I've let too much time bookish water pass under the bridge (even for me who will often give a book a few weeks to ferment before writing my thoughts on it here) to write in any detail about these reads that straddled Christmas and New Year.
However, their presence on the table at my right hand, where I stack up anything I want to cover here, is also starting to bother me. I can see them constantly out of the corner of my eye and they're all glaring at me, as well as confirming that the year is already flying by at a rate of knots.
It seems a shame not to mark their passage onto the Books Read list, so a quick round up should help.
The Coroner by M.R.Hall, and it was the arrival of the sequel in proof copy that had me ferreting out the first in the series.
A pacy, engrossing read offering a coroner's perspective on the world of crime and a credible female lead in Jenny Cooper, flawed, damaged and struggling with life as she is appointed to the role of Severn Vale District Coroner. I was riveted as well as enjoying what I can only assume is good insider info on the life and work of a coroner from an author who has either worked in the system or knows someone who does. Every frustration in the system suitably exposed as the coroner explores the cause of death and those distinctions clearly made and separated from crime-solving, though Jenny does seem to cross that boundary from time to time. A character I would seek out and read in a series, so how handy that I have the next one lined up.
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann and I'm utterly ashamed and mortified that a book I felt had been one of my best reads in recent months has sat unwritten about for so long.
1974 and as Phillipe Petit makes his tightrope walk across the Twin Towers high above New York, life in the city below is also a balancing act for a disparate group of residents whose lives will be woven together by this day and this event. Themes of home, faith, loss and loneliness stalk the street priest, the grieving mother of the son killed in Vietnam, the hookers, the subway graffiti artists as their lives connect, and Colum McCann explores that old observation about degrees of separation slowly narrowing and reducing them to a proximity that could perhaps have felt contrived but somehow worked wonderfully for me.Don't ask me how long I spent speculating about that bendy man on the cover (real or computer graphics) or why I missed writing about such a beautifully written book; perhaps writing a blog is a balancing act too, it just happens sometimes and though I could kick myself, time to move on.
Though I rarely write here
about books that I haven't enjoyed because I never finish them, I'm
making an exception for The Blasphemer by Nigel Farndale.
I did finish this one in the desperate hope that the end would somehow pick up the narrative depth of the beginning, which had me hooked in very quickly. I was in a forgiving mood because it was Christmas, and I don't even drink but the halls were decked with boughs of holly and all was right with the world...I may have been much less tolerant of this book in February.
By the end I had galloping plot muddle overdose and I emerged trying to convince myself that the time hadn't been wasted because perhaps it had introduced me to a writer who knows how to tell a good story, but one who had created a sort of motorway pile up of incredulous ideas and sadly seemed to have put a lifetime of them into the one book.
The plane crash, the diabetic daughter, the volcanic eruption, the letters from the Great War deserter, the school teacher- terrorist theme, the doomed love affair, the long swim for shore, the ship hitting an iceberg, the nasty goings-on at the university, the sighting of angels, the siege, the kidnapping, the earthquake, the unwanted pregnancy, the fall through the glass roof, the marriage on the rocks, the abduction, the meteorite hitting London...well I may have done a bit of a pick-and-mix porkie-pie fabrication there for fear of spoilers but trust me, a good few of them are in there.. did I forget the bomb?
I may have done, so that's for me to know and you to guess, but something went sadly amiss with this novel for me.
Actually, what do I know about these things, Melvyn Bragg thinks it's 'a great achievement' , The Australian thinks it's 'exquisite and luminous' and is a cert for the Booker short list and there seem to be plenty of strong reviews on Amazon. It'll probably be a Hollywood blockbuster too so just ignore me swimming against the tide, but I really wanted to sit Nigel Farndale down and say now let's just slow down a bit here.
Lets' make 'em wait, here we have books two, three and four as well and they'll be very happy with all of them, just not all between the same covers.
Is it me? Has anyone else read it? What thinkest thou?
Invisible by Paul Auster... I'm in that valley of the shadow of ambivalence, read but not sure that I enjoyed or had that much sympathy with anyone and may have been bamboozled by Paul Auster's usual narrative somersaults.
Also will someone pleeeeeeeeeeeease explain the end?
It might just alter my perceptions and catapult me into the open plains of brilliant sunlight, understanding and appreciation.