Personality by Andrew O’Hagan

Personality by Andrew O’Hagan was first published in 2003 and it won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize that year. I have to admit that that was the only reason I read this one as I have a bit of a personal challenge going on – trying to read all the books that have won that prize.

The author does begin with a note to the reader claiming that this is a work of fiction, but in truth it is very heavily based on the life of the Scottish child star Lena Zavaroni who becane wildly famous at the age of ten when she won Opportunity Knocks in the 1970s, for several weeks running. O’Hagan didn’t even bother to change ‘his’ personality’s place of birth or family circumstances. It didn’t feel like the 1970s and he got names wrong – Quivers Jelly might sound right but it was actually Chivers.

Young Maria Tambini of Rothesay, Isle of Bute, whose parents own a cafe in the town is well known locally for her amazing singing voice and when a talent scout is in the audience at a concert where Maria is performing the upshot is a spot on the very popular talent show Opportunity Knocks. A warning to readers from me is that the ghastly human being Hughie Green appears quite a lot in this book, but as a decent human being, not the vile man that we all discovered him to be after his death, although most of us probably had our suspicions. So at the age of 13 Maria is an international star, living in London with her female manager and her husband and having very little contact with her own family. Surprise surprise she develops anorexia nervosa and does a tour of TV shows talking about her problems, just as Lena did!

There is one sex scene in the book between Maria and her very caring and loving boyfriend, not that you would get that idea from the way it is written and the language used to describe it is just so wrong for the situation. I was wondering if O’Hagan was hoping to win that Bad Sex prize.

The only difference is the ending, and by that time we’re getting into a version of the crazy fan à la John Lennon, with a twist to that too. Hurrah, the author used his imagination. I cannot imagine how this book won the James Tait Black Prize, there must have been many better books published in 2003.

I so hope that the next prize winner I read is better. I’m so annoyed that he ripped off a very sad life, she was used and abused enough in her lifetime.

Library Books

Books Again

One night a few weeks ago, it was probably some time past midnight, and for some unaccountable reason I had the urge to request several books from the library. I suspected that the winter was going to be a long hard one and the thing that would cheer me up was the prospect of plenty of decent books to read – while ‘coorying doon’. So that is why I ended up going to the library yesterday to pick up eight books! Don’t ask me why I feared I might run out of books of my own to read as that’s just never going to happen. Shamefully I don’t even recognise most of the books that I got, but I do know that several of them were recommended by fellow book bloggers – so it may well be your fault!

The first three books were completely my choice.

1. Anna, Where Are You by Patricia Wentworth
2. The Case of William Smith by Patricia Wentworth
3. The Peppermint Tea Chronicles by Alexander McCall Smith

I really enjoy Patricia Wentworth’s Miss Silver mysteries so these should be nice murderous comfort reads for me, and the Alexander McCall Smith book is a continuation of his 44 Scotland Street series, I’ve read all the others and I’m a bit of a completist so I’ll read it although a few of them have been a bit hit and miss. They come under the heading of comfort reads too.

4. The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt. It’s a mystery to me as to why I requested this one although it was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, often a reason to avoid a book for me! I have a horrible feeling that I tried reading a book by Byatt before and abandoned it fairly quickly, and I rarely abandon books. I see it has a worrying 617 pages.

5. The Arms Maker of Berlin by Dan Fesserman. I have not a clue who recommended this one but I think they loved it, I hope I do too.

6. In the Light of What We Know by Zia Haider Rahman. It’s another chunkster at 556 pages. Have any of you read this one?

7. The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli. I have a feeling that it might have been Helen at She Reads Books who enjoyed this one. I borrowed it a while ago but had to return it before I got around to reading it as someone has requested it. It’s a James Tait Black winner and I have a project on the go to read all of those winners. It’s a hard task as so many of the books are going to be nigh on impossible to track down, but I’m giving it a go, albeit very slowly.

8. Personality by Andrew O’Hagan. I was attracted to this one while reading some blurb or a blog, the words ‘Scottish island’ jumped out at me so I decided to give it a go. However I’m not sure about it as I believe it is loosely based on the life of Lena Zavaroni, the young Scottish singer who had such a sad and tragic life.

Have you read any of these ones?