Thursday, 30 September 2010

Belated Books- beware: this is lengthy! Get some tea!

I had promised to talk about brilliant books I read this summer and so once again Alphabe-Thursday prompts me to do what I wanted to do but never did- and at least it's still September! And Left-Handed Housewife might still talk to me if I do!

I actually started with The Outcast by Sadie Jones. C lent it to me one Friday night. I put the boys to bed and started reading at 9.30pm. I rang her at 10.30pm to discuss. I read until it was finished- 2.30am Saturday. I rang her 10am to discuss again! Family and society fail a traumatised child in post-War middle-class England. Harrowing, challenging, obviously influenced by Camus's Outsider but all her own tapestry of pain. With lovely hope as the weft!

Then I got into the car and drove to France. On passenger stints I devoured Family Album by Penelope Lively. C had been totally disturbed to find herself, she thought, a character in Outcast; well I was destroyed by the mother in Album! It's one of a very few books since university that I annotated as I went along!

"This is all she ever wanted: children and a house in which to stow them- a capacious, expansive house... And Denby ovenware and a Moulinex and a fish-kettle and a set of Sabatier knives. She has all of these things and knows that she is lucky. Oh, so lucky." And so obtuse, and so so wonderfully, brilliantly terrifying!

This one I got at a service station somewhere in England, and it sounded interesting. I read it in Brittany,and it was. It articulated much of what I had tenuously formulated from studying French, working in France, teaching French. It explores the differences between cultures, between women, between "natives" and immigrants, between bling bling Sarkozy and what has gone before. I did test out many theories on a French family who came to dinner here in August, and they did concur!

I discovered Barbara Pym one dusty night shelving in the Library last year, and read Excellent Women. I had found this gorgeous reprint last Spring and put it aside for holiday reading- perfect for this: it's entertaining and blithe, but cutting too. Pym makes me think of Cranford with its petty quotidien lives of single women of a certain age who are nonetheless heroines of stoicism and hope. I loved Tame Gazelle, partly because so much of its satire revolves around church life! But it did make me wonder where the feminist literature is now- who celebrates single women? That got me thinking about Margaret Drabble's Millstone, which is obviously a generation ago. But is Lisbeth Salander really the champion of strong, single women today?

And so to Jasper Fforde. I want to like him. I do. It's just such a wade to get through! He took up most of the rest of the holidays! I find myself thinking that these would be good books for the boys when they're older! But you know when you just want to read something that makes you laugh? Still clever and scintillating and all P. G. Wodehouse or Georgette Heyer or Bill Bryson or who?


La said...

I always have the best intentions to read more, but I never seem to find the time.

Have a great day! La

5thsister said...

The 1st 2 books sound right up my alley. I must check them out! Thanks for the wonderful reviews.

Rocky Mountain Woman said...

Thanks for the ideas. I've added a few of these to my "must read" list.

Sue said...

Thanks for all the book suggestions. I always love a good review!


Elizabethd said...

What an interesting selection. I always enjoy reading Penelope Lively.

Bonnie said...

These books sound wonderful. I'm going to have to bookmark you and come back and choose one when I have more time!

RNSANE said...

Great book reviews. I so seldom read anymore. You'd think, with retirement, I'd really have time but this blogging thing keeps me at the computer for twelve hours a day! I do not get in the car, though, that I don't listen to an unabridged book on tape. Otherwise, I couldn't keep up with my latest forensic novels or an occasional other read!

Angela said...

That Barbara Pym sentence [Pym is...and hope] is UTTERLY brilliant. Please may I quote it at odd moments when I want to sound intelligent and well-read?
I can't seem to get on with Jasper FForde [or Katie FForde for that matter. She's married to 's cousin desmond]
Great reviews- thanks!

Floss said...

OK, this is a random series of responses - Penelope Lively, I loved her children's books and should clearly try her adults' ones. Secret Life of France is very clever and we agree with it all too but have never seen the borgeois sexual behaviour described in Paris! Not a Toulousain thing, I think (hope). My mum adores(ed) Barbara Pym. And I read one Jasper Fford and yes, it was OK, but I would much more heartily recommend Terry Pratchett for humour and a massive sense of love and hope for the whole of humanity.

Red Couch Recipes said...

You have been busy reading. Thanks for the b ook reviews. I always like to be immersed (I have no discipline when I have a good book) in a good book. Joni

Left-Handed Housewife said...

Thanks for finally giving us your book report! I won't add that it's about time, young lady. So interested to read that you identify with the mother in Family Album. I have read about 2/3rds of the book, but found the father so unlikeable, and the children, too. The mother interested me the most; maybe if the entire book had been about her, I would have finished it.

I'd like to read more Barbara Pym; I've just read one (Quartet in Autumn) which I liked very much. The wrong sort of people have been enthusiastic about Jasper Fforde for me to get to interested. Ah, but Bill Bryson--he's the sort of author you have to read when someone else is in the room so you can read all the funny bits outloud. I'm trying to think who else is like that. No one immediately comes to mind, but if they come to mind later, I'll be sure to tell you.

And that's my report on your report. Thank you for sharing. Share more soon!


Splendid Little Stars said...

interesting reads! of all the books and authors you mention, I have read only one Jasper Fforde book--the Eyre Affair. enjoyed it.
and bill Bryson books, too. I've been reading more lately (listening, too). My book club just read Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos--thoroughly enjoyable.

Pondside said...

I've loved Barbara Pym since discovering her in my 20's - I re-read every few years. I love her voice.
I'll never forget 'some tame gazelle, some gentle dove, something to love, something to love'.

The Coffee Lady said...

I really must read some Barbara Pym. I keep hearing about her again and again.

Jenny said...

What a clever link to Alphabe-Thursday.

I've not heard of any of these books so I appreciate the heads up on some new authors! My husband and I read quite a bit so he will be thrilled to read this, too.

Thanks for linking.


Jen said...

One of my favorite books, I got at a tiny airport on a stopover once. I just grabbed it in a hurry. You just never know!
Enjoyed your B post!

Gumbo Lily said...

Our youngest son (18) is reading "Right, Ho Jeeves" and loves it. A different kind of reading and language (even tho we both speak English) for an American boy.