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Joe McWilliams

What are you reading? (2015)

I am so enjoying Martin Chuzzlewit, just a little piece at a time. Dickens is so.....so.......so....delicious. Delightful. Outrageous. Amusing.
It's going to take me ages to get through this book and I find the prospect most agreeable.
Caro

I have come to Dickens in the last few years, and am looking forward to reading Great Expectations some time. The Pickwick Papers were a revelation to me.  

I am reading a Ruth Rendell, Kissing the Gunner's Daughter.  I wondered what the title meant and lateish in the book it mentions it being a saying but the person talking couldn't remember what.  My old Chambers Dictionary said it meant tying someone to a gun to beat them.  Which seems very odd to me.  I still have about 50 pages to go.

The other book I am reading is Indonesia: Exploring the Improbable Nation by Elizabeth Pisani.  I saw it in our library and had never thought much about Indonesia but it is Australia's neighbour and this looked interesting and new, and I am enjoying it a lot.  She has a comfortable style while giving a good deal of information about life in traditional Indonesia and the clash between modern Jakarta life and cultural expectations in outlying places. It is quite fascinating, and up-to-date, being published in 2014.
TheRejectAmidHair

I'm reading a book my brother gave me for Christmas - Think, by Simon Blackburn, professor of philosophy at Cambridge. It is an introduction to laymen such as myself on some of the basic ideas of philosophy, and is written very lucidly. I have so far been reading all about cartesian duality, of teh disagreement locke and Leibniz had on the relationship between mind and body, and so on. Now, I'm on to teh chapter on free will. Fascinating stuff: I feel so uneducated not knowing about these things.

I also got  the book Soul of the World by Roger Scruton. My brother gave me this book because, he said, he know I was into "mumbo-jumbo".

He was being tongue in cheek, but yes, I suppose I am into "mumbo-jumbo" a bit, preferring as I do to describe myself as an agnostic rather than as an atheist. Scruton, himself a philosopher (albeit, it appears, a somewhat eccentric one) here argues that our aesthetic sense and our moral instincts argue the existence of a dimension other than the material. That's all the blurb at the back tells me, but I'd be very iterested in what he has to say. But it's best to get a decent introduction to philosophy first, and I really am enjoying Simon Blackburn's book.
Apple

I am hoping to get back into reading again this year, I have not really read much at all over 2014 I had moments where I managed to pull it together and read something and pretend all was well and I am determined to make a change this year. I am in a much better place now, last year was pretty horrific I allowed myself to be almost consumed with depression and I just retreated into myself and had no interest in anything around me.

As I say thankfully I am in a much better place now, I am not the person I was before this bout of depression took hold but I'm getting there.

Back to topic, I have one book on my TBR pile (hardly a pile!) a book which my daughter bought me for Christmas, The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel.
chris-l

Apple, I am really pleased to hear from you again, and so sorry to hear that things have not been good for you recently. I have read quite a lot recently about bibliotherapy, where books are used as a positive way of countering depression and other conditions. Most of the services I have heard of seem to be paid for options, but if you do an online search, you might find a few books which would not only help you to find again your joy in reading, but also have a beneficial effect on your general well-being.

I hope you will soon be feeling much better, but do stay in touch, and keep us updated on how you are. We have missed you, and look forward to having you back to liven things up before long.

Very best wishes for better times in 2015 and beyond.
Apple

Thanks for that!  Very Happy
Sandraseahorse

I was intending to say something on the lines of chris-l's comment but she expressed it much better than I can.  Anyway, welcome back.
Joe McWilliams

Apple - nice to see you! I was wondering what had become of you. Happy reading in 2015 to you and I hope happiness in general finds you and stays with you.
Jen M

Welcome back, Apple, good to see you.  I do hope things continue to improve for you.
Caro

That sounds a horrid year for you, Apple, hopefully 2015 will be a lot better.

I doubt if I will get through a single book in January - I am reading two rather long and large books at the moment: Indonesia Etc - Exploring the Improbable Nation by Elizabeth Pisani, and The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton.  At my rate of about 8 pages a day I might be lucky to finish either of them by the end of the year!

But Indonesia is really interesting and full of stories and characters and information totally new to me.  I didn't know, for instance, that people in rural Indonesia hunt (not always successfully) whales and even dolphins for food.  Or that one little island is very keen on jousting. Or of the dichotomy between the rural life where the cultural traditions of Indonesia are very much still to the fore and dictate all transactions and activities, and Jakarta which has embraced the global economy and lifestyle.

The Luminaries has proved more readable than I expected though I am only at page 11.  So far we are following the reactions of a man new to the goldfields when he meets 12 other men.  One advantage for me is that I, usually hopeless at geography, know the places mentioned in this book. For 23 years we lived about half an hour's drive from Hokitika, where it is set, and other places mentioned are familiar to me too.  My son has just read this and is encouraging me, and tells me it is worth persevering with.
chris-l

Caro, I read 'The Luminaries' last year, and was somewhat disappointed. However, I am pleased to hear that you are reading it, and know the area in which it is set. I look forward to your impressions, once you have had a chance to get into the story a bit more. Maybe you will be able to convince me that it is a better book than I thought!
Chibiabos83

I'm reading Fire from Heaven by Mary Renault, the first book of her trilogy about Alexander the Great. One (long) chapter in, I've not really got into it yet. Perhaps the magic will reveal itself to me gradually.
Chibiabos83

I haven't posted for over a week, but that's because I'm still on the Mary Renault, and barely halfway through. Not that I'm not enjoying it, after a fashion, but I'm not as absorbed in the world as I hoped I'd be. I like Alexander, though.
Mikeharvey

Reading Eric Ambler's thriller (1941) 'Journey Into Fear'.  Simply because it's published as a Penguin Modern Classic. Very enjoyable.

Having recently acquired a Kindle Fire I've downloaded some poetry. Ted Hughes, U.A. Fanthorpe, The Penguin Book of American Poetry, Robert Frost.
And some music, but I have to be careful because music takes up a lot of storage space, unlike books, which use up comparatively little. But music you haven't downloaded remains in limbo on Amazon Cloud till you want it.
Jen M

I have just started Game of Thrones, which is a reading group book.  Someone else in the group wanted to read it, so we have it.  It is very long, quite possibly not my thing, but I will give it a go.
Mikeharvey

I have never joined a book group because it would pressure me into reading something unwillingly.  I prefer to flit from book to book serendipitously
Jen M

Mike, I like to do that but found that I was tending to choose the same sort of thing.  Since joining the book group I have read lots that I wouldn't have chosen - some good, some bad.  I have given up on very few, and most of the time when I have persevered with a book that did not appeal to me, it has been worthwhile.
TheRejectAmidHair

I remember when I was in an infoemal reading group, ans had to read The Shadow of the Wind. I kept myself amused by scribbling rude (and often obscene) comments in the margin. Looking back, I think I rather enjoyed myself.
Evie

I am reading Westwood by Stella Gibbons, of Cold Comfort Farm fame.  This is very different.  I read her novel Starlight and loved it and went straight onto this one - she creates wonderful characters and evokes a mood and atmosphere so beautifully.  Mid-century books, a cross between Barbara Pym and Muriel Spark, but of course not like either of them.
Caro

Evie! How wonderful to see you here again.  I have never read Cold Comfort Farm, but it is certainly on my radar though I don't know any others by her.  Must keep a lookout for her.  

How are you and how have things been going for you?  the book shop?
Evie

Hi Caro - lovely to see you again too, glad you are still around!

Will say more in the chat bit, so as not to derail this thread.
Sandraseahorse

I've nearly finished "Longbourn" by Jo Baker, a below-stairs reimagining of "Pride and Prejudice".  I'll post about it when I've finished it.
Castorboy

150 BC: Cloughie The Inside Stories is a kind of biography being one hundred and fifty memories, anecdotes, tales of the life of Brian …Howard Clough as recalled by players, managers, journalists, family, friends and anyone who had a Clough story to tell. The compiler is Dave Armitage and Clough would have been 80 on March 31st.
Caro

January is almost and as I predicted I am still reading Indonesia and The Luminaries.  I am enjoying both of them a lot - good writing, interesting, and in both cases I am learning quite a lot.  More about Indonesia of course, since I started from a base of nothing. I have decided to write more about this on the non-fiction area.

I don't know how good The Luminaries is, but I like it a lot.  So far just over 200 pages in, but I find her insights, and her individual characters, to my taste. It reminds me slightly at times of Anna Karenina, in the way she disects characters and how they are acting and reacting.  I don't understand how a young woman of 28 can understand and articulate these things, when I, more than twice as old can't!  So far it is more or less scene-setting, with the twelve men's accounts of events leading up to and beyond the crime being told.  Not straight told, but in third person to another man, and not in a linear style either.  But it is nothing like as difficult as I expected, though sometimes I lose track of the actual events, but that happens in any book I read, since I read in small doses.
Mikeharvey

I'm currently reading two novels  'The Voyage Out' by Virginia Woolf. Her first novel and a pleasure to read (on my new Kindle Fire).

'Because of the Lockwoods' by Dorothy Whipple.  The latest in Persephone Books restoration of this writer.  An easy, undemanding read.
Evie

I am now reading Stoner by John Williams, a book that was in the press a lot a year or so ago when it suddenly became a bestseller, 50 years after it was published.  30 pages in and enjoying it very much.
Chibiabos83

Hankies at the ready, E/V. I think if you love Richard Ford, you'll probably love Stoner. Devastating. I'm reading Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. I haven't got enough words in my vocabulary to say how good it is. Full report to follow this evening.
chris-l

I thought 'Stoner' was superb. The comparison with Richard Ford was made in several of the comments I read about it, but the author he most reminded me of, was Richard Yates. The very low-key tone and the betrayal of hope and promise were very much the territory of both those authors.
TheRejectAmidHair

I'm currently reading the play 'Tis Pity She's a Whore by John Ford.

In the first scene, a priest tells this chap Giovanni that it's sinful for him to want to have sex with his own sister, but Giovanni doesn't appear very convinced. In the very next scene, we have a near-murderous assault. I do hope the pace picks up a bit ...
Chibiabos83

Perhaps another thing Stoner brings to mind is the end of Middlemarch, that last sentence. A small life but not a wasted one. Mind you, everything makes me think of the end of Middlemarch.
Evie

Thanks, Chris and Chibiabos - have been warned that it's sad.  Richard Ford was in turn influenced by Richard Yates (who I suppose was contemporary with John Williams), and the comparisons are encouraging!  The writing is wonderful.  I don't mind sad, reflects the reality of life!

That last sentence of Middlemarch is my favourite quotation in all of literature.
Chibiabos83

Mine too, probably. A sentiment I hold very dear.

I needed to read some Dickens (you know the feeling), so I'm about a fifth of the way into my first read of David Copperfield. Goodness, he has to suffer a lot of hardship, doesn't he. Ease up on the boy, Charlie. Fortunately Mr Micawber's just put in his first appearance, so I'm hopeful that something will turn up.
Joe McWilliams

I should probably have a crack at David Copperfield. It made a strong impression on me as a boy of seven or eight years old, but all I can remember for sure about it is that it both frightened and fascinated me. It might be fun to encounter it again after all these years.
Less fun is a visit with Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan of the Apes, which I read myself (not my mom's sort of thing) at about 12 years. It was thrilling then, but insipid now, I'm afraid. Good idea, of course, but poorly executed. One of the kids gave me a fat volume of ERB for Christmas.
Castorboy

Another collection of short stories by Stan Barstow from The Glad Eye - life in a post war north of England.
Sandraseahorse

I'm about a third of the way through Conn Iggulden's "Wars of the Roses:  Stormbird", which is the first part of a series.

The prologue describes the death of Edward III and it then jumps 65 years to plans to marry Henry VI to Margaret of Anjou.  I suppose if you are not familiar with the period you can work out what happened inbetween from the family trees in the book.

I find the dialogue jarringly modern at times with the use of words like "Mum" (as in mother, not quiet.)  I suppose the author would argue that it had to be anachronistic as very few would be able to follow authentic dialogue.  The style is simple and I did wonder if it was intended for schoolchildren (Iggulden has written "The Dangerous Book For Boys" and other books for children) until I came to a gruesome description of torture and execution.

At the risk of being accused of sexism, it strikes me as being "blokey" historical fiction, with lots of emphasis on weaponry and battles.  I suppose it serves as a contrast to Philippa Gregory (I notice that like Gregory, Iggulden doesn't bother to acknowledge his sources) but if "The Invention of Wings" persuaded me to see the virtues of historical fiction as opposed to fact, this does the opposite.

I'll finish it but I don't think I'll bother with any others in the series.
TheRejectAmidHair

Finished 'Tis Pity She's a Whore - of which more later. Started on the essays of Francis Bacon.
Mikeharvey

If you want an engrossing, easy, page-turner try Dorothy Whipple's BECAUSE OF THE LOCKWOODS (Persephone Books) published in 1949. DW is Persephone's best selling author, and I can see why...
Joe McWilliams

I'm reading one of Robert Goddard's books - Fault Lines. I have to say this guy writes a decent mystery story. It's keeping me guessing, at least. Besides which, I'm learning lots about the china clay industry in Cornwall. Bonuses all around.
I appreciate Goddard's restraint in the article of gunfire, explosions and car chases. That probably comes across as a backhanded compliment.

Next on my list is The Complete McAuslan, by the splendid Geo. MacDonald Fraser, of Flashman fame. This is three novels based, as I understand it, on the author's post-war military service with a Scottish regiment, in the Middle East and Africa.
Castorboy

Joe McWilliams wrote:
I'm reading one of Robert Goddard's books - Fault Lines. I have to say this guy writes a decent mystery story. It's keeping me guessing, at least. Besides which, I'm learning lots about the china clay industry in Cornwall. Bonuses all around.
I appreciate Goddard's restraint in the article of gunfire, explosions and car chases. That probably comes across as a backhanded compliment.

That must be his latest novel. I've read seven of his over the years in which real people or events feature in the story. The one I finished in 2012 was set in Cornwall again with a famous shipwreck off the Scilly Isles in 1707.
Joe McWilliams

Castorfella, I believe this one was published in 2012, which now that I check was a shocking three years ago already. I read Goddard's Past Caring (I think it was called) a few moons ago and found engaging and satisfying.
Caro

The conversation has moved on a bit, but I meant to say earlier that while on holiday I came across an excellent secondhand bookshop and thought I could just check for a couple of books in its millions.  I remembered people here praising Stoner greatly, so looked for that, but it wasn't there, and nor was another one I heard good things about a few years ago, Runt by Niall Griffiths (anyone heard of that? - set in Wales). So the only book I bought was a pocket Penguin by Simon Armitage, King Arthur in the East Riding. Fits well into my purse. I hadn't come across these little booklets before.  Could have bought a few.
Chibiabos83

I'm about two thirds of the way through David Copperfield and starting to see what Holden Caulfield was on about.
Mikeharvey

Remind me what Holden Caulfield said about 'David Copperfield'....
TheRejectAmidHair

I' d guess Gareth was referring to: "... all that David Copperfield kind of crap ..."

The first third of the novel, dealing with David's childhood, is spectacularly good, u think. Thereafter, things become decidedly patchy. There are still bits I enjoy, but there's also much that plain tedious.
Chibiabos83

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to
know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how
my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David
Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to
know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second
place, my parents would have two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything
pretty personal about them. They’re quite touchy about anything like that,
especially my father. They’re nice and all -- I’m not saying that -- but they’re
also touchy as hell. Besides, I’m not going to tell you my whole goddam
autobiography or anything. I’ll just tell you about this madman stuff that
happened to me last Christmas just before I got pretty run-down and had to
come out and take it easy. I mean that’s all I told D.B. about, and he’s my
brother and all.
Castorboy

Joe McWilliams wrote:
I read Goddard's Past Caring (I think it was called) a few moons ago and found engaging and satisfying.

I remember this one particularly, Joe, because of an interest in politics; it refers to a fictitious member of the British 1910 Asquith cabinet among whose members were Churchill and Lloyd George. Another of the time shift novels Goddard has made a speciality which are, in general, an enjoyable read complete with a femme fatale.
Mikeharvey

I bridle at the word 'crap'.  But then Holden isn't noted as a literary critic is he?
Caro

I haven't read Catcher in the Rye and thought I should, but judging by that excerpt, I'm not sure I want to!  Certainly prefer the detail of David Copperfield's early life.  I never got onto his adult life, since my copy fell to pieces, and Himadri's comments about it didn't lead me to seek out another one.  But I loved the passages where Dickens showed subtly the relationship between David's parents, and the unpleasantness of his stepfather and his mother's attempt at pacification.  All too realistic.
Sandraseahorse

The comment that it is "crap" comes from a troubled adolescent.  I feel that it is the sort of expression Holden would use.
Chibiabos83

Given I did quite a lot of uninformed railing against the book when our paths first crossed eleven years or so ago, Caro, I feel bound to say please don't be put off by the opening. It's just Holden's idiom. Once you've settled into it, you appreciate it for the thoughtful and poignant book it is.
Jen M

I am still plodding through Game of Thrones.  I decided to persevere with it at least until the next book group meeting, which was last week.  I was not the only one not to have finished, and those who had finished it recommended it, so I have carried on.  But I have now passed the half-way point, and it still seems long, and I am wondering whether to set it aside and read something else.

There is lots to like about it (some of the characters, the story so far, and the setting - in another world in some ways similar to our own many years ago) but it is too long.

I want to read it all, but I am struggling.
Joe McWilliams

Sorry to hear Game of Thrones is such a challenge for you Jen. I ripped through it and was sorry when it ended. I say 'it,' referring to the first of the series of half a dozen or so of George RR Martin's 'Song of Ice and Fire' stories. One of them had some tedious sections, but it was pretty well along in the series. I found it a very well-realized world, with sharp and compelling characterizations, moral complexity galore, along with the epic clash of kingdoms.

I'm reading something quite different - The Complete McAuslan, by George MacDonald Fraser. Speaking of compelling characters, GMF really knows how to create them. He evidently had rich material to draw from - that being the Gordon Highlanders of 1945 - 47. What crew! About 70 per cent Glaswegians, whose weird accents and mannerisms he attempts to depict. Lunatics for football, and winners, though the products of undernourished childhoods. This is very funny stuff, charming, entertaining - all without a great deal happening. Peacetime, after all.
I admire Fraser more and more.
Jen M

I think 400 pages is about my limit for books I wouldn't have chosen, Joe.  Perhaps I'll give it a rest and come back to it.  My daughter has read most of the rest of the series and says Book 1 is definitely worth persevering with.   I have a train journey coming up so might be able to crack on with it then.
Caro

This is one of my bugbears these days, Jen.  Why are books so long?  Not very serious books, but all sorts of fairly light things are extended far beyond what they need to be, and in particular fantasy books seem to start at about 600 pages and go up from there. (Not that I read fantasy, but I do remember a time reading Ursula le Guin and Susan Cooper (are they really children's writers, perhaps?) and they weren't excessively long.  And you might call Wind in the Willows fantasy, I suppose, and it gets plenty into its quite short book.  

I like to finish books, and when they are long, that is harder to do.  I have still only finished one book (a little crime thing) this year. The Luminaries is very long, though I am liking it a lot and don't resent its length, our book club one is interesting enough but not really my thing, (American rural life in the time of the first world war) and Indonesia Etc has had to take a back seat while I read this.  So nothing is quite getting finished.
Joe McWilliams

Surely it's not the length as much as the quality of the book. If it's good, the longer the better, in my experience. Apart, of course, from the physical inconvenience of holding it up. This is particularly vexing, I find, when reading in the bathtub, especially when you nod off for a moment.

Of course there are books that are longer than they need to be. And books that aren't interesting, short or long.
Mikeharvey

I agree that some modern books are far too long. Particularly novels.  Books like 'The Luminaries' and 'The Goldfinch'.  I admire the confidence (arrogance?) of the writer who expects you to stay with him/her for hundreds of pages.
Caro

I don't mind long books like The Luminaries and The Goldfinch (not that I have read the latter or even know anything about it, except that it has been widely praised).  I am reading The Luminaries (though have had to put it aside for our book club book this week) and enjoying its length and detail, really.  What I don't like are books that are long just to fill out the pages - too much descriptive detail, though that is much better than those books which just drag out a romance/sex encounter for pages and pages. Or minor crime books that have forgotten how to be succinct and go on and on till you couldn't care less how did it or why. (There are long crime books worthy of their length too - The Luminaries is based on a crime, and Minette Walters writes longer and excellent books. It's a matter of quality.)
TheRejectAmidHair

Re-reading Dostoyevsky's The Idiot. I make this my 3rd read. I'm reading Alan Myers' translation this time.

I've long felt that the books that mean most to you, you have to live with. you have to keep going back to them. And I can think of little as central to my reading as the novels of Tolstoy & Dostoyevsky.
Castorboy

An early Stan Barstow novel, B-Movie, written in the form of a screenplay about a small-time criminal whose robbery goes wrong.
It is located in the north of England with young men on the make.
Jen M

Well, I've put Game of Thrones aside for the time being.  I am just over half way through, and found that what I was reading wasn't going in.   I have started my next book group read, which I hope to get through quite quickly, then intend to pick up Game of Thrones again when I have a couple of train journeys to take.  Perhaps with a break I can treat it as another 350 page book.   Perhaps it should have been published as two shorter books.

For me, the point of the reading group is to try books I wouldn't otherwise have chosen.  I think these very long ones don't lend themselves to book group reading - there is too much required of the reader in terms of investment of time.  I think I will raise this at our next meeting (our current leader is retiring so a new leader - if we get one - might be keen to take our suggestions on board).

The one I have started is The Memory Book by Rowan Coleman, an author who read from the book and answered questions from the audience at a book event I attended last June.  It is sad already (about a woman with early-onset Alzheimers who is writing a memory book for her family), a little cliched, but thankfully not too long!
Joe McWilliams

I'm reading The Complete McAuslan, which is three books by George MacDonald Fraser, a fictionalised memoir of his post-war service in a Highland regiment. Among other things, it has awakened in me an appreciation for and even fascination with the Glaswegian character and way of speaking - the latter of which I merely cringed from anytime I encountered it previously.
Here's GMF (in the voice of Lt. Dand MacNeill) explaining 'the servant problem.'

'My troubles began when I joined my Highland battalion in North Africa and had to have a batman from the ranks of my own platoon. No doubt I had been spoiled in India, but the contrast was dramatic. Where I had been accustomed to waking to the soft murmur of 'chota hazri, sahib,' and having a pialla of perfectly-brewed tea and a sliced mango on my bedside table, there was now a crash of hob-nailed boots and a raucous cry of 'Erzi tea! Some o' it's spilt, an' there's nae sugar. Aye, an' the rain's oan again.' Not the same, somehow. And where once there had been a fresh-laundered shirt on a hanger, there was now a freckled Glaswegian holding up last night's garment in distaste and exclaiming: 'Whit in Goad's name ye been daein' in this? Look at the state o' it. Were ye fu', or whit? Aye, weel, it'll hiv tae dae - yer ither  yins arenae back frae the dhobi. Unless he's refused them. Aye. Weel, ye gettin' up, are ye gaunae lie there a' day.....sur?'
Caro

I am quickly zipping through Black Swan Green by David Mitchell.  I loved it on a first read a few years ago, and it has sat in our library for ages, so I thought I'd have a re-read of it.  I see what I liked about it so much, the account by a thirteen-year-old stammerer who writes poetry trying to cope with life, school, warring parents, with 'friends' who go in for bullying.  Really good account of how young boys react to each other, and the subtleties of language (13-years old can't talk of anything being beautiful, which reminds me that not long ago my eldest son told my youngest one that he shouldn't use the word 'lovely')necessary to negotiate dealing with them.  It is set in 1982 at the time of the Falklands War when our protagonist Jason was at first very impressed by Margaret Thatcher's handling of everything and the Daily Mail's reporting, but influenced by the death of the brother of a friend in the conflict and his despised sister's reading of the Guardian's more measured accounts, he changes his mind slowly.  

I am reading it too quickly to absorb all of it, but it is very good.  Not lyrical in its language, but interesting use of it all the same.  I still haven't read anything else by him all the same.
Caro

Now back to two books at a time (and The Luminaries has sadly been put aside for a while).  I am reading a non-fiction book for book club - it is called Ned and Katina and is the account of a man from the Maori Battalion during WWII and a Cretan girl who he falls in love with an marries.  The book is in three parts, the first showing the soldier's experiences when he escapes into the Crete countryside to get away from becoming a German POW.  The next is about Katina, and the third about their life together in New Zealand.  I am only about 60 pages in, so Ned has met and loves Katina without feeling able to tell her so.  Getting places in Crete at that time is gruelling, and generally the soldiers seem to be injured or have dysentery or malaria (or both).

It is by Maori writer Patricia Grace - I have read a couple of other books by her and they are very good.  Novels.  This one is written in a very straightforward chronological style.
Castorboy

My current crime novel is from the Golden Age of detective fiction namely The Body in the Silo. It was written by Father Ronald A Knox and published many years after his influential essay presented to the Gryphon Club at Trinity College, Oxford in 1911 entitled Studies in the Literature of Sherlock Holmes. He is credited with putting forward the idea of ‘Sherlockian studies’, which assumes SH is a real person.
Joe McWilliams

I'm reading The Railway Man, by Eric Lomax. It's the book the recent film of the same name was based on. The film, with Colin Firth playing the older version of the author, recently aired on television here and I found myself drawn to it in spite of my efforts to ignore it in favour of the book I was reading. It turns out the makers of the movie fiddled with the facts to make it more dramatic, but the book so far I find very well done. I find I'm woefully ignorant of more than just the broad strokes of what went on in Malaysia/Singapore in the early 1940s. In no way is this an account of the war, but as a personal memoir, it is powerful. Ominous, even, given that you know, more or less, what is coming for this slightly other-wordly young Scot who seems more at home with machines than he does with people.
Caro

In my last post I said I was reading two books, but I forgot to mention the second one.  It is St Kilda Blues by Geoffrey McGeachin, an Australian crime writer.  I read the first in this series about detective Charlie Berlin, a former airforce pilot during WWII.  This was the third and in between I had obviously missed something of his life and that of his offsider in the intervening twenty years.  This story is of him brought back from fraud squad work to investigate nine missing girls, who had somehow been basically ignored.  It is set in 1967.  Interspersed with Berlin's investigations are chapters about a boy sent from England to a religious orphanage or something similar.  He is shown as a sadist from an early age with sexual urges associated with cruelty, blood and stabbings.  I find these passages unpleasant and gruesome and bothersome, but don't quite like to skip them.

The two books I am reading don't have a lot in common, but oddly both of them mention how important good footwear is for soldiers.
Joe McWilliams

I've been beguiled - again - by the sight of a baseball biography, winking at me from the library shelf. This one is about the Colossus of Clout himself, George Herman 'Babe' Ruth. I don't expect this to resonate with anyone on this forum. I'll just say that the depth and breadth of the influence of baseball lore on the American (in the wider sense) cultural psyche can hardly be exaggerated. I have little time or interest in the contemporary game, but my goodness I do love the lore and the lure of the Golden Age. For one thing, it evokes an era where the newspaper was king, when the 'blow-by-blow' description was expected and delivered and reveled in. Whatever role newspapers may play today, it is far, far from that.

Oh, the book is called 'Babe,' and it is by Robert Creamer.
MikeAlx

There isn't much interest in baseball in the UK generally, but I think most people would at least recognise the name Babe Ruth (also Joe DiMaggio, but that's probably about it!).
Chibiabos83

Ty Cobb, Mickey Mantle, etc. etc. I know the names and can kind of see the appeal, and I'm sure if I had been an American boy rather than a British one I'd be in love with baseball rather than football, er, soccer (well, my relationship with football's kind of love/hate, but mainly the former). I (mainly) liked Philip Roth's The Great American Novel.

I'm reading Candide for maybe the fourth time. It's still good. Will report back.
Mikeharvey

I downloaded works by the prolific and almost forgotten Victorian author Margaret Oliphant and read her short story in four chapters THE EXECUTOR. An excellent tale set in Oliphant's fictitious town of Carlingford where she sets several of her books.  This story is about the repercussions following the reading of a will.  I love reading in the undergrowth of Victorian literature. It wasn't just about Dickens, Trollope and Thackeray.
Sandraseahorse

I'm reading "Lamentation" by C.J. Sansom, which is the latest in the series about the Tudor detective Matthew Shardlake.  It opens with a gruesome description of the burning of heretics and then Shardlake is summoned by Queen Catherine Parr to help her in a private matter.  

As the last book  in the series, "Heartstone", featured Shardlake helping Queen Catherine Parr in a case, I started to fear that Sansom was beginning to repeat himself with regard to plots (people have said this about P.D. James's later works).  However, I'm now a third of the way through and the plot is getting nicely convoluted and highly enjoyable.  Some of the book features radical religious literature being printed and I'm enjoying the descriptions of the Tudor print works and the apprentice system. (My father was a printer and also I worked on a local newspaper as a journalist where the print works were adjacent to the editorial office and you could walk through.  I even saw the editor literally run through one day shouting "Hold the front page." I feel very nostalgic for the days of hot metal.)
Joe McWilliams

I've read two Sansoms Sandra. Winter in Madrid I found quite good, but the other - Shardlake investigates a murder or murders in a monastery - wasn't quite the thing. Do they get better?

As for what I'm reading, it's The Return of the Native, by Thomas Hardy. I love the atmosphere he creates by way of his moody descriptions of the landscape, or descriptions of the moody landscape. I'm a landscape person, I think. I feel at home in and inspired by sweeping rural vistas. Throw in a pretty maiden or two and you've got my attention for the duration.
If I know Hardy, though, he's going to make me unhappy in the end. I think I still haven't forgiven him for Tess.
Sandraseahorse

The murder in a monastery was probably "Dissolution", the first in the series.  IMO the series does get better but I found this last book rather hard going at times, although it did make me want to read more about Catherine Parr, Henry VIII's last wife.
Caro

I've liked all the Sansoms I have read - Winter in Madrid, and the Tudor series, but I haven't read past Revelation and that apparently was in November 2012.  How slow I am at reading.  I see I scored it highly, though I seem to remember it was quite convoluted.
Castorboy

Another read instigated by seeing the movie Hitchcock; this time it is Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho written by Stephen Rebello. A detailed analysis of all aspects of the 1960 film – possibly more than I need to know.
Sandraseahorse

I've gone back to Tracy Borman's biography of Thomas Cromwell, which I had started and then put to one side, and now I'm zipping through it.
I'm also reading "The Hidden Theatres of the Marche" by Ian Arnott, which has sumptuous colour photos of the theatres of this Italian region.  Arnott discovered that there were once 113 theatres in this region, which is not so culturally esteemed as others, such as Tuscany.  Moreover, 73 of the theatres have survived.  

I spent three months living in Ancona in the 1970s and now wish I had visited at least some of the mouth-watering theatres depicted in this book.  I think Arnott goes on a bit too much about how much of a backwater this area is; the people that I knew in Ancona would have been highly offended to hear the area where they lived described in this way.
Joe McWilliams

Sandra, not sure if you've read Wolf Hall, but if you have, do you find Borman's Cromwell bears any resemblance to Mantel's?
Sandraseahorse

Hello, Joe.  Yes, I have read "Wolf Hall" but not "Bring Up The Bodies."

I think the biography is not quite as sympathetic as Mantel's approach but Cromwell certainly is not the villain of "A Man for All Seasons." .

Borman depicts Cromwell as a cultured man with an interest in religious radicalism but also one who was not above a bit of sharp practice and feathering his own nest.
Caro

I have been making my way through Fever by Mary Beath Keane, which is the story of Typhoid Mary (Mary Mallon) seen through her eyes, though not in the first person.  I think most of you will know of Typhoid Mary who, while not herself infected, spread typhoid through her cooking.  She was isolated for a couple of years then went back to her old life (at least partially), and eventually did take up cooking again.  (I am not sure why it was just in food that the bacteria was carried, why not in other ways?)

I am not very familiar with American events and though always having an interest in disasters, the ones I have read about recently that took place on the American continent haven't been familiar to me.  The Halifax thing in one book. This one has had two, but I forgot to take note of the first one.  The second was a fire with young women seamstresses.  The Triangle Waist fire with 146 people killed by smoke inhalation, jumping from balconies etc.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triangle_Shirtwaist_Factory_fire  

There is a picture here of the Asch building which is mentioned earlier, and would have sent a wee frission through me if I had known about the fire.  

Interesting book, seeing things from a woman who while intelligent and feisty, nevertheless has little comprehension of how germs might work.  Her relationship also humanise her, and especially the on-again, off-again love affair (lasting nearly 20 years) with her partner Albert, who she loves and who loves her, but who is inclined to go off on benders, and make her angry.  I think he has also died in a fire though the reader hasn't been told this clearly.

The sort of book I like.
Joe McWilliams

Alas, Wolf Hall is up against the final season of Mad Men, and lost. I'll have to catch it next time.

Getting back to books, I am reading a Kurl Wallander 'Scandi-Krimi', called The Fifth Woman. I was not impressed by the last (but one) Henning Mankell novel I read, and had written him off, but in the meantime, my wife has become a fan, and has his books lying around. He seems on surer ground with his police novels; The Man From Beijing was clumsy, I thought.
The Fifth Woman is gruesome enough. It seems to be raining a lot. Wallander is an isolated, lonely figure. Quite the lousy advertisement for tourism to the Skane region of Sweden, ha, ha, ha.

I finished Hardy's The Return of the Native recently and made some observations and asked some questions under another discussion topic on this board. Evidently nobody noticed Sad
Caro

Well Castor Boy did, and replied, and I did and haven't replied, though I did intend to.  Been busy and these things slip off the radar.  I will get back to it (I hope).  Interesting question.
MikeAlx

Been reading some Nordic Noir myself lately. Two of the Martin Beck series from the 1960s, by Sjowall and Wahloo - The Man on the Balcony, and The Laughing Policeman. These were landmark books in the history of the police procedural, and Henning Mankell has acknowledged the latter, in particular, was a big influence on him. They set a new standard in realism, and in establishing crime as a genre for exploring the state of modern society rather than merely providing an intellectual puzzle. The prose is terse, and the books only run to 250 pages, but the characters are well-drawn and engaging, particularly the different personalities, talents and shortcomings of the team of detectives working on the cases. The latter book was apparently made into a film (transposed from Stockholm to San Francisco) starring Walther Matthau, but it sounds like they made a bit of a hash of it!

I also read a more recent Nordic Noir, The Draining Lake by Arnaldur Indridason. Very different sort of book. Indridason is interested in recent Icelandic history, and many of his novels feature a present-day investigation following the discovery of a body, running in parallel with an unfolding narrative from the time period of the crime. In this case a skeleton is discovered that has been weighed down with some sort of Cold-War era Russian radio transmitter. In parallel with the investigation we are gradually told the story of a group of young left-wing Icelanders who were granted scholarships to study at Leipzig University in East Germany in the late 1950s. The tension between the two narrative strands creates very effective suspense, and we are kept guessing until right near the end who the body is, and what happened. There is a strong sense of Icelandic history - how WWII transformed the island's fortunes, and how it became something of a Cold War battleground, since there were several strategic US bases there. Very good crime novel, if you like that sort of thing.
Joe McWilliams

Nordic noir - interesting concept. Gloomy buggers, the lot. Very Happy

I'm passing the time while waiting for my next Judith Kerr by reading Henning Mankells' The Fifth Woman. I find it quite engrossing, quite the best of his I've read by far, going only by how eager I am to pick it up after putting it down. It's a complex murder case, or double murder, by somebody with very mysterious motives.
Mankell I find very uneven, from book to book. I couldn't stand The Man from Beijing, and Faceless Killers and An Event in Autumn were just 'okay.' But this one has got my full attention.
Caro

Yesterday I was working at our small local library and put away some of the books we had received from the parent library.  There were about 4 boxes of books, and among them were four Nordic mystery authors: Jo Nesbo, Sander Jakobsen, Leif Persson and Lotte and Soren Manner.  Of those I have only read Jo Nesbo.  I suppose it was The Man From Berlin I didn't like of Mankell's - was it a more political one?  I don't enjoy mysteries which seem to be predicated on a secretive and all-powerful sort of spy agency, or similar.
Caro

I have started reading our bookclub book for this month - The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amiriezvani, an American born in Tehran.  It is set in 17th century Iran, and though narrated in the first person, talks of Iran rather than Persia.  So I am not sure if the two names were interchangeable, or if Iran was used in parts of the country, or if the author just doesn't want to confuse her readers.  

It is the story of a young girl/woman, whose father dies leaving mother and daughter close to destitute and reliant on relatives who treat them more as servants than family.  She has a talent for designing and making rugs.  I have read about 120 pages and some action results in her disgrace and then presumably some sort of redemption or escape.  The notes at the back ask when the reader realises the narrator is never named, and I am not sure I would ever have realised.  Certainly had forgotten the question and not considered the matter 60 or more pages in.  I think it is good, but the Middle Eastern setting is not generally one that appeals to me much with the flowery descriptions and the will of Allah determining everything.  However the characters are well delineated and the writing flows well and the story is compelling.  She also uses some myths/stories/fairytales as teaching tools for the characters.  

I also started (just) started one about NZ soldiers in Maadi camp.  Maadi near Cairo, Egypt, was where 76,000 New Zealanders were stationed during WWII, my father among them.  It is going to talk about life there and will fill in some large gaps in my knowledge. It has been researched by David Hedley and written up by Megan Hutchins.
Mikeharvey

This morning I picked up my William Hazlitt and read his enthusiastic piece extolling the qualities of Shakespeare and Milton.  You can open Hazlitt anywhere and be delighted and entertained.

Just started poet Adam Fould's novel 'The Quickening Maze'. A beautiful and lyrical book about the time when poet John Clare was incarcerated in a lunatic asylum in Epping Forest.  Another patient is Alfred Tennyson's brother Septimus.   AT also makes an appearance.  An unusual and interesting book,
Joe McWilliams

How delightful are the library services in my neck of the woods. I order a book or two online, forget all about it over the next couple of weeks and then one day I find a book waiting for me at home. My wife, the library worker, deserves some credit, of course.

The latest nice little surprise is A Small Person Far Away, the third in Judith Kerr's autobiographical trilogy. It begins 11 years after the last one ended, in the middle 1950s, with Kerr now a BBC script-writer, or some such, married to the author of a popular television series. A hard act to follow, I would have thought - escaping Nazi Germany and then the war years in London - what in the world can be interesting enough about married life and relative prosperity in 1950s London? I imagine Dame Judy can come up with something. (She may not actually be a Dame, but if she isn't she should be.}
Chibiabos83

She's an OBE, apparently. I've got the three books in an omnibus, will probably read the last one in a few weeks.
Caro

I have never read anything of Judith Kerr's really, apart from The Tiger Who Came to Tea which we had and read a lot, and whose lasting success I find a little surprising.  It is still on new bookshop shelves. Somehow the kids and I missed the Mog series.  

I am getting on with my Maadi book, and have started one by Elizabeth Kostova, The Swan Thieves. The Historian has sat in our library for years and tempted me, but at our new library book club someone recommended her writing as excellent, but somehow whatever the subject matter of The Historian is it didn't appeal, so I took out The Swan Thieves instead.  I really like it and have done since the very beginning, but I don't quite know why exactly.  I think it is just that there is some mystery about the main characters that appeals. The sections all seem to be in the first person, but the person changes from section to section.  It begins with a psychologist taking on a new patient, Robert, an artist, who has damaged a painting and refuses to talk.  The narrator is puzzled by him, and worried.  I like the way the narrator talks of himself too, analysing his own actions and personality.

Next section which I have just started is from the pov of Kate, Robert's ex-wife, and we start with their first meeting when she is physically sick over his shoes and several times before he gets her home.  I haven't got much further than this.  The setting is in America which occasionally confuses me because it talks a lot about art and I assume it is set in Britain, until I remember again it isn't. The blurb says it goes from American cities (New York so far) to the coast of Normandy, from the late 19th century to the late twentieth (which is the setting I have had so far).  

I don't know the significance of the title.  Robert spends his time painting a woman with dark hair who is not his ex-wife.  As yet we have not found out who she is.  

It just seems excellent to me, without me quite understanding why.  Have any of you read it or The Historian which I think is better known?
Joe McWilliams

Caro, I read The Historian some years ago and found it a quite skillfully told tale that nevertheless left me feeling slightly unsatisfied, or unhappy for some reason. It's a vampire story, by the way. Perhaps I just don't like vampires very much. I recall being impressed to the point of unease by Anne Rice's vampire stuff - but also not wanting more. The Swan Thieves continues to sit untouched on a shelf somewhere in our house. Perhaps if you recommend it I will dust if off and give it a try.

For now, though, I continue to make my way through Stevenson's The Wrecker, at an easy pace. It's been decades since I read any Stevenson, so I could be wrong about this, but it seems quite unlike the tone of Treasure Island or Kidnapped. Comical and a bit chaotic - something between Dickens and Twain. I like it.
TheRejectAmidHair

Didn't Stevenson write The Wrecker in collaboration with Lloyd Osborne?
Zac_H

Currently reading

These days I am reading The Billionaire author...has anybody read it yet?
Joe McWilliams

Not me, Zac. Who wrote it?

As for The Wrecker, it turns out Stevenson did write it in collaboration with his stepson Osbourne. Perhaps that accounts for the difference in tone. Or not.
Joe McWilliams

Oh dear. I'm having a hard time finishing anything; people keep handing me books, saying, 'Read this. It's really good!'
So I've set Stevenson aside just now and started The Martian, by Andy Weir. An astronaut (my term) is left behind on Mars, when the scientific crew he's part of is forced to abandon its mission in a hurry in a blinding sandstorm. Evidently this is the story of how he survived. It's been praised (I'm told) for its technical verisimilitude.

It begins thus: "I'm pretty much fucked."

I like it already. But only if he minds his manners from now on.
Castorboy

Sidney Chambers and The Perils of the Night by an author new to me James Runcie. Chambers is the vicar of Grantchester who happens to be an amateur detective who solves a number of crimes in his parish and in the city of Cambridge. Maybe he is the 21st Century Father Brown even if his six stories are long rather than short.
Marita

There's a TV series made about the sleuth vicar called Grantchester. Apparently it is based on the first  books in the series, Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death. According to Wiki a second series will be made this year.

I think it was shown on ITV in the UK. We saw it here on a Dutch channel.
Castorboy

Thanks, Marita for the info. I liked the first story in Perils of the Night so much that I have requested Shadow of Death from the library. As for the TV series I fear we will have to wait a few years for it to be shown here. On TV this week are the remakes of Poldark and South Riding which I think were showing in the UK at least a couple of years ago. Incidentally I am not sure if they are as good as previous TV adaptations.
Sandraseahorse

Hello.  Jamie Runcie, the author of the Grantchester series, is the son of a previous Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie.  Runcie famously fell out with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher over the service at St. Paul's to mark the end of the Falklands War; he organised it as a solemn service remembering the dead while she wanted something more triumphant.

The remake of "Poldark" finished just a few days ago on TV here.  I didn't watch it at first on principle as I loved the original so much but I was won over and the new Ross Poldark actor is gorgeous.  There is going to be another series. (Hooray!).
Caro

He certainly is, though I am not sure about the new Demelza yet.  We bought the old series recently after going to the Poldark mine (named after the series not vice versa) when we were in Cornwall.  But we haven't watched it yet.  Getting into the new series now, so it might be a while.  And we have 4 episodes of The Village waiting.
Jen M

Caro, The Historian is one of the handful of books I gave up on.  This was a book club choice - I did start it, but it didn't interest me enough.  I am not interested in vampires but I gave up before any vampires featured.

I have two books on the go at present - The Two of Us - my life with John Thaw by Sheila Hancock, which I am mostly enjoying, and Susan Hill's Strange Meeting, which I am also enjoying, but I have to be in the right mood for it.  It is a short book, which fits in my handbag, and which I thought would be suitable to take on a few train journeys I have had to make recently.  Unfortunately it doesn't lend itself to the sort of stop-start reading one does out of necessity on train journeys.

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