Incidentally a surfeit of doves in titles and covers this week. I added The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich into my online order because I have got very behind with Louise and having loved The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse I want to keep up. Then kimbofo's choice for the Not the TV Book Group (NTTVBG from now on) The Illusionist by Jennifer Johnston also sporting a very nice dove-ish cover.
Consolation by Anna Gavalda has a little duo too.
Has anyone read Anna Gavalda?
I've been meaning to and have recently read a few short stories from I Wish Someone Were Waiting For Me Somewhere and I like. I have had Hunting and Gathering on the shelves for a few years, but Consolation the new novel has arrived and I'm interested to know more, here's a blurbxtract (that would get me dazzling points in Scrabble if only it was a word)
"Consolation, "La Consolante" (this French title is what players of boules call the consolation play-off match between the losers) was the bestselling French novel in 2008, with sales of over half a million copies and translations into thirty-two languages. Darker and more complex than "Hunting and Gathering" ("Ensemble, c'est tout"), but just as dazzling ....A 47-year-old successful architect hears about the death of a woman, whom he once loved and his life starts to unravel. Charles seems to have everything, but turns his back on the present to go in search of her past and his childhood, falling a long way down. One day he finds himself on a Paris pavement covered in his own blood..."
More next week about French novels into English, (and it's not Les Elegants Porcupines which sadly didn't work for me) but still in France, I was sent a proof copy of How to Live - A Life of Montaigne in one question and twenty attempts by Sarah Bakewell and I have been reading it slowly ever since, the real thing has now arrived. It's always good to see how a proof translates into a real book. I
still haven't got hold of a copy of Montaigne's Essays but I will on
the strength of this book's suggestion that 'readers come in search of
companionship,wisdom and entertainment - and in search of themselves'.
Sarah Bakewell builds her biography of this Renaissance writer around
his essays and the questions he posed, and it makes me think perhaps an
eventual foray into a Renaissance reading trail might be interesting
because I don't know a great deal about it all. Any suggestions of good
reading that would offer an accessible overview of the Renaissance
would be very welcome.
I'm grateful to June Hutton, a Canadian author who kindly sent me a copy of her debut novel Underground. The novel follows the life of sixteen-year old Albert Fraser through the trenches of the First World war and onto the Spanish Civil war, life as a wanderer is abruptly halted when an encounter with Picasso's Guernica reveals where his life went wrong and what he must do to set it right. Since reading Dave Bolano's Guernica I do at least feel more informed about those events so I'm hoping this one will add more.
I think I am going to find The Diaries of Sofia Tolstoy with their foreword by Doris Lessing utterly irresistible.
'31st July 1868
It makes me laugh to read my diary. What a lot of contradictions - as thought I were the unhappiest of women! But who could be happier? Could any marriage be more happy and harmonious than ours?'
When you discover that Mr and Mrs Tolstoy had an agreement that in the interests of honesty and openness they would read each others diaries, you realise that occasionally Mrs T has to do a bit of back-pedaling.
Russia still seems to be drumming that steady bass note here though perhaps slightly less forcefully for me than for Lesley Blanche of Journey Into the Mind's Eye fame. Incidentally praise be because Lesley has finally made it to Russia this week. I read a little each day because her enthusiasm for her cause is utterly infectious and addictive... still no samovars to be found in the charity shops here but I haven't given up hope that Bookhound will find one in the Mare & Foal Sanctuary shop for £1 any day soon.
Did anyone read Jeremy Paxman's The Victorians when it first came out?
I have the paperback edition and I'm tempted by it, but didn't I hear a rumour that he hadn't 'actually' written it himself ?
John Crace's digested read is predictably scathing
'Hang on, I can't read Jeremy Vine's writing. Look, you don't imagine I've got time to look all this stuff up in the Ladybird Book of Victorian Paintings, do you? That's what my researchers are paid to do. Ah, it says, "Here's a load of paintings. Describe them in your usual condescending way." That sounds like a good idea. Here's one by Hubert von Herkomer with some Chelsea Pensioners. And here's another by Ford Madox Brown of people hanging out in the street.'
I'm still tempted.
Being the prize-list geek that I am I had made a note of a few of the books shortlisted for the Book Critic's Book Circle award and Lark & Termite by Jayne Anne Phillips was on my list, so I was delighted when it arrived unbidden the next day. Two children raised by their aunt in West Virginia in place of their mother Lola and while their father is caught up in the chaos of the Korean War, relationships slowly unravel and it seems truths are to be revealed. Reviews suggest this has echoes of Faulkner, Woolf, Kerouac and McCullers which sounds like an interesting combination.
Lastly this week, The Given Day by Dennis Lehane. Set in Boston (US...not the bulb fields of Lincs) in 1918, this one has had solid and glowing reviews and recounts the story of two Boston families at a time of political and social unrest 'swept up in a maelstrom of revolutionaries and anarchists, immigrants and ward bosses'. What appeals is the suggestion that this is something of a literary, historical epic by a writer best known for his skills for writing crime thrillers, so I'm hoping for a blistering page-turner with a bit of depth.
I'd love to know your thoughts, has anyone read any of these?