Lots of good books this month, down to the weather and hanging around for various things.
Louis De Bernieres- The Dust that Falls from Dreams- first book of a trilogy. This one set in the wonderful years before the war, wonderful if you had money that is. An idyllic lifestyle is portrayed with gardens and picnics and security. Then comes WW1 , the young men go off to war and the women nurse and have their hearts broken. A lovely read, highly enjoyable. There are some interesting ideas to get your teeth into too, religion, the after life, psychology, death etc. My favourite bit was the war diary written by one of the young chaps. My Dad wrote a diary in WW2, and I know it was a different war, but the language, the phraseology, the mindless boredom was just like the diary in this book. There was a real ring of authenticity to it. My only negative thought was that the vast majority of characters were exceedingly nice. The exceptions were Rosie on the rebound ,married whilst still in grief, and her Mother who was truly obnoxious to Rosie’s husband, but apart from them everyone was lovely. I am especially fond of Rosie’s father with his golf balls and money-making schemes, he could so easily have tipped into being Mr Micawber. A perfect summer read for one who spent a long time this summer too drowsy in the heat for anything.
Kim Wilson-In the Garden with Jane Austin- fascinating book describing the role gardens play in Jane Austin’s books, the real gardens which inspired her, those you can visit and how to create your Austinesque garden. Lots of lovely illustrations, and a section on houses and gardens that featured in the various film and adaptations.
Joseph Conrad- The Secret Agent- Said to be the first book set in the political world of spies and terrorism. Verloc is the secret agent working for the Russian embassy, but as this is in 1906, the Russians are frightened of Communism and dissidents and malcontents who have come to live in England. Verloc keeps an eye on the group and feeds information to his embassy whilst also supplying information to the London police. The Embassy decides England does not take the threat seriously enough and orders Verloc to place a bomb. Verloc is not too happy about this, he leads a lazy life, with easy money.
Alongside this there is the story of his home life with wife, mother in law, and his brother-in-law who has learning difficulties. Verloc makes the mistake of believing his wife loves him for himself. She married him for the security for her family and tries to be a model wife.
The language in the book I found quite hard going. It is a little archaic to begin with. Also Conrad is not English-born, and according to the Introduction in the book I read, his language reads like a translation, which adds to the foreignisms of the characters.
It was interesting to read the different political views of all the characters. Towards the end there are two versions of how life should be led. One ,the strong look after the weak, so life is like living in a hospital. Two, the strong are held back by the weak, so the weak should be destroyed.
There was a TV series maybe a couple of years ago. I think it was quite a good adaptation of the book, and I was glad I had seen it, as it helped me follow what was happening.
A struggle at times to read, but interesting. As I mention gaining an understanding of the politics of the day, and seeing the portrayal of the end of a marriage, gave me food for thought.
Camilla Way- the lies we told- I needed an easier read after the Secret Agent. Someone recommended this to me, was it you? Anyway it was a jolly good read. Hannah, a girl who scares her Mum. Luke who is handsome, gorgeous and had every advantage from his parents and Clara his girlfriend who adores him. But lives built on lies are at risk. So many twists in this story. A corker of a thriller and I read it in almost one sitting, certainly in a 24 hour period.
Hari Kunzru- White Tears- You know you have a good book when you stop half way through to do some background research. In this case the research was into the early history of the blues in the 1920s. The novel revolves around a wealthy white chap and his geeky friend who mix an old blues song, make up a name for the singer and release it to the world. The plot is set mostly in New York and the lifestyle reminded me a lot of Donna Tarrt and Goldfinch, with the music obsession reminding me of High Fidelity by Nick Hornby, and then the action takes a road trip and I am thinking On the Road by Jack Kerouac. Then it takes a surreal turn and we have time slips and a ghost story. And none of this does justice to the whole. By golly it was a top-notch book. The best this year- so far.
Paula Hawkins- Into the Water- from the author of The Girl on the Train- this is her second novel. Very exciting, a bit predictable, or maybe I just read too much and spot the hints. Briefly a river with a past for drowning troublesome women, or did they just commit suicide? A great read which I don’t want to spoil for you. Just read and enjoy.
Some great books this month, but I am always up for your recommendations please.