Saturday, 22 June 2013

My May Reads

It's been a busy month as we have started the slog around the country known as "University Open Day", that's my excuse for being a little  tardy with my May reads.

"Death Comes To Pemberley" by P.D James was our book club choice this month. Written as a"follow on" to Pride and Prejudice, the action takes place after Darcy and Elizabeth have been married for six years and a murder mystery occurs at their family seat. I haven't read any other P.D James books before and I'm in two minds about this one. I did enjoy the way it was written, it flowed along and it was a page-turner. However, I couldn't really see the POINT of it and far from being the sparky heroine she was, Elizabeth has turned into a bit of a bore. Maybe it's because I ( like millions of others) hold a special place in my heart for P&P, but this was a pale shadow and doesn't make me want to rush and read any more P.D James.

I do like Nick Hornby's novels and "Juliet, Naked" was another good read. Duncan is obsessed with an American singer who has become a recluse and his long suffering girlfriend, Annie, is starting to despair that their fifteen year old relationship is going anywhere. When she begins an email correspondence with the elusive star, it is the start of a relationship which profoundly affects all those involved. Hornby's writing is very funny and warm, he reminds me of Anne Tyler in the way he brings magic to everyday mundanity. He has been quoted as saying Tyler is a great influence on his work and it does show.

"Whatever You Love" by Louise Doughty was a Costa Book Award short-lister a couple of years ago. It is a disturbing story of the effect the death of a nine year old girl and her friend in a hit and run accident has on Laura and her ex husband, David. Doughty does write quite beautifully, you really do feel Laura's pain acutely and it did make me tearful more than once, especially at the end. Laura tries to take revenge on who is responsible for her daughter's death, whilst her husband's new wife has her own problems which culminate in a dramatic ending. I'm not sure I would describe myself " enjoying" the book as the material is so raw, but it certainly is a powerful account of an unimaginable loss.

Finally, summer means Italy, so to get me in the mood I read "Elements of Italy" by Lisa St Aubin De Teran. I've had this book a while, I'm a big fan of her fiction but had never got round to reading these snippets of writing about Italy, where De Teran lived for many years. It's a lovely book, including descriptions of all aspects of Italy from authors such as Eric Newby, D. H Lawrence, Truman Capote and Guiseppe Di Lampedusa. It really put me in the mood for my holidays!

Sunday, 2 June 2013

A Day Trip To London Town

I thought a day trip to London would be a nice distraction for my teen who is mired deep in AS level revision. Her boyfriend came too, so as they went to explore the delights of Camden, I visited The National Portrait Gallery. I loved the pictures of Florence Nightingale, Mrs Pankhurst and the Brontes but deary me, the recently commissioned portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge was not at all impressive. Stark and hugely unflattering, it was the face of a tired, middle-aged women staring out, I bet she was secretly mortified.
The weather was kind, and I walked up to Bloomsbury for a nice lunch at Beas of Bloomsbury, then I went to Persephone Books on Lambs Conduit Street. This is such a beautiful shop, they publish books by largely forgotten or over-looked women authors and their covers are a distinctive grey. I treated myself to The Persephone Book of Short Stories and look forward to dipping in.
I met up with the teens in a busy Covent Garden and we walked back up to Bloomsbury to the British Museum. We had a good mooch around the Greek and Roman antiquities then we went around the Pompeii and Herculaneum exhibition. This was simply brilliant, the exhibits were fascinating; carbonised bread complete with the baker's stamp, olive oil still in a glass bottle. The casts of those who died were very moving, caught forever in their death throes, as was the carbonised cradle whose tiny occupant perished.
For my daughter, who is a huge Harry Potter fan, the highlight of the day was a visit to King's Cross and Platform 9 3/4, we didn't catch the Hogwarts Express though, merely the Virgin Pendolino back home to Manchester and back to revision.