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Some random books

Today we tidied madly. This involved digging out a pile of books from under my bed, which I thought I'd make notes about as that is much more fun than finding shelves for them.  These aren't all the books, but I think they are mostly the books I read for the first time.  

The Meeting of the Waters - Caiseal Mor
An abysmally poorly written book, set in prehistoric Ireland.  The characters are shallow, the writing made my head physically hurt, the plot was confused. I got half way through and I decided I couldn't bear it any more so I baled out.  Now I have the problem of what to do with the damn thing.  It seems positively immoral to send it to a charity shop where some fool might pay money for it.   At least I bought it second hand.

We Speak no Treason: the flowering of the rose - Rosemary Hawley Jarman
This was well reviewed, and normally I am a bit of a fan of fiction set around the life of Richard III - but my memory of this book is the early history of Richard III as soap opera.  Told incredibly slowly: it only gets to the death of Edward IV.  I think maybe I just wasn't in the mood. May try again later.  

Ivory - Mike Resnick
This is a science fiction novel published in 1988, about the last living Masai man, seven thousand years from now, and his quest to sort out a traditional tribal taboo that has been hanging around with nobody quite getting around to it, since 1898.  I don't think I've ever read anything quite like it.  It's an African fairy story that is also a novel of procrastination, a ghost story, and a sort of detective story.  It's well written, and I thought, very sad. 

Cleopatra's Heir - Gillian Bradshaw
I rather like Gillian Bradshaw and I'm not quite sure why her books seem to be quite obscure, and why I have a withdrawn library copy of this one and why back copies of some of her stuff are silly money on Amazon.   She does rather make me think of Maree, in Diana Wynne Jones' Deep Secret - if you remember that book, Rupert the Magid is deeply irritated by her voice, which always seems to have a sob in it. Well, Bradshaw has a bit of a tendency for her written voice to have a sob in it, but I don't think that makes her less readable.  

This one is about what might have happened if Caesarion, son of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar, had survived the attempt to assassinate him, and gone on the run in Egypt.  I greatly enjoyed it and will definitely re-read in future.  

Wuthering Heights - Charlotte Bronte
For some reason I hadn't read this. I don't know why.  It's the sort of thing I would have thought I'd have read as a teenager.  I don't know if I started reading it and abandoned ship years back, or if I've just escaped it.  It contains the most unpleasant and profoundly irritating characters I've encountered in ages.

 There is a certain amount of gloomy skill to the writing, and I did keep reading to the end, but I couldnt' help secretly hoping (against all likelihood) that the A Team would crash into the book in their iconic van and machine gun all the participants apart from possibly Nelly Dean, the housekeeper, who may not be all that nice either but at least seems to have some gumption. 

A Most Wanted Man - Le Carre
Le Carre's great period, of course, is the Cold War, and I am a big fan of his Smiley books, most of which I have read and read and read until they fell apart, then bought new copies.   I've read some of his newer works, but they haven't really hit the spot for me: you somehow don't feel that the author cares quite enough to make you care about his protagonists. But this one is quite an angry book.  

It is set in the middle of the 'war on terror', and it is scary and gripping.  The unlikely hero is the owner of a failing private bank and it has that sense of someone trying to do the right thing against all the odds, and not entirely succeeding that is the triumph of the Smiley books too.

The account of the effect of the anti-terror initiatives on treatment of immigrants, and the blind eyes turned to the suffering of individuals by the administrations of the wealthier European states, is passionate and somewhat distressing.  It's not a happy book, but I'm glad I read it.  

Horns & Wrinkles - Joseph Helgerson
A children's book, a fairy story set on the Mississippi, with trolls.  Very odd, very atmospheric, with a lovely distinctive feel.  And lots of rhinoceroses. 

I Shall Wear Midnight - Terry Pratchett
I hope I'm wrong about this, but to me there was something valedictory about this book. It's a Tiffany and the Feegles book, but I don't think that he has written anything else that includes quite so many characters from all his previous works - even Nobby Nobbs gets a walk-on part, Eskarina Smith, so long missing, Vimes, Carrot, Angua, Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, Magrat...

No Rincewind,  Ridcully, or Librarian, and no Patrician that I noticed, but I wonder if I missed them...  I love the idea of Land Under Wave and the setting of the Chalk - always reminds me of Kipling.  



( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
2nd Jan, 2011 09:36 (UTC)
There's a nice article on the website of Scarthin Books, a great secondhand bookshop in Derbyshire, about what to do with awful unwanted books. They don't work so well as compost, apparently, but dropping them down an abandoned mine shaft scored well. It should also earn a "probably ritual" from future archaeologists, which is always good.

Even when I was 14 and susceptible to tales of doomed romance, I detested Wuthering Heights. I don't hate many books - as opposed to losing interest and giving up, which I do quite a bit - but WH is one of the rare few. (DH Lawrence wrote most of the rest.)
(Deleted comment)
2nd Jan, 2011 14:19 (UTC)
Re: The Meeting of the Waters - Caiseal Mor
YMMV of course. There are a number of books that other people seem to like that I just want to make into bonfires and dance around doing the dance of 'hahaha, I shall never have to read YOU again, you awful books'. (David Eddings, I'm looking at YOU!)

2nd Jan, 2011 11:48 (UTC)
We Speak No Treason is actually a two-parter, the sequel is subtitled The White Rose Turns to Blood and takes the story to Bosworth. I had read it in my teens as my mother had a copy, and re-read it c.2006. I'd have to find it in my book list to find what I thought of it, but I remember being impressed by the writing.

Edited at 2011-01-02 11:48 (UTC)
2nd Jan, 2011 14:17 (UTC)
Yes, I had noticed there was a part 2 - I didn't feel from my first read through that I particularly wanted to go on and read that, as part 1 seemed to take such a circuitous route to cover a relatively short and not that eventful period....

But perhaps I just wasn't in discursive historical romance mode, I think with some books you do have to be in the right mood. I have shelved it and will come back at some point and give it another go.
2nd Jan, 2011 14:04 (UTC)
I seem to recall enjoying the over-the-topness of the first half of Wuthering Heights but found the characters in the second half insipid, dull and stupid. It's a very odd book and I'm surprised it is held in quite such high regard.

I've put Ivory and A Most Wanted Man on my Amazon Wish List - although my sister tells me that the wish list is in bad need of a clear out.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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