- Now: I often read several books at once and manage to keep them all on the go, but every now and then this doesn’t work well and I end up reading just one of them, leaving the others. This is what has happened these last few weeks as I read The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley (see the next section of this post). I was also reading Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carre and A History of Modern Britain by Andrew Marr. But as I’m now a bit vague about what was happening in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy, I’ve decided I need to start it again. But not right now, so I’ve put it back on the shelves to read later.
But, I’m still reading Andrew Marr’s A History of Modern Britain by Andrew Marr, basically Britain after the end of the Second World War up to 2006, with an added introduction in the paperback edition written in 2008. I’ve read up to page 79 so far out of 672 pages. It will be a while before I finish this book!
A History of Modern Britain confronts head-on the victory of shopping over politics. It tells the story of how the great political visions of New Jerusalem or a second Elizabethan Age, rival idealisms, came to be defeated by a culture of consumerism, celebrity and self-gratification. In each decade, political leaders think they know what they are doing, but find themselves confounded. Every time, the British people turn out to be stroppier and harder to herd than predicted.
Throughout, Britain is a country on the edge ‘“ first of invasion, then of bankruptcy, then on the vulnerable front line of the Cold War and later in the forefront of the great opening up of capital and migration now reshaping the world. This history follows all the political and economic stories, but deals too with comedy, cars, the war against homosexuals, Sixties anarchists, oil-men and punks, Margaret Thatcher’s wonderful good luck, political lies and the true heroes of British theatre.
I’ve just started to read Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson alongside Marr’s book. It’s looking promising so far – I’m on page 26 of 219.
Acclaimed on publication as a contemporary classic, Housekeeping is the story of Ruth and Lucille, orphans growing up in the small desolate town of Fingerbone in the vast northwest of America.
Abandoned by a succession of relatives, the sisters find themselves in the care of Sylvie, the remote and enigmatic sister of their dead mother. Steeped in imagery of the bleak wintry landscape around them, the sisters’ struggle towards adulthood is powerfully portrayed in a novel about loss, loneliness and transience.
- Then: I’ve recently finished The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley. I don’t know yet how I’m going to review this book, as even after a second reading I’m not at all sure I understand some of it. It’s long and complicated and an awful lot happens in it. I needed to concentrate, which is why I had to stop reading Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy at the same time – too much detail in both books!
That said, I enjoyed it immensely, maybe the concentrated reading is one reason, but I also loved the fantastic clockwork inventions and historical details, the settings and the characterisations.
In 1883, Thaniel Steepleton returns to his tiny flat to find a gold pocketwatch on his pillow. But he has worse fears than generous burglars; he is a telegraphist at the Home Office, which has just received a threat for what could be the largest-scale Fenian bombing in history.
When the watch saves Thaniel’s life in a blast that destroys Scotland Yard, he goes in search of its maker, Keita Mori – a kind, lonely immigrant who sweeps him into a new world of clockwork and music. Although Mori seems harmless at first, a chain of unexpected slips soon proves that he must be hiding something.
Meanwhile, Grace Carrow is sneaking into an Oxford library dressed as a man. A theoretical physicist, she is desperate to prove the existence of the luminiferous ether before her mother can force her to marry.
As the lives of these three characters become entwined, events spiral out of control until Thaniel is torn between loyalties, futures and opposing geniuses.
Utterly beguiling, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street blends historical events with dazzling flights of fancy to plunge readers into a strange and magical past, where time, destiny, genius – and a clockwork octopus – collide.
It might be Coming Home by Sue Gee, set in 1947 India on the brink of independence as an English couple are ‘coming home’ from India, attempting to make their way in a changed Britain. This might fit in well with my reading of Andrew Marr’s book – or it might not.
Or I might read something completely different!