Bookish Chat About: The Big Ten

At the start of 2019 I wrote a blog post about blogging goals for the coming year. I wanted to be able to showcase some of the books I already have on my shelves and not just the lovely brand spanking new proofs that arrive through the door.

I have a few ideas of how I can theme these blog posts, the first of which is this one, right here, right now.

Kicking it all off with showing you lovely lot the 10 biggest books on my shelves. And by ‘biggest’ I simply mean the longest in terms of page count. I think I’ve got them all, I don’t think there are any chunky books still lurking that I’ve overlooked!

I do love a big book, but since life in the book blogging world has cracked on at a pace, I find myself less and less inclined to pick up the big books due to time constraints. Which lets face it, is a damn shame.

Now some of these ten books I’m going to talk about, I have actually read. Most however I haven’t. I will probably include blurbs for the books (even though I don’t like blurb heavy blog posts!) it’s better you find out what they are about from a synopsis rather than me trying to fudge my way through it! And for the books I’ve read I will include a link to my review if I have one.

I will start with the shortest book first and make my way up to the longest.

Sit tight.

And we’re off!….

The Parentations by Kate Mayfield –  Published by Point Blank  (496 pages)



Eighteenth-century London – the lives of the sisters Fitzgerald, Constance and Verity, become entwined with the nearby Fowler household, charged with providing safe harbour to a mysterious baby from far away.

Camden, London, 2015, December 17th – the lives of the sisters Fitzgerald, Constance and Verity, are consumed by the wait for this boy, who may or may not be dead. There is no way of knowing.

Deep within the savage beauty of Iceland, a hidden pool grants those who drink from it endless life. For those that have, their secret must remain held close for two hundred years, but time is slipping away, and malign forces are gathering.

And for those who have sipped from the pool, they discover all too quickly that immortality is no gift, because in the absence of death, true darkness emerges.

To be honest ‘Eighteenth-century London’ was pretty much all I needed to read to draw me into this book! However, I have also heard good things about it, (mainly from Simon over at Savidge Reads) and so I knew this book could be potentially a ‘me’ book. Sounds fab!


The Mermaid And Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar – Harvill Secker  (496 pages)


One September evening in 1785, the merchant Jonah Hancock finds one of his captains waiting eagerly on his doorstep. He has sold Jonah’s ship for what appears to be a mermaid.

As gossip spreads through the docks, coffee shops, parlours and brothels, everyone wants to see Mr Hancock’s marvel. Its arrival spins him out of his ordinary existence and through the doors of high society, where he meets Angelica Neal, the most desirable woman he has ever laid eyes on… and a courtesan of great accomplishment. This meeting will steer both their lives onto a dangerous new course.

What will be the cost of their ambitions? And will they be able to escape the legendary destructive power a mermaid is said to possess?

This book will always have a piece of my heart.  It was one of the first books I was granted permission to read via Netgalley, one of the first books I reviewed and of course it was the shadow panel’s winner of  The Sunday Times Young Writer Of The Year Award 2018 and yes I was on that panel.  An experience and a book I will never forget.  My review and details about the award if you are interested are here.


Pilcrow by Adam Mars Jones published by Faber & Faber (544 pages)


Meet John Cromer, one of the most unusual heroes in modern fiction. If the minority is always right then John is practically infallible. Growing up disabled and gay in the 1950’s, circumstances force John from an early age to develop an intense and vivid internal world. As his character develops, this ability to transcend external circumstance through his own strength of character proves an invaluable asset.

Extremely funny and incredibly poignant, this is a major new novel from a writer at the height of his powers.

This is another book I discovered via BookTube and have only heard great things.  I do enjoy books set in the 1950’s and I have always had a fascination with how homosexuality was addressed in those days.  I really do need to head to this one soon.


Mary Ann Sate, Imbecile by Alice Jolly Published by Unbound (640 pages)


If you tell a story oft enough
So it become true

As the nineteenth century draws towards a close, Mary Ann Sate, an elderly maidservant, sets out to write her truth.

She writes of the Valleys that she loves, of the poisonous rivalry between her employer’s two sons and of a terrible choice which tore her world apart.

Her haunting and poignant story brings to life a period of strife and rapid social change, and evokes the struggles of those who lived in poverty and have been forgotten by history.

In this fictional found memoir, novelist Alice Jolly uses the astonishing voice of Mary Ann to recreate history as seen from a woman’s perspective and to give joyful, poetic voice to the silenced women of the past.

This book caught my eye when it was nominated for The Rathbones Folio Prize. I was very kindly sent a copy by Unbound and when I received it I have to admit that on looking at the layout of it, I was a little intimidated!  It looks like poetry on the page.  Poetry scares me!  I know that it isn’t actually poetry and I have heard some amazing things about it, so the intimidation has changed to excitement with this one.


The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne published by Black Swan (736 pages)


Forced to flee the scandal brewing in her hometown, Catherine Goggin finds herself pregnant and alone, in search of a new life at just sixteen. She knows she has no choice but to believe that the nun she entrusts her child to will find him a better life.

Cyril Avery is not a real Avery, or so his parents are constantly reminding him. Adopted as a baby, he’s never quite felt at home with the family that treats him more as a curious pet than a son. But it is all he has ever known.

And so begins one man’s desperate search to find his place in the world. Unspooling and unseeing, Cyril is a misguided, heart-breaking, heartbroken fool. Buffeted by the harsh winds of circumstance towards the one thing that might save him from himself, but when opportunity knocks, will he have the courage, finally, take it?

This is another book which very much has a piece of my heart.  This was my first John Boyne and undoubtedly my favourite.  It is soooo worth all of those 736 pages! My review is here.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova published by Sphere (752 Pages)


Late one night, exploring her father’s library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters addressed ominously to ‘My dear and unfortunate successor’. Her discovery plunges her into a world she never dreamed of – a labyrinth where the secrets of her father’s past and her mother’s mysterious fate connect to an evil hidden in the depths of history.

In those few quiet moments, she unwittingly assumes a quest she will discover is her birthright – a hunt for the truth about Vlad the Impaler, the medieval ruler whose barbarous reign formed the basis of the Dracula myth. Deciphering obscure signs and hidden texts, reading codes worked into the fabric of medieval monastic traditions, and evading terrifying adversaries, one woman comes ever closer to the secret of her own past and a confrontation with the very definition of evil. 

This book was one of my Mr B’s Emporium monthly book subscription books. When I posted a picture of it on both Instagram and Twitter there were so many people singing it’s praises! You will know that I love me a bit of historical fiction and the reaction this one elicited has given me high hopes!


Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates published by Fourth Estate (752 pages)



Who was Norma Jeane Baker?

In ‘Blonde’ we are given an intimate, unsparing vision of the woman who became Marilyn Monroe like no other: the child who visits the cinema with her mother; the orphan whose mother is declared mad; the woman who changes her name to become an actress; the fated celebrity, lover, comedienne, muse and icon. Joyce Carol Oates tells an epic American story of how a fragile, gifted young woman makes and remakes her identity, surviving against crushing odds, perpetually in conflict and intensely driven. Here is the very essence of the individual hungry and needy for love: from an elusive mother; from a mysterious, distant father and from a succession of lovers and husbands. Joyce Carol Oates sympathetically explores the inner life of the woman destined to become Hollywood’s most compelling legend. ‘Blonde’ is a brilliant and deeply moving portrait of a culture hypnotised by its own myths and the shattering reality of the personal effects it had on the woman who became Marilyn Monroe.

I saw this book on somebody else’s Instagram account and immediately got the ‘I NEED that!’ vibe! I have always had a little fascination with Marilyn. I’ve watched a fair few documentaries about her and I think she was far shrewder than the masses believe her to have been. I also love a bit of Fictionalised Non-Fiction so I know that I will love this one.


The Crimson Petal And The White by Michel Faber published by Canongate (864 Pages)


‘Watch your step. Keep your wits about you; you will need them . . .’

So begins this irresistible voyage into the dark side of Victorian London. Amongst an unforgettable cast of low-lifes, physicians, businessmen and prostitutes, meet our heroine Sugar, a young woman trying to drag herself up from the gutter any way she can. Be prepared for a mesmerising tale of passion, intrigue, ambition and revenge.

This book is my FAVOURITE book of all time. It is just utterly perfect. I read it a couple of years ago and it has stayed with me ever since. It is just my kind of historical fiction, grim, dark, gritty and fantastic! If I could press just one book into every readers hands it would be this one. Check out my thoughts here.


Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell published by Pan Macmillan (992 pages)



Tomorrow is another day . . .

Set against the dramatic backdrop of the American Civil War, Margaret Mitchell’s magnificent historical epic is an unforgettable tale of love and loss, of a nation mortally divided and a people forever changed. Above all, it is the story of beautiful, ruthless Scarlett O’Hara and the dashing soldier of fortune, Rhett Butler.

Since its first publication in 1936, Gone With The Wind has endured as a story for all our times.

Talk about intimidating! I have no idea what it is about this book that really scares me! I’ve never seen the film and have only ever read really glowing reviews of the book. I think maybe there’s a lot of pressure to love it because it’s a classic? What do you think? Have you tackled it?


The Quincunx by Charles Palliser published by Penguin (1248 pages)


The Quincunx is an epic Dickensian-like mystery novel set in 19th century England, and concerns the varying fortunes of young John Huffam and his mother. A thrilling complex plot is made more intriguing by the unreliable narrator of the book – how much can we believe of what he says? First published in 1989, The Quincunx was a surprise bestseller and began a trend for pastiche Victorian novels. It remains one of the best.

I picked this up secondhand when a fellow historical fiction lover recommended it to me over on Twitter. I know very little about it aside from the brief blurb and at a staggering 1248 pages it really is the daunting big daddy of the bunch!

I’m sure one day I’ll get around to reading the behemoths I haven’t read yet! I may have to do it in stages!

I’ll still always be attracted to a big book, what are your thoughts? And more importantly, can you recommend any other stonkers to me?

See you all soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xxx

19 thoughts on “Bookish Chat About: The Big Ten

  1. I remember loving The Quincunx, but that’s the only one of your pile I’ve read – shame I can’t really remember its Dickensian well-done pastiche well. I’d really recommend Paul Auster’s 4 3 2 1 – 866 wonderful pages.


  2. “Gone with the Wind” is great. I have “The Quincunx” on my shelf but I am still to read it. I also absolutely loved Eleanor Catton’s “The Luminaries” which has 832 pages.


    1. I used to have a copy of The Luminaries but I had a huge cull a few months ago and got rid of it. I just don’t think I would have ever picked it up.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You got rid of “The Luminaries”? 🙂 I love your honesty. Yeah, that book may be unnecessarily complicated.


      2. I support your decision and I love both unpopular opinions and people who always say and do what they think and feel is right, not following the crowd.


      3. I’ve read the Luminaries and gave it two stars. Several hours of my life that I won’t get back


  3. I love Gone with the Wind! I read it lots of times as a teen and I’ve been meaning to read it in English for the first time but there are always so many books I haven’t read that beg me to read them first 🙂


  4. I have a collection of giant books on my shelf that I need to rev myself up to reading. I WANT to read them but something about their sheer girth intimidates be a little!


  5. You’ll probably like Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke and it is a smidgen over 1000 pages


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