I’m barrelling through my Month of Rereading with another three done and dusted! I’ve read all of my pile except for “Thunderhead” and “Green Grass of Wyoming” and added one, too, and I’m currently whizzing through a few last non-fiction ones, too …

Larry McMurtry – “The Last Picture Show”

(09 April 2000)

A copy bought in America, although it turns out I first read it before I owned a copy (more of that later). Still an amazing book on its third read. A wonderful, elegiac portrait of small-town America with its heroes and villains, revolving around the high school football team and its cheerleaders even when neither are actually very good. I’d forgotten how graphic it is, but the sex scenes are not gratuitous: it’s about teenagers growing up in a town where your first love object is likely to be a farm animal, and virginity is something to be both prized and got rid of – and there are some terribly embarrassing fumbles which are portrayed in as much excruciating detail as a rather humiliating trip to Mexico which will be built into something quite different back in Thalia.

Who can forget Duane, the football hero, Sonny, the not-so-much-a-hero with the soft heart and Jacy, scheming, adulterous daughter of a scheming, adulterous mother, as well as the cast assembled around them? No one is better at portraying small town love and life and few are as good at writing in a style which is utterly straight and believeable, as if he is literally writing down the facts. No wonder McMurtry went on to write four sequels – I will be rereading books 2 and 3 before launching into my newish copies of 4 and 5!

Here are my reviews from my previous reads:

February 1998 (from library)

“Engaging coming-of-age novel about young and older in a small town in Texas. Appealing, honest and well-written.”

July 2000 (this copy)

“A rereading made more interesting and poignant by my having read the other two books in the trilogy in the meantime. Classic characters and an engaging story line, all told in a confiding, open style that brings you right into their lives.”

Jane Austen – “Northanger Abbey”

(bought pre-1989: sticky backed plastic cover and student pencil notes)

I’m afraid that I have to admit that this is my favourite Jane Austen, and I’m very glad I was inspired by Ali’s revisit to come back to it myself. The tale of young Catherine Moreland, very much not a classic heroine, and her adventures in Bath and staying with friends in the Abbey of the title, getting all overcome by her Gothic reading matter and having all sorts of imaginings, is so mischievous and cheeky, and even the gear change between life in Bath and the gothic misconceptions doesn’t clunk as much as it amuses. Austen has female friendships and sibling relationships down so exactly, and pretty well every page has a jewel: a witty aside, a delicious turn of phrase, a subtle unpinning of the fabric of “polite society” … and Catherine is a lovely heroine, even when she’s being silly.

I do know this one really well (as my detailed student notes testify!) so there were no surprises on rereading, except maybe the balance between Bath and Abbey is rather heavier on the Bath side. It’s interesting having read it alongside “Jane Eyre”, the real gothic novel of the two, of course, and seeing the parallels: most noticeably, two solo post chaise rides across country: but Catherine is careful not to leave anything in the pockets inside the coach!

It was lovely to be able to wallow in this one again – a very worthwhile reread.

Paul Magrs – “Exchange”

(28 April 2007)


I didn’t quite walk around with my head buried in it, as this photo implies, but nearly …

This was a book that made me contact the author when I finished it, because of this little gem, near the end. They’re talking about setting a load of books free:

‘I’ve heard about this,’ said Simon. ‘Where they leave them in cafes and on buses and you pick them up, read them, leave your message and liberate them again, for someone else to find …

It also contains a sentence which sums up, for me, the style and content of a Paul Magrs book:

He was wooing her with gateaux and frothy mochas and the tender ministrations of his plastic hands …

Down to earth, rooted in reality, but with that twist of oddness. Although, actually, this is one of his least odd books. Simon, a classic orphaned YA hero, is living with his grandparents in a depressing small town. On one of their regular Saturday trips, he and his gran, Winnie, discover The Great Big Book Exchange, its eccentric owner and his Goth assistant,  Kelly. Both Simon and Winnie forge new friendships, and then Winnie rediscovers an old one, too, in the pages of a book. As I said, this is one of Paul’s less magical books: to be honest, I prefer these, as I read even the very vampiry and witchy ones for the great believeable, earthy characters, often rooted firmly in the North East.

I galloped through this book this time, as I remember doing last time. It is a fairly easy read and with such lovely characters. I hope he writes about Simon again one day. Funny point of reference: the author, Ada, reminded me somewhat of Elizabeth Taylor’s Angel! Not such a monster, but a similar modus operandi …

Up next: I’ve finished “How to Watch the Olympics” but will give that its own review as it’s not a reread. I have also realised that I haven’t done any non-fiction, so I’m going to check for a biography or travel book to take me through to the end of this glorious month …