Holidays are for catching up on reading, among other things.
I took a book of short stories: in fact ‘The Best British Short Stories, 2012,’ edited by Nicholas Royle. Quite how we can have the best short stories of 2012 half way through the year, I’m not quite sure – but this was a fine collection, including my favourite ‘The Heart of Denis Noble’ written by Alison MacLeod, which won the BBC short story award in 2011, (which again raised the question of the title claiming to be the best from 2012) so you may have head it read aloud on the radio. Alison taught me, along with Jane Rogers when I did my Arvon Course in Devon in October 2011 and she is a fine writer. They both are.
When I’d finished the short stories I moved onto ‘The Tiger’s Wife’ by Tea Obreht an interesting, ambitious and engaging first book by a young novelist who weaves a search for the truth about her grandfather and his death, with fairy tale and superstition of the region. It won The Orange Prize 2011 and the author was only 25 and writing in her second language. I lost my way in the book a couple of times, as the weaving of layers left me wandering and wondering just a little. But overall a fantastic book which I would recommend.
Next on my list was ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ by Khaled Hosseini. I had read The Kite Runner by the same author a few years ago and had enjoyed it and the discussions we had at my book group, but I had put off reading any other books by this author after seeing the film of that book and the depiction of violence in it. However this is a very good book which is written primarily from the women’s perspective – a fifteen year old girl sent to marry an older man in Kabul. This man’s cruelty and violent nature becomes apparent very quickly, and when Mariam doesn’t provide a son he marries a second wife, who also has to bear the burden of his violence. The friendship which develops between these women is what saves and develops the story.
Years ago I read a book by Donna Tartt called ‘The Little Friend’ – it had been a book club choice by a friend of mine who had read her first book, ‘The Secret History’ and raved about it. ‘The Little Friend’ was hard going, and long and everyone said it wasn’t any where near so good as ‘The Secret history’ so I’m not sure why it has taken me so long to get around to it! It is an amazing book. Dark and intriguing, it’s all about a group of people thrown together through their Greek course at college. The narrator is a late comer to the group and somewhat of an outsider in many ways, and it is through him we come to discover the awful crime and what is needed to cover it up. It doesn’t sound much, but it is so well put together, so well written and somehow believable. I finished it this weekend.
Now I have a Barbara Trapido waiting for my attention, in time for September’s book group, but I may squeeze a few more in before then. Any suggestions?