Saturday, February 23, 2013

february 2013 books

More book stuff:
Family and Friends (Anita Brookner): A short novel (187 pages). The lives of a widowed Hungarian mother, now living in England, and her four children provide the focus of the story. It might just be me, but it took a frustratingly long time to appreciate that the initial action was set between the world wars (the book cover shows a Klimt portrait painted in 1902) – which meant that it took me a little time to “get into” the story. Beautifully and precisely observed.  
Fire on the Mountain (Anita Desai): I first started reading this book in 1982(!) but, although it’s only a short book, never finished it. So, I’m very glad I picked it up again… It features three principle characters: a great-grandmother who lives a reclusive life in a mountain retreat; her visiting great-granddaughter, who has just recovered from typhoid (and who is also somewhat reclusive by nature); and a childhood friend of the old woman. The story is very gradually developed and all the action is in the final few pages. Desai is an exceptional writer and I enjoyed the book.
Good Works (EF Schumacher): This was essentially a follow-up to his “Small is Beautiful”. It was first published in 1979, two years after Schumacher’s death and is compiled mainly from a series of his lectures. I first read it in 1981 and it’s absolutely fascinating (and a little depressing) to re-read it more than 30 years later… it emphasises such themes as the wiser use of natural resources, energy, economics, technology and science, and the nature and control of organisations… and ranges across the most urgent concerns of humanity while keeping its central focus upon the human being: what individuals can actually do now to make a viable future visible in the present. It’s also a surprisingly spiritual book.
99 Words (edited Liz Gray): I first came across this book listening to the "Something Understood "programme on Radio 4. Liz Gray compiled the book whilst unable to work due to illness and she asked 99 contributors to consider what 99 words (according to the Qu’ran, all of creation can be expressed in 99 names) they would most wish to communicate if it were their last opportunity. Although I found the premise of the book a little tenuous, as a “project person” myself, I did have some empathy with Liz Gray’s objectives. The contributors are from wide-ranging backgrounds – politicians, writers, artists, musicians, thinkers etc – and, as you might expect, their responses (or at least my reaction to their contributions!) vary… some are absolute gems and some simple made wonder why on earth they’d decided to sat what they’d said! It’s one of those books that I’ll no doubt delve into again over the coming months

The Master and Margarita (Mikhail Bulgakov): This is our next Book Group book. I have to admit (on reading the cover and “feeling” its length!) that I didn’t find the prospect of reading it particularly inspiring… I’m afraid that, although it was clever and inventive, I found it all rather too much for me and was just relieved to finish it!

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