In the High Peaks

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

March 2016 Reading Extravaganza

For many reasons, I've somehow managed to read like crazy this month--eight (and a half) novels so far--even though one was nearly 700 pages (Ha Jin's A Free Life) and a number of others have been over 300 pages. Believe me, I'm not boasting--I'm just amazed at my good fortune--that I had the time and the focus to hunker down and enjoy so many absolutely fascinating books. I will never forget this month.

Perhaps my favorite, or the one that had me turning the pages with a determined compulsion, was A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton. She and her family live in Glasgow now, so as to be near the university, it seems. After a career as a journalist, Copleton entered the writing program at Glasgow University, and sometime later this novel emerged, among a number of prizes for her short fiction. This novel is on the Longlist for the Bailey's Women's Fiction Prize, as I mentioned in a previous entry

Okay, the story in bare bones. In her early days, Copleton was a teacher of English in Nagasaki and Sapporo, Japan. It was there that she conceived the original plan for this novel, and I admit it's very difficult to give a nutshell commentary. Set in Nagasaki, the most central characters include a mother and grandmother (one person) and a former lover who, despite her determination that he should not, manages to insinuate himself into her life and the life of her entire family from the 1930s through the 1970s to the 1990s in the U.S. Imaginative, believable, epic, and my need to say, "Don't miss it!" This is a fine novel of how love can destroy and can resurrect. 4.9 stars for enjoyment and quality. If you are drawn to historical fiction, that will increase your understanding and perhaps your appreciation, but you don't need to be a devoted reader of the genre, because this book goes beyond genre.

I don't think there's space here to write anything about Ha Jin's 2008 novel A Free Life, which I appreciated immensely.


  1. I love your new header photo. :-)

    I'm having a good reading month too... must be something about 'March'. LOL

    I'll keep an eye out for the book you mention, sounds like a interestiing read. I see you've been reading a John Le Carré. I've read nothing by him, never thought he was to my taste but I've been watching the BBC's The Night Manager, and really enjoying it, so perhaps I'm mistaken...

    1. Hi, Cath--
      I think you're on to something about March and reading.
      I decided to put The Spy Who Came in from the Cold on my Classics Club List because he's been so important to the development of the spy novel genre. Even as a 10-year-old I remember that all the adults I knew were reading and discussing this book. So I wanted to try it for those reasons, but I don't in general seek out espionage novels.
      The Night Manager sounds interesting. I hope it comes round to our PBS in a year of two. Will look for it.
      Happy reading!

  2. My goodness, Judith, you are a reading machine this month! The new header photo is gorgeous... I could barely take my eyes off it to read the post ;-)

    1. I'm glad you like the photo. It's hard to get good early spring photos around here because of the mud on the trails. This was an early May photo at Round Pond, a very wild pond near us. When we visit, I feel as though there's no one else on earth but us.

  3. I'll be going to the library to pick up the Copleton book on Tuesday. It sounds interesting and will count towards the Read Scotland Challenge.
    I love the photo of Sasha.

    1. Hi Katrina,
      Definitely will count toward the Scotland Challenge. I admired this book greatly.
      I'm so glad you enjoy the photo! We love our adventures.