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Featured debut author book giveaway: Spill Simmer Falter Wither

(20 Posts)
UrsulaMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 24-Nov-15 16:20:21

Nominated for the Guardian First Book Award longlist and the Costa shortlist for the best debut novel, Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume is a touching story about an old man and a one-eyed dog, and the restorative power of friendship.

Read an extract and Sara's top tips for debut authors, and apply for one of 50 copies to review. Post your thoughts on the thread below.

weathermum Mon 14-Dec-15 12:26:29

thankyou so much for the book just received... Spill simmer falter wither soon as I have read it I will post again

musicmaiden Thu 17-Dec-15 11:51:07

Yes, thank you for mine, looking forward to this one. Taking it away with me over Christmas.

FiveShelties Wed 23-Dec-15 22:06:18

Thank you very much, received mine too. Will read as soon as I have finished current book and post a review. Have bought in extra tissues - looks like I may need them!

cathisherwood Sun 27-Dec-15 15:46:20

I have just finished this book which is by turns touching and revolting. The language written by Sara is so descriptive you can imagine yourself there at each scene and feel the emotion emanating from Ray. You can understand the bond between the man and the dog both of whom have been deeply affected by their upbringing and seem powerless to grasp the future and change things for the better. Definitely an interesting read. Not one to read when you want cheering up though

purplemonstermum Mon 28-Dec-15 12:11:52

Thank you for my copy of this book. It was an interesting read and not something I probably would have pursued if I had come across it in a bookshop or library. However, I am glad that I persevered, having been sent a copy to review. The language was beautiful, extremely descriptive and you could vividly picture every place that the author wrote about - e.g. the beach, the house, the car etc. Sometimes this was not pleasant and especially towards the end I found myself actually grimacing with disgust at some scenes (I assume this was intended!) The bond between the dog and the man was also well drawn and their loyalty to each other was touching (even though, not being a dog-lover myself, my sympathies were not always with Ray's decisions). I felt I would have liked more information about Ray's difficulties and how he had ended up as he did - why was he so lonely? Why did he never work? What happened to his mother? How did he survive financially? I get that maybe (? because of whatever difficulties he had) he was not able to provide us with these answers, but as a reader it was a bit frustrating and I did not feel particularly empathetic towards, or moved by, him as a result (thinking about it, maybe the same effect he had on others in "real" life...) I also felt that the ending left many unsolved mysteries. Overall, though I would recommend this book. Thank you.

Jossykaye Wed 30-Dec-15 16:04:02

Just finished reading this book. I think it's beautifully written although not really my cup of tea to be honest. I found the second person narration- although unusual and interesting- a bit claustrophbic and annoying. I would say I appreciated this book rather than enjoyed it and I can't think of anyone I would recommend it to.
I would read something else by the author though, because as I said before, it's very well written.

chris69 Sun 03-Jan-16 18:53:43

Thank you for my free copy of this book. Took me a while to get into this book but when I did I really enjoyed the beautiful style of writing from the author. The story revolves around a lonely 57year old man and his relationship with a dog he adopts. Both outcasts in their own way they find comfort in each other's company. Although both are not always likeable as previously said in this thread I would have liked more background information on Ray and why his father disliked him so much, and why and how his mother died. Overall a good read.

weathermum Wed 06-Jan-16 14:01:01

This is proving quite a task to read...I have tried several times but only seem to manage a few pages...I find it quite depressing, but think it a very well written book and its packed with descriptions of everything possible.

musicmaiden Fri 08-Jan-16 14:55:27

Just finished today. There's no doubt whatsoever that Sara is a very talented writer; she is incredibly skilled at conjuring up this world that is by turns beautiful, wild, suffocating and grim. Her descriptive powers are immense and there are some gorgeous passages about the minutiae of existence. Both the protagonist and the dog are so damaged, so sad, and yet they are able to take a more visceral approach to life than many around them, noticing things most don't and living/half living very much in the moment. It made me think again about the people on the edges of society, and how they become so, and how they are ignored and ridiculed. I really liked the thread that runs through the book of how people ignore the commonplace or ugly in favour of the cherished and beautiful.

The only negative point is that occasionally it feels like an exercise in creative writing rather than a real novel, in the sense that the plot/action is very slim and the more practical/explanatory details, as mentioned by purplemonstermum, are overlooked in favour of dense description and sustaining the atmosphere. But as it was a relatively short novel it kept my attention and I enjoyed it very much, despite its darkness.

Thanks again for my copy!

FiveShelties Sat 09-Jan-16 17:19:33

It was a difficult read, rather disturbing in parts, but very well written and I did find it difficult to get into. The scenes are so well described I felt I was there, although I sometimes wished I wasn't! It is not a book I would have chosen but I am pleased to have had the opportunity to read something completely different to my normal crime books. Like previous posters, I would have loved more background information. I cannot say I enjoyed it, it is a difficult subject, but it definitely made me think.

Thank you for my copy.

TolpuddleFarter Mon 11-Jan-16 18:53:51

Thanks for my copy of the book!

Only just started it due to the madness of Christmas, but I will be back to post my thoughts when I've finished it. I have to admit it hasn't grabbed me yet though...

alialiath Mon 11-Jan-16 19:02:19

A beautifully written, but uncomfortable story about Ray, a vulnerable man who either had special needs, or mental health issues, or a combination of them both, and his rescued dog, and how he perceived society, and society related to him.

It was interesting that Ray adopted a dog with one eye, who he unimaginatively named One Eye, as he could relate to it as it was imperfect and different just like him.

barricade Mon 18-Jan-16 03:14:09

Many thanks for the opportunity to review this novel.

Picking up this book, I couldn't help but picture the Disney/Pixar movie 'Up' in my mind. There were many similarities in the premise between both stories --> elderly man, loner, spent the majority of his life with a single family member, their sudden death leaves him completely alone, he is then responsible for an unintended injury to someone, this forces him to escape, he embarks on a country-spanning trip with a new companion who becomes his real friend by the end of the story.
I was half-expecting 'Spill, Simmer, Falter, Wither' to be a similarly uplifting, joyous story as 'Up', full of hope and optimism. However, that was where the comparisons ended.
The story develops really well. The narrative composition is brilliantly fleshed out. The author really works at ensuring zero compromise in composing text rich with detail and description. The second-person narration makes the reader feel as if they are right there alongside Ray, seeing what he sees, feeling as he feels - the trepidation, the fear, the loneliness. Only gradually revealing the full details behind the circumstances of Ray's past proves a successful ploy. And the story threads are intelligently tied up by the end, demonstrating that there was a reason behind everything that happened (even the decision to acquire One-Eye the dog - i.e. to get rid of the rats).
However, the story takes a disgusting turn towards the end. The reader is left with many questions. And not just the obvious ones like how his mother died, etc. (** Spoiler Alert **) The story begins by emphasising that Ray is "Too old for starting over, too young for giving up!". But he clearly 'gives up' by the end. He has completely spent the remainder of his Father's savings, he has very low self-esteem and confidence and doesn't feel he has any skills or experience to get a job, and he has let the hostility he's experienced all his life get to him. So he commits suicide, leaving One-Eye to fend for himself. Question is, why was Ray so devastated in leaving One-Eye behind on the road (after the dog tried to attack the girl near the woods) if he was only going to leave him later anyway? And the lodgers renting his father's (now his) hairdressers downstairs had stopped paying rent for the last 2 years - surely requesting and receiving the outstanding payments would generate income? Yes, Ray has difficulty in approaching people, but he managed fine at the Post Office when it came to money, so he would be fine here one would think. And events in the book show that the story occurs during more or less recent times. So how did Ray's father avoid sending Ray to school his whole life without Social Services intervening? Especially considering his father was away for extended periods, when at work, and when on holiday to all the faraway destinations (as demonstrated by the exotic plate collection). And what did Ray do in his life between ages 16 to about 45-50, before he started caring for his elderly father?

In conclusion, a thought-provoking read, well written and ambitious in it's execution. A really promising debut.

Scampayne Tue 19-Jan-16 14:04:20

Thank you for my free copy.

I think I share opinions with many who have posted above.

It's a very descriptive read, I can't remember the last book that stirred my senses as much as this one and agree that it's more like a long piece of creative prose rather than a novel. It took a while to get into because I lacked empathy initially for Ray although this developed as the relationship between man and dog evolved, however as more of Ray's past is revealed it does indeed become depressing, disgusting and bleak.

There are many unanswered questions by the ambiguous end although maybe the author has deliberately left it this way as Ray himself did not have all the memories or information that he wanted.

I may have picked up this book to read as I love dogs and have enjoyed other books exploring the relationships between people and animals but this book is something completely different. I will pass it on to other members in my book group but I might have to have a disclaimer attached as its not what you think.

PSG1968 Mon 25-Jan-16 18:52:48

Thank you for this book not a book i would normally choose however...
I found this book very absorbing and atmospheric sad and i have never read a book like it such a different read i can understand why it was a costa award winner the ending i had to read the last page about 3 times to understand but i do recommend this book

daimbardiva Wed 27-Jan-16 15:56:51

Thanks for my free copy. I've just finished the book and find myself a bit conflicted over how to describe it. It is beautifully written, there's no disputing that. The language used is wonderfully descriptive and unusual. I struggle to say that I enjoyed the book though - I found it really unsettling as there was just such an air of sadness throughout and I was just waiting for something awful to happen. I thought the last chapter or so was very powerful and said so much about the main character that we'd been left to wonder about for the rest of the book. I've thought about it a lot since I finished it, and all the issues it raised. Recommended, but not if you're needing cheered up!

queenoftheschoolrun Thu 28-Jan-16 13:49:46

Thank you for my free copy. It has taken me an usually long time to finish the book and I am still undecided whether I could recommend it to anyone or not.

As others have already said it is beautifully written, highly evocative and at times I felt I was there with the man and his dog, inwardly wincing at the dirt and squalor of their daily lives! That made for compelling reading.

And yet, it wasn't a book I was eager to finish. I found myself finding other things to do when I would usually be reading. Not because I wasn't drawn to the characters or wanted to find out what would happen but I think there was just too much descriptive prose to plough through. I think musicmaiden has hit the nail on the head - it feels more like a piece of creative writing than a novel. An interesting debut.

truckingirl Thu 25-Feb-16 18:01:56

Thank you for this wonderful book.
Having read it,I found it thoroughly enjoyable.
Loved it,brilliantly written.
Of man & his best friend quirky ,fun & a great read

Kiwirose Mon 21-Mar-16 21:17:40

It has taken me absolutely ages to read this book. To start with I couldn't read it and at the end I wanted more - how did Ray manage financially, why did he not peruse rent from the hairdresser, why did no one miss his father e.t.c. it ended with more questions than answers for me.

It wasn't really my thing but I am glad that I persevered. Like someone said it isn't something you would read if you wanted cheering up!

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