Oh this is dreadful….

My last post in September and November nearly out? Well I have been working and the house sale is finally happening to complete in the new year so I do have some excuse – especially as at time of writing I haven’t found anywhere to buy.

I have read a little…. though perhaps nothing much to write home about. I had to read Stoner for book group and was hugely disappointed. It is possible I would have liked it better had it been about a dopehead written by the guitarist: it would have been hard to like it less. Goodness knows macho can be too mucho but never have I been more tempted to use the phrase “grow a pair” in response to the protagonist’s relentless, almost cowardly passivity. Some admired his stoicism but when the casualties included his daughter as well as himself it was unforgivable let alone admirable. If that truly “the best book you have never read” I could rest easy knowing I wasn’t missing much. Dreary, depressing and turgid.

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Doing better with the reading than the writing up…

My pile of unread books is reducing but my list of write ups increases proportionately. Since my last post I have read The Book thief, The ninth life of Louis Drax, a very disappointing Tolkien biography, Bring up the Bodies and Dominion.

Louis Drax may not really count as I have read it before but could remember virtually nothing about it save that I enjoyed it. Anyway.. will update my list and try to come up with some thoughts..

If I were a horse, there would be a stewards enquiry…

I have read five books since the last post and have made a small dent in my “bought not read pile”. It is amazing how much you can get through when they weather is bad and you have no internet connection…

I am still a way off a book a week but I am not far off the fifty pages a day quota. By now I should have read 35 books or 12,250 pages. I have only got to 27 books but I have read 11,256 pages. If I counted the genealogy book, Dad’s war diaries and the two “fastbacks” I had to take back before I finished them I would be about there… also am a hundred or so pages into “The Book thief”.

I am assured that this is read, if not commented on so I may try to catch up. I haven’t hated any off them. Not even “The Blind Assassin” which I have struggled to get into for years but I haven’t really loved any either. Not even the David Sedaris who I have loved on the radio but not really read before. It is clever and funny but I think it does work better read aloud with his impeccable timing and tone… and nothing in this is perhaps as howlingly funny as “Jesus shaves”.

Flight of fancy

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The hen who dreamed she could fly by Sun-mi Hwang is a bit like Le Petit Prince, a bit like Jonathan Livingston Seagull with added hints of Animal Farm and Winnie the Pooh. it is also the second of the belated birthday present books.

Not a bad companion volume as it also handles themes of cross species differences and similarites, the family, understanding and reconciliation. The style is very different as this short book is presented as a modern day fable. The self named Sprout is a caged hen who longs for the outside world butabove all to hatch one of her eggs. When by strange chance her wish is fulfilled she discovers the world beyond can be cruel, especially to those who don’t fit in and her life is a relentless struggle for survival.
It is a quick read at under 150 pages but is one of those short books that promise to linger long in the memory as a story of hope, determination and maternal love

A truly thought provoking read

We are all completely besides ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler was one of the two books I received last week as a belated birthday present from a friend. It is always interesting when people are brave enough to buy you a book .. brave partly because it may reveal their opinion of you, because anything obvious you are liable to have already, because buying someone a book is an imposition on someone’s time which is possibly more arrogant than even the impostion on space of most gifts. Not something that can be displayed or worn when they visit and then quietly forgotten.

You may have gathered that I am nervous of giving books…yet some I love so much they must be shared and then I fear that their recipient will not love them as I do and so my love for one or the other will diminish as a consequence.

I don’t think my friend suffered such agonies and given that we have been friends since the first week of A level English Lit oh-so-many-years-ago, I think that friendship is safe. She hasn’t read either book herself so took a lucky dip. She chose well.

The other consequence of having a book bought for you is that you approach it as a blank canvas, free of preconceptions, no knowledge based on other works, biographical detail, reviewers’ opinions, even the blurb reading and page skimming done in bookshop or online pre-purchase. It is not often that I embark on a book so untainted: a long haul version of the primary readings we did at university. And this maybe was a good book to approach in innocence.

I do not want to spoil the story for others by revealing the mystery. It did tantalise me at least.. I thought I had an inkling having read “The memory keeper’s daughter”, though one of the hints didn’t fit but despite an A-level in psychology and recent media highlighting of comparable experiments I was taken by surprise.

It is a very cleverly written book, at first the knowingness of the first person narrator annoys but as the book progressed I realised the slight irritation induced by the narrator is the product of a remarkably deft handling of a character who struggles to make connections with other people,

This novel handles big issues with a light touch, identity, loyalty, memory and family as well as ethical issues which question man’s place on earth. This is a very timely and fascinating novel, moving but with a rich vein of humour that is never far from the service. Would be a really good book club choice.

Well by now I should have read 32 books

And …I haven’t. The two last read have been stonkingly long. I think a paper edition of “Can you forgive her?” must be over eight hundred pages and Gorky Park five hundred and fifty. Bit of a slog with moments of brilliance… rather like Rossini’s back handed compliment to Wagner. However I struggle with the twists in spy novels and with keeping track of Russian names so it was a bit of a double whammy. Renko is a hugely attractive hero but I wonder if it suffers being read out of time. It has unintentionally become a historical novel.

Anyway I am rewarding myself by reading another, earlier, work by Jo Baker who is the author of Longbourn (still my favourite book of the year). 60 pages in and it is showing the same subtlety and intelligence.

Yes, I know….

I am very behind but I have been selling a house and am still working through clearing a house and trying to look for a house and so forth so reading has been at a low priority (I even completely missed book club because I misremembered the date. So completely that I hadn’t even got the book let alone read it… hey ho.

However I have managed to finish “Can you forgive her?” which probably counts as two or three books really and have also read Regeneration as a book club book I remembered!

I enjoyed Can you forgive her?, I do like Trollope and he writes beautifully and writes women with a sympathetic understanding which is remarkable, particularly if you consider the times he lived in. However while it was enjoyable, it was also a very long haul for so little relatively to happen. I haven’t exactly dived straight in to “Phineas Finn” ..but I may yet. I have continued with the Regeneration trilogy and am well into “The eye in the door”. Not enjoying it quite as much so far because I find Prior less interesting than Rivers.