For my birthday recently, my best bud contributed to my growing Penguin collection, by presenting me with The Odyssey, by Homer. As you can see by the picture to our left, the cover is gorgeously patterned waves of aqua against a forbidding sea-green cloth background, as only Coralie Bickford-Smith knows how to do. It’s been one of my favourites of the Penguin collection so far, and has only recently been trumped by the new version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (have you seen it?).
I confess, however, that this isn’t the first time that I’ve been dreaming of the salt-spray hitting my face, sails flapping above me, albatrosses circling ever closer. Despite its best efforts, my very pretty new gift of one of the most classic sea journeys ever did not completely satisfy my cravings for the sea air. So I’ve turned to other reads, in the hope that I will be cured of ocean-lust for at least a few months…until it’s warm enough to brave the beach on the coast again.
Beauty Queens, by Libba Bray
I’ve raved enough in the past about Libba Bray’s wonderfully-realised Gemma Doyle trilogy, but this is a true departure from the Victorian boarding school witchcraft I’ve come to love and expect from the author. Beauty Queens, released this month, is the story of pageant contestants who are stranded on a desert island after their plane takes a dive. A satirical take on the whole Lost / Lord of the Flies tale of psychological survival, Beauty Queens doesn’t appear to sugarcoat the beauty queen stereotype – I’m expecting a book where we laugh at the characters’ expense, often. From early blog reports, Beauty Queens is a book you’ll either love, or you just won’t get. I’m interested to see which group I’ll be part of once I sit down to have a read of it. And at the very least, I am a huge fan of the cover (are lipstick bullets not the best invention ever?).
Jamrach’s Managerie, by Carol Birch
Ah, Jamrach’s Managerie. I’m expecting beautiful prose, and a fantastical story of Jaffy the Zookeeper’s assistant, saved from the jaws of a Bengal tiger and sailing the high seas, a story infused with a bit of real-life history too. Not recommended for those with a weak sea-sick-prone stomach, I’ve heard Birch talk of how she was not particularly happy to hear so many readers felt nauseous from the realistic descriptions contained within the novel, but she did like that it moved her readers. I hope it moves me, too – even to cradling the toilet bowl.
Leviathan, by Philip Hoare
Finally, we have Leviathan. Alternately titled The Whale, Philip Hoare explores the wonderful and wacky world of this majestic sea creature. Fascinated by the story of Moby Dick , the author sees the parallels between that classic fictional adventure and the journey of the modern whale, and its strange and often arduous relationship with man.
Have you read, or are planning to read any of these books? What books have you got to read next on your nightstand?