For most of this year, my nose has been buried in books with such titles as Cyprus: Conflict and Negotiation 1960–1980 and Modernity, History and an Island in Conflict – all fascinating, but not what you would call page-turners. During my research period for The Sunrise (which is set in Cyprus) all other reading went on hold. Other, more tempting, books piled up in my study and I felt like someone on a strict diet being made to sit in a cake shop.
The moment I finished writing my novel it was time for a holiday and all the books that had been waiting for me were thrown into a suitcase, leaving little room for anything other than a bikini. For me, one of the most exciting things about finishing writing is that I can then read other people’s stories. I find it hard to do the two things simultaneously.
I began with a delicious treat: How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran. I laughed until I ached, only stopping to read big chunks out to my family (I know, it’s an annoying habit, but I just couldn’t help it). It was funny and fresh and original but, most of all, full of painful truths. There are many parallels with How to Be a Woman (but I liked it all the more for that) and is one of those books that helped me understand myself better. Any man who wants to learn something about women will find some answers in this hilarious story too. The only problem was that I read it too fast – and then regretted my greed.
The ending is one of the most powerful of any book I can remember, and arrives like a tidal wave delivering messages and meanings that almost transcend the story itself.
There was another, very different, treat waiting. A year ago, I bought Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch just so that I could look at it on my shelf, sitting there with all the promise of an unopened box of chocolates. I was not disappointed. In all its 900 pages, there is not a quiet moment. The story more or less explodes on the first page and from then on plunges the reader into a gripping adventure.
The storytelling is truly breathtaking and the characters enthralling. I read it in five days, telling myself to slow down, as if I was on a journey that was going too fast.
The image of the painting of a small bird around which the novel revolves is pivotal, a goldfinch being as vulnerable as the motherless child who tells us his story. Having read Tartt’s first two novels, I was ready to feel let down. How could this one possibly live up to the others? But it did, and perhaps surpassed them. The ending is one of the most powerful of any book I can remember, and arrives like a tidal wave delivering messages and meanings that almost transcend the story itself.
When I saw someone reading The Goldfinch on a train last week, I felt a huge pang of envy that they were still lost in the world of Theo Decker, still listening to his voice and his adventures. I suspect it will be another decade until Donna Tartt’s next novel but I know it will be worth waiting for.
Victoria’s latest novel ‘The Sunrise’ is available to pre-order here today, and is out to buy on 25th September 2014.
Have you read a book recently that you didn’t want to end? Let us know about it in the comments box below.