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Ann

What are you reading in 2010

I liked the thread about 2009 so I hope no one minds me beginning one for 2010.
I managed to get to the library yesterday. One of the books I just galloped through and I can't even remember the title. It was historical fiction, not too badly done, about trouble in the time of Henry 11.
The one I'm reading now is one I've been meaning to read for a while. It is Kate Atkinson's When Will there be Good News. She has taken to writing quality whodunnits, recently, and I have always liked her writing a lot. This has made a haunting and intriguing start.
Evie

Well done, Ann - good to start a new thread for the new year, and the other one was getting a bit long.

I have started Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple - I heard it on the radio last year, and enjoyed it very much, and a friend then gave me the novel, which I have taken this long to read! †But I read her novel High Wages recently (given by the same friend), and loved it, so thought it was high time I read this one.
Caro

I have started Anna Karenina - just a few pages in so far.  What I specially like about these older authors (Trollope comes to mind here) is the affectionate smiles they have at their characters.  Stepan is described but there is a distance between him and the author and you can see a wry smile on Tolstoy's face as he is thinking of him.  

One or two sentences have reminded me of Dostoevsky - this is not good.

In between the few pages I read of this, I also read a book of poetry connected with WWI - just a few poems depicting certain aspects of it and aimed at children.  It is depressing reading these and knowing that authorities still think war will solve problems and taking little account of the lives of the soldiers they are sending to their deaths.  

I am also reading Catlins Bound at times - a chapter at a time about the small trading ships built round here by one pioneer. I have mentioned this book before.

Cheers, Caro.
TheRejectAmidHair

This year ... I shall mostly be reading ...

... The Bible.

And I want to catch up on a number of books I've bought but haven't yet read - e.g. Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (I'm sure I've read this in the dim distant past, but I can't remember a thing about it!) , Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton, America by Franz Kafka, The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni and a few others I can't quite remember right now. But my priority is to get to grips with the Bible.
Apple

Blimey Himadri rather you than me!! Which version are you going for? My dad was trained to be a vicar and was very religious so we had every bible known to man in our house.
TheRejectAmidHair

Sure, itís going to be quite a challenge, but just as someone who is passionate about mountaineering would want to conquer the most challenging peaks, so I, passionate about books, want to get to grips with the mightiest peaks that literature has to offer. And peaks donít really come much mightier than this.

I shall be reading the King James version, but I also have the New English Bible to refer to if I want a fresh perspective on any particular passage. I have been recommended also the annotated version of the New Jerusalem Bible, but £50 did seem a bit much to fork out.
Apple

King James is probably the best one to go for for someone like you (no offense) who likes the more intellectually extreme level of literature. I've not picked up a bible for years I rebelled against it all. But good luck to you I mean that sincerely. I tell you what might be interesting get yourself a Good News Bible and compare them going from one end of the spectrum to the other!!
Evie

The New English translation is lovely - probably my favourite as a Bible to read on a regular basis.  Certainly my favourite modern translation.
TheRejectAmidHair

Apple wrote:
...someone like you (no offense) who likes the more intellectually extreme level of literature.


Oh, no offence taken, obviously! Ė why should I take offence at a compliment? - but I donít know that the intellectual aspect can be isolated from other aspects of literature. All too often, the aesthetic and emotional aspects of a work only become apparent once the intellectual effort has been made.

I think my daughter has a Good News Bible on her shelves somewhere, so Iíll be having a look at that as well. From what I have seen of it, it struck me as a very lucid rendering. Also, I gather it is a very accurate and scholarly translation. So I donít dismiss it by any means.

I am also consulting the excellent Cambridge Companion to the Bible, which contains an essay by Robert Bratchard (translator of the Good News Bible) on the various different translations into English. He is very generous about other translations (especially the New English Bible), and is perhaps too modest about his own effort.

(And I agree, Evie, about the New English Bible, which seems to me to read exceptionally well. While the literary quality of the King James Bible is not in any doubt, I do get tired of people using this version as a stick to beat others.)
Apple

Wasn't the King James bible one of the first ones to be translated into English? I might be so wrong its unreal but I have a feeling it was one of the first if not the first English translation.

Himadri Wrote:
Quote:
I think my daughter has a Good News Bible on her shelves somewhere, so Iíll be having a look at that as well. From what I have seen of it, it struck me as a very lucid rendering. Also, I gather it is a very accurate and scholarly translation. So I donít dismiss it by any means.


No I didn't mean it like that, I wasn't dismising it or anything its just I used to use the Good News Bible to translate the King James one we had!!
Evie

I think Tyndale's translation was the first, in the 1520s, and then Myles Coverdale translated it for Henry VIII in the 1530s (the so-called Great Bible) - well, the commission was from Thomas Cromwell, so that there could be an English Bible in every church, part of the break from the Church of Rome - Tyndale's version was outlawed.  It may come up in Wolf Hall, Apple!
MikeAlx

Tyndale's Bible was not complete - he translated the New Testament and about half of the Old Testament. Myles Coverdale's was the first complete English Bible.

When Cromwell fell, the tide turned in favour of religious conservatism (which Henry VIII had always preferred, except when seeking a divorce or pillaging monasteries), and Coverdale had to flee the country. He returned with the accession of Edward VI, and then had to flee again when Queen Mary came to the throne.
Ann

Evie wrote:
I think Tyndale's translation was the first, in the 1520s, and then Myles Coverdale translated it for Henry VIII in the 1530s (the so-called Great Bible) - well, the commission was from Thomas Cromwell, so that there could be an English Bible in every church, part of the break from the Church of Rome - Tyndale's version was outlawed. †It may come up in Wolf Hall, Apple!


It doesn't because Wolf Hall is only the first half of Cromwell's ministry. He is very interested in Tyndale and secretly owns a copy but has to keep it very quiet. Hilary Mantel is writing the second half  of the series and it is due out in, I think, 2012.
Evie

Oh lord.  It does all make me want to hide in a corner with the most postmodern, experimental novel I can find...one day someone needs to explain to me why historical novels are worth writing.  Let alone series of them.
TheRejectAmidHair

I had made two glaring errors in my earlier post: I referred to The Cambridge Companion to the Bible when I should have referred to the Oxford Companion; and the translator of the Good News Bible, who contributed an essay in this volume on translations into English, is Robert Bratcher, and not Robert Bratchard. †

At any rate, this is what the Oxford Companion has to say about the first translation into English (this is from the essay by Errol F Rhodes on medieval translations):

In the fourteenth centurywhen the Franciscan emphasis on spiritual activity gave rise to a demand among lay contemplatives for vernacular scriptures as a guide and ground for private mystical experience, the English Psalter of Richard Rolle (1300-1349) proved the vernacular as an adequate medium of religious expression. Several decades later (about 1382), the Lollard John Wycliffe (1329-1384) and his colleagues at Oxford began work on the first complete translation of the Bible from the Latin Vulgate into English. The first form of the translation was a quite literal rendering of the Latin Vulgate, and was soon revised to conform more nearly to idiomatic English usage. In 1407, Archbishop Arundel issued a "constitution" against Lollardy, condemning the private translation of scripture "into English or any other language", and specifically forbidding the use of any translation associated with Wycliffe under pain of excommunication. The popularity of the version, however, may be gauged from the fact that nearly two hundred copies of it have survived.

Bratcher in his essay says:

The first complete translation of the Bible into English (1382; New Testament 1380) is credited to John Wycliffe.

Tyndale was the first to translate directly from the Greek and from Hebrew, but as Mike says, he didn't live to complete the Old Testament: he was, of course, burnt at the stake. The Coverdale Bible used the Tyndale translation where it could (the New Testament was a revised version of Tyndale); and the King James Bible also draws heavily on Tyndale. I think one could easily make the case for Tyndale being the greatest writer of English prose.
Evie

How could I have forgotten Wycliffe?!  The theological college in Oxford is even named after him, something I am very familiar with.  (Not to mention his work with the Cornwall constabulary...)
Mikeharvey

Himadri, what is the likelihood of the Bible doing what it's supposed to do and turning you into a newly-born Christian?  
And what is the copy like that you are reading? Big print I hope.  You don't want to get eyestrain as well as religion.  
Are you really going to read it all - even the genealogical bits. When they begin the begats.
MikeAlx

When they begin the begats? I always thought it was "when they begin 'In the Beginning'". Very Happy
TheRejectAmidHair

Mikeharvey wrote:
Himadri, what is the likelihood of the Bible doing what it's supposed to do and turning you into a newly-born Christian?


The probability is quite high, I think. After reding The Iliad, I became a worshipper of Zeus. And after reading some of the Baron's novels ... well, let's not go there.

Mikeharvey wrote:
Are you really going to read it all - even the genealogical bits. When they begin the begats.


I think I may skim the begats.
chris-l

In one of those instances of sychronicity, I came across the following last night in my current book, 'Time to be in Earnest', a mixture of diary and memoir by P.D. James. She is here commenting upon her work on the Church of England's Liturgical Commission:


 'What surprises me is the neglect of the King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer by academics and its absence from the A-level English syllabus. Even for people uninterested in or unconvinced by Cranmer's reformation theology, his Prayer Book is one of the great glories of English literature. It is difficult, too, to understand how students can read Shakespeare or view with understanding some of the greatest paintings in our galleries without some knowledge of the Authorized Version of the Bible or Tyndale's translation on which it is based. I have been told by friends who teach English at universities that they have to give a short course in basic Christianity to some of their English students before some books of the canon are comprehensible.'

While I do not share the author's religious convictions, I certainly found her comments on the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer to very much echo my own point of view.
MikeAlx

Himadri, your comment reminds me of Peter Cook in the "Derek and Clive" sketch about the power of television, where he says he was watching a documentary on the holocaust, then got on a number 18 up to Golders Green - "I must have slaughtered about eighteen thousand before I realised what I was doing".
Mikeharvey

Himadri, have you got a copy of The Book of Common Prayer? Everyman do a very nice edition.
TheRejectAmidHair

Chris Ė This is something I was commenting on before Christmas in my blog thread on this board: somehow, there seems to be a stigma attached to reading the Bible. While people seem happy to pay lip service to it as being great literature, they seem curiously reluctant to read it. Even if they are well-read in other areas of literature, as soon as it comes to the Bible, a sort of defensive screen seems to go up. I have friends who happily read the Koran or the Bhagavad Gita, saying Ė quite rightly Ė that it is important to have some understanding of these different cultures and of these different schools of thought; but somehow, such reasoning doesnít seem to apply when it comes to the Bible. I donít understand it myself.

MikeAlx Ė yes, I remember that Derek & Clive sketch. It really is hard to imagine anything in worse taste, isnít it? I donít think Derek & Clive are among the best things Pete & Dud have done, but Peter Cook is something of a hero of mine. Thereís a marvellous collection of some of his best material in the book Tragically, I Was an Only Twin.

Mike Harvey Ė I do have the Everyman edition of the Book of Common Prayer, but Iíve done no more than dip into it. Incidentally, if you can make your way into Clitheroe (change trains at Preston) the bookshop on Moor Lane has a wide selection of Everyman Books going at only £6 each. But you probably have the whole set. As for storage space, I think I did spot a few square feet of your house that wasnít taken up with books Ė it may have been on the ceiling!
Sandraseahorse

I feel that many schools are so defensive against the accusation of indoctrinating the pupils that they are reluctant to give Christianity more than a cursory glance during a broad outline of all religions.  The fact is, that whether you believe for good or for bad, Christianity has had vastly more impact on the history and culture of the country than, for example, Confuciusism.  

When I was a school governor, the buzz phrase on religious education was "spiral" education.  The idea is that the teacher stands at the front of the class holding up a crucifix or copy of the Koran and asks the pupils what they can tell him or her about this object; the impetus has to come from the pupils.  To me, this approach only reinforces social background differences between schools; schools where the pupils come from educated families are more likely to have challenging discussions than  schools where pupils come mainly from families with a poor standard of education.

Sometimes I feel really depressed about the state of education in this country.
MikeAlx

Hoho, my response to the crucifix would probably have been "Sir, you're holding it upside down".  Wink
Caro

There was a small controversy here (or was it from Britain?) when someone said the Bible should be taught for its literary value and the knowledge it brought to a reading of other literature.  I was very surprised when people commenting on this did not seem able to get past thinking it was a desire to convert people.  I have long thought it impossible to fully understand much literature without Biblical and Christian knowledge.  I was brought up in the Presbyterian religion and still find the allusions in, say, TS Eliot, difficult - how much more must it be to someone who has no knowledge at all of the basic stories of the Bible and the basic beliefs of Christians?

New Zealand has a secular education system but I am fairly sure they allow some religious teaching which over the years has become more inclusive and distanced. When I was at secondary school we began each day with a Bible reading/story, hymn and prayer, but I am pretty sure that even at the school in my very religious little town this doesn't happen now.

Cheers, Caro.
Apple

Sandraseahorse - I think the only schools which feel secure about teaching RE are the Catholic schools we have a number of Catholic schools in this area and its a pretty high priority in their curriculum from what I gather from people who's children attend them.

Mike Wrote:
Quote:
Hoho, my response to the crucifix would probably have been "Sir, you're holding it upside down"
 Laughing
Sandraseahorse

Oh, dear.  I fear that this thread is only going to attract blasphemous jokes.

Given the acrimony the Big Readers vote for best author generated, I'm worried that this will go the same way.
Evie

Nah!

Just in case, though, I'll change the direction, and say that I am reading Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple, and loving it.  A very interesting writer (a few of us recently, and independently, read her novel High Wages) - more when I have finished.
Caro

I thought I would vary Anna Karenina with something else, which always provides a dilemma - not much point in swapping one great but long book for another or even for a short great book really, something light feels trivial and time-wasting, non-fiction doesn't feel quite right and would just slow everything down.

So I picked up the Alice Munro book The love of a good woman and read the title story.  I can see that Alice Munro has the art and craft of writing off brilliantly; every word matters and is right.  But I didn't like it at all - indeed it has left me feeling sick.  I know in my head that people dying have dreadful things happen to their body, but I don't really want to read about it.  And, as with many short stories I think, there is a sense of foreboding and chill about it all.  I wasn't even quite sure how it ended.

I saw a review (most were extremely favourable but not this one) saying only the last story gave any hope, so I don't know if I fancy reading much more.  Might try one more and see how I go.  But it did rather make me want to get back to the relative lightness of Tolstoy!  (At least there's a bit of humorous satire in his depiction of Russian high society.)

Maybe Deaf Sentence would have been a better choice.

Cheers, Caro.
Fiveowls

I am reading Iain Banks' novel The Crow Road and am quite absorbed by it.  I have watched the film of the book twice now and enjoyed it greatly both times.

Banks has a querky style which I find very effective, as he tracks to and fro in time, often leaving you guessing for a few lines as to where you are in the story and as to who is speaking, etc.  I love the characters: the central figure of Prentice, a lovable anti-hero; his aggressively atheistic father Kenneth; his gentle, perceptive mother Mary; the enigmatic Uncle Rory; the delectable Verity; and the feisty, compassionate Ashley, sister to Darren Watt, killed in a motor-bike accident.

The book has a compelling charm and, although I am well through it, the mystery surrounding Rory remains.  'He's awa' the Crow Road' (grandmother's euphemism for 'He's dead'), or is he?
Ann

I've started about my 5th book today and none of them are finished. I keep butterflying from one to the other. This is Notes From an Exhibition by Patrick Gale which is my book club book and I have read it before. I found it very powerful then and can remember it well which might be why I'm disinclined to stick with it for tonight and might try and finish it tomorrow. I'm tempted to start Dead and Gone because I've found all this series very addictive so I might have six on the go in a few minutes.  Embarassed
Evie

You're such a hussy, Ann!   Wink
Evie

PS - I am also reading 4 or 5 books at the moment, and not getting far with any of them.  Partly because I am missing too much the Dorothy Whipple novel I recently finished!
Ann

That is so true. One wants to go back there and revisit all those feelings. Some of my other books are more worthy than gripping  so that is why I keep leaving them for a while until I feel stronger. I think the weather makes me want comfort and distraction
Green Jay

Caro wrote:

So I picked up the Alice Munro book The love of a good woman and read the title story. †I can see that Alice Munro has the art and craft of writing off brilliantly; every word matters and is right. †But I didn't like it at all - indeed it has left me feeling sick. †I know in my head that people dying have dreadful things happen to their body, but I don't really want to read about it. †And, as with many short stories I think, there is a sense of foreboding and chill about it all. †I wasn't even quite sure how it ended.

I saw a review (most were extremely favourable but not this one) saying only the last story gave any hope, so I don't know if I fancy reading much more. †Might try one more and see how I go. †.)

Cheers, Caro.


I'm sorry to hear this, Caro, as I have been praising Munro recently. I don't find her pessimistic, though she is realistic. On the whole I think she has a pretty sanguine view of life, and sees redeeming and interesting things in the quietest of people. Though I take your point about endings. Like life, she does leave her endings somewhat open, rather than neat or neatly signposted.
Green Jay

I should add that "morally complex" sums up Munro's writing perfectly.

I do hope you give her another try, Caro. I realy can't imagine a story of hers which would leave me feeling sick. I have that book you mention so will have to look up the story. I was reshelving my books recently and realised I had 12 volumes of her stories, a third in hardback!
Green Jay

Evie wrote:
PS - I am also reading 4 or 5 books at the moment, and not getting far with any of them. †Partly because I am missing too much the Dorothy Whipple novel I recently finished!


I've done this a lot recently, but it makes me feel butterfly-minded.

I am loving The Little Stranger but when it got very grim, I turned to another present, Then She Found Me by Elinor Lipman. A wonderful antidote to run side-by-side, funny, sharp dialogue (it makes me want to be in conversations like that) and yet with a real vein of serious knowledge of human frailities all through.
MikeAlx

Currently reading "A Crisis of Brilliance - Five Young British Artists and the Great War" by David Boyd Haycock. Of course it's really about a great deal more than just the five artists in question (Paul Nash, CRW Nevinson, Dora Carrington, Mark Gertler and Stanley Spencer) - it's about the culture wars and social revolution in Edwardian England, with the young bohemian artists and nascent Bloomsbury group in the vanguard.

Since the artists in question came from diverse backgrounds, a broad picture of Edwardian society is painted (Nash was the son of a barrister fallen on hard times, Nevinson the son of a famous socialist war correspondent, Carrington of a railway engineer, Gertler of a poor East End Jew fled from Eastern Europe, and Spencer of a rural piano teacher).

I will grant that this is a period of history and a group of artists that have long held a special fascination for me, but even without that predisposition, it is an exceptionally interesting and well-written book. It would certainly appeal to anyone interested in modernism, WWI or the Edwardian era.
Jen M

Fiveowls wrote:
I am reading Iain Banks' novel The Crow Road and am quite absorbed by it. †I have watched the film of the book twice now and enjoyed it greatly both times.

Banks has a querky style which I find very effective, as he tracks to and fro in time, often leaving you guessing for a few lines as to where you are in the story and as to who is speaking, etc. †I love the characters: the central figure of Prentice, a lovable anti-hero; his aggressively atheistic father Kenneth; his gentle, perceptive mother Mary; the enigmatic Uncle Rory; the delectable Verity; and the feisty, compassionate Ashley, sister to Darren Watt, killed in a motor-bike accident.

The book has a compelling charm and, although I am well through it, the mystery surrounding Rory remains. †'He's awa' the Crow Road' (grandmother's euphemism for 'He's dead'), or is he?


I loved this book, Fiveowls, which was the first book I read when I joined my reading group.  I did find the jumping around in time and character  confusing, and wished I'd made some notes.

If I remember correctly, Rory's story is resolved.

I haven't read anything else by Iain Banks- can anyone recommend anything in particular?
Fiveowls

Thank you for that Jen M.  In reading further I can begin to see the resolution of Rory's story.

I've read two other books by Iain Banks and would recommend them both: The Steep Approach to Garbadale and Whit..  They are both set in Scotland and have Banks' wonderful mixture of believable characters and mysterious goings-on.
iwishiwas

Just borrowed from the library A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve, so looking forward to making a start.
VillageDuckpond

On a brief visit to my local library this morning, to return a couple of books, I  took out 'The Birth of Venus' by Sarah Dunant which I saw mentioned elsewhere in here! I have never read any of her books before but think I shall enjoy it as I love most books to do with Italy.  

This change of mind was brought on by the fact that I am having difficulty settling to 'The Circle of Karma' so decided to try something else in the meantime. I wouldn't be surprised at myself if I gave up on 'The Circle..' especially as I have 'This Thing of Darkness' stacking up for collection by 22 January to be read for my Book Group in mid-February! Do any of you do things like this? Or is it me?

Sasha
Caro

Green Jay,

I suppose I should have tried more Alice Munro, but have now started on David Lodge's Deaf Sentence which I am getting on well with.  I liked the first part of The Love of a Good Woman where the boys come across a body in a car and we see their reactions and the way they play and interact.  But then we go off to 'the good woman' and the description of a dying woman's body disintegrating and the good woman nurse having gross sexual thoughts was just a bit sickening for me.  And as I said there was a sense of foreboding throughout it all, which I am not sure was resolved.  One reviewer talked of a new marriage which would presumably be fine, but I certainly didn't necessarily get that impression.  I got the feeling there could be a new marriage or there could be a new murder, and either way we were dealing with people who couldn't be trusted.

Anyway I could see this book would just sit there so I took it back today.  

Maybe I will try her again and hope for a story that I didn't find so distasteful.

Cheers, Caro.
miranda

VillageDuckpond wrote:
This change of mind was brought on by the fact that I am having difficulty settling to 'The Circle of Karma' so decided to try something else in the meantime. I wouldn't be surprised at myself if I gave up on 'The Circle..' especially as I have 'This Thing of Darkness' stacking up for collection by 22 January to be read for my Book Group in mid-February! Do any of you do things like this? Or is it me?

Sasha


I do that quite often these days.  I used to have a thing about finishing books even if I didn't like them but now I'm older, if I don't like a book, I put it down.   Too many books, not enough time!
janetmp

In a rather depressed state due to moving house, Christmas mayhem and    rather too much weather I am re reading T H White's the Once and Future King and enjoying it enormously. It is one of the greatest of pleasures to revisit this excellent writing.
Ann

Hello Janet,

That is a book I loved and reread so many times I haven't visited it for years. The only bit I shied away from is the first section of The Queen of Air and Darkness which I found disagreeable, but it is a great book that Disney sadly trivialised with The Sword in the Stone.
janetmp

Hi Ann

Yes this was the section I found the least engaging. But overall it has remained one of my favourite reads ever.

Jan
Ann

I'm reading Swiftly by Adam Roberts, a follow up to Gulliver's travels. It is some years later and the Lilliputians and Brobigandians are being ruthlessly exploited and used in the war between England and France. On the whole I am  usually disappointed by follow ons of the classics but this works quite well. I'm near the end now and I think Adam has picked up the correct tone of voice and morays of the original. I would recommend it, though don't expect a fun read - it is quite dark (as is the original). Has anyone read Mistress Masham's Repose by TH White? That is a Swift follow up too,  though completely different in content.
Fiveowls

I'm reading David Lodge's Author, Author and finding it most enjoyable.  It's my first read of a David Lodge book so I might be on the lookout of others.

Having read Henry James' The Golden Bowl fairly recently, it's intriguing to have a window into James' attitudes and personality, not least in his struggles for the perfectly formed sentence with all the danger of producing longeurs, which he was a bit of an expert at shaping!

I hadn't realized he was such a committed celibate and feel for some of his women friends, especially Fenimore, who seemingly could have been a companionate intimate rather than a frequently distanced 'follower'.

There are many interesting insights into a gifted man's life with all its desire for fame as a doyen of transatlantic literature and drama.
Sandraseahorse

I'm reading "Helena" by Evelyn Waugh.  It's very different from his other books.  It's a fictionalised account of the life of the mother of the Emperor Constantine.  Apparently Waugh thought it was his best novel.  I'm not so sure.
It assumes quite a knowledge of the events so I keep having to google about some of the characters mentioned.
Castorboy

I have started a novel recommended on the BigReaders Mk 1 Ė Black Swan Green by David Mitchell. Itís a coming-of-age one set in 1980s UK. Not exactly chic-lit, more, shall I say, pube-lit!
VillageDuckpond

I am about to start 'This Thing of Darkness' by Harry Thompson that I collected from my local library yesterday.

It is a first novel and was longlisted for the Man Booker prize. Briefly it is about the friendship between Fitzroy and Darwin on board HMS Beagle. I have asked to have it for a six-week loan as it is a very big paperback of circa 750 pages Rolling Eyes

Talking of paperbacks I find their pricing is somewhat curious. Does this depend on what the publisher decides? This huge tome was GBP 7.99 whereas you can get another a quarter of the size of this one for the same price!
Caro

I loved Black Swan Green when I read it few years ago, Castor Boy, so I shall be interested to hear what you think of it.  I do think that I am rather fond of coming-of-age books - it seems very easy to empathize with a bullied child or a teenager trying to get to grips with the world or their sexuality or whatever.

Cheers, Caro.
iwishiwas

About to start Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout. I have not read her books before but heard an interview with her and she seemed like the kind of writer I like.
Fiveowls

I also greatly enjoyed Black Swan Green when I read it a year or so ago, Castorboy.  I like the phrase 'pube-lit'.
Marita

Hello Casterboy,
You can find thoughts on Black Swan Green here:

http://bigreaders.myfastforum.org...reen_David_Mitchell_about681.html

Marita
Castorboy

Thanks for that link Marita. I shall read all the comments when Iíve finished. Only 100 pages to go.
Ann

I'm reading The Consequences of Marriage by Isla Dewer which is, so far, well done and interesting.
Tonight it is my book group, if the snow allows, and we're discussing Notes from an Exhibition by Patrick Gale. I loved it and am looking forward to the discussion.
Joe Mac

I'm reading A Distant Mirror by the historian Barbara Tuchman. It's about 14th century Europe. The title implies that the century in question casts a reflection up on the current era, but so far, it just seems a very, very strange world indeed.
VillageDuckpond

RN

In what way?
Caro

I've put aside Anna K to read The Cure for Death by Lightning by Gail Anderson-Dargatz, which I seem to remember was praised some years ago.  It is set near an American reservation and seems to be a coming-of-age sort of book, with some sort of mysterious/ghostly being causing problems, especially with the effect on the father of the family.

I am not all that enraptured with American books generally, and I think it is perhaps because they seem to often have a finely detailed descriptive element to them, and I am not specially fond of description.  Just occasionally too, what is mostly quite fine description ("The road was a deep, rich brown-red, from iron deposits in the soil, I suppose, though I grew up believing the road was red from blood of turtles.  Blood Road was what the Indians called it, what everyone called it.  The government maps, however, called it Caldwell Road after the first white lanholder in the valley, a man who died along in his cabin with no wife and no kids and no one to mourn him but his hungry pigs.")  strikes a jarring note. ("Towards the town of Promise, the valley opened up like a wound in skin.")  I don't think so.

The story is told rather slowly, much like rural people speak and I suppose that is quite fitting.  I am looking forward to where the story is taking me and certainly don't dislike this.  But I wouldn't be raving about it either.

Her second book seems to have been A Recipe for Bees, (there are a lot of recent books with bees in the title) and I don't know of others.

Have any of you read this and did you like it?

Cheers, Caro.
Evie

I am now reading The Chimney Sweeper's Boy by Barbara Vine, the second in our Good Read selection; and also Walking the Blue Field, a collection of short stories by Claire Keegan.  Two very different worlds.
Joe Mac

Barbara Vine...isn't that a Ruth Rendell alias?
Joe Mac

In what way, Duckpond?

Well....nothing new, I suppose, but just being reminded about the weird world of feudal social organization, the nobility's obsession with status, gained mainly through martial exploits, and the general superstitious dread of damnation and evil.

Tuchman seems finally done with scene-setting and has taken us to Crecy and we're now on the verge of the black plague. Not a happy century, the 14th.
Caro

Today I was at a little market fair and there was The Chimney Sweeper's Boy by Barbara Vine (yes, Ruth Rendell).  Although I was tempted I forgot this was your read and when I passed the stall again it had been bought!  Had I remembered I would have bought it.

Cheers, Caro.
VillageDuckpond

RN

So nothing has really changed then has it? Thank you for explaining, however  Wink
Evie

I began A Distant Mirror about 20 years ago, and still haven't finished it...not because I wasn't enjoying it, I just got into something else and never went back to it - am still not very good at reading non-fiction for pleasure, though it would be very good background to my teaching, so no excuses really!  I was looking at it on the shelf only the other day, thinking I really must read it properly.

I am becoming more and more impressed by Claire Keegan's short story collection Walk the Blue Fields - she writes the most fabulous dialogue, apart from anything.  Three more to read - and the book needs to go back to the library on Monday, though I might renew it and give myself more time to mull over it a bit.
Joe Mac

Nothing has changed....well, a few things have, thank goodness. Our understanding of how disease is transmitted has improved quite a lot.
The medical professionals of 1348 relied heavily on astrology to explain epidemics. As far as they could tell, it all depended on the alignment of the planets; bugs borne by fleas and rats never entered the discussion.

So the choice was between the astrological explanation or the more popular conviction that it was God's punishment - the one the Church preferred. The Divine (or Satanic) intervention theory of course can neve be disproven, regardless of what science discovers, which comes in handy for those so inclined to this very day. Astrology should have been throughly discredited long since, yet I am aquainted with people who prefer astrological explanations to rational scientific ones.

People are weird.
Evie

Only if we have difficulty accepting that ours is not necessarily the only way of looking at the world, Horatio...   Wink
TheRejectAmidHair

Oh, there are certainly many different ways of looking at the world, but for all that, I would prefer my doctor to carry out a blood on me rather than consult some astrological chart!  Very Happy
MikeAlx

It's quite astonishing how late the understanding of germ spreading actually came along. We had microscopes from the 17th century, and bacteria were known about by the tail end of the century. Yet understanding of basic hygiene only really came along with the rigorous application of statistical studies in medicine in the 19th century. Even then, people were still wittering on about miasma, airs and humours.
Caro

Yes, when I read about scientific discoveries, I am amazed at the way human biology seems to have lagged so far behind astronomy and physics and chemistry.  It's not just the application but the discoveries seemed to be quite slow.  Perhaps because of the religious reluctance to use anatomy.

I always like the story of cholera in London in the 19th century where one doctor noticed everyone got sick after using a certain water supply; even then authorities were very slow at using this knowledge.  

Cheers, Caro.

Astrology is just fun, as analysing one's own personality and character and those of people known to you is always interesting.
Green Jay

Evie wrote:
I am becoming more and more impressed by Claire Keegan's short story collection Walk the Blue Fields - she writes the most fabulous dialogue, apart from anything. †Three more to read - and the book needs to go back to the library on Monday, though I might renew it and give myself more time to mull over it a bit.


I will look out for this one. Thanks for the tip, Evie.

I am about 1/4 way through Remarkable Creatures by Tracey Chevalier, about fossil collecting and Mary Anning, who found the big fossil at Lyme Regis in early 19th C. I am engrossed.
Jen M

Green Jay wrote:
I am about 1/4 way through Remarkable Creatures by Tracey Chevalier, about fossil collecting and Mary Anning, who found the big fossil at Lyme Regis in early 19th C. I am engrossed.


I will add that to the TBR, Green Jay - I love Lyme Regis and the area around it, and would like to read something "relevant" before I visit there again.

I have started The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, a book I intended to read before/during my recent trip to Atlanta. This was a good choice - thank you Himadri (and others) for the recommendation.
Ann

I'm reading Remember me by Malvyn Bragg. It is my Book Group book for February and it is certainly well written as one would expect by Melvin Bragg. It is obviously going to be a sad book so I am outside my comfort zone. Joe falls in love with Natalie, who is French. The book is supposed to be his reminicences about their relationship to his daughter and it is clear that Natilie is either dead or lost to them both. I suspect it is quite autobiographical as Joe is a northern man  who leaves Oxford  to work for the BBC in the 1960s. I quite admire it but I'm not enjoying the read much.
joeturner

In my older, more vulnerable years (thanks, FScott)I have decided to start reading with a purpose,something other than for pure pleasure. I now choose a topic that interests me, and I collect as many books as I can on that topic. I say this in all modesty but I aim to be an expert on that subject...or perhaps (gosh) just a well informed person. I can do this now that I am retired.

Many years ago, I had an itch to be on Mastermind, my proposed subject being FScott Fitzgerald. So i reread all of his novels and as many of his short stories as I could, numerous analyses, plus every biography (Scott's and Zelda's and Hemingway's as well), Crack Up, and every book with some reference to him. Total immersion. Well, I never got onto Mastermind, at least not yet, but I never enjoyed anything so much.

So now I am reading everything I can find on the so-called Ashcan School of American 20th C art.   These are John Sloan's New York; Life's Pleasures:The Ashcan School's Brush With Pleasure, 1895-1925; Silent Theatre:The Art of Edward Hopper; The Immortal Eight, by Bennard Pearlman, a former instructor who whet my ashcan appetite; Eakins Revealed, by Henry Adams.

I know these don't fit the category of fiction, but they do help set the scene for lots of American novels that take place in the early 20th C where characters confront the same difficulties that non-salon, non-academy painters faced when trying to take the US into the modern world.

Finally, I must add that I love the search and I love the characters that I meet, real or fictional.
iwishiwas

Hi Joe, I am reading Tender is the Night for my book group this month. Apart from having to have the dictionary by my side, and at times struggling with the sentence structure, I am enjoying it so far. Fitzgerald can certainly set the scene, I almost feel as though I'm a guest at a house party in the south of France. The rest of the group did not seem keen on this choice, preferring more contemporary works I think, so I'm wondering how they'll get on with it. Hope you are enjoying retirement and have time to post here and tell us what you're up to.
TheRejectAmidHair

Hello Joe, that was a really interesting post: thanks for that. I too find that spending time exclusively with one particular writer, or with one particular theme, is very rewarding. I remember some 18 years ago now reading up everything I could by and about Ibsen. Last year, I read all of Shakespeare, and this year, I'm tackling the Bible. After that, i have a few more personal reading projects planned - but let's just take one thinbg at a time!

Of the artists you mention, Hopper is the only one with whom I am familiar. I'm afraid there's no end to my ignorance!
joeturner

Hi, Iwish, I always wonder about discussions of book clubs. †The ones I've been to sort of deteriorate into social gatherings, but other times seem too much like classroom drudgery. †I hope yours are more successful.

'Tender' might turn out to be hard going. I loved it when I first read it and can now reveal that it is the first novel that ever made me cry...I don't mean sniffle sniffle, but I was an outright slobbering mess. I knew that the tragedy (intended word) of Dick Diver was the personal tragedy of Fitzgerald. Needless to say, I was happy that I was alone in my 4 man dorm room.

With that in mind, may I suggest a question for your group? (you may already have thought of it.) Compare and contrast Dick Diver at the start of the novel and at the end. Events, causes and dynamics. That may carry you through the evening.

Fitzgerald gave me the name for my daughter, Nicole. My wife and I took a Fitzgerald trip to southern France searching for the Villa America. Considering your comments about the setting, I know you understand the attraction.
joeturner

Hi Reject, Don't fret. The reason I chose the Ashcan School is because so few people know about them. They haven't gotten the credit they deserve. You would prob recognise some of their paintings. The Hopper exhibition at the Tate M was one of their best ever.
VillageDuckpond

JoeT

I saw the exhibition at the Tate and thought it was amazing, too. I really enjoy his painting and can still see in my mind's eye the ones of the house and lighthouse by the sea and, of course, the famous bar with the huge plate-glass windows on the corner of the street. I believe the concept of the last one has been used for film sets. Am I right about this?
Evie

Thanks for your post, Joe - it is inspiring - I often try to set myself projects like that, and then get sidetracked (and so have not even tried for quite a while!).  But I do think it's a great thing to do, and with Himadri's focused projects too, I feel ready to think about what I would like to focus on.

Mind you, there are fewer better places to start than with Fitzgerald!  I still haven't read all his writings, let alone books about his work.  I know Mike A rates Tender is the Night higher than Great Gatsby, and that plus your own response to Tender is the Night make me want to read that again - I have only read it once, whereas I have read Gatsby three times, and consider it a perfect novel.  (I did *love* Tender is the Night, I should add, I am not at all disputing its greatness!)
iwishiwas

Our book group does not have many members at present and most already know each other, so it does become a bit of a social event, and we now meet in the pub since the demise of Borders. If it's a book I didn't care for much this doesn't worry me, but is a bit frustrating trying to get lengthy discussion going. Joe, I admire the way Fitzgerald describes the landscape, it's exactly as I remember it from my only visit to the south of France 20 years ago, he makes me feel as though I was just there a few years ago. I will certainly pose your question to the group when we meet at the end of the month.
Green Jay

I've begun Dancer by Colum McCann. It is a novel about Rudolf Nureyev but it is often oblique in its telling. For instance, it starts with a chapter all about the terrible conditions for Russian soldiers in the 2nd World War and after, which could have been something in a non-fiction account like Stalingrad by Anthony Beevor. I was wondering what link it had, and it later became clear that Nuryev's father was  a soldier at this time, and could not return home until some time after the war ended. "Rudek" as he is called at this point, is still a child. It is completely fascinating.

I watched the TV drama about Margot Fonteyn and was interested to know more about her amazing and troubled dance partner.
Castorboy

After leaving the world of a pubescent boy living in the Midlands I am now entering the world of an adult Jew living in Manchester as pictured by Harold Jacobson. The last novel of his I read was The Mighty Walzer about a coming-of-age jewish boy who thought table tennis was the greatest indoor sport in the world till he met girls. I was pleased it won the Everyman Wodehouse Award for comic writing in 1999.
With Kalooki Nights the humour continues even though the Holocaust and issues of guilt, betrayal and redemption will probably feature in the nearly 500 pages. Jacobson has a style which appears flippant on the surface and yet he can deal with serious issues in a sympathetic way. After forty pages I am into cartoonist Max Glickmanís Manchester world and what a treat it is going to be.

Chibís review is on www.bigreaders.myfastforum.org/about166.html
MikeAlx

TheRejectAmidHair wrote:
I remember some 18 years ago now reading up everything I could by and about Ibsen.

Himadri is too modest to mention that he did appear on Mastermind, with Ibsen as his specialist subject!
MikeAlx

joeturner wrote:
The Hopper exhibition at the Tate M was one of their best ever.

Hopper is a splendid painter of light. He seems to capture a sort of existential emptiness in his paintings.

Another American painter who handles light extremely well is George Tooker (b. 1920), usually considered a magic realist, though his early work is often compared with Hopper.
Chibiabos83

I hope you respond as positively to the Jacobson as I did, Castorboy. The most common criticism seems to be that it is too long, but as I remember writing, I never felt that to be a problem, I was so engrossed.
Guest

The Italian Boy by Sarah Wise.  

London's lesser known equivalents to Edinburgh's Burke & Hare... the murder and attempted sale of the eponymous Boy to anatomists happened a very few years after the Burke/Hare murders and finally prompted the changes in the law that put an end to the body-snatching trade by allowing bodies of unclaimed paupers to be claimed for dissection - which surely in turn created another source of anxiety and desperation for the desperately poor.  Previously the only 100% legal supply of cadavers came to the anatomists via the gallows but nowhere near enough people were executed to satisfy demand in the early C19... which is why the murky trade in disinterred (and occasionally murdered for the purpose) bodies developed.  

I've only just started reading this and it's an interesting, thought-provoking if sometimes downright harrowing and unpleasant read, but not without its moments of dark humour - my favourite so far being a rant from an established "Resurrection Man" to a Select Committee that was investigating bodysnatching.  Thoroughly disgruntled by the influx of johnnie come latelies, he moaned "they get a Subject or two and call themselves resurrectionists"  Shocked .
Caro

I was getting on well with Anna K, interspersing it with Catlins Bound about trading ships and beginning another non-fiction book called The Gaol about Newgate Prison.

However some family difficulties at the weekend meant I didn't have the motivation to do anything that resembled work or effort so I pottered with a few trivial women's magazines, some little puzzles and finally settled on Agatha Christie's The Adventure of the Christman Pudding, some longish short stories.  They do very well for the purpose.  And I will get back to Anna soon.

Cheers, Caro.
Freyda

I am currently undertaking a hefty biography of Daphne du Maurier by Margaret Forster, and on the side I have picked up a book called "So Many Books, So Little Time" by Sara Nelson, a New York journalist. It is a year's diary of her reading with comments, and general bibliophile thoughts, rather than a review of all the books she reads. It was published in 2003 which I think is slightly before blogs began, though it reads as if it could have been based on a blog.  Her tastes are wide and she admits to being passionate about serious literature and enjoying much lighter stuff. It is written in a chatty American style, not quite on the thoughtful level of Anne Fadiman's delightful book of essays on reading, but pleasant nonetheless.
Guest

Hi Caro,

I hope the family difficulties have resolved themselved and you enjoyed Agatha Christie (I've never actually read anything of hers!)...

I'd love to hear how you get on with the Newgate book.  I work in what used to be the backyard of Newgate jail and from reading The Italian Boy have just discovered the resurrection men used to hang out at a pub a stone's throw away Shocked  I loathe my office, maybe the bad vibe's down to its history as well as some of its present day occupants  Laughing

Early C19 London seems to have been jam packed with prisons.
Hector

I've just finished A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry (I'll post my thoughts on this another time) and have just started Mao II by Don Delillo. All the talk of Delillo on another thread made me want to dip back into his writing!
Apple

I am working my way through the Harper Connelly series of books by Charlaine Harris... still! I haven't had a lot of time to sit and read recently but I've managed to finish the first one and am making headway into the second now.  Very entertaining and absorbing when you get into them and I'm a little disapointed that I haven't had more time to sit and actually read the bloody things!!
Thursday Next

Reading The Steel Remains by Richard Morgan, I'm about halfway and wondering whether to carry on. I hate giving up on books. It's not badly written (aside from a tendency to use the f-word in narrative - didn't Morgan's teachers ever tell him swearing is the sign of a poor vocabulary? I have no problem with characters swearing if it's in character for them to do so, but he seems to use it a lot in the hopes that it makes it grittier? I don't know why, it's irritating, anyway). but there's some really nasty stuff in this and I have the feeling it can only get worse. I knew beforehand that it wouldn't be a tame read, but in the last couple of chapters the main character has had flashbacks to when he murdered a child and when he was gang-raped. Not pleasant.

I have, however decided that if books didn't have the power to disgust and upset me they wouldn't have the power to excite and inspire, either.
Melony

Has anyone read The Help by Kathryn Stockett?  About 1962 Jackson, Mississippi Junior League socialites and their black maids?  I'm reading it right now, but I am finding it a fascinating phenomenon that young women continue to write about it forty years later.
iwishiwas

After enjoying The Time Travelers Wife so much, I am now reading Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger. Early chapters seem promising.
Caro

Gwendolyn,

I am about halfway through The Gaol by Kelly Grovier.  I was going to write about it here, but have decided to put this on the non-fiction history thread, since it fits there.  I can certainly understand that there could be bad vibes coming from it if you are able to feel these things (I don't seem to except from just the knowledge of events).  There have been some dreadful happenings here - hard to understand how people can justify torture, and hard too to understand just how courageous some people can be in defending their beliefs.  

Cheers, Caro.
county_lady

I've been working my way through The Science Fiction Stories of Edgar Allan Poe but finding them somewhat repetitive have put them aside to read Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel.

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