I thoroughly enjoyed the four books I read this month ( makes a change!), must be the summer sun making me a little less critical!
My lovely friend Jo lent me her copy of 'The Book of Human Skin' by Michelle Lovric and I could not put the book down. The action is set in the late eighteenth century Venice and Peru, with the dastardly Minguillo Fasan plotting terrible things against his sister, Marcella, who is set to inherit his beloved palazzo. Some of the action is definitely not for the squeamish, in many ways it reminded me of 'Perfume' in its graphic details. The portrayal of the mad nun, Sor Loreta, is excellent, she and Minguillo are equally depraved and you are gripped with the hope they will receive their retribution. The story is told from various character's points of view and I highly recommend it.
I haven't read any of Michael Frayn's novels before and as 'Skios' was a Booker long-lister and in Oxfam, I thought I'd give it a whirl. Oliver Fox arrives on the Greek island of Skios and on a whim, decides to pose as a visiting academic, Dr Norman Wilfred. The absurd plot had me chuckling away and Frayn certainly is a master of farce. His depiction of those attending 'self-improvement' holidays with the exceedingly bored guest speakers going through the motions, is very funny as is the pseudo intellectual rubbish spouted by Oliver being lapped up by the unsuspecting audiences. The action zipped along, was very well written and I now have 'Spies' by Michael Frayn on my 'to be read' pile.
Our book club book this month was ' The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry' by Rachel Joyce. Harold receives a letter from an old friend who is dying in a hospice in Berwick on Tweed. He goes to post a reply from his home in Hampshire on the south coast, but decides that by walking to Berwick, he can delay her death. What could have been rather a twee idea, is nothing of the sort. It is poignant but also gritty and funny. As his walk continues, he attracts followers and the input of social media and the once well-intentioned 'followers' of Harold almost manage to de-rail the whole journey. I loved the ending, as it was beautifully under-stated and 'real', not a Hollywood-style reunion and denouement. The last few chapters had me in tears, and it was Rachel Joyce's lightness of touch, that made it so moving.
Finally, you MUST read 'Heft' by Liz Moore, one of my favourite reads of the year so far. Arthur Opp is a housebound recluse in Brooklyn, who is terribly over weight and socially awkward. He receives a phone call off a former student, this sets off a train of events that has life-changing consequences for Arthur and Kel, a seventeen year old boy who may or may not be Arthur's son. This was an utter delight from beginning to beautiful end, I truly cared about the characters as Liz Moore has written them so wonderfully. Again, the book moved me so much, it is a tale of being an outsider, of rejection, of trying to find your place in the world. I loved the ending and wished I hadn't read it, so I could discover it again for the first time.