Wednesday, 14 May 2014

What have we been reading recently?

Pop the kettle on, grab some biscuits and a (somewhat) willing domesticated animal, it's time to curl up with a good book for a couple of hours. Here's what we've been reading recently.

Sian: It's been a mixed reading bag this month. I just couldn't finish The Luminaries. I found that I was only reading it on the underground instead of snatching time throughout my day and that's always a sign that I'm not enjoying a book so it was time to move onto something more bitesize. I jumped from that to Under The Skin (so short, so blissfully short). I still have no idea how I feel about it, it's certainly unsettling but the ending left me a little flat. I so wanted to love Shopgirl, but Steve Martin's novella didn't quite work for me. It always felt like it was trying to be too clever and missed the mark because of it. Perhaps it's a better film than it is a book?

I'm now reading Ghostwritten, arguably David Mitchell's most popular novel. I didn't enjoy 'now a motion picture that everyone's forgotten about' Cloud Atlas but I'm really enjoying this. What's next? Charlotte Bronte's first novel, The Professor.

Frances: Like half of team Sluttery, I’m currently attempting The Luminaries. I’m really enjoying the twists and turns and, yes, chapters that could have been edited down a bit. It's especially large to carry around in hardback so I’ve read rather a lot of other books while out and about. I read my first Dorothy Whipple book, High Wages - an author beloved of Persephone readers and with this story of a shop girl turned shop keeper set around the First World War, I understood why - as well as Angela Thirkell’s High Rising, a delightful 1930s class-based comedy. I’m currently reading Ben Watt’s Romany and Tom, his telling of his parent’s love affair. I saw him read from it at a Faber Social, and it was so wonderful I’m going to go and see him do it again at the Charleston Festival next week.

Kat: I have had a LOVELY time reading of late: when I finished The Quick, I had a couple of hours to kill, so wandered into Islington Waterstones and bought Mapp and Lucia by E.F. Benson which the Beeb are serialising later in the year. It's a 1930s society fracas based entirely around one-upmanship and stabbing by courtesy. How did I function before the waspish interplay between Miss Elizabeth Mapp and Mrs Emmeline "Lucia" Lucas? How did I survive without Lucia's GBF Georgie? Or Lucia's bombproof self-confidence at the occasional expense of truth? It is an utterly delightful book and I can't wait to dive into the rest of the series.

I'm now back in the present day and just finishing up Tony Hogan Bought Me An Ice Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma by Kerry Hudson, which is funny in such a saddening way: a little girl's upbringing with her devoted young ma, who is in thrall to Glasgow's most evil man. It's very dark material, lightened by going through it with the blithe young narrator, whose hand you hold throughout.

Alice: I have recently read the Turner Prize winning artist Grayson Perry's autobiography – Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl. It tells the story of his life up until his early twenties - by which time his identity, that of a tranvestite potter, was born.

His Chelmsford childhood was bleak, impoverished and acultural. He was extremely bright and sensitive, but lived in constant fear of his violent stepfather. His creativity and self-expression was repressed to such a degree that his coping mechanism (his imaginary world) became everything to him. His ornate giant pots and other artwork today still include references to this inner world, along with other darker subjects. This book is a nice, easy to read tale of how you cannot fight who you truly are. He asks so many questions about what is normal that ultimately feels liberating and celebratory.

Laura H: After losing about 10 copies, I finally managed to finish Madame Bovary. It's left me with a lot to think about, especially in terms of characterisation. Emma Bovary is often selfish, self-obsessed and shallow, yet you come to empathise with the fact that she's a product of a desperately stifling environment - a truly unique anti/heroine. I've just bought We by Yevgeny Zamyatin and am pretty damn excited about starting it. 1920s Russian dystopian sci fi? Yes please.

I've also been revisiting Michael Silverblatt's amazing Bookworm interviews: insightful, fascinating pieces with authors like David Mitchell, W.G. Sebald, Susan Sontag and Kurt Vonnegurt, they leave you desperate to delve into their books and others besides. If you haven't heard them before, go and listen now.

12 comments:

  1. Newsflash: I finished The Luminaries last night. The last 200 pages were gripping, as evident the up-to-2am dark circles under my eyes today.

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  2. Most of my reading this month has been bedtime stories. Alongside Hugless Douglas, The Gruffalo and Roald Dahl's Dirty Beasts, I have managed to crack the spine on The Kabul Beauty School. I'm hopeful that I'll get beyond the first page very soon!

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    1. Caleigh, I was introduced to the delights of Hugless Douglas recently - such a cute book!

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    2. I want to meet someone called Douglas now, just so I can run around trying to hug them.

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    3. I'm going to introduce you!

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  3. I didn't really like Ghostwritten, but enjoyed Mitchell's other book: 1000 Autumns of Jacob de Zoet.

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    1. Yeah, I'd never heard of 1000 Autumns of Jacob de Zoet until people who'd read Ghostwritten came out of the woodwork while I was reading and said that one was better. Dammit. But to be honest, I'm unlikely to read another David Mitchell after I've finished this one, he's just not for me.

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  4. I think I've sworn more at the Luminaries than at any other book ever and have nearly smacked it up the wall on several occasions. Husband keeps looking across at me and laughing ("I see you're STILL reading that book, hahahah"). Glad to see I'm not the only one struggling, but given Frances Ambler's comment above, am going to crack on.

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    1. Ha, yes. I do think it's worth it, and it gets better the further you get in (admittedly I had got to around 500 pages before I really started enjoying it, which seems like a pretty intense level of commitment!)

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    2. I used to carry on with books, I used to be a 'plougher-througher' (probably not a real term), but there are just so many great books to read. It makes me sad to read something I'm not totally enjoying. I'll usually read around a third before I admit defeat.

      That said, I think I read this at the wrong time. I've been reading so many huge books this year, I think I was a bit tired of them so I probably gave up sooner than I would have otherwise. Still reckon it could have done with another edit, though.

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  5. Sian - the film of Shopgirl is, regrettably, the same. Even more regrettably, I received 6 new books for my birthday this week then promptly scratched my cornea - meaning I've been unable to see for the remainder of my annual leave so haven't been able to start any of them! (I can see a little bit now. I'm not typing this sightless).

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    1. Oh no! All of this comment is sad. What are you six birthday books? Which are you most looking forward to reading when you can see properly?

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