Wednesday, 15 March 2017

The Year in Books: March


I've read quite a lot recently.  Nothing I've loved really but for the record, here's the list:

1. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
I chose this after watching the documentary about the Bronte sisters at Christmas.  Anne was considered the less talented one, apparently.  I quite like this book, though the device of the letters is a bit clumsy.  The narrator switches halfway through and there is a rather sanctimonious, moralising tone which can get annoying. It seems clear that Anne was using her brother Branwell to inspire her characterisation of Huntington, the debauched husband of the central character, which, if the drama is to be believed, didn't go down too well with the rest of the family,. Good plot if slightly telegraphed plot with a happy ending.  As I have said before, I prefer books to have a proper plot.

2. Solar Bones Mike McCormack
It was hard work following the plot of this one as it's written without a single full stop. That was a bit annoying at first and I'm not sure whether this structural device (English teacher speak) added much to the novel. It's the story of an engineer, Marcus, living in small town Ireland and, actually, I warmed to him as the narrative is basically a stream of consciousness so we can sympathise with his anxieties as a parent of an artist daughter who achieves success by painting with her own blood and his smartarse son who is currently jobless, very hairy and working his way round Australia. There's also a lot about engineering which interests me a little since quite a few members of my extended family are engineers of one kind or another and there's probably some extended metaphor going on if I were to look closely.  I didn't realise until the end that the whole narrative is framed by the fact that Marcus is dead.  This is not a spoiler as, if I were not so dim,  I would have realised the significance of the references to All Souls day in the opening sequence. He's back as a ghost observing and the last part of his life.  It's on the blurb of the print edition but, as I read it on my Kindle, I didn't know.  Husband reading this one - his Kindle purchase, not mine though his appear on mine for some reason,so will be interesting to see what he thinks.

3 A Boy Made of Blocks Keith Stuart
Another one of those books which explores autism (Curious Incident, Rosie Project etc.)  I picked it up in the library and read it quite quickly. The writer reviews video games for The Guardian and the novel is loosely based on his own experiences with his autistic son and how he connected with him using Minecraft which is, as far as I can gather, a game where you build houses etc. on the computer.  It was ok: there was too much detail about the game for my taste and the plot - marriage breakdown due to central character's failure to deal with his grief for his brother - was a little thin.

Olive Kitteridge Elizabeth Strout
Who is the writer of the moment. Top of the best seller lists, Booker prize nominated for Lucy Barton is Missing, which I haven't read, and Pulitzer Prize for Olive.  This is my book club choice and I did admire the writing and characterisation but in the end was disappointed by what promised to be a good book at first . Olive, retired maths teacher married to Henry, is quite a character and she holds together the narrative which is basically a series of loosely connected portraits of people living in a small town in New England/  No real plot which I found irritating, especially in the final chapter which doesn't include Olive at all but a character who was only briefly referred to earlier.

This month I'm going to finish The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry and some more books by Niall Williams who wrote History of the Rain which remains my current favourite book. You can read my comments on it here.  I'm rereading it and have also borrowed Boy to Man from the library. I've also chosen Four Letters of Love for my bookclub choice - it's my turn.  The reason for all this Niall Williams reading is that I have booked to go on a weekend Writing Course he is running in Ireland during April.  I'm very excited about this as I have always wanted to do a residential writing course, but am now very anxious as I'm afraid other people will be proper writers and not sloppy bloggers like me. 

Post illustrated by an irrelevant photo taken in Amsterdam by my daughter.  One reason for my lack of recent blogging is that I spent my half term on a school trip in the Netherlands attending, for the third time, a Model United Nations conference in Zoetermeer and taking my daughter too. It was a brilliant experience and the students I took thoroughly enjoyed it, but it has left me behind with other things. I've blogged about MUNA before here.

Linking again with Laura at Circle of Pine Trees