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Evie

Share your current read with us.

I am re-reading The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot, having not read it for several years - treated myself to an Everyman's Classics edition.  It's fab - both the book and the edition!
TheRejectAmidHair

I am currently trying to read the Upanishads. I have the Penguin Classics edition (translated & with commentary by Radhakrishnan). I am unfamiliar with this literature an dwith the ideas presented here, and it's been pretty hard going so far.
Chibiabos83

I seem to be working my way through the classics. Having finished Howards End this lunchtime, I have just started Tender is the Night.
Evie

I have temporarily laid aside The Mill on the Floss in order to re-read Jude the Obscure, since a good friend had the audacity to say he didn't have much sympathy with Jude Fawley.  It's a book I used to read every year, from my late teens to my mid-20s, but have read it less frequently since, and not for a few years now - marvellous to be reading it again.  I do love Hardy.

I loved Howards End too, and Tender is the Night...what treats.

Will be very interested to hear more about the Upanishads, Himadri!
county_lady

Seven Years In Tibet by Heinrich Harrer, non-fiction and a great story related plainly with no literary pretensions but I will be pleased to read a novel next.
Greywolf

Just finished "Enduring Love" which I found a bit of a curate's egg, though the long detailed description of the balloon tragedy is a masterpiece.

Back with dear old James Lee Burke for a bit of relaxation, but am hoping to read some new Annie Proulx next.

Cool
Evie

I wasn't sure what to make of Enduring Love really - as you say, there are wonderful bits - the balloon especially - but other bits didn't work as well.

I just watched the film, though, and that is terrible!!  The book is much better than that.  Not McEwan's best, though.
Raunchyducky

J have been feeling very under the weather today so I've cast aside the agonisingly long re-read of James Clavell's "Gai-Jin" in favour of lighter fare in the form of one of my all time favourites "Lucky Jim", the novel that (along with the collected writings of Eric Hobsbawm) saw me through my degree, and gave me fits of laughter at the same time.
Greywolf

I can remember reading "Lucky Jim" for the first time when I was going through the pain of divorce. Despite my deep depression the book made me laugh aloud, so funny was it, and it did much to help me suddenly get a better slant on life. Good on yer, Kingsley.

That said, when I read it again many years later I found it only mildly amusing. I think it was one of those works which smack you between the eyes with surprise on first reading but which can never again rediscover that first joyous rapture. Or maybe it's that I now get very edgy with authors who describe small scale personal disasters in a comic way. I tried to like Tom Sharpe but his constant piling-up descriptions of disaster got me all of a flutter, and lawks 'a mussy I 'ad ter close the book.

Cool
Gul Darr

I'm currently reading, and almost finished, Tomorrow by Graham Swift. What a great writer! Swift really gets inside his characters' minds. I don't want it to end... Thanks Evie for recommending this author.
Marita

Following the first episode of the new series on BBC Iíve started reading Little Dorrit. Iím really enjoying it but have so little time that I canít even keep up with the series.

Marita
golarne

Reading 'The Red Tent' by Anita Diamant for my library reading group. An unusual story centred on the life of Dinah, sister of Joseph (of the amazing-technicolour-dreamcoat fame).
Joe Mac

Galloping through Tim Winton's touching and funny story of two ratbag Aussie families, 'Cloudstreet', having put Patrick O'Brian's 'The Wine Dark Sea' on hold. Next up is Winton's 'Breath' and an Alan Furst espionage novel called 'The Foreign Correspondent' (I think Confused ).
iwishiwas

I have just started The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold, which seems promising if not a bit traumatic.
Castorboy

As a break from my two other books I am halfway through the first novel of Ďone of Britainís leading modern poetsí Simon Armitage called Little Green Man.
Like another poet Andrew Greig, he has a style which I can only describe as I-must-keep-reading-to-find-out etc. The main character Barney has contacted the other four members of his boyhood gang 20 years later and manipulated them into a contest with the prize being the little green man of the title.
With nicknames of Pompus, Winkie, Tony Football and Stubbs we know at some stage weíll learn how they got those names. What took me back to my boyhood were the descriptions of indoor football. Starting with Tiddlywinks on a cardboard pitch, we went on to Blow football, then Striker and finally Subbuteo.
Armitage writes that the gang were playing Subbuteo in the seventies and how when the game was discontinued, there was picketing at the factory in Tunbridge Wells.
As he says ďThese days if it doesnít come with batteries or computer graphics, the kids donít want to knowĒ.
There are humorous episodes both in the past and the present day but there is an undertone of violence which may or may not erupt on the next page.
bookfreak

Can't believe I've managed to register and log-in, I'm usually hopeless at these things, so well done and many thanks to Mike and the others for making it so foolproof!

I'm currently reading The Fatal Englishman by Sebastian Faulks, Three short biographies of young Englishmen who lost their lives in their twenties or early thirties.  Christopher Wood, a painter; Richard Hillary, a spitfire pilot and Jeremy Wolfenden (son of Lord Wolfenden), a reporter sent to Moscow at the height of the Cold War.   I've only read the first one so far which hasn't impressed me too much but I am told this is the weakest of the three - so we shall see.
Caro

Greywolf,

I really liked Wilt when I read it and looking back think it has links in its style to Catch-22, though without the strong anger and importance of that book.  But the piling on of satiric episodes and the way they both induce in their readers (well, this reader) such a sense of frustration to the point of tears seemed similar to me.  

I read Lucky Jim just a couple of years ago and enjoyed it at the time, but have no desire to revisit it.  Bits of it are perhaps a little dated now.  I just think of it as good but not great.  

Cheers, Caro.

(Now this is my first response here - I hope I am doing it right.)
Melony

Everyone has probably already heard of this book, but me.  I'm reading The Man Who Invented Christmas, which at first I guessed was about Clement Moore when the clerk first handed it to me, but is actually about Dickens!  It is subtitled How Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Holiday Spirits.  It's a delightful little book for this time of year, but after more than a century, probably nothing earth-shattering that we don't already know.
Caro

I am interspersing My Name is Judas with Tenniel Evanís memoir Donít Walk in the Long Grass.  It is a light-hearted account of his childhood in Kenya followed by his time and schooling at Christís Hospital  (where exactly?).  

I am not reading this because I need a rest from my other book particularly; I just find that Judas does not lend itself to sitting nicely at the dinner table.  Itís one of those new books that wants to shut itself all the time, and since it does not belong to me I feel I canít force it into this position and break its spine.  But I do like to have something to read at these times, and newspapers arenít very suitable either.  So that is why, when I noticed this in the library, I thought it would be just the thing.

And it is entertaining.  Life in Africa in what must have the 40s was a far cry from English life and his account of watching a circumcision as a 7-year-old whose Ďparents have made him a maní  or avoiding the dangerous snakes, insects and animals that abounded is done with a nice touch.  

Cheers, Caro.
Ann

My brother in Law went to Christ's Hospital, Caro. It is in Horsham and the boys still have to wear strange garments in odd colours. I seem to remember it involved yellow and smocks of some sort. It is a well thought of public school but I knw nothing else about it.
I'm struggling through a rather insipid book called Parson Austen's Daughter which is a novel about Jane Austen and was firmly lent to me by a neighbour. It is a very old fashioned and rather boring book which was published in 1949 and, I expect, is deservedly out of print. The author has certaily done her research (Helen Ashton) but cannot make a believable story out of it!
Greywolf

I've been following R4's excellent serialisation of "The Good Soldier Schweik" and I've decided to hunt it out from the boxes in the loft and reread it.

If you haven't yet done so, I urge you to read it. The character of Schweik apart, the portraits of two of his officers - the Chaplain, Otto Katz, and Lieutenant Lukas (who wins Schweik in a game of cards) are hilarious. Not too many books make me laugh aloud - but no matter how often I return to this picaresque novel I find myself doing just that all over again. Schweik outlives all his officers, even though he is constantly described as a "blithering idiot" - the ordinary soldier survives through feigned stupidity.

Sadly Jaroslav Hasek died before the novel was finished, but the Parrott translation benefits enormously from the illustrations of Josef Lada. I think it's a gem of translation.


Cool
Raunchyducky

"I read Lucky Jim just a couple of years ago and enjoyed it at the time, but have no desire to revisit it.  Bits of it are perhaps a little dated now.  I just think of it as good but not great."

I do think Caro that Lucky Jim is indeed a bit dated, but I think being a history student at the time and writing about the hassle that young lecturers go through it really was very enjoyable, particularly the bits about madrigal singing!
Evie

As someone who works in academia today, I am always a bit shocked that it doesn't seem as dated as it ought to do!!   Wink
MikeAlx

Ann wrote:
My brother in Law went to Christ's Hospital, Caro. It is in Horsham and the boys still have to wear strange garments in odd colours. I seem to remember it involved yellow and smocks of some sort. It is a well thought of public school but I knw nothing else about it.

Wasn't it Christ's Hospital where they did that Rock School programme a few years back, with Gene Simmonds from Kiss?
Tristan

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Part of my Christmas reading; Christmas mood if not actually Christmas related.

The second story wasn't that great a puzzle but it actually had me lol at one point.
Tristan

Melony wrote:
Everyone has probably already heard of this book, but me. †I'm reading The Man Who Invented Christmas, which at first I guessed was about Clement Moore when the clerk first handed it to me, but is actually about Dickens! †It is subtitled How Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Holiday Spirits. †It's a delightful little book for this time of year, but after more than a century, probably nothing earth-shattering that we don't already know.


There was an interesting BBC program following the same sort line last Christmas presented, I think, by Griff Rhys Jones. Would be worth looking out for the envitable repeat this year.
TheRejectAmidHair

Tristan wrote:
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Part of my Christmas reading; Christmas mood if not actually Christmas related.


The seventh story in that collection, "The Blue Carbuncle", came out initially in the Christmas issue, and is a Christmas story.

Many of these stories aren't puzzles - and even when they are, the puzzle element is not the most important element. The second story to which you refer, "The Red-Headed League", is one of the most bizarre and comic of the series. That bit about copying out the Encyclopedia Britannica is hilarious.  

But this collection has many highlights. The very first story records one of Holmes' failures, as he is outwitted by Irene Adler. "The Five Orange Pips" is one o fthe most sinister and froightening stories in the canon (I especially love the dark, threatening storm which opens the story), and "The Speckled Band" harks back superbly to the Gothic tradition, and has a wonderful villain. "The Copper Beeches" is another very sinister story (and features a sort of early prototype of the Hound of the Baskervilles), while the premise of "The Man With the Twisted Lip" really is among the most intriguing. If I had to pick a favourite out of this first collection, it would be the Christmas story, "The Blue Carbuncle": a man involved in a fracas accidentally breaks a window, and on seeing a police officer approaching, takes fright and runs, leaving behind his battered old hat, and a goose he had been carrying; and inside the neck of the goose is found a valuable stolen jewel. Then, Holmes & Watson get into action, tramping across snow-covered London to get to the bottom of it all.... You know, Tristan, I really do envy you reading these stories for the first time! Very Happy
Caro

Ann (and Mike),

My book tends to be rather episodic and bits referring to Christ's Hospital come in parts through it, but he does refer to its history near the beginning.  He says, "The 'Religious, Royal and Ancient Foundation' of Christ's Hospital came into being by an edict of the boy king Edward VI in 1552.  The object of the exercise was to provide grammar school education for the clever sons of hard-up clergy, half-pay naval officers and worthy but penurious members of the struggling classes.  In fact, a rather up-market charity school.  Its original location was in Newgate Street in the City of London, but...in 1902 a new school was built outside Horsham in Sussex."  He said Samuel Coleridge, Charles Lamb, Leigh Hunt, Edmund Blunden, Bernard Levin, Barnes Wallis, Sir Colin Davis [I don't know those last two] were educated there.  

I don't think a NZ school would get away with the uniform [the red school shoes worn at my old school seem to be known and mocked throughout the country].  He says (and I quote rather incredulously), "Blue is the colour of the long coat worn over the knee-breeches and yellow stockings of the romantic Elizabthan uniform still proudly worn today."

Tenniel Evans said every seven years one [European] boy was picked from Kenya and offered a scholarship.  "In 1936 this treasure was awarded to me, for reason which have always been a mystery; I do not recall having to work for it at all."  

I haven't got to his time there, but he seemed to find it fair - just one serious bullying episode in the years he was there which was dealt with immediately.  

Cheers, Caro.

(PS I often add bits to posts as I go along and was a little perturbed to see I had signed Cheers, Caro THREE times for this one.  How embarrassing if I hadn't noticed! Bad enough when it's twice.)
TheRejectAmidHair

I had a bit of a Conrad binge earlier this year, and then decided to give him a bit of a rest for a while. But I'm back on Conrad again, and started on Lord Jim this morning. I'll give a fuller report once I've finished, but so far, it's very impressive.

Conrad's prose is very rich & dense - strange that I fined it fascinating now, whereas I used to dislike it before. I liek his narrative method as well - weaving back and forth in time, sudden switching of narrative perspective, use of unreliable narrators, withoding elements of the plot that conventional authors would have emphasised, etc. Reminds me rather surprisingly of Faulkner. In something like The Sound and the Fury, say, Faulkner took what is in essence a family saga, and, using these techniques (and also a prose style that formany readers is simply impenetrable), turned it into something entirely different; here, Conrad seems to take what is in essence a boys' own adventure story, and once again, transforms it beyond recognition. But I'd better wait till I finish before passing opinion on this: I have a feeling that all is not as it seems so far.
Greywolf

You know what puts me right off "Lord Jim"?

All that b****y French in brackets.

Cool
TheRejectAmidHair

French in brackets? I must say, I haven't come across any yet. And flicking through the book, there's no bits in French leaping out at me. Are you sure it's Lord Jim you're thinking of?

(Incidentally, you're allowed to say "bloody" here without resorting to asterisks!)
Greywolf

Oops. Am I thinking of the wrong one? †Embarassed

But no, thinking back - I won L J in the VI Form English Thesis competition. It was a very smart volume, bound in thin maroon pseudo-leather. And,yes, every few lines there would be an English word or phrase translated into French in brackets. It put me off so much that I never got beyond chapter 1.

Quite what sort of edition this was baffles me still.

But perhaps I ought to try it again!!

Cool
Tristan

Cheers H. I'll read your post more more fully when I've read them all but I agree with what you've said. I was great that he failed on a case. What made me laugh in the second one was when Holmes tell Wilson with an wiff of sacrasm not all is lost you've made money "...to say nothing of the minute knowledge you have gained on every subject which comes under the letter A."

Some thing made me laugh in the third one too.

I'll look forward to the Christmas story.
MikeAlx

Caro wrote:
Barnes Wallis, Sir Colin Davis [I don't know those last two]

Caro, Barnes Wallis was the inventor of the 'bouncing bombs' used against the dams in the Ruhr region in WWII, featured in the film 'The Dam Busters'. Sir Colin Davis is a conductor of world renown. He has conducted with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the London Symphony Orchestra, and is also well-known for the recordings he made as principal guest conductor with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Apple

I have just started reading Jane Eyre I did start reading it a few weeks ago but stopped and now I've started again I've not got very far so cannot really comment other than I'm finding it hard going.
Caro

Thanks, Mike.  Understandable that I don't know them then, not being great on war people (have just about heard of Churchill! start to confused by Montgomery and am not sure which side Rommel was on!) and not having much interest in what I call classical music.

Cheers, Caro.
Raunchyducky

Couldn't agree more about Jane Eyre, read it once found it thoroughly hard going. Finally finished it feeling that I despised it and had found it a total waste of a few months of my life that could have been spent doing something more important like sleeping or reading a more worthwhile novel.
Greywolf

Good. I live close to Haworth and the Bronte museum - which is excellent and fills me full of admiration for the three girls. But NOT for their novels which I find impossibly mannered and thus unrealistic and thus unacceptable.

Ay theng yow.

Cool
Raunchyducky

Ah well much as I despise Jane Eyre for it's ridiculously convoluted and pathetic plot I have nothing but admiration for Wuthering Heights one of my absolute favourite novels I'm afraid.
Gul Darr

Oddly enough, after the comments about Evelyn Waugh on the Big Readers Cup thread, I am now reading Brideshead Revisited, which I found in my kitchen last week. Maybe it's just the era, but I am finding it fairly reminiscent of the Great Gatsby in its style and tone. So far, so good.
TheRejectAmidHair

I am a great admirer of Wuthering Heights (indeed, I believe my post on it back on the old board still holds the world record for the longest post ever!) but, given its extreme nature, I can understand why it splits opinion so sharply. But I am rather nonplussed by the negative reactions Jane Eyre seems to arouse, as it seems to me a most inoffensive work.

It may not be amongst my top favourites, but there are fine things in it nonetheless. Its early chapters, depicting Jane's childhood, are particularly good, I think: Charlotte BrontŽ is very good at capturing the strong emotions a child can feel, and there are certain parts of it that seem to me very deeply felt, and moving. The rest of thenovel, admittedly, does not quite live up to these chapters, but even so, Charlotte BrontŽ created a sort of archetype here. The idea of the penniless and unknown governess going into a big, mysterious house, and capturing the heart of the master of the house, has appeared in all sorts of forms in some very unexpected works, from Ibsen's Rosmersholm to Henry James' The Turn of the Screw, from Daphne du Marier's Rebecca (a conscious tribute, I think) to the Sherlock Holmes story "The Copper Beeches". There's something about this particular situation that seem to set off powerful resonances in the mind. (And indeed, in a famous essay on Ibsen's Rosmersholm, Sigmund Freud did actually identify this situation as an archetype: he might have added - though he didn't - that it was Charlotte BrontŽ who had originated this archetype.)


In The Turn of the Screw, I think, James quite deliberately drew on Jane Eyre as his basic scenario: sure, he goes on to subvert it, but the sense of subversion is all the stronger when the reader is aware of the parallels James has set up with Charlotte BrontŽ's novel.

Generally, I do enjoy the Gothic atmosphere of the novel; and there are certain scenes - such as Jane's declaration to Mr Rochester of her own sense of self-worth - that seem to me quite splendid. It is, unfortunately, let down by the final section, where, at the very point where the pace should accelerate, it slows down. And, it has to be said, vivid though Charlotte BrontŽ's imagination is, it seems rather tame compared to Emily's. So no - it isn't, I think, up there with the greatest of novels; but it is a fine achievement all the same - not perhaps Premiership material, but a good Championship outfit. My guess is that that, for all its shortcomings, it will continue to be among the most popular of all novels: there is something about that basic situation that will, for reasons mysterious, continue to fascinate.
MikeAlx

I suspect the archetype is older than that, if not perhaps in the 'governess' incarnation. I see it as an updated version of the Cinderella story - which itself has roots in classical Greece and Egypt.
TheRejectAmidHair

Yes, I suspect you're right. But Charlotte BrontŽ's version of it sure has caught on!
Melony

Tristan, thanks for the info about the program on Dickens and how he influenced the celebration of Christmas.  Love the tag line at the bottom of your message - matches your avatar very nicely!
Fiveowls

I am re-reading Anna Karenina after many years, having bought a lovely second-hand copy in the Everyman Library series.  It is good to be re-visiting Tolstoy, admiring once more his huge ability to create believable characters, even within, to us, the 'larger than life' society of Moscow and St Petersburg in the 19th C.  I had forgotten just how disturbing Anna's emotions can feel and how irritating her husband Alexis's sticking-out ears could be to her!
Evie

I must re-read Anna Karenina - it's been too long.

Re Wuthering Heights - I heard A.S. Byatt speak in Bristol yesterday, and she made an interesting observation about the book.  She was in dialogue with a neuroscientist, and they were talking about love and literature, and were talking about the idea of love as a desire for two people to become fully united.  Byatt said the only novel she could think of by a female writer where the heroine truly desired unity with the man she loved was Wuthering Heights - Cathy saying, 'I am Heathcliff', etc.  She then added that Emily Bronte clearly wasn't in love, but had read a lot of Byron!

I will try to post a bit more about the Byatt event, as it was interesting, not least because the neuroscientist began by saying that we can learn more about love - and its biological nature - from reading literature than from reading books of science.  He is in fact now Professor of Neuroaesthetics at UCL - what a title!
TheRejectAmidHair

Fiveowls, do please let us know your impressions of Anna Karenina this time round.  For thirty years and more, I have been haunted by the two big Tolstoy novels: they have become part of my mental furniture, as it were - they are always in my mind even when I am not consciously thinking about them. I don't think I can say this about any other fiction I have read.

As for Emily BrontŽ - yes, I agree that she possibly wasn't in love herself (not that an author's biographical details matter, of course!). And she certainly knew her Byron: the BrontŽ Parsonage had a very well-stocked library. (And on the evidence of Wuthering Heights, she knew her Milton as well!) But beyond that, she had the most powerful and vivid imagination. It's intriguing to speculate how she would have developed as an artist had she lived longer.

Indeed, that's an interesting speculation for many other novelists as well. I have a feeling that Jane Austen would have mellowed out a bit had she lived longer; her last written novel, Persuasion, has considerably more warmth than her previous works. Dickens was only in his 50s when he died: given the extraordinary artistic development in his career, it's fascinating to speculate on which direction he'd have gone in had he lived into his 80s, as Tolstoy did. Our Mutual Friend, his last complete novel, shows some surprising thematic kinship with much of Henry James (although in terms of technique and of artistic vision, the two were very different).

But I digress. Let's get back to the topic of the thread now ... what are you reading? I'm still enjoying Conrad's Lord Jim.
Evie

It was a joke, about Emily Bronte...and in fact nothing to do with biography, but to do with the mechanics of writing...but, as with so many jokes, perhaps you had to be there!  Will try to explain better elsewhere!

I have read about half of a very short novel by Don DeLillo this morning in the bath - The Body Artist.  Amazing prose - spare and precise, and the story is shaping up nicely into a bit of a mystery - 'a ghost story for the 21st century', it is billed as (though I'm not sure why earlier ghost stories might not be for the 21st century!).  Beautiful and gripping - sadly I have to go and do something else now, otherwise I could have finished it in one sitting.
Thursday Next

Another one reading Little Dorrit. Ahead of the tv series so far, but it's on again tonight so it may overtake me. So far I'm really enjoying it, although Amy is a little too good to be true.
Kirtaniya

I'm reading Why the Rest Hates the West by Meic Pearse.

Very intersting indeed!
Billy the Fish

I'm dipping my toe into Nicholas Nickleby and so far, so good. Only four chapters in, mind, and I have a record of giving up on Dickens after getting not much further than that, after having been put off by the length; we'll see. Might help that it's a fairly early one by all accounts - I may get into him by seeing how his craft develops?

Someone mentioned Neuroaesthetics earlier - crikey! I own a book called The Transformational Theory of Aesthetics by Michael Stephan, which is the only attempt at reading something in this area I've ever made - and I gave up when it started going on about brain hemispheres and so on. I can either try and read all the fiction and criticism I want or become a brain surgeon......
TheRejectAmidHair

I think the first half of Nicholas Nickley is very good. It's an early work: Dickens was trying to follow up on his successes Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist, and for much of it, he does really well. The Dotheboys' Hall chapters still shock - all the more so because Dickens daringly chose to depict this very real horror in a comic mode. Admittedly, the comedy is very black - as it has to be. And then, as if to compensate, Dickens gives us more whole-hearted laughs in those chapters dealing with Vincent Crummles' theatrical troupe. But Dickens seems to run out of ideas after this, and sinks into various melodramatic plot strands that I find frankly rather tedious. But don't let me influence you - do let us know what you think.
lunababymoonchild

Happily, for me, I seem to have gotten my reading back and am now happily ensconced in the 15th Rebus Novel, Fleshmarket Close.

I'm now also in the classic reader's dilemma : I am eager to finish them all (only two more to go after this) to find out what happened to the old boy but at the same time I don't want to finish them because then they'll be all gone.   Ahhhhh  Smile

Luna
MikeAlx

Didn't Rankin recently write a non-Rebus story for the New York Times or something? If memory serves, it was available on-line, but he's also expanded it into a book.
lunababymoonchild

Oh yes, he's written a few non Rebus in his time and his latest, Doors Open, is not Rebus and has been very well received so there's more for me to explore regarding Rankin but not, it would seem, of Rebus.  Exit Music being Rebus's last book - not dead but retired.

Luna
evilgiraffe

I am currently reading a book lent to me by a friend - it is a giant tome full of short stories by various fantasy authors.  Some of the authors I know, some I don't, so it's quite interesting getting to know some new authors (even though the book is quite old).

The story I'm on at the minute is The Hedge Knight by George RR Martin, which I'm reading with interest, as I'm a big fan of his books, and am waiting impatiently for his most recent novel to come out in paperback.
Caro

I have started Winter in Madrid by CJ Sansom.  I haven't read any by him before but have only heard good things about it and him and so far it is reading well, though I am having to sort out a bit of Spanish history and terminology.  It is possible that I will find the secret service bit of this a bit difficult to read about, having an innocent naivity about how life should be.  (Much as it is for me, but not for lots of people.)

Cheers, Caro.
Castorboy

[quote="Billy the Fish"]I'm dipping my toe into Nicholas Nickleby and so far, so good.
I haven't read Dickens but flicking through Peter Ackroyd's nearly 1200 page biography called Dickens I found that Dotheboys Hall was based on a school in Bowes. And the graveyard was an inspiration for some of the boys' names.
Greywolf

lunababymoonchild wrote:
Oh yes, he's written a few non Rebus in his time and his latest, Doors Open, is not Rebus and has been very well received so there's more for me to explore regarding Rankin but not, it would seem, of Rebus. †Exit Music being Rebus's last book - not dead but retired.

Luna


He also writes as Jack Harvey. And not too well, imho. Apart from the first work "Witch Hunt" which was exciting in a "Day of the Jackal" sort of way, I found the rest of the Harvey canon to be little more than potboilers.

But then I found the last three Rebus novels to show Rankin just going though the Rebus tricks - the "Gosh, don't I know a lot about pop music so I'll bring in phrases like "Cut to Rolling Stones "Let it bleed" and segue to Bob Dylan "Masters of War". " And Rebus falls asleep in his armchair - for the hundredth time. And Rebus is forever WINKING, ffs. Who knows anyone who (deliberately) winks at all today, let alone every ten pages?

No- Rebus has become a busted flush. If Rankin can clear his mind of the repetitive tricks in his writing that aren't tricks coz we've seen them a score of times, and if he could write as well about Siobhan Clarke as he once did about Rebus, then I'll buy.

But I can't see it.

Cool
Greywolf

I'm about to finish "A Good Man in Africa" by William Boyd. Everything I've ever read of his I have found either wildly funny, horrific or deeply moving - no half measures with this man. Here's a synopsis of "A Good Man in Africa" -

"In the small African republic of Kinjanja, British diplomat Morgan Leafy bumbles heavily through his job. His love of women, his fondness for drink, and his loathing for the country prove formidable obstacles on his road to any kind of success. But when he becomes an operative in Operation Kingpin and is charged with monitoring the front runner in Kinjanja's national elections, Morgan senses an opportunity to achieve real professional recognition and, more importantly, reassignment. After he finds himself being blackmailed, diagnosed with a venereal disease, attempting bribery, and confounded with a dead body, Morgan realizes that very little is going according to plan. "

This was Boyd's first novel - he conned his publisher into believing it was half finished when in fact he'd not even started it back in 1981, I think. Comparisons have been made with Evelyn Waugh ("Decline and Fall") but I also compare this work of increasingly way-out personal disasters with those of Tom Sharpe (on whom I said I wasn't too keen in another place). But Boyd's vocabulary and structure is much more assured and in need of less excess than Sharpe's. He's much more readable, I think, because you can JUST about believe the unlikely situations in which Morgan finds himself.

And Boyd is never less than side-achingly funny in this novel.

Compare this to his much later work "Any Human Heart" which, in its last pages, is one of the most moving books I've ever read.

Cool
Castorboy

[quote="Greywolf"]I'm about to finish "A Good Man in Africa" by William Boyd. Everything I've ever read of his I have found either wildly funny, horrific or deeply moving - no half measures with this man.

Thanks for reminding me, Greywolf - I meant to read the book after seeing the film. Can't remember who played Morgan but Diana Rigg played the ambassador's wife.
Fiveowls

Himadri, some days ago you suggested I give some of my present impressions gained in my re-reading of Anna Karenina.  I have read 250 pages or so (only another 700 to go!) and these are some of my reflections.

LEVIN.  I like Levin.  I feel Tolstoy is particularly good at such a character, basically well-intentioned, deeply devoted to his estate, its productivity and its wildlife, yet abrupt and often conflicted in company.  His being ill at ease in Society reminds me of Pierre Bezukhov in War and Peace.  The mis-fitting of such characters somehow cleverly exposes the superficiality and dazzle of the glitterati in Moscow and St Petersburg.

KITTY.  Iím not so sure, so far.  She is beautiful, and quite straightforwardly knows it.  She also has a feisty streak, speaks her mind with flare and, typically for the time, is grossly misdiagnosed by the eminent physician.  At least her father could see how lovesick she is.

VRONSKY.  Here I have mixed feelings.  I sense I would always have been a touch cautious about handsome, dashing regimental officers of the period.  In spite of his ready dalliances with the beauties of society, including the unfortunate Kitty, I begin to warm to him in his love for Anna.  That love, of course, seems dangerously all-consuming.  I have just reached his last-minute failure in the steeplechase and the tragedy of his broken-backed horse.  Perhaps heíll be less self-assured now?

ANNA. What can one say?  I think Iíd have fallen for her too if Iíd strode the ball-rooms of Russia.  However, although she seemed strong and generous-spirited in her advice to Dolly about Annaís brother Oblonskyís flirtations and affairs, her fall for Vronsky seems to have caught her completely off-guard.  The more her eyes shine at the sight of the dashing officer the more they glint with hatred at her husband Kareninís needlingly high-pitched voice, protuberant ears and obsessive commitment to societal appearances.  She had tried the style of disarming innocence in response to his anxious questions but, has now, just, declared to him her love for Vronsky and her frank hatred for Karenin.  Her love for her son Serezha seems compromised too.  Beautiful, intelligent, woefully swept off her feet (no pun intended) and ultimately self-destructive.  I know as I read on I shall once more be enamoured by her!  

Wink
colbhoy

I am reading, and yes, this is the full title:

The Bad Guys Won! A Season of Brawling, Boozing, Bimbo Chasing, and Championship Baseball with Straw, Doc, Mookie, Nails, the Kid and the rest of the 1986 Mets, the Rowdiest Team Ever to put on a New York Uniform - and Maybe the Best †Shocked

by Jeff Pearlman

It is very good so far!
Caro

Fiveowls, I bought Anna Karenina (though in the edition I bought it was called Anna Karenin) not long ago and plan to read it next year (when exactly?).  I have ignored your post in the meantime, beyond seeing it talks of the characters, but perhaps you could remind me of it when you see I am reading it.

I may try to persude a group read to help me, or at least a group discussion.

Cheers, Caro.
TheRejectAmidHair

Sorry Fiveowls, I had meant to reply to your post on Anna Karenina, but it had slipped my mind!

With Tolstoy's novels, more so than with the novels of any other writer, I get the curious feeling that I am talking about characters whom I personally know: every single aspect of these charaters is thought out in such detail! The last time I read Anna Karenina, I got the distinct impression that right from the start, we see evidence of a somewhat depressive nature. I don't know whether this is merely a retrospective view: certainly, towards the end, she is quite clearly suffering from what we'd nowadays regard as clinical depression. But is the onset of this condition really so sudden, I wonder? I think I need to read it again.

But one thing Tolstoy is so good as suggesting is her sexual allure. Does any other character attract a reader in such a way, I wonder? One can completely understand Vronsky's infatuation. I think Vronsky as a character is ennobled by what he feels for Anna, and by the end of the novel, he too, I think, is a tragic figure.

Dolly is another character I find fascinating. And once again, I find her a tragic figure. If Anna's is the tragedy of a woman who leaves her family, Dolly's is the tragedy of a woman who doesn't. Her fate may be somewhat less spectacular than Anna's, but it seems to me equally dark.

The entire novel seems enveloped in a sense of darkness. The characters here are not in control of their fates, and seem to be rushing headlong, helplessly, into some profound darkness. In War and Peace, Tolstoy speculated on the extent to which human beings have freedom of will: here, they seem to have none, as each is driven by internal forces that they cannot even begin to understand.

More so than any other novel I can think of, Anna Karenina seems to depict the sheer sense of terror that lurks within our everyday lives. Even the Kitty-Levin strand, which in so many ways contrasts with Anna's and Vronsky's tragedy, has its own dark shadows. The rmore I write about it, the more I feellike dropping everything else and reading this again!
iwishiwas

Greywolf wrote:


Compare this to his much later work "Any Human Heart" which, in its last pages, is one of the most moving books I've ever read.

Cool


This is one of my favourite books by one of my favourite authors, I am always surprised Boyd is not better know. I hardly ever see anyone mention him on the board.
kitsumehime

I just finished Anathem by Neal Stephenson.  It is a most unusual variation on a "first contact" novel.  Set on another planet in a parallel universe, the author spends a lot of time on world building and character development before getting into the heart of the matter (like it is over 900 pages long with a glossary and appendix) and if you like this kind of thing it is one of the best examples currently in print.    Very Happy   [/i]
evangeline

Evie, I too have picked up The Mill on the Floss, but set it aside before I even started.  I bought a really nice leather bound gilded edition for practically nothing.  I intend to read it first thing after the New Year.

I am currently reading Hotel Honolulu; a "witty" tale of a wanna-be writer who is managing a once luxurious hotel in Honolulu until he writes his great novel.  The author is Paul Theroux, author of Mosquito Coast, which I enjoyed.  This one is a bit simplistic, though.  However, I have a compulsion to finish books I begin so........
Evie

Hello Evangeline - good to meet you!

I have had a week without reading much, but picked up Mill on the Floss again yesterday, and am just loving it.  George Eliot's writing is sublime - and the humour is something I had forgotten about!  Her descriptions of some of the characters are hilarious, but without ever overriding the more serious undertones of their relationships.

I don't find the rabbit episode nearly as upsetting as some - it is not malicious, Maggie simply forgot, and is only a young child.  And people were less sentimental about animals than we are now.

Just read a lovely bit about Christmas that I might post on a seasonal thread somewhere!
Fiveowls

Thanks for that Himadri.  Re-reading Anna Karenina after so many years I am finding a mixture of 'Oh, I don't remember that scene' and 'Yes, it's all coming back'.  And so what I wrote a few days ago were very much 'first' impressions a second time round.

I found your analysis of the darkness and the sense of being trapped by deterministic forces within the story's unfolding relationships compelling.  Interestingly, I have just engaged with Kitty's meeting with Varenka and the beginnings of her shift from being bound by her sense of shame over Vronsky's rejection towards a reaching out to others in Christian love.  I shall be interested to see whether that new impetus stays with her or not.

And yes, Anna is an extraordinarily attractive person, in spite of her spiraling decline.  I am quite gripped by her, how she has responded so far in the book and quite how, in detail, she will field her warring emotions in the coming pages.

And Caro, thanks for your post too.  I'll keep in mind what you said.  I do hope you can engage with the book, maybe, as you say, with others.
Mikeharvey

Just started "The Master of Ballantrae" by Robert Louis Stevenson" and am enjoying it very much. It's the only major Stevenson I haven't read. I've been saving it for a treat.  He's in my top five favourite writers. I'll review it later.
Apple

Well, I have given up on Jane Eyre...again, I will probably sit and give it another go at some point but it just was not holding my attention sufficiently for me to get into it fully, I can't describe it there was just something missing. †

I have a couple of other books on the go at the minute I'm in a flitty mood at the moment I have a few books on the go and pick up and read whichever takes my fancy. I am reading Inside the Third Reich by Albert Speer I have mentioned it on another thread, I have only just started it so can't really comment on it but it is quite good, I do feel rather uncomforatble reading it though - I didn't actually buy this book it was a gift, but I feel as though Albert Speer was a nazi who said what everyone wanted to hear to save his neck at the war trials, and then prospered from his past by writing about it. †Still thats just my opinion on it.

My other book which I am reading is one which Mike recommended to me way back when I first joined the big readers board - when it was on the Beeb site, that is Birdsong, and so far I am finding it very good indeed.
Gul Darr

Today I started Barchester Topwers and am enjoying immensely.  Very Happy
Rebecca

Today, I finished A Christmas Carol...my annual 'start on Dec 1st read'.....finished earlier this year! †I'm also reading Shantaram and loving it...'though I did find its website a few days ago, which I rather wish I hadn't...but hey Rolling Eyes
Joe Mac

Hi Poohfoot. What didn't you like about the Shantaram website? Too much information?
Come to think of it, I strayed there too, before I'd finished the book and learned something I shouldn't have.
It's a great read, though.
Joe Mac

I just started 'The Gargoyle' by Andrew Davidson. Pretty gruesome stuff in the early going, but well enough written. Recommended by a friend.

Badly burned and broken in a car crash, the narrator spares us nothing in recounting his treatment and recovery - I made the mistake of opening the book while eating breakfast and still feel a bit queasy.

I'm not sure where it's going at all. Some connection with a 13th century Bavarian convent is implied.
Rebecca

RN Singer wrote:
Hi Poohfoot. What didn't you like about the Shantaram website? Too much information?
Come to think of it, I strayed there too, before I'd finished the book and learned something I shouldn't have.
It's a great read, though.


I suppose I was a little disappointed there WAS a website and an impending film...then there'll be the soundtrack and the advent calendar and the duvet cover and the lunchbox.

I guess it won't go that far but I wanted it to be MY book, my secret find, even though I found my copy on top of a couple of hundred others just inside the door of Waterstones.
TheRejectAmidHair

Yesterday, I started reading Fielding's late novel Amelia.

Given Fielding's reputation, it's surprising how little read he is: most people (myself included) have not read anything beyong Tom Jones. Amelia is his last work, and has a reputation of being very dark in tone. One would have though that a major novel by so highly regarded a writer would be widely available, but a search through Amazon reveals that it's only available through a couple of small publishers, neither of whom gets very well distributed. The usual suspects - Penguin, Oxford, Everyman - don't currently publish this novel. In short, you really have to go out of your way to pick up a copy.

I found myself an old Penguin edition, and so far (i.e. some twenty pages or so into it), it's very promising. As in Tom Jones, Fielding is happy to put his authorial personality in the forefront, and address the reader directly: and this authorial personality is very companionable - convivisal, intelligent, and humane.

Earlier this year, I read (and was very impressed by) another little-known late novel by a major novelist - Roxana by Daniel Defoe. If this one is anywhere near as good, I shall certainly be in for a treat!
Mikeharvey

I just read "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves" from the Arabian Nights in a new translation by Malcom and Urusla Lyons published with two other tales in a small hardback Penguin Classics. What an engrossing story! I was curled up on the sofa with my thumb in my mouth. But what a  ruthless story! with at least 41 deaths at my calculation, 38 of them by boiling oil.  This volume is intended to entice the reader to purchase the full new three-volume Nights by these translators published at about £135.  
I thought later that I should have put on Rimsky-Korsakov's "Sheherazade" while reading it where the opening notes seem to be saying "Once Upon a Time".  Ravel's song cycle "Sheherazade" also captures the magical atmosphere of these stories. The opening with the mezzo singing "Asie...Asie...Asie..." is very beautiful. Try Janet Baker's recording.
MikeAlx

Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves was one of my favourite Ladybird books as a child - though I suspect it was a somewhat sanitized version! I remember it was a while before I discovered I'd been mispronouncing 'open sesame' (I thought it was pronounced 'open sess-same').  Smile

Ali Baba is one of the stories whose authentic place in the 1001 Nights is disputed - some scholars think it was added to the collection by Antoine Galland, an 18th century French translator, who heard it from an Arab storyteller in Aleppo.
lunababymoonchild

Have now started Agincourt, by Juliet Barker.  Only read the prologue so far and it's not enough to state an opinion on but I do like her style.

Luna
Caro

Not so much what I am reading as what will I read.  I am off tomorrow for a week and have packed for this 5 books (as if!).  They are Dr Thorne by Anthony Trollope (I have read The Warden and Barchester Towers), The Ghost Road by Pat Barker (which I have heard on tape) Requiem for a Wren by Nevil Shute, The Planet by Dava Sobel and a NZ novel Gith by Chris Else.  

I will hesitate so much between them I will probably end up with none and just do some Sudoku puzzles for the week!  
Cheers, Caro.
mike js

I am attempting to revive some fiction reading with a couple of books:

Paddington Here and Now - easy reading with pictures! The pictures are delightful, and Paddington's first new adventure was fun That's as far as I've read for now.

Winterwood and other Hauntings, by Keith Roberts. Short stories of the strange, by a very interesting author. Ahem, have only read one story so far.

Meanwhile, I am in the middle of Einstein's Mirror, by Tony Hey and Patrick Walters. This is a popular science book, discussing special and general relativity. It's tough to pitch this sort of thing at tan appropriate level, and they seem to have done a very good job.

Hope to report later having read any or all of these fully.
Chibiabos83

What a pleasure it is to read your postings again, mike.

My reading's become fragmented of late, mostly because of a nasty virus which I am just about shaking off. I'm about halfway through The Anatomy Lesson by Philip Roth, but because I needed something comforting through my illness I have returned, after a break of many years, to The Kenneth Williams Diaries, which can be irritating at times but are mainly fascinating and often marvellously entertaining.
LordRahl

I'm currently reading "Bones of The Hills" by Conn Iggulden, the third instalment of the story of Genghis Khan. What a fantastic story. After this I would like to try similar books, such as Atilla by William Napier or Alexander by Manfredi. Has anyone else read any of these?
bookfreak

LordRahl:  I read the first two of Conn Iggulden's Genghis Khan novels and thought them both fantastic.   So pleased to hear that the third one is great too.   I am trying to be patient and wait for The Bones of the Hills to come out in paperback, but each time I am in a bookshop my eyes and hands are drawn to it in hardback.  I've resisted so far but don't know how much longer I can hold out!

I haven't read the other books you mention but will look out for them, especially the one on Alexander.
Raunchyducky

I'm reading one of Nabokov's lesser known works "The Luzhin defense" which tells the story of a young man whose life becomes totally defined by chess and the toll that takes not only his life but those around him. I really cannot recommend the book highly enough it is an incredibly raw portrait of obsession and madness and has just left me stunned, such an incredibly moving book.
Incidentally it was also made into a movie which is being shown on terrestrial on Monday night, I can't wait to see what they've done with it and whether it will match up to the intrinsic beauty of this stunning little novel.
Sarah_H

Sounds interesting. What channel is it on?
Joe Mac

I'm just starting Dervla Murphy's 'Full Tilt' about her bike ride from Dunkirk to Delhi back in 1963. I enjoy her breezy manner of recounting events that are occasionally extraordinary. Everything gets the same treatment, whether it's hassling with border bureaucracy, haggling in the marketplace or being attacked by wild dogs in Yugoslavia or would-be rapists in Iran.

Quite a gal, this Murphy. I wish I had half her nerve. I made the same journey (roughly) by bus 13 years later, and was never attacked by anybody.
Raunchyducky

Sarah H, the film is on in the wee small hours of Tuesday morning, about 1:30am. I've even booked the next day off work just so I can watch it!

As and aside I have finished the book, really a superb ending to a wonderful book.
Not_Smart_Just_Lucky

RN Singer wrote:
I made the same journey (roughly) by bus 13 years later, and was never attacked by anybody.


You sound disappointed
Sarah_H

Raunchyducky wrote:
Sarah H, the film is on in the wee small hours of Tuesday morning, about 1:30am. I've even booked the next day off work just so I can watch it!

As and aside I have finished the book, really a superb ending to a wonderful book.


Thank you.  Now the dilema:  Book first or film first?
Evie

I am still reading The Mill on the Floss, which is quite marvellous - G.Eliot is such a fabulous observer and conveyor of human thought and emotion and relationships, and her novels are virtually novels of ideas as well as wonderful human stories.

I am also reading a lovely book about an American woman who set off to look at some of the famous Land Art sites created in the 70s - partly, as a devoted urbanite, to see if she could successfully spend some time on her own, as well as to see the sites themselves.  Thought-provoking on all sorts of levels, and entertaining.

Will say more about both when I have finished.
leon_perrins

Quote:
I made the same journey (roughly) by bus 13 years later, and was never attacked by anybody.


Would that have been the Magic Bus?
miranda

Sarah_H wrote:
Raunchyducky wrote:
Sarah H, the film is on in the wee small hours of Tuesday morning, about 1:30am. I've even booked the next day off work just so I can watch it!

As and aside I have finished the book, really a superb ending to a wonderful book.


Thank you. †Now the dilema: †Book first or film first?


Book first.   Then you won't want to watch the film....

Or film first and you'll see the actors when you read the book.....
Joe Mac

Yes, Leon, it was indeed 'Magic Bus' - the company that is; there was nothing magic about the bus itself. In fact the French contingent on the trip renamed it 'Tragic Bus,' because it broke down so much.

I bought my ticket at the Magic Bus office on Shaftesbury St. in London on or about Nov. 4, 1976, the day after Jimmy Carter was elected U.S. president. It cost a mere $125 for a ticket to Delhi, the British Pound having been devalued only a day or two before.

Murphy's 'Full Tilt' is bring back a lot of memories, as well as the feeling associated with them.
Sarah_H

miranda wrote:
...film first and you'll see the actors when you read the book


I don't always visualise characters fully anyway, usually my failing rather than the author's.

Interesting that Bernard Cornwell now visualises Richard Sharpe as a gruff Yorkshireman, as opposed to the Cockney lad he originally intended.
Raunchyducky

actually the film is quite a bit different to the book, both are superb of course but the film does sort of have that glamourous side to it that the book doesn't have. Having said that though, the film is very watchable and the book is an incredible read. I'd personally always try and read a book first then the film but sometimes those TV schedulers make this impossible. So I'd say, in this instance, watch the movie (and cry) and if you enjoy it read the book if you don't..... well read the book anyway, it's a good book!!!!!
Ann

I'm reading Man and Wife by Wilkie Collins, who is one of my favourite Victorian writers. This is about 19th century scottish marriage laws when all it takes to to say you are married to be so! Of course there is immense confusion, illigitimate babies, dastardly villains and unintended bigamy. Wilkie Collins is so very melodramatic and always great fun. However I don't find this as good as some of his I have read. The females are awefully tiresome and ready to flounce off in a huff at the least provocation. I think I remember reading he never married and instead had two common law wives and families. Perhaps they were both difficult ladies!
Simon The Sponge

Just finished ...finally the Michael Palin Python Diaries.  To be honest although being a Python Fan (..well I guess who isn't) this really seemed to be hard work at times.  Although some touching moments surrounding his family and his father's decline in health due to Parkinson's it all read a little too self conscious - may be I'm being a little unfair, but it did have a subtle undertone of being written maybe with the idea of publishing in mind.

It got me thinking around diaries as a literary form. I think Palin's diary is the only diary I've read apart from Anne Frank's (hmm talk about comparing two utterly incomparable books Smile)which I thoroughly enjoyed, probably because it presented such a touchingly human experience to one of history's most appallingly inhuman acts and because of the associated poignancy.  

I found Pailin's Diary somewhat unsatisfying, very dry and considered that maybe that is to do with the limitations a diary has of an author being able to control dramatic and narrative structure...If it's a genuine day to day diary that is.  Trivia is given the same weight as significant events and it's only historical hindsight that is able to attach importance to moments and events that didn't seem that significant at the time.  I think I need more dramatic structure in something that I am reading.  A Biog or Autobiography will look back at events with a contemporary filter and even the most inane of lives and events can be made a little sexier and far more readable with well planned structure (unlike my posts).  

Anyway ....for me a general thumbs down for diaries

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