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April Book- Almost English

(121 Posts)
gma Fri 04-Apr-14 10:06:44

Many many thanks for my copy of Almost English which has just appeared on my door mat! I am looking forward to reading it, but must finish Burial Rites first-what a great story!!!
Thanks again gransnet. smile

nannyann5 Sat 26-Apr-14 21:22:04

It has taken me a while to get round to reading Almost English as I was still reading the brilliant Burial Rites when my copy arrived. I am now halfway through, but must be honest and say that I am finding it hard going as I can't seem to connect with any of the characters. Hopefully that will change as I get more into the story. Will reserve judgement till then!

happytraveller Sun 27-Apr-14 15:23:12

Thanks so much for the copy of Almost English; I've just finished reading it. The Hungarian ladies are so wonderfully drawn. Reminds me of my German gran and her sister who were visiting when I had just come home from a first date. Their two questions were 'Vere did you go?' and 'Vot did you eat?' When I said 'To a Wimpy Bar,' they looked at each other and repeated in unison 'Vimpee Bar? Vot is Vimpee Bar? Have you been drinking? Vot is this boy doing taking you to drinking place?' grin

I did want to smack Laura for being such a ditherer and it did seem to make the story a little longer than I would have liked but, again, if Laura was perfect then there wouldn't have been a story would there. As for Peter, I found myself saying out loud 'Don't listen to him! Tell him to get lost! I bet he hasn't got Cancer!'

Charlotte, what was the inspiration behind these characters? Did you completely fabricate them or were they based on people in your circle?

Thanks very much for such an enjoyable read.

softpad Mon 28-Apr-14 10:09:45

Thank you very much for the book! I am really enjoying reading it and would love to know if any of the characters have been inspired by real people in the author's life? thank you again and I look forward to finishing the read!

CariGransnet (GNHQ) Mon 28-Apr-14 10:52:29

Just a reminder that Charlotte will be joining us 1-2 on Wednesday lunchtime to chat so do keep adding your comments on questions on the book (or indeed on her other books, what it's like to be longlisted for the Booker or anything else)

martine Mon 28-Apr-14 10:56:21

I really enjoyed the book. I thought the portrayal of that excruciating teenage embarrassment of their families was particularly good. Reminded me of myself (even though my parents were not in the least embarrassing now I look back)

Were you an "embarrassed" teenager?

clafoutis Mon 28-Apr-14 11:08:51

I have just bought Almost English after seeing people talking about it on here - I loved When We Were Bad so am looking forward to digging in!

I would love to know a bit more about you

Gagagran Mon 28-Apr-14 11:38:46

I have struggled with this book. To me it felt like reading a set text instead of an enjoyable read. Both Laura and Marina were so irritating and I could not relate to them. I did like the Hungarian ladies and the humour they engendered but found this book so dreary in the main. Sorry!

Maybe this is a book which you either love or hate.

CariGransnet (GNHQ) Mon 28-Apr-14 14:33:42

I think "I have a Russian mother-in-law with specific crispbread needs." is probably my favourite line in a book for a very long time.

happytraveller Mon 28-Apr-14 16:43:17

Hi Charlotte

Did you start with a character/characters and then build the story round that or did you inject characters into a story line/plot that you had already thought of?

Maggiemaybe Mon 28-Apr-14 20:45:29

What a talent Charlotte has for the most beautiful prose, and she can set a scene that jumps off the page with just a few words. The Hungarian aunties are a joy. And some of the food, especially in chapter 1.....! I have no idea what palacsinta is/are, but it sounds divine, particularly stuffed with ground walnuts and rum (perhaps not the vegetarian option, "with only the tiniest taste of bacon" - shades of the Royle Family and their wafer thin ham!).

I'm going to pinch CariGransnet's question before someone else does and ask what it's like to be longlisted for the Booker? And what's the process - how do you first hear about the longlisting?

GrandmaH Tue 29-Apr-14 09:56:16

I was really looking forward to reading this having enjoyed When We Were Bad but although I was gripped by the story I just wanted to shake most of the characters & tell them to get a grip!

Laura was so wet- Marina a total drip (what year was it set? Had it been 40s or 50s maybe but post 1960 surely not!) I found it totally impossible to believe that such a repressed child as Marina could do a streak - although I liked her more for doing it! A pity she didn't feel some pride in doing it rather than shame.

Peter needed a good slap as did the doctor & I found the oldies rather annoying.

BUT I did like the basic story & I did find it flowed well after the first couple of chapters.

I would really have liked to hear the conversation when Laura tell them all Peter is alive & she is pregnant- now that would have been funny!

CariGransnet (GNHQ) Wed 30-Apr-14 13:00:38

Delighted to say that Charlotte is now here and poised over the keyboard so I will handover forthwith...

CharlotteMendelson Wed 30-Apr-14 13:01:05

Maggiemaybe

What a talent Charlotte has for the most beautiful prose, and she can set a scene that jumps off the page with just a few words. The Hungarian aunties are a joy. And some of the food, especially in chapter 1.....! I have no idea what palacsinta is/are, but it sounds divine, particularly stuffed with ground walnuts and rum (perhaps not the vegetarian option, "with only the tiniest taste of bacon" - shades of the Royle Family and their wafer thin ham!).

I'm going to pinch CariGransnet's question before someone else does and ask what it's like to be longlisted for the Booker? And what's the process - how do you first hear about the longlisting?

Thank you - lovely to hear and am particularly glad you loved the food. I was amazed to be longlisted; I've won/been shortlisted for other prizes but had always assumed my books didn't take themselves seriously enough to get anywhere near the Booker. My editor rang me...and of course, once I was on the longlist I started imagining being on the shortlist, which otherwise I wouldn't have done...I love some of the books on the shortlist, though, so it's all OK. Am just proud to have been considered.

CharlotteMendelson Wed 30-Apr-14 13:01:42

CariGransnet

I think "I have a Russian mother-in-law with specific crispbread needs." is probably my favourite line in a book for a very long time.

Thank you! Yes, in my experience those elderly foreign ladies do tend to have VERY FIRM VIEWS.

CharlotteMendelson Wed 30-Apr-14 13:04:00

martine

I really enjoyed the book. I thought the portrayal of that excruciating teenage embarrassment of their families was particularly good. Reminded me of myself (even though my parents were not in the least embarrassing now I look back)

Were you an "embarrassed" teenager?

Thank you, am very glad to hear you found that convincing. I think adolescence is fantastically embarrassing most of the time, due to one's terrible self-consciousness - and, in my case, a tendency to crash into things. To be honest I still regularly embarrass myself, but now am old enough not to care.
And, yes, I did endlessly blush and flinch when my outspoken grandparents bellowed comments at me in public. Which now of course I miss...

dippedydo Wed 30-Apr-14 13:04:41

Hello Charlotte - I have read two of your books so far and enjoyed them very much. Are there more on the horizon?

CharlotteMendelson Wed 30-Apr-14 13:04:41

Lowslung

Absolutely Von-derfool! I have never read any of Charlotte Mendelsons books before - but I will definitely be doing so now.
The descriptions of the "Oldies" are so entertaining and so vivid - i can see them now!
I have no questions, but just want to say that I found the book hugely entertaining, as well as giving a little insight into the "Hungarian way"
Many thanks, Gransnet, for my copy

Thank you Lowslung, and I hope you enjoy the others.

dippedydo Wed 30-Apr-14 13:05:19

And if I am allowed a second question - did you always want to be a writer?

CharlotteMendelson Wed 30-Apr-14 13:05:27

dippedydo

Hello Charlotte - I have read two of your books so far and enjoyed them very much. Are there more on the horizon?

Hello - thank you, lovely to hear. I've had four published so far, and am working on my fifth. Which did you read? Happy to make suggestions...

CharlotteMendelson Wed 30-Apr-14 13:06:18

clafoutis

I have just bought Almost English after seeing people talking about it on here - I loved When We Were Bad so am looking forward to digging in!

I would love to know a bit more about you

Am so glad, beautifully-named Clafoutis, to hear that. Thank you. What do you want to know? Happy to answer questions...

eppinggran Wed 30-Apr-14 13:07:09

I am always interested to know how successful authors work. Do you treat it like a 9 to 5 or do you fit in in around other things?

CharlotteMendelson Wed 30-Apr-14 13:08:00

softpad

Thank you very much for the book! I am really enjoying reading it and would love to know if any of the characters have been inspired by real people in the author's life? thank you again and I look forward to finishing the read!

Hello softpad,
Well, my maternal grandparents were Hungarian speakers, as were their siblings (obviously) and friends, so I did grow up surrounded by VONdarefuls and DARLinks. The characters aren't them but, yes, that world and my love for my grandparents definitely inspired Rozsi and co. Does that answer your question?

CharlotteMendelson Wed 30-Apr-14 13:09:36

eppinggran

I am always interested to know how successful authors work. Do you treat it like a 9 to 5 or do you fit in in around other things?

Depends what you mean by successful! But in my case, I have an office job for half the week, so fit in my writing on the other days. I also have children, so they're short days, and usually there's a broken boiler or something to deal with too...but I find, and would say this to anyone who's thinking about writing too, that the only way to write ANYTHING is to force oneself to sit down and write...not wait for inspiration.

clafoutis Wed 30-Apr-14 13:09:37

Thank you. I suppose I wondered whether you came from a family anything like the ones you write about, whether you have a family of your own, and what you do when you are not writing. That is three questions is that allowed? smile

clafoutis Wed 30-Apr-14 13:10:26

Just seen you have answered a bit of mine above but I will follow it up with an additional how old are your children and what do you do for an office job?