May 2016Nothing connecting these two this time – I didn’t even finish them both! One of them is tipped for the top 10 of 2016, the other was eagerly anticipated but ultimately disappointing. One is being pressed on everyone I know (Mr Liz is reading it on audiobook at the moment) and the other will be Bookcrossed away out of the house … I think you can guess which is which!

Barbara Kingsolver – “Flight Behaviour”

(21 May 2015)

Yes – I’m under a year behind (just). You can see this one on the TBR photo above – it was third on the shelf but the first fiction read so off it came.

Opening with a memorable scene of the novel’s heroine, Dellarobia Turnbow, struggling up an Appalachian hillside in unsuitable footwear, ready to throw away what little she has, this is a wonderful and unputdownable novel. Although it does have an intention to educate people about global warming and the plight of migratory species, as with her other books with a message, it’s never didactic or preachy, and the information comes organically rather than being bolted on.

The community, overcome by a huge and seemingly miraculous flock of butterflies, the scientists who come to study them, Dellarobia and her dreadful wool entrepreneur mother-in-law (I loved the details of her business acumen), enchanting but never sickly sweet children and naughty best friend are all drawn absolutely beautifully and completely believeable. Dellarobia’s friendship with lepidopterist Ovid, and through him with knowledge and learning, is wonderful.

As with her other books, and a feature of other favourites of mine like Larry McMurtry, Kingsolver’s deceptively plain and easy style makes the book read like it’s happening in front of your eyes: it’s real. She’s so technically adept, without showing the workings: there are so many delicious doublings and echoings in the structure, colours, events and descriptions. The sense of place is astounding, too.

Although I know a fair bit about global warning and migratory insects, there is always something to learn. I was particularly struck by the lack of choices available to the very poor – even though I keep myself informed, this was really brought home to me reading this book. It was also excellent on the perils of handing anything on in a small community: things have a habit of coming back to haunt you, whether that’s the dress your rival wore on prom night 12 years ago or something a lot more shocking.

I loved this book. It’s the kind of book that makes you a) want to immediately purchase and consume all the other books by the author that you haven’t yet read, and b) thrust it at everyone who hasn’t yet read it. Mr Liz is only part way through the audio book – read by Kingsolver herself (not available from Audible – bah – but he got the CDs out of the city library) but reports that he loves it and it’s extremely well-narrated.

This book will suit … anyone who likes a good read, who is interested in the world and human relationships. That’s everyone, right?

John Campbell – “Roy Jenkins” (DNF)

(28 March 2015, Oxfam, Macclesfield)

The last of the Macclesfield haul, and I’d been looking forward to Roy as he made his way up the TBR.

Alas, although I love a political biography and this is acclaimed as a good one, and I wanted to learn about the founding of the SDP, I could not get past my growing dislike of the man. I don’t mind unlikeable characters in fiction, but living in the world of one for a long book of non-fiction is A Bit Much. Even though he read Iris Murdoch’s novels and met her once.

The private school-educated children, the plummy vowels, the posh friends, the country house, the wine and the multitudinous affairs, all from a socialist born and bred chap from the Welsh Valleys really put me off, and I got half way and gave up.

I’m currently reading Attila the Stockbroker’s rather marvellous and very funny autobiography and, in a TBR twist that will get my non-fiction ratio up again, a very interesting biography of Edith Sitwell. I do have some more Pilgrimage to face once one of those is finished, and I want to read Woolf’s “Night and Day”, or at least start it before the month is out, so I can do the (very slim volumes of) short stories next month.

What are you all up to? I’m caught up with the blogs I read now, thank goodness, having some good conversations there, and hoping for some here. Have you got half way through someone’s life before giving up on them (in book form, of course!)?

Oh – I have a Book Confession, too, I forgot: I bought Salman Rushdie’s “Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights” because Mr Liz wanted to read it and I thought it would be nice to do another readalong. So that’s sitting on top of the Pile at the moment. I really haven’t acquired that many books recently, though, have I!