So Many Ways To Begin by Jon McGregor
An interesting idea well executed; how we try to define our lives by the objects we claim. The characters come out well after a few chapters, and though the sheer ordinariness of their lives would lead you to think it would be dull, it actually serves to highlight how chance can turn on the smallest of things. It is wholly comparable too with the majority of us who have never saved the world or trained as a Navy Seal, so very easy to relate to. We all have our own little dramas.
Chapter 8 is wonderful. It captures perfectly the rush and press of memory, the imprecise nature of what we retain, and is poignant and beautiful and sad all at once.
On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
This is a wonderfully evocative book. The characters are expertly drawn, such that I could easily visualise the wonders of Florence’s breakfast table at home. It seems almost dipped in sepia for a time; as though McEwan harbours a special fondness for a more ‘innocent’ age. It is very funny in places too, and mentions Croydon in a fashion that will raise a knowing laugh from many a Croydonian.
The crux of it all though, the tentative dance between these newlyweds is expertly rendered. By far the most accessible and readable of McEwan’s works (for me) that I’ve read. I’d recommend it to anyonee, but particularly light or new readers. It’s short enough not to be daunting, and will get you thinking without being wordy about it.
The Rainbow by DH Lawrence
It would be hard to imagine this book being presented today without the publisher wanting to shorten it by a third. Lawrence weaves such a rich texture with words that often slightly overlays ground only just trodden. It works very well to underpin emotional scenes (though in fairness, for me, there were times when it didn’t), and this really points to the crux of the book. Lawrence has an amazingly keen eye for the minutiae of an emotional moment, and explores the idea of love not as a single emotion, but as the many threads that form the whole. Although the story is very much set in its time, the various characters’ desires and frustrations still ring true.
The Late Hector Kipling by David Thewlis
Actor, playwright, author. Is there nothing this man can’t do? I guess not.
I’ve managed to curb much of my snobbishness about reading, but I still can’t help the question arising. When ‘that bloke off the telly’ writes a book I can’t help thinking would this book have made it into print on its own, or is it the fame talking?
In respect of David Thewlis’s The Late Hector Kipling I think the answer is yes. It is very funny to begin with, although I found I couldn’t laugh so readily toward the end. That’s just me.
The characters are well developed, not just visually but emotionally too (I’m talking sort of technically here – when you read it you’ll know why I choose to distinguish). Their words, thoughts and actions are spot on. There are some very funny moments, and a good deal of discomfort as it progresses. The eponymous protagonist comes across first as a witty and irreverent sort of guy that we probably wouldn’t mind having a pint with. I’d need to be allowed four letter words to describe him at the end. I think this is what made it hard for me to laugh come the finale, but I doff my hat to Thewlis for sticking to the character’s guns.
If you like art, or if you don’t you will enjoy the sly digs and also insights into the solipsistic nature of creation, what art is, and when life is.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John leCarre
It’s a while since I read a book that so very obviously fitted the characteristics of its main character. It’s a quiet peace, in its way. Very contained and intense, polite even. Before I realised I was 60 pages in! Unlike other spy novels, I had the very real sense of characters doing their day job. Rather than relying on amazing gadgetry and far fetched, megalomaniac-centric plotlines, the story is wholly centred in a real and believable world. I found myself noticing far more of the world around me, as though someone might be following in the shadows.
I was disappointed at the end of the book. Then I thought about it a little and realised that it wasn’t the ending, but the fact the story had ended that disappointed me.
A very enjoyable read.
The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad.