Join Betsy Tobin to talk about CRIMSON CHINA, our July Book of the Month, on Tue 19 July, 8-9pm

(49 Posts)

July's pick has already been Radio 4's Book at Bedtime and is an excellent slow-burn suspense story. CRIMSON CHINA by Betsy Tobin tells the story of two strangers who meet one freezing night in February 2004, in the icy waters of Morecombe Bay.

Angie, an English woman who is drunkenly attempting suicide, finds herself saving Wen, a Chinese cockle picker, from drowning. They share neither language nor experience but Angie offers him sanctuary, soon finding in this enigmatic stranger a refuge of her own. What she doesn't know is that Wen is a wanted man, on the run from a criminal gang...

You can find out more at Betsy's excellent website and our book of the month page.

And get your paperback or Kindle version now.

We're delighted that Betsy will be joining us for the chat on Tuesday 19 July, 8-9pm. Look forward to seeing you there.

JenaiMarrHePlaysGuitar Fri 08-Jul-11 19:33:50

Marking my place. I loved the book.

Now all I need to do is to formulate an intelligent question grin

DoraJarr Sun 10-Jul-11 13:04:22

i really enjoyed it

I finished it today loved it couldn't put it down.

Looking forward to starting the book tonight. Have a special interest as I live in Morecambe and remember all too well that awful tragedy.

Kveta Mon 11-Jul-11 19:05:28

I read it over the weekend, and really enjoyed (if that's the correct word) the book. I hope you don't mind if I write my thoughts here; there's a very high chance I'll have forgotten them in a week. It really left me wanting more though - what happened to Lili after the book ended?!

I actually felt that there were many threads of the story which could have been expanded and would have added to the book (which is so rare to find! it's much more common to find a book exploring every theme to a sometimes contrived conclusion, so this was refreshing to see). The snakeheads, or Wen's relationship with his fellow chinese immigrant (not putting too much here in case it's a spoiler!). Also May's story, and the working conditions of the immigrants. All were beautifully written about, but also all felt like there was more to learn about them.

My question - if you could have explored each 'story' in more detail without making the book 2000 pages long, which bit interested you most of all?

thanks smile

bahookie Wed 13-Jul-11 12:39:15

i really enjoyed the book and agee with the comments re expanding the stories.

my question is - will there be a sequel?

dobby2001 Wed 13-Jul-11 13:26:21

Ooh good questions so far. I read this slowly, over the course of the week (darn kids interrupting grin) but enjoyed every minute. As others have said, I would like to have known what happened to Lili and wether the relationship with May and her father developed?
Or is all this in the sequel wink

SachaF Wed 13-Jul-11 13:34:53

I also really enjoyed reading this book, looking forward to going to bed each night so I could read a few more pages!
I loved the positivity of the author of thinking of that terrible tragedy and grasping at the fact that not every body was recovered, so is it possible that some survived. Most people would just assume that that was the end.
And I have to agree, I felt at the end that a one or two page tie up piece for Lili would have been perfect. As others have asked, does this mean you are planning a sequel based on Lili's relationships with others?

munstersmum Wed 13-Jul-11 20:44:23

Really enjoyed it & have passed the free copy along - thank you.
Was surprised to find Betsy was American - but don't know why! Maybe because other American author living in London I've read most of is Lionel Shriver & her books are clearly by an American.

So question to Betsy:
To what extent did living outside the USA provide the motivation for writing a book from the perspective of immigrant workers / holding up a mirror for Brits?

Great questions, keep them coming - I will send over to Betsy first thing Monday. Looking forward to Tuesday eve..

EsioTrot Sun 17-Jul-11 19:36:12

I loved the book, found it gripping and the characters engaging.

If you don't intend to write a sequel, what was your reasoning behind leaving Lili's story without any definite conclusions?

I don't mean to sound critical, I'm just intreagued as to what conclusions you imagine your reader's will reach.

Thanks for a great read!

champagnesupernova Sun 17-Jul-11 20:17:00

yikes
have 48 hours to start and finish book....

flakemum Mon 18-Jul-11 09:39:57

I am half way through really enjoying it so far. smile dont think I can finish it by tomorrow for discussion like i hoped tho.

vnmum Tue 19-Jul-11 10:16:42

I am nearly finished, hoping to finish it by the time the discussion starts. I do have a question though

What made you choose the morecambe bay tragedy as a focal point for a book and it's characters? Did you have a connection to the area or the tragedy in some way?

MovingtoSolihull Tue 19-Jul-11 18:00:54

I really enjoyed this book... read it in a couple of days . Thank you Betsy !

Firstly I was surprised with your writing style, I hadnt guessed you were American ! Quite often I find American authors have a somewhat different approach and I guess with writing about a tragic UK event that kinda threw me a bit.

As a child I have seen cars being towed off the sands at Morecambe so the events were very realistic.

My question is how did you conduct your research on this event ? as you pulled it off brilliantly.

PS loved the ending too !

moonbells Tue 19-Jul-11 19:34:19

In general, I liked the story and had to stop myself reading through the night to finish it.

But I am also wondering why Lili's story was left hanging. To me, her character was more interesting than Wen (sorry) and to have no closure was annoying. (I think I was yelling BUT WHAT ABOUT LILI when I got to the end and it wasn't there.)

On a style point, why is it written in changing tenses? I personally loathe 'present tense' novels - when Patricia Cornwell changed her Scarpetta stories from 1st person past to 3rd person present I stopped buying them. This book didn't feel like it knew what it was.

southlondonlady Tue 19-Jul-11 19:44:41

Really enjoyed this book though agree I wanted to hear more of Lilli's story!

My question is did you talk to locals about their interactions with (if any) and feelings about the immigrant workers in Morecambe? Because the local characters seemed very believable, I especially liked the old lady who Wen did the gardening for.

Evening everyone

I'm delighted to introduce our excellent July Author of the Month, Betsy Tobin. CRIMSON CHINA is a thought-provoking and deeply engaging novel, with much to discuss, so without further ado....

Betsy, firstly, thank you very much indeed to taking the time to join us. And congratulations on such a gripping and vivid novel. Perhaps we could kick off with the advance questions from further up the thread? And then we'll aim to get through as many as possible over the next hour.

I'd also like to add two questions:

Which childhood book most inspired you?

What would be the first piece of advice you would give anyone attempting to write fiction?

BetsyTobin Tue 19-Jul-11 20:02:54

Hi everyone. Really pleased to be here, though you'll probably discover I'm a chatroom virgin. Will try to address all your questions!

BetsyTobin Tue 19-Jul-11 20:06:13

Kveta

I read it over the weekend, and really enjoyed (if that's the correct word) the book. I hope you don't mind if I write my thoughts here; there's a very high chance I'll have forgotten them in a week. It really left me wanting more though - what happened to Lili after the book ended?!

I actually felt that there were many threads of the story which could have been expanded and would have added to the book (which is so rare to find! it's much more common to find a book exploring every theme to a sometimes contrived conclusion, so this was refreshing to see). The snakeheads, or Wen's relationship with his fellow chinese immigrant (not putting too much here in case it's a spoiler!). Also May's story, and the working conditions of the immigrants. All were beautifully written about, but also all felt like there was more to learn about them.

My question - if you could have explored each 'story' in more detail without making the book 2000 pages long, which bit interested you most of all?

thanks smile

Hi Kveta. Really pleased you liked the book. Wen was at the heart of this book for me, so I suppose I am closest to his story, which I do feel was resolved. I suppose I would have to bow to readers' views that it is Lili who deserves a bit more, so if I was going to expand I would focus on her, and secondly, May, who I am also very fond of.

More on Lili later...

StewieGriffinsMom Tue 19-Jul-11 20:09:02

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

BetsyTobin Tue 19-Jul-11 20:11:18

SachaF

I also really enjoyed reading this book, looking forward to going to bed each night so I could read a few more pages!
I loved the positivity of the author of thinking of that terrible tragedy and grasping at the fact that not every body was recovered, so is it possible that some survived. Most people would just assume that that was the end.
And I have to agree, I felt at the end that a one or two page tie up piece for Lili would have been perfect. As others have asked, does this mean you are planning a sequel based on Lili's relationships with others?

Hi SachaF. Let me tackle the Lili problem. I do feel guilty that you've all been left wanting! Actually the 'unfinished' ending really wasn't deliberate (which is to say, I did not have a sequel in mind at the time...) but you are not the first to feel this way. My own mother has been asking for a sequel! I think I can offer two explanations, tho neither may satisfy. Firstly, I have a tendency to underwrite (which goes against trend). I like ambiguity and think that part of the experience of reading a book is working things out for oneself. But sometimes you get the balance wrong, and I suspect that's what happened here. Secondly, this book went through several drafts, most of which involved Lili. In an early draft she did have an affair with Adrian, but in all honesty, it wasn't working on the page. It was a little too pat, a little too convenient, and maybe a little too Mills & Boon.

Lili's emotional journey is about finding herself, not the man of her dreams. And the person who guides her is May.

I hope that helps.

BetsyTobin Tue 19-Jul-11 20:14:23

munstersmum

Really enjoyed it & have passed the free copy along - thank you.
Was surprised to find Betsy was American - but don't know why! Maybe because other American author living in London I've read most of is Lionel Shriver & her books are clearly by an American.

So question to Betsy:
To what extent did living outside the USA provide the motivation for writing a book from the perspective of immigrant workers / holding up a mirror for Brits?

Dead chuffed to read this comment Munsterum! We long term ex-pats can be v competitive about this sort of thing. I've lived in the UK since the late 80s and raised four kids here.

And this is a really good question. The answer is A LOT. Although I am fully acclimatized to the culture there's no question that being a stranger in a strange land has shaped both my identity and my writing. It's a theme that crops up again and again in my work, and it was kind of a relief to bring it to the front of the stage for this book.

I'm really interested by your last answer (to Munsterum) - do you think the States has a very different attitude to immigrants? Is the American Dream still alive? And do you think there is a British Dream equivalent? Is that sort of what Wen (and Jin and others) are hoping to achieve?

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