I seem luckily to have wriggled free of my feeling of being “stuck” (and thank you to everyone who commented on that last post or on Twitter or Facebook) as in the last day I’ve managed to finish two books (one of which I’d forgotten to list on that post, as it was a PDF downloaded and read on the Kindle app on my tablet, which obviously felt one or two steps too far removed from being an actual book to be mentioned) so the number of concurrent reads is now down to one proper one, one large hardback I’ve only dipped into, and that Sartre book that I am going to finish by the time I see a Murdochian friend next week …
Both of these books are written by women who use memoir as a means for telling a larger story. They’re two very different women, but there’s enough to tie these two reads together, I feel …
Gwen Raverat – “Period Piece”
(Bought 25 January 2014, Stratford-upon-Avon charity shop)
An absolutely charming book of reminiscences about her childhood and young womanhood in Cambridge, full of loving and affectionate portraits of family and friends, including a long section on her beloved uncles and aunts. It’s really evocative and charming without being twee or sentimental, clear-headed about people’s faults and foibles but celebrating their differences.
Wonderful descriptions of people, houses, gardens and the countryside are accompanied by adorable illustrations with amusing captions. She is, of course, known for her art and especially illustrations, and it’s lovely to see them here, alongside her own writing. I must have read this before (although if I did, it was before online blog records began, maybe even before the paper journals began) and it is certainly a book – as a classic of childhood memoir – that I will return to again and again over the years.
This has handily also filled in 1952 on my Reading a Century project!
Caitlin Moran – “Moranthology”
(8 March 2014, charity shop)
A collection of Moran’s newspaper columns which was clearly put out to build on the success of her “How to be a Woman” but was to me actually a more enjoyable and engaging read. When I reviewed the earlier book back in 2011, I wasn’t sure what I thought of it, and I’m left with a memory of lots of rude bits (or reclaiming of woman’s right to talk about whatever she wants to talk about) and a bit of missing out on the idea that other people of the same age could have similar ideas. This one is more inclusive, more conspiratorial, even, and more enjoyable for that.
There’s a good mix of the silly (and very funny), the (very) serious (and on occasion tear-inducing), the very perceptive but not nasty (for example on the Royal Wedding and the tweets around it) and, probably her best pieces, those that draw on her childhood experiences of poverty and draw parallels with events, policies and perceptions that are happening right now. Those are the most powerful pieces in the book, and really have something important to say.
With additional framing comments which fill in the context and in particular delightfully describe her early attempts at journalism, all is well-written and highly competent, with probably just the appropriate amount of the read-out-loud hilarious.
Just in – I was asked by the lovely folk at Shiny New Books (which is an excellent new books e-magazine, packed full of recommendations and reviews by readers just like you and me, with high production values and so much care lavished over contents and appearance) to review James Evans’ “Merchant Adventures”, out in paperback in November. I’m VERY picky about review copies, knowing only to ask for one or two if I’m sent a catalogue, taking on the rare random offer, reviewing books by writers I know are good or suspect I will like, and only requesting LibraryThing Early Reviewers books that I know I’m really interested in – all this not because I’m snooty or arrogant but because I’ve seen too many friends and bloggers drowning in a sea of review copies. However, Simon at SNB knows me well, and when they were offered this book about Arctic exploration in the Tudor Age, he suggested it to me and I gladly offered. I’ll flag up when my review is out in the January issue; in the meantime, do go and explore the current issue. There are Christmas lists to put together, aren’t there.
Talking of Christmas lists, I have moved my Wish List from Amazon onto these pages. I do try not to buy from Amazon these days (although I do sell my books on there; I have statements about that on my book website), so it felt weird to keep my Wish List on there. So I laboriously copied it and rearranged it, took some things off it, and here it is! It’s coming up to Secret Santa season, so I’ve updated all of my TBR and the books reviewed here into my LibraryThing library (however, I do have about 150 books to mark as “read but not owned” and deaccession, as I’ve decided I’m not going to re-read them – but these do not affect the Secret Santas too much, as they will just shift categories in the collection). What are you reading at the moment? One at a time, or all together?
Current reading: As of this morning, I’ve finished “The Heavenly Twins” – I did SO much better once I’d found it on manybooks.net (a great resource for free, out-of-copyright books which you can download in a variety of formats) and got it on my Kindle rather than lugging the huge paperback around (however, I’m going to have to remember to go back to that for the introduction). Have you got stuck in a big book or otherwise into a reading rut recently? How did you climb out of it? I’m certainly considering picking off a few smaller ones once I’ve read that Introduction!