February Miscellany

My February round up is a little bit earlier than normal as I will be kicking off Reading Ireland Month 2019 tomorrow.

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I’ve spent most of February reading and planning for Ireland Month – which I am really going for this year! – so my reading during the last few weeks hasn’t been quite up to the standards set by January, where I read 19 books!

This month, according to Goodreads, I read just 7 books, which isn’t too bad. Only two were from the 746 though, but I hope to make that up next month.

My reading has been slightly hampered lately by the fact that I have been sucked in by a couple of great TV shows. Mr 746 and I have been watching the astonishing and frankly under-appreciated Halt and Catch Fire for the last year and we are now at the final two episodes of the fourth and final season. I adore this show and really don’t want it to be over and to have to leave these characters forever! The Guardian calls it ‘the best show that nobody watched’, so do yourself a favour and check it out if you get a chance.

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Natasha Lyonne in Russian Doll

Another highlight has been the fantastic Russian Doll. Smart, funny, addictive and deceptively deep, it features a Groundhog Day-style story line and a scene-stealing performance from Natasha Lyonne.

Plus, any show that uses a Harry Nilsson song for a theme tune gets my vote every time.

Reading-wise this month, I finished two books that were outside the 746 challenge and both were fantastic.

I was lucky enough to win a signed copy of Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce on Twitter – which came with a lot of very yummy goodies! I would imagine that in the next month, this is the book that everyone will be reading and talking about.

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Blood Orange is a thrilling and dark domestic noir, with a chaotic protagonist and a multi-layered plot. Alison, a lawyer, is about to take on her first murder case, that of a woman accused of stabbing her abusive husband to death. Alison is struggling to keep her life on track – her long hours, heavy drinking and an ill-advised affair with a colleague mean that her relationship with her husband Carl and her daughter are showing the strain.

All is not what it seems though in this taut and believable thriller. Tyce has written an incredibly well-plotted novel that wrong-foots the reader at every turn, without resorting to gimmick or artifice. It is also a very timely novel, exploring issues of consent, abuse and misogyny in a deft and integrated way. It will make you mad, that’s for sure, but you won’ want to stop reading.

My other non-746 read this month also concerns consent, but of a different kind. Putney by Sofka Zinovieff  is an ambiguous and ambitious exploration of a relationship between Daphne, a thirteen year old and an older man, Ralph who is in his thirties.

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As Daphne, now aged 50 and with a teenage daughter of her own, looks back on this formative relationship, she starts to wonder if what she experienced was love (as she has always thought) or, indeed, abuse.

The narrative shifts between the past and the present and between narrators as Zinovieff explores what happened from Daphne and from Ralph’s perspective. It’s a dangerous terrain to explore as Ralph, now dying of cancer, still sees their relationship as something pure and beautiful just as Daphne is starting to understand the damage that it has caused her. Ralph is clearly self-deluded and self-obsessed, but Zinovieff resists turning him into one-dimensional monster and retains enough sympathy for him to allow the reader to question our own reaction to his relationship with Daphne.

The shifting moral landscape between the 1970s and today is deftly explored and Zinovieff has a real skill at depicting the physical landscape- from present day London to the sun-drenched beaches of Greece where the relationship between Ralph and Daphne played out.

Putney is a fascinating exploration of abuse and control, told by a narrative voice who doesn’t realise she has been abused. This is a modern day Lolita, where Lolita finds her voice and is able to speak out about the power exerted over her by an older man.

Finally this month, I had the absolute pleasure of meeting the legend that is Roddy Doyle as he came to HomePlace to talk about his fantastic career and to read from his new novel, Charlie Savage, which will be published on 7 March. He was an absolute delight – funny and insightful and a pleasure to work with.

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Keep an eye on the blog next week for a chance to win a signed copy of Charlie Savage as part of Reading Ireland Month 2019!

How has everyone’s month been? Do let me know what you’re reading and watching in the comments below!

 

 

 

Monthly Miscellany

Cathy746books View All →

I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!

44 Comments Leave a comment

  1. I’m gearing up to participate in the Wales Readathon but I’ve also got a mini list for my belated entry into Begorrathon (finally!). It’ll be small scale, just one or two titles, but better something than nothing (and late than never!) and starting small will encourage me for the future!

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  2. Stumbled on your blog…and this is fantastic! So many books brought to the forefront for me to easily explore – and the new novel possibilities of ‘Irish Literature’…wow!
    For the past few years, everytime I’ve picked up a ‘new’ novel or even something that looks interesting at the library or on Amazon, etc…it has resulted in great disappointment…The occasional read that grabs me is cherished and then I go back to those old standbys for my reading escapes…
    Your 746 is clever and engaging and I’m looking forward to following along with you on your gargantuan task of conquering the 746 mountain and beyond!
    BTW: my most recent satisfying read lately was “The Saffron Kitchen” by Yasmin Crowther…it is now one of my newer ‘standbys’!
    😉

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  3. ‘Blood Orange’ sounds right up my street. I’m trying to finish ‘Her Smoke Rose Up Forever’ a collection of stories by James Tiptree Junior . I’ve had it on the go for months because, although brilliant, the stories are incredibly dark and disturbing. I’m also reading a bunch of non-fiction, Lucy Worsley’s book about Jane Austen, James Shapiro’s ‘1599’, a year in Shakespeare’s life, and ‘Why We Sleep’ by Matthew Walker.

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  4. Thanks for reminding me about “Halt and Catch Fire”. Someone else bookish recommended this at some point last year and then I forgot the title, so now I am doubly keen! I’ve been watching the Masterpiece Theatre production of Little Women from last year, enjoying the differences between it and earlier versions. And we just watched the new season (4 episodes) of Luther, which was over far too quickly (and, yet, I’m glad they don’t “overdo” it.) I’m really looking forward to Reading Ireland and some Welsh reading, too, in March, although my list of contenders is far too unwieldy. *bites nails*

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  5. Will your giveaway be open to international readers? I love Roddy Doyle! I wish I could tell him that when I was an undergrad, I took an entire class that focused only on James Joyce and Roddy Doyle. Can you image? Half a class devoted to just you?? We read the Barrytown trilogy, Paddy Clarke, and The Woman Who Walked into Doors. I went on years later to teach The Woman Who Walked into Doors at an all-women’s college. It was a powerful experience.
    I’ve also been looking for some new TV shows to watch, so I think I will check out The Russian Doll. I didn’t even realize that was Lyon! Her face looks different; her characteristic round cheeks are gone. I’m also thinking about watching The Umbrella Academy.

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    • Yes, international giveaways for sure! He was a lovely guy. I adore both The Woman Who Walked Into Doors and Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha. I often think he gets pigeon- holed as a comic writer but his skill is much wider than that.

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      • Oh, god. That part about the woman locking up her booze and throwing the key outside and then hunting the lawn late at night to find it again got me every time. I also thought much of The Snapper and The Van were sad, though layered with comedy.

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  6. Ah, I’ve been avoiding Blood Orange thanks to its dominance of my Twitter timeline but it looks as though I’ll have to rethink that, and if I’d known there was chocolate involved…
    I’m glad you were impressed by Putney. I thought it tackled a difficult subject very well.

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  7. Well Cathy, my month has not been as exciting or as book filled as yours! Instead I had a quiet month and have so far only finished reading A Story of Reality by Gregory Koukl, which is the book my church’s book club will be meeting to discuss on Thursday. I found it a challenging read, so it will be interesting to hear what others thought. I am also a little over half way into Origin by Dan Brown and so far so good! As for television, my cup runneth over, with two of my favourite shows returning: ITV’s Endeavour and BBC’s Shetland, as well as new show Baptiste, which is a spin-off from the BBC’s excellent The Missing series. Happy reading and watching in March!

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  8. I love Halt and Catch Fire and recently rewatched all four seasons. It’s so good. You’re right – people don’t know about the show and it’s a shame. And Harry Nillson? Love him too. Thank you for mentioning two of my favorite things. 🙂

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  9. Oh, I totally forgot about Reading Ireland this year and have just checked my reading list to discover I have no Irish writers coming up 😪 So I’ll just have to enjoy it vicariously through yours and everyone else’s posts… 😀 Good luck!

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  10. How wonderful that you got to meet Roddy Doyle! And you even managed to hold yourself together, by the looks of it… Great picture!
    Putney sounds very well done. I haven’t read Lolita, but might be convinced to read a more modern take on it.
    Don’t laugh, but the only thing I’ve been watching lately is The Great Canadian Baking Show (with my daughter). We love it!

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  11. Just finished watching a Dutch thriller, The Oldenheim 12. It was SO good! Hope Halt and Catch Fire will be on Acorn or Britbox! Just started a Patricia Moyes book, The Coconut Killings, for the Begorrathon!

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  12. My reading month has been very good but my blogging month, not so much. I just can’t find the time or energy lately. Hoping to remedy that in March. I’ll be participating in the Reading Ireland Month! I have to choose my books. I also need to try Russian Doll, I think it’s something I would like, although that will cut into my blogging time too, ha ha.

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