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As I struggled with Carter I needed some light relief, which I found in They Call Me Naughty Lola, a collection of personal ads from the London Review of Books. This was great fun, and it’s almost impossible to read only one. The Book God had to remonstrate with me for giggling while reading, but what does he know? Recommended for dipping.
I tried really hard but in the end had to give up. Despite the good reviews and the personal recommendation from the Book God, I’m afraid that Carter Beats The Devil beat me as well. It all started so promisingly – the mysterious death of a President, the enigmatic illusionist – but just as things got interesting the childhood flashback knocked me off my stride and I just couldn’t get into the story again. So, the first book this year to be set aside – perhaps not permanently as I suspect there is a good story in there – but not what I want to read at the moment.
I nearly disgraced myself on my daily commute while reading this wonderful novel; it’s the first book that’s made me cry since The Time Traveller’s Wife.
Unless was first published in 2002 and is the story of Reta Winters whose daughter Norah has made herself homeless and now sits on a corner in Toronto with a sign round her neck which simply reads goodness. The novel follows Reta as she struggles to understand how this has happened, as she tries to write a sequel to her novel. There are some wonderful images in the book; I particularly identified with her description of “Bookish people, who are often maladroit people, perisit in thinking they can master any subtlety so long as its been shped into acceptable expository prose.”
Reta reflects a great deal on the position of women in society but there is nothing strident or preaching here; she suggests trhough one of her characters that powerlessness and passivity are the “traditional refuge of women without power” and that this may explain Norah’s actions.
I have read and loved Carol Shields’ previous work, and am sorry that she is no longer with us. If you have never read her before I urge you to try, and you would do worse than starting with this novel.
1. Go to Wikipedia.
2. In the Search box, type the month and day (but not the year) of your birth.
3. Choose three events that happened on your birthday.
4. Choose two important birthdays and one interesting death.
5. Post it.
Bride of the Book God was born on 31 January, so:
1606 – Guy Fawkes was executed for his role in the Gunpowder plot (see Antonia Fraser’s book on the topic)
1919 The Battle of George Square took place in Glasgow
1953 The North Sea flood causes over 1800 deaths in the Netherlands.
1959 Phil Manzanera (of Roxy Music & 801 Live fame)
1959 Anthony LaPaglia (Without a Trace – never miss it)
1788 Bonnie Prince Charlie
Nice to see I share my birthday with two of my absolute favourites!
Simon Mayo’s Book Panel on Radio 5 Live is always worth listening to, as a podcast if not live. This week’s reviews were:
When We Were Bad by Charlotte Mendelson
The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies
Definitely think I’ll give the latter a try; I saw it in Waterstone’s and really liked the cover but had hit my hardback quota for the month (difficult to believe I have such a thing, but there you are!)
A better month for book purchases, with some interesting additions to my shelves. I really like Edward Gorey’s style and was thrilled to come across a second-hand copy of the War of the Worlds with his illustrations. I confess that I’ve never read the Wells’ story, and my impressions have been formed by the various film versions, trips to Woking (and the Jeff Wayne album as befits an old prog rock fan) and I’m looking forward to trying out the original.
Additions to the crime stacks this month are Winter’s End by John Rickards, a new author to me that I came across on Stuart MacBride’s blog; and the new novel by Craig Russell, Eternal, the third to feature his Hamburg-based detective Jan Fabel. The Affair of the Bloodstained Egg Cosy by James Anderson just sounded like good fun.
Dove Grey Reader waxes lyrical about Hesperus paperbacks, and I indulged in two – Edith Wharton’s The Touchstone and Saki’s A Shot in the Dark; I bought the latter as the Book God and I really enjoyed the recent drama-doc about Saki on BBC Four.
I also succumbed to the graphic novel version of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere; I have the original novel and remember the BBC TV version with some fondness although I wish they would make it again now that special effects technology has moved on and could really do it justice.
And finally, the last of this season’s Folio Society purchases, Legends of the Grail, another beautiful addition to my Folio shelves (which are beginning to groan, unfortunately).