Oh, woe is me! Mount TBR looked so tame and calm in this picture, even if I had whipped my holiday reading off its snowy peaks already. Now it’s all icy crags and terrifying precipices (or Virago books, Georgette Heyers and odd biographies …). Anyway, here’s what I’ve been reading recently.
David Crystal – “English as a Global Language”
I took this on holiday but didn’t start it until the journey home and finished it back in Birmingham. Although this is the second edition, and the republished form it took did catch me out, this is actually quite out of date now, with some sections really not updated as much as they should have been even for the new edition. This does, unfortunately, make some of the content less useful, as matters in language can change quite quickly. There was also less precise detail on the natures of different Englishes than I had hoped, although fortunately I bought a more comprehensive volume treating British and American English around the same time. It was good on the spread of English (and other languages) around the globe and on varieties of English and their changes and distinctive features, but I could have had much more on that, to be honest. Maybe not the book I thought it was.
Thomas Hardy – “The Woodlanders”
(pre-1989 – yet I appear never to have read this!)
With a contrast between bleak fate and wryly amusing set pieces (no one who has read this will forget poor Giles’ disastrous party in a hurry), this rather enclosed tale of lost love and mistaken marriage is a masterful psychological study. As usual, he’s brilliant on the thoughts, attitudes and actions of the lover and the unrequited lover, although leaving some of his characters satisfyingly opaque and mysterious. Giles, the supposed hero, is something of an anti-hero; Grace is allowed to be buffeted by her emotions, perhaps having lost her solid rural roots during her expensive education; and her father almost suffers the most (maybe he’s the hero) in seeing his attempt to better her position fail horribly, even, surely, when it appears to be resolved. The mysterious Marty remains a mysterious chorus figure to the end, bound to the older ways of the land throughout, and being used to make a comment on the value thereof. A novel which is enigmatic and fairytale-like in some ways (the magic rituals, the castle in a hollow, the lonely princess, the woodcutter, for goodness’ sake), and an absorbing one.
Georgette Heyer – “Charity Girl”
(16 June 2012, Oxford)
Another lovely Heyer, complete with young cheeky runaway (although having something serious to say about the plight of young women without support), brooding and stern but ultimately loving fathers, and best friends who really should get together and be done with it. This one traipses all over the place, from London to Hertfordshire to Harrogate, and there are plenty of near misses, farcical situations, misunderstandings and amusing characters to enjoy.
I’m currently reading a book about small businesses, then it’s launching into another couple of Viragoes and then assessing the (terrible) state of the TBR at the start of next month, unless a miracle happens over the weekend!