Sunday, December 30, 2012

december 2012 books

More book stuff:
The Kaminsky Cure (Christopher New): This has proved to be a surprisingly good read (I bought it for £2 from “The Last Bookshop”). I had very limited expectations when I started it. It’s a novel about a German family in WW2: the father is a Lutheran pastor “with a sneaking admiration for Hitler”; the wife is Jewish and doesn’t quite share his view! It’s an absorbing tale of a family’s struggle through very bleak times and yet is full of dark humour. Well written.
Love of the World (John McGahern): This is collection of McGahern’s non-fiction writings - taking in such diverse subjects as literature, the world, places, people, society, history plus various book reviews. I’ve previously only read one bookof his short stories, but simply loved the elegance, humour and precision of his writing style. He seemed to have an ability to tell a story in two sentences or a hundred pages. I particularly enjoyed his pieces about people and Ireland. I freely admit that I rather “scan-read” some of his many book reviews – although he’s made me want to read more from the likes of Patrick Kavanagh and George Mackay Brown – and also his autobiography “Memoir” (he died in 2006). He sounded like a fascinating man.   
Do Nothing, Christmas is Coming (Stephen Cottrell): Our Ithaca study book – which provides simple, frequently quite thought-provoking, reflections from the Bishop of Chelmsford for Advent… but, I’m afraid I became a little bored by it all in the end.
Names for the Sea: Strangers in Iceland (Sarah Moss): Our next book group book (Moira’s selection). The author had had a childhood dream of living in Iceland and this was sustained through a “wild summer” on the island as a 19 year-old with a fellow student. Sarah Moss is now a novelist (although I haven’t read any of her fiction) – with a husband and two small children - and responded to a job advert at the University of Iceland in 2009. This is her account of her family’s adventures – which just happened to coincide with the country’s economic collapse (which “halved the value of her salary”) and the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull (and its volcanic cloud residue)! It took me a little time to get into the book, but I ended up enjoying it – particularly when the family returned for a fortnight’s holiday a year later – with the money, time and means to explore the island more fully. Strangely, her husband Anthony (who is effectively a house-husband during their time living on the island) barely gets a “proper” mention… it’s her boys Max and Tobias who feature most (along with her new-found Icelandic friends) and her “can-do” photographer friend Guy who seems to get far more of the limelight. It’s very good book for Icelandic tourism methinks!
The Sense of an Ending (Julian Barnes): I virtually read this short book in one sitting (I’d read half of it, but couldn’t sleep, so decided to carry on reading… as you do!). It’s essentially story about ageing and memory – I seem to have read a LOT of books about these topics over the past year or so! The principal character, now retired and divorced, reflects on his schoolboy days, his friendships and a particularly painful relationship during his university days… and then something happens (I can’t tell you!) that turns the clock back 40 years. It’s a completing riveting, mysterious book, beautifully written. I loved it… and will certainly read it again in due course.
PS: for the record (yes, I realise I’m the only one counting), I read a total of 55 books in 2012 (2011 = 56!).

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