I’m now up to U, V and W in my A – Z of TBRs, a series of posts in which I take a fresh look at some of my TBRs to inspire me to read more of them, or maybe to decide not to bother reading them after all. These are books I bought full of enthusiasm to read each one – and mainly because I wanted to finish books I was already reading, they have sat on the shelves ever since. And then other books claimed my attention.
U – is for The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, a novel I bought five years ago. It appealed to me because it’s about a man, Harold Fry, who walks from Kingsbridge in South Devon to Berwick-upon Tweed in Northumberland and I liked the idea of following his journey – on paper, that is.
Harold receives a letter from an old friend who is dying from cancer, writing to say goodbye. Feeling he can’t say what he wants to say in a letter he decides he needs to speak to her in person and phones the hospice where she is a patient:
‘Tell her Harold Fry is on his way. All she has to do is wait. Because I am going to save her, you see. I will keep walking and she must keep living. ‘ (page 28)
Harold Fry was a tall man who moved through life with a stoop, as if expecting a low beam, or a screwed-up paper missile, to appear out of nowhere. The day he was born his mother had looked at the bundle in her arms, and felt appalled. She was young, with a peony bud mouth and a husband who had seemed a good idea before the war and a bad one after it. A child was the last thing she wanted or needed. The boy learned quickly that the best way to get along in life was to keep a low profile; to appear absent even when present. He played with neighbours’ children, or at least he watched them from the edges. At school he avoided attention to the point of appearing stupid. Leaving home when he was sixteen, he had set out on his own, until one night he caught Maureen’s eye across a dance hall and fell wildly in love. It was the brewery that had brought the couple to Kingsbridge. (page 36)
V – is for The Various Flavours of Coffee by Anthony Capella. I’ve had this book for nearly 10 years and started it not long after I bought it. My book mark is at the start of chapter twenty seven, so I’ve read about a third of the book. I can’t remember now why I stopped reading it. If I am going to read it I’ll have to start again.
It’s historical fiction and a love story beginning in 1896 in London where a struggling poet, Robert Wallis, accepts a commission from a mysterious coffee merchant, Samuel Pinker, to compose a ‘vocabulary of coffees’ that can capture their elusive fragrances. Robert is then dispatched to Africa in search of the world’s finest coffee.
In this extract Robert is considering how to describe black coffee beans:
… ‘these ones over here are as black as despair, whereas these are as golden as virtue -‘
‘No, no, no,’ Pinker interjected. ‘this is far too poetical. One man’s despair is another man’s gloom, and who is to say whether gloom and despair are the same colour?’
I saw his point. ‘Then we shall have to decide on words for several different shades of black.’
‘Exactly, sir – that is my purpose entirely.’
‘Hmm.’ I considered. It was, when one thought about it a rather vexing issue. ‘We shall begin,’ I declared, ‘by fixing the very blackest form of black there is.’
A silence fell upon us. It was in fact, quite hard to think of a word to describe the pure blackness of the darkest beans. ‘The pure black of a cow’s nose, I said at last. Pinker made a face. ‘Or the glistening black of a slug at dawn -‘
‘Too fanciful’ And if I may say so, hardly appetising.’
‘The black of a bible.’
‘The black of a moonless night.’
Pinker tutted. (page 38)
and so it goes on, until they finally settled for ‘jet’.
W– is for The Water Horse by julia Gregson, a book I’ve had for nine years. This is a historical fiction based on the true story of a young Welsh woman, Jane Evans, a Welsh woman who in 1853 ran off with Welsh cattle drovers and volunteered as a nurse with Florence Nightingale in the Crimea.
The title refers to the story of the Water Horse
‘And God help you if you find the Water Horse,’ said Eleri, ‘he looks so lovely and he’s deadly.’
‘Do you believe in him?’ Catherine was interested at last. ‘I think about him every time I see the sea. ‘
‘No.’ She put down her pipe. ‘No, I don’t. but I do believe he shows us what we fear.’
‘Well, there he is: beautiful, extraordinary. he stands placidly by the water’s edge. We try to mount him, and sometimes you can ride him and feel so powerful, so wonderful, and the next time he bolts back into the sea with you and you die a horrible and frightening death. What could be clearer?’ Eleri’s eyes were shining in the dusk. ‘It’s our fear of being out of control. He’s the one who tells you, stick with the ordinary, don’t move, everything else is dangerous and nothing possible, but the problem is that if you fear everything you can’t control, you’ll never do anything that matters to you.’ (pages 58-9)
Looking at them this morning the one that appeals most is The Water Horse.
What do you think? Do you fancy any of them? Would you ditch any of them?