Sunday, August 20, 2006

In summary....


I've been reading quite a lot, but I haven't had the patience to blog. I've even re-read LOTR, but that deserves an entry of its own, so I'm going to have to write about that later.

Alexander McCall Smith: Espresso Tales

I mentioned in the previous entry that I was reading this sequel to 44 Scotland Street. There isn't that much new to say about Espresso Tales. The format is the same, so the fundamental problem remains when reading it in one sitting - it's choppy and a bit disjointed. I was a little more bothered by that this time, not sure why. Also, a new character is introduced, reading exerpts from his memoirs. Which is funny, I suppose, but I suspect it's even funnier to someone well accquainted with Edinburgh. Which, sadly, I'm not. It was nice to see how Bertie turns out though, I felt very involved in little Bertie's fate.

Zadie Smith: On Beauty

I never read White Teeth when it first came out, and I still haven't. At that time I hardly read at all, shocking as it may seem. I was in the middle of uni, and had small children. When I read a book I tend to become extremely immersed in it, to the exclusion of everything else, and it just wasn't possible at the time. It's a shame, because not reading dumbs you down terribly. My brain atrofied at uni, and it still hasn't recovered. In retrospect it's painfully clear how much better things would be had I learnt to take better care of myself and my own interests, something I still haven't learnt. I haven't gotten beyond mere selfishness.

Anyway, so I never read White Teeth, and after I was over the not reading phase the hype kind of put me off. But my husband bought On Beauty, so I read it. (As an aside: he's the one who buys books. I respect our very limited living space, and I do not. He will then go around complaining that we have too many. Argh.) This is a very good novel. After reading it, I was left feeling that actually not very much happens in it. It's a sample of a period in the life of two families, in particular one. I'm too distracted at the moment to be very coherent about it (lunch is on the way!)... I'm finding it hard to summarize what it was exactly I enjoyed so much. I liked the insight into the black-white problem that can loom in the background of a mixed-race marriage, even though it's apparently something that's never been an issue. I like how the characters are multi-faceted. The father, Howard, is something of a villain in the piece, but he is also a hero who broke it off with his own father because he couldn't accept Howard's black American wife or, worse, his children, and whose love for his children sometimes achingly fills his heart until it feels like it will burst with pride and joy. It's a good read, and a lot of cleverer people have written about the underlying themes of the book if you're interested.

Val McDermid: The Grave Tattoo

Can't remember why this library book ended up at home. Did my husband lend it for me? In that case, how sweet of him. But I think it was me. However, I have no recollection of it. Scary.

Anyway, this is one of Val's solitary novels (I want to use the Swedish word fristående here, i.e. free-standing, but I don't think it's a proper word in English. Anyway, this one is not part of a series, that's what I mean.). Wordsworth scholar Jane Gresham is struggling to make a London career in the academic world, when a body is discovered in her native Lake District, a body that could be that of Fletcher Christian, the legendary Bounty mutaneer. Jane leaves to explore a possible Wordsworth connection. At the same time a teenager from her council estate becomes wrapped up in a murder case and takes refuge with Jane, and other people also hunt for the Wordsworth connection because of the enormous amount of money to be made.

It's not one of her stronger novels IMO, but I appreciate that she's done a lot of research into Wordsworth and the mutany on the Bounty. The ending feels a bit huh?, and some of the characters a little bland. But it's enjoyable enough.

Deborah and James Howe: Bunnicula - a Rabbit-Tale of Mystery

Don't say I don't blog about nearly everything. This is a children's book, I think it's my sister's, but it's been in my bookcase for a while (in the wild hope that maybe my children will read it). Apparently this is quite a famous children's book, but I'd never heard of it. Nevertheless it's a cute little story of a family who accquire a vampire bunny as a pet. Luckily it only drinks vegetable juice. The language is simple, but not too simplistic. Not too bad. Can't think why it hasn't been filmed (but am quite glad it hasn't, since it would probably be mangled the same way as The Grinch was).

Dorothy Rowe: Depression: The Way Out Of Your Prison (2nd ed)

This is one my husband borrowed at the library for me, because I'm.. how shall we put it... in need of therapy, perhaps? Anyway, I was going through a really low phase last week, to the point of having thoughts of self-harm. I saw this in the bookcase and read it, and found it very illuminating. Dr. Roweis empathic and quite funny as she describes how the way we see the world can keep us from leaving depression behind. After reading this I am more ready to say that yes, I get depressed, and also I feel as if there is help other than medication to be had. I'm going to try to keep working on this, even though it's very difficult. It's hard to explain how difficult it is to struggle out of this feeling that really, everything is largely pointless and futile. Her website is also recommended.


Anonymous said...

Märker att jag inte läser så mycket om böckerna som för att få veta hur det är med dig.
Kram. Jag finns alltid på jour!

bani said...

Ja, risken finns ju att det blir Livejournal av det här... ;-)

Unknown said...

Standalone is the usual word used for books that aren't part of a series. ☺
I've been enjoying reading your reviews. Have you ever read Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe books? He's another Golden Age detective author I enjoy after Dorothy Sayers.

Unknown said...

Hmm, the hyphen disappeared from stand-alone in the earlier comment. Autocorrect.