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Joe McWilliams

What are you reading in 2014?

I'm starting the new year with Hilary Mantel's, Bring Up The Bodies. It seems very much, so far, like another chapter of Wolf Hall. Which I enjoyed very much.
Apple

Nothing on the go at the moment as I hve just finished The Passage (my review of it is in January's monthly read thread).  I do have a number of books to chose from for my next read, after receiving five books for christmas from my kids, I have already talked about what I am planning to read in a similar thread which is in reading habits which Caro started it can be found here - http://bigreaders.myfastforum.org/about2200.html
Gul Darr

I'm currently reading And the mountains echoed by Khaled Hosseini, which was a Christmas present from my wife. It jumped to the top of my TBR pile as she would like to read it too! The first few chapters were really good, but I've begun to lose interest now.
Sandraseahorse

I'm afraid that my TBR list for 2014 very much resembles my TBR list for 2013 and the year before.

I got a third of the way through "Anna Karenina" and then stalled.
Ditto "Le Grand Meaulnes"
Robert Graves' "Count Belisarius" I've tried to read but the print in my edition is too small so I may download it onto my Kindle.
I've downloaded "The Pickwick Papers" but I haven't got very far.
Zola's "Money" I've struggled with as it is such a poor translation but a new translation is due out this spring.  I'm debating whether to read "The Kill" beforehand as the central character in "Money" first appears in that novel.
I haven't got round to reading "Hunger" by Knut Hamsun yet.
My group read effort of "A Suitable Boy" stalled at page 46.  

This reads like a list of reading failures.  However, my book group is planning to do "Wolf Hall" this year so I'm looking forward to that.
Joe McWilliams

I'm in the odd position of being reluctant to continue one of the best books I've ever read, which is Hilary Mantel's Bring Up The Bodies. My own fault for disliking unhappy endings, I suppose. Mantel masterfully woos the innocent reader into a fascinating world, then when your defences are down, pulls you along to its sickening, disheartening conclusion. Bloody hell, but it is so well done.

My plan is to recover via Bernard Cornwell - one of his Saxon stories, set in the time of Alfred of Wessex, then on to Robert Graves' Goodbye to All That, about which I may have heard good things on this forum.
KlaraZ

I've just read the fifth volume of Elizabeth Jane Howard's 'Cazalet' saga, 'All Change' which was published just before her death. I read the other four books in the series years ago, and remember really enjoying them. This new book had a somewhat elegiac feel, and perhaps wasn't quite the same standard as the others, but nevertheless it's a fantastic achievement for EJH to have written the book so late in life, in her late eighties. After this, I decided to re-read one of her much earlier books, 'Something in Disguise' and found it a scintillating read. It's a domestic novel with a dark twist and some wicked humour, as well as some touching romance.
Gul Darr

Those are some great books you're reading, Sandra. Anna Karenina, Le Grand Meaulnes and A Suitable Boy are well worth persevering with. I haven't read either of the two by Zola, but I do have Le docteur Pascal and La bête humaine lined up. I'm reading them all out of order.
At the moment, I'm reading another Christmas present - Twin Ambitions which is Mo Farah's autobiography.
Castorboy

As a change from my recent reading, I have started a novel which is, Joy, oh, Joy, the Jane Gardam one Last Friends. Sadly it will be the final novel about Filth unless public acclaim demands that, as with Doyle, she has to bring her fictional creation back to life…
KlaraZ

I love those Jane Gardam books about 'Filth'/Terry Veneering and Filth's wife---I read 'Last Friends' in the summer and enjoyed it very much. Have you read 'The People of Privilege Hill'? Short stories. but one of them about these characters.
Green Jay

KlaraZ wrote:
I've just read the fifth volume of Elizabeth Jane Howard's 'Cazalet' saga, 'All Change' which was published just before her death. I read the other four books in the series years ago, and remember really enjoying them. This new book had a somewhat elegiac feel, and perhaps wasn't quite the same standard as the others, but nevertheless it's a fantastic achievement for EJH to have written the book so late in life, in her late eighties. After this, I decided to re-read one of her much earlier books, 'Something in Disguise' and found it a scintillating read. It's a domestic novel with a dark twist and some wicked humour, as well as some touching romance.


I'm looking forward to reading this as I do like the Cazalet sequence and find it stands up to rereading very well. So glad she managed to do it, and so late in life! I have probably read Something In Disguise as I read a lot of her earlier novels when they were broguht out - or reprinted? - in the mid/late 1970s (I'm old!) But I have a feeling I'd find them rather precious now, and maybe even did then. But I have read a couple of her much later books, (one was a memoir, which covered some of the same ground as the late novel about being taken in by a conman) and I also read The Long View, which was either her first or very early fiction, and is written in sections,  backwards in time, covering a relationship from its demise to its first attraction - fascinating. I wonder if  she got any credit for this device? Step-son Martin got lots of coverage when he later wrote a novel in that form! (Time's Arrow.) Maybe I should give her the benefit of the doubt and revisit According To Julius, The Sea Change etc... They did have lovely misty 1970s covers!
Green Jay

Castorboy wrote:
As a change from my recent reading, I have started a novel which is, Joy, oh, Joy, the Jane Gardam one Last Friends. Sadly it will be the final novel about Filth unless public acclaim demands that, as with Doyle, she has to bring her fictional creation back to life…


Another helpful reminder of another book I must get hold of. Looking forward to it.
Caro

I really enjoyed Filth, but didn't find the one from the point of view of his wife quite so well done, maybe because it is the second of three, or maybe because I never quite got into the skin of Betty.  But I like the concept of seeing things through different people's voices - one great one was a NZ series beginning with Plumb, a rather rigid but very strongly moral minister, then going on to Meg, from his daughter, an ordinary girl and woman without her father's strength or prejudices, then Sole Survivor, from his grandson.  Secrets begin to unfold through the series or be seen in different lights.  

I might have to skim through Filth and its sequel, name forgotten, before reading this last one.
Castorboy

KlaraZ wrote:
I love those Jane Gardam books about 'Filth'/Terry Veneering and Filth's wife---I read 'Last Friends' in the summer and enjoyed it very much. Have you read The People on Privilege Hill? Short stories. but one of them was about these characters.

Yes thanks I have, and afterwards put a few comments here fourth post. Like Evie I also enjoyed the other stories as well.
Just for the record it was the stories in Gardam’s Black Faces, White Faces which launched me on a search for all her collections of short stories.
Jen M

Green Jay wrote:
KlaraZ wrote:
I've just read the fifth volume of Elizabeth Jane Howard's 'Cazalet' saga, 'All Change' which was published just before her death. I read the other four books in the series years ago, and remember really enjoying them. This new book had a somewhat elegiac feel, and perhaps wasn't quite the same standard as the others, but nevertheless it's a fantastic achievement for EJH to have written the book so late in life, in her late eighties. After this, I decided to re-read one of her much earlier books, 'Something in Disguise' and found it a scintillating read. It's a domestic novel with a dark twist and some wicked humour, as well as some touching romance.


I'm looking forward to reading this as I do like the Cazalet sequence and find it stands up to rereading very well. So glad she managed to do it, and so late in life! I have probably read Something In Disguise as I read a lot of her earlier novels when they were broguht out - or reprinted? - in the mid/late 1970s (I'm old!) But I have a feeling I'd find them rather precious now, and maybe even did then. But I have read a couple of her much later books, (one was a memoir, which covered some of the same ground as the late novel about being taken in by a conman) and I also read The Long View, which was either her first or very early fiction, and is written in sections,  backwards in time, covering a relationship from its demise to its first attraction - fascinating. I wonder if  she got any credit for this device? Step-son Martin got lots of coverage when he later wrote a novel in that form! (Time's Arrow.) Maybe I should give her the benefit of the doubt and revisit According To Julius, The Sea Change etc... They did have lovely misty 1970s covers!


I am looking forward to reading this one too; I read the earlier Cazalet Chronicles in the 1980s, (and like Green Jay, am sure I read some of her earlier novels too).  Roll on summer, when it comes out in paperback!
Green Jay

Yes, I always wait for the paperbacks, too!
Green Jay

I have begun Longbourne by Jo Baker and am impressed so far.
Caro

I am almost finished The Pickwick Papers and when I am in a mood for thinking hard about Japanese history and war strategies I read some of the excellent The Lost Pilot, but today I went looking for something else.  I read the first page of The Voyagers by Mardi McConnochie which sounded interesting, taking in Sydney during the war, Singapore, the Blitz and Shanghai, but the first paragraph was so ordinary I checked other pages and none of them seemed inspiring.  (I wasn't helped by having not long before read some comment by Castorboy about once reading pot-boilers and convincing himself they were well written when there was no comparison with the writing of Henry James.  I have no desire to revisit James, but the language and exuberance and fun of 24-year-old Dickens writing Pickwick has spoiled me for this sort of ordinariness.

So I have picked up the children's book I have had out the library for ages, Robert J Harris's Will Shakespeare and the Pirate's Fire.  "The Persons of the Story" include Will Shakespear, a young man of Stratford, his parents, Hamnet Sadler, friend to Will, Sir Thomas Lucy, squire of Charlecote, Kemp, a clown, Dr John Dee, a scholar or conjurer, Caleb his assistant, Magdalena, an airy spirite, Walter Raleigh an adventurer, Sir Francis Walsingham, secretary of state to the Queen.  And others.  

It may be a little adventursome for my taste, but havng read Peter Ackroyd's Doctor Dee it sounded interesting.  And it will fit with Hilary Mantel and CJ Sansom. I thought it might be part of a series but it doesn't seem to be.
Caro

Oh, and now I see he is the designer of Talisman, fantasy boardgame, my very favourite board game (though I never play it to the finish, preferring just to potter round the outer board and enjoy the characters and adventure cards).
Castorboy

I am really enjoying the Owen Marshall short stories so much that as soon as one collection is finished I am on to the next. This one has an intriguing title story of The Day Hemingway Died, and a quick look confirms it is Ernest and how his death should be noteworthy according to the opinion of a literature student in 1960s Christchurch.

Posted in error on the 2013 thread.
Joe McWilliams

I am reading and greatly enjoying The Nautical Chart, by the Spanish writer Arturo Perez-Reverte. I had known him as the writer of fictional tales set in 17thC Spain, but this is a contemporary story, about an implacable, fascinating woman and the men she pulls into her orbit. In fact it's told from the point of view of one of those men, whom she recruits, against his better judgment, on a sunken treasure-recovery escapade with what appear to be poor prospects of success and high likelihood of not just disappointment but disaster, both professional and personal.
One wants, but does not expect it to end well.
Caro

I am half-way through Mao's Last Dancer, a memoir of Li Cunxin, ballet dancer, who defected from China to the USA.  He came from a poverty-stricken rural area where they never had enough food, and by sheer will-power, fear of shaming his family, taking inspiration from stories and moral tales,  and some recognition by tutors that he had something he made his way to the top.  I have just got to where he has been chosen for a trip to the USA to dance.  

This book certainly makes you certain that a career as a dancer is not what you would wish for your child.  He didn't wish it himself for a long time after getting a chance to leave his home, but on a return visit he realised his brother felt completely trapped in their poverty with no escape and Li had a chance not to be thrown away.  But he had to cope with long hours of practice, tutors who were unappreciative, torn hamstrings, bones and muscles pushed beyond endurance.  

It's generally simply written - people told me it was a wonderful book and they mean the story and the inspiration, I suppose.  The writing is simple and ordinary.  The only thing I have noticed about it is that he uses little stories he is told, Chinese moral tales etc. And I am reminded of The Pickwick Papers where Dickens intersperses the events with little stories told.  

The students are filled with Chinese propaganda, particularly in the time of Mao Zedong, which lessens in later years.  I don't know yet what makes him stay in America, though he has said he loves the western dance style and wonderful ballet movements which he finds more attractive than the Chinese ones.  He is as a young person completely at one with Chinese communistic ideals and work, though on occasions he does wonderful how, if China is so wealthy and wonderful, his family and others are so poor.  And as he gets older I think he notices that some of his excellent teachers are punished for nothing really.  Still, all countries have their forms of propaganda.  I just wonder if he ever gets to help his brother get out of his trap and helps his parents eat better.  There's a very strong sense of family in this book.
Chibiabos83

If I've been quieter than usual in recent days, it's because I'm engrossed in The Pickwick Papers. It took me a while to settle, but I love it. So I'll be quiet for some time yet. Oh, and I've bought a Kindle. Apparently I'm 39% of the way through.
Joe McWilliams

I'm not quite engrossed, but am enjoying the early going in Rohinton Mistry's Such a Long Journey. It evokes the other two Mistry novels I've read - A Fine Balance, which I liked, and Family Matters, which I found a bit tedious. The characters, setting, tone and style were instantly familiar - so much so it could have been just another chapter in either of those books, although I think it came first.

What's it about? A Parsi family of Bombay, circa 1971.
Caro

So pleased to see you are loving The Pickwick Papers, Gareth.  I did too.  I hope you have time to add bits to the thread in the novels section, and can add to/quibble with what I have said.  39% of the way through probably means you haven't got to the prison section yet where Dickens really gets into some of the issues he follows up in later books.  I suppose there are characters in other books like Mr Pickwick but I can't bring them to mind really.  

I read A Fine Balance for our book club some years ago, Joe, and rated it highly, [SPOILER]


though I did find it depressing with no real concessions to the reader's sensibilities.  Nothing ended happily at all. It hasn't made me want to read Family Matters really.
Joe McWilliams

Yes, A Fine Balance was impressive, but upsetting at the end, wasn't it? It seemed so unnecessary to end it that way.

Family Matters is far less epic in scale. It seemed claustrophobic, which perhaps was the point. Whatever Mistry is aiming for, it isn't the happiness of his readers, I think. He's in decent company in that regard.
Green Jay

I had to give up on A Fine Balance, I found it so utterly depressing.
Green Jay

I am just starting a non-fiction book, The House by the Thames by Gillian Tindall, looking at history via a house that has stood near the south bank of the River Thames for 450 years.
Caro

That sounds like my sort of thing, Green Jay.  Must take a note of it and look out for it.

I have been on holiday (what is everyone else's excuse - there was only one post here all the four days I was away!) at the Ellerslie Flower Show, NZ's answer to the Chelsea Flower Show and this year it was very good indeed.  

Iget a good bit read when we are travelling, since I can read while a passenger in a car - and don't have the diversion of a computer.  So I have got on well with The Lost Pilot, the "memoir" I am reading - so much more than a memoir: a history of recent Japan, a sociological study of Japan, a study of a navyman's life and the disastrous after-effects of war, life in a fairly isolated area of NZ in a working class family, etc.  A very dense book.

I picked up 2000: A Woman's Destiny by Julius Vogel who was a Prime Minister of New Zealand.  He had a prescience about that, it seems: this book was written in 1889 and talked of women PMs, flight, computers, etc.  But sadly it seems to be a book better to read about than to read.  The introduction talks of "calling the characters two-dimensional would be flattering" and says the dialogue is stilted with people in crisis still talking in full grammatically intricate sentences, and the story stereotyped and melodramatic and not very interesting.  It may be put on the back-burner.  It is very much a novel of ideas. The introduction mentions some 40 subjects and ideas that read very topically now: they include resolution of the problem of Ireland through home rule, an imminent major war caused by international rivalries is narrowly averted in 1915, the Churchill family plays a distinguished part in 20th century world affairs, heavy manual work has been replaced by "remarkable contrivances for affording power and saving labour", air conditioning, Greek and Latin have been replaced as the elite educational subjects by science, arts, maths and technical subjects, Australia becomes an independent republic, New Zealand is a leader in Antarctic research, air travel is universal in light aluminium 'air-cruisers', neurobiology is an important subject, New Zealand becomes a world-class wine producer, hydroelectricity is a major power source, etc.  No wonder in a book of 180 pages there isn't much room for character development!
Joe McWilliams

My excuse is laziness. Oh, and the Olympics, which kept me from doing much reading.

However, I did eventually finish Such A Long Journey, by Rohinton Mistry, and am now into Isak Dinesen's Out of Africa, for which I find the film did not really prepare me. Not that there's any reason it should have, so what am I talking about?

Should I be surprised the book is much richer and deeper and more impressive in every way? Nor is it in any sense a linear narrative, which for me in many cases presents an obstacle to enjoyment. Not here; Dinesen's description of the land and its people is luminous. It needs no induced drama to make it a gripping story.
Caro

I have put aside Life After Life by Kate Atkinson which some of you have read.  There are slight reminiscences of The Time Traveler's Wife in this, except that I didn't at all like that book, and I am very much enjoying Kate Atkinson's, the difference in the quality of the authors, I suspect.  Her main character is a young girl born in 1911 who dies at birth in one version, but lives in the second one, as she does later in a drowning incident, a falling from a window scenario and others.  I have only got about a quarter of the way through, but our bookclub is next week and I have started on Animal Farm now.

I had no idea how short this was and how easy to read.  I could easily sit down this afternoon and finish it (but I won't).  I am not sure yet why it is thought of quite so highly - the style is straightforward so it is not that.  I presume it is because of George Orwell's originality and clarity of thought and his ability to cut through to the essence of life and living.  Everyone knows about the animals being equal, though some are more equal than others (and indeed just yesterday this quote was used casually on our television in some context).  There can be no doubt this book was written (I haven't read his afterward explaining its writing yet) with socialism and its results in mind, so it is political in its aims really.  

It is a very long time since I have read this (if ever - surely I have!) but some of it seems very familiar probably because people write about it and it is part of our culture.  The names of many of the animals, for instance, though I wouldn't have been able to come up with them if asked, are familiar, and the story with the pigs in charge.  I haven't looked at the notes or questions yet, but will interested to see what they are and the discussion they bring.  (There is a range of political views in our group, but most people don't talk about their politics much.)
Sandraseahorse

I've just downloaded Hilary Mantel's "Wolf Hall" onto my Kindle as we are doing it in my book group. (It's not until May but I thought I'd start early as it is a long book).  The family trees are illegible on my Kindle and I'm advised by Amazon to read them on my Tablet (I don't have a Tablet.)  

Somehow things were much simpler when we just had books.
Caro

It wasn't so much that they were family trees, Sandra, they were the names and relationships of people who lived in different houses or areas.  I found them incredibly useful reading the book, even though I have some knowledge (not a lot) of the history of the time. So many people were called Thomas too, which doesn't make it easier to keep them apart in your mind.
Sandraseahorse

Hi, Caro.  Are the trees repeated in "Bring Up The Bodies"?  There is a copy of "Bring Up The Bodies" in our local community centre book exchange.  I might grab a copy of "Bring..." if it has the trees printed in it.

I did the Tudors for my history A-level and also for part of my history degree course.  I'm managing to keep up so far with what is happening.
Caro

I haven't got Bring up the Bodies, Sandra, and don't know whether the people are named at the start or not.  On my tbr hopefully sometime this year.

Now I am reading Kate Atkinson's Life After Life, and was thoroughly enjoying it till this evening when there was

SPOILER


a rape scene and abortion which has left the young and very innocent girl devastated and broken.  I am finding myself feeling sick while reading it.  Still very well done, but just so distressing. Neither event is shown in great detail but the effect on her is so well delineated the reader feels every bit of her pain.  

Really good book, I think.
Sandraseahorse

I don't believe it!  I went into my local community centre yesterday to get "Bring Up he Bodies" from the book exchange section and it had gone, after being on the shelf for weeks and weeks.  I got David Lodge's "The Picturegoers" instead.

I'm about a tenth of the way through "Wolf Hall" and I'm managing to work out who everyone is so far.  I was sure there was a thread on this book but I can't find it.
Caro

I am still reading Life After Life - it's a tricky book to read; on the one hand you feel it needs consideratin and is not to be rushed, on the other if I put it down for more than a couple of days, I have to catch up on all the different lives she has had and what happened to her on different dates.  It's easy to get muddled.

So I vary it with other short or easy books, and today started Stretcher Bearer, fighting for life in the trenches by Charles H Horton edited by Dale le Vack.  Bert Horton was a stretcher bearer for the RAMC in WWI and in 1970 he decided to write a memoir/diary of the times as he felt people were forgetting about the war (he should have lived a bit longer!).  Dale le Vack has edited them and added some informative detail to them, beginning with a little history of medical care in the British army since 1660.  I have only read of Mr Horton's education (he was a well-educated man, with a degree, a religious non-conformist background, and a desire not to kill anyone), and the early training, and their arrival in France.  I was interested in him saying they had to be found work while the unit was at rest and were given jobs such as ditch-clearing, spring-cleaning farmyards and pigsties  and later in Italy stone-breaking and tree-felling. The first job is to demolish some old huts, with heavy wet timber, rats' nest etc.  

I am finding this very good for the detail of actual living in an army unit - apart from the boredom, card-playing and drinking soldiers' accounts are often lacking in this sort of detail.  I remember asking old soldiers what my father's life would have been like in the army, but I didn't get very satisfactory answers.  I think they thought I knew more than I did.

Apparently this book won't go into graphic detail about wounds, the horrors he saw and what injuries soldiers received.  But so far I am finding it very interesting.
Joe McWilliams

I'm just starting The Book of Negroes, by Lawrence Hill. This is a bestseller in Canada (perhaps elsewhere) with all sorts of prizes and nominations. It's certainly a bold title. I wonder if it can live up to it, and the hype. So far it's an aged woman telling the story of how she was kidnapped by Slave traders from her West African village in the mid 18th century.
My early impression is that this does not measure up to Alex Haley's similar account in Roots, although I read that a long time ago at a more impressionable age.
Sandraseahorse

I'm about 40 per cent of the way through "Wolf Hall" and I'm finding it is dragging.  I realise the process of Henry VIII seeking a divorce was a lengthy one but it's so drawn out that I'm sympathising with Henry's impatience.  There seems to be a lot of meetings which don't advance the action but simply draw in more minor characters.

I wish I could find the discussions on this on this board.
Chibiabos83

You've probably tried the search function accessible from the top of the page. If you search for WOLF and HALL (as opposed to the phrase 'Wolf Hall'), you will find it more responsive. Still, it doesn't let you search within individual threads, only picks out the threads where the book is mentioned. If the only mention of something is on a thread with, say, 100+ pages, I won't have the patience to go through them all looking for the thing I want. It's better than nothing, but far from ideal.

I'm reading The Small House at Allington, Trollope's fifth Barsetshire book. About 40% in, says my Kindle, and I'm enjoying it greatly. Nothing too consequential - it's a comedy of manners and marriages - but there's a nice little cameo from Mr Harding about quarter of the way through.
chris-l

I have embarked upon a bit of of Trollope marathon myself, but in my case it is the Palliser books which I am reading. I have, at some point read most of the Barsetshire books, but only know the Palliser series from the TV adaptations, which must have been - what? - 30 years ago?  So far I am on the first part, 'Can You Forgive Her?', which revolves largely around Alice Vavasour, who is a character I do no remember from the TV series, although I am sure she must have appeared. It is enjoyable and entertaining, even if some of the moral dilemmas seem a little remote from contemporary experience. I suppose the same is true of the Barsetshire chronicles.

I do know what you mean about interpreting the %s on Kindle: because this is a complete set that I have downloaded, each individual book shows as a chapter, and the only indication I have of  the amount read - or to be read - is an estimate of the time left in the chapter. Now, I am being told that I have something like 5 hours to go, and I seem to recall that at the beginning the time was something like 22 hours. It just isn't the same as having a page count, or being able to see that there are more 'read' pages in my left hand than there are 'to read' pages in my right!
Caro

Sandra I found a bit about Wolf Hall on the thread called Bring Up the Bodies (which didn't seem to have much in the way of spoilers in it), and one called July Jinks (from 2010 I think).  There was discussion of the Man Booker of 2012 but that was more about Mantel and Bring Up the Bodies.  Didn't have the energy to check the 500+ posts in some threads - I tried Control F which often helps find a word or phrase but didn't seem to work on these threads.  

I think what I liked about Wolf Hall was the minor characters, few of whom remained wholly minor.  Having a reasonable focus on Cromwell's family and home seemed to me to suit Mantel's purpose of humanizing Cromwell, and also of showing how he rose to power, and how everyone was interconnected.
Castorboy

Now on to the next volume of the Owen Marshall short stories which has as a title The Lynx Hunter.
Joe McWilliams

I'm reading Hellgoing, a book of short stories by Lynn Coady. I believe this one won the Giller Prize, which may or may not be Canada's premier literary award.
First impression: 'This sure is weird!' Followed fairly quickly by: 'This is funny!'
Quirky and funny. I like it.

[/i]
Castorboy

Joe McWilliams wrote:
I'm reading Hellgoing, a book of short stories by Lynn Coady. I believe this one won the Giller Prize, which may or may not be Canada's premier literary award.

Given my fixation with short stories I tried to request this from the library but they don’t have it on the shelves. However what is available is Coady’s The Antagonist which according to the blurb is about a man of enormous size and strength, Gordon Rankin, Jr., who has been plagued with misfortune his entire life, which culminates in an old, trusted college friend publishing a novel that borrows freely from the traumatic events of Rank's own life. I’m going to keep this in mind when I’m ready for a long read.
Sandraseahorse

I'm reading "The Picturegoers", the first novel by David Lodge.  It was published in 1960 and is set in a south London suburb.  Virtually all the characters are Catholics and the novel deals with the same theme as Lodge's "How Far Can You Go?" in how Catholics reconcile their sexual urges with Church teaching.  I found the comparisons between the ritual of Saturday night cinema going and Sunday church going rather hammered home  but most of the characters are engaging and the book is fairly short so I'm sticking with it.
TheRejectAmidHair

About half way through Mansfield Park. Extremely complex and intricate novel.
Chibiabos83

And I'm a bit more than half way through What a Carve Up! by Jonathan Coe. One of those books that once you've started it you wonder at yourself for not having started it years ago. Enormous fun.
Caro

I seem to have three books on the go at the moment, though mostly I am focused on one. Because we are off to England again soon - less that two weeks now till we are on the plane! - I have been looking at Nigel Nicolson's The World of Jane Austen, where he looks at the places she lived and how they connect to her writing.  This is the second book by Nicolson I have read in a month - quite coincidentally.

And I started Letters from Margaret edited by Rebecca Swift, which are letters she wrote to George Bernard Shaw when he was in his late 80s.  She was convinced (accurately) that her baby had been swapped at birth.  She seemed to be a very bright woman, rather stuck in housewifely duties after her marriage, and this correspondence enlivened her life, I think.  But I think she is rather obsessive about the swapped baby, and I may find this hard-going.  Haven't gone back to it since the first couple of readings.

The book I am concentrating mostly on is An Awfully Big Adventure, by Jane Tolerton, or rather by the NZ WWI veterans she orally interviewed in the late 1980s.  She has organised and edited these, and they make an absolutely fascinating read.  I have criticised other books for taking part of a story by one person and then by another and another and going back and forward so you lose a bit of the flow.  This should be the case with this book, but I haven't really tried to follow each soldier (she interviewed over 80) though some I have noticed.  One soldier as he left NZ threw his badge with his name and details to a group of office workers who came to wave them off, and she wrote to him through the war and they married afterwards, so I have noticed him, also the one who joined up aged 15, and the one who had to explain how he got his first name Beethoven. But others I just accept as I read a part of their story in different places.  It is absolutely fascinating - one for you, Apple.  Full of little snippets I want to tell others about.  One thing I find a little troubling is how much they all seem to accept dead bodies, they bury them casually, or ignore them if they are in the road, or hate their stench, but seem to in the main just accept them as part of the scenery.  Perhaps a coping strategy, perhaps an example of people getting used to anything eventually.  Some of them are delightfully naive:  "There is this thing called homosexuality.  I had never heard of such a thing."  And one man had never tasted alcohol - his mother got him to sign the Pledge aged 6.  He said it wasn't the signing that stopped him drinking, but the damage he saw from it.  

I am so very much liking this.
Joe McWilliams

I'm reading Ernest Hemingway's Islands in the Stream, and enjoying it, mostly. It seems thinly disguised autobiography, based on what I know (or think I know) of Hemingway's life from other things I've read. On the other hand, one is aware of his penchant for mythmaking about his life and not inclined to take anything with more than a grain of salt.

Having said that, it appears to be nothing much more than an account of a visit of his three sons to his Caribbean home (Bimini taking the place of Cuba) and their fishing adventures in the Gulf Stream. Vivid stuff, very well told.
One thing that doesn't work for me is the way his kids talk; it sounds an awful lot like the way the narrator thinks, and not much like any teenaged boys I've ever encountered would converse. It suggests those conversations were dreamed up in the author's head, and probably many years after the events he attempts to recreate.
And then I remind myself it's not a bloody documentary....
Joe McWilliams

Reading The Cunning Man, which I believe is Robertson Davies' last novel. Just a few pages in and the familiar style is all there, clever, gently sardonic treatment of religion. No idea what it's about, except that a priest dies in the act of performing Anglican high mass. Was it murder? I'll have to get back to you on that.
Castorboy

After reading two Muriel Spark novels I have followed my usual habit with a writer new to me and so have begun reading her short stories in the one volume, The Complete Short Stories. Among the early ones I have read so far is Daisy Overend. Here the heroine (!) was a 20’s flapper partial to name dropping but is dependent in the 40's on hiring help in her flat in London to give the impression that she is still influential. Only one snag – she pays them with dud cheques. Spark intimates that the fictitious Overend is based on a real person. What intrigues me is whether her real name appears in the autobiography Curriculum Vitae.
Joe McWilliams

I started Patrick O'Brian's The Catalans this morning. My wife and I will be traveling in that part of the world later this year and I've been on the lookout for novels based there. I have great faith in O'Brian and am curious to see what sort of a writer he was in 1952 or thereabouts, well before he discovered his forte, or it discovered him.
O'Brian is notable for the flawless elegance of his prose and memorable characterizations. There is something magical about it. It may be too much to hope that this early work of his, which did not make much of a ripple at the time, matches up to his later stuff; my impression after just two pages is that it is a bit on the wordy side - markedly less economical than what came later.

O'Brian lived in Catalan France for most of the last 50 years of his life.
Chibiabos83

Well, I'm about halfway through The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, reviewed elsewhere on this board by Mike Harvey. It's a version of the Achilles and Patroclus story. I'm not a reader of historical fiction, but this has got something special about it.
Joe McWilliams

I'm reading a Robertson Davies' novel, The Cunning Man, but  not getting very far with it, due to a certain football tournament that is taking up a lot of my reading time.
I like Davies. He's a very clever fellow. He has his characters - boys in a Toronto private school - debating religion vs. science. One can barely imagine a real schoolboy sparing a thought for such things these days, but what do I know.
Sandraseahorse

Joe McWilliams wrote:
I started Patrick O'Brian's The Catalans this morning. My wife and I will be traveling in that part of the world later this year and I've been on the lookout for novels based there. I have great faith in O'Brian and am curious to see what sort of a writer he was in 1952 or thereabouts, well before he discovered his forte, or it discovered him.
O'Brian lived in Catalan France for most of the last 50 years of his life.


Joe, O'Brian spent his last years in Collioure and when my husband and I visited it in the 1980s we thought it was enchanting.  A print of old Collioure hangs above my desk.
Joe McWilliams

Thanks Sandra. Well, all you need now is to read an O'Brian or two (or 20 Very Happy ) and let me know what you think.

Yes, apparently O'Brian was also enchanted with Collioure, although apparently disenchanted already in the early 1950s by the 'ghastly tourist hotels' that were popping up.
Joe McWilliams

My goodness, what a lull. Even faithful Mike has fallen silent.

I have nothing new to report. I doubt if I'm halfway through The Cunning Man. That may say something about the story, and it may say something about the reader. I do find it somewhat less engaging that the other Davies' books I've read. I never tried reading them during a World Cup, though.
Chibiabos83

Well, having finished (for the moment) with Tim Gautreaux, I'm doing what I ought to have done 25 years ago, i.e. read the Chronicles of Narnia from beginning to end. I had The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe read to me at bedtime, I'm sure, when I was five or six, but don't recall reading it myself, and I certainly never read any of the others. 65 pages in, pretty good stuff.
Castorboy

Casper the commuting cat by Susan Finden. In 2009 Plymouth, Devon, the newspapers were full of the story of a black-and-white cat that regularly took the Number Three bus around the town. Bus drivers were advised that a small, furry passenger might board their vehicle. This looks like fun to read.
Sandraseahorse

I've just started "The Viper of Milan" by Marjorie Bowen.  I'm giving a talk on her to my local U3A next year and I've become fascinated with her.
chris-l

I have to admit, I had never heard of Marjorie Bowen. I looked her up, and she does seem to have led an interesting life. I can't say her writing sounded like the sort of thing that would appeal to me, but she sounds intriguing in her own way. Was there a special reason why your U3A group selected her? A local connection, perhaps?
Joe McWilliams

Good luck with CS Lewis, Chib. It was very important to me in my childhood, but better left there, I found upon attempting to read the Narnia tales to my own kids.
Chibiabos83

So far so good, Joe, but I don't know if it will last. Only one way to find out...
Sandraseahorse

chris-l wrote:
I have to admit, I had never heard of Marjorie Bowen. I looked her up, and she does seem to have led an interesting life. I can't say her writing sounded like the sort of thing that would appeal to me, but she sounds intriguing in her own way. Was there a special reason why your U3A group selected her? A local connection, perhaps?


Yes.  I selected her because she was born on Hayling Island, which is only a couple of miles away.  The theme of my talk was to be three writers with connections to Hayling Island; the other two being the playwright Simon Gray and the investigative journalist W. Stead (who died on the Titanic).   I think it will now have to be two writers with connections to Hayling Island and I'll do Simon Gray at a later date as I'm getting overwhelmed with material.
Joe McWilliams

I've gone on a book-ordering binge and from the library and am under deadline pressure. So I've set the Robertson Davies aside (again) and am into Tyrus, a novel by Patrick Creevy based on the life of the legendary baseball player Ty Cobb. I like baseball lore and I like this.
Cobb was a southerner playing in Yankee territory (circa 1906); he carried a battleship-sized chip on his shoulder and had a reputation as a mean SOB.

In the meantime, along comes an anthology of H.G. Wells. I had intended to only read The Time Machine, but have plenty to choose from.
Caro

I am home again and today there is a heavy frost, a real contrast to the lovely weather we had in England.  Still a fine day will follow.

Our computer access had died and is just up and running again.  I am trying to avoid library books while I get some of my own read.  Am at the moment getting through The Godwits Fly by Robyn Hyde at long last - a NZ classic about a family living in rental accommodation in Wellington and moving house frequently.  It is seen through the eyes of the middle daughter mostly, a sensitive artistic girl (Hyde herself really) and a little from the point of view of the elder more conservative and mildly behaved daughter.

Their parents' marriage is rocky, with the father strongly left-wing and the mother concerned with the image of the family and who their neighbours are, but a hard-working strong woman at the same time.  There is some very good description in this which, like Dickens and George Eliot and other authors, blends in with the characters and situations and is not just there for its own sake or for 'colour'.  "The empty houses, when they moved, had a kind of fascination; shells, with sunlight rippling and fawning in oblong patches on their naked floors. Augusta's sticks of furniture never quite fitted the new place. There were days of paring and patching worn linoleum, and always another auction sale, where she bid in sixpences for odd chairs and tables; the auctioneer, stout and red-faced, seized the handle of the chamber and shouted, 'And what am I bid for this 'ere jerry?."


And I am interspersing this with 1812 Napoleon's Fatal March on Moscow by Adam Zamoyski.  My son gave me this when I was asking for a non-fiction book to vary my novels with.  It is a gruelling read, though as he doesn't focus on any particular individual (apart from Napoleon's shortcomings in this campaign and Tsar Alexander's responses) it is easier to read the deprivations than it would be in a novel following a few people closely.  I have got to a page where the food shortages have become extreme and he quotes a soldier of the time with his recipe: The Spartan's Gruel: First melt some snow, of which you need a large quantity in order to produce a little water; then mix in the flour; then, in the absence of fat, put in some axle grease, and, in the absence of salt, some [gun]powder. Serve hot and eat when you are very hungry."

The plight of the horses is dreadful, with starvation, having to carry too much stuff and people, falling and breaking legs, drowning in mud, etc.  The cavalry basically disappeared as units, because the horses were dead.  

I am learning a lot of the political and military history of the time, most of which I will forget, but there will still be a residual memory of it, I hope.
Sandraseahorse

I'm reading "Novel On Yellow Paper" by Stevie Smith. It's a very strange almost stream-of-consciousness book that leaps all over the place.  It's a slightly fictionalised version of her own life; its heroine is Pompey Casmilus who works as a secretary for a publisher as Stevie did and has a boyfriend called Freddie, again as Stevie did.  

If I hadn't seen recently Hugh Whitemore's play "Stevie", about the writer,  I don't think I would be able to follow it.  I've also been watching the Glenda Jackson film "Stevie" on YouTube
Chibiabos83

I'm reading Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm. It has its moments. It's set at Judas College, Oxford, which immediately inspires confidence.
Joe McWilliams

I'm reading more H.G. Wells. The Island of Dr. Moreau, to be specific. Not a bad tale, as bleak stories go, but the narrator sure has some weird notions. He seems to think there is something dreadfully degraded about animals behaving like animals. Brutish beasts and all that. As if there were something horrible about Moreau's animal/human creations reverting to their animal identities.
'What's so horrifying?' I kept thinking. 'Let 'em go back to being beasts!'
Mikeharvey

Hello Gareth, If you enjoy 'Zuleika Dobson' you might also enjoy Max Beerbohm's collection of stories 'Seven Men'.  'Enoch Soames' is a gem.
Joe McWilliams

I am enjoying H.G. Wells' The Invisible Man more than the first two (noted above), mainly because of the humour, but I think also because it is not in the first person. The sense of detachment I felt with TTM and TIODM is not there. In once sense it's every bit the serious science fiction, but by setting it in a village and telling it through the eyes of the local bumpkins, it comes across quite warmly and charmingly. A bit Dickensian, even.
Nothing remotely warm or charming about those other two.
MikeAlx

Joe McWilliams wrote:
He seems to think there is something dreadfully degraded about animals behaving like animals. ...
'What's so horrifying?' I kept thinking. 'Let 'em go back to being beasts!'

I've always assumed it's a sort of parable about trying to make humans more civilised. Whatever "surgery" is applied, they ultimately just revert to barbaric type.
Joe McWilliams

Perhaps so, Mike. If so...........schwing!....over my head as usual.

By the way, I think 'The War of the Worlds,' - which I'm mostly through now - is terrific. I find myself following its progress via Google maps, from the Horsell Common sand pits, to Woking to Weybridge and beyond. Learning lots of Home Counties geography, if nothing else.
Sandraseahorse

I've downloaded on my Kindle "The Complete Smoking Diaries" by Simon Gray.  This encompasses "The Smoking Diaries", "The Year Of The Jouncer", "The Last Cigarette" and "Coda".

I've finished the first volume and I'm well into the second.  Perhaps diaries is a misnomer; they are more reminiscences as Gray darts about from the present to the past.  Although I sometimes find the stream of consciousness rather mannered, they make a great read.  Former NT director Richard Eyre says in the introduction that Gray writes like a playwright in that he sets the scene and introduces a cast.  That is true and Gray can make even a clichéd situation such as hotel guests vying for the best position on the sun lounges seem hilarious.
Caro

I have been struggling a bit with The Godwits Fly, more an indication of my reading habits than the book.  It is quite short but fairly dense and somewhat poetically and elliptically written, so needs concentration.  Sitting in front of the Commonwealth Games wrestling and trying to read The Godwits Fly doesn't quite work, so I just get a chapter or  two read at night.

I am nearly finished now though.  It is the story of a young girl (the author, really) growing up in a family where the parents' values don't quite jell.  She gives a good picture of the different personalities involved - her parents, their four children, her best friends and her loves.  The latter are less vividly portrayed somehow, perhaps seen more as the catalysts for the protagonist's feelings than as personalities in their own right.  For instance the first sentence about one of them is: "She looked at Jim's face, which for once was not smiling and not ugly. She could not tell what he was thinking. It seemed his bitter drained mouth did the thinking for him, and behind his dark eyes nothing lived at all. She shivered a little, for he was more ghostly than the breaking roses, and to stand in a dying garden with the swarthy ghost of a man, watching for whatever animated him to come back behind his eyes, was going deeper below the surface than Eliza liked."

Robyn Hyde committed suicide in her 30s and there are hints of this here too.

Castorboy wrote about this once but I haven't checked his thought out yet.
Castorboy

You’ve done better than me, Caro. I began to read this two years ago but gave up when the narrator moved to Australia, and introduced a whole range of relatives and new characters. Her life in Wellington had been complicated enough for me to cope with. I wonder if it’s one of those novels which require a good editor to give it a better flow.
Joe McWilliams

I'm reading three novels at the moment, unless I've forgotten a fourth. One is Robertson Davies' The Cunning Man, which I've been working on fitfully for about three months. It is fun enough, but evidently not compelling enough to keep me from putting it down in favour of something else that comes along. What's come along lately is Enduring Love by Ian McEwan and My Left Foot, by Christy Brown.
McEwan certainly has a way of making one feel uncomfortable. I've no idea  how he does it, but I like it.
Caro

I've loved Robertson Davies, though it is a long time since I read his works and I don't actually recall what The Cunning Man was about.

I have finished The Godwits Fly by Robyn Hyde, real name Iris Wilkinson.  I will write a little about this, though most of you won't come across her. She was a poet/journalist/novelist who lived from 1906 - 1939, committing suicide on the day the High Commissioner in London went to her flat to help with travel arrangements back to NZ.  (He found her dead.)

I didn't realise till now, reading her biography just how autobiographical this book was - the family life was hers, the friendships, an accident to her, the specific love affairs, the babies born out of wedlock, the life in unpleasant boarding houses, the suicide attempt.  

I did find the writing hard to grasp at times - she would suddenly, mid-paragraph, go from talking poetically about a place to a totally different and often very important event.  Eliza, the protagonist,  was a poet too and keen on writing, and as the book is seen from her point of view the writing is poetic and sometimes hard to follow.  She also uses phrases from the Bible or other writings, and quotations.  

What was excellent were her descriptions of her surroundings or the people involved in them.  "The bathroom was up a flight of rickety stairs, and the water had to be carried in basins. "It was full of coal when we came here, "said Ena. Ena and Bill's bedroom was beyond it, and Polly's cot stood now in the same room, while the old man slept on a couch in the kitchen. "It don't matter about Polly. She's only a little 'un, and we had to put her there now we've got a boarder. The bright insatiable hunger in her eyes was not easily appeased. She was a sallow wisp, her neck swollen with goitre, flat strands of lustre-less brown hair parted round her face."

One thing at the very end interested me in view of what I wrote above about the characters being seen through Eliza's eyes.  She talks about her friend, who is getting married.  "What could I have done, Simone? I had nothing at all but the gret ti-tree and the huge silvery globules of rain falling, hitting our faces, I never once saw her from her own side, I turned her into a fantasy..."  [A most attractive fantasy, though.]

Just as I finished reading this while sitting in front of the television, what should come on but a programme about the godwits, who fly every year from NZ to Alaska and back, the longest trip of any bird.  The book is partially about people who are displaced, most particularly from England, or who are torn between the two countries.
Caro

Last night I started reading two books - one our bookclub book called All Blacks Don't Cry by John Kirwan, who has become the television face of depression and mental illness, and who was one of the best-known All Blacks of all, and hugely successful.  His book is the sort of memoir you would expect of this sort of thing - very easy to read, full of advice and information both personal and practical, and aimed at people who might be suffering from depression or might think they are.  It is not really my style of book, but won't take long to read.  I hope he delves more into the possible reasons he suddenly suffered from depression (ie his childhood, or his perfectionism or his ambitions etc) but I think it won't too much, since he wants his book to appeal universally and not be too particular about the personality of any person with depression.  

The other book I started was by Denise Mina - The Red Road, a crime thriller.  I am wondering if I wouldn't prefer a nicer Alex.McCall Smith Scotland Street book though.  But what struck me strongly with this book is something that seems beyond coincident.  I only read a few pages last night, but it was set in rather seedy settings with a very young girl being prostituted.  She is called Rose, and I was reminded of Graham Greene's Brighton Rock's Rose in another seedily-set book.  But then I turned a page and she was linking herself to her love, Pinkie.  That is the name of Greene's anti-hero (not hero at all, but unpleasant young protagonist).  I assume Mina must have been using these name deliberately, but I am not sure why.  

I don't know if I am going to continue with it, though I am sure I have read another Denise Mina that I thought I liked. Maybe I didn't.
Joe McWilliams

Caro, The Cunning Man is Davies' story of the Toronto physician, Jonathan Hullah - his unconventional methods, his unusual friends and what happens to them and between them over the course of his lifetime.
The title is lifted from Robert Burton's The Anatomy of Melancholy: “Cunning men, wizards, and white witches, as they call them, in every village, which, if they be sought unto, will help almost all infirmities of body and mind. The body’s mischiefs, as Plato proves, proceed from the soul: and if the mind be not first satisfied, the body can never be cured.”

I've since moved on to a weighty thing by Christopher Clark on the causes of the First World War, called The Sleepwalkers.
Caro

I have just begun a book which I can date into my possession quite precisely.  It is called Tomorrow's Fire by Jay Williams and is a novel about the third crusade seen from the point of view of a troubadour, mostly.

I can date it because in its cover, not that I needed to see that, it says it is a prize for me followiing my time in the Upper Sixth, which became the 7th form here, and now is known as Year 13.  I won it for being first in History and third in Latin.  My husband (who also studied Latin) wondered how I could have lived my life, having only achieved third placing in Latin. I see no placing in English or French.  

At any rate this has been on my TBR pile for a while (though I have certainly read it before).  It has a blurb by Mary Renault praising it as a great adult novel about the crusades.  There's an element of slightly sardonic humour in the small part I have read so far. And also in his foreword, where he mentions that some readers might be vexed by the anachronistic words.   "If, therefore, whenever a disturbingly contemporary word or phrase appears, the reader will simply translate it for himself into its twelfth-century French equivalent everything will then seem perfectly natural and proper."

I'll see how it goes.
TonyF

I'm reading "A Walk to Remember" by Nicholas Sparks. I found it in my cupboard at school. I bought it for a student to read and forgot about it after she gave it back.
Sandraseahorse

I've just started "Harvest" by Jim Crace; my next book group read.  I'm finding it difficult to get into it.  I'm sure it's been discussed on this board.
Sandraseahorse

I've put "Harvest" to one side as I found it slow and I've gone back to Simon Gray.  I'm reading "The Early Diaries " which combines "An Unnatural Pursuit" and "How's that for Telling 'Em, Fat Lady"

"An Unnatural Pursuit" details the production of "The Common Pursuit" at the Lyric, Hammersmith, in 1984, directed by Harold Pinter.  Some might find it too detailed and self-indulgent but I enjoyed the theatrical gossip; e.g. I didn't realise that the actor Clive Francis, who played Humphrey, is the son of Raymond Francis, famous for his TV role Inspector Lockhart.

I used to live near Hammersmith in the 80s and I went to the Lyric quite frequently.  I'm a bit bemused by the references to the down-and-outs who hang around outside; I don't remember any and I'm starting to fear that I might have been mistaken for one.

Considering Pinter was Gray's best friend, Gray can be quite waspish about him.  After Pinter has to leave a restaurant meal abruptly saying he doesn't feel well, Gray notes the next day "He attributed his condition to dyspepsia consequent on too much white wine.  I've observed that quite a few people, amongst them myself, consider that white wine is an alternative to alcohol, which is probably a mistake."

I also enjoyed the description of Pinter having one of his infamous rages after being told by staff in the self service canteen at the Lyric that he can't have the beef salad as a freebie "staff" meal as it's too expensive.  I can remember round about that time the canteen staff being patronising to me so now I feel I was in good company.


There is an anecdote of when Gray visited a production of "Quartermaine's Terms" in Germany, he was bemused by the fact that in the last act it is Melanie who is in a neck brace instead of the accident-prone Meadle.  He then discovers there was a typing error in the script sent to the German director.  

*********Possible spoiler*********

When Gray points this out to the director, the director says they spent three days in rehearsals puzzling why Melanie is in a neck brace and then came to the conclusion she felt such guilt over killing her mother that she threw herself downstairs to simulate her mother's death.

Gray then discovers that a production of his play has been running for three months in Vienna with Melanie in a neck brace in the last Act.

I know some readers will think "So what?" but I love all this theatrical gossip.
Castorboy

Am-dram is rife with gossip - it is one of those aspects that I enjoyed when I took part. It helped to make the tantrums and sulks such fun - to quote Miranda's tv Mum!
Mikeharvey

Love the story about the neck-brace.  
When I lived in London I often went to thed Lyric, Hammersmith, and saw some great productions in the main house and in the studio.  Haven't heard much about it lately.  
I actually went to the OLD, previous Lyric. Saw Peggy Ashcroft in HEDDA GABLER there.
Castorboy

I rather like Owen Marshall so I am now reading his sixth collection of short stories which has the intriguing title of Tomorrow We Save the Orphans.
Caro

I am slowly reading Tomorrow's Fire by Jay Williams about Denys, trouvere during the third crusade accompanying Richard I.  Though a third of the way through they are still in England. I like historical novels so the detail is interesting to me, but I do feel the author has rather tried to jam all his research in - things about tournaments, poetic forms of the time, the way courtly love operates, details of the court, farming bits.  

The format is we read Denys's diaries then have the authorial voice explaining beyond that; I found one part quite odd - he didn't just explain what the situation was with tournaments in the 12th century and earlier, but much later as well.  "In England they were a rarity, partly because of the English dislike for show - a certain rustic simplicity which persists to this very day, so that uncouth tweeds and ill-fitting hats are the surest badges of the county nobility - and partly because of the Saxon stolidity which manifested itself in a bull-dog distruct of anything frivolous. Eventually the Crown imposed an entertainment tax upon participants. Then the Church banned tournaments as immoral...This was the turning point: at once tournaments became immensely popular in Britain. Nebertheless the English denied that they recieved any pleasure from them, only maintaining stoutly that it was an Enlishman's right to tourney if he chose, and that in any case England's victories had been won on the jousting fields of Eton.  William de Braose's tournament, however, took place long before that day arrived..."

I don't think of this book as trying out post-modern ideas, so it reads a little oddly, sticking modern history and the author's opinions on county nobility here.  

But the story is bouncing along quite nicely and I enjoy the chapter I read each night.  And in another ten pages the chapter becomes Sicily and Cyprus, and then Acer and Jaffa.  Lots more information no doubt.
Chibiabos83

I'm rereading Middlemarch, but progress is slow, so I may not be posting much in the coming weeks...
Caro

How about a blow-by-blow account, Gareth?  Might save me reading it! Re-reading it, really, but I haven't read it since studying it for university.
Chibiabos83

If only I had the energy, Caro... But it's going to take all I've got to read the damn thing. It's fortunate I love it so much.
MikeAlx

Currently reading London Belongs to Me by Norman Collins. Same era (1938/39) as Patrick Hamilton's Hangover Square, though different social class context. It's nicely written, if somewhat dated in narrative style, and, with its multiple story strands, has a slightly soap-opera-ish feel - though (oddly) with a bit of a Dickensian feel too. Have to say, I'm quite enjoying it.
MikeAlx

Also dipping in and out of Andrew Solomon's Far From the Tree, which is a very interesting book indeed, but, at almost 1000 pages, not one to be read in one sitting!
Sandraseahorse

"Harvest" is really starting to annoy me.  It is set in an unspecified village in an unspecified age.  I prefer to be able to fix in my mind a landscape and a time but I accept that in the past many people had little sense of date and geography but lived in the present.

Then we get a description of a woman arriving with a cloak of "Turkish mauve".  Mauve is an artificially manufactured dye that first appeared in 1859 and yet we have people wandering into this village with bows and arrows.
Joe McWilliams

I'm reading three things a the moment, off and on. I should concentrate on The Sleepwalkers, but I'm afraid it is rather less than a thrill a minute, not to mention discouraging - to read of the arrogance, greed, belligerence and general human folly that contributed to the outbreak of war in 1914.
It is particularly troubling to see behaviour pretty much identical (Russia) in the contemporary news reports.

So....as a bit of relief, I picked up Heinrich Boll's The Lost Honour of Katherina Blum, which seems to be an indictment of the methods of the gutter press in Germany. It's a story about what happens to an innocent young woman who has the misfortune to become romantically involved with a fellow wanted by the police.

And just this weekend I dipped into a wartime memoir of a member of the crew of a Lancaster bomber, who in 1943 was the only survivor when his plane was hit by antiaircraft fire over Holland. It's called Almost a Lifetime, by John McMahon.
Caro

Along with my crusades historical novel I am dipping into a non-fiction book, On Song: Stories behind New Zealand's Pop Classics by Simon Sweetman.  He has taken thirty NZ songs and talked of their background, the band involved, the history of their writing and the impact etc.  

I don't know anything much about music production and how songs are pushed into public view, but I was a little surprised when talking about one, For Today by the Netherworld Dancing Toys, he said session singers backing it and backing artists had more or less done the while lot, and someone else talked about 'ghosting' it.   He said, "It is also a song the band were incapable of replicating; in fact many of the Netherworld crew were incapable of playing on the version of the song we know and love."  

I don't suppose you would know many of the songs mentioned - maybe Don't dream it's Over by Crowded House and How Bizarre by OMC.  The How Bizarre story is quite sad - the lead singer Pauly Fuemana liked the idea of fame and took himself off to the states where the song was huge.  He wasn't a good live performer and everywhere he performed reviews were bad and sales went down.  He died aged 40 of respiratory illness.  I don't know if there were drugs or drink behind that or not.  

Sweetman has a blog about music on our online news site.  It's a nicely produced book and I am finding it interesting - though some of the more recent songs I have no idea of at all.
Joe McWilliams

I like Don't Dream It's Over, Caro. I've played it, in fact!
What a songwriter that guy Finn is, or was.
Chibiabos83

Caro wrote:
I don't suppose you would know many of the songs mentioned - maybe Don't dream it's Over by Crowded House and How Bizarre by OMC.  The How Bizarre story is quite sad - the lead singer Pauly Fuemana liked the idea of fame and took himself off to the states where the song was huge.  He wasn't a good live performer and everywhere he performed reviews were bad and sales went down.  He died aged 40 of respiratory illness.  I don't know if there were drugs or drink behind that or not.

'How Bizarre' was a huge hit in the UK in summer 1996, Caro. It peaked at no. 5, but hung around the charts for months. I think perhaps it was featured as background music in Neighbours, so a lot of people were hooked on it before it was even released as a single. This may be a false memory; either way, I bought it, in a branch of Our Price somewhere in Scotland. I'd heard of Pauly Fuemana's death. Very sad.

I like Katharina Blum very much, Joe. I read it while on holiday in Germany a few years ago. A smart and engaging book.
Sandraseahorse

I've just started "Muckraker", a biography of the investigative journalist W. Stead, who drowned on the Titanic.
Castorboy

Joe McWilliams wrote:
I like Don't Dream It's Over, Caro. I've played it, in fact! What a songwriter that guy Finn is, or was.

Although Neil Finn hasn’t had an international hit to equal that one, he is still performing. According to Wiki, his latest group is Pajama Club where he has his wife joining him.

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