Saturday, October 12, 2013

september-october 2013 books

More book stuff:
A Perfectly Good Man (Patrick Gale): The story deals with the interwoven lives of the inhabitants of a Cornish village and I liked the way it was put together as a series of snapshots, in no particular order, of the various characters (eg. “Lenny at 20”, “Dorothy at 24”). This is a sincere and well-constructed story (and it’s very readable) but, for me, it was all a bit “too-good-to-be-true” and frequently found myself thinking “don’t-tell-me-such-and-such-is-going-to-happen-next” and, sure enough…
Until relatively recently, I used to avoid reading fiction… all too often I ended up finding the process frustrating… or too predictable… or too absurd… or some of the writing style… or the author trying too hard to demonstrate that he/she had done their research… or it left me feeling “what was the point?”. I feel sure that most readers will like the book… but I’m afraid it just reminded me of the reasons I didn’t like reading fiction!
Excerpts from a Family Medical Dictionary (Rebecca Brown): This might seem like a very strange book to be reading! I bought it at the £2 bookshop and had been intrigued… Brown’s mother became ill with cancer in 1996 and, in 17 short chapters, records the slow, incremental erosion of her mother’s health, dignity and life. It’s a stark, but rather beautiful book – made even more poignant because my own parents died of cancer in 1992 and 1999 (although, unlike Brown’s mother, neither of them had chemotherapy).
Echoes of Memory (John O’Donohue): I love O’Donohue’s ability with words (you can almost hear him speaking them). Beautifully-crafted memories of Ireland, family, love, Celtic spirituality and nature (including ravens!). A lovely book.
Let Us Go Then, You and I (TS Eliot): This is a book of Eliot’s selected poems. I’ve been reading a fair amount of poetry over the past couple of years – impressed by the words and the beauty of language, but struggling to understand an awful lot of it, I have to say! Frequently, I would very much welcome some form of editorial note that provided a little piece of background… and I’m sure there are lots of others like me. I’ll keep trying.
Instructions for a Heatwave (Maggie O’Farrell): This is our Book Group’s latest book. It tells of a retired father of a complicated Irish family, living in London, who mysteriously disappears one morning… and follows his wife’s and his grown-up children’s actions to track him down (which, for me, seemed to be incredibly calm and rather lacking any real sense of urgency?). Somewhat predictably (sorry!), many of the comments I made on the Patrick Gale novel (above) apply here too. However, that would be a little unfair on Maggie O’Farrell. She’s a very good storyteller; I liked her writing style and her characters, on the whole, are very believable. I enjoyed the book (despite my reservations about reading fiction – which will please Gareth, who chose it for our book group!) and read it within three days.

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