Sunday Salon – Rounding Up Recent Reads

tssbadge1We’re back “home” again after a couple of days away visiting our “future home”, so much still to organise and so much stuff still to sort. But still time to read, if not to write much about the books I’ve recently finished or have started to read.

Early last week I finished reading Death of a Chief by Douglas Watts and have drafted a post for the Crime Fiction Alphabet letter “D”. For once my current reading is in time for this meme and I should be able to finish the post during this week.

Over the last few days I’ve finished Agatha Christie’s A Pocketful of Rye, which I’ll be writing about for the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge and Blog Carnival. This one is a Miss Marple mystery in which she plays a minor role, albeit an influential one, based on the nursery rhyme “Sing a Song of Sixpence”. It reminded me of Heston Blumenthal’s Medieval Feast on channel 4 some time ago, when for the main course he made a pigeon pie (it’s illegal to cook blackbirds).

The day before yesterday I finished reading Diana Athill’s extraordinary book Somewhere Towards the End, which won the Costa Biography Award in 2008. Athill is a writer who had registered in my mind sometime ago, but I’d never read anything by her until this book. My copy of newbooks magazine arrived recently featuring an interview with her which drew my interest and then quite by chance when I went to the library to return some books, this one practically jumped off the shelves. I shall have to write a proper post about this book, which is the best book I’ve read this month, so far.

Tudor RoseI have now restarted Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, but didn’t take it away with me as it’s far too big and heavy. I’m using this bookmark (which I made some years ago) whilst reading it as it seems so appropriate. 

 I’ve read some of that this morning and was surprised by this coincidence – on the back cover is a quote from Diana Athill, no less. She says of Wolf Hall:

 A stunning book. It breaks free of what a novel has become nowadays. I can’t think of anything since Middlemarch which so convincingly builds a world.

This quote is even more compelling because Athill reveals in her memoir that she has “gone off novels” and to compare Wolf Hall with Middlemarch means it must be good because she recalled that approaching the end of her first reading of Middlemarch she thought:

Oh no – I’m going to leave this world, and I don’t want to.

I don’t think you can have much higher praise than that.

7 thoughts on “Sunday Salon – Rounding Up Recent Reads

  1. Athill has been on my ‘I really must read her’ list for some time now, so I’m going to be very interested I what you have to say about her work. Am I right in thinking that this is only one of several volumes of biography? If so, can you start here?

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  2. I keep seeing Wolf Hall all over the place and will have to look into it. I don’t even know what it’s about but Hilary Mantel turned up on a doc. I was watching last night on BBC 3 about the year of The Terror. So I do know that she’s an expert on The French Revolution!

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  3. TT, Athill has written four other memoirs. I hadn’t read any of the others and had no difficulty with reading this one as a stand-alone. It’s mainly about old age, reflecting on previous lovers and friends as well.
    Cath, Wolf Hall is a novel set in Henry VIII’s England as seen through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell. I have her novel of the French Revolution too, but haven’t read it yet.
    JoAnn, I don’t always match book and bookmark, but this one seems just right.
    JaneGS and Claire I have a feeling it could be a while before I write about Wolf Hall!
    Claire, it’s been years since I read Middlemarch. I think it was a bit hard getting into it, but then I loved it.

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  4. I really like Athill’s quote. It’s true; it’s very difficult to leave a good book behind. It’s the mark of a good author or book if you feel so bound to the characters and the world that the last thing you want to do is leave it…

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