Well, I started this year with good bloggish intentions – lots of reading, lots of posting, lots of keeping up to date with all my favourite blogs.
Then this happened…
Torn ligaments in my ankle meant three weeks of rest, which in theory sounds lovely, but in practice is a bit of a head melter. Everyone reminded me to relax, to catch up on lots of reading. Which I did. I read loads, but I don’t know if it was the pain or the painkillers, but I just couldn’t concentrate to blog or keep up to date with other blogs.
So, I’m starting 2016 off with yet another round up post of my reading for January. I really hope to get back on track this month, reading Mrs Dalloway for Heaven Ali’s Woolfalong and getting organised for Reading Ireland Month which kicks off in a few weeks.
No 645 Ripley Under Ground by Patricia Highsmith
In the 6 years since Tom Ripley murdered Dickie Greenleaf and inherited his money, things have gone well for Highsmith’s amoral antihero. He lives in a beautiful French villa with his wealthy wife and indulges in his love of art, languages and gardening. Although, of course, there are still a few little less that legal sidelines, including an elaborate art forgery scheme which is threatening to collapse and expose Tom’s involvement. So Ripley must once again do whatever it takes to preserve the tangle of lies he has emmersed himself in, even if it means resorting to murder.
Much of the joy of this book is the fact that Ripley is such a wonderful character. Crime novels usually hang on a fictional detective who solves the crimes of others, but in this case, Highsmith has created a series of books where we focus on the criminal. Yet Tom is the most unlikely of criminals. He murders with little thought, but only when he feels a situation demands it. He appears sociopathic, yet can be sensitive to the plight of others. He never regrets the crimes he commits, but neither does he yearn to carry out more.
The plot itself is relatively implausible and often plays out like some French farce without the laughs. Often Tom’s problems arise from his own actions, inviting Murchison to his home; impersonating Derwatt himself; entertaining Dickie Greenleaf’s nephew, but Highsmith excels in exploring the elaborate consequences that can arise from the smallest of decisions. Knowing that there are four more books in the series does take the tension out of the book to some extent, but the pleasure comes from how Tom will get away with it this time, rather than if he will.
Read on: iBooks
Number Read: 102
Number Remaining: 644
No 644 In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin
These eight interlinked short stories all centre on the estate of the wealthy Harouni family in Pakistan, exploring the lives of servants, landowners, mistresses, peasants and socialites. The opening story ‘Nawabdin Electrician’ is the story of Harouni’s handyman, willing to take a bullet for the motorcycle that helps him do his job. ‘Saleema’ focuses on a young servant girl who gets by solely on her relationships with older co-workers and ‘Our Lady of Paris’ takes us out of Pakistan altogether to explore the life of Harouni’s son as he struggles to marry life in Pakistan with life in America. By focusing on one family, Mueenuddin explores the clash of ancient and modern life in a country where the old caste systems are co-existing with modern day capitalism. Whether the stories feature the trials and pains of the poorest in society, or the ease and boredom of the wealthy, the prose is illuminating focusing on love, loss and change and is sympathetic to all the characters without becoming sentimental.
Read on: iBooks
Number Read: 103
Number Remaining: 643
No 643 The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer
I really wanted to like The Uncoupling, which has a great premise that is never completely fulfilled. The small town of Stellar Plains welcomes a new edgy drama teacher to Eleanor Roosevelt High School. Eyebrows are raised when she decides on Lysistrata as the school play, until the female sex strike of Aristophane’s comedy becomes a reality as one by one the women of the town are overcome by a spell which stops them wanting their husbands, lovers or boyfriends, none more so that devoted couple Dory and Robby and their daughter Willa. The novel starts well, with a certain playfulness and topical witty observations on middle class, middle-aged life. However as the spell hits each female character in turn, the novel gets a little bogged down in back story and detail. The tension dissipates and the twist of an ending falls a little flat.
There are some interesting insights about the transient nature of desire within the confines of a relationship but I was unsure of what Wolitzer was trying to say. Dory and Robby had a good, happy relationship to start with, so what should they learn from their enforced celibacy? Should all relationships be long distance in order to retain a spark? And what of the political connotations of the Lysistrata? A plot line about using the sex strike for modern day political demonstration peters out and life more or less returns to normal for all involved. There are some nice ideas in The Uncoupling, but for me, it just fell a bit short of it’s promise.
Read on: iBooks
Number Read: 104
Number Remaining: 642
I also read The Girl on the Train while I was convalescing thanks to a friend who lent me her copy and it was nice to catch up on one of those buzz books that everyone else has read! The Girl on the Train was much more fun and much more readable than a book which has universally horrible characters, a perpetrator you can spot from half way through and an utterly ridiculous ending. I thoroughly enjoyed it and can’t wait for the film (although Emily Blunt is way to pretty to play Rachel!).
Can’t wait to catch up on all your lovely blogs and find out what you’ve been reading!
I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!