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Judging a Book By Its Cover

I’m flummoxed. As part of a deliberate decision to be more adventurous with my reading matter, I picked up a copy of Memoirs of a Master Forger by William Heaney on a recent visit to Waterstone’s, Piccadilly. The cover spoke to me from the bookshelves (it’s a clever mock-up of a gold embossed leather bound book), the blurb was intriguing, the first paragraph more so. So much so, in fact, that I swapped recommendations with a man who was browsing in the same section as me. I rejected his choice, but he bought a copy of Memoirs based on the same swift method of judgment.

I liked almost everything about the book. Almost.

I don’t claim to have much in the way of imagination. I have been known to cast an eye in the direction of my bookshelf when looking for inspiration for a character’s name (Debbie Holt trawls through telephone directories, so I am not going to spend too much time feeling guilty about this). However, I have never actually been so short of ideas that I have named a main character after myself. Jeanette Winterson did it in Oranges, but her novel was more than a little autobiographical.  Given that most people will at some point ask: how much of you is there in the character of William? assuming that demons don’t actually exist and that the story can’t be true, is this a clever double bluff?

My other bug bear/bare is the decision to take us on a very lengthy detour from the main story to include a full manuscript written by Seamus, war-damaged and living rough on the streets of London. And the point it was illustrating (supposedly a pivotal moment as far as William was concerned), when it did come, was a little lost on me.

My first reaction: give the book to Matt and see what he makes of it.

My second reaction: go straight back to the beginning, this time getting into William Heaney’s zone by accessing his wine cellar (the book contains a depth of information about William’s drinking habits that might have been left out by a less thoughtful author) or taking the book on the William Heaney Literary Pub Crawl of London. As a result, I am starting today with a couple of strong cups of coffee in the hope of shifting the fog inside my head. An ideal opportunity to write that hangover scene I have been putting off.




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