Archive for August 16th, 2012

August 16, 2012

July Reading

I read some books in July:


Susan Cooper, The Dark is Rising, Greenwitch, The Grey King, The Silver on the Tree: It’s been a few years since my last read of this series, and I’m so glad I found the time to do it this month. Last month I talked about how well the first book in the series works as a standalone. For obvious reasons this is untrue of the rest; with the second book in the series the sunlit feeling of the first is gone. Of all the series Greenwitch and The Grey King were the ones I remembered best before this reread. Having finished it I think they’re still my favourites. Both are imbued with this tremendous sense of melancholy and remoteness. It’s another matter that my reread of the series clarified for me what I’m going to be doing with my life for the next couple of years.

Terry Pratchett, Witches Abroad: Another reread, mostly because I had a free afternoon and wanted to spend it in bed with a book. Is it sacrilegious to complain that Pratchett is a little too preoccupied with the power of stories? I don’t think there’s been a Discworld book that wasn’t about this in years – though Witches Abroad certainly does it well.

Tove Jansson, Moominvalley in November: I embarked upon a reread of the Moomin books a few months ago. Moominvalley in November does not actually contain any Moomins; it’s about the valley in their absence. Lovely, quiet, melancholy. Not my favourite of the series (that’s Moominland Midwinter) but then, all of the books are wonderful.

Jan Morris, Last Letters from Hav, Hav of the Myrmidons: I’d read the first of these before, and thought the placing of the city in our own history was brilliant. Rereading it I was struck this time by how cleverly it works as a travelogue. In part I think this impression is enhanced by Hav of the Myrmidons, in which “Jan” is forced to engage politically with the city and its history in ways that could be avoided in the earlier book. Together I think the two work brilliantly.

Christopher Priest, The Islanders: Like the Hav books, The Islanders is a travelogue-of-sorts of places that doesn’t exist. It’s in that capacity that I’ve written about the two of them together (those of you who read the Indian edition of The National Geographic Traveller will be hearing all about this in September). But The Islanders is crying out for other readings as well, and I’m itching to go back to it and explore other angles. It’s non-linear, has multiple layers of unreliable narrators, is part murder investigation part love story, has a horror story right there in the middle; it’s a joy to think about..

T.H. White, Mistress Masham’s Repose: I wrote about this here.

Karen Lord, Redemption in Indigo: I wrote about this here.

Carolyn Mackler, The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things: Mackler’s protagonist is a teenaged girl who is overweight. I’d heard a lot about this book and how it deals with the issues around fat, and on the whole I think it does a better job than mot things. A strong, cleverly done coming of age narrative, and one I thoroughly enjoyed.

Lorna Hill, Dancing Peel: Somehow, during the course of an otherwise quite ordinary childhood reading, I managed to miss all of the Sadler’s Wells books. As a result this was my first Lorna Hill book. Presumably the Sadler’s Wells books would be more to my taste (I hear intriguing things of this character Sebastian?) but Dancing Peel did nothing for me.

Georgette Heyer, The Unknown Ajax: In which Heyer talks a bit about class and has a character be deliberately gauche in the face of high society snobbery. But then it turns out he’s rich and went to Harrow, so there’s really no conflict after all. Not likely to cause a revolution then, but funny enough that I’ll forgive it that.

Rahul Roy, A Little Book on Men: I wrote about this here.

Grace Burrowes, Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish: I’ve probably said everything there is to say about Burrowes over the last few months. Though I find myself wishing we could have one romance heroine who doesn’t really really really want to have children. That’s not so much to ask, is it?

Eloisa James, When Beauty Tamed the Beast: I’ve been enjoying James’ series of fairytale reinterpretations (I think The Ugly Duchess is out this month). This isn’t my favourite in the series, but as its inspirations include House and Malory Towers and there’ a manservant called Prufrock, there’s enough in there to keep me entertained. Other literary/popcultural references include one to the Sarah Gorely books which are so important a part of Julia Quinn’s fictional Regency London. And there’s a scene near the end when the Beauty (not the Beast) has to have all her skin sloughed off that reminded me of an Angela Carter short story (“The Tiger’s Bride”, I think).

Willem Elsschot, Cheese: I wrote about this here.

John Mortimer, Rumpole and the Primrose Path: There are days when Rumpole is necessary. This is the last Rumpole book, and I was occasionally a bit disoriented by how recent it felt with its references to things like ipods (I feel like I’ve said this about one of the other late Rumpole books before). But still, deeply comforting and great fun to read.