty of summer days left for reading (albeit that you might be reading in mac and wellingtons) I thought I would feature one of my recent library reads which I flew through recently. We That are Left by Juliet Greenwood (Honno Press 2014) is set  during the First World War, which is a very topical subject just at the moment. The action moves between Cornwall, Anglesey and France as the war unfolds and opens at Elin Helstone’s  Cornish home Hiram Hall just before the outbreak of hostilities:We that are left


Elin lives a luxurious but lonely life at Hiram Hall. Her husband Hugo loves her but he has never recovered from the Boer War. Now another war threatens to destroy everything she knows.

With Hugo at the front, and her cousin Alice and friend Mouse working for the war effort, Elin has to learn to run the estate in Cornwall, growing much-needed food, sharing her mother’s recipes and making new friends – and enemies. But when Mouse is in danger, Elin must face up to the horrors in France herself.
 And when the Great War is finally over, Elin’s battles prove to have only just begun.


I have read many novels from this period, but ever since reading Not So Quiet by Helen Zennor Smith some years ago, I’ve tried to  read more about women’s role during the great conflict. Juliet Greenwood’s novel combines love (as opposed to romance) with the hard realities of war for both soldiers and civilians, against a background of women’s wartime activity. Whether it’s growing food, driving ambulances or running a hospital and foraging for medical supplies, Greenwood’s women step up and are counted. It was a time when women were challenging social roles and agitating for the vote, and it was ironic that it took a war for women to have the opportunity prove what they could do. It is also worth pointing out that after the war many women who served in the war effort would have had just the same difficulties as the men in returning to peace time after all that they had seen and endured.

I haven’t hosted a Landing Author for a while, so I thought I would ask Juliet Greenwood if she would be kind enough to write a guest post for The Landing. After seeing a cookery demonstration recently at TCD’ s World War I day of talks and events, I decided that it would be interesting to focus on food as a post topic. At the cookery demonstration, Domini Kemp and Catherine Cleary from RTE’s History on a Plate recreated some recipes from the Ireland of that period. In Juliet’s novel, Elin has her Welsh mother’s collection of tried and tested recipes which she puts to good to good use when ingredients are scarce. A nice feature of We that are left is that Juliet has included some of the recipes that she mentions in the story. I’m planning to try out some of them myself and will be posting the results on Curiously Creatively in due course.

I’ll be posting up Juliet’s guest post, complete with recipes to tempt you into the kitchen, in a couple of days so do look out for it. Juliet Greenwood is the second Honno Press author that I’ve hosted here, the first being Jacqueline Jacques so check out her guest posts too if you have the time.

In the meantime, here’s a little information about Juliet Greenwood if you haven’t read her books before:

Juliet Greenwood

At Blist’s Hill Victorian Town


Juliet lives in a traditional quarryman’s cottage between the mountains of Snowdonia and the island of Anglesey. She has a large garden and attempts to grow as much as she is able and experiment with the results. When not writing Juliet works collecting oral history, before such stories are lost forever.

‘We That are Left’ is her second Book for Honno Press. Her first, ‘Eden’s Garden’ was a finalist for ‘The People’s Book Prize’ 2014. Both books were Kindle top 5 best sellers in June and July 2014.

Juliet also writes serials and stories for magazines as ‘Heather Pardoe’.


Juliet’s Media Links:

We That Are Left Honno Press, 2014

The Welsh Books Council’s Book of the Month, March 2014

The National Museum of Wales Book of the Month, March 2014

Waterstones Wales Book of the Month March, 2014 http://www.amazon.co.uk/That-Are-Left-Juliet-Greenwood/dp/190678499X

Eden’s Garden Honno Press, 2012

Finalist for ‘The People’s Book Prize’, May 2014



Website:     http://www.julietgreenwood.co.uk/

Blog:            http://julietgreenwoodauthor.wordpress.com/

Facebook:    https://www.facebook.com/juliet.greenwood

Twitter:      https://twitter.com/julietgreenwood

I hope all of that has whetted your appetite before Juliet Greenwood’s guest post on writing about women and food in the First World War!