Saturday, May 9, 2015

Elizabeth Wein

Elizabeth Wein was born in New York City, grew up abroad, and currently lives in Scotland with her husband and two children. She is an avid flyer of small planes. She also holds a PhD in Folklore from the University of Pennsylvania. Her books include the acclaimed Code Name Verity, Rose Under Fire, and the newly released Black Dove, White Raven.

Recently I asked Wein about what she was reading. Her reply:
I am always in the middle of at least five books. I don’t know how this happens. They lie all over the house. Some of them are eventually abandoned; some are long term projects (I am struggling through the French version of my own book, Code Name Verity, in small segments).

Here are four that I’m very likely to finish because I’m enjoying them so much. I’m also in the middle of a new Michael Grant book which I won’t name because it’s still in manuscript form, but it’s very good and I look forward to seeing it in print.

In no particular order, then:

I came across The Murdstone Trilogy by Mal Peet because it was mentioned in an article some friends were discussing in the Telegraph, “How to write a dystopian YA novel in 10 easy steps.” Saddened by Mal Peet’s recent death, intrigued at the idea of his having written an adult novel, and hugely entertained by the send-up of dystopian fiction in the Telegraph feature, I ordered the book. The Murdstone Trilogy is about the fall, rise and fall of a Young Adult novelist who may or may not share characteristics with the late author. It’s snarky, mean, irreverent, sad and hilarious, and especially poignant to someone who knows the field from the inside. I am broken-hearted I’ll never get to talk to Mal Peet about it in person.

I’m re-reading Memories by Lucy Boston, which is actually two books, Perverse and Foolish and Memory in a House, packed up in a single edition. They’re both autobiographical. Lucy Boston is the beloved Carnegie-winning children’s author of the Green Knowe books, favorites of my younger brother when he was a ten-year-old growing up in Pennsylvania, discovered by me at 20 or so. I have four times visited the house in question, the Norman Manor House in Hemingford Grey near Huntingdon in England. I am rather envious of the author’s 50-year-strong relationship with this building which is now approaching the venerable age of 900. Yes, nine hundred. Years. It’s the oldest inhabited house in the UK. I love Lucy Boston’s forthright, forward-thinking, outdoor-loving youthful self, and her continued engagement with the world and with creativity into her 90s. She is an author I so wish I’d been able to meet.

I’m reading Carpow in Context: A Late Bronze Age Logboat from the Tay by David Strachan as background research for a current project. It is ridiculous how much I’m enjoying it. I suppose I am a thwarted archaeologist. I actually enjoy the detailed technical descriptions – some of it goes over my head, but there is much of interest to be found here. I am particularly charmed by the realization that this logboat, which we went to admire when it was briefly on triumphant display in the Perth Museum, is essentially a glorified Bronze Age punt, complete with clever footrests for the punter to stand on. Punting is one of my obsessions and quite possibly my favorite sport. This beautiful and important archaeological discovery was made about five miles from my house – I bought the book directly from the author, who works in a building down the road from me. I kind of envy him his job.

I can’t remember where I came across the recommendation for Vango: Between Sky and Earth by Timothée de Fombelle, but I ordered it on an impulse just because I was so enraptured by the cover art. In fact I’m reading this in French, the original title being Vango: Entre Ciel et Terre. I do a fair amount of reading in French because, though not fluent, it’s my only language other than English and I like to practice. I’ve also found that books suffer a lot in translation and this one sounded good enough that it was worth attempting in the original. It is a fabulous adventure with a mysterious, likeable teen hero, and the settings across 1930s Europe are lush and incredibly detailed. I wish I was capable of reading faster – both in French and in English!
Visit Elizabeth Wein's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Black Dove, White Raven.

--Marshal Zeringue