Hooray – I’m all caught up and back on track now with my May reads – although I do note that I’m only on books four and five of the month at the moment … Today we have two sagas – well, one’s meant to be, and one was a bit of a saga of a read in not quite the right way. I also had a slight accident, falling into a charity shop to look for reads for Ali’s Mary Hocking Reading Week and coming out with six books, but at least they don’t all count (see below).
John Galsworthy – “The White Monkey”
The first in the next set of Galsworthy novels, “A Modern Comedy”, and we’re very firmly in the next generation now, with this book concentrating on Soames Forsyte’s daughter Fleur as well as the doings of Soames and a few of his cousins. We are now in the fall-out of Fleur and Michael Mont’s hasty and ill-considered (on her side) marriage. Michael is a decent chap, and is almost blinded by his love for Fleur, as indeed Soames was for Irene, but does realise the truth of the situation and tries to act respectfully and honourably, while being torn between his own emotions and his need to preserve his marriage. His best friend, the poet Wilfrid Desert (a very Powellian character; see below) has all sorts of claims in all sorts of places, complicating the friendship and the marriage.
Meanwhile, Soames gets mixed up in a rather confusing banking scandal, alongside what one might call his co-father-in-law, Michael’s father (why is there no word for that relationship in English – or is there?), who is a much lighter and more flippant chap – this gives an opportunity for an interesting contrast to be drawn between the two, one coming from inherited and one created money, one with a serious and traditional attitude, one with a more modern, live-for-the-day perspective. The fall-out from this situation could destroy Soames and he must be clever and perspicacious and use all his faculties to survive.
There is also a parallel and linked story about a man who is sacked from Michael’s company and his and his wife’s attempts to survive the loss of their own reputation and income – with very different consequences to those of Soames. This thread is a bit reminiscent of “The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists” but doesn’t come across so successfully perhaps, although there is an interesting story and links to Michael and Fleur’s situation, too – I suppose you could see the puppet-master’s strings a bit too much here, but it is interestingly done nonetheless.
The way in which the characters constantly cross paths and the milieu of publishing, the arts in general, artists and writers was highly reminiscent of “A Dance to the Music of Time” and of course both series proceed in trilogies and cover a large swathe of the 20th century. I did love Michael’s comment when Fleur was trying to gather more artists and push the cultural aspects of her salons and people collecting:
Our lot think they’re the tablecloth, but they’re only the fringe.
I also read “A Silent Wooing” which is the first Interlude and catches up with Jon Foryste, Fleur’s lost love, and his adventures in America. This is a lovely read and quite different in setting and character.
Stephen Miller – “Smart Blonde: Dolly Parton”
(3 December 2014 – The Works)
I thought I liked Dolly Parton – and I (still) do, but not as much as some people, and not as much as the readers of this book are expected to do! I like some songs – the ones I know – and her charity work for children’s literature and general resilience. But this book has the dual characteristics of little access to a notoriously guarded and private subject and an attention to detail that is almost epic. So we get some detail from one sister and a few people who have worked with DP and are willing to talk, information otherwise drawn from a range of published interviews, and then lots of detail about the stuff the author can be sure of, so reams of information about every concert, album and single, with the covers discussed in great detail, too.
To be fair, it’s not prurient or trashy, even though much commentary on DP’s unusual life and relationships has been, although I found myself wishing for a little scandal here and there to lighten the read. It does descend in the later stages into a listing of what DP did each year, and gets a bit difficult to wade through – it also stops in 2008, so before she did any of her UK charity work.
The book could have done with a bit of an edit, as certain stories and quotations are repeated again and again – something that DP does do herself as a way of creating her public figure, but I don’t think an echo of this practice is necessarily the aim here. One for the completists!
So I popped into Sue Ryder on the way back from the cafe this morning, hoping to find some Mary Hockings, and instead found three in a series a friend is collecting and these three for me. Handily, the “Silver Brumby Stories” (Volume 2) replaces one I had from BookCrossing in 2005 – I do like to pass such books on when I find my own copy, and hadn’t realised it’s been so long. I’m reading a Girls Gone By Paperbacks school story at the moment, so when I spotted this fairly modern Chalet School trilogy, it had to be picked up, and I grabbed the Jessica Ennis biog because I do like a sporting biog, and it takes us from her childhood right through to the Olympics, so not one of those that ends annoyingly half way through her life (to be fair, sporting ones don’t tend to do this, but all of those comedians’ ones certainly do, don’t they, and it’s pretty annoying to have to shell out for a second book (or third, looking at Paul O’Grady) to read the showbiz years bits. Or is that just me).
Anyway, I haven’t acquired anything for a while, and I did read the pony book at the time, so that one goes straight on the shelves …
Any interesting reads from you? Have you picked up a biography thinking you’re a bit of a fan and then been worn out by a plethora of information?