Sunday, 31 March 2013

Unreliable Reader

Thanks to a review by Tales from the Reading Room, I've started reading Nick Hornby's collection of essays entitled The Complete Polysyllabic Spree. Whilst I've enjoyed Hornby's novels, it's his essays that really strike a chord with me. He seems to be my kind of reader. I find myself in agreement with so much of what he says. Not, you understand, in that smug self-satisfied way but rather in agreement with a man who expresses so engagingly many of the thoughts I would have developed if I hadn't been browsing Pinterest or playing that maddeningly addictive Candy Crush. This is the fourth time I've deleted this utterly pointless game from my phone. Let's hope it's the last.

But back to Hornby. The Spree is a collection of pieces he wrote for the Believer magazine. It's quite a refreshing read, not over worthy or too serious, it's 'simply' an account of his reading month by month. One thing reassures me - his lists of 'Books bought' and 'Books read'. It's good to see that I'm not the only one who buys books in a flurry of excitement and then takes months to get round to reading them. Even more reassuring is his second monthly piece which records the month's reading 'unfinished, abandoned, abandoned, unfinished'. I'm glad I'm not the only one who fails to come up with a satisfactory report. This is my long winded way of owning up to my own rather desultory reading over the last few months.

I'm not sure if it is due to a genuine lack of free time or - more likely - that I've been too much of a fidget to apply myself to 'serious' reading. Either way, after such a promising start Les Miserables is back on the shelf where books are seen rather than read. I have redeemed myself slightly by reading Hangover Square from my classics list. I wasn't sure what to make of it at first, but in the end I was glad I'd read it. I'll post a proper review when I have more time.

Having enjoyed Helen Dunmore's The Siege several years ago, I thought I'd give 'Zennor in Darkness' a go. Set in Cornwall during the First World War, it tells the story of a young woman Clare, her cousin who comes home on leave and their friendship with D H Lawrence and his German wife Frieda. As with The Siege this was very readable and perceptive too.

I'm currently reading The Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen. I can't say I'm enjoying this one yet. The prose is dense, with every statement and every observation seeming to be qualified. I am enjoying the descriptions of war-time London - it's more of a subtle sense of things than anything concrete - and I hope the effort of reading it will prove worthwhile in the end.

Our book group choice is Joanna Trollope's The Soldier's Wife. I've never read any Trollope, but for some reason I have this irrational feeling I'm not going to like it. Are there any books or authors that make you feel that way?

After the Easter break I'm back to my normal working hours and a more ordered house so I hope I'll be able to get down to some proper reviews.

In the meantime, what have you been reading?


  1. I'm currently reading 'Among Muslims' by Kathleen Jamie. I'm quite enjoying it and it's certainly interesting and well written, but I've been distracted by 'The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared' by Jonas Jonasson, mainly because I need a laugh and was recommended it as a 'lol', but so far it's only managed to raise a wry smile.

  2. I have 'The Hundred Year Old Man' on my to be read list. I don't know much about it - I think it was just the title that attracted me. I like the idea of a 'lol' category.

  3. Karen, somehow your posts haven't been coming through to my reader. I'm sorry I haven't been around. I'm in the middle of the Hornby myself. Isn't it wonderful just to share time with another reader?

    1. Alex, I've been very lax on the blogging front recently, so you haven't missed much.

      I'm finding the Hornby very entertaining. I like the way he's not precious about reading and doesn't mind saying that some months he's found other things more interesting.

  4. Yay! I'm so pleased you are enjoying the Hornby. I love the way he writes about books - it's direct and intelligent and so very funny. I end up enjoying reading him on books I'd never dream of picking up! And I'm not surprised you need a bit of pleasure reading after the intensity of your literature degree. Every summer after a university term, I needed at least 6 weeks of reading fluff before I began to feel human again! As for Elizabeth Bowen, I have to confess I gave it up - those sentences were just too torturous for me. My mother is reading the Joanna Trollope, though, not a book I would have put down for her, and says it's really good. Who knows, but I thought I'd pass on this vote of confidence, in case it was encouraging!

    1. You're not wrong about the tortuousness (is that a word?) of Bowen. I've never seen a book with so many clauses and semi-colons. It was hard going, but definitely worth it in the end. It's one of those books that lingers, I think.

      I was pleasantly surprised by the Trollope, although I would have preferred a less conservative ending. We're discussing it at book group tonight so I'm looking forward to seeing what they think.


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