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Evie

What are you reading? (2013)

A new thread for a new year.  Happy New Reading Year, everyone!
Caro

Thanks Evie.  I am reading two books at the moment: Jo Nesbo's first book The Bat, very good, set in Sydney, perhaps there is a little much preaching about Australia's, especially aboriginal history, but it is fair and balanced.  There is some of the detective's past which I suppose will come up in later books (none of which I have read).

I am interspersing this with The First Colonist, about Samuel Deighton, supposedly the first settler to get out of the ship at Wellington.  It is written by a descendant.  I was a little uncertain beginning this, as it sounded as if it might be rather anti-Maori, but it has proved a quite fair account, if seen from the settlers' points of views.  There has so far been far more general history than the specifics of Samuel's life.  They are scattered in, rather than forming the mainstay of the book.  Very interesting and it is cementing a bit of Wellington's history in my mind.
Joe McWilliams

I'm reading The Water Rat of Wanchai, by Ian Hamilton, which I borrowed from the library after reading good things about Hamilton's Ava Lee novels in the paper the other day. It follows the adventures of Chinese-Canadian forensic accountant Lee, as she attempts to recover her clients' missing money, jetting around the world, staying in five-star hotels and solving problems at a breathless pace.

So far, I'm sorry to say it just doesn't measure up. I believe I will finish it and not read another.

Iwill soon return to George RR Martin's A Dance With Dragons, which is very much better in every way.
Green Jay

I have put aside the two books I'm currently reading and taken up volume one of The Hunger Games. Very gripping, and easy to read. I'm sure I would have loved this as a child or early teen reader. Not quite as bleak (yet?) as I had imagined.

I have so many partly-read books beside my bed - never so many as this before, what a bad habit to fall into! Some going back to the summer when i took a couple away and then thought 'These are not holiday reading', plus A Fine Balance which I will finish someday. And Eats, Shoots & Leaves, which I am enjoying in short doses.  And some others I won;t even go into naming, with a fine coating of dust on, and bookmarks sticking out.
iwishiwas

I have finished A Good Plain Cook by Bethan Roberts today. It started with lots of promise but fizzled out towards the end. That said I found it very atmospheric but one or two of the characters were not developed as much as I would have liked. Tonight I will start The Heaven of Mercury by Brad Watson which I read about somewhere but don't recall where!
Evie

It's so hard to start a new book when you have been completely wrapped up in the previous one - I finished Dracula on New Year's Eve, and nothing else seemed to be able to follow it!

But I gave it a day, and then started a lovely book, The Year of the Hare by Aarto Paasilinna, a Finnish novelist.  I think it was written in the 70s.  It is about a man who stops his car to investigate an injury to a hare that his car has hit - he finds the hare, a leveret, with its leg broken, and spends so much time calming it down, splinting its leg, etc, that the man's colleague in the car gets fed up of waiting and drives off without him.  The man decides not to hitch a lift back to the city, but takes the hare with him and sets off on a new life - abandoning job, wife, city life.  And that's it really - we then go on his journey with him, meet the people he meets, and it's all told with that wonderful wry, deadpan humour that Nordic writers seem so good at.  Could hardly be more of a contrast with Dracula, but that's all to the good in terms of getting into a new book!

Here is a link to the amazon entry for the book:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Year-Hare...TF8&qid=1357249665&sr=8-1
verityktw

My 2013 reading has started with some of last year's booker shortlist. I'm now reading Alison Moor The Lighthouse, which I hope I might finish tomorrow. Is there some discussion of it elsewhere on the board I could contribute to when done?
Evie

Hmm, there is supposed to be, but I never quite got round to posting anything...as was my usual habit in 2012!  Hector made some comments about it, possibly on the monthly reads thread, so may be hard to find - but do post something when you have finished, and I will contribute too - your reviews are much better than mine!!
Hector

Yes, I did a mini review in the September Satisfactions thread (this link may or may not work: http://bigreaders.myfastforum.org/sutra31096.php&highlight=#31096 )

It's not particularly in depth as I didn't really want to ruin it for anyone who had read it yet. Would be nice to know your thoughts when you do finish as it is a novel which has stayed in the memory well!
verityktw

Lovely. I finished it this evening and will attempt to put my thoughts together this weekend. Not feeling very coherent tonight - was sleepy anyway and a couple of glasses of merlot didn't help!
Evie

A glass of merlot always helps!  i read it twice, as it was for my book group and I read it too early to start with, so I feel doubly ashamed that I never got round to responding properly to Hector's review!
verityktw

It can have the honour of it's own thread now  Smile

Currently reading King Queen Knave - one of Nabokov's early (originally Russian) novels. Enjoying his rich, descriptive prose, though it took a while to get used to the density, and I want to say circumvention, but I'm not sure that's quite the right word. Nabokov does have a stunning way of describing everyday sensations. The first chapter takes place on a train - a situation which has consumed more of my life than I feel it ought to have done - and it's full of beautiful, detailed descriptions like:

Quote:
The train was now going fast. Franz suddenly clutched his side, transfixed by the thought that he had lost his wallet which contained so much: the solid little ticket, and a stranger's visiting card with a precious address, and an inviolate month of human life in reichsmarks.


Though I'm sure it will not match Nabokov's masterpieces and I originally bought the book because it's a beautiful edition, I'm enjoying it very much.
Castorboy

English Hours is a collection of travel writing by Henry James over the years 1875 to 1901. The essays have each been published previously in other collections. I note from the bibliography that there are volumes covering his travels in France and Italy.
KlaraZ

I'm just back from Oz, so I'm reading Patrick White's 'The Tree of Man' which I began while I was out there, sitting in a pub under Sydney Harbour bridge, sipping a cool Cooper's Pale Ale--bliss! It's a densely written, highly literary but hypnotic book, sometimes the phrases are dazzling, sometimes baffling. I saw a documentary about Patrick White recently, and was inspired to start reading him again, having not read any of his work since the 1970s.  I'm planning to read more in 2013---I never feel that I get through enough!
Joe McWilliams

How delightful, not to say baffling, to suddenly come across 'one of the most important English language writers of the 20th century' (Wikipedia), having never heard of him!
I blame my teachers. Oh, and my parents, of course. Very Happy

Thanks for letting the cat out of the bag, Klara. Perhaps I'll put White on my list for 2013. Can you recommend a starting point?

Speaking of Aussie authors, though, I must first get through another densely-written book - The Fatal Shore, by Robert Hughes.
KlaraZ

Oddly enough, Joe, the documentary I watched about Patrick White began with people in the street somewhere in Oz being asked who he was and all responding with the answer they didn't know. This despite the fact that he's the only Australian writer to have won the Nobel Prize for literature.  (And there's a plaque to him in Writers Walk, Sydney.)

He is considered by some a "difficult"  writer. I'm afraid the only other work  I've read by White is 'Riders in the Chariot', although I've heard good things about 'Voss'. An Australian  film of one of his later novels, Eye of the Storm, has been made recently; not available in the UK on DVD yet. but I've pre-ordered it on my 'LoveFilm' rental list.
Hector

Klara / Joe

I finished The Tree of Man by Patrick White last month - a mini review is here:

http://bigreaders.myfastforum.org/sutra32005.php&highlight=#32005

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts when you finish it Klara. As you will see, I enjoyed it but for some reason found it a little bit difficult to finish but I got there in the end. I have also read Voss which I though that was fantastic - my thoughts are here

http://bigreaders.myfastforum.org/sutra17579.php&highlight=#17579
TheRejectAmidHair

I’m currently reading a curiously titled little novel called A Romance with Cocaine by M. Ageyev. I hadn’t heard of this until I was recommended this by a fellow blogger. It was written in Russian in the 1930s by an anonymous Russian émigré, and while it made a splash at the time (it was favourably compared to the works of other Russian émigré writers such as Bunin and Nabokov), and, when it was “rediscovered” in the 80s, it was claimed that the writer behind the pseudonym was , indeed, Nabokov himself. It has since been discovered that the writer was a Jewish Russian author Mark Levi, who was at the time living in exile in Istanbul, and who, along with other people of Russian background living in Turkey, was deported back to Russia in 1942. For reasons unknown, he did not fall victim to Stalin’s purges, despite having attempted in the past to renounce his Russian nationality; he lived a quiet life as a teacher, and appears to have died in the 1970s. Not much else is known about him. He certainly did not publish any other work.

The book itself recalls Dostoyevsky in many ways – especially Notes From Underground – and, if Hugh Alpin’s translation is an accurate reflection – written in often startling prose. More on this once I have finished.

I’ve also started reading Sir Anthony Kenny’s much acclaimed A New History of Western Philosophy. I am quite ignorant of the subject, and felt that even a little learning on the matter would be preferable to leaving the Pierian spring untasted. It’s a challenging read, as they say – or, in plain English, damn hard – but so far it’s very eloquently written and as lucid as is possible given the complexity of its vast subject.
Caro

Re Patrick White:  I think many writers from outside one's own country and England and the USA (for English speakers) are not well known.  I live very close to Australia but, while I could name fairly easily thirty or forty NZ writers (and more if I thought harder) I really struggle to come up with more than five or six Aussie ones - one of those is Patrick White, though, who we read at university.  I don't think I have read him since though.

I am at the moment reading three books, which means none of them get proper attention.  The First Colonist, Samuel Deighton 1821 - 1900 sounds as if it will be a biography and is written by a descendant, but it's really a history of early NZ Maori/European relations and not much about Deighton at all.  I set myself a few pages of this a day, as it is full of Maori place names of small areas I don't know and warrior actions, some of which I am familiar with and some not.

Then I have started Through Black Spruce by Canadian Joseph Boyden. I have read his earlier book and his writing is impressive but it takes a while to get the characters sorted, especially since he doesn't name which one is speaking at any particular time and you have to work it out.  

And I got out Titanic Love Stories by Gill Paul, the stories of honeymooners on the Titanic.  (13 sets).  It is easy reading - I whipped though the one of John Jacob Astor and his wife Madeleine, but haven't gone back to it again since.  

A varied lot.
Castorboy

The Godwits Fly is a family story of a young girl growing up in Wellington NZ between the wars by Robin Hyde, the pen name of Iris Wilkinson.
Joe McWilliams

Caro, good for you for being so in touch with the NZ literature scene. I doubt very much if I could name 30 or 40 Canadian writers. I'm frankly scared to try, for what it might reveal about me. On the other hand, maybe there aren't that many!
In any case, I've never made a point of knowing who they are, much less seeking them out to read them just because they are compatriots. I like to rely on serendipity to lead me to my next book. Or, come to think of it, recommendations from Big Readers, which, let's face it, do not as a rule point one toward Canadian writers. I tend to think if a homegrown writer is good enough, he or she will come to my attention eventually. That might be placing too much faith in whatever 'system' supports talent that isn't American or British, those juggernauts of English-language lit. As for Aussies, let me see... Patrick White, Robert Hughes, Colleen McCullough, that other guy who's name I can't recall....oh, Peter Carey! Was Neville Shute Australian?

Speaking of attitudes towards home-grown culture, Mordecai Richler, one of the better-known Canadian writers (whom I've never read), said the last thing he wanted was to have his books appear in a 'Can-Lit' 'section of bookstores, calling it 'ghastly' fate, or something similar. He preferred to compete head-on with American and other product. Good for him - he was one who could afford to, I suppose.

Having said all that.....I'm reading the auto-biog of a Canadian TV newsman at the moment. Oliver's Twist, by Craig Oliver. Fun stuff. I barely knew he existed, but it turns out he was an intimate of Pierre Trudeau and other notables from the Canadian political scene.

I'm also in the middle of a murder mystery by British Canadian writer Peter Robinson, a Yorkshireman whose character Inspector Banks (do I have that right?) is solving a ghastly murder in a Yorkshire village where the locals speak very oddly indeed. I actually listened to this on a recent car trip that wasn't long enough by half. Now I'm waiting for the book to arrive at the library so I can finish it off. I fear it will lose a great deal of the charm that came through via the clever narrator's version of the Dales' accent. It could be without that it will turn out to be a pretty ordinary whodunnit.
Can't finish it in the car due to freezing rain followed by a blizzard followed by more freezing rain. I ain't driving anywhere!
Ann

I've started The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox. It is written in a very unusual way and is a gothic tale, set in Victorian times, of a strange man who commits a murder at the beginning of the story as a practice for another killing he is plotting. He is an unreliable narrator, one can tell, and an odd character.
Hector

I started Philip Roth's The Counterlife last night which is only one of two remaining novels of his I have yet to read in his rather loosely related Nathan Zuckerman series. Enjoying it so far - all the usual Roth traits are there: New Jersey, Judaism, sex and hunmour. The final one I hope to read later this year is the last one, Exit Ghost.
Caro

I have one page to go with my Samuel Deighton biography/history but don't seem to feel quite up to that!  And I have had to put aside Through Black Spruce to read The Help by Kathryn Stockett since my sister gave it to me for Christmas and we were off to see her, so I thought it would be politic and also I prefer to take non-library books with me away from home.  I am thoroughly enjoying The Help - very readable, and the characters have their own voices which I like.  (I was enjoying Through Black Spruce too, but it was a more serious read in some aspects - in the aspect of language, perhaps, since the theme of The Help is very serious.)

Joe, I definitely seek out NZ literature and somehow I seem to notice it too in reviews and bookshops.  I don't think NZ books do rise to the surface the way perhaps Canadian ones can, being close to America.  Our authors struggle for an audience since we are such a small country.  Also the books have to be changed somewhat to fit overseas audiences - not such casual use of Maori terms, perhaps not as much NZ history, some terminology changed.  I rather like the ones written for NZers.  (But I do admit that, while I have really liked some books set in places foreign to me - especially it seems in India - I specially like books where I recognise places and characteristics.)

I've read a lot of Peter Robinson (he writes about Yorkshire where I've been, even lived for 10 months, emphasizing what I have just writter) - I found his earlier books more enjoyable than his later ones, which seemed to get grittier but not necessarily better.  Castorboy has just written about one which isn't an Inspector Banks one, so I might try that soon.
Joe McWilliams

I have to say after finishing off Robinson's The Hanging Valley, that on the whole it was pretty ordinary as murder mysteries go. The chief benefit in reading it, for me, is the charming notion of 'fell-walking', which it introduced. Hiking in the hills in my Canadian experience is a fine thing, but in general one doesn't expect to have a view of anything but trees - at least in the part of the country I'm familiar with. The idea of almost always having a splendid vista is quite novel to me; I'd love to experience it sometime, the possibility of stumbling upon a corpse notwithstanding.
Sandraseahorse

I'm just starting Charles Frazier's "Cold Mountain".  Rather appropriate given the weather here.
Castorboy

Joe McWilliams wrote:
I have to say after finishing off Robinson's The Hanging Valley, that on the whole it was pretty ordinary as murder mysteries go. The chief benefit in reading it, for me, is the charming notion of 'fell-walking', which it introduced. Hiking in the hills in my Canadian experience is a fine thing, but in general one doesn't expect to have a view of anything but trees - at least in the part of the country I'm familiar with. The idea of almost always having a splendid vista is quite novel to me; I'd love to experience it sometime, the possibility of stumbling upon a corpse notwithstanding.

I agree with your comments, Joe. I found it the weakest one of the series ninth post. I even noted the descriptions of Toronto just to say something about the novel!
Joe McWilliams

Ha! Figures I'd pick the lousiest one of the bunch to start with. Where would I find your comments on it, Castorboy?
Castorboy

Joe McWilliams wrote:
Ha! Figures I'd pick the lousiest one of the bunch to start with. Where would I find your comments on it, Castorboy?

I am sure they get better as the series continues so don't give up! I have only stopped reading the series because I fancied a change.
My brief comments are here, the ninth post, and there are reviews of more of the Banks novels on the thread.
Green Jay

Joe McWilliams wrote:
. The chief benefit in reading it, for me, is the charming notion of 'fell-walking', which it introduced. Hiking in the hills in my Canadian experience is a fine thing, but in general one doesn't expect to have a view of anything but trees - at least in the part of the country I'm familiar with. The idea of almost always having a splendid vista is quite novel to me; I'd love to experience it sometime, the possibility of stumbling upon a corpse notwithstanding.


I had an oh-my-goodness response to this.  Shocked  It's not only fell-walking  - which can be dangerous as well as charming! - but most country walks of any description in this country involve a view (and hopefully a visit to a pub) - hills, Downs (same thing, sort of), mountains, moorland, valleys, lakes, the sea, or just a pretty patchwork of fields and lanes and woods.  Even London is quite hilly and you can get superb views from places like Primrose hill or Greenwich Park.  It had never occurred to me that hiking - and in an amazing country like Canada -  didn't! I suppose that althoguh I live in a highly populated country we're lucky in that it is also possible to get out and walk, and we have a good network of footpaths and public access (though some of that has been fought hard for).
Joe McWilliams

Come on over, Green Jay, and I'll take you for a walk in the bush.

Of course there are vast flat treeless regions of Canada where I've heard the views are so good you can watch your dog running away for three days. But in my limited world, hills without trees is a weird concept. I used to see those fell vistas and Scottish landscapes and shout at the television: 'Why aren't there any trees!'
The better to see the countryside, it turns out.

Back on topic, I am reading The Thirteenth Tribe, a non-fiction work by Arthur Koestler about the Khazar Jews of central Asia. His purpose, evidently, was to undermine the ethnic basis for anti-Semitism by showing that Ashkenazi Jews were descended from Turkic tribes. Largely debunked or dismissed since, thanks to advances in genetic science, I understand. But good reading!
Caro

And back to walking and views: it interests me that in Britain you walk, in Canada you hike, and in NZ you tramp.  At least tramping is what serious walking is called.  Here we have bush walks which generally have lovely surroundings of trees, ferns, creeks, and hopefully birds to see, maybe a waterfall or water feature somewhere at the end.  Sometimes a lookout for a view.  Mountain and hill walks have views.  Visitors from Britain to NZ find our restrictions on walking frustrating, private land is not open slather for walking, and indeed isn't used for such at all generally.  On occasions a feature of the landscape will have a track through private land which makes it accessible, but you can't wander off the track onto other parts of the land.  To me, it is only sensible that private land is private and not open to every Tom, Dick and Harry to wander about; it felt very wrong to us to walk through people's backyards, as we did on occasions, to get to a walk.  

I am still reading and loving The Help, though its theme is difficult.  Also reading a book on the 13 honeymooning couples on the Titanic.  The concept is interesting, the books is beautifully produced and arranged but ultimately it is unsatisfying, not answering questions.  One couple are shown as arguing a lot on the Titanic, but there is no follow-up about how their marriage went later.  (Quite a number didn't have a marriage afterwards - the husband having died.  I find women and children first an odd concept especially in those times, when it was a man's income that kept a family going. Chivalry rather than sense, if you ask me.  My husband would sacrifice himself to save me, I think, and that would be immensely silly, as he is much more useful than I am.)  Mini biogs are usually rather truncated and don't fill in as many gaps as the reader would like.
Joe McWilliams

'Open slather' - is that a Kiwi-ism? Never heard it before.
Caro

Oh, goodness, it is.  I didn't know that.  My dictionary says: n. NZ & Aust. colloq. 1. freedom to operate without impediment, a free rein. 2. a free-for-all.
Joe McWilliams

Ah...lovely. Thanks Caro. I'll be using it all the time now.
Apple

I have decided my next read is going to be Germinal by Emile Zola, it is a book I have been wanting to read since the BR cup back in the day, when the Baron talked about it when we were discussing the different authors.  

I wasn't as you will all recall very impressed with Nana, but I am thinking the subject matter of this book will be more up my street.  I am quite looking forward to it and sharing my thoughts on it.

A number of people have said that it is a "heavy" story and quite intense so, I feel I am in the mood for something to really get my teeth into just now.
Green Jay

I thought I had already posted this, but cannot find it, so maybe that was one time when my internet seized up (not unusual).

The Colour - Rose Tremain.
One of her historical novels, set in New Zealand in the 1860s gold rush. Not a lot of laughs. The lead female, who has been a governess in Norfolk, is inspired by the wide wastes - so far - while her taciturn husband turns away from developing their amateurish farm, inspired only by gold. Very well-evoked, so far as I can tell.

I am moving house soon so little time to read, or post. Should not even be here now... (tiptoeing away emoticon)
Chibiabos83

All the best with the move, LGJ! Don't forget us, please...
KlaraZ

I enjoyed  'The Colour' very much when I read it a few years ago, GreenJay!  took it with me to New Zealand, which seemed exactly the right place. I'm quite a fan of Rose Tremain, as I've said on here elsewhere, especially the Merivel books.

I finished 'The Tree of Man' and have since read 'The Roundabout Man' by Clare Morrall, which I did enjoy, although I found the ending a little disappointing. I do recommend it though; the central premise is great, a man whose life was scarred by having an Enid Blyton-like mother, who mythologised him in her books. Now I'm reading a Victorian novella in verse, Amours de Voyage by Arthur Hugh Clough This is partly for next month's Persephone Book Group meeting, although I do like Victorian poetry, and often think I should read more. It's an interesting piece, quite modern in tone; I do wish there were footnotes.
Ann

I believe Christopher Robin Milne was scarred by featuring in the Pooh books too. I wonder if there are many examples of this? It had never occured to me that it might be grim being the child of an author though I had thought before that a friend might look worryingly at the characters in the author's book, especially the inadaquate or disagreeable ones, and wonder where the copy came from!
Chibiabos83

Ann wrote:
I believe Christopher Robin Milne was scarred by featuring in the Pooh books too. I wonder if there are many examples of this? It had never occured to me that it might be grim being the child of an author though I had thought before that a friend might look worryingly at the characters in the author's book, especially the inadaquate or disagreeable ones, and wonder where the copy came from!

The Llewelyn Davies boys, who inspired J.M. Barrie to write Peter Pan, spring to mind. Not all of their stories ended happily. There's a new play by John Logan opening in London soon starring Ben Whishaw and Judi Dench, Peter and Alice, which chronicles a 1932 meeting between the old Alice Liddell (Alice in Wonderland) and the young man Peter Llewelyn Davies. I'm going to see it, so I'd better acquaint myself with Peter Pan pretty sharpish.
Mikeharvey

I'm jealous that you're going to PETER AND ALICE, Gareth. I can't get to London these days. In the old days I saw everything.  
I love PETER PAN which Peter Lewelyn-Davies called 'that terrible masterpiece'. I think it is. Full of dark resonances. The closing scenes where the Lost Boys have grown up, and the adult Wendy says 'I've forgotten how to fly' (not always included in production) can make me weep sometimes. I remember a colleague and I at the RSC's production with tears in our eyes. (our school party were dry-eyed).  You have to be grown-up to appreciate PETER PAN fully.
Barrie's story 'Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens' is a strange and whimsical book which is worth collecting.
Joe McWilliams

I'm reading Walter Isaacson's biography of Silicon Valley brat Steve Jobs, of Apple Computers fame. Wow, what an arsehole! Can't say he wasn't interesting, though, and I am enjoying it in spite of not being very interested in the history of the personal computer, not to mention the smart phone (don't have one), the computer tablet, notebook, music storage device and what have you.
It's been noted again and again that great achievers often have intolerable personal characteristics. Jobs fits that stereotype.
KlaraZ

TWITTER ALERT!
Just posting this here so that it'll be seen---message for Twitter users on here! Apparently, 250,000 Twitter accounts were hacked yesterday and it looks like Himadri's was one of them, judging from the bogus direct message purporting to be from him I received in my email box, and from the recent tweet in "his" name about a good way to lose body fat!  (Something the scammers have been doing, read it in today's paper.)  If Himadri's password was accessed, Twitter will have informed him but be careful about clicking on links and make sure any tweets really are from the person you know.

Right. On a different subject, I'm reading Capital by John Lanchester and enjoying it enormously.
Evie

I also got one from Verity.

If it happens, is changing your password enough?
TheRejectAmidHair

It's very embarrassing when it happens. My apologies to all. I ave changed my password: whether it'll be enough, I don't know, but I don't see what else I an do. If it happens again, I'll close my Twitter account. I only really use it to publicise my blog in any case.

On to what I'm reading: a good friend recently pressed into my hands In OnePerson - the new novel by hs favourite author, John Irving. I've read the first 30 or so pages, and so far, it seems distinctly mediocre. I hope it gets better, as I don't really want to say anything bad about it to someone who obviously loves it.
Joe McWilliams

For the record, I have received no annoying tweets from anybody. I am, however, reading a murder mystery set in, of all places, Mongolia, which I have found occasionally annoying in the early going, inasmuch as the author, Michael Walters of Manchester, UK, has Mongolian policemen talking very much like British cops.
Otherwise.....well, its unusual setting has value in itself. I enjoy the acquaintance with a very foreign place. Walters has evidently been there, despite his inability to render an authentic Ulan Bataarian voice. Meanwhile, the body count grows.
Green Jay

KlaraZ wrote:
I enjoyed  'The Colour' very much when I read it a few years ago, GreenJay!  took it with me to New Zealand, which seemed exactly the right place. I'm quite a fan of Rose Tremain, as I've said on here elsewhere, especially the Merivel books.



I have finished it now and did enjoy it, Klara, found it very vivid. But I never did find much sympathy in me for the character of Joseph Blackstone, though I suppose he as convincing for a man of that type - full of supressed rage, a bad listener and interpreter of others, always feeling everything slights him, and then taking out his anger on others, usually those he should be tender or grateful to. He was not in a worse position than anyone else (apart from circumstances he brought on his own head) but seemed to feel more thwarted and annoyed by his life. I was so glad that several strands came out reasonably well - not least Billy the horse! (After Beauty the cow....  Sad )
I feel i should go and look at a map of New Zealand and some images - apart from the Lord of the Rings movie shots I have in my head. I suppose I had not realised what a young country it was. My present house is not much younger than that settlement at Christchurch.
Green Jay

TheRejectAmidHair wrote:
On to what I'm reading: a good friend recently pressed into my hands In OnePerson - the new novel by hs favourite author, John Irving. I've read the first 30 or so pages, and so far, it seems distinctly mediocre. I hope it gets better, as I don't really want to say anything bad about it to someone who obviously loves it.


That's always difficult, isn't it? I have one friend where some of our tastes are the very similar,  but they also like rather jolly lightweight things that I find a bit irritating, and I never know how turn these down politely, or if I am pressed to borrow one, what to say next. But i do like some frothy amusing stuff - it depends on one's personal definition of amusing, doesn't it? And, for me, the mood I'm in at the time.
TheRejectAmidHair

The problem is, I think it's meant to be amusing, but the prose is nowhere near sharp enough. For good comic writing, the rhythms of the prose are all-important, but here, the rhythms are plodding. Irving also has an irritating stylistic tic of introducing comments in parentheses that are merely tangentially related to the main body of the text, and as a consquence, the flow of the writing is frequently disrupted.

The novel is a first person narrative: the narrator is an old man now, and is telling his life story. He is also bisexual. This immediately recalls Anthony Burgess' Earthly Powers. But the comparison does Irving no favours; Burgess' prose had wit and sparkle, and this - although it does aim for wit - does not. I am also bothered by the unremitting focus on the theme of sexuality. Not that I don't think it is an important theme; and not that I don't think it is a major factor in determining a person's identity. But I have read some 80 or so pages now, and so far, it seems to be the only aspect of the protagonist's identity that Irving appears to be interested in. A 400+ page novel needs a greater scope than this, surely.

Persevering, but not enjoying too much as yet.

[Edited to correct a couple of typos]
Joe McWilliams

Interesting that you mention Irving's use of parenthetical remarks disrupting, Himadri. He did a lot of that in Last Night in Twisted River too, and I wondered how an author of his reputation could get away with it, not to mention why he did it so much. It seemed clumsy, unnecessary and distracting. I also wondered if it was perhaps a one-off experiment. Evidently not.
Irving has a novel set in India, A Son of the Circus, which I tried to read and initially enjoyed for its lurid evocation of a slice of Bombay life that could have existed, but I gave it up, finding his unremitting (to use your term) concentration on the bizarre and the grotesque just too unpleasant to tolerate.

Such a tactic has merit, no doubt. Dickens got away with it. I'll have to read more of both to make a useful comparison. But I"m not sure I want to read any more Irving.
Ann

I've read a few Irvings and I find him wildly variable. Some of his books I can't even finish, some are amusing in parts and some I enjoyed very much. I loved Cider House Rules because it deals with important  issues in a nuanced way and I thought the characterisation superb.
TheRejectAmidHair

I aven't read any of Irving's other books, bu this one seems plodding and unimaginative. I'm reading it nd wondering what I an report back to my friend. There must be some good point I could pick out...
Caro

I've enjoyed very much the Irvings I have read though they don't as yet include Cider House Rules or the one Himadri is reading.  I remember some quibbles over A Prayer for Owen Meany but generally I have found his style quite exuberant and reminiscent of Robertson Davies, one of my very favourite authors.  But I never mind parentheses, in fact I think I generally welcome them.  Wandering writing is generally fun for me.  (Bryson, eg does the same).  But there is always sexual oddities or perversions in Irving; he seems to delight in that.  

What did your friend like about In One Person, Himadri?
Joe McWilliams

Speaking of plodding and unimaginative, this Mongolian murder mystery I'm reading is turning into a real stinker. I don't like to abandon it outright because my wife recommended it. Confused
TheRejectAmidHair

Caro wrote:
What did your friend like about In One Person, Himadri?


I did, but didn't get much from what he said.

I don't mind discursive writing either, but this is not discursive writing: this is writing that jumps for a single sentence in parentheses to something else, and then jumps back again immediately afterwards; and keeps doing this in virtually every paragraph. The effect is choppy, and disrupts continuity. It is the writer's job to arrange the material to ensure this doesn't happen.
TheRejectAmidHair

Counting te pages. 130 so far, and it's not getting better. Apart from the quality of the prose, characters & relations between them are depicted exclusively in terms of sexuality, and it seems to e a very diminished view of humanity. Now, I think explicit sex scenes are fine in pornography, but what purpose they serve in what purports to be serious fiction I'm not quite sure. Neither am I sure why Irving expects me to be interested in sex lives of made up characters who have never convinced me that they are anything other than made up characters.

I'll read up to Page 200, and if it doesn't get any better by then, I'll give up and start a proper book instead.
Apple

Not had a lot of time to read lately, what with one thing or another time just seems to have passed me by, and my copy of Germinal is still sitting looking at me with a bookmark on the top of it waiting to be started, a concerted effort is required, as I think it has been sitting there since mid January when I decided it was going to be my next read.
Chibiabos83

TheRejectAmidHair wrote:
Counting te pages. 130 so far, and it's not getting better. Apart from the quality of the prose, characters & relations between them are depicted exclusively in terms of sexuality, and it seems to e a very diminished view of humanity. Now, I think explicit sex scenes are fine in pornography, but what purpose they serve in what purports to be serious fiction I'm not quite sure. Neither am I sure why Irving expects me to be interested in sex lives of made up characters who have never convinced me that they are anything other than made up characters.

I'll read up to Page 200, and if it doesn't get any better by then, I'll give up and start a proper book instead.

Mike Harvey read it last year and liked it: http://bigreaders.myfastforum.org/about1845.html
TheRejectAmidHair

Chibiabos83 wrote:
TheRejectAmidHair wrote:
Counting te pages. 130 so far, and it's not getting better. Apart from the quality of the prose, characters & relations between them are depicted exclusively in terms of sexuality, and it seems to e a very diminished view of humanity. Now, I think explicit sex scenes are fine in pornography, but what purpose they serve in what purports to be serious fiction I'm not quite sure. Neither am I sure why Irving expects me to be interested in sex lives of made up characters who have never convinced me that they are anything other than made up characters.

I'll read up to Page 200, and if it doesn't get any better by then, I'll give up and start a proper book instead.

Mike Harvey read it last year and liked it: http://bigreaders.myfastforum.org/about1845.html


Oops! Oh dear! Er... sorry, Mike!
Green Jay

re Irving - it's not the sex that puts me off, quite frankly, it's the wrestling! It often turns up in his books - enough, thank you!!  Smile
Mikeharvey

Well. as readers of these posts will have noticed, I'm somewhat indulgent in my response to books I've read.  Although Irving's book is no masterpiece I enjoyed reading it. On reflection, I think he tries to include too much. And, oh dear, all that sex, and wrestling....
Chibiabos83

It's the length of Irving's books that puts me off. Having loved A Prayer for Owen Meany, I bought copies of The World According to Garp and The Cider House Rules years ago, but I've rarely felt like picking them up because they look so big and I imagine they will be very long-winded.
TheRejectAmidHair

I don't think I'm put off by the sex - at least, I don't think I'm prudish - it's more that every single human relationship is depicted entirely in sexual terms. Sexuality is obviously an important aspect of humanity, but surely it's not the only aspect?

I don't know, I guess I probably am prudish... But when a female character is introduced, and all you really know about her after about thirty pages is that the only type of sexual activity she indulges in is anal sex, part fo me (the prudish part, I guess) thinks "I don't know that I wanted to know that"; and another part of me thinks "Is this the only aspect of her person that is of interest? Is there nothing more to her character?"

Somehow, regarding people purely in terms of sex seems diminishing.
KlaraZ

I've only read one John Irving, 'A Prayer for Owen Meany' which I really enjoyed, and I was planning to read 'The Cider House Rules' later in the year, taking it with me on a trip to New England, keeping up my tradition of reading a book on holiday that is set in the place where I'm travelling. Having said that, I suspect John Irving is rather an acquired taste; my daughter didn't like Owen Meany at all when I passed it on to her.  I haven't come across too much wrestling and sex in Irving yet!

I'm still reading 'Capital' by John Lanchester, but I took time off to re-read 'The Daughter of Time' by Josephine Tey in the wake of the recent Richard III excitement, and also a long Victorian poem, or should I say novella in verse, 'Amours de Voyage' by Arthur Hugh Clough, the book that we discussed at the Persephone Book Group last night. This proved to be a controversial choice, as several there hadn't liked it, but I found it fascinating.
Caro

I put aside my very good Through Black Spruce to read a police procedural that has been out the library for so long:  Angels Passing by Graham Hurley.  I have read one other of his and often like to follow a series through, but this brings new meaning to plodding policement.  Now they are in the office trawling through loads of emails or CCTV footage etc. and so are we, the readers.  In some ways it's too detailed.  One paragraph I have just read is full of acronyms and abbreviations.  "He still owed Winter an up-to-date list of staff, and every one of them was to be TIE'd.  That meant personal interviews as well as PNC checks.  One or more of them must have known Bradley Finch and Willard wanted names ASAP. That way Brian Imber and his Intelligence Cell could start some serious development of their association chart."  

And I find the insistence on how awful life is in Portsmouth and Britain a little hard to take.  Surely not every bored child begins a drug habit or life as a thief.  I also find myself getting the main policeman, Faraday, muddled in my head with Peter Robinson's Alan Banks.  That's my fault, of course.  AND, my usual bugbear - every chapter is divided between Faraday's point of view and that of another detective.  Faraday sets up an appointment with a suspect and then the story disappears for a page and a half to the other one, before getting to the interview.  Why couldn't it just flow on?  

Through Black Spruce does this too - one chapter by the old man in a coma, one by his niece, but there there is some point to that style.  (Though I still don't like it much.)

The series I am reading by Graham Hurley began in the early 2000s and I might just try one later one and see if his ideas have softened at all, and his writing improved.
Castorboy

As a police procedural novel I think Hurley is trying to show that an investigation is a team effort - the days of the lone policeman have gone - so he shows the enquiries being conducted by the other sections of the police department. I would agree that an explanation of the abbreviations would be helpful, possibly as an index. ASAP means 'as soon as possible'. I believe PNC means 'police national computer'.

I never worry whether the depiction of crime in a particular city reflects badly on that city. By definition, and especially a port city with its influx of transients, a mass of people in one place is going to produce its portion of 'low-lifes'. I don't belong to that portion of life so there is something comforting to know that others, such as the the police, are coping with that group of humanity who would rather use violence to gain money than work for it! In the end, I regard 'tec stories as a battle between good and evil with, hopefully, the good winning.
Sandraseahorse

Hello, Caro.  I live near Portsmouth and Graham Hurley's books have a big following in this area.  A friend belongs to a Crime Book Group and the ex-policeman in the group reckons that Hurley's books are among the most accurate in terms of of police procedure.

I can understand your point about your book being disjointed.  I've only read one of his books (IIRC it was "Turnstone") and in it  the detective was involved in two separate cases.  There would be about 30-40 pages on one case and then it would switch to the other, by which time I'd forgotten most of the details of the second case.  

I realise that in police work there are dozens of crime investigations on-going but when I read the Ed McBain series many decades ago set in a New York police station, I had no problem following the various different cases described in the same novel.  IMO McBain was a far more skilled writer than Hurley is and could interweave threads more successfully.
blackberrycottage

I gave up on the Graham Hurley I tried. Yes Caro Through Black Spruce is not speedy reading but I felt it was worth it by the end.
Joe McWilliams

I have retreated to The Old Curiosity Shop as a means of salving the blight on my spirit caused by the truly awful The Shadow Walker. Mr. Walters should not give up his day job, whatever it is.
As for Dickens, I guess I should not have set him aside for cheaper thrills.

Speaking of multiple points of view, Dickens may be to blame for the popularity of such a device, having used it to bewildering effect in Our Mutual Friend. Though he probably wasn't the first.
Caro

Quote:
truly awful The Shadow Walker
.
That can't be right, Joe.  Amazon called it 'riveting'. Wink

And Jarden or someone like that said, "Excellent, Mongolia in the backgraund, simple but rich English, fast to read, the plot etc. Love it."

On the other hand I see from Bryan:  
"This book was a slog, just aweful. Story was unimaginative, plot was overly descriptive and methodical in a bad way, characters were unmemorable, protaganist wasn't proactive enough, plus there wasn't a single female in the whole book. It was doubly bad because it took no advantage of Mongolia as a unique setting. I found nothing memorable about the sense of place. I lived there for 2 years with the Peace Corps, and I know Mongolians don't talk the way this book depicts them." Wink

The trouble with describing something as 'truly awful' means that the contrary among us feel we'd better seek it out to see how awful that means.
Joe McWilliams

Thanks for doing the spadework for me, Caro. I suppose I should have backed up my assertion, but did not feel it was worth the effort. I actually felt cheated by that book. What's more I'm upset at myself for not being able to figure out exactly what is wrong with it. My powers of analysis are not up to it. That bothers me, for one thing, because I fear if I tried writing a story of my own it might end up just as bad.
blackberrycottage

I have started Revolutionary Road. I like it so far.
Joe McWilliams

I disliked Revolutionary Road the film so much I don't want to read the book.
Leo and Kate yelling at each other. Blah, blah, blah.

Not fair to Mr. Yates, of course.


As for what I'm reading now, it's The Case of the Missing Servant, by Tarquin Hall, which my wife borrowed from the library, thinking I might like it. I do, so far, with reservations. Having just bottomed out on a detective story set in Mongolia, I would have stayed away from the genre for a while. But Hall knows his 'Inglish' (if I can call 'Indian English') and it is a delight to my mind's ear. As for the story.....early days yet.
Castorboy

More travel essays by Henry James when he went on a journey in 1882 and the result is A Little Tour in France.
TheRejectAmidHair

Nearly finished In One Person by John Irving, and, unless the last 25 pages could redeem the first 400, it's one to put down to experience, as they say. I'm sorry, I really wanted to like this, but I can't think of a single good thing to say about it. I could give a long and detailed analysis, but let's just say it wasn't my kind of book, and move on.
Mikeharvey

Oh dear. I quite enjoyed its excesses, and I seem to remember laughing occasionally.  But it is something of an over-egged pudding. Was there a sexual variation he didn't employ? Irving has a fine reputation but his deliberately off-kilter, surreal books are possibly an acquired taste.  I remember seeing a good National Theatre version of his A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANEY.  And I liked the film of THE HOTEL NEW HAMPSHIRE.
Jen M

I have just started Philip Pullman's Northern Lights, for my reading group.  It is a re-read for me, and I enjoyed it the first time around, maybe 10 years ago.  I will be interested to see how much I remember and how much more I might get out of it this time.
KlaraZ

I finished reading John Lanchester's 'Capital' at long last. It was exactly the kind of book I like i.e a 'big' book about cosmopolitan London and the multiplicity of heterogeneous characters that live in just one tiny area---an asylum seeking traffic warden, an elderly, dying woman who's lived in London all her life, a 'Bansky' style street artist, a banker of the very worst kind, etc. etc. 'Capital' is a play on words, much of the book being centred on money and the financial crash. I was loving the book up to around half way through and then there was a slump---a distinct lack of narrative urgency, too many new characters being randomly introduced--and I slowed down in my reading. I was glad I read it to the end, and there were some great passages in the book, but I think 200 pages or more could have been edited out and would have improved the flow/structure.
I was reminded of what Henry James said about 'loose, baggy monsters' (an unfair critique, in a way)---well, the C19th novel seems to be back!
Green Jay

Jen M wrote:
I have just started Philip Pullman's Northern Lights, for my reading group.  It is a re-read for me, and I enjoyed it the first time around, maybe 10 years ago.  I will be interested to see how much I remember and how much more I might get out of it this time.


I loved those 3 books, may have read then at about the same time as you. I have been thinking about rereading them- when I get time!
Jen M

Green Jay wrote:
Jen M wrote:
I have just started Philip Pullman's Northern Lights, for my reading group.  It is a re-read for me, and I enjoyed it the first time around, maybe 10 years ago.  I will be interested to see how much I remember and how much more I might get out of it this time.


I loved those 3 books, may have read then at about the same time as you. I have been thinking about rereading them- when I get time!


I don't often re-read as I would generally rather read something new; but I am enjoying this second time around.  I'm glad I already know what some of the specific terms used in the book mean (eg 'severed child', which doesn't become clear until much later in the book).  I'll post about it again in a couple of weeks' time.
Joe McWilliams

I'm reading Jon Ronson's story about his investigations into 'the madness industry', as he calls it, The Psychopath Test. It reads like a novel and that's what I thought it was, not knowing anything about Ronson. But apparently he's not making any of it up. He's got me looking over my shoulder now, wondering who the neighbourhood psycohpath might be, or combing through my memory for acquaintances who might have displayed some of the characteristics on the psychopath checklist.
MikeAlx

I read that last summer and enjoyed it immensely.
Joe McWilliams

Did it cause you to check yourself for signs of lack of empathy, Mike?
Ann

I'm reading Napoleon Symphony by Anthony Burgess. Napoleon's life is written in the form of a symphony - it is very difficult to describe but there is a lot of strange poetry and it is divided into movements. Every so often I get quite entranced by it but it also can be boring. The realisation of Napoleon's character is very vivid and convincing. I've just finished the retreat from Russia which is gut wrenching. I think it is written to try and play on our emotions as music does. Has anyone else read this?
TheRejectAmidHair

I haven't read it, but I did hear Anthony Burgess speak about it when, back in my student days, I attended a lecture he gave. He said he was fascinated by the forms of music and of literature, and spoke of his attempt to write a novel about Napoleon in the form of Beethoven's Eroica Symphony.

(After the lecture, he signed A Clockwork Orange for me. He wrote my name in Malaysian, and, pointing to the picture on the cover, said: "This is all Mr Kubrick's invention, not mine. Sadly, he misinterpreted the novel.")

Burgess always saw himself as an entertainer - albeit a very erudite entertainer, who makes demands of the reader. What I have read of him, his writing s very flamboyant and playful. I used eagerly to read his Observer columns back in the 70s and 80s, and wish someone would collect them together into a book.
Joe McWilliams

Just delivered into my hands by the formidable public library system: Parade's End, by Ford Madox Ford. 'Monumental work on the human condition,' etc etc, says the dust jacket blurb, or words to that effect. We shall see. I ordered it after catching the last bit of the TV drama of the same name the other night. It looked interesting. I know little of Ford, having never read anything of his, or intended to, for that matter.
Ann

I loved it, Joe.
Caro

I hope it comes here since I heard such good things about it.

I didn't get to read The Godwits Fly while away.  But I am well through two other books, about half way through the delightful Memoirs of an Infantry Man by Siegfried Sassoon, though I don't think I like it as much as his earlier Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man.  I suppose the subject matter is not so appealing - he talks about people fondly and next thing they have been killed in the latest battle.  I presume Sassoon gets more disillusioned with the war later in the book; he only touches on that in the earlier pages, wanting to portray the events as they seemed/were to him at the time.

And I am reading The Last Days of Newgate by Andrew Pepper.  It is a crime novel, but there is nothing light about it.  It's not literary exactly but certainly very strong on history.  I don't look forward to reading it, mostly because of the endless violence in it.  The protagonist, just called Pyke, is not particularly pleasant or moral, really.  Kills anyone who gets in his way.  The author seems to go out of his way to have gratuitous killing - the ghastly death of a newborn baby precipitates the action and Pyke's determination to find the killer, and that is acceptable, but the accidental killing of a dwarf when a bear was being aimed at, and the introduction of a little dog who he eventually kills with his bare hands (it was going to reveal his whereabouts) seem unnecessary additions.  These are on top of several other deaths by Pyke, and more by others.  

The descriptions of both London and Belfast are particularly unattractive, though perhaps it should be required reading for anyone who objects to our present-day social welfare system.  "He knew the buildings all too well, just as he knew what might be inside them, together with plagues of rats.  Cobblers and gin distillers trying to put together a living in rotten hovels that stank of human faeces, broken-down forgers oxidising coins in substances that would eventually kill them, prostitutes fucking against alley walls while pimps waited in the shadows to mug the customer of whatever money was left; tricksters on the lookout for their next mark; scavengers trowling the slum's black holes for signs of food and life; travellers crammed ten to a room swapping germs and tales of other places; men and women living in near-constant darkness who shouted and fought and drank and swore and fucked until their despair no longer seemed to matter."  

It doesn't really let up from this.
Joe McWilliams

Sounds great if squalor's your thing. It's not mine.

I should say something about Parade's End. It is certainly compelling; more complex than I expected. The bit I saw of the film, plus the early glimpse of Sylvia Tietjens suggested nothing but a vile bitch, in contrast to her stoic and honourable husband. So honourable he goes to unaccountable lengths to preserve her reputation.
But not so fast; the reader is forced to reassess. Black and white it isn't.

It also often isn't easy to tell what is going on. Ford plops us into the middle of conversations or situations with no context to understand much of what passes. This may go on for many pages. Eventually, however, he goes back and fills in, making all more or less coherent. What becomes apparent is that English people of the period - at least those in this imagined world - expended stupendous (to me) energy (not to mention capital) on 'keeping up appearances.' I"m not sure yet if Ford is attacking these absurd social conventions, or if they simply form an inescapable part of any portrait of the time.
KlaraZ

I've been reading 'Brooklyn' by Colm Toibin, which I found somewhat bleak but beautifully written, an understated Irish tragedy with the ring of truth. Then, on a lighter,  'feelgood' note  there's been 'Major Pettrigrew's Last Stand' by Helen Simonson.  Finally, 'The Pleasures of Men' by Kate Williams, a Victorian pastiche novel in the style of Sarah Waters, but not quite as good.
Evie

I am reading Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver. I have really loved some of her books, but the more recent ones haven't impressed me quite as much - jury still out on this one, I haven't read enough to make a judgement, but not at the moment quite sure where it's going.  I picked up Donna Tartt's The Secret History in the staff room at work yesterday, being without a book and having never read it, and in fact keep wanting to get on with that rather than the Kingsolver, as the first pages were more appealing!
Evie

As posted on the March thread, I have given up on the Kingsolver, and am now reading The Secret History and loving it so far.
Ann

I found The Secret History very powerful, Evie. It was a book I had to own, after I'd read a copy from the library.  I think it chimes with my love of classics and my preference for character lead stories.
Joe McWilliams

I've got two books coming via the inter-library loan system, and they can't get here fast enough. I'm getting kind of annoyed with W.P. Kinsella's Shoeless Joe (the story the film Field of Dreams was based on). I enjoyed that movie, but Kinsella tries too hard, in my opinion, to be poetic in his prose. I tried and discarded a couple of other books this week, probably unfairly. One, by Nino Ricci had about six-point type that I couldn't stand, and the other one, a memoir about growing up in a Canadian prairie town much like the one I live in didn't have enough going for it.

So........I await a story by Rory MacLean called Magic Bus, about the so-called Hippie Trail from Istanbul to India. I was not aware I was part of a historically significant cultural phenomenon when I went overland to India back in the 70s. Apparently MacLean thinks I was.
Having been impressed by Walter Isaacson's biography of Apple founder Steve Jobs, I will now tackle his bio of Henry Kissinger.
Green Jay

Ann wrote:
I found The Secret History very powerful, Evie. It was a book I had to own, after I'd read a copy from the library.  I think it chimes with my love of classics and my preference for character lead stories.


I loved this book, too, and I'm sure I have read it twice with no loss of enjoyment second time round. But there are plenty who really don't like it. Hope it continues to please you, Evie!
TheRejectAmidHair

Half way through Northanger Abbey, the first stop on my Jane-a-thon. Will write in more detail once I've finished.
Apple

I think Jane Austen's books are much better listened to or watched as an adaptation rather than read, I found I have enjoyed them much more than reading them.
Caro

I expect that very great filmability of Austen's books is one of the reasons their popularity has been so strong in the last 50 years.

I have started Wolf Hall.  It is going to take me a long time, since I don't seem good at sitting myself down with a book in the afternoon, and it is mostly read in bed at night.  However the style is much easier than I expected - I don't find Cromwell calling himself 'him' at all problematic (many novels are written in the third person, and though this isn't quite that, it's close enough for it not to bother me), and I never mind the present continuous tense.  So the story isn't difficult, though all those characters might bewilder me.  I know some of the period but not in great detail.  

I will need something else at times though.  It might not be my next book club book which is a memoir about someone whose talented mother developed schizophrenia aged 19, and is about how her children coped.  Does look as if it is worth reading, looks detailed and interesting, but probably not a bundle of laughs.
Castorboy

Caro wrote:
I expect that very great filmability of Austen's books is one of the reasons their popularity has been so strong in the last 50 years.

Which in turn would make me want to read them to see what was left out in the adaptation. Whether it is a stage, TV, or film version of a great novel I think it is useful to read the original. After all, the words can prompt one's imagination just as easily as an adaptee's can envision - if adaptee is the correct terminology!

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