Friday, 9 August 2013

My July Reads

I have read some really good books this month, there is nothing nicer than a sunny patio, a cool glass of something refreshing ( have you tried Fentiman's Rose Lemonade, it is utterly divine ) and a great book.

"Where'd You Go Bernadette" by Maria Semple was a quirky delight. Bernadette Fox was once an award winning architect, now a reclusive Seattle resident with a husband engrossed in his work at Microsoft, a precocious daughter and a highly annoying neighbour. This is an account of how Bernadette disappeared, gleaned from documents given to her daughter. This is a highly original, very funny and oddly moving book from a very gifted writer. Her descriptions of the "tiger moms" and the Microsoft geeks are hilarious, but ultimately it is a book about the strong bonds that shape us and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

I read Bernardine Bishop's "Unexplained Lessons in Love" after coming across her obituary in the paper. This is a beautiful book about two women who have both had cancer and consequent colostomies. It was very refreshing to read about older characters with these, frankly unsexy, conditions and as someone who has had colon cancer, I found it absorbing and searingly honest. It is a story of family, of love and loss, never cloyingly sentimental, very funny and wonderfully written. How sad that the author is no longer here.

Our book club selection this month was "The Sisters Brothers" by Patrick DeWitt. Eli and Charlie Sisters are notorious killers for hire in the Wild West who go after a man who claims he has invented a potion that can show gold up if it is thrown in creeks. A few people in my group didn't like the violence in the book, it is very violent in parts but I thought it was quite entertaining, funny in parts and it did keep me turning the pages until the rather satisfying ending. I can imagine Quentin Tarantino adapting this for the big screen.

My vintage read this month ( and my choice for book club later in the year) was "Little Boy Lost" by Marghanita Laski, written in 1949, and republished by Persephone Books. This is a beautiful book, set in post-war France as Hilary Wainwright returns to find his young son, lost as a baby five years before. Hilary is an exasperating character at times, he vascillates and makes odd decisions but he is honest and does hold the reader's sympathy..just. He is lead to a boy in an impoverished orphanage who may or may not be his son and the scenes are full of pathos. The descriptions of the shattered countryside and people are very powerful and I won't reveal the ending, but it made me gasp aloud. 

One of my favourite books of the year has to be "Beautiful Ruins" by Jess Walter. I have seen a lot of people rave about this on twitter and I must agree with them. The action occurs in Italy in 1962 and modern day America and begins when a beautiful American film star arrives at a run down Italian hotel in the middle of nowhere, fifty years later the hotel owner turns up in Hollywood at the home of a sleazy film mogul, looking for his lost love. It is such an original story, very funny and I love how all the strands of different stories came together at the end ( which moved me to tears). This is the perfect summer read, especially as I was on holiday just south of the Cinque Terre region where a lot of the action takes place.

Anita Shreeve is an author who I like, her latest book "Rescue"was a tad underwhelming really. A young paramedic is called to the scene of an accident and he falls in love with Sheila who has crashed her car in a drunken haze, escaping an abusive relationship. Sheila is an alcoholic who cannot cope with motherhood and leaves Peter and their baby daughter. The action then jumps forward to where the now teenage daughter begins to go off the rails and Peter tries to do the right thing by reuniting mother and child. Nothing much actually happens really, a bit of a "meh" read, very nicely written though, but still rather disappointing, especially compared with the rest of this month's books.

I read two thrillers on holiday which I take then leave in the hotel ( if you ever at the Hotel Mirabeau in Forte dei Marmi, you are very welcome!). Harlan Coben and Linwood Barclay write excellent page turners that are not very demanding but nevertheless are good reads, worth taking because its not a disaster if they get covered in sand and sun cream!