I can’t resist joining this challenge, even though I’m already doing a few. This one is hosted by Annie, who is ten or eleven. See Words by Annie for the full picture. The idea is that you read one book from each category over the course of next year. Surely I can do that, especially as I can choose books from my to be read list.
These are the books I’ve chosen for now – I may change them later as who knows what I’ll want to read next year? I’ve been meaning to read these books for quite a while now, so this should push me into reading them.
I wasn’™t sure what to expect when I started to read ‘œSurveillance’. The title suggested to me that it is about spying and being spied upon and in essence that is the book’™s main theme. However, it is also about paranoia and the many insecurities, fears and weaknesses in our modern society. The Spectator
reported ‘˜Raban’™s book should certainly be required reading. Of all the 9/11 books so far, Surveillance is perhaps the most disturbing because it offers scant comfort and no certainties.’™ The Sunday Herald Books of the Year
described Surveillance ‘œlike Dickens revived to witness the ‘œage of terror’.’™
There’™s a lot going on in this book. It starts with a bang:
‘œAfter the explosion, the driver of the overturned school bus stood behind the wreckage, his clothes in shreds. He was cupping his hands to his ears, as if to spare himself the noise of sirens, car alarms, bullhorns, whistles, and tumbling masonry. When he brought his hands away and held them in front of his face, both palms were dripping with blood. His mouth opened wide in a scream that was lost in the surrounding din.’
However, things are not always what they seem. The main characters are Lucy, a journalist and single mum, her daughter eleven year old Alida, and Lucy’™s friend and neighbour Tad, who is HIV positive and full of conspiracy theories: ‘œYou think you’™re living in a democracy, then one morning you wake up and realise it’™s a Fascist police state and it’™s been that way for years.’ Alida, in contrast, believes in facts and is ‘œhungry for realism’. She prefers non-fiction to fiction, Ann Frank’™s diary to Lord of the Rings and tries to understand human relationships in terms of algebra.
August Vanags (Augie) is a professor of history who has recently written the bestseller ‘œBoy 381’, a memoir of his terrible childhood in Europe during World War Two. Lucy has been assigned to interview Augie, said to be a recluse. Augie believes that the world is in a worse state than it was in 1939, presaging a catastrophe for civilisation. Lucy, whilst terrified of terrorism, feels more threatened by natural disasters such as greenhouse gases and earthquakes. The instability of the planet and our precarious existence run parallel with the violence and fear generated by terrorism. As the story unfolds Lucy investigates the truth of Augie’™s memoir ‘“ was he really a refugee from Hitler’™s Europe or did he spend the 1940s on a farm in Norfolk?
Then there is Finn, a schoolboy geek who can ‘œrattle out stuff in HTML and Java faster than the girls could write English when they were IM-ing. If Finn had a life, which was doubtful, it lay somewhere out in cyberspace.’ Another character who may or may not be what he seems is Mr Lee, the Chinese landlord of the Acropolis building where Lucy and Tad live. To Tad Mr Lee epitomises what is wrong with society ‘œthe way the world had lately fallen into the hands of grifters, liars and cheats.’ Tad’™s anger with himself, everything and everyone else threatens to overwhelm him and possess him.
As the novel built to a climax I was so engrossed in wondering what was the truth about the characters and what the outcome would be, that I failed to foresee how the book was going to end, even though thinking back over it now I can see that hints were given almost from the beginning. This is not a book where all the ends are tied off, or where all the questions that have been raised are answered. Everything is left unresolved and to my mind there could be no other conclusion.
I was tagged by Sam for this Christmas meme.
What is your most enduring Christmas memory? I don’t think I could single out one particular moment, maybe remembering back to my childhood when Christmas was a magical time, later enjoying it through my son’s excitement and these days through my grandchildren’s eyes.
Do you have a favourite piece of Christmas music? Silent Night, but don’t ask me to sing it solo.
Do you stick to the old family traditions? Apart from giving present and celebrating with lots of food, no. My grandmother used to stand to attention during the Queen’s speech but no one else did, much to her disapproval.
What makes your mouth water at Christmas time!? I love all Christmas food.
How soon do you put the Christmas tree up and when do you take it down? It varies – we haven’t put one up yet. It has to be taken down and all Christmas decorations put away before Twelfth Night.
I would like to tag Nan, Kay, Cornflower and Geranium Cat for this meme.
Another month of good reading. I have already written posts about most of the books I finished reading in November. Clicking on the titles links to my posts.
Playing with the Moon by Eliza Graham – an excellent book, looking back over 60 years.
Lewis Carroll: a biography by Morton Cohen – long and detailed.
The Sidmouth Letters by Jane Gardam – good (better than I expected).
Remainder by Tom McCarthy – mixed feelings about this one, thought provoking.
Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell – a very enjoyable read, better than the TV series for me.
The Great Fortune
by Olivia Manning (the first in her Balkan trilogy) – set in Bucharest during the ‘phoney war’ period of the Second World War.
Posts to follow on these books that I’ve also finished:
Surveillance by Jonathan Raban – an interesting look at modern life.
The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson – a thought provoking book.
Currently I’m reading:
My Cleaner by Maggie Gee. I’ve nearly finished this about Vanessa, English, middle class and Mary, Ugandan who used to be Vanessa’s cleaner.
All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville-West. I’ve read the first chapters of this story of an aging British aristocrat. This is the book chosen by Karen for her new book group.
Winter In Madrid by C J Sansom. I’ve just started reading this. I chose it because I read with great enjoyment his three earlier books, Dissolution, Dark Fire and Sovereign, historical mysteries featuring Matthew Shardlake, a lwyer-cum-detective. I hadn’t realised this book was set in the 1940s when I decided to read it – yet another book from that period.