Last weekend I was lucky enough to be invited to a reception held at the Groucho Club to celebrate Georges Simenon and his most famous creation, Inspector Maigret. Like many, I knew a lot about Maigret and watched a couple of episodes of the English TV adaptation starring Michael Gambon except that I hadn’t actually read any of his novels as I was obsessed by Agatha Christie when I was younger. But my first literary love has always been crime fiction and so in preparation, I dipped my toes into the smoky and boozy world of Maigret.

As well as learning more about Simenon and his work, I was also looking forward to meeting John Simenon who gave an insightful talk about his father and his work. What was particularly interesting, and astounding for me, was that Simenon had written almost 400 novels, often writing 5 a year. His Inspector Maigret novels were first published in 1931 with Pietr the Latvian and there are almost 75 volumes, rivaling Agatha Christie. Both John and Penguin, who are republishing all of Simenon’s novels in new translations, are hoping that people will get hooked on the novels and devour them one after the another.

John Simenon

Simenon always saw himself as a craftsmen rather than an artist and was fascinated by the neurological and psychological aspects of crime. He was a humanist and was considerably influenced by the Church although he was often angry with it. He worked as a traveling journalist from 1919 to 1922, a period in which he made profound discoveries about his fellow men and what it meant to be human. The following decade was a period of apprenticeship where he produced pulp fiction until 1931 when he introduced Maigret to the world. But he soon wanted to change direction, moving on from crime, and began to publish his romans durs, what he called his pure, standalone novels. Regarding his writing habits, Maigret used a typewriter at first but then moved on to write with a pen and then edit and finish the draft with a typewriter. Even with such productivity, John recalls that Simenon always considered himself a father first and writer second.

And finally, we were all really excited to hear that a new TV adaptation of Maigret featuring Rowan Atkinson is in production. I can’t quite picture him as Maigret yet, but I’m certainly looking forward to it.

It was a lovely afternoon hearing John speak and to catch up with other bloggers including Annabel (do check out her post on the event) and to meet Sarah of Crimepieces, Elizabeth of Fictionbitch and Charlie of The Worm Hole. Thank you to John and Simenon UK for the kind invitation and for Penguin who supplied lots of Maigret titles for us to take away. I’d better get cracking!

Revenge 2

To celebrate the paperback publication of Revenge by Yoko Ogawa, Vintage Books has kindly handed over a bundle of books by Ogawa to give away to a lucky winner.

The winner of this wonderful prize is MEE!


Congratulations and please e-mail me your address whereupon I will fly to the post office and send off the bundle. Enjoy the books!

Thank you all for kindly commenting and RTing about the giveaway. I’m a little surprised that not more of you commented for the books but I do realise that the giveaway was only open to UK readers (sorry!) and perhaps many of you have already read Ogawa’s novels? I do hope that you will all give Yoko Ogawa’s books a try if you haven’t already – Ogawa certainly writes about contemporary Japan in an interesting way.

Revenge by Yoko Ogawa is published in paperback on 3 July (Vintage, £7.99). To coincide with the paperback release of Revenge, Vintage will be reissuing The Diving Pool, The Housekeeper and the Professor and Hotel Iris in paperback.

Umami Mart

Another Michelin-starred stop during my short trip to Hong Kong last year. Are you surprised at how much we ate? But believe me, it wasn’t a chore and we hardly put on any weight. Check me out at Umami Mart: Slightly Peckish!

In bookish news, I’ve just finished reading the very addictive The Quick by Lauren Owen which seems to herald a revival of all things literary gothic. I approve. I’m now ensconced in all things Marguerite Duras with The North China Lover, another study of her adolescent love affair that played such a big part in her life, and Outside: Selected Writings, a selection of her reportage pieces, in anticipation of the Institut Français’ event about her work and life. And I’ve also started Eimear McBride’s A Girl is a Half-formed Thing for my book group which is very different from anything I’ve read before. I’m not sure how I’ll get on.

And, I squealed when I received this in the post. I cannot wait to read the final volume in Deborah Harkness’s All Souls Trilogy, The Book of Life!

Book of Life wine


Shiny New Books!, a quarterly online literary magazine edited by four wonderful bloggers, Annabel, Harriet, Simon T and Victoria, is launching its inaugural issue today! It’s packed full of bookish information and reviews including fiction, non-fiction, re-prints and book buzz, so do make sure you take a gander.

And in the first issue, you will find my review of Mahesh Rao’s beautiful The Smoke is Rising which has just been published by Daunt Books so do check it out!

Smoke is Rising

Slightly Peckish Tuesday

16 April, 2013

Umami Mart

Umami Mart‘s Editor, Kayoko, is away in Vietnam and so she’s asked us to pick a favourite post from the last 6 years and you can see my choice over at Umami Mart: Flashback Fave today. Go on, scoot over there and also check out what the other writers have chosen. I only picked one that wasn’t mine but if I had to choose a favourite Slightly Peckish post, it would probably have to be this , this and this.

In bookish news, Granta‘s Best of Young British Novelists 4 was announced yesterday. I’m delighted that both Tahmima Anam and Ross Raisin were included in the Granta list and am looking forward to reading all the other writers, some of which I have on my shelves including Helen Oyeyemi, Ned Beauman and Evie Wyld of whom I have heard so much.

The much-anticipated shortlist for the 2013 Women’s Prize for Fiction (formerly the Orange Prize for Fiction) was announced this morning amidst some misgivings that it’s the usual suspects but I can’t wait to read Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies as I loved Wolf Hall and also want to try Zadie Smith’s NW. I read Smith’s debut, White Teeth, when it was published way back in 2000 but haven’t read her subsequent novels although my sister has a copy of On Beauty which I’ve been meaning to read after I read E.M. Forster’s Howard’s End (do I need to?)

And next week I’m planning to attend an event celebrating the publication of The Science of Discworld IV: Judgement Day where Terry Pratchett will be in discussion with his collaborators, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen. You may still be able to get tickets from Waterstones Gower Street but hurry! I’ve read the first 3 books in the series and they are a wonderful mixture of the history of science interspersed with events in the Discworld which I highly recommend.

Science of Discworld IV

A Statue for Dickens?

25 May, 2012

Did you know that there are only two statues of Charles Dickens worldwide and none in the UK? Neither did I. Considering Dickens is one of the most famous and beloved literary figures in the world, it’s frankly astonishing.

A few months ago, I received a rather lovely invitation to the very grand Mansion House for a fund-raising event to celebrate the life of Charles Dickens and to talk statues. Or one particular statue that was chosen by the Dickens Fellowship, with the support of the Dickens family, to be erected in Portsmouth, the birthplace of Dickens to celebrate the bicentenary of the novelist’s birth.

Artist Martin Jennings’ design was chosen and it’s a beautiful piece. In the picture above, you can see the sculptor with the maquette of the proposed statue of Dickens reposing on a chair of books.

After being formally announced to the hall, shaking hands with the mayors of London and Portsmouth, partaking some delicious canapés and a few glasses of champagne, we were treated to speeches which showed how passionate people are about Dickens and preserving his legacy.

So if you would like to help fund the statue, you can do so here. And a big thank you to Lyndsay for the kind invitation.

If you would like to make a contribution, you can do so here:

*Regarding Charles Dickens’ will, I received the following clarification from Lyndsay who helped organise the event:

The will as regards him not wanting a statue or monument has been interpreted by the Dickens family as referring specifically to his grave, and only binding in the lives of his children. ‘The Life of our Lord’ was written initially for his children, and so was placed under the same caveats in his will, but that was published in 1934 after his last child, Sir Henry Fielding, died.

Some bits and bobs

27 October, 2011

I haven’t done a miscellaneous post for a while and just in case you thought I’d gone all seriousy and reviewy, here is a list of things to tickle your fancy:

Claire and Verity are once again organising the Persephone Secret Santa. I’m pondering whether to participate this year, as I have a stack of Persephones I still need to read, but it was a lot of fun last year and if you do want to join, make sure you contact Claire by November 6th.

Some of us book bloggers have actually met each other in real life. Do check out Lyndsey and Alex‘s posts on when Alex and Iris came to London Town and we all met up for brunch. It was a lovely day and I can only say I was impressed at how restrained they were in Waterstone’s.

In bookish news, World Book Night 2012 have announced their list of 25 titles which were chosen by book lovers to be distributed on April 23rd next year. What do you think? I for one am happy to see Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman and The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks on the list although the selection isn’t exactly global.

And last week was, of course, the announcement of the Booker Prize won by Julian Barnes for The Sense of an Ending which has had some wonderful reviews. I haven’t actually read anything by Barnes although a good friend of mine had read The History of the World in 10 1/2 chapters and Violet has also recommended Metroland. But I haven’t read the shortlist so can’t say anything about the win although there was the usual hoohah about it. What about you?

I’m currently reading Pinball 1973 by Haruki Murakami which I’m rather enjoying in preparation for the hefty 1Q84. I’m not sure why as I’m pretty sure they don’t have anything to do with each other…

I’ve also discovered the hit Italian crime drama Romanzo Criminale when I was babysitting my nephews and have become captivated by the energy and, ahem, the ‘taches. Since I don’t actually have Sky at home, I’ll be waiting for the DVD boxset to come out with English subtitles. And maybe I’ll get the book by Giancarlo de Cataldo on which the series is based.

And I seem to have come down with a crappy cold when I need to prepare for Nanowrimo this year, maybe sneak in one more book to read for R.I.P. VI and carve a suitably scary pumpkin for my nephews.

So what have you all been up to?