Looking Forward to June



Wednesday, March 1, 2017

February's Eight Reads, Barbara Pym, and On the Reading Horizon

I managed to read eight books in February, which I think is a record for me, though I'm not proud or happy about it, all because the stupid influenza visited us this year and is wholly responsible for the number of books read. Geez. What a way to ruin a nice wintry month.

The Betrayal by Helen Dunmore was the best book by far, Appelfeld's The Man Who Never Stopped Sleeping was equally stellar and will be forever memorable. Yaa Gyasi's Homegoing was another book that I would highly recommend and even might say should not be missed. (See the posts below for information about these books.)

Quartet in Autumn by Barbara Pym, which I read for The Classics Club, was both utterly fascinating and depressing, as well as being at times, extremely funny. It deserves its own post, which is forthcoming.

On the 27th of February, in utter desperation, I declared a reading moratorium.
I allowed the reading of magazines and the New York Times (Aw, shucks--Sorry, Donald!) and other online websites.
And now, on the evening of March 1st, I finally have a number of books lined up that I'm looking forward to tackling.

Barbara Pym does not seem to have had a biography written about her, I've found. (See below for my error, here.) Yet excerpts from her journals and letters were collected in a volume in the early 1980s, several years after her untimely death. After reading Quartet in Autumn, I'm extremely curious about Barbara Pym's life and her thoughts in general, so I'm waiting for the arrival of the out-of-print A Very Private Eye. And, wouldn't you know it, I've come across a biography this evening, although not available in any library here. It's Hazel Holt's A Lot to Ask: A Life of Barbara Pym (1990).

Margaret Drabble has a new novel. As some of you know, I am partial to her writing. Dark Flood Rises, published in the U.S. just this past month, is about a social worker, aged 76, whose job it is to drive all over England visiting residences for elderly people and analyze them for a huge report she is compiling. The conflict, naturally enough, is that the social worker is approximating and equal to the age of the residents. I'm dying to read this, knowing Drabble's  sharp,  devilish wit. Can't wait. I still have numerous novels of Drabble's  which I haven't read.  Need to get kicking.

Ali Smith is a Scottish writer whom I have never read. The first book in her new series of four novels has just been published here. Autumn is the title. She plans to write a novel for all four seasons. As one might expect, Autumn does include characters who are in the "autumn" of their lives. I have the chance to pick this one up and will let you know. Have you read Ali Smith?

10 comments:

  1. I read one of Drabble's earlier novels last year and was reminded (again!) of how much I enjoy her. Keep thinking that it's mainly the middle stuff she's written, but the early stuff is still so good too! Enjoy your continued exploring in her prose, including this new one. Also, Quartet in Autumn was my first Pym and I loved it, just loved it!

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    1. I'm so interested that you loved Quartet in Autumn. I did, too, though I must admit that at first I didn't know "how to take her," if you know what I mean. I've never read anything quite like it, but I got so much out of her characterizations and her parody of the characters' lifestyles and their relationships to each other. She is on my "A" List now, for sure.

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  2. Sorry to hear you've been sick--at least you felt like reading and had some winners to help you through. I am so looking forward to Homegoing, still aways down on the library wait list, but eventually it will be my turn.

    I like Barbara Pym but her books do tend to have a somber tone, even when they're funny. There is an oppressive narrowness to the world/lives she describes that weighs them down.

    The new Margaret Drabble sounds very good.

    Hope March is kinder to you.

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    1. Hi Jane,
      I know what you mean about the somber tone of Barbara Pym--yes, indeed! It took me unawares at the very first, but then I was "stabilized," when I realized she was, in so understated, clever, and subtle a way, making a sort of caricature--almost laughing at herself and her contemporaries. I really got into it, and will enjoy reading more of her. Though I must admit, she could be perceived as writing "very depressing" prose!

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  3. I haven't read anything by Ali Smith either, although we have some of her books, I must get around to her soon.

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    1. Katrina,
      I'm fascinated you have some of Ali Smith's books lying about. She has just come full-fledged out on my radar, though I knew of her, but just off the edge of the radar. I'd like to read a bit of Autumn to see what it's like. I would like to see what she's all about, really.
      J.

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  4. I'm sorry to hear you've been horribly sick. The flu that's being going around has been nasty I gather. I had a cold last week but so far - touch wood - nothing like that. Hope you're completely better now.

    I read Quartet in Autmumn some years ago and and thought it was excellent. Yes, depressing I suppose, a sad sort of tale, but so well written. Look forward to your review.

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    1. Yes, Cath, I'm doing much better. I'm still craving an afternoon nap, which is not my usual, but it feels good, so why not?
      I'm glad you liked Quartet in Autumn. Yes, it is a depressing story on the face of it, but so different and interesting in the ways that Pym handles it.

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  5. All of these books sound good. I mostly read mystery novels, but you are making me rethink that. Of course, I own enough mystery novels to keep me reading for the rest of my life. Glad to hear you are doing much better now.

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    1. Tracy,
      It's peculiar--I haven't read a mystery this year so far. I'm definitely a "mood reader," and I know that soon I'll be dying for a good mystery. Actually, I have one picked up at the library yesterday--it's brand new and is getting lots of buzz. I'll be noting it in a post soon. (Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach).

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