Anticipating a year ahead of prize-list reading to which I'm addicted and won't be able to resist, I thought I should really deal with some of last year's unread books before I gather in any more.Having bought them in a fit of over-excitement and hard-back extravagence they have glared at me malevolently ever since.
From last year's Booker long list, So Many Ways To Begin by Jon McGregor seemed like a good place to start; not only for the title and the allure of the monochrome cover with that strangely compelling design but also because it has a nice burgundy ribbon bookmark.
Completely swayed by a tiny piece of ribbon, that's all it takes.I suppose that probably added at least £1 onto the price of the book but a ribbon is a clever bit of marketing to my mind, it already suggests
Class and refinement.
Old fashioned learning
History and tradition.
Cripes, it's only a bit of ribbon.
That aside I was instantly wrapped up in the book and quickly realized that this might have been a contender for the dgr Booker prize last year had I read it at the right time, sorry about that Jon.
David Carter is a museum curator who has had a lifelong passion for collecting and preservation. Married to Eleanor and with a daughter Katie. It is a chance and unguarded remark from that classic source, the slowly dementing relative, that sets David's life on a new course and one from which he will emerge having made some startling and unexpected discoveries,mostly about himself.
Ann over on Patternings recently made a very interesting observation when she read Ian McEwan's latest novelette, Chesil Beach.There was a glaring mishap in the timing of certain contemporaneous events that completely jolted her read.Perhaps it had been intentional, perhaps a copy editor's slip but it was enough to distract from the read. I had a similar occurrence with So Many Ways To Begin.
It was to all eyes such a minor detail as to be of little consequence and may seem a bit pedantic of me to hold it up for public perusal but it was enough to stop me reading and...well, this is it
"He wondered if his mother even knew about it.
A hospital admissions card, headed Royal London Hospital Whitechapel, 29th March 1945.
Brisk blue handwriting, the details spread neatly across the dotted lines..."
The addition of Royal to the hospital's name is very recent for a hospital that has been known as The London since its inception in 1740 to serve the population of the East End of London rapidly increasing with an influx of Huguenots and Jewish immigrants into Spitalfield's and Bethnal Green.
Alright, so I looked that history bit up, but I do remember feeling midly cheated to be seconded off to a hospital with such a boring name as a third year student nurse when there were exciting places like Addenbrooke's to go to.
Incidentally, great book on the hospital for anyone who is interested London Pride, The Story of a Voluntary Hospital by A.E.Clark-Kennedy and when we arrived we quickly realized it was a hospital as steeped in history and tradition as Gt Ormond Street and we loved it.
OK so no big deal, perhaps to writers these things don't matter in the grand scheme of things, but it quite put me off my stride for a while. I didn't go out for the four hour walk that Ann did to think about it all, but I do know exactly what she means.
I was however soon back in the groove and had one of those page turning reads of complete immersion.One of the superlatives about this book is the title because it resonates on just about every page, so many many ways to begin and Jon McGregor explores them all. I even appreciated the lack of speech marks as this astutely seemed to give the book the freedom to flow which it did.
I've now finally picked up The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai and yet again, the first 30 pages haven't worked any magic, plus there's no ribbon marker and the cover does not match my mood or my decor, but I will persevere because everyone tells me I must.