Thursday, 21 August 2014
Death, more death, extra death, treacle toffee and laminitis: my holiday reading
My holiday reading was very extensive, so I am not adding it to the "Reading" page but doing a proper post. Incidentally, I loved this piece on holiday reads - though none of mine qualified at all. Actually, if I was writing my own criteria, they would involve a lot more death, and ideally some detectives who like eating.
Tana French - The Secret Place
I have adored all her other novels and there was a lot to love about this one, which is beautifully written and creepy, but the minor foray into the supernatural put me RIGHT OFF. Might do the opposite for other readers. Also it is huge, you get a lot of French for your money.
Joanna Rakoff - My Salinger Year
I did really enjoy this slight, thoughtful, lyrical memoir (with a slight bitter fore and aftertaste caused by several people bemoaning my 'book' not being sufficiently like it) but was repeatedly distracted by wondering how she dealt with describing her profoundly non-simpatico ex-boyfriend so, um, candidly. I mean, he sounded an absolute tosser, so perhaps she just didn't care what he thought, but I would have been terrified of coming across him in the future and awkwardness.
Lynn Barber - A Curious Career
There is very little new material in this collection of interviews linked with little snippets of autobiography, but it's thoroughly enjoyable all the same. Now there's a woman who would never be put off by awkwardness.
Elly Griffiths - The Outcast Dead
This is a very pleasing series of archeology related crime novels, but this one did not have enough archeology in it for my liking.
Julian Barnes - Levels of Life
Apart from the magnificent description of Sarah Bernhardt's menagerie on the previous post, I sort of felt that the best bits of this grief-memoir-using-extended-ballooning-metaphor had been so extensively excerpted I had already read them all.
Eimear McBride - A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing
Godalmighty. This is the antithesis of a holiday read as described in that New Yorker article and gave me insomnia. This Anne Enright review of it is very good, I think. Do I regret reading it? No. Was I delighted to move on? Yes. It's stayed with me though.
One More Pony - Hilda Boden
After the almighty harrowing of A Girl is a Half-Formed thing, I had to take refuge in my childhood bookshelf of pony books. In 'One More Pony', self-effacing good girl Patricia and hot-headed sister Jackie conspire to buy a mistreated pony from a cruel member of the lumpenproletariat (whom they also trip up and leave in a gutter) by holding an illegal raffle at their boarding school. After their stern but secretly soft-hearted father relents and allows them to bring the pony home, it undergoes a Cinderella-like transformation (a toothless groom declares it to have "good confirmation" then feeds it "a good bran mash") and becomes the plot device by which sissy neighbouring child Colin (or Kevin? Seems unlikely) finally mans up and is cured of his debilitating wimpishness. Colin, it is briefly mentioned in passing, was injured in the accident that fatally injured his mother but this, it is quickly intimated, is NO EXCUSE. There is very mild peril, a brusque but generous cook providing paniers of supplies, camp fires, jumping of five bar gates and much whickering and whinnying. Highly satisfactory.
Malcom Mackay - The Sudden Arrival of Violence
The third in a trilogy of grim Glaswegian organised crim.. NO STOP, COME BACK, they are really really good. I mean, ok, they are not a barrel of laughs but it's a very minutely observed portrayal of a group of men - yeah, they're (nearly) all men - in the grips of strong emotions and impossible circumstances. Some GREAT twists and a compelling sense of the way one act leads inexorably to another and how trapped they all are by a code of conduct they never consciously chose.
Denise Mina - Still Midnight and The End of the Wast Season
Two from another series of grim Glaswegian crime. I love Denise Mina. Excellent, but required:
Fortune's Foal - Garland Bullivant
Another one from the pony shelf. I both wish I was called Garland Bullivant and that it were still acceptable to write a book with not even the faintest attempt at a narrative arc. Really, there is no plot at all in this story, just a series of vaguely related incidents. Girl - no attempt at giving girl a personality of any sort - falls for pony (also largely without distinguishing characteristics). Generic uncle benefactor - motivations not explored, could not pick him out of a line-up - buys her pony. Girl rides pony. Sometimes falls off. Tediously lengthy descriptions of hunting. Rides in a race. The end.
Lesley Glaister - Little Egypt
First of hers I have read, on a recommendation - a macabre, modern Gothic tale of Bacardi Breezers and mummification. Very odd. Very good.
Failed to read: The Luminaries. No surprise there.
What have you been reading this summer? Recommendations?