Saturday, January 03, 2009

Review of the year part two

Review of 2008 part II – July to December

The second d half of the year started with the subject of the war continuing. On one side there was Unconditional Surrender by Evelyn Waugh and on the other A Soldier’s Art by Anthony Powell.

But of course having got through the three war books by Powell in the Dance to the Music of Time series the downward slopes were sighted and a renewed pace came into the reading.

Yet despite the determination to get through Dance to the Music of Time I rather ambitiously looked for other distractions and knocked off Rabbit, Run by John Updike and discovered a selfish America that I had not previously read about. The idea of dreams, the past and what might have been was at work in both Spies by Michael Frayn and Pincher Martin by William Golding. Both took you into a character’s mind and both left you wondering just what might have happened if other decisions had been made.

The satirical contribution to the year’s reading came from the East with Andrey Kurkov showing with Penguin Lost and The President’s Last Love that the corruption in East Europe is prime material. But when it comes to having a go at the biggest of them all, Stalin and the Soviet system, Mikhail Bulagov was in great form with A Dog’s Heart and The Fatal Eggs.

Again succumbing to the publishing hype it felt like a good time to read the Booker of Bookers and so Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie was packed in the holiday bag and dominated the last few days of my stay in France and the weeks after I returned. A book working on many levels I had to be carried along when the history escaped me but there were episodes of great story telling that were worth sticking with it for.

Powell finally came to an end with the narrator standing beside a bonfire congratulating himself on having outlasted nearly all of his contemporaries destroyed in their conquest for power.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby reminded you of just how powerful fiction can be and sadly The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson and The Lines of Fate by Mark Kharitonov were experiences of how disappointing and difficult reading can be.

But the year ended with a bit of publishing hype in the form of the average Beedle the Bard, think of the charity and it seems to have been worth paying, from J.K. Rowling and the memorable Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakamui.

I am not sure what this year holds yet in terms of ambitions. But I am sure that come the end of the month and just like 2008 a shape to the reading year will have started to emerge…

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