Oct 2013 tbr I have been lagging sadly behind on my book reviews, although they are all written up in my little notebook, of course. So expect a small rush of them over the next week – I have been reading, honest! I’m making some headway with the TBR mountain, although I’ve remembered there are two books for challenges / projects that I neglected to mention / photograph in my State of the TBR thread. And one Did Not (Actually Really Start or) Finish cuts down the pile, too …

Anthony Powell – “A Dance to the Music of Time: 3 – Autumn”

(02 May 2001, bought I know not where with a book token given to me when I left EBSCO (the first time))

This set of three books covers the Second World War and so we meet a host of new characters as Nick goes into the army, first in training as a junior officer and then as a liaison in London with Allied troops in exile. Our old friends are back, too, although Powell pulls no punches, dispensing with characters in a way that reflects life in all its contingency perhaps more than the usually structured and controlled arrangement of fiction (Matthew commented on this set that you would expect to find most of the characters you started with making it through to the end of a big sequence, whereas here they fade out of contact, disappear or indeed sometimes die in a seemingly random way).

Notable among the new characters is Pamela Flitton, practically psychopathic and working her way through the Forces / Allies  and seeming to come into contact (or ‘contact’) with most of the main characters as she tears through London with the destructive power of an attractive woman in what is often a very masculine world.

I found the last scenes at the memorial service after the War moving and a well-crafted and fitting end to what many say is the best sequence of the set (having said that, I’m currently enjoying catching up with everyone again in the last big volume). Especially pleasing was the reappearance of one old friend, and I also loved the engagement with Proust while in France in the middle of the book, well and cleverly done with a wry nod at the book he is challenging here!

Thomas Hardy – “A Group of Noble Dames”

(borrowed from Ali)

I only have this in my KIndle all-Hardy collection and it’s annoying enough not knowing how far through the book you are without having the same problem with each story, so I accepted the loan gratefully!

Using the conceit of members of a local society gathering and telling tales of notable women of the locality, this shows off Hardy’s prodigious short story telling powers in a pleasing set of tales linked by their theme of local noblewomen through the ages. Some are fleshed out more than others, and there are of course classic Hardy turns of fortune and people’s fates lying in wait for them. There are also an awful lot of discreet liaisons and children born in somewhat suspicious circumstances (or swapped like so many material possessions) which reflect an age-old desire for gossip and scandal.

The voices of the narrators are sensibly not differentiated, with the stories being retold in the master narrator’s voice, which makes for a more unified concept and probably saves us from Hardy’s love for the comedy and dialect that can – sorry – get a bit wearing sometimes. Not one I’ve read before,  as far as I know, but very readable and enjoyable.

Steven Tyler – “Does the Noise in my Head Bother you?” (DNF)

(12 March 2013; Poundland)

This is literally – and literarily, I suppose – unreadable. Clearly written by Tyler, or mumbled into a dictaphone and transcribed as was, there is no editor, internal or external, only the vaguest sense of arrangement, and while the individual words obviously have meanings, I could not fathom my way through the thing. Some pretty pics, and I’ll pass it to a friend to look at before she, too, discards it in horror! Sorry, Mr T, you have graced my TBR pics for a good few months, but will be BookCrossed and off forthwith.

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Oct 2013 1 Only one new book on the TBR so far this month, and that’s this rather wonderful one, recommended by my friend Sandy, who knows all about teaching English. It basically looks at how the English that learners produce is influenced by their native language, something that’s always fascinated me, as I work a great deal with non-native English texts, and am always noticing similarities in the way people who share the same native language write – and make mistakes.

Oct 2013 2This has a very comprehensive coverage as you can see from the picture of the contents page, and being a Libro book, it’s going on the little horizontal pile to be picked up out of sequence (shock!) and I’ll review it soon.

As you will know if you’ve read the reviews above, I’m currently working my way through the last three books of the Anthony Powell. I have also read a few more from my TBR, reviews coming soon, and have Hardy’s “Tess” and Barbara Pym’s “An Unsuitable Attachment” up next for those authors’ respective readalongs. What are you reading as the nights draw in and the fires go on?