Catching up with books I read in January and February
We’re already into March and I still haven’t got round to writing about all the books I’ve read so far. I’ve read 16 books in total. Looking back at 2007 I’d also read 16 books and that was when I was when I had a full-time job, so being retired hasn’t resulted in more time to read books!
These are the books I haven’t written about:
The Man in the Picture: a Ghost Story, Susan Hill
This was a Christmas present. It’s a small book – in size and in length and I read it very quickly at the beginning of January. It starts with great promise of a sinister ghost story, set partly in Cambridge and partly in Venice. The narrator is having a meal with his old college professor one bitterly cold January evening, listening to a strange tale of a Venetian painting, of death and damnation. It’s really a novella and I was a bit disappointed that it was so short and although there is a good build up of atmosphere – dark places, a mysterious isolated country house and panic and terror in Venice – it didn’t send shivers down my spine.
I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith
I don’t think I can do justice to this beautiful book in just a few words. Cassandra Mortmain is the narrator. She lives in a tumbledown castle miles from anywhere, with her family. There is her beautiful older sister, Rose, her once glamorous stepmother Topaz, her little brother Thomas and her eccentric father, who once wrote a novel. I love the opening of the book: ‘I write this sitting in the kitchen sink. That is, my feet are in it; the rest of me is on the draining board, which I have padded with our dog’s blanket and the tea-cosy.’
It’s written in such a seemingly simple style, but it captures so well the innocence and naivety of youth and hope for the future. It’s just, well, so English. I first read it as a teenager and it didn’t fail to live up to my memories of it. Definitely a book to re-read.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain
This is a book that somehow I have never read until now. From the back cover I learnt that this is Mark Twain’s most popular book and I suppose the story is well known, although I knew nothing of it. I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed this book, from the episode of the whitewashed fence and the ordeal in the cave to the trial of Injun Joe. It’s an amusing tale with sombre undertones of the realities of adult life. A tale of superstitions, murder and revenge, starvation and slavery.
The Ropemaker, Peter Dickinson
I moved from one fantastic children’s book to another. This time by a modern author. This is truly a fantastic story of sorcerers, witches, magic and mystery. Put simplistically it’s a story about Tilja, Tahl and their respective grandmother and grandfather who are on a journey to save their homes from destruction. On a deeper level it’s about saving a way of life and relationships between people, about growing up, being rejected and feeling the responsibilities of power. If you like the tales of the power of magic and above all the mysteries of time – ‘the great rope of time‘ then you will like this book.
The Magician’s Assistant, Ann Patchett – I shall write a separate post on this book.
A God Divided, Christopher Catherwood I only just finished reading this a few days ago and I need to think about it before putting down my thoughts. It’s sub-titled ‘Understanding the differences between Islam, Christianity and Judaism’.