Monday, August 21, 2006

New Reading Pile, Old Reading Pile

This is my new reading pile. Astute observers will notice that there are still some in there from my last reading pile and that they have been joined by yet more comrades from the Amazon.

However I can report that some books from the old reading pile have been read and I am going to write a very quick review of each one.

NEVER LET ME GO by Kazuo Ishiguro. An unusual book and one which I found quite unbelievable until I was about three quarters of the way through and I realised the point of the novel - whereupon I believed it was one of the most profound books I have ever read. I suppose I had a small epiphany - if such a thing is possible. It was about accepting the life you have and taking nothing for granted. I like the way I was forced to see things in a different way. Like all the other Ishiguro books I have read it was cool, measured, and slightly aloof - and all the better for that. Now I want everyone I know to read it too.

AUSTERLITZ by WG Sebald. This I found mesmerising. The prose with the interspersed pictures seemed to grip me immediately by the hand and lead me through the pages like a child with her mouth wide open in a gormless and rather unattractive manner. The book seemed to speak uniquely to me - part of the reason for this may have been because rather strangely I read the parts set in Wales in Wales and the parts set in London as I was travelling to London. It was as if we were following each other around. At the end of the book I felt I had learnt something important although I didn't know exactly what. I just feel it is there, though, lodged somewhere in the old grey matter, biding its time, just waiting for the right moment to reveal itself.

WUTHERING HEIGHTS by Emily Bronte. Now I know I should remember whether or not I read this when young but I'm afraid that I don't. When I read it recently the text felt familiar - but I wasn't sure if that was because WUTHERING HEIGHTS seems to have entered our collective consciousness (through film and Kate Bush)or whether I really had read it long ago. It seems to affect other adolescents quite profoundly and in the discussion we had about the book in France it seems to have been the one book several people remembered from that time in their lives. Of course this book has been reviewed to death and perhaps all I need to add is that I enjoyed the story and found the structure unusual and interesting.

PATCHWORK PLANET by Anne Tyler. I found this quite a light and highly enjoyable read - some of the parts made me laugh out loud. The main character was very appealing - flawed but likeable at the same time. Towards the end I thought the book gradually changed timbre and became much deeper, with the evocation of old age particularly powerful and well done. I liked this section the best. Like all excellent comedy it juxtaposed tragedy and humour and the result was very affecting and sad. A really good book which I highly recommend - but then I highy recommend all of them.

Finally, the FIRE EATERS by David Almond. This was set against the Cuban Crisis of 1962 - which since I was only 2 or 3 at the time I do not remember. I had not realised that things had been quite so terrifying and David Almond portrays a society which believes that the world they know is about to change forever. The tone is foreboding throughout, gradually building to a climax towards the end; but this sense of dread is softened by the extrememly well-drawn characters which are warm and believable. The setting is unusual - the Northumberland coast of the UK, which in 1962 seems to have been a bit of a backwater. One of the families makes a living by filtering coal dust from the sea and the beach with its seam of coal and dunes makes an evocative setting. It is a book for young adults and I found it as moving as anything else I'd read.

So that is it. There are other books I've read but they didn't appeal to me as much for one reason or another - so I'm ignoring those.

P.S. This post was brought to you via FIREFOX since Safari kept quitting on me even after I'd re-installed it.


Blogger Anne S said...

Clare, I totally agree with you on the Ishiguro book. His writing is so deceptively simple, but profundities are slowly revealed over the course of the novel.

I have not read Sebald's "Austerlitz" but have read "The Rings of Saturn" and another one. He is another profound writer whose prose I find extremely seductive.

I read "Wuthering Heights" many years ago in my teenage years and loved it. I was thrilled when I discovered that my mother's side of the family came from Yorkshire and had surnames like Lockwood, Earnshaw and Radcliffe and a place called Hill House was the birth place of my great grandfather.

Currently I am reading Louis De Berniere's novel "Birds Without Wings" an historical novel set against the background of the fall of the Ottoman Empire in Turkey

Mon Aug 21, 11:47:00 am  
Blogger Kay Cooke said...

Mmmm ... tantalising. Some great reading ideas here - I must write these titles down on my very loooong must-read list!
You are a deft reviewer.

Mon Aug 21, 01:18:00 pm  
Blogger Lee said...

Actually, I quite disagree about the Ishiguro, though I also like it very much. I find it's far more about the reasons we accept the things we do.

He's a master of voice, isn't he? And his narrators!

Mon Aug 21, 01:26:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That one 5th from the bottom looks good :)

Mon Aug 21, 03:44:00 pm  
Blogger Jonathan Wonham said...

I am a fan of both Eugenides and Nabokov. Both are a bit skewed and very stylish.

Mon Aug 21, 10:45:00 pm  
Blogger Susan said...

Indeed, that one fifth from the bottom looks like a 'must read' to me too, Skint!

Tue Aug 22, 06:20:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anne S: I've heard good reports on that De Berniere - sounds an interesting setting. I'd love to hear what you think. And thanks for the tip on the Rings of Saturn - one for the next pile, I think.

CB: Know what you mean - mine's fallen over already...

Lee: Maybe the reasons we accept the things we do leads onto accepting the life we have. Yes, his voice is very characteristic. I like the way he manages to say so much about emotions, in his remote way - I think it is stronger for that.

Skint: heh, heh well you gotta have something to hold the rest up...

Jonathan: Yes I am really looking forward to these. I've read some of the Nabakov short stories and felt elated because they were so wonderful; and slightly depressed too - because they were so wonderful.

Susan: Yes, I've read some of that too - and have to say I was charging through the pages with much enjoyment. Don't tell Skint though.

Tue Aug 22, 12:01:00 pm  
Blogger Blog of Innocence said...

I've just stumbled across your site via the interview with Mr. Lee, and am glad to have found a solid literary blog. Books are essential to my existence and I'm always looking for an outlet to discuss contemporary works as well as classics. I'm putting you on my blogroll. Thanks.

Sun Apr 27, 02:02:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks to you, too, Lethe! Hell and I look forward to hearing your views.

Sun Apr 27, 03:20:00 pm  

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