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Book of the Month: and May's musical winner is....DIAMOND STAR HALO by Tiffany Murray (discussion Tue 25 May)

(40 Posts)
TillyBookClub Mon 26-Apr-10 11:02:13

Message withdrawn

BadPoet Tue 01-Jun-10 16:38:44

How interesting, I came looking for this thread because I read the book but knew I wouldn't finish it in time for the webchat.

And I LOVED it. It reminded me very strongly of John Irving, I loved the characters, the storytelling, the setting and the 'fahmlee' stuff just made me wish again that I was part of a bigger family myself. I was completely charmed by it and will definitely be seeking out Tiffany Murray's other books.

I must be in a minority generally because I didn't like White Teeth, thought The Autograph Man was brilliant and liked On Beauty but thought it was the self-concious one, written very obviously with the big prizes in mind imo.

Wouldn't life be boring if we all thought the same grin

vaganova Tue 25-May-10 21:53:51

I confess I only read up to the part where Fred is discovered to have been left behind, I found this surprisingly,to have evoked a little emotion.
I agree there was an overuse of metaphors
and I found the book was just far too cool for me. A little predictable too perhaps.
I will finish it, was glad to try something different.

TillyBookClub Tue 25-May-10 21:38:55

I've got to head off now, but thanks to everyone and feel free to carry on...

I would love to hear any recommendations, authors you'd like to have on for chats, or new books you're raving about. Post them here or on June's discussion thread (and see you all on 29 June for the footie-filled bookclub evening)

JSL Tue 25-May-10 21:36:46

Thanks for a bit of escapism and some laughs too!

I had not read any fiction for a while so it was nice to know others were reading it too.

yUMMYmUMMYb Tue 25-May-10 21:29:05

Totally agree, i was reading this book knowing what was going to happen - too predictable. Also, the repetition of the unusual birth etc was not particularly inspiring. Perhaps in a more difficult novel where there is a need to be reminded then it would have been good, but not here. Ah well, i enjoyed the process of reading a book i wouldn't normally pick and it definitely got me discussing what i thought of it (with friends and my other half and online). Thanks for my first bookclub

TillyBookClub Tue 25-May-10 21:28:19

Glad you could make it, Aliarse.

Good piece in Observer about one-off brilliant novels versus long-term writers with dozens of books to their name...

JSL Tue 25-May-10 21:28:14

Halo wasn't that interesting so I feel the story was best described from her perspective!

I think there could have been made more of her feelings about Fred's baby and how everyone came to accept what had happened.

I liked the way Nana remembered the dead, it made me laugh to think of the family photograph with several empty chairs....imagine it happening in real life!

Jenny was idolised too much,when the worshiping hippies were scared away it made me laugh.

Coderooo Tue 25-May-10 21:15:27

agree the idea seemed novel and intersting - hence i bought it, so hey nothing ventured

TillyBookClub Tue 25-May-10 21:13:57

yUUMy, very interesting thought, I think third person would have changed it a lot. A bit of perspective, and perhaps less of a childlike vision of it all. And I think it might have led to more surprises in there - with Halo's adoration of Fred, her parents, her Nana etc I felt I knew what was going to happen at every stage.

chicadee, I agree that it was a nice, comfortable sort of book. I'd much prefer this to anything horror or gruesome. Or violent. But, as mentioned above, perhaps it lacked just a bit of a twist, a bit of unexpectedness? Did you feel that you knew exactly what everyone was going to do?

Aliarse Tue 25-May-10 20:59:52

hello, I got away after all!

I am interested in TillyBC's comments on the disappointment of a second novel.
I am also reading Andrea Levy's new one The Long Song which I am reading after finishing Small Island (admittedly her fourth and fifth novels I think.) TLS is a follow up to SI and I love it a LOT. So not all subsequent novels have to be an anticlimax even if the first one is feted. Ditto The Shadow of the Wind and its follow-up The Angel's Game - the last I am devouring in paperback at the moment.

I think I just found DSH a bit self conscious in its descriptions. I am half way through but I am not really interested in Fred or Halo. I am turned off by the way the author repeats her descriptions of her unusual birth, the Nana's baking and potions, her capel of bones, the mother's fairground background and the way it all seems to build to create a folk memory for this particular family. Its not particularly original - when I remember whose style it reminds me of I'll get back here!

yUMMYmUMMYb Tue 25-May-10 20:55:40

Welcome JSL, also my first online bookclub - sorry had to dash off and deal with crying child. All resolved now hopefully.
Fred - now he was a character, although quite like a lot of famous rock gods these days - adored because of who they are rather than specifics of their character.
I was wondered why it was all written from Halo's perspective - didn't seem to bring anything to the dialogue and could easily have been written from a third person perspective? Or could it have been written better from the perspective of one of the other characters?

TillyBookClub Tue 25-May-10 20:53:46

On a more positive note, I do adore the 70s and 80s, and, should a movie ever be made of this book, I'd happily watch it for the costumes and soundtrack alone...

Have voted for The Damned United for June's BOTM, hoping there'll be some good 70s nostalgia in there too.

chicadee Tue 25-May-10 20:51:20

I enjoyed the story, the music, and it made me laugh. It was a nice book to escape into. Sometimes that's all I want from a novel. I agree JSL Nana was hilarious; not being welsh I'm not sure if her language was right or not, but I found her funny and believable.

TillyBookClub Tue 25-May-10 20:31:14

Lovely to have you JSL.

Agree about Fred - it is hard to believe in the adoration when all you can see is a bit of a tosspot. Signing that note to his sister after they'd had a vast amount of sex like he'd sign an autograph - not really a surprise.

TillyBookClub Tue 25-May-10 20:24:40

Fab first books and not so good second ones:

Zadie Smith - White Teeth, astounding; Autograph Man, a bit self conscious. (and then her third, On Beauty, was completely superb - perhaps the third one is the time to hit your stride, after the fuss has died down)

Anne Michaels - Fugitive Pieces, one of the most inventive, poetic, original books I've read; her second one (recently out and recently read but can't remember name) is weirdly dull and never gets off the ground.

The same goes for albums, doesn't it? The curse of the second album...

JSL Tue 25-May-10 20:21:01

Hello everyone,

this is the first time i have been on an on line book club i like the idea.....

i enjoyed the book but can see why it could be annoying because everyone wanted to be so cool.

Fred was a real pain and i did not like the way everyone worshipped him!!

I liked the 'fahmlee' stuff it seemed very old fashioned.

i was a bit mad with halo as she did not do very much only grew up and lived her life through every one else.

Nana was hilarious especially the Elvis stuff and her potions that were likely to poison everyone.

min was funny to so rude!!

probably more to say later...

TillyBookClub Tue 25-May-10 20:16:36

Hooray, I'm not alone...

Distracted is a good word for it. And I do think that it makes you wonder how the brilliant books are created, what it is that separates a believable phrase from a constructed one. And how is it that some characters seem to exist when others don't ever make it into 3D.

It is something to do with the rhythm of the sentences. And the weird paradox of someone saying something you've always thought, but in a way you've never been able to think of.

yUMMYmUMMYb Tue 25-May-10 20:12:47

On a positive note, it has made me think about reading her first book "Happy Accidents" as loads of people have told me that it was good. Perhaps too high expectations set for this book because her first was so good.
Any other authors who have written fab first books and followed it up with not so good seconds?

TillyBookClub Tue 25-May-10 20:09:36

Er, anyone there? Has there been a total boycott this month?

yUMMYmUMMYb Tue 25-May-10 20:07:05

Given this was the book that was chosen from a shortlist by many people i don't think you should blame yourself TillyBookClub.
I did not pick it myself, and although i didn't particularly enjoy the book i found it did make me think a lot more about any book i have read in a long time.
I would completely agree that i was distracted from the story by the creative writing style. Perhaps i am just used to page turning books that i have chosen myself.
Although i wasn't hugely into the book i did find the part where Nana was giving Mum the special brew quite emotional.

TillyBookClub Tue 25-May-10 19:59:30

Okaaay, here goes. Haven't seen such strong feelings about a bookclub book before, so hoping that everyone puts their view in. For what its worth, here is mine:

I didn't get on with it very well. I didn't like it as much as her first one. I hadn't read Diamond Star Halo before choosing the selection, but had included it with Hornby, Tremain and Patchett because it came well recommended and I'd enjoyed Happy Accidents, her debut. But my heart sank on the first evening, when I somehow couldn't get past the workings of it, I saw it as all 'creative writing' and no original truth or direct emotion coming from the author.

I have definitely read brilliant books that felt quite laboured (Saturday by Ian McEwan for me has a lot of artifice and not much true heart) but McEwan is so innately himself, so perfectly styled, that I join him anyway. Here, I couldn't join in. It didn't ring true. I didn't believe an American rock chick would call Halo 'kiddo' and I didn't believe Nana would call her 'sunbeam' either. I kept seeing every metaphor or image as a worked-upon piece writing rather than reality.

I'm properly sad about it because I wanted to like it, I thought the premise of a rural rock romance was great, and I also feel I've let many of you down by including a book that I now don't feel I would recommend.

But it has provoked many thoughts about what makes writing turn from a visible art (whether well done or not) into an invisible, magical spell.

It may be unfair to compare with last months book, Brooklyn, but the values of Colm's writing - its simplicity, subtlety, psychological precision and insight - were the exact things I missed in this months read. Colm's writing was deeply moving without seeming to move a muscle; Tiffany had all manner of colours and noises and tricks but I couldn't feel or see anything.


I have huge respect for anyone who undertakes the massive effort to complete a book and I think that if Tiffany wanted to express part of herself or her upbringing through writing then that is her deal. I'm just sorry that I couldn't join in.

What did everyone else feel about the writing style?

chicadee, what was it that made you like it most? the subject? or the writing?

coderoo, were there bits that you liked?

MayorNaze Tue 25-May-10 16:47:15

i couldn't find this book for love nor money in the shops or the library eithr shock
so have fun tonight and will hopefuly join you next time.

i know i could've gone on amazon but its a bit like pringles to me...once you pop you can't stop...blush grin

TillyBookClub Tue 25-May-10 11:54:03

Whatever your feelings on the book, don't forget to come and share them here tonight at 8. Got a feeling it might be a lively discussion.

See you later...

chicadee Tue 25-May-10 06:40:09

I really enjoyed this, I kept sneaking off to read it. It's all about fahmlee innit.

TillyBookClub Mon 24-May-10 10:48:45

Given the comments above, I think probably best if we discuss the book amongst ourselves, and get to the bottom of what everyone did and didn't like.

So I've cancelled our author chat, and it'll be just us.

See you tomorrow at 8.

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