Apart from the first one I read this month, it has been a good month for books. Here’s what I have read .
Thomas Mann- Death in Venice- My German author , and not quite the book I had been expecting- no murder mystery this. It’s a collection of short stories plus the novella Death in Venice. The short stories struck me as being the same plot re-worked each time. Artistic type of chap, who may just dabble or be reasonably successful as a writer, is attracted to a young woman with whom he becomes infatuated before being spurned- the end. Death in Venice, is somewhat the same- middle aged successful author leaves his home town of Munich for a summer holiday in Venice. Here he spots a beautiful young polish boy (14 years old) who is there with his family, He becomes infatuated, starts following him around, makes himself ridiculous dyeing his hair and wearing make up to look younger. Allows himself to imagine his love is returned- fortunately he does nothing but look and stalks the child. Eventually he becomes aware that Venice is not a healthy city- cholera is rampant and the city authorities have ordered the inhabitants not to alarm the tourists. The inevitable happens as the young boy and his family depart. What I found most interesting was when I researched the book online I found that Mann and his wife had a holiday in Venice, on which they encountered a Polish family, and Mann was drawn towards the son. The son only recognised himself in the story when it was brought to his attention as an adult. He said the descriptions of himself was accurate down to the clothes he wore, and that adults did find him attractive- older women were given to kissing him! He was totally unaware of Mann’s fascination for him. I lived briefly in Munich back in the 1970 but apart from the English Gardens, there was nothing I recognised. Venice- I have passed through here briefly- and you do get the impression of a tourist trap in the story- sadly nothing of the art and the beauty. I didn’t get much from this collection and it was a bit of a struggle to get through with it’s rather unhealthy obsession for a child in the tale from which this collection gets its name.
Zadie Smith- White Teeth– I’m hard pushed to say what this book is about- it won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction- it’s a debut novel, and appears as number 29 on the Channel five list of the top thirty British novels. It is also very good indeed- complex, well plotted, brilliant characterisation, absolutely engaging and funny in places- to quote from the blurb on back” dealing with friendship, love, war, three cultures, three families over three generations, oh and a brown mouse.” Read it, tell me what you think. I’ll be adding it to my 100 list of books, still room for lots more books on that list.
Joanna Trollope– An Unsuitable Match. So the library, my branch was closing for 8 weeks and I paniced, I requested books from the Channel five list- but not enough were available, so then I thought lets see if some of my favourite authors have had any books published. First choice for me was Joanna Trollope- who writes well of the well – heeled middle classes- agas, an acre of garden, mews houses in London- doctors, IT consultants, media types- pure escapism, except she writes of very real yet ordinary scenarios- so we have a divorced woman in her 60s- a translator in her nice mews London house, who falls in love with an American widower, who adores her- but they both have children, who feel left out, and is there something not quite right? A super read for a freezing cold weekend.
Claire Douglas- Then She Vanishes– another loved author, chosen to while away some difficult hours for me this month. Not going to spoil it for anyone- it’s good, and the title says all you need to know.
D.H. Lawrence- Lady Chatterley’s Lover- This is number 30 in the list of 30 best British novels. I’d not read this before, although I have read his The Rainbow, Women in Love and Sons and Lovers and enjoyed all three. As you most likely know the book was written almost 100 years ago, but not published until 1960 when it was the subject of an obscenity trial. It’s not obscene, but it does cover sex, and did scandalise some. These scenes seem quite tame these days. The book is of its time and as such I found it fascinating especially having read Death in Venice earlier this month. That book was published approximately 20 years before Lawrence penned his novel, he was living in Germany and would have been aware of that book and I could see some similarites- the early part of Lady C has lots of young men talking about art, literature, all slightly effete to my mind. Then Lawrence moves onto politics ,industrialisation, the mining industry (already failing in the 1920s), the love of money by the masses- wanting to have a good time, riding their motor bikes, commercialisation ( shades of the arts and crafts movement), feminism, class, the economy- almost forseeing the depression of the 1930s and the pursuit of success or the bitch goddess as he called it. There is a lot more in this novel than its notorious subject matter. It was worth reading, and was in its day a major shift in subject matter, but what I liked about it the most was the picture it painted of life in the 1920s, a time of enormous change after WW1, and one that foretold some of our future.
Susan Hill- The Benefit of Hindsight- Susan Hill ia another favourite of mine, and who knew she had a whole detective series to go at. Fortunately this one stood up nicely by itself so I could pick up the back stories without any difficulty. A robbery gone wrong, a dead woman and her injured husband are the crimes to be solved. The detective is helpfully related to a GP who has her own story running alongside which is very like the novellas I am used to from this author and very poignant it was too. A thoroughly enjoyable read for the end of this month.
Some really good books this month- love to know if anyone has read any of the above, and if you have read an especially good book recently.
Back next month for some more book chat- the library has now extended the return date on all my books to 17 May. MAY!!! I have requested more books and am going to brave the central library and the scary one way system into town in March.