Merry Christmas! I hope that you had a good one. I wanted to quickly share the final project of my Twelve Days of Bookish Crafts Blogmas that I didn’t get round to posting (birthday, teething baby, preschooler with a raging fever who shared her germs with her baby sister and parents…) a papercut of Twas the Night Before Christmas.
I’d meant to print the whole poem out on A4 in columns so that this would look something like an inverted book on one page image, but the house move had nixed that because (even though it happened in the summer) my printer cable had disappeared and by the time I realised where it was it was Christmas Eve and very much now or never. Maybe next Christmas. Or for another project.
I’ve been playing around with paper cut recently to make shadow puppets for Phoebe. It started with me cutting very basic shapes out with a scissors and some cardboard, but then she started asking for more complex characters (a dragon, a wolf) which really stretched my art skills and meant that my scissors were too crude an instrument, so I bought myself a cheap (under £6) multiheaded craft knife from Amazon which has been really good. I’m sure any would do if you wanted to play around with paper cut, but the one I use can be found here (affiliate link).
I draw the image that I want to cut out on the reverse of the card in a light coloured gel pen so I can see it against the black card. Obviously when the paper is flipped over, the image is flipped as well, so if there particular details that need to be in certain places I keep that in mind as I sketch out the design. I use a second colour to go over any details that I sketched over before I cut so I know what line I want to follow, but it’s all pretty simple.
I’ve drawn my papercut out in silver pen here then drawn the cut line in copper
When I’m happy with it, I cut it out using my craft knife on the chopping board. Because I bought the materials for shadow puppets, I’m using card and keep the details fairly basic, but I might get some paper and try something more complex soon.
Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist is one of those widely acclaimed debut novels that seems to follow you around, even before you’ve read it you see the cover in bus stops, catch the title in magazines and catch the name standing out in strangers conversations. But is there anything more to the hype than a clever marketing campaign?
At first glance, the story has all the elements of a Gothic pastiche: a young bride turns up at her new husband’s house and finds herself at the mercy of his cold, maiden sister with a servant who openly treats her in a disrespectful way. Alone and isolated (in a room bedecked with grizzly artwork depicting meat and game birds no less), she is insulted when her husband buys her a child’s dollhouse to occupy her but soon finds that there is more to this than meets the eye. In itself, not massively compelling.
To reduce the story to this rough plot overview though, would be to do the novel and the author a massive disservice. I think that part of Jessie Burton’s talent is that she sets up the reader’s expectations for a particular kind of plot then through subtle misdirection surprises the reader with the course of events that follows, keeping you only half a step ahead of Nella as she encounters the wonders and horrors of her new life in Amsterdam and making her one of the most credible naïve brides in literature.
The history of 17th century Amsterdam been well researched and certainly well rendered, and the setting is a masterstroke for anyone who thinks of Amsterdam as a shorthand for liberalism and tolerance. While the miniaturist remains shadowy, the city comes to the fore as a contradictory, cruelly capricious character – the home to a society simultaneously obsessed with trade and piety, where neighbour watches neighbour to exert a pervasive social control, a fearful puppet master in its own right.
Though the novel isn’t perfect, it is very, very good and like all good novels it leaves you with questions. Why does the miniaturist come to the church in the first chapter? Why did they want to leave the miniature-miniature there? And most of all, what has compelled such an astute student of human behaviour to hold a mirror up to their subjects lives when the emotional repercussions of their art seem to shake them too?
Retaining the high production values of the first book in the series, Hollow City by Ransom Riggs is a stylish follow-up to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Following on where the first book left off, it sees Jacob Portman and his peculiar friends running for their lives from the wights and hollowgasts that are pursuing them. Their fight for survival becomes a race against time when they realise that their injured headmistress, an ymbryne trapped in bird form, is at risk of losing her humanity for ever unless they can find another ymbryne to save her within two days.
Though it retains the style and charm of the first book in the series, there were times when I became a little frustrated with aspects of the characterisation. Many of the peculiar children have been living the same day since the Second World War, which would easily make them in their 70s, but their emotional responses to many of the situations in the book make them seem like ordinary children. I can appreciate that a lot of the tension derives from this, but at times I felt the children’s emotional vulnerability was played on a little too much. Even if you have grown up in an incredibly sheltered manner, surely you have to some extent grown up?
Either way, it’s a minor criticism and the book should be praised for its originality and flair. There are some brilliant moments where minor characters in the plot of the story like Olive’s friend Jessica, or Sam and Elsa, steal the scene completely. The idea of time travelling within the loops is a great one as well, and the examples of people aging forward are horrible and highly effective. I only wish there’d been a little time to explore the landscapes that the characters travelled to within the loops in a little more detail, as this was a real strength of the first title in the series.
I’ve no idea when the third book is due, but I’m really looking forward to it. I only hope I get to read it before the rumoured Tim Burton film adaptation comes out.
This man is my current hero. I’m having enough trouble to get my boyfriend to agree to me putting in a small wildflower/meadow lawn in our back garden, let alone getting him to build me a Bilbo Baggins’ burrow in the woods…
I love that the Alice in Wonderland Memorial Statue for Margarita Delacorte in Central Park is intended for children to play on, it’s incredibly charming, having been polished smooth by children’s hands since it arrived in the park in 1959, and you can understand why it’s such a popular landmark to photograph.
However, something that you never seem to see is the beautiful quotations around the base of the statue, which were perhaps my favourite thing about it:
I found the last one really moving, it’s the dedication from the husband of the woman who the statue is dedicated to. I wish I could find out a bit more about her, this is just so beautiful. The kind of memorial you’d want if you could choose.
If you ever drop in on my Twitter account, you’ll know that I was in New York for work last week. Working with jet lag was… interesting, fun but very hard work concentrating. The upshot was that my hotel was very close to Central Park so I went wandering there in the afternoons after work and spent most of Saturday marching around from landmark to landmark, from The Mall to The Conservatory Water (via the zoo…). I loved Central Park and could wax lyrical about how amazing I thought it was for hours (pops up in so many books as well) but I won’t instead I will share with you some of the literary statues I managed to track down using a Central Park Map I printed before I went.
Alice in Wonderland Statue- Memorial to Margarita Delacorte
Hans Christian Andersen Statue
Robert Burns Statue on The Mall
Fitz-Greene Halleck Statue on The Mall
William Shakespeare Statue on The Mall
Walter Scott Statue on The Mall
I tried getting to The Shakespeare Garden and hunting down the Romeo and Juliet statue on the Saturday but unfortunately that whole area was fenced off for an Alicia Keys/Stevie Wonder concert that I didn’t have a ticket for… did I miss anything else?
A few years ago, my grandmother gave her copy of a book by her favourite artist to her friend while she was in hospital to cheer her up. Sadly, her friend then died. My grandmother always talks about how much she loved the book and how much the pictures used to make her laugh, so for Christmas, despite knowing very little about art, I resolved to track down a copy for her.
It was surprisingly easy. I just did a quick search for “artists who paint fat ladies” and Beryl Cook’s name came up along with some very familiar looking paintings of fat ladies.
It was great to see how much my grandmother enjoyed looking at those paintings again. And an added bonus came when she was looking at the book with my very prudish boyfriend and a picture of a chubby lady in suspenders brandishing a whip turned up. I only wish I’d managed to capture the look on his face when she turned to him, with an innocent smile and asked, “Do you like being whipped, Jon?”
Old ladies, they think they can get away with anything!
If you’re the kind of person who appreciates the joys of paper and ink in a digital age, head over to Hickory Nines and read this fantastic post by my colleague Lisa. It’s a lovely read and I think you’ll agree that she has a wonderful way with words.
I loved the above post on Anni Cardi’s blog, which links you to a charity Doedemee selling posters of redesigned book covers to help raise money to fight illiteracy.
Guess where I’m shopping this month! I think I’ll probably get the Wuthering Heights design for myself, because it’s completely gorgeous AND one of my favourite books.
The posters for Alice’ Adventures in Wonderland, Anna Karenina, Wind in the Willows, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, To Kill a Mockingbird, Atonement and Northern Lights are also amazing. I might ask for some for my birthday/Christmas.