I thought I’d just better list the books I’ve read this year. It’s a good time to do it because in a week or so I’ll be preparing for a new class, ‘The Curate, the Valet and the Queen Bee’ – on Barbara Pym, P. G. Wodehouse and E. F Benson.
So: Philip Pullman, La Belle Sauvage – which I loved. It’s interesting that Malcolm is such an all-round heartwarming character. Has he any real flaws? He’s very much the only child brought up in a small business; observant, clever and curious. I’m looking forward to the sequel!
Margaret Atwood, Cat’s Eye – it had been a while since I read this Atwood novel which remains one of my favourite Atwood novels. It was a joy to teach this in February with such a passionate, interested and interesting group of students!
Lisa McInerney, Blood Miracles. Actually, this is an audiobook – and brilliantly read. The problem I’m finding with audiobooks at the moment is that when they are as good as Blood Miracles, I want to own the hard copy!
Louise de Salvo, The Art of Slow Writing.
which led me to Margaux Fragoso’s memoir, Tiger, Tiger – an extraordinary account of a 15 year relationship between the author (aged 7 when the relationship began) and a paedophile which ended only with the latter’s suicide in his sixties. I have to say from the outset that I found the intimate details of the relationship disturbing – partly because Fragoso doesn’t filter them through an adult’s understanding, but recounts them from her child’s point of view. We witness her discomfort, her displacement thoughts but also her neediness and her readiness to believe in Peter’s grotesque love for her. In the end, reading the sexual scenes made me feel like an unwilling voyeur. For more debate about this, if you are interested you can read this review.
Tracy Chevalier, The Lady and The Unicorn – I read this just before the Accountant and I went to Sydney to see the famous tapestries. It was recommended by a colleague and I discovered it at one of the local op-shops the day before we left – how lucky was that! It was great to read it before seeing the tapestries – Chevalier does her research despite the romantically imagined scenarios. It’s a winning formula.
Three Daughters of Eve, Elif Shafak, an audio book. At the centre of this book is Peri’s relationship with the renegade Oxford professor, Azur. However, Azur, who we are expected to believe is compelling and charismatic, is an inconsistent character – at times overly-arrogant and at other times almost too kind. The three women, by contrast, are vital, engaging and utterly believable. Peri’s childhood, her parents complex relationship and the backdrop of Istanbul carried this book for me.
Donna Leon, The Anonymous Venetian. Another op shop find – I bought this simply because it was set in Venice. Commissario Guido Brunetti is a lovable detective. He struggles with the hierarchy, he loves his city, his wife, and his children. He even talks to his wife about his job. This won’t be the last Brunetti novel I read!
Thirty Days: the story of us, Mark Raphael Baker, a memoir of a marriage, ended too soon. I almost didn’t finish this – it felt too private, somehow, and too sad. In the end I skimmed through it – and I’m pleased I did. It’s too easy to take relationships for granted and although I try to cherish mine, too often I fail.
Kyo Maclear, Birds, Art, Life – which I’ve already reviewed here.
Poetry – I’ve been teaching, and therefore reading, Paula Meehan, Seamus Heaney and Joseph Woods. Fabulous stuff!