Catching Up with Reviews

Some of January’s books – two quick reviews:

Be Near Me by Andrew O’Hagan is a beautifully written and moving book about David, a parish priest in a small Scottish parish and as I read it I gradually became aware of just how naive he is. The prologue foreshadows the problems he encounters when his mother comments that he has been through such a lot and that in her experience “nothing is ever behind anyone.” He tells her that he is looking forward to

Just working in an ordinary parish and greeting the faith of ordinary people.

What follows is a troubling story of what happened and what he did in that ordinary parish full of ordinary people. It’s a very sad and nasty tale, about prejudice, religious bigotry and it’s full of regret and despair.

Information about Andrew O’Hagan is here. I would like to read his earlier books, maybe The Missing, which is part autobiography and part looking at what happens to communities when people go missing.

That, quite coincidentally brings me on to another book I read in January:

Losing You by Nicci French is a fast paced, take-your-breath-away book about Nina whose teenage daughter, Charlie goes missing. I read it a break-neck speed, switching between being completely engrossed and desperate for her to find her daughter before it’s too late and being annoyed by her attitude to the police.

It’s set on Sandling Island, off the east coast of England and the feelings of isolation and oppression fill the book. Nina is a newcomer to the island and is not really accepted as “one of us”. She struggles to get people, friends, neighbours and the police to take Charlie’s disappearance as anything serious. It’s the portrayal of the police as inept, inefficient and casual that bugged me – would that really be the case? Anyway, even if some of it was barely believable it is a real page-turner and I will be reading more of Nikki French’s books.

‘Nicci French’ is the pseudonym of wife and husband Nicci Gerard and Sean French. More information is on this website and they have a blog.

The Sunday Salon

tssbadge1I have finished reading Drood on this first Sunday of 2010, needless to say I read most of it in December! I feel relief at getting to the end and am looking forward to reading something else. I’ll write about once I’ve had more time to think it over as a whole.

Along with Drood I’ve been reading Be Near Me by Andrew O’Hagan.  This is about a English priest in a small Scottish parish; as he makes friends with some of the locals and experiences prejudice from others he reflects on his past life. I’m enjoying it. Hilary Mantel writes:

[O’Hagan] is a fine stylist, a penetrating analyst, a knowledgeable guide to high thinking and squalid living. This is a nuanced, intense and complex treatment of a sad and simple story. Read it twice.

My plan to have a box of books not in storage didn’t work out because there was no room in our car for them, so I’ve only had a few books around until Christmas Day when my husband presented me with this pile.

Xmas books 09

I think I’ll start with Paul Auster’s Invisible.

And for the rest of today I intend to unpack and sort some books and choose which one to read next.