Friday, April 30, 2010

book review - Devil in a Blue Dress - Walter Mosley

"I never saw him again. I often think of how so many people have walked into my life for just a few minutes and kicked up some dust, then they're gone away. My father was like that; my mother wasn't much better."

When literature works, even books that some might sneer are just pulp fiction thrillers, it takes the reader into a different world that is believable. That happens here with Walter Mosley introducing you to the tough and tense world of LA a few years after the Second World War.

With the hero of the tale being a black factory worker who has come up from Texas to make a better life for himself the world you enter is one of illegal bars, a community of southern migrants and one that is full of racial tension.

When the main character Easy Rawlins is introduced to a white man in a white suit at a bar and given the assignment to find a woman it marks two worlds colliding and the result can only be trouble for Rawlins. In many ways the laborer, who has juts lost his job, is tougher that he at first appears with his life being a hard one. He has been left by almost everyone and his best friend, Mouse, turned out to be an unhinged killer forcing Easy to head to LA when he did.

Rawlins finds the girl but that's when his troubles start because he realises that his own life is in danger. He has to outwit and outshoot those that have hired him and plan to discard his services permanently once the job has been completed.

As you would expect with a thriller that has massive Chandler overtones the men are hard, the girls sassy and the guns big and blazing. Blood is split and bags of cash are chased down by desperate men. But unlike Chandler the subject of racism is tackled here from a different angle. The discovery that one of the main characters comes from a black upbringing turns the tables on assumptions of identity and Mosley is challenging you to look at the world with different eyes.

In terms of enjoyment this matches a Chandler and in terms of its intelligence is is also up there with the best.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thoughts at the halfway point of Devil in a Blue Dress

Apologies for the crime theme but this book came through as part of the Serpent's Tail Classics range being launched early next month and it just screamed 'Read me Now!'. Mind you having said that unfortunately so do quite a few books at the moment!

Anyway here are the thoughts at the half way stage:

The prose reminds you of Raymond Chandler, the background has the feeling of other pulp post-war gangster novels but the angle here is completely different.

Through the lead character Easy Rawlins, a black man who has traveled to LA to escape Houston and the South, Mosley takes the reader into a world that none of Chandler's character's would have been able to go into with such confidence.

LA becomes a city of crooks, drinking dens and rough pool halls but all within the black community. So when a white man comes calling asking for someone to help him track down a woman with a French name and a rich boyfriend Easy is given the job.

Easy finds things getting more and more complicated as he navigates through a world where he is not only facing trouble from his own community but also the police. Finding the woman proves to be fairly straightforward but after that it becomes a more serious game of trying to keep his own life.

A review will follow soon...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

book review - Untimely Death - Cyril Hare

"He had time for a glimpse only, but it was enough. As in a nightmare, he realised that once more there was a dead man on Bolter's Tussock."

This book was one of the great charity shop finds and never having come across Cyril Hare before it was a combination of the title and the cover that influenced the decision to part with £1.40. That plus the sign that publisher Faber & Faber had backed it by printed a version of the story in 2008, 51 years after it first appeared in print.

What you can gather from Hare is that he knew his law and his main character Francis Pettigrew is a retired law man and the book feels like it has moved from firm ground to rock solid concrete when you reach the court scenes.

In one main respect the story both intrigues but fails to deliver satisfaction. At the heart of the thriller is the idea that as a young man Pettigrew stumbled across a dead body in a remote spot and after his pony bolted and he managed to get home he never said anything about it. That source of regret has clearly stayed with him so when it happens again he faces the challenge of doing things properly.

Except he dodges it really and relying on the more official efforts of a retired policeman who is a friend he manages to take a back seat as the investigation carries on around him. That investigation once the dead body reappears on Tuesday morning focuses on the timing of the death. There is an inheritance at stake and the dead man stands to lose out if it can be proved that he died before he came into his money.

At that point the action, that is perhaps not the right word, moves to the court room. Where a modern reader perhaps misses out on fully understanding why Pettigrew acts the way he does is because society has changed so much in the last 50 years. The moments when he keeps his own counsel often seem to be mystifingly over cautious but perhaps back then people simply didn't speak out.

Add to that 'the how do you do sir?' and the quaint idea that a coach and a couple of cars signifies rush hour on a road and maybe the way to get the best out of this book is not just to see it as a thriller but also as a way of walking back into a past. A time when people were trying to forget the horrors of a decade earlier and when life was that bit more 'gentle' than it is today.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sad news about Galloway & Porter

One of the reasons I still go to Cambridge has been to visit the excellent Galloway & Porter. But sadly the town has lost one of its attractions with Galloway & Porter falling into administration. The bookshop and its legendary warehouse sales were a reral highlight after the schlep up the M11. What a great shame that things have come to this.

Thanks so much to Amro for alerting me to the news and it's a shame that neither of us could get to the closing down sale which started last Saturday. Mind you through this recession there have been several opportunities to go to closing down sales and it feels like intruding in a clown suit at a funeral.

reading is forever not just when the books are cheap.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Thoughts at the half way point of Untimely Death

If you were looking for a word that would describe this book to someone asking what the tone of this thriller was it would havfe to be 'gentle'.

Set in the 1950s in Somerset the shocks of the war are left in the past and even when a dead body is found up on heathland it is discovered in a fairly gentle way. The reader is given none of the detail that other authors might have put in around blood, wounds and ghoulish expressions on the corpse.

But what makes this story interesting is the fact that the body found by the main character Francis Pettigrew is in exactly the same place as one he discovered when he was a child. His inability to talk about that crime when he was a child is repeated and it looks like his silence might prevent the crime from being solved.

A review will follow on completion...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

bookmark of the week

Shaun the Sheep is a children's programme made by the people at Aardman responsible for Wallace and Gromit. So it includes the great humour and the facial expressions that Gromit is famous for as animals as we all know can't speak. This magnetic bookmark shows Shaun at the top of a pile of his friends.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Author interview: Evan Maloney

The author of Tofu Landing has very kindly agreed to answer some of my questions following the reading of his book. I'm very grateful to Evan Maloney for answering my questions with such care and interest.

Q1. Where did the idea for Tofu Landing come from was this flat full of larger than life characters an experience you had gone through yourself?

I have never experienced anything like the world depicted in Tofu Landing... although I'm not entirely unfamiliar with it, either. It's hard to pinpoint the source of inspiration for any story, I think that is part of the magic of storytelling. I worked in the Arts and the media in London so I was working a lot in Soho and had a peripheral experience of that mad-edged media world where talent was often subordinate to publicity and drugs were a tool that people employed to keep reality at a distance.

I was always a bit dismayed, as a writer, by the way the Arts and media industries worked. It seemed to be a world that lacked genuine reflection and insight in many cases - the publicity machine is not really something that values genuine reflection, it's simply a means to an end. I thought a character like Pete Doherty was a fine example of all the worst aspects of that machine, and I obviously based Tristan Russell and some parts of the story on his life, but there was a pot-pourie of sources and inspirations and, finally, it's all about imagination. Damien Hirst did a similar publicity drive to Bridget's for one of his exhibitions, Tracy Emin was a hotel reviewer for a glossy magazine.

It might sound odd, but Evelyn Waugh's Decline and Fall was the novel that I read just prior to beginning Tofu Landing. Initially I had intended to stretch the narrative far beyond anything akin socially realistic representation, but I finished the first draft and realised, with a kind of bemused wonder, that even though the story was wildly far-fetched at times, it was far closer to social realism than satirical farce.

Q2. Art is a constant theme through the book is art important to you and in that respect do you share the views about the importance of Art voiced at various times by Declan?

As a young boy growing up in the country I wanted to be an artist and I thought I was exceptional. At the age of ten I moved to the city (Melbourne) and there was a boy in my class who was a better draftsman than me. It shattered my confidence a bit. I thought that his was the level of talent I had to compete with in the big city. I decided then that I would focus on writing, but I have always felt a bit like a painter who writes (which is ironic given Declan's views on the literary nature of contemporary art) In fact, that boy I went to primary school with, Cameron Hayes, is still a close friend and now one of Australia's most celebrated artists. He is represented by Ronald Feldman in New York City, who runs one of the most prestigious galleries in NYC. Cameron paints massive narrative paintings that work in man ways like a novel.

Regarding Declan's views on art: I think it is important to note that Declan is an artistic person who is not productive. He has lost his creative potency. As such, his views are slightly aimed at self-justification. It's a common trait among people in the arts who struggle to be artistically productive - they blame the industry when, ultimately, I think a genuine artist is always productive regardless of the zeitgeist. I think Declan is a sentimental character, too, and sentimentality is, like drug taking, another form of false comfort that corrupts a person's vision of reality.

Q3. Drugs also play a massive role in dividing the past and the present and the idea of reality and imaginary lives. Was drug use meant to be used in that sense of blurring truth and personality in the first two thirds of the book?

This is a great observation. I wanted the drug references to be vivid enough to make a person feel a kind of specious euphoria initially. People take drugs for a reason: they can be a lot of fun, and I wanted to give a real sense of that at the start of the novel. But I also wanted to create a sense of overload towards the end of the story, so the reader would feel sick and tired of the drug taking, as if it were something they themselves had been subjected to and wanted to move on from.

The whole "drugs are so much fun" ground is a superficial one, and if you dig beneath the surface, what you find is that many of the characters in Tofu Landing have suffered some personal experience that is blocking their path forward in life. They are trapped in the past and the drug taking is one expression of that entrapment. Sexual abuse is one common experience that many of the characters are dealing with and yet it is not presented in a way that is particularly honest. It is sort of glossed over in the narratives the characters offer, and I think this is one of the legacies of drug taking - people do not approach their own experiences honestly and try to work through them like mature adults.

This unreal approach to personal trauma is also referenced in some of the art works discussed. Bernini's Apollo and Daphne, which is one of the most beautifully sculptured works of art ever created, is about an attempted rape. I don't think for a moment Bernini was cognizant of the event he depicted as one of great psychological trauma for the victim. The tone of the novel is, perhaps, inspired by that sort of work of art, it is trying to dazzle the reader with a story that works beautifully in an objective manner, but if the reader stops and thinks about the events described they might feel slightly disturbed, because the depictions are somewhat false.

Q4. There is a passage about the invention of Tofu being an accident and how sometimes life can mirror that. Is that something you believe and have experienced yourself?

It's the Panglossian view of life, isn't it, which Voltaire had such fun with in Candide. Voltaire was satirising the Leibnizian mantra through Dr Pangloss, "all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds". Having grown up Catholic, and carried a lot of guilt and remorse baggage through my life, I can see the appeal of this view, but it is an indulgent one as well, and one that has a distinctly Western, First World aftertaste. I'm sure all the kids working in sweatshops in 3rd World countries would beg to differ that what happens in their lives is all for the best.

Q5. Declan occasionally shows his frustration with some of the people he is living with but most of the time he is remarkably tolerant. Were you keen to make sure the reader made their own judgments about the characters?

Absolutely. I think the 3rd person narrator is oblique for most of the book. Tone was an issue I struggled with a lot while writing the book, because much of the novel is essentially toneless. The narration only develops some kind of tone late in the book, and that is meant to reflect the fact that Declan himself has developed a point of view in relation to his life and the world he inhabits. I think this was something that failed to impress some publishers, who probably only read the first third of the book and thought that that was as good as it got.

Q6. Finally as we leave Declan as a man who has come through not just an interesting experience but one that has enabled him to grow into a more stable person is he a character that would appear again in your writing?

This is a question I've been asked by a few people who have read the book. At the moment I feel the book is finished and I have moved on. I got the publishing deal in May 2009 and started my second book the same week. I finished the first draft of the second book a week before Tofu Landing was launched in February this year, and then I spent two months rewriting it. It is about as a removed from the world of Declan and the Posse as I am from the Roman Empire.

The second novel is about a group of multicultural Australians whose parents and grandparents arrived in Australia as refugees from Lebanon, Poland, Vietnam (and a "ten-pound Pom"), as well as an aboriginal, who have taken up arms and are resisting the occupation of Australia by a powerful Asian neighbour. It is set in the near future. This disparate group are all fighting together for their land, and it's been very liberating to create characters that are so unique and distinct, and to set them in a dystopian society that requires a more pure from of imagination to create. Off the top of my head, Michael Ondaatje is the only writer I've read who has successfully reprised characters from one novel and written a second novel of great power (The Skin of a Lion and The English Patient).

There are probably others but, generally speaking, I find the whole idea of writing a sequel evidence of either a lack of imagination, a fear of trying something new or a desire for a paycheck. Of course, I might reconsider these views if Tofu Landing ended up selling a million copies.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

book review - Tofu Landing - Evan Maloney

"He had moved to London two years earlier because it had an appeal that even the greyest skies could not darken. it was a place where anyone could lose themselves, a place where anyone could lose themselves, a place where anyone could remain anonymous."

Take the idea of a bunch of people that live for pleasure and put it in a book that charts their excesses and eventual crash to earth and you have Tofu Landing in a nutshell. But add to that mix some characters that reflect back at the reader celebrities that they would recognise and a culture of drug taking they might have suspected existed and you have a mix that is much more challenging.

The reader is challenged here to make up their mind about not just how they feel about the house full of extreme characters but also the wider world they inhabit. Sitting on the shoulder of failed artist Declan Twist you enter a drug fueled world where no one is real, where fame is desperately hunted and where ironically there is a media world ready to support just those sorts of ambitions.

As the quote on the back says "If you arrive in London knowing nobody then you have the power of an actor improvising onm a stage". Declan is surrounded by people that decide to follow their own rules from the Tracey Emin like Bridget who manages to fool the art world with her Polaroid art show of blurred poor quality pictures, Juliet a pharmaceutical rep who has a drug dealing business on the side, Drake who sells drugs but dreams of being an actor and the Pete Doherty like Tristan and his girlfriend who plough through the drugs and onto the pages of weekly gossip magazines.

None of them is real but they are all aiming to get something that they believe is real but as they find out the fame game is a cruel one and luck can turn on a nine pence and after the death of one of their group the limited gel that held them together disintegrates. Through it all Declan is more than a removed observer and is quite capable of taking as much drugs as the rest of the group, taking the media dollars by appearing on TV and falls in love with Juliet. But he decision to finally leave that world is one that show it is possible to grow up and exit the party.

There are moments when the drug taking gets too much and the characters become so loathsome it's difficult to see where the story will be resolved but Maloney is trying here to take you on that journey and hoping that you will make the same resolution as Declan and see the shallow world of chasing fame and celebrity for exactly the hell it is.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Thoughts at the half way point of The White Castle

Although this starts with the classic 'I found this manuscript in a box' type preface it doesn't delay for too long and gets straight into the story.

The tale of the young Venetian sailor who is captured and sold in Istanbul as a slave unfolds quickly as his ship is captured. He does what he can to survive representing himself as a doctor to avoid being put out to hard labour.

He manages to attract this interest of the Pasha because of his knowledge of astronomy and science and he is given the responsibility for organising a firework event with a man who resembles his double. This same man, Hoja, becomes his master and the relationship between them starts off as student and teacher but that starts to change as the captive is reminded of his status.

But having seen the importance of the search for knowledge and the desire nhis master has to be right the captive starts to turn up the psychooloigcal screws.

Review will follow on completion...

Monday, April 19, 2010

Thoughts at the halfway point of Tofu Landing

Years ago I stayed up late one night and watched for some odd reason a film starring a youthful looking Michael Hutchence. The idea of Dogs in Space was that a mixed bunch of wannabe rock gods lived in a house together. They shared their dreams and their miseries as they lived in a wreck of a house.

I mention that film because Tofu Landing sparked off memories with its cast of characters living together in a world consumed by ambition, lust and drugs. The central character Declan Twist joins the flatmates as they are on the brink of staging an art exhibition, landing a role in a film, becoming famous with their rock star boyfriend and making a fortune through illegally selling drugs.

Declan loves art, the old masters, but hides a secret - something to do with brain damage - and manages to befriend and influence some of the 'posse' around him. He feels a sense of impending doom and as the reader follows this odd assortment of people it becomes almost inevitable the drug fuelled train will lurch off the rails at some point.

Review to follow soon...

Sunday, April 18, 2010

bookmark of the week

There has been an exhibition running at the Imperial War Museum around the idea of growing your own food and making do in war time conditions. This seems to have a great deal more relevance in a recession when people have gone back to home grown allotments in order to save a bit of money.

Friday, April 16, 2010

book review - Old Masters - Thomas Bernhard

"...basically nothing is more abhorrent to me than these so-called old masters here at the Kunsthistorisches Museum and old masters generally, all old masters, no matter what their names are, no matter what they have painted, Reger said, and yet it is they who keep me alive."

On one level the idea of two men in a gallery, one sitting and the other one watching, sounds about as engaging as watching paint dry. But as the two friends arrange to meet and Atzbacher watches his friend Reger through the door the story of Reger's life and view of the world unfolds.

It is an opinionated view covering music, art and a little bit about human nature. But as the story unfolds it becomes clear that the holder of these views is a far from normal character.

having visited the same Viennese museum for thirty years and having made his way to the same room, sat on the same sofa in front of the same picture he is perhaps someone, who he admits himself, should be considered for a lunatic asylum.

As he prepares to meet Reger at a specified appointment for which he cannot be early for but neither will unpunctuality be accommodated Atzbacher recalls the conversation the friends had the day before.

Reger pontificates about a huge range of subjects but one general theme he has is that most art is not as good as it thinks it is and neither is music. Having sat there looking at the same painting for all those years he has gained what he believes is the calm ability to demolish most art and artists.

But of course the humour here comes from the pretentious way that Reger seems to think that having a column in the Times where he writes about music and having opinions makes him able to comment about things in the way he does.

Using Reger as the example the narrative is able to weave a tale that pops the bubble of pretentious critics, shows them to be inconsistent and vain and leaves you in no doubt that most galleries and music halls are just as full of hot air as they are great paintings and orchestras.

From a reading experience point of view it would have been helpful to have had some chapters to break up the stream of recollections and opinions. But in some senses perhaps that would have broken up the rhythm. Personally I like the breaks that chapters bring.

What you are left with at the end of the experience is perhaps more confidence that given the situation you stumbled across a critic sofa-bound in a gallery you could see through them just a bit more than before.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Something magical has happened

Something has happened which I dreamed of for the last year and thought might never happen. Suddenly and passionately my son is reading. Reading so much that he has is finding it hard to stop. I know this blog is about my own reading experiences but what has happened with my son is one of the most satisfying things and I had to share it.

Up to now he has run away from books, found reading boring and seen attempts to make him read as something sinister. But things have now changed. The catalyst has been the Beast Quest book series which appeal to him in a way that other books that have been waved under his nose just never seemed to. he has raced through the first eight books and has already got the next 7 sitting on his shelf waiting to be read.

He cannot put them down for now and that is wonderful. He might tire of them but hopefully by the time that happens he will have been well and truly bitten by the reading bug.

if there is a piece of advice I can pass onto anyone with a child that has got halfway through year 3 without showing much interest in books it is to keep trying different authors.

What appeals about Beast Quest is the number of books in the series - 42 and counting - and the cards that you cut out in the back but also the stories. They are sold in series of six and are interlinked. Maybe they are not for your son but have a look and try out some of the series that have been created for children and don't give up hope. I nearly had but can't believe it now.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Thoughts at the halfway point of Old Masters

This is a stream of thought and opinion that covers the subjects of art and culture. what is great art and what is culture when most of what is consumed is state backed?

These questions are raised by one old man as he recounts the opinions of his old friend the critic Reger who he waits to meet. As the book covers the meeting that the two men had in a Viennese museum the day before it introduces you to Reger and his life which has been one of visiting the museum every other day.

Despite his continued support of art and culture it becomes clear that Reger has a low opinion of of mainstream art and literature. But quite why he has disrupted the routine to bring his friend back for a second day and quite what he plans to say today is far from clear.

review will follow on completion...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Something from Central Europe

There is so much that still needs to be read but the next couple of weeks are going to be peppered with some of Penguin's latest range of Central European Classics.

the first two up are the slimline How I Came to Know Fish by Ota Pavel and then Old Masters by Thomas Bernhard. More will come later in the week and next week.

Looking forward to hearing different voices, being led into different worlds and enjoying the series.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

bookmark of the week

Now my son has embraced all things Beast Quest and in the back of each book there are some cards to collect and a bookmark. the bookmarks are in the sacred place on his bookshelf but he allowed me to blog this one before handing it back.

It's a great idea to use a bookmark as a reward for reading and there is always one marking his progress in the latest book. Well done Beast Quest.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

book review - The Various Haunts of Men - Susan Hill

This book takes a long time to open up and Susan Hill is investing a great deal of time in developing the landscape of the world where the story is set.

Through the eyes of a newcomer to the area the Cathedral town of Lafferton is detailed with the key family of the Serrallier's coming through via the interaction of the new arival Freya Graffham and her interaction with the mother, father and sister of her boss detective chief inspector Simon Serrallier.

Having seen the words "Simon Serrallier story" on the front you expect the story to unfold based on him. But the opposite happens and even near the end he fails to step into prevent some of the bad things happening. It's not until you get through a couple of hundred pages that the killings start to make any sort of sense.

The story of a serial killer on the loose does grip you although the chapters being broken with the details of the killer confessing didn't do a great deal for me. It picked up its pace towards the end and Hill does manage to use the world she has created as a clever backdrop to dark deeds. The comfort and love that can be found leaving a choir group at the cathedral can also turn threatening when the darkness and fear creeps down Cathedral Close.

Ultimately with a thriller that is part of a series the question of success is around the question of whether or not the reader will go onto see how the series develops. I will, not in a rush, but I will at some point. But one of the main motivations for that will be to see if Simon Serralier actually has more to do with cracking crimes in the next volume.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Hopes for the new library

My local library has been a general disappointment with a poor selection that is infrequently updated.

But it has been closed for the last month and cycling past last night there are new shelves, a new layout and hopefully lots of new books to choose from. People often ask why my spending on books remains so high but the old cliche of 'get them from the library' hasn't been true for a couple of years.

Fingers crossed that the new library will have a better stock.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

book review - A Month in the Country - J.L Carr

"The marvellous thing was coming into this haven of calm water and, for a season, not having to worry my head with anything but uncovering their wall-painting for them.And afterwards, perhaps I could make a new start, forget what the War and the rows with Vinny had done to me and begin where I'd left off. This is what I need, I thought - a new start and, afterwards, maybe I won't be a casualty anymore."

This short book is part of Penguin's Decade series representing along with a handful of other books the decade of the 1980s. So why does this book stand out and get that sort of treatment is the question that is at the forefront of the mind as you start reading of Tom Birkin and his antics in a Northern village.

Set in the 1920s with the memories of the First World War still vivid the story centres on the shell-shocked signaller Birkin as he leaves the capital behind, with problems with his wayward wife Vinny, and heads up to a remote village chapel tasked with the job of uncovering a medieval mural hidden for centuries under paint and grime.

The time spent on the job and the ease with which Birkin slips into village life provide him with a chance to try and forget the past and get beyond the facial tick and stutter and back to a more normal life. But there are reminders with a fellow veteran working on an archeological dig next to the chapel.

But memories of the past are everywhere and life throws up new problems and temptations and Birkin is left leaving his time in the country with fresh regrets and as many things to think about as he did when he first arrived.

"'...the friends you have made, this marvellous summer, the splendid job you've done. I mean the lot. You can only have this piece of cake once; you can't keep on munching away at it. Sad, but there it is! You'll find that, once you've dragged yourself off round the corner, there'll be another view; it may even be a better one.'"

The themes in this book of covering up the past, revealing the truth, facing that sense of being in the wrong place return again and again and are played out in the connections with the war, the peeling back of the mural as well as the failed relationships of the vicar and his wife with the villagers.

Birkin fails to take the option for a quick affair or the longer option for a new life away from London but that's because this is a man still coming to terms with himself and his past and a month in the country might well remind him of who he is and the beauty that can exist after the hell of war but it cannot keep away temptation and doubt completely.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Thoughts at the halfway point of The Various Haunts of Men

It takes a while for this to get to the point where you start to click how and who has been murdered. But you can understand why because the dominos are being lined up and the pace should crank up as they topple one by one.

Hill leads you gently by the hand into a Cathedral town where the local doctor and top policeman are related and both actively trying to keep the townsfolk healthy and protected.

But in the face of alternative health and what looks like a serial killer both are going to be tested to the limit.

It has been a slowish start but with things now ready the second half should motor along.

Review will come shortly...

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Happy Easter

Happy Easter everyone hope that as well as some chocolate eggs the bunny remembers to drop in between the daffodils and snowdrops a book or two.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

bookshops worth a visit - Harbour Books, Whitstable

Struggling to find an image of this bookshop and its website seems to be down which might be a a bad sign. But occasionally in the summer there is a chance to head to Whitstable for a day by the sea and some ice cream. One of the highlights is to pop into Harbour Books which has a decent selection of classic literature at discounted prices. It is hard to come out without having spent some money and without a couple of bulging carrier bags.

i am told that Oxford Street bookshop is also good and next time I am there it is on the agenda to pop along for a visit to browse the second-hand books.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Thoughts at the halfway point of A Month in the Country

This book is one of the 1980s books of the decade in the Penguin Decade series and leaps out at you because it is not only selected from a very wide field but looks like an idea Easter read because of the slim nature of the book.

It is an account of a man who has returned from the trenches of the First World War with a facial tick and a habit of stammering as he works through the shock of the trenches. He heads off to the country to help his recovery focusing on his skills as a restorer and discoverer of old murals in churches.

As he settles in to a country life the setting is right for some rehabilitation but is it going to be the result? A review will follow shortly...

Thursday, April 01, 2010

The month in review - March

Looking back on March it managed to turn out to be quite a positive month. Would have liked to have done slightly more reading and more consistent blogging but those are both ambitions to take forward into April.

The month included one of the most expected books of the year so far in the form of Solar by Ian McEwan and also saw me take the penultimate step towards completing the Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo ten book Martin Beck crime series.

The books read were:
Bel Ami Guy du Maupassant
All the Conspirators by Christopher Isherwood
The Professor + The Housekeeper by Yoko Ogawa
The Summer Book by Tove Jansson
Cop Killer by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo
Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith
Solar by Ian McEwan

Highlights included the moving The Professor + The Housekeeper and Bel Ami which not only has stood the test of time as a satire on journalism but also as a sharp focus on greed and the lust for power.

Expecting April will be another fulfilling month.