Friday, July 22, 2011

Quick Update

Apologies to anyone who's been wondering what's happened to me. I've been busy with all sorts of things, including the first draft of a novel and really, I probably ought to be honest with myself and admit that I need to take time off from my blog over the summer. But before I disappear again for a few weeks, a quick update on what I've been reading. I'm still on a comfort reading jag and hugely enjoyed re-reading Ernest H. Shephard's DRAWN FROM MEMORY with its charming illustrations (he was of course the illustrator of Winnie the Pooh and Wind in the Willows). Like all the best childhood memoirs there are dark tones as well as light and I had tears in my eyes at one point. I have almost finished re-reading A LONDON CHILD OF THE 1870S, the first of Molly Hughes marvellous trilogy. I have read this countless times.
I've also managed to find time to read Allegra Goodman's new noveL, THE COOKBOOK COLLECTOR, which I picked up because I'm a great admirer of her earlier novel, INTUITION. This wasn't quite as good, it fell apart rather towards the end, but she writes so well and there was plenty to enjoy: a four star rather than a five star effort.
That's it for now. I plan to do lots of reading over the next few weeks and I hope to tell you about it in mid August.
Have a great summer!

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Friday, July 01, 2011

Lost in a Good Book

Recently I had a few days of feeling under the weather and couldn't face anything too demanding to read - especially after reading Thomas Mann's FELIX KRULL: CONFESSIONS OF A CONFIDENCE MAN for my reading group - so turned to some old favourites. For me comfort reading is of two main types: breathless thrillers and crime novels which pin you to your seat - or books as familiar and reassuring as an old woolly. In the latter group I especially like books with an autobiographical element which allow you to immerse yourself in someone else's life and forget your own for a while. I've mentioned Joyce Dennys's wonderful books in an earlier blog and in the same category are John. P. Harris's two slim paperbacks, AN ENGLISHMAN IN THE MIDI and MORE FROM AN ENGLISHMAN IN THE MIDI published in the early 1990s. The contents of these books started life as short programmes on Radio 4 and as pieces of journalism, but I first came across him when I found his books on my mother-in-law's shelves. The writer taught French and he and his wife moved for good to the Midi in the mid seventies. He writes with charm and wit and good hmour about their life there, first in a very small village and then in a small town. As I reread them this time I found myself wondering if he was still there. From internal evidence I worked out that he had been born in 1923, so he'd be eighty-eight. It was possible . . . and I remembered reading an Amazon review by a reader who had visited him in 2000. In the end I succumbed to temptation and googled him and, do you know, I rather wish I hadn't. An obituary that told me he had died in 2003 and his wife the year before. I'd rather go on thinking of him sitting on a terrace somewhere in the Languedoc, glass of white wine before him and a copy of LE MONDE on his knee and that's just what I'll do.

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