Read any good books lately?

Two of the books in this pile were not for me, but for Cycloman. I expect you can guess which two, without much thought.

There’s something so very different about reading on holiday.
I had started and not progressed with ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’ months ago and put it away. Something made me pull it out and pack it for the holiday and this time I found it an enjoyable and informative read while relaxing in France. Amusing and light, but still managing to convey some of the horror of living under German occupation.

‘The Shieling’ by David Constantine is a very enjoyable collection of short stories. I love the way his seemingly simple style hits the spot and reveals an unexpected moment or a turning point and I yearn to be able to write so effectively.

‘Dancing Backwards’ by Salley Vickers was another joy of a book, in a way similar in style to David Constantine’s writing, examining the intricacies of relationships. The novel is set within the time frame of a cruise and arrival, and reveals the history and loves of the main character and through this we slowly discover the reason for the cruise.

‘The White Woman on the Green Bicycle’ by Monique Roffey was short-listed for the Orange Prize in 2010. It is a story set in Trinidad over a 50 years time span exploring the political fight for independence through the eyes of Sabine, originally French, and her husband. I enjoyed it, but found the structure a little odd, finishing in the middle and then changing narrator and starting from another point… and did not develop enough empathy for the two main characters to rave about it. It would be a good book to read for a book group as there is a great deal to discuss.

Guy de Maupassant’s writing is wonderful, on a par with Checkov. I took Maupassant’s  ‘Best Short Stories’ and savoured each. The knack for revealing a character in a deft and amusing manner is one to which I also aspire! Social niceties and undercurrents of character defects revealed: such insights to the human condition.

I also read Joanna Trollopes ‘Second Honeymoon‘ – a light easy holiday read, up to her usual standard.

I saved ‘The Lacuna’ by Barbara Kingsolver until last. So far so brilliant! It beat ‘Wolf Hall’ to the Orange prize last year and rightly so, in my opinion. ‘Wolf Hall’ was excellent, but this is wonderful. I still have about 200 hundred pages to go, so I shall not say too much more here. However I shall have to put it down as I have book club next week and I haven’t only started reading ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad’ by Jennifer Egan last night.

The problem now will be squeezing in a few pages at bed time, and ‘Can I finish the book in 10 days?’
I had intended to take a copy on holiday, but somehow it fell off the bottom of the list of things to do. The top bunk in the spare room is still full of books waiting my attention, mainly bought at Oxfam book sales and charity events.

I need another holiday, already.

Author: Sarah

No time to lose. No, time to lose. Make time to stand and stare.... Did you see that?

23 thoughts on “Read any good books lately?”

  1. I have been reading Wilbur Smith’s books for years. I have most of them in hardback and they do take up a lot of room on the bookshelves. I have just read his last book, ‘Those In Peril.’ A good read dealing with the Somali Hijacking of ships.

    I do find though as he is getting older he is injecting far too much explicit sex into the storylines. I’m no prude, but the old boy is getting on a bit and although married yet again, to a younger woman, the scenes do very little for the storyline.

  2. What I like about reading on vacation is how my reading time doesn’t feel so limited or condensed! I’m looking forward to looking up the books you’ve listed here.
    Some of my own favorite reading books are The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver), Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte), I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb) and I also like Jodi Picoult novels for long plane trips!

  3. Yes, 1story, I agree about the time thing on hols…. The Poisonwood Bible is a great book, but The Lacuna is evne better in my opinion. I don’t enjoy Jodi P, and will look inot The Much is True. Thank you!

  4. I am hopelessly attempting to cull some of my books. It’s a difficult process because I’m having to re-read them in order to decide their fate. Should I keep them or pass them on to a good home?

    So, I’m reading Asimov, Len Deighton, Arthur C Clarke, and John Fowles, to name but a few.

    I’m hopelessly behind with anything published in the last ten years, but I did read Wolf Hall. I actually enjoyed it, anyone who can make Thomas Cromwell seem faintly likeable deserves some respect!

  5. Oh, Ara – Fancy having to re-read them all before culling them! I bet you’ve really enjoyed a few old friends?
    I did enjoy Wolf Hall, but can see why Lacuna pipped her to the post

  6. Nym, I’m afraid you are right, I am having a wonderful time, and the culling is not going well!

    I’m hopeless, I want to keep them all!

  7. I was convinced that Angels and Demons was one of yours Pseu! The only biking book I have read was Lance Armstrong’s ‘Not about the Bike’. Did that come before or after Penn’s and does the latter’s have anything to do with biking? I liked Lance’s book, and was deeply impressed by what he went through, though now people are saying the whole thing was a scam and that he never had cancer in the first place.

    Toc, Wilbur Smith lives about 400 yards from where I am now. I have never met him, but I sometimes see his Aston Martin. His house is called Sunbird. He keeps a pretty low profile as far as I can tell.

    I stopped reading his books years ago, I am afraid. I think A Sparrow Falls was the last one (A Sparrow Farts was the colloquial name for it). I loved When the Lion Feeds and some of his earlier novels, possibly a reflection of my youth, but eventually I found them too predictable. I cant believe he does much of the writing himself these days. I bet he has a team that does it for him. He probably just gives them some ideas and then edits their work. But that is only my guess.

    My rule for books is that I must read something classic or otherwise educational when at home and contemporary novels only when I am away, even for a weekend. Trouble is that I fall asleep as soon as I pick up a book when I go to bed.

  8. Wolf Hall was MY Christmas present, but I haven’t read it yet … can’t even find it! I am currently looking at the (possible) Araminta culls to see what I want to keep. Most of them, I suspect.

    (I also have a suspicion they are breeding!)

  9. Er, well, yes, but I have a plan.

    Although I’m only half way through the first case of twenty, and there are a few more cases in the attic, I thought that I could turn the study in the annex into a LIBRARY!

  10. This summer I read “Kusamakura” and “Sanshiro” by Natsume Soseki, “O Mandarim” by Eca de Quieroz, “In Dependence” by Sarah Ladipo-Manyika, “Bellocq’s Ophelia” by Natasha Tretheway, “My Life in New Orleans” by Louis Armstrong, and have started on Vita Sackville-West’s “All Passion Spent”, to be read while on holiday in the country.

  11. I rarely read paper books these days, but I am in the middle of reading Thud by Terry Pratchett at the moment on my eReader. It is one of his Discworld series and, as usual, is very funny. I hope Sky make a TV film out this one as it involves Lady Policemen Angua and Sally running around with no clothes on quite a bit! 🙂

  12. Who was it who said, “Bred any good rooks lately?”
    Frank Muir, perhaps? 😕
    Or some other ornithologist?

  13. I didn’t have too much time to read whilst in the UK – but I found time to read a biography of Livia, wife of Claudius. Having treated myself to the DVD of ‘I Claudius’ which is as good as it was when first broadcast by the BBC, I wanted to know just how a modern historian differed from Robert Graves’ image. Well worth the read!

    I also finished a rather innovative historical work “1415” which looked at just that one year in the life of Henry V. Fascinating – it really highlighted the fact that so many historical works are written with ‘hind-sight’ rather than dealing with the fact that for Henry, every day was a ‘new’ day which brought new problems. It was extremely detailed, which might be boring for some, but I found it fascinating that Henry put his Crown Jewels up as surety for loans (which he never repaid!) and even pawned the excess pots and pans from the Royal kitchens to fund his expedition to France – the expedition which culminated in Agincourt.

    One of the problems I have here in Oz is that books are horrendously expensive, and the selection is not as great as it is in the UK. I am loathe to spend money on a book that I might not enjoy (don’t even think libraries!) so I find my choice very limited. One of the reasons that I’m considering going to e-books is that I can download the first chapters of the works of authors that I don’t know to see whether I want to buy the ‘whole thing’.


    We tried to ‘cull’ our books when we moved – we got rid of just one – and that was because we had, somehow, got two copies! Make the spare study into a library!

  14. Like you, PB, I didn’t find “Wolf Hall” easy, and I also enjoy the Shardlake books. Have you read Robert Harris’s “Pompei”? With its interspersed modern scientific passages, I found it quite frightening. This summer I read “Wolf among Wolves” and “What now, little Man” by Hans Fallada, having recently read his “Alone in Berlin”. None of them very cheery books, but enlightening.

  15. Sipu,

    When my parents live in the Seychelles, they had a good friend who lived on Cerf Island just off Mahe. Wilbur Smith owned a house there for several years. We used to pass by it often to visit our friends be never actually saw him. I do believe that he wrote one of his many books there?

    Recently, I have discovered an Afrikaans author who writes detective novels which are translated into English. He is very good and I would put money on the fact that no one would guess the outcome of this one.

    Here is a little rundown on the one I read:-

    Thirteen Hours

    Deon Meyer’s latest novel, his sixth to be translated into English from Afrikaans, is an exhilarating read, and shows him to be one of the best and most exciting of crime writers.

    As the title suggests, the story takes place within a period of 13 hours. The engaging Detective Benny Griessel is down on his luck. He is an alcoholic, struggling to stay off the booze, his wife has left him, and he is uncertain of his role and place within the new South African Police Service.

    He is asked to mentor up and coming detective inspectors, when two crimes occur. An American backpacker is murdered, and her female companion is on the run from the killers, and elsewhere a music executive is found shot dead in his home. The former crime becomes a diplomatic incident as Griessel has to save the young woman. Amidst the unrelenting suspense, Meyer portrays some interesting characters, and gives us a view of some of the problems in South Africa.

    A riveting, well-plotted and thoroughly enjoyable novel.

  16. Thanks Toc. I have heard the name, but only in an Afrikaans context, a language I do not speak. I will give it a go.

    I think WS wrote ‘Eye of the Tiger’ in the Seychelles. I remember getting very irritated by the fact that the hero ‘picked up the FN and made sure that the magazine was full. He then switched it from semi-automatic to fully automatic and made sure that the safety catch was on, before replacing it in the locker’, or words to that effect. As any ‘troopie’ will tell you, the FN uses the same lever for ‘safe’, ‘semi, and ‘fully automatic’, so it was either safe or on fully automatic. Although it was not a bad book, I have a feeling it was that particular mistake that put an end to my reading of his novels.

  17. Hello Sheona (and to all the other interesting commentaries). I probably picked up ‘Archangel’ by Robert Harris because it was heavily promoted, but also because I thought that he had written a trilogy of short stories that I enjoyed some years ago called ‘Legends of the Fall’. It turned out that this author was ‘Jim Harrison’.
    I shall look out for Pompei and I recommend ‘Tom Holland’ for non-fiction history.

    PS I have so may ‘unread books’ – having gone a bit overboard on ‘the Roman period’.

  18. Thank you all for all of those books for me to investigate. But first I must finish the two I have started 🙂

  19. Christina

    It’s not so much Australian libraries – as those in Brisbane – there just aren’t many books on the shelves! They certainly will get any book – but it’s the time factor… what do I read while I’m waiting? 🙂

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