What I am reading: 84 Charing Cross Road

I recently read this classic book first published in 1970. Most people know the story: New York author Helene Hanff writes letters to a London bookshop situated at 84 Charing Cross Road. This charming book reprints the many letters that she sends to the bookshop over many years as she requests copies of various books she wishes to read, and the replies from the people working in the shop.

While this book is a thin volume it still fascinates the reader, despite its quaint and somewhat outdated attitudes and expressions. It is a reminder of a by-gone era, when people had time to correspond, when books were treasured items to be sought after and possessed – not kept on e-readers – and when times in post-war England were quite different as well as difficult.

84 Charing Cross Road was written by Helene Hanff and published by Penguin.

What I am reading: Seamus Heaney

I always seem to have half a dozen books on the go at the one time.

This has been particularly so over the last year or so during my Master of Arts course. I’ve dipped into many reference books in the course of doing background reading or research for the units of study. Then there are  the books delved into while writing essays, or books needing to be read in preparation for lectures or tutorials. At present I’m still doing background research on my novel set in Nepal. Even though I have written the novel – I’m up to the 6th draft – there still seems to be more research I could be doing.

Then I have the books I’m currently reading for relaxation. These books are very important for a balance in my life. I need to be daily reading books for recreation as well as study or those directly used as research for my novel.

I’m currently reading – and rereading – two slim volumes of poetry written by Irish poet Seamus Heaney, the Nobel Prize winner for literature in 1995. I’m sorry to say that I’ve not read much of his work previously and so I’ve come to his works with great anticipation.

The reason I’m reading his works now goes back several months. A few months ago my daughter led a group of her high school students on a trip to Ireland. Just before leaving she asked me if I wanted her to buy anything while she was there. Without thinking too much I asked her to look out for a good book of Irish poetry. She overwhelmed me with not one, but two books of the poetry of Heaney. I’ve been slowly savouring them ever since she returned home.


  • Heaney, Seamus, 2006, Death of a naturalist, Faber and Faber, London
  • Heaney, Seamus, 1979, Field work, Faber and Faber,  London.

What I am reading: Eyeing Everest by Steve Tolbert

Writing a novel: a writer’s journal part 26

Eyeing Everest

What I am reading: Eyeing Everest by Steve Tolbert

I must admit that a little over a week ago I had never heard of author Steve Tolbert. My supervising lecturer recommended I have a look at least one of the books written by this American born writer now living here in Tasmania, Australia. I managed to buy online an as-new copy of his novel for teenagers called Eyeing Everest. It arrived two days later.

Fifteen year old Meika lives in Hobart Tasmania, the setting of the first half of the novel. She has never met her father, and her relationship with her aunty is stronger than the one she pretends to have with her mother. Early in the story her natural mother tragically dies. The following few months as she adapts to life with her aunty are chaotic and rebellious as Meika befriends the enigmatic Ted on the streets. They both spiral deep into trouble until a letter arrives from her father who has lived in Nepal since before she was born.

Within weeks Meika finds herself swept up in the splendid beauty of the Himalayas and adapts to life with a family she never knew existed. Not only are the mountains amazing in their beauty, they are treacherous to live in. She struggles to come to terms with her new environment, new relationships, new customs and the emotions these all engender.

It was an interesting and very satisfying book to read.

My novel is also set in Nepal and so I read with interest how the author tackles his setting. In 2006 I trekked the area in which he has set his story, so that gave it extra meaning for me. He gave me some ideas that I can include during my rewriting, especially in relation to references to food. This was one area I had already identified as needing some changes. More importantly, Tolbert has inspired me to write another novel set in this enigmatic country. I must focus on my current work in progress first.

Further reading: