I’m painfully aware I haven’t been blogging much at all recently, but I was determined to log my thoughts, however briefly, on the books I’ve read whilst away in France. So here are my Instagram posts which I did as I was going. They’re inevitably more brief than my usual reviews, but I hope you enjoy them. I realise now they’re all quite different to each other – it’s made for an excellent few weeks.
Are We Having Fun Yet? – Lucy Mangan
This is the first book I picked up to read this hols because I wanted to laugh, and laugh I did, Reader, usually aloud. I also took pictures of sections, circled them and sent them to all my female friends. There are so many moments which resonated. I loved Mangan’s column in The Guardian a few years ago – the narrator’s parents in this novel will be very familiar to readers of the column. I have also decided that I need a spa break with my mum friends too. This novel is absolutely brilliant and just what I needed after a looong term.
No One is Talking About This – Patricia Lockwood
I started reading this yesterday down on the harbour; thankfully, I was back at the tent when I finished it, completely undone by the turn the narrative takes. A friend lent me her copy, pressing into my hands with a sort of fervour unusual for her.
I think I hadn’t wanted to read it before because the cover makes it look like one of those self – help books from the nineties, but perhaps that’s what this is – the book we all *really* need now. I’m aware I’m posting this here, and that I’m consciously hoping for engagement, but this novel(?) skewers our willingness to become absorbed into an online world in which we talk about everything whilst actually talking about nothing. And then something happens in our lives which blows open the ‘portal’ again and we’re reminded of the physicality of being alive. It is both a warning and a recognition of how we all live now. It’s also unlike anything else I’ve read. Outstanding (unlike that coffee…)
By Night in Chile – Roberto Bolano
Just finished this intriguing story of a Chilean priest who is remembering key moments in his intellectual life as he lays dying. Father Lecroix has, largely due to his role as a critic, encountered and befriended many of Chile’s literary elite. He also, albeit fleetingly, tutors Pinochet and is temporarily forced to acknowledge the seismic shifts in his society. He isn’t always that likeable, and it’s not entirely clear how honest he is really being, not until the end, in any case.
At the heart of his narrative is the ‘wizened youth’ who, the priest believes, is wishing to malign his reputation. Because of his fevered state, the narrative is sometimes fragmentary and often feels quite dream-like. It strays towards magical – realism before it ducks back with a reminder of the political situation, or a wry observation about pigeon shit.
I picked this second – hand copy up in the marvellous @thepetersfieldbookshop before heading off on my hols. It’s a short but memorable tale, a slightly more coherent narrative than, say, Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, but there are certainly similarities. The deathbed self-confessional tone is done well here. I definitely want to read more of Bolano’s writing.
The Devil and the Dark Water – Stu Turton
I had absolutely loved Stu Turton’s debut novel (head over to the blog t read my review – link in bio – if you’ve nothing else to do for 5 mins) and whilst this new one initially feels quite different, you soon realise Turton’s up to his twisty-ingenious-brilliant plotting again.
Set on a C17th ship, this is essentially a murder mystery case, and one which makes excellent use of its setting (we have a beautiful diagram to help us track the locations of various nefarious deeds) and is not dissimilar from the country house of Seven Deaths in that there is no form of escape for the characters.
And, incidentally, I’m with other readers in thinking Arent is probably hot, regardless of what Turton says in his Apology at the end.
Warlight – Michael Ondaatje
This is a story about childhood memories, the ambiguity of adult roles in an adolescent’s development, and the shadows left after the Second World War on those who worked in espionage. Nathaniel and his sister are left in the care of The Moth when their mother and father leave, ostensibly because of the father’s new job. The Moth introduces the teenagers to a cast of shady figures who become a family in themselves.
Finished my final holiday choice just in time – now on the way home, having had an excellent month of swimming and reading. This has been on my tbr pile for a shamefully long time and so I was determined that this was the moment. Now I’m wondering why it took me so long.
The exploration of memory and the uncertainty of what is actually true makes for a fascinating story. What Nathaniel’s mother is, or what she has been involved in, is one of the many questions haunting the narrator. Ondaatje’s take on the war narrative comes in at an oblique angle, making it a highly distinctive novel. Well worth a read.
So, there you have it – my reading for the past four weeks. I’m aiming to get a bit more reading done before September – hopefully meaning that this blog isn’t dead in the water just yet! If you’ve read any of these books, I’d love to hear what you thought of them!