Although this is my first set of reviews for this month, I am happy to say that I’ve chipped away at the reading matter I discussed in my State of the TBR post for the start of June, so progress is being made …
Ethan Gilsdorf – “Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks”
(? This book is somewhere in the house, but I can’t find it to check when I got it. Some time in Dec/Jan I presume!)
In which he hits 40 and decides to find out what’s going on the world of role-play and fantasy gaming (and, by extension, some historical role-playing groups, but not re-enacters) and whether he does, actually, need to “grow up”. More family background, around his mother’s illness, han I had expected, but this gave it a deeper and more personal aspect. I enjoyed finding out about the different kinds of role-playing games and his experiences among them, and the effects on their players, which was given a balanced treatment. But he didn’t come to Birmingham when looking into Tolkien! All in all an interesting read, and not bad for a book from Poundland!
Elizabeth Taylor – “The Sleeping Beauty”
With the echoes of her previous books now becoming obvious as we read through the books month by month in the LibraryThing Virago Group, there’s another yacht, an uncomfortable mother-child relationship, a pair of old school friends (portrayed deliciously with their face-packs and diets, the best part of the book for me), and a man who comes to observe and apply healing who ends up swept away by his own sudden emotions. I think I heard there was even a wreath of roses somewhere, although I didn’t notice that. A little reminiscent of Iris Murdoch’s “The Sea, The Sea”, especially in Vinny’s insistence on his rescue of the sleeping beauty.
Taylor isn’t usually a “warm” writer, and this doesn’t usually bother me, but all the warmth and life in this book seems to live at its edges, in the female friendship, Vinny’s rather marvellous mother, the nursemaid and nanny and the hilarious efforts so many of the characters make to hide their proclivity for betting on the horses from one another. The ending seems a little hasty, and not to matter once the actual, inevitable, act of betrayal has taken place. So it feels like a novel with a hard centre, to an extent, and it’s not my favourite of her novels, although not, of course, a bad one at all!
Denis Healey – “The Time of my Life”
(30 August 2011 – from a bag given to me for BookCrossing by Linda)
This has taken me a long time to read, at meal times and, lately, on the exercise bike in the gym. I do like a political biography, particularly Labour ones, and I’ve been reading a fair bit of 1970s history recently, but it was a bit of a slog. Also, he dislikes Bevan, Benn and, to an extent, Foot, which didn’t help. There were some interesting insights into the way Cabinets worked and the Falklands War.
He mentions Iris Murdoch twice, introducing her to Samuel Beckett’s “Murphy” and working with her in the Communist Party, both at Oxford, and he rather pleasingly mentions the delights of Hall’s Bookshop in Tunbridge Wells, an old favourite of mine, but these were small consolations in a long effort with some skimming near the end, and it is definitely not the finest political biography of its century, as the quote from The Economist on the front asserts!