Wednesday, January 22, 2014

january 2014 books

More book stuff (yes, I know... I've obviously got too much time on my hands!):
Fifth Business (Robertson Davies): Our Book Group’s latest book (Moira’s choice): the first book of “The Deptford Trilogy”. It’s the story of the life of the narrator, Dunstan Ramsay and the entire story is told in the form of a letter written by Ramsay on his retirement from teaching and addressed to the school Headmaster (Davies explains that the book's title as a theatrical term, a character essential to the action but not a principal actor). It’s a haunting, magical, closely-woven book… brilliantly conceived and wonderfully written. This was my first Robertson Davies novel and, frankly, it’s taken the book group to make me read this one… and THAT is the beauty of belonging to a book group! Excellent! 
St Ives Artists Companion (Virginia Button): As you probably know, I’m passionate about all things related to St Ives. This excellent short book provides the story of the “St Ives School” – an account of its development through the individual stories of eighteen artists. One of those books that I’ve long wanted to own… thank goodness for Christmas!
Stargazing (Peter Hill): Hill recounts his time when, in 1973, as a nineteen year-old art student-cum-writer/poet, he embarked on a brief career as a lighthouse keeper in the western highlands. It’s a rather beautiful, nostalgic look back to the days of his idealistic youth and a time before all the lighthouses had become automated. This gentle, very funny book gives a powerful insight into the mysterious world of lighthouse keepers – the arduous shifts, endless cups of tea, cooking prowess, dangers, stories and, crucially, the friendships with his fellow keepers.  
After You’d Gone (Maggie O’Farrell): This is only my second Maggie O’Farrell book (it was on our bookshelves… Moira had read it some time ago). I read my first last October as our book group book (Instructions For A Heatwave). This one’s about a love affair and about families; the main character steps into the traffic on a busy London road and is taken to hospital in a coma (that’s not giving anything away – it’s on the book’s cover blurb!). Generally, I’m not a great lover of novels and, frankly, this one can probably be categorised as a “woman’s book”, BUT O’Farrell is a great story-teller and I very much like her writing style. I read it very quickly (the last 150 pages in bed until the early early hours!). The Independent’s reviewer described it as “unputdownable, beautiful written”… and I wouldn’t argue with that.    
The Man From Beijing (Henning Mankell): With “The Killing” and “The Bridge” (not to mention Wallander!) television series, I seem to have become a little obsessed/captivated by Nordic Noir crime stuff recently! I have to say, this book has a chilling, horrific opening – with no less than 19 people brutally murdered in a sleepy Swedish hamlet. It’s about murder and revenge… and seems to be a vehicle for Mankell to voice his concerns about countries (in this case China, but you might apply it elsewhere!) “divided between powerful elites and an underclass locked into its poverty”. Although (proper) critics seem to have been a little harsh, I thought it was a riveting read and I just couldn’t put it down (550 pages or so in 3 days - which, for me, is ridiculous!).


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