Yet more books, I’m afraid: The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly (Jean-Dominique Bauby): This is a really beautiful and quite remarkable book. The author had suffered a massive stroke and “dictated” it using his left eyelid. He died within 16 months of the fateful day of his stroke, but this short book is a wonderful epitaph. AL Kennedy’s book review simply states: “A staggering piece of work. It represents an almost inconceivable act of generosity, the gift of the mind and spirit for which writing was designed”. A Spot of Bother (Mark Haddon): Enjoyable and very readable. Fast-moving, funny, family saga – which, fortunately, never quite reduced itself to farcical levels. At times, it almost felt like reading a Tom Sharpe novel. The Progressive Patriot (Billy Bragg): Bought this signed hardback for £2 (feeling smug)! Bragg is another hero of mine; I like his music and his passionate campaigning. This book (written after the BNP won 11 local council seats in Bragg’s beloved Borough of Barking in May 2006) is a mixture of family history, social history, music, politics and English history. It’s really a series of essays rather than a reasoned argument about what patriotism is or should be (he ends up arguing about the need for a “Declaration of Rights”), but very enjoyable and illuminating nonetheless. The Crossing (Cormac McCarthy): I know Cormac McCarthy isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (eg. “The Road”) but I find his books quite mesmerizing. This one (the second in the Border Trilogy) is bleak, unrelenting and brutal but, at the same time, reveals a surprising degree of kindness and generosity. Another powerful book. Italian Shoes (Henning Mankell): A few weeks ago, Moira remarked on FB that this was her “book of the year” thus far. Well, I’m in complete agreement. It’s an absolutely beautiful book. It’s about an ageing, former surgeon who lives in self-imposed exile on a deserted island. He’s visited by a woman whom he loved, but abandoned, 40 years ago who asks him to fulfill a promise. PS: without intending to do so, I seem to be reading an awful lot of books recently that deal with ageing!!
3 weeks ago