Read any good books lately?

I’ve always been an avid reader.

(How did avid and reader come to be one of those adjective/noun combinations that cling together like survivors from a shipwreck?)

But in the last couple of years, I’ve let my reading slip. I was still reading – I can’t imagine a life without books – but not as consistently as previously. I didn’t have a book on the go all the time, and I often fell asleep at night without reading.

And I felt the loss.

Not at first, but in a similar way to what happens when I’m not writing, after a while a persistent sense of unease creeps in. And this is how I felt at the end of last year, and I resolved I needed to start reading more again. So, how have I got on?

Just before Christmas, I read ‘An Honourable Man’ by Gillian Slovo. It’s an historical novel about General Gordon and the fall of Khartoum. Product DetailsIt’s probably not the sort of novel I would usually read, but I’d been on a course with Gillian Slovo and she was great, so I wanted to try something by her. It’s told from four points of view – Gordon’s, his boy, a doctor who is part of the force sent to bring Gordon home, and the doctor’s wife who is descending further into laudanum addiction. I really enjoyed the book, despite not feeling totally involved in the characters’ lives, and will look our for more of hers.

Product DetailsOver Christmas, I read ‘The Room of Lost Things’ by Stella Duffy. I’ve read several books by her already, and her novel ‘Singling Out the Couples’ is one of the few books that has made me laugh out loud. I’m hoping to go to one of her workshops in May, so I’m trying to read more of her work before then. I enjoyed Room of Lost Things, about a dry cleaners in South London, or rather its owner and the young Asian man who is buying it from him. But there are so many characters and viewpoints – the setting is almost a character – that I ended up feeling slightly dissatisfied. The owner’s story is gradually revealed, but I still had lots of questions, and the situations of the majority of the characters seemed largely unresolved. So, it would be four stars from me.

I then had an impulse buy in the supermarket – Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty. Product DetailsNot sure why, but it has a striking cover, and I’d read one of hers before and enjoyed it. She also wrote a series of articles for the Guardian a while ago called ‘How to write a novel in a year’, so she should know! I found that it had a similar effect to Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. It was compelling while I was reading it, but on reflection left me disappointed. The last section sort of faded away.

At the moment, I’m in the middle of  ‘Signs of Life’ by Anna Raverat – it’s her first novel. Product DetailsIt’s an interesting book from a writer’s point of view as it has an unreliable narrator, and dodges about in time with no obvious structure or reason for the swooping about. It took me a while to get into, but I’m enjoying it now. However, there are some awful reviews on Amazon (as well as very good ones) and one of them made me laugh: The author gives the impression that she has not spent enough time sorting the work into some sort of logical order with connected prose. It’s as if she had the idea for a memoir, but rather than tell it straight she decided to write each idea point on a sliver of paper, put them all in a hat, and then (after a good shake) reached in and regardless of what order they came out in she wrote it down. It has left it incredibly disjointed. I laughed, but I’d be mortified if I got a review like that!

I think I’m doing quite well so far with my resolve to read more, and I feel better for it. So, what are you reading? Any goodies to recommend?  Don’t forget

if you haven’t read it yet. (Shame on you!) And if you haven’t got time for a book at the moment, there’s an interview with me on Jane Davis’ blog that you can dip into here

 

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10 Comments

  1. Maureen Hall says:

    I’ve just abandoned ‘Moby Dick’. It may be a ‘classic’, but it wouldn’t get published now. A great first line, but it’s hard work. Now I’m reading ‘An Assembly Such as This’ by Pamela Aidan – which is Pride and Prejudice from Darcy’s point of view. This I am enjoying!

  2. Lindsay says:

    Interesting, Mo. I wonder how many of the classics would be published today. I suspect a lot of them would go.

  3. The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
    Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell. Just finished and I’d say it is one of the best books I have ever read.
    Anything by Per petterson….. Perhaps best is Out Stealing Horses. Most beautiful and simple prose. he says he writes one sentence after another with no plan.

    Love R x

  4. Lindsay says:

    I love Barbara Kingsolver, Becky, but haven’t read The Lacuna. And what a great recommendation for the David Mitchell – obviously one to try. Thanks!

  5. Polly says:

    This post made me smile, Lindsay, you know why 😉

  6. Lindsay says:

    I might need a clue!

  7. Caroline says:

    The Charioteer by Mary Renault is a book that I come back to every couple of years or so and each time I find another layer to the novel. It is set in England just after Dunkirk and the main character Laurie O’Dell is recovering in hospital. He becomes re-acquainted with Ralph Lanyon, whom he hero-worshipped at school and also becomes friends with one of the ward orderlies, a conscientious objector called Andrew Raynes. It is a finely nuanced and deeply moving book.

  8. Lindsay says:

    Thanks for reminding me of this, Caroline. I read it a long time ago and had forgotten about it. I’ll check it out on your recommendation!

  9. Lindsay – here’s your clue… you know how many books I’ve read since last June!

  10. Lindsay says:

    Would the one be The Piano Player’s Son – by any chance?!

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